New Lodge renovations

Potunk Lodge Before…

Potunk Lodge after!

The Lodge is getting a well-deserved facelift.

Some images of W:. Peppaceno’s 2023 Installation

W:. Peppaceno’s Installation – June 2023

How Masons Effected the Creation of the Modern Day Republic of the Philippines

MASONRY IN THE PHILIPPINES 

How Masons effected the creation of the modern day Republic of the Philippines

The first evidence of early Masonic activity in the Philippines was during the brief British occupation of Manila from 1762-1764.  It was noted in a letter now in the Archives of the Indies in Seville, Spain, where the Archbishop of Manila requested the demolition of the Manila Cathedral because it was “desecrated” by the British who were holding military, Masonic meetings in the Cathedral.  The request was not granted, and the historic cathedral still stands today as the premier cathedral of the Philippines.

The first lodge in the Philippines was organized in 1856 by a Spanish naval officer, Jose Malcampo y Monge who later became the Spanish Governor General to the Philippines. The lodge was named Primera Luz Filipina (First Philippine Light) chartered under the Grande Oriente Lusitano of Portugal. From then on, additional lodges were organized – first by the Germans, then followed by the British, then by another Spanish lodge.  No Filipinos were admitted into these lodges.

The first Philippine lodge was organized in Barcelona, Spain, in 1889 by Graciano López Jaena together with some Filipino students and reformists who formed the Logia Revolución under the Gran Oriente Español. In 1890, López Jaena and other Filipino Mason Reformists organized the 2nd lodge named the Logia Solidaridad in Madrid. In January 1891, Filipino Masons in Barcelona and Madrid sought the permission of the Gran Oriente Español to establish lodges in the Philippines.  This was granted on January 6, 1892. The first Filipino Lodge in the Philippines (Logia Nilad) was constituted. A year later, more than 100 new members were accepted to the new lodge with more lodges being organized throughout the country. With the increasing growth of members and lodges within the country, a Regional Grand Council was organized on December 16, 1893.

The country’s popularity and growth of Masonry attracted the alarm and ire of the Spanish Friars who, with their strong influence in the colonial government, initiated a brutal campaign of arrest, exile, imprisonment, torture, and even execution of Masons. The Spanish Government, at the urging of the Friars, banned Masonry and all Masonic activities on December 30, 1896. Coincidentally, Dr. Jose Rizal (the Philippine National Hero), a Master Mason and Past Master of the first Filipino Lodge (Logia Nilad) was executed, and was followed a few days later by the execution of the “13 Martyrs” who were mostly Masons. By then the Philippine Reform Movement has had turned into a full-blown, armed Revolution. The roll of the Revolutionary Movement leaders was filled with Masons like General Emilio Aguinaldo, the first President of the First (Revolutionary) Philippine Republic, Andres Bonifacio, the Father of the Philippine Revolution, and Apolinario Mabini, the brains of the Revolution, to name a few.

The Filipino rebels gained victories throughout the country which eventually led to the Spanish to be being isolated, besieged and surrounded in the Walled City/Fort of Intramuros in Manila. Just when victory was ripe for the taking by the Filipino Revolutionaries, the United States entered the political scene with the arrival of Admiral George Dewey’s Asiatic Squadron in Manila Bay on May 1898.  Through the treaty of Paris in 1898 between Spain and the United States with the Philippines not invited to participate, the Philippines were ceded (sold) by Spain  to the United States for $20 million. This agreement did not bode well with the Filipinos who were left out of the  negotiations. The Philippine Revolutionaries this time resumed hostilities against the American occupiers, called the Philippine American Revolution, which lasted for three years from 1899-1902.

With the American occupation of the Philippines, which lasted until Philippine independence in 1946, came the arrival of American Masons and American Lodges.  One was a lodge organized by Military volunteers from North Dakota. Another was a Prince Hall Lodge organized by African American servicemen from Missouri. There was also a lodge organized under the Grand Lodge of California.  With the growth of American lodges, there was also a resurgence of Filipino lodges under the former Regional Council.

On November 17, 1912, three lodges of the Grand Lodge of California held a meeting to prepare for the eventual organization of the Grand Lodge of the Philippine Islands. On December 12, 1912, a convention was held with delegates from these three lodges where the completed constitution for the new Grand Lodge was presented and approved with Brother Eugene Stafford elected as the first Grand Master. None of the Filipino lodges or Masons were invited to this convention. The reason for this non-invitation was that the petitioning Lodges were anticipating that the presence of “Irregular Lodges” (lodges of foreign jurisdiction) in their ranks that would lead the Grand Lodge of California to disapprove the petition. Being sensitive to the needs of the Filipino Masons and in the true spirit of “Brotherly Love,” Brothers from both sides, notably led by the First Grand Master Eugene Stafford on the American side and Manuel L. Quezon, (the future first President of the Commonwealth Republic of the Philippines) on the Filipino side, worked tirelessly on the delicate matter of the fusion of the two groups. On February 14, 1917, twenty-seven Filipino Lodges of the former Regional Council were constituted into the Grand Lodge of the Philippine Islands. After all the business of the fusion were attended to and completed, the group proceeded to elect officers for the coming Masonic year. The American members of the Grand Lodge realized they had effectively handed over to their Filipino brothers control of the Lodge with the Filipinos now having a majority of members and lodges. To the surprise of the Americans, WB Manuel Quezon, a Filipino, was elected as Deputy Grand Master. When asked about the election turn-out, Manuel Quezon reported saying that since the Americans were magnanimous in handing over the control of the Grand Lodge to the Filipinos, the Filipinos would share the privilege and honor of the Grand Masters Chair alternately on a yearly rotation with their American counterparts. That honorable agreement lasted from 1917-1974 when the last American Grand Master MW John Wallace was elected.

Masonry and Masons had very a strong influence in the direction and outcome of the Reform and Revolutionary periods of Philippine history, both of which were organized, led, and fought by Masons. The Philippine flag, which was designed by Brother General Emilio Aguinaldo, has strong Masonic influence, it being patterned after the Masonic apron with the “three stars” representing the ”Three Great Lights”.

Today, the Grand Lodge of the Philippines stands strong on its historical foundation with more than 21,000 members from all walks of life in over 460 lodges. Filipino Masonic lodges are also active and growing in US Grand Lodge jurisdictions such as the Grand Lodge of New York, New Jersey and California, to name a few.

I wish to thank my brother-in-law, Past Worshipful Dr Victor Pajares of the Philippines, for his help in the preparation of this article.

Respectfully submitted,

William Friedman

Jephtha Lodge No. 494

Dr. José Protasio Rizal, Masonic Hero

JOSÉ PROTASIO RIZAL MERCADO Y ALONSO REALONDA

 

June 19, 1861, Calamra, Laguna, Captaincy General of the Philippines, Spanish Empire –

December 30, 1896, Bagumbayan, Manila, Captaincy General of the Philippines, Spanish Empire

Executed by a Spanish firing squad

 

National Hero (the “George Washington of the Philippines”),

Masonic Hero, Patriot, Martyr, Ophthalmologist, Writer and Polymath

 

José Rizal was the son of Francisco Rizal Mercado y Alejandro and Teodora Alonso Realonda y Quintos, comfortable, middle-class, educated parents, and the seventh of their eleven children. Like many Filipinos he was of mestizo origin (Chinese, Japanese, Spanish and Tagalog ancestry). When he entered the university, he shortened his name to José Protasio Rizal.

At a very young age Rizal proved himself to be very bright, reading and writing at age 5. He graduated from the University Ateno of Manila with distinction, then continued to obtain a surveyor and assessor’s degree and finished a degree of Philosophy in Pre-Law. Learning his mother was going blind, he enrolled in the Medial School of Santo Thomas, specializing in ophthalmology, graduating with distinction in medical and surgical pathology and obstretics. He continued his studies in Madrid earning a Licentiate in Medicine, studied ophthalmology at the University of Paris (1885) and earned a second doctorate at the University of Heidelberg. He was 25 when he finished his eye specialization in Heidelberg where he used the newly invented ophthalmoscope (1886). Concurrently, he finished his first novel, Noli Me Tángere (“Touch Me Not,” [ John 20:17], 1887).

In 1891 he published his second novel, El Filibusterismo (“The Subversives,” 1891). Both of his novels influenced two groups of Filipinos during the Spanish colonial period – peaceful reformists and armed revolutionaries. The novels criticized and condemned Spanish friars and the power of the Church, characters that were drawn from everyday life in the Philippines. These novels, published in Spain, soon made their way to Manila since Rizal sent copies to the Governor-General of the Philippines and the Archbishop. The authorities there quickly labeled him a subversive. The Governor-General, Emilio Terrero y Perinat, a 33o Mason protected Rizal, but the Archbishop became his unrelenting enemy. Rizal felt he could be more persuasive in the Philippines, and against the advice of friends, he returned to Manila on August 5, 1887. Almost immediately, the Archbishop put pressure on the Governor-General to ban Rizal’s books which circulated wildly in the capital. The church authorities quickly published a condemnation of his works, and in doing so, sales of his books skyrocketed. The Archbishop put more pressure on Governor-General Terrero to arrest Rizal, and fearing Terrero could not longer protect him, Terrero advised Rizal to leave the Philippines. He placed himself in self-exile in Hong Kong where he had a lucrative and extensive practice as an ophthalmologist. One of his patients was Leonor Rivera, a distant cousin, with whom he had an eight year, chaste relationship via correspondence. It is thought she was his inspiration for the character of Maria Clara in Noli Me Tángere and El Filibusterismo. (She was 14 and he 16 when they first met, and the attraction was almost instantaneous.)

While in Hong Kong, a lodge for Filipinos was established in Manila, Nilad No. 44. The lodge made Rizal Honorable Venerable Master in absentia, and soon many Filipinos quickly became Masons. When Rizal returned to the Philippines a second time in 1892, Filipino Masonry was well established. The Masons honored Rizal upon his return which only angered the friars. He was arrested, deported to Dapitan (July 6, 1892), lodges were closed and many active Masons were deported. During this time, the religious authorities made reprisals against the Rizal family, including the arrest of his mother.

When Rizal returned to the Philippines in 1887, his father told him not to see Rivera since it would endanger her family. Nevertheless, he asked his father permission to marry her, and he said no; Rizal and Rivera never met again. He left for his second trip to Europe and he continued to write to her, but she never responded. Rivera eventually married Henry Kippling, an English railway engineer, whom her mother preferred. Rizal was devastated.

Rizal’s German friend, Dr. Adolf Bernhard Meyer, described Rizal’s abilities as “stupendous.” Rizal was a true polymath, excelling in painting, sketching, sculpture, poetry, essays, novels, conversant in 22 languages and dabbled with some expertise in architecture, cartography, economics ethnology, anthropology, sociology, martial arts, fencing and pistol shooting.

Rizal is one of the few Filipinos of the 19th century who is well documented because of his prolific writings. Many Rizal scholars often face challenges since he would often switch from one language to another. His diaries also give light to his thoughts and travels in Europe, Japan, the United States, and his self-imposed exile in Hong Kong.

While in Europe during his second stay, Rizal was arrested by the German police because they suspected him of being a French spy after publishing Dimanche des Rameaux (Palm Sunday), which discussed Palm Sunday in socio-political terms. (“… all those flowers, those olive branches, were not for Jesus alone; they were the songs of victory of the new law, they were the canticles celebrating the dignification of man, the liberty of man, the first mortal blow directed against despotism and slavery.”) Rizal’s good friend, Ferdinand Blumentritt, an Austro-Hungarian professor, warned Rizal that his writings, especially his two novels, would cause him to be prosecuted as an inciter of revolution. And as predicted, Rizal was tried by the Spanish military of the Philippines for rebellion, sedition and conspiracy, was convicted on all three charges, and executed because they believed his writings contributed to the Philippine Revolution of 1896, writings that centered on individual rights and freedom. Rizal noted the Philippines were battling “a double-faced Goliath” – corrupt friars and bad government. Rizal’s last words were those of Jesus Christ, consummatum est, “it is finished.” He was 35 years old when he was executed. (Rizal married his common-law wife, Marie Josephine Leopoldine Bracken, just before his execution. Her father was an Irish corporal in the British Army, stationed in Hong Kong, where she was born, and she and Rizal met.)

Rizal is thought to be the first Filipino revolutionary whose death was caused entirely by his writings. Through dissent and civil disobedience, he was successfully able to destroy Spain’s ethical entitlement to govern.

Rizal was secretly buried in the Pacò Cemetery of Manila in an unmarked grave. His sister, Narcisa, visited gravesites looking for fresh earth and found one with guards at the gate. She gave the caretaker a gift to mark the grave with RPJ, Rizal’s initials in reverse. During American rule in 1898 his body was exhumed and is now buried in the Rizal Monument in Manila. In his last letter to his family, Rizal wrote, “Treat your aged parents as you would wish to be treated… Love them greatly in memory of me… December 30, 1896.”

On his way to Madrid in 1882, Rizal’s ship docked in Naples where he saw many posters put up by Masons announcing the death of General Giuseppe Garibaldi (1807-1882, Italy’s hero of Italian unification and the creation of the Kingdom of Italy. He was raised to the Sublime Degree of Master Mason in Palermo, Italy, 1869, and he was a 33o Scottish Rite Mason.) According to the Filipino historian, Reynold Fajardo, “Rizal must have been impressed because he later wrote about what he saw in a letter to his parents and brothers. The letter marked the first time Rizal made a written mention of Masonry, but it would not be his last.” It is also possible his uncle, José Alonzo, a Mason, may have been a Masonic influence since Rizal lived with his uncle for part of his studies while living in Madrid. Alonzo was a Knight of the Order of Carlos III, and later King Amadeo, also a Mason, made him a Knight Commander of the Order of Isabel the Catholic. José Rizal became a Master Mason in 1884 at Acacia Lodge No. 9 in Madrid under the Gran Oriente de España while he was studying medicine. Historians believe he was 23 when he was raised. Fajardo continues to note, “In accordance with Masonic Practices then observed in Spain, Rizal selected a symbolic name by which he was to be known, “Dimasalang.” In 1889 he became a member of the all-Filipino Solidaridad Lodge No. 53 in Madrid. Before leaving Spain, the Gran Oriente de España made Rizal its Grand Representative with the authority to be its representative in France and Germany. (He never served, however, as a Worshipful Master in any lodge.) In 1891 he applied for admission to the Temple de L’Honneur et de L’Union in Paris, France. He truly deserves to be called an international Mason because he was a member of Masonic Lodges in Spain, Germany, France, and possibly England.

Several Masonic lodges are named after José Rizal: José Rizal Lodge No. 22 in Manila, Philippines; Dr. José Rizal (Calamba) Lodge, No. 270, Laguna, Philippines; Isagani Masonic Lodge No. 96, Luzon, Philippines, named after a character in Rizal’s novel, El Filibusterismo; José Rizal Lodge No. 1172, New York City, composed of natural-born Filipinos; and Gat José Rizal Lodge, Murietta, Southern California.

A special thank-you to Rose Friedman, wife of Jephtha Br. Bill Friedman, for recommending José Rizal as a Mason worthy of further study.

Fraternally yours,

Br. Richard Gentile

Jephtha Lodge No. 494

In Memoriam, Brother Rick Meuser

Frederick James Meuser
November 21,1957 – December 18, 2022

It was with great sadness the Brothers of Jephtha Lodge learned Brother Frederick James Meuser suddenly put down his Working Tools this past December. He was a loyal Brother and a good man who is fondly remembered for the many times he brought ice cream to the Lodge from his wife’s shop, Herrell’s Ice Cream, on Girard Street in Huntington Village. They closed in June 2021 as they made plans for their retirement.

Rick, as he was fondly known, was an attorney in the music business and he and Br Ron Seifried often ran into each other on the LIRR as they headed into New York City. Ron was always happy to see him as they engaged in animated conversation, never having a negative word to say about anyone.

Rick was also a very accomplished guitarist and played with the White Fire Band at many of the big clubs on Long Island, a band he began in high school. One of his devoted followers on Facebook remembering Rick said, “Rick and White Fire were electric.” Rick has his own discography, and another album was being produced at the time of his passing.

Br Rich Harris describes Rick as “a really good man, faithful to his family, church and Masonry. He was always upbeat, positive and complimentary, and always asked about my family. He loved his motorcycle and often drove it to church in good weather.”

Rick and his wife, Cathy, were active members in St Peter’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Huntington Station. They had been married for 35 years, raised two daughters, and were expecting their first grandchild this spring.

As is common practice among Masons, the altar in the Lodge Room will be draped in black for thirty days as we mourn our Brother.

Rest in Peace dear Brother, you will be missed.

Fraternally yours,
Richard Gentile, Editor

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Greeting from the Corner Desk, February 2023

Dear Brothers,
I’d like to offer two quick reminders this month. First, if you are interested in being a part of the book study on The Path of the Holy Fool by Lauren Artress (which will take place on Zoom, once a month), please let me know as soon as possible.
Secondly, please remember that you will not be receiving a new dues card. When the Grand Lodge traditioned to permanent dues cards several years ago, we stopped giving new (paper) ones each year. If you have lost yours, please contact me and I will have a new one sent to you.

Grace and Peace,
R:.W:. Tim TenClay, Secretary

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Greetings from the South, February 2023

Greetings from the South my Brothers!

I hope this newsletter finds you well and in good spirits as we approach February 2023. One exciting month is already down in 2023. Doesn’t time fly when we are having Masonic fun?

We have some great upcoming events, and we hope to see you all. Join us for the St. Patty’s Day Party on March 12th, the 3rd degree raising on Saturday, April 29th, and let’s not forget the District Deputy Grand Master visit on March 27th. For those of you who have not come down to the lodge in a long while, we cordially invite you to join us. We want to see you, laugh with you, see how you are doing and catch up at the Lodge. These meetings are our meetings, let’s enjoy them in harmony, together.

For the ladies of Jephtha Lodge, we wish you a Happy Saint Valentine’s Day.

Sincerely and Fraternally,
John A Lentinello, Junior Warden

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Greetings from the West, February 2023

My Brothers,

One of the basic obligations of a Mason is the care of the Widows and Orphans of our Brothers. My job, as Senior Warden, is to make sure we, as a Lodge, are taking care of them. Recently, the Grand Lodge began an effort to reach out to the Widows of Masons and remind them that Masonry has not forgotten them and wishes to honor them. This is a fantastic program!

When the Grand Lodge contacted me, the first thing I did was run our MORI database to find all the Widows of deceased Brothers. There were more then 275+ deceased brothers listed in our database, and, unfortunately, less than 10 of these records contained any information about their spouses. In order for us, as a Craft, to care for our Widows, we need to know who they are. With the help of Brother Pauly Levy, who had a file of spouses’ names, I was able to update 40+ deceased Master Masons’ records. I will also begin to determine if any of those spouses are still with us, but with their husbands being 100+ years of age, they most probably are not. For those few who may still be living, I want to get in touch with them to let them know they are not forgotten.

I have found the same trend exists with our active brothers. Their spouse information has not been kept up to date.

With Valentine’s Day around the corner, let’s show our love for our spouses by making sure we have at least their names. If they are willing to share their dates of birth, we can add that as well.

Therefore, this February, I would request my Brothers send me an email (wfenty@gmail.com) with your spouse’s name, and if she will permit, her date of birth. I will make sure MORI is kept up to date.

Sincerely and Fraternally,
Br Bill Fenty III, Senior Warden

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Greetings from the East, February 2023

Greetings Brethren,

Happy February!

As Worshipful Master, and as a past officer in other chairs, I had, and still have, many events, practices, degrees and travel to other lodges during this Masonic year. Without an understanding wife, these commitments could not have been fulfilled since she has sacrificed her time to do the things I should have been doing – giving up time with family and friends so I could spend time with my Brothers, and not being able to take my daughter to her various events. To my wife, Miranda, THANK YOU! To my daughter, thank you for your understanding.

To the lovely partners in our lives, who without their love, understanding and support of us Masons being away enabling us to fulfill our Masonic duties several times a week, a grand THANK YOU! We Masons wish you a very happy and well deserved Valentine’s Day. It is an honor for us to call you our partners.

Brothers, please embrace this day with your significant other, kiss them as you kissed them for the first time. Mine was walking in the rain to Greenwich Village on an unusually warm February evening in 2001. Tell them how much you love them. I did a few months after our first kiss, in May, in front of my mother’s tree on Mother’s Day. Remind your significant others of these significant moments and embrace them.

I would also like to remind everyone we celebrate Presidents Day this month, and we can call 14 of them Brothers. George Washington was the first Masonic President followed by James Monroe, Andrew Jackson, James Polk, James Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, James Garfield, William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, William Taft, Warren Harding, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman and Gerald Ford. Although not a Master Mason, Lyndon Johnson was an Entered Apprentice, and it is rumored Abraham Lincoln was scheduled to be initiated as an Entered Apprentice the Monday after his assassination.

Without mentioning any of the words or penalties of the three obligations taken to become a Master Mason, I would like to discuss what obligation means to us. The foundation of Freemasonry is built after we take our Entered Apprentice obligation, changing our titles from Mister to Brother. A candidate now becomes a member of the oldest, caring and brotherly fraternal organization in existence. He now has a stronger tie to the Masonic Brotherhood. This is even more so when a Brother brings in a friend and he also becomes a Brother. Their relationship has changed for the better and they are bound by stronger ties than ever before.

Although the obligations are mandatory to become a Master Mason in all three degrees, it is taken under free will. These obligations insure we are held to a higher moral standard, where a Brother can form friendships with other Brothers without worrying about being defrauded, wronged or cheated. This bond means a Brother can be trusted to help you if you are in need, as you would help him in doing the same. He is also obligated to care for widows and orphans. This obligation is sworn in front of the assembled brothers of the Lodge and is a promise from us all that we will continue to hold and honor Masonry to the highest standards possible. This is an agreement we made not only to the Craft but also to the Lodge, with our hand on the Greatest Light ever, the Holy Bible, or whatever other Holy Book you believe in if you are a non-Christian. In this way, we respect all religions and beliefs. As you promised in each obligation, which is the goal of every Mason, our path is toward the light so it becomes stronger and brighter each day.

My Dear Brothers, remember the promises you made while taking your obligation and always live life as you promised. Remember, the darker it gets the brighter your light must shine.

We mourn the sudden passing of our dear Brother, Frederick James Meuser, who laid down his Working Tools suddenly on December 18th. At the request of his family, we honored his memory with a Masonic Funeral Service. We send our deepest condolences to his wife, Cathy, his two daughters, Catlin and Christy, and his entire family.

Sincerely and Fraternally,
W:.M:. Michael S Crispino, Jr

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Famous January Mason – January, 2023

BENJAMIN FRANKLIN
Part II

January 17, 1706, Boston, MA (British America) – April 17, 1790, Philadelphia, PA (USA)

The first article about Benjamin Franklin outlining his life and accomplishments appeared in The Jephtha Newsletter in January 2021. This second article about this famous January Freemason is a reprint from The Christian Science Monitor Weekly, June 20, 2022, entitled, “Ben Franklin Bankrolled Two Centuries of Makers,” by Terry W. Hartle, Contributor.

Benjamin Franklin owed his success to intelligence and hard work. He never forgot his roots – he maintained a deep and abiding respect for people who worked with their hands and mastered a trade. And as Michael Meyer recounts in “Benjamin Franklin’s Last Bet: The Favorite Founder’s Divisive Death, Enduring Afterlife, and Blueprint for American Prosperity,” he believed that skilled workers were essential to American success. “Good apprentices,” wrote Franklin, “are most likely to make good citizens.”

His commitment to the “leather apron class” stretched far beyond his death. Just before he died in 1790, Franklin changed his will and left a large proportion of his estate to the cities of Philadelphia and Boston.

His plan was simple: Both cities were to lend the money in small amounts to tradesmen who needed funds to set themselves up in business. The borrowers were to repay the loans over 10 years at 5% interest. According to Franklin’s calculations, the fund would grow dramatically. After 100 years, some of the fund would be distributed by the city leaders and after 200 years, all the remaining money would be given away.
Franklin hoped the initiative would help young blacksmiths, coopers, carpenters, cabinet makers, and bricklayers get started. In many cases it did, and Meyer introduces us to some of the success stories. Unsurprisingly, some failed – which Franklin may not have anticipated.

Today, we would call these micro-loans. Nothing like this existed in 1790. Franklin knew firsthand how hard it could be for a skilled worker to get a start. He had been apprenticed to his older brother, James, who ran a print shop in Boston. The young Franklin showed promise, but he chafed under his brother’s harsh tutelage, broke his indenture, and bolted to Philadelphia, where he opened his own print shop.

Franklin’s bequest was a bold experiment with a long horizon “at a time when life expectancy was much shorter than it is today,” Meyer explains. It was also an audacious idea: It assumed that civic leaders in two cities would lend, without compensation, small interest-bearing loans to individual tradesmen for two centuries, collect repayments, and reinvest the repaid funds. What could possibly go wrong?”

Much did, of course, and both cities stumbled. Incompetence, inefficiency, lack of interest, defaults, incomplete records, and plain old graft were all involved. And Franklin’s calculations about how the money would grow proved wildly optimistic. But the surprising thing is that both cities, after 200 years, had a significant amount of money available for investment in public services.

Philadelphia had a balance of $2.3 million in 1990 – far less than Franklin had projected. The city used the money on job-training programs for high school graduates. Boston did a better job and had more than $4.6 million left. That city devoted all its money to the century-old Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology – an institution that had been founded with money from the first payout of Franklin’s will. The school still stands on Berkley Street in Boston and many of its students come from low-income families.

Meyer skillfully weaves a biography of Franklin into this story of his philanthropy. You cannot talk about Franklin without acknowledging his scientific experiments, and the author describes many of Franklin’s efforts, including the lightening rod, bifocals, swim fins and even a musical instrumented called the “glass armonica.”

Like the other founders, Franklin had faults. While he submitted to Congress the first petition to abolish slavery, he owned enslaved people and never freed a single one. Meyer acknowledges that even this most approachable and forward-thinking of the founders had shortcomings.

While the author notes that micro-loans are now a widely accepted strategy for helping create small businesses, he doesn’t talk much about the practice of an economic policy tool. He’s more interested in suggesting, without actually saying it, that Franklin was the father of micro-loans.

It only took two centuries for the economic and business communities to catch up.

BENJAMIN FRANKLIN’S LAST BET: The Favorite Founder’s Divisive Death, Enduring Afterlife, and Blueprint for American Prosperity, by Michael Meyer, Mariner Books, 368 pp.

One of Benjamin Franklin’s famous quotes, one of many – “Wine is a constant proof that God loves us, and loves to see us happy.” If you have read this far, and you are the 17th and 25th reader to respond, a near-future collation will be on the house. Kindly send the editor an email (rg.jlnews@aol.com) and in the subject line write, “Jan23.” Make sure your name, lodge, date and time appear in in your email so proper credit can be given. Thank you and good luck!

Fraternally yours,
Richard Gentile, Editor

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