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:
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.
libertyThey who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.
Franklin's Contributions to the Conference on February 17 (III) Fri, Feb 17, 1775
EatEat to live, and not live to eat.
Three DaysAfter three days men grow weary, of a wench, a guest, and weather rainy.
NecessityNecessity never made a good bargain.
Keep a SecretThree may keep a secret, if two of them are dead.
OpportunityOpportunity is the great bawd.
Early to bedEarly to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.
See and ForeseeTis easy to see, hard to foresee.
Good to ManWhat is serving God?
Tis doing Good to Man.
Dogs and fleasHe that lieth down with Dogs, shall rise up with Fleas.
God helps themGod helps them that help themselves.
from Algernon Sidney (1622–1683)
Worse wheelThe worst wheel of a cart makes the most noise.
Poor have littleThe poor have little,
The rich too much
Enough not one.
Crosses and lossesAfter crosses and losses, men grow humbler and wiser.
Speaks illHe that speaks ill of the Mare, will buy her.
WeatherwiseSome are weatherwise, some are otherwise.
Three friendsThere are three faithful friends -- an old wife, an old dog, and ready money.
Not be forgottenIf you would not be forgotten
As soon as you are dead and rotten,
Either write things worthy reading,
Or do things worth the writing.
Eyes wide openKeep your eyes wide open before marriage, half shut afterwards.
Riseth lateHe that riseth late, must trot all day, and shall scarce overtake his business at night.
ExperienceExperience keeps a dear school, but fools will learn in no other.
Well's dryWhen the well's dry, we know the worth of water.
Love lifeDoes thou love life? Then do not squander time; for that's the stuff life is made of.
Great oaksLittle strokes,
Fell great oaks.
Cat in glovesThe cat in gloves catches no mice.
Work and prayWork as if you were to live a hundred years,
Pray as if you were to die tomorrow.
AlmanackWith the old Almanack and the old Year,
Leave thy old Vices, tho ever so dear.
One good husbandOne good Husband is worth two good Wives; for the scarcer things are, the more they're valued.
Fish and visitorsFish and visitors stink after three days.
DeceivedWho has deceiv'd thee so oft as thy self?
Good lawyerA good lawyer, a bad neighbour.
Country manA country man between two lawyers, is like a fish between two cats.
Err is humanTo err is human, to repent divine; to persist devilish.
Well doneWell done is better than well said.
Keep thy shopKeep thy shop, and thy shop will keep thee.
King's cheeseThe king's cheese is half wasted in parings;
but no matter, 'tis made of the people's milk.
Be slowBe slow in chusing a friend, slower in changing.
Drinks aloneHe that drinks his Cyder alone, let him catch his Horse alone.
Who is rich?Who is rich? He that rejoices in his Portion.
Quarrels interposeThose who in quarrels interpose, must often wipe a bloody nose.
Hath a tradeHe that hath a Trade, hath an Estate.
What you seemWhat you seem to be, be really.
Old drunkardsThere are more old drunkards than old doctors.
MusesThe Muses love the Morning.
Fear not deathFear not death; for the sooner we die, the longer shall we be immortal.
HungerHunger is the best pickle.
Tim was so learnedTim was so learned, that he could name a horse in nine Languages.
So ignorant, that he bought a cow to ride on.
No lawWhen there's no Law, there's no Bread.
Drinks fastHe that drinks fast, pays slow.
Love thy neighbourLove your Neighbour; yet don't pull down your Hedge.
Wrapped upPeople who are wrapped up in themselves make small packages.
Discontented manThe discontented Man finds no easy Chair.
Read muchRead much, but not too many books.
Speak muchHe that speaks much, is much mistaken.
Glass, china, reputationGlass, China, and Reputation, are easily crack'd, and never well mended.
Three good mealsThree good meals a day is bad living.
Sleeping foxThe sleeping Fox catches no poultry. Up! up!
SilenceSilence is not always a Sign of Wisdom, but Babbling is ever a folly.
A good exampleA good example is the best sermon.
End of passionThe end of Passion is the beginning of Repentance.
Proud of virtueTo be proud of virtue, is to poison yourself with the Antidote.
He that would fishHe that would Fish, must venture his bait.
Drink does not drown CareDrink does not drown Care, but waters it, and makes it grow faster.
Ounce of preventionAn ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Live upon hopeHe that lives upon hope will die fasting.
A little neglectA little neglect may breed great mischief...for want of a nail the shoe was lost; for want of a shoe the horse was lost; and for want of a horse the rider was lost.
Remember that time is money.
Advice to a Young Tradesman
Hang togetherWe must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.
At the signing of the Declaration of Independence
Good warThere was never a good war or a bad peace.
Letter to Josiah Quincy [September 11, 1783]
New ConstitutionOur new Constitution is now established, and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in the world nothing can be said to be certain except death and taxes.
Letter to Jean-Baptiste Leroy [Nov. 13, 1789]
BeerBeer is living proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.
Falsely attributed. He was actually speaking about the rain, which creates the wine: "Behold the rain which descends from heaven upon our vineyards, there it enters the roots of the vines, to be changed into wine, a constant proof that God loves us, and loves to see us happy."
Knaves and PriestsWhen knaves fall out, honest men get their goods. When Priests dispute, we come at the Truth.
Church and StateThe church, the state, and the poor, are 3 daughters which we should maintain, but not portion off.
FearedThose who are feared are hated.
Pretended reasonsIt's common for Men to give pretended Reasons instead of one real one.
FoolsThere are no fools so troublesome as those that have wit.
MobA mob's a monster; heads enough but no brains.
InjuryDoing an injury puts you below your enemy; revenging one make you but even with him; forgiving it sets you above him.
Genius & EducationGenius without education is like silver in the mine.
Virtue and LibertySell not virtue to purchase wealth, nor liberty to purchase power.
PlaythingsOld boys have their playthings as well as young ones; the difference is only in the price.
Power and libertySudden power is apt to be insolent, sudden liberty saucy; that behaves best which has grown gradually.
Faith and reasonThe way to see by faith is to shut the eye of reason.
A Penny SavedA penny saved is a penny earned.
Franklin Quotes (combined)