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Benjamin Franklin's 13 Virtues

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 0 0

Benjamin Franklin is known as one of the greatest inventors, scientist, and politician in American History.  He has many credits to his name. He established the first American Post Office, the first Fire Department, and the University of Pennsylvania.  He invented the bifocals, the Franklin Stove (named after him of course), and the lightening rod.  Even though he is given credit for “discovery electricity” this is false.  He have a valuable experiment that showed a relationship between electricity and lightening but the history of electricity goes back at least 2000 years to the ancient Greeks. 

Benjamin Franklin was a satirist, writing under the pseudonym of Poor Richard.  He was a political advocate for the freedom for the colonies.  He is known as the “First American” because he was one of the first to do this.  He was the first United States Ambassador to France. 

$100 bill

With many credits to his name, Benjamin Franklin, was known as one of the Greatest Americans.  However, as Benjamin Franklin would probably tell today, if he could come back like he did on an Episode of Bewitched, he has some demons he had to overcome.  Benjamin Franklin liked the women, the booze, and the thrill of a good intriguing story, even if he had to make it up himself. 

However, Benjamin Franklin knew of his behaviors and how they made him look.  He did spend quite a bit of his senior years explaining some of his behaviors from his life.  To help others coming down the path of life as he was coming back, Mr. Franklin established what he called the 13 Virtues of Life for Man.  They are as follows:



Benjamin Franklin said “Eat not to dullness; Drink not to elevation.”  In other words he was saying do not eat too much that you are tired and must go to sleep or cannot do anything else and do not drink to the point that you are drunk. 

He pointed out that Temperance has to be the first virtue (that is why I put it first) and it must be strictly followed in order to perform the rest of the virtues.  He said the man (or woman) who can develop temperance can resist the primal urges and be able to set the path for accomplishing anything else he or she wishes. 


Franklin would tell people to “imitate Jesus and Socrates” and to practice humility every day.  His advice would be to not take credit where credit is not due.  And when you do take credit, give the credit away at the end.  For instance, you might have done a good job on a project, but then say “by the Grace of God” or “with the help of others” I accomplished these tasks. 

He would instruct people to do what is expected for the sake of doing it and not to be a “glory hound.”  Do not “name drop” when talking to others.  Just because you know someone does not mean that you are associated directly with that person.  Name dropping can be deceitful according to Ben Franklin. 


Franklin did like women.  However, he was not a womanizer.  He was all for women having the social status that most men had.  Franklin was not chaste himself and he would be the first to admit.  However, he would probably not condone all the references to sex in today’s culture.  He considered sex to be a more private topic of conversation. 

He had an illegitimate son and readily admitted this, but he never admitted to having sex with the boy’s mother.  This was implied but never spoken by Franklin.  Good men and women have sex, but they keep it behind closed doors.  Benjamin Franklin believed it was impolite to even hint at sex in public, but some public flirtation was not beyond the call for him.


Benjamin Franklin would be a person that would be all for Anger Management.  He stated a person should “Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.”  He was saying that Man should learn to control his anger because it is all around.  If you look for something to be angry about, you will find it. 

He was not saying to not be passionate about changing it.  He was not saying do not fight when the time has come.  If so, he would not have been one of the first advocates for the American Revolution.  He was just trying to say, if a man can remain tranquil, he will be able to process the information better and come up with a better plan of how to “attack” the situation. 


“Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.”  By this statement, Franklin was inferring that a person should not speak all the time.  He should only do so when the time was necessary.  This would be to speak up for a cause or a situation where you or your organization, family, or group needed something.  He would say a person needs to learn when to speak up and when to shut up. 


Franklin would admit, when he was younger he would not take care of some hygiene issues that he probably should have.  But as he grew older he realized the virtues of presenting himself in a good manner.  To do so, he advocated that Man take a bath at least once a week and more often if social graces are called for.  He meant, if you had to be around others, you should take a bath more often.  Oh, how I wish some people today would follow this. 

However, to Franklin, Cleanliness did not only mean taking a bath.  It meant, dressing up when in public with making sure the clothes were neat and not “gathered.”  He also meant brushing your hair and shaving. 

He also did not just mean the body when he spoke of cleanliness.  He was also referring to the house and the area of your responsibilities.  That would be your office, your yard, and anywhere else, that would be considered “your area.”


Franklin separated order from Cleanliness because order can mean so much more.  Yes being clean is also being orderly, but he separated the two as meaning the cleanliness as the physical factors and the order as the mental factors. 

The laws of science tell us the universe is in constant chaos, but Man must strive to contain order.  This will be hard when challenging the Laws of the Universe, but this will make Man stronger.  Order is not an end means, but continuous.  Take care of things and do not let them get out of control.  Strive to control the environment through the mental process of planning, prevention, and poor performance. 


“Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve." As stated before, Franklin liked his women, booze, and a good story, but he advocated living the simple life.  Everything in moderation can be good.  However, I doubt Franklin would agree with drugs and other substances we know today. 

He accumulated quite a bit in his life, but he tried not to let those be the things that dictated his world.  Those material possessions were not important to the virtuous man.  For instance, Franklin never patented anything.  All his inventions were for the world to have, not him. 


Poor Richard

Along with moderation, Frugality was important to Franklin.  As I have already stated, he did not own any patents.  He never made much money off of anything he invented.  Yes, he sold things, but he did so to pay his way.  Everyone else was also free to sell his things. 

Franklin gave a lot of money and things away. When a Frenchman named Charles-Joseph Mathon de la Cour, who actually liked Ben, wrote a parody of Poor Richard’s Almanack entitled Fortunate Richard” spoofing all the money Franklin made from the almanac, Franklin gave 1000 pounds to the cities of Boston and Philadelphia in the form of a trust that could not be used for 200 years.  The cities have used the money for home loans for poor people, scholarships for children and to establish a trade school, to help working people.  Franklin’s decision of being frugal is helping people over 200 years later.


Ben Franklin

“Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty." Franklin believed the Crown in The British Empire was doing the citizens of the colonies an injustice with the Stamp Act and the Tea Tax Act.  At first, he was not an advocate of the colonies fighting the British.  He was a proud British citizen and even had government jobs for the Crown. However, he believed the injustices bestowed by the King of England require justice for the people of the colonies.  Therefore, he switched his position and became one of the first to advocate for revolution.

Justice is imperative the fledgling nation and to all men.  Franklin was one of the biggest advocates for the Justice system being equal in the three branches of government and the checks and balance system.  He also recommended that the person, himself, have checks and balances, in the same way the government does.  He would say the government should recapitulate the person.


“Say what you mean and mean what you say” may not have been said by Ben Franklin, but he would certainly advocate for the meaning of that phrase.  He detested gossip, sarcasm and lying, but admitted he had done his fair share.  He did not think the words or actions of a person should hurt others, but readily admitted that words do hurt.  He would say a person should try to minimize this by being sincere and honestly trying to benefit the whole instead of just him or herself. 


Benjamin Franklin worked until he was on his deathbed.  And even then he was telling others

ideas of what should be done to help the world and the new nation.  I doubt Franklin would be impressed with society today on this regard.  Even though there are very hard working people today, there are many just living off the government.  They might have great ideas of success, but they are not putting those ideas into action.

 ” Lose no time; be always employ'd in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions." He would not want a person to just sit around playing video games, watching television, or surfing the internet.  He would want them to be doing something productive.  I imagine Franklin would say there was a time and place for these activities, but only after the work is completed. 



Benjamin Franklin was not perfect and admitted he broke every one of the virtues.  His idea was that we strive for these virtues and try to live them every day.  However, when we did “backslide” to not just get depressed about it and give up.  No, we are to pick ourselves up and start living the virtuous life the next minute. 

Take care of yourself and others.  Make today and everyday a great day. 


Benjamin Franklin: An American Life
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(price as of Sep 7, 2013)


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