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Ben Franklin

The Quotable Franklin

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According to Benjamin Franklin himself, many of the proverbs and aphorisms found in "Poor Richard's Almanack" were gleaned from the "wisdom of the ages and nations." In the dictums and maxims that follow, one hears echoes of the Bible, the ancients, and collections of proverbs readily available in Franklin's own time. Yet, in recrafting many older sayings, Franklin, who was among other things an inventor and musician, brought new design and melody to timeworn truisms.

Franklin once created a list of 13 virtues to live by. This baker's dozen included:

  • temperance
  • silence
  • order
  • resolution
  • frugality
  • industry
  • sincerity
  • justice
  • moderation
  • cleanliness
  • tranquility
  • chastity
  • and humility

The reader will see these virtues emphasized again and again in these quotes, many culled from Franklin's "Poor Richard's Almanack."

Did Franklin himself listen to Poor Richard's advice? Sometimes. Sometimes not.

"Be temperate in wine, in eating, girls, and cloth, or the Gout will seize you and plague you both," Franklin wrote. Franklin relished his food, basked in the company of women, and at times used items of apparel to influence the way people perceived him. And, indeed, gout plagued Franklin for much of his life.

One thing that makes these aphorisms so compelling is that Franklin, while divine in apprehension, was in action very much a mortal. Take these morsels in moderation — Franklin would have it no other way.

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