Where Men Can Become Better Gentlemen

Quotes by Author

Benjamin Franklin

A Wealthy Life

Benjamin Franklin was one of the “Founding fathers” of the USA and even today is a well-known icon within the States, with numerous US schools, counties and people named after him (including some US warships too!). Born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1706 he ran away from home at the age of 17 and arrived almost penniless in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Here he began business as a printer (having trained as such at home) and went on to become a journalist and postmaster, while setting up a printing franchise along the east coast. Using these fast lines of communication allowed Franklin to launch the first national newspaper of the USA: The Pennsylvania Gazette. In 1754 he printed a political cartoon in this newspaper of a segmented snake, each representing the colonies which existed at that time with the caption “Join or Die” – an image still recognized and oft depicted today.

A Life of Leisure

Franklin's business endeavors enabled him to effectively retire by the age of 42, having set up the first US public lending library, the first non-religious college in the US (now the University of Pennsylvania) and eventually the Franklin Institute (Science Museum) in Philadelphia to name but a few of his initiatives. This retirement provided him time to think, read and study - leading him to many inventions. These included: the understanding and mapping of Atlantic Ocean currents (the Gulf Stream), building a greatly improved glass harmonica, creating bifocal spectacles, devising the lightening rod (to protect buildings from lightening strikes) and a metal stove for heating rooms (The Franklin Stove) instead of using a fireplace & chimney – to name but a few. Perhaps his best-known work was on static electricity and his written work on experiments, understanding and theories of electricity gained him international renown, not to mention honorary degrees from Oxford, Harvard and Yale.

The Life of a Nation

Although Franklin had been a loyal and faithful British colonial patriot he was a firm advocate of the “no taxation without representation” movement. In the 1760’s he went to England as a representative of the Pennsylvanian colony, and successfully gained a repeal of the Stamp Tax, effectively affirming his future as a diplomatic statesman for the US. In 1776 he was one of 5 who drafted the Declaration of Independence (and signed it) and was key in establishing the American Constitution in 1787.

From 1776 to 1785 he was commissioner for the US in France, managing to secure desperately needed munitions and French troops in support of the American War of Independence. It is suggested that he and George Washington are the two influential figures in ensuring America won the war. Franklin eventually died in 1790 at the age of 84 having lived an amazing life. His image is on the $100 US note and he has clearly left a wide and far-reaching legacy whose ripples still affect many people in today’s world.

Further Reading


There are many fine books available regarding the life and times of Benjamin Franklin. The best we have found, and enjoyed, is “Benjamin Franklin: An American Life” by Walter Isaacson.

The following are a selection of quotes attributed to Benjamin Franklin:

A

A fat kitchen makes a lean will.

A freeborn Englishman ought not to be ashamed or afraid to see or speak to any man living.

A life of leisure and a life of laziness are two things. Do you imagine that sloth will afford you more comfort than labor?

A little neglect may breed great mischief.

Always taking out of the meal-tub, and never putting in, soon comes to the bottom.

Always wear your wedding ring, for therein lies more virtue than usually is imagined. If you are ruffled unawares, assaulted with improper thoughts, or tempted in any kind against your duty, cast your eyes upon it, and call to mind, who gave it you, where it was received, and what passed at that solemn time.

A man may, if he knows not how to save as he gets, keep his nose all his life to the grindstone, and die not worth a groat at last.

A ploughman on his legs is higher than a gentleman on his knees.

A raging passion for immoderate gain had made men universally and intensely hard-hearted.

A single man…is an incomplete animal. He resembles the odd half of a pair of scissors.

At a great pennyworth pause a while; many have been ruined by buying good pennyworths.

At the working man’s house hunger looks in, but dares not enter.

Away then with your expensive follies, and you will not have so much cause to complain of hard times, heavy taxes, and chargeable families.

A word to the wise is enough, and many words won’t fill a bushel.

B

Be frugal and free.

Be industrious and free.

Beware of little expenses; a small leak will sink a great ship.

Buy what you have no need of, and forever long you shall sell your necessaries.

C

Chess (teaches) foresight, circumspection, caution and the importance of not being discouraged.

Constant dripping wears stones.

Creditors are a superstitious sect, great observers of set days and times.

Creditors have better memories than debtors.

D

Diligence and patience the mouse ate in two the cable.

Diligence is the mother of good luck.

Do you love life, then do not squander time, for that’s the stuff life is made of.

Drive your business, let not that drive you.

E

Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.

Employ your time well if you mean to gain leisure; and, since you are not sure of a minute, throw not away an hour.

Experience keeps a dear school, but fools will learn in no other, and scarce in that.

F

Fond pride of dress, is sure a very curse; Ever fancy your consult, consult your purse.

Fools make feasts, and wise men eat them.

For age and want, save whilst you may; No morning sun lasts a whole day.

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.

G

Gain may be temporary and uncertain, but ever while you live, expense is constant and certain.

Get what you can, and what you get hold; It is the stone that will turn all your lead into gold.

God gives all things to industry.

God helps them that help themselves.

H

He that has a trade has an estate, and he that has a calling has an office of profit and honor.

He that rises late, must trot all day, and shall scarce overtake his business at night.

Histories of lives are seldom entertaining, unless they contain something either admirable or exemplar.

I

I am an enemy to vice, and a friend to virtue.

If you were a servant, would you not be ashamed that a good master should catch you idle? Are you then your own master, be ashamed to catch yourself idle.

If you would be wealthy…think of saving as well as getting.

If you would have a faithful servant, and one that you like, serve yourself.

If you would know the value of money, go and try to borrow some, for, he that goes a borrowing goes a sorrowing.

Industry and constant employment are great preservatives of the morals and virtue of a nation.

Industry need not hope, he that lives upon hope will die fasting.

Industry pays debts, while despair increases them.

I never saw an oft removed tree, nor an oft removed family, that throve so well as those that settled be.

In the affairs of this world men are saved not by faith, but by the want of it.

In wine there is wisdom, in beer there is Freedom, in water there is bacteria.

I resolve to speak ill of no man whatever, not even in a matter of truth; but rather by some means excuse the faults I hear charged upon others, and upon proper occasions speak all the good I know of every body.

I think vital religion has always suffered, when orthodoxy is more regarded than virtue.

It is as truly folly for the poor to ape the rich, as for the frog to swell, in order to equal the ox.

It is easier to suppress the first desire than to satisfy all that follow it.

It is hard for an empty bag to stand upright.

It is necessary for me to be extremely frugal for some time, till I have paid what I owe.

It is the doing or not doing all the good that lies in our power that will render us the heirs of happiness or misery.

It is the man and woman united that make the complete human being. Separate, she wants his force of body and strength of reason; he, her softness, sensibility and acute discernment. Together they are more likely to succeed in the world.

It is true there is much to be done, and perhaps you are weak handed, but stick to it steadily, and you will see great effects.

It is…unreasonable in any one man or set of men to expect to be pleased with every thing that is printed.

L

Laziness travels so slowly, that poverty soon overtakes.

Learning is to the studious, and riches to the careful, as well as power to the bold, and Heaven to the virtuous.

Leisure is time for doing something useful; this leisure the diligent man will always obtain, but the lazy man never.

Let me resolve to be virtuous, that I may be happy.

Little strokes fell great oaks.

Look around the habitable world, how few know their own good, or, knowing it, pursue!

Lying rides upon debt’s back.

M

Many a little makes a mickle.

Marriage is…the most natural state of man, and therefore the state in which you are most likely to find solid happiness.

N

Nothing was useful which was not honest.

O

Of all the dear things in this world, idleness is the dearest, except mischief.

One today is worth two tomorrows…have you somewhat to do tomorrow, do it today.

P

Peace, unity and virtue in any church are more to be regarded than orthodoxy.

People are so viciously and corruptly educated that good things are not encouraged.

Plough deep, while sluggards sleep, and you will have corn to sell and to keep.

Poverty often deprives a man of all spirit and virtue.

Pride breakfasted with plenty, dined with poverty, and supped with infamy.

Pride is as loud a beggar as want, and a great deal more saucy.

Pride that dines on vanity sups on contempt.

R

Rather go to bed supper-less than rise in debt.

Resolve every morning to be good-natured and cheerful.

S

Silks and satins, scarlet and velvets, put out the kitchen fire.

Sloth, like rust, consumes faster than labor wears, while the used key is always bright.

Sloth makes all things difficult, but industry all easy.

So convenient a thing it is to be a reasonable creature, since it enables one to find or make a reason for everything one has a mind to do.

T

The artificial wants of mankind…become more numerous than the natural.

The borrower is a slave to the lender, and the debtor to the creditor; disdain the chain, preserve your freedom; and maintain your independency: be industrious and free; be frugal and free.

The eye of a master will do more work than both his hands.

The opinions of men are almost as various as their faces.

There are no gains, without pains.

There is certainly scarce any part of a man’s life in which he appears more silly and ridiculous, than when he makes his first onset in courtship.

There is no convenience without an inconvenience.

There will be sleeping enough in the grave.

The second vice is lying; the first is running in debt.

The sleeping fox catches no poultry.

They that won’t be counseled can’t be helped.

Think what you do when you run in debt; you give to another power over your liberty.

Time-enough, always proves little enough.

To apply myself industriously to whatever business I take in hand, and not divert my mind from my business by any foolish project of growing suddenly rich; for industry and patience are the surest means of plenty.

To endeavor to speak truth in every instance; to give nobody expectations that are not likely to be answered, but aim at sincerity in every word and action, the most amiable excellence in a rational being.

Trouble springs from idleness, and grievous toil from needless ease. Many without labor would live by their wits only, but they break for want of stock. Whereas industry gives comfort, and plenty, and respect.

U

Upon the whole we must not judge of one another by their best actions; since the worst men do some good, and all men make fine professions: but we must judge of men by the whole of their conduct, and the effects of it. Thorough honesty requires great and long proof, since many a man, long thought honest, has at length proved a knave. And it is judging without proof, or false proof, that mankind continue unhappy.

W

Want of care does us more damage than want of knowledge.

Wasting time must be the greatest prodigality since…lost time is never found again.

We are taxed twice as much by our idleness, three times as much by our pride, and four times as much by our folly.

We may give advice, but we cannot give conduct.

What is a butterfly? At best He’s but a caterpillar dressed. The gaudy fop’s his picture just.

What maintains one vice, would bring up two children.

What use is this pride of appearance, for which so much is risked, so much is suffered? It cannot promote health; or ease pain; it makes no increase of merit in the person, it creates envy, it hastens misfortune.

When nature gave us tears, she gave us leave to weep. A long separation from those who are so near a-kin to us in flesh and blood, will touch the heart in a painful place, and awaken the tenderest springs of sorrow. The sluices must be allowed to be held open a little; nature seems to demand it as a debt to love.

When there is so much to be done for yourself, your family, your country…be up by peep of day; let not the sun look down and say, inglorious here he lies.

When the well’s dry, they know the worth of water.

Who dainties love, shall beggars prove.

Wise men learn by others’ harms, fools scarcely by their own.

With our industry, we must…be steady, settled and careful, and oversee our own affairs with our own eyes, and not trust too much to others.

Without virtue man can have no happiness in this world.

Women and wine, game and deceit, Make the wealth small, and the wants great.

Work as if you were to live 100 years, pray as if you were to die tomorrow.

Work while it is called today, for you know not how much you may be hindered tomorrow.



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