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Benjamin Franklin
1706 - 1790

American statesman, inventor, author of Poor Richard's Almanac and other works

Books by Benjamin Franklin
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Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, The (1997)
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Benjamin Franklin: Wit & Wisdom (1998)
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Man will ultimately be governed by God or by tyrants.

The more the people are discontented with the oppression of taxes; the greater need the prince has of money to distribute among his partisans and pay the troops that are to suppress all resistance, and enable him to plunder at pleasure.

Jun. 2, 1787 - from a speech before the Constitutional Convention
The heart of the fool is in his mouth, but the mouth of the wise man is in his heart.

Duty is not beneficial because it is commanded, but is commanded because it is beneficial.

The honest man takes pains, and then enjoys pleasures; the knave takes pleasures, and then suffers pain.

1754 - from Poor Richard's Almanac
Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.

1754 - from Poor Richard's Almanac
Mankind are very odd creatures: one half censure what they practice, the other half practice what they censure; the rest always say and do as they ought.

[Commenting on England and its Welfare Act] There is no country in the world in which the poor are more idle, dissolute, drunken and insolent. The day you passed that Act you took away from before their eyes the greatest of all inducements to industry, frugality and sobriety, by giving them a dependence on somewhat else than a careful accumulation during youth and health for support in age and sickness.

1766 - quoted in The Tragedy of American Compassion by Marvin Olasky
If passion drives you, let reason hold the reins.

Diligence is the Mother of good luck.

from Poor Richard's Almanac
He that is of the opinion money will do everything may well be suspected of doing everything for money.

At twenty years of age, the will reigns; at thirty, the wit; and at forty, the judgment.

from Poor Richard's Almanac
Idleness and pride tax with a heavier hand than kings and parliaments. If we can get rid of the former, we may easily bear the latter.

Jul. 1, 1765 - from a letter on the Stamp Act
Well done is better than well said.

from Poor Richard's Almanac
No nation was ever ruined by trade.

from his essay "Thoughts on Commercial Subjects"
The used key is always bright.

Little strokes fell great oaks.

from Poor Richard's Almanac
Where there is hunger, law is not regarded; and where the law is not regarded, there will be hunger.

1754 - from Poor Richard's Almanac
... in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.

Nov. 13, 1789 - from a letter to Jean-Baptiste Leroy
At twenty years of age, the will reigns; at thirty, the wit; and at forty, the judgement.

1754 - from Poor Richard's Almanac
Remember that time is money.

1748 - quoted as advice to a young tradesman
We must all hang together, or, assuredly, we shall all hang separately.

Jun. 4, 1776 - remark to John Hancock upon signing the American Declaration of Independence
God helps them that help themselves.

from Poor Richard's Almanac
A little neglect may breed mischief, ... for want of a nail, the shoe was lost, for want of a shoe, the horse was lost, for want of a horse, the rider was lost.

1754 - from Poor Richard's Almanac
When a religion is good, I conceive it will support itself; and when it does not support itself, and God does not care to support it, so that its professors are obliged to call for the help of the civil power, 'tis a sign, I apprehend, of its being a bad one.

1754 - from Poor Richard's Almanac (Works, Volume XIII)
If you would persuade, you must appeal to interest rather than intellect.

In those wretched countries where a man cannot call his tongue his own, he can scarce call anything his own... Who ever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech.

Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become more corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.

He that falls in love with himself will have no rivals.

1754 - from Poor Richard's Almanac
Up, sluggard, and waste not life; in the grave will be sleeping enough.

To relieve the misfortunes of our fellow creatures is concurring with the Deity; it is godlike. But if we provide encouragement for laziness, and supports for folly, may we not be found fighting against the order of God and nature, which perhaps has appointed want and misery as the proper punishments for, and cautions against, as well as necessary consequences of, idleness and extravagance?

1753 - from The Writings of Benjamin Franklin
Idleness is the Dead Sea that swallows all virtues.

Like a man traveling in foggy weather, those at some distance before him on the road he sees wrapped up in the fog, as well as those behind him, and also the people in the fields on each side, but near him all appears clear, though in truth he is as much in the fog as any of them.

1790 - from his Autobiography
Haste makes waste.

from Poor Richard's Almanac
They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.

1759 - from Historical Review of Pennsylvania
I think vital religion has always suffered when orthodoxy is more regarded than virtue. The scriptures assure me that at the last day we shall not be examined on what we thought but what we did.

1738 - from a letter to his father