BENJAMIN PUTNAM 1788-1850
- Member 1827, Norfolk Union
- Grand Chaplain 1829-1833
From Proceedings, Page 1873-290:
REV. BENJAMIN PUTNAM, RANDOLPH, Baptist. 1829-1833.
The following interesting and emphatic letter from R.W. Bradford L. Wales, M.D., Past Senior Grand Warden of this Grand Lodge, portrays the sterling character of our late Brother Putnam so fully and in so admirable a manner as to show that he was, indeed, "a good man and true," and that his memory should be preserved and honored by Masons, so long as Freemasonry shall endure. It will be observed that Brother Putnam officiated as Grand Chaplain at the time when Freemasonry was most depressed in this Commonwealth : —
RANDOLPH, Dec. 27, 1873.
DEAR COL., — Your letter of the 25th inst. is received, and I am happy to be able to give you the information requested in regard to the character of Rev. Benjamin Putnam. I was more intimate with him during his residence in Randolph, perhaps, than any man outside of his church. I have never seen in print any obituary notice of him; if there ever was any, it would be found, most likely, in the Boston Christian Watchman, about the time of his decease. Mr. Putnam was born in Bakerstown, Maine, Sept. 1, 1788. He commenced preaching in 1806, at the early age of eighteen, and closed a long and useful life, while pastor of the First Baptist Church in Billerica, Mass., Dec. 21, 1850. He was installed over the Baptist Church in Randolph, July 2, 1823, and resigned April 1, 1829.
Mr. Putnam in his manners was modest and unassuming; always manifesting a gentle and placid temper, a heart endowed with amiable and generous affections, and they were nowhere better exhibited than within the circle of his own family. He was a Christian gentleman in the best acceptation of that term. He was a diligent and faithful pastor, exhibiting a candor of mind which is rarely to be found; a man of strict integrity, and always consistent in his Christian character. His intellect was naturally acute, clear and discerning. His power of acquisition was great. He possessed a vigorous mind, resolute will and sterling good sense. His sermons were generally doctrinal. The clearness of his conceptions, the accuracy and force of his language, and the dignity of his manner, rendered him a most interesting speaker, though not what would be deemed in these days a finished pulpit orator.
Mr. Putnam was a benevolent man; his faith was strong; his hope cheerful; his charity extending to all mankind. A poor man, he was generous beyond his means; the great aim of his life was to make the human race better and more happy. He cultivated the spirit: — "Which lays its own advantage by/To seek a neighbor's good."
With all these virtues, he did not escape many severe trials; unkind treatment from others he bore with great patience and meekness, showing entire command of his natural good temper. If he was convinced in his own judgment that he was right, neither slander or abuse, persuasion or persecution, had any influence upon his opinions or his acts. This characteristic was strikingly manifested by his course in the time of Masonic persecution. I knew him intimately; he was my pastor and guide, spiritual and Masonic.
When the far-famed Morgan tornado swept across the country in 1826, it found a genial locality in Randolph. Mr. Putnam was a most ardent Freemason, and at that time a member of Norfolk Union Lodge, and had been its Chaplain for several years. The Anti-Masons at once singled him out on whom to vent their pent-up wrath. The church over which he acted as pastor, by a small majority, required him to renounce Freemasonry or resign his office; but unfortunately for them such a requirement, to become effective, wanted the concurrent vote of the parish. This they failed to obtain; a majority of whom being composed of Masons, Jacks and Bats. This state of things continued for more than a year; meetings being held monthly and semi-monthly, with substantially the same results. The church, at length finding themselves powerless, agreed by way of compromise to be content if Mr. Putnam would withdraw entirely from all Masonic meetings. On the Sunday succeeding this proposition, he gave his answer from the pulpit to a congregation far exceeding the capacity of the house, taking for his text, Nehemiah, vi. chap., 11th verse, "And I said, Should such a man as I flee? and who is there, being as I am, that would go into the temple to save his life? I will not go in." If you will read the context, you can judge pretty correctly what sort of an answer we got.
At a parish meeting subsequently held, a leading Anti-Mason delivered a violent tirade against the Masonic institution in general, and the Bat-Masons in particular; closing by presenting the following preamble and resolution: —
"Whereas, it is apparent that this people care more for Masonry than they do for Christianity;
"Resolved, That a committee be appointed by the Moderator" (your humble servant), "to procure a Square and Compass, at a cost not exceeding fifty dollars, and place the same on the front of the pulpit."
The resolution, to the great mortification of the mover and his friends, was adopted by a unanimous vote. The committee was appointed, consisting of three Anti-Masons; and, though forty-five years have since intervened, the committee have never yet made their report. Mr. Putnam at this time, in the honesty of his heart believing that his usefulness as a Gospel minister was ended in this locality, resigned his office, and was soon after settled at Springfield, Mass. When he left Randolph, I left the parish, and have not troubled it since with my Masonic presence. The pulpit thus vacated by Mr. Putnam was soon filled by another, whose Christian character and opinions of Masonry were more in accordance with their own; and had he been endowed with more of the meekness and modesty of his predecessor, and more of the moral genius of Freemasonry, he would not have found himself, a few years later, an inmate of a State's Prison for the heinous crime of adultery. After Mr. Putnam's resignation, he was without the means of support for any length of time, and without prospect of immediate settlement. Most of the churches of his denomination in Eastern Massachusetts, having been inoculated with Anti-Masonic virus, were at this time suffering from the disease in its most malignant type ; and among the thousand different vagaries and insane mutterings, the legitimate symptoms of the disease, one was always present, and that was a holy horror for the man that would not go into the temple to save his life. In the midst of all these discouragements, with a large and dependent family around him, he was officially notified that, after the end of the month, the time agreed upon for his resignation to take effect, his station was outside of the door of the parsonage house. The members of Norfolk Union Lodge, who had, to a man, stood by him in all his trials, again came to the rescue, procuring for him a house on a lease of one year. But by reason of other arrangements, most gratifying both to him and his friends, he had no occasion to occupy it. Here ended this anti-religious war, so far as Mr. Putnam was concerned; and, for lack of food "convenient," died ignominiously this many-headed monster.
I have given you this brief account, not because I thought it would interest you as it has me, but rather to show more practically the character of my old friend, Benjamin Putnam. "Blessed be his rest."
BRADFORD L. WALES.
COL. JOHN T. HEARD, BOSTON.
The following addendum appears in New England Freemason, Vol. I, No. 2, February 1874, p. 85:
Note. — "Jacks" and "Bats" were names of reproach applied by Anti-Masons to all persons outside of the Fraternity who did not agree with them in their opinions and join them in their persecution of the Institution and its members. The Jacks were those who openly defended Freemasons both by their influence and their votes, and were more active and determined in their opposition to Anti-Masonry, if possible, than the Masons themselves. The Bats were those who stood aloof and said nothing, apparently taking no interest in the matter. To them, the Anti-Masons manifested the most in tense hatred. The Bats were men, as a general rule, not greatly interested in politics, and of more than average influence in the community. Of their neutrality and disinterestedness the Antis were always jealous, and, as it proved in the end, not without good reason. The bat is said to be blind; as blind as a bat is an old proverb; therefore, those who shut their eyes to the horrors of Freemasonry were so named.
The application of these names to the classes described was universal in those days. The newspapers spoke of them thus: such a town elected so many Bats, so many Jacks, &c.; in such a town the jury box contains four Jacks, one Bat, fifty Antis, &c, &c.
When Moore and Seavey were on trial in the Municipal Court of Boston, in 1833, for an alleged libel upon the notorious Samuel D. Greene, the publisher of a paper called The Anti-Masonic Christian Herald, a witness from Randolph was called to the stand. The usual questions allowed by the Courts in all cases where Freemasonry was supposed to be influential were put to him prior to his examination, to wit: "Are you a Freemason? No sir. Are you a Jack Mason? No sir. Are you a Bat Mason? No sir. Are you an Anti-Mason? Not exactly, but a kind of Anti. What do you mean by a kind of Anti? I mean l am an Anti, but I don't go the whole hog!" Thereupon. Richard Fletcher, counsel for the defence, remarked inquiringly, " ou are an Anti-Mason then, all but the hog part!" To which the witness replied, " Yes sir, jes' so."
I thought then, and think now, that if the hog part of Anti-Masonry had been extracted, nothing but a skeleton would have been left. — B. L. W.