(Boston, 1706 – Philadelphia, 1790) American politician, scientist and inventor. A student of electricity and everything that attracted his interest, inventor of the lightning rod and other useful devices, honest and efficient public figure and outstanding architect of the independence of the United States, Benjamin Franklin was perhaps the most beloved character of his time in his country. and the only British colonial-era American to achieve fame and notoriety in Europe.
Only from admiration is it possible to approach his figure, and at the same time it is difficult to think of Franklin without experiencing a sensation of human warmth. His appearance was so simple, his personality was so nice, and his sense of humor came out so spontaneously that it was easy for people to love and respect him. Large gray eyes and a smile-prone mouth adorned the face of this paragon of virtues, who was able to excel in as many fields as he set out to do.
«The will, the talent, the genius and the grace were gathered in him, as if nature, in forming him, had felt wasteful and happy», affirmed one of his biographers. Beyond those gifts, Franklin always believed strongly that negative aspects of character could be changed through gentle and consistent discipline. In his youth he always carried with him a list of admirable qualities, which later became a little book where each page was devoted to one virtue. Franklin devoted a week of attention to each of them, which he reread as soon as he had a chance, and started again when he reached the end.
Fifteenth brother of a total of seventeen, Benjamin Franklin attended only elementary studies, which he abandoned at the age of ten; the vast encyclopedic erudition that he would exhibit in his maturity was the result of an insatiable curiosity and self-taught effort that he would always combine with his professional activities. At the age of twelve he began working as a printer in a company owned by John Franklin, one of his brothers.
In 1723, after a dispute with his brother, he fled to Philadelphia, where, penniless, he found work in a printing house. After two years in the same business in England, where he had been sent with worthless recommendations, he returned to Philadelphia and worked for him as a typesetter and publisher. In 1727 he was responsible for the issuance of paper money in the British colonies of America. He later founded the newspaper The Pennsylvania Gazette , which he published between the years 1728 and 1748, and in 1732 he undertook the edition of Poor Richard’s Almanac (1732-1757).
With the publication of the Almanac , a type of miscellaneous yearbook frequent at the time that included saints, horoscopes, medical advice and weather forecasts, a period of prosperity began in his life. Franklin himself served as editor, editor and director, although he attributed the authorship of it to a fictitious character who would end up being very famous: the extravagant Richard Saunders, from which the title of Poor Richard’s Almanac comes .
This Richard is an old country «Yankee» of variable humor, a rustic philosopher with his tips and trimmings of misogynism, who, to the great despair of his wife Bridget, spends his time between dusty books and astrological calculations, instead of earning money. money to support your family; he decides to publish the almanac, precisely, to be able to reconcile his hobbies with that need.
Along with the usual sections, Franklin had the wisdom to also include all kinds of maxims, proverbs, sentences and famous phrases, drawn from various sources; sometimes, applying his genius and experience to human behavior, he came to invent them himself, with such good fortune that they ended up becoming part of the popular heritage. After twenty-five years of uninterrupted publication, with circulations reaching ten thousand copies (an impressive figure for the time), Benjamin Franklin had built up a considerable estate that allowed him to leave print.
Benjamin Franklin’s period of most intense political activity began in 1757, once that long stage as a printer was over. The most important thing about it was his task as an inspiring and active factotum of independence. He can be credited with the original idea of the United States as a single nation and not as a group of separate colonies, since two decades before the American War of Independence he conceived of a system of state governments united under a single federal authority.
Previously, already one of the most important public figures in Philadelphia, he had been elected to the Legislative Assembly; he successfully concluded the treaty with the rebellious Indians, found a rational system for cleaning the streets, and promoted numerous initiatives and improvements. His active and multifaceted temperament would prompt him to become involved in local affairs, for example in the creation of such institutions as the Philadelphia Fire Department, the Public Library and the University of Pennsylvania, as well as the American Philosophical Society. As Postmaster General in Philadelphia, chief among the many public offices he would fill with brilliant efficiency, Franklin achieved a series of dazzling successes in improving service,
When in 1757 he was sent to London to defend the interests of the American colonies before the metropolis, Benjamin Franklin began an intense political work that would end up bearing the desired results. On one famous occasion, he spent the entire day in the House of Commons, skillfully answering questions put to him by members of such an honorable institution about the resistance of the colonies to the much hated English tax law, which was disastrous. for the interests of the American colonists. The result was that Parliament revoked the law (1766) and the war was delayed for ten years, giving the independentists ample time to prepare.
Faced with new fiscal and political pressures exerted by the metropolis, Benjamin Franklin left London; he returned to Philadelphia in 1775 and strongly joined the independence movement. That same year he was appointed deputy for Pennsylvania before the II Continental Congress, in which the representatives of the thirteen North American colonies decided to form an army to fight against England. The following year he wrote, jointly with Thomas Jefferson and John Adams , the historic Declaration of Independence (1776).
Due to his prestige, he was chosen in December of that year to tour Europe (1776-1785) in search of support for the independence cause. It was essential to get the help of France, without which the contest could go on indefinitely and even be lost. George Washington had dedicated himself to organizing a North American army, but the metropolis had all the power, weapons and important allies. It was necessary to counteract that power by obtaining the aid of France. Franklin not only convinced the reluctant French monarch, Louis XVI , to secretly send supplies to General Washington, but a year later (1778) he managed to get him to openly enter the war as an ally after signing a treaty of friendship.
-The wit of conversation consists more in finding it in others, than showing a great deal yourself. He who goes out of your company pleased with his own facetiousness and ingenuity, will the sooner come into it again.
-Be not sick too late, nor well too soon.
-There are two ways of being happy — we may either diminish our wants or augment our means — either will do, the result is the same; and it is for each man to decide for himself, and do that which happens to be the easiest. If you are idle or sick or poor, however hard it may be to diminish your wants, it will be harder to augment your means.
-If you are active and prosperous, or young, or in good health, it may be easier for you to augment your means than to diminish your wants. But if you are wise, you will do both at the same time, young or old, rich or poor, sick or well; and if you are wise, you will do both in such a way as to augment the general happiness of society.
-Fear to do ill, and you need fear naught else.
-Some, to make themselves considerable, pursue learning; others grasp at wealth; some aim at being thought witty; and others are only careful to make the most of a handsome person; but what is wit, or wealth, or form, or learning, when compared with virtue? It is true we love the handsome, we applaud the learned, and we fear the rich and powerful; but we even worship and adore the virtuous.
-A learned blockhead is a greater blockhead than an ignorant one.
-It is a common error in friends, when they would extol their friends, to make comparisons, and to depreciate the merits of others.
-Each year one vicious habit rooted out, in time might make the worst man good throughout.
-A new truth is a truth, an old error is an error.
-Having lived long, I have experienced many instances of being obliged by better information or fuller consideration to change opinions, even on important subjects, which I once thought right, but found to be otherwise.
-The way to secure peace is to be prepared for war. They that are on their guard, and appear ready to receive their adversaries, are in much less danger of being attacked, than the supine, secure, and negligent.
-A fat kitchen makes a lean will.
-Don’t go to the doctor with every distemper, nor to the lawyer with every quarrel, nor to the pot for every thirst.
-I never saw an oft-removed tree, nor yet an oft-removed family, that throve so well as those that settled be.
-An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
-The worship of God is a duty; the hearing and reading of sermons may be useful; but if men rest in hearing and praying, as too many do, it is as if a tree should value itself in being watered and putting forth leaves, tho’ it never produced any fruit.
-Eat to live, and not live to eat.
-A great talker may be no fool, but he is one that relies on him.
-When you incline to have new clothes, look first well over the old ones, and see if you cannot shift with them another year, either by scouring, mending, or even patching if necessary. Remember, a patch on your coat, and money in your pocket, is better and more creditable, than a writ on your back, and no money to take it off.
-When there is so much to be done for yourself, your family, and your country, be up by peep of day! Let not the sun look down and say, ‘Inglorious here he lies!’
-Don’t misinform your Doctor nor your Lawyer.
-To expect people to be good, to be just, to be temperate, etc., without showing them how they should become so, seems like the ineffectual charity mentioned by the apostle, which consisted in saying to the hungry, the cold and the naked, be ye fed, be ye warmed, be ye clothed, without showing them how they should get food, fire or clothing.
-He’s the best physician that knows the worthlessness of the most medicines.
-Would you live with ease, do what you ought and not what you please.
-Man and woman have each of them qualities and tempers in which the other is deficient, and which in union contribute to the common felicity.
-God heals, and the Doctor takes the Fees.
-He that is known to pay punctually and exactly to the time he promises, may at any time, and on any occasion, raise all the money his friends can spare.
-This is sometimes of great use.
-When I am employed in serving others, I do not look upon myself as conferring favors, but as paying debts. I have received much kindness from men to whom I shall never have an opportunity of making the least direct returns; and numberless mercies from God, who is infinitely above being benefited by our services. Those kindnesses from men I can, therefore, only return on their fellow-men, and I can only show my gratitude for those mercies from God by a readiness to help His other children.
-Life, like a dramatic piece, should not only be conducted with regularity, but it should finish handsomely.
-God helps them who help themselves.
-Men are subject to various inconveniences merely through lack of a small share of courage, which is a quality very necessary in the common occurrences of life, as well as in a battle. How many impertinences do we daily suffer with great uneasiness, because we have not courage enough to discover our dislike.
-The art of getting riches consists very much in thrift. All men are not equally qualified for getting money, but it is in the power of every one alike to practice this virtue.
-Having been poor is no shame, being ashamed of it is.
-If a sound body and a sound mind, which is as much as to say health and virtue, are to be preferred before all other considerations, ought not men, in choosing a business either for themselves or children, to refuse such as are unwholesome for the body, and such as make a man too dependent, too much obliged to please others, and too much subjected to their humors in order to be recommended and get a livelihood?
-Our opinions are not in our own power; they are formed and governed much by circumstances that are often as inexplicable as they are irresistible.
-Tricks and treachery are the practice of fools, that don’t have brains enough to be honest.
-After all, wedlock is the natural state of man. A bachelor is not a complete human being. He is like the odd half of a pair of scissors, which has not yet found its fellow, and therefore is not even half so useful as they might be together.
-I would advise you to read with a pen in hand, and enter in a little book short hints of what you find that is curious, or that may be useful; for this will be the best method of imprinting such particulars in your memory.
-By the collision of different sentiments, sparks of truth are struck out, and political light is obtained. The different factions, which at present divide us, aim all at the public good; the differences are only about the various modes of promoting it.
-Reading makes a full man, meditation a profound man, discourse a clear man.
-There are in life real evils enough, and it is folly to afflict ourselves with imaginary ones; it is time enough when the real ones arrive.
-Work as if you were to live a hundred years. Pray as if you were to die tomorrow.
-Hope and faith may be more firmly built upon charity, than charity upon faith and hope.
-If a man empties his purse into his head, no man can take it away from him. An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.
-One today is worth two tomorrows.
-I look upon death to be as necessary to our constitution as sleep.
-We shall rise refreshed in the morning.
-We need a revolution every 200 years, because all governments become stale and corrupt after 200 years.
-The best thing to give to your enemy is forgiveness; to an opponent, tolerance; to a friend, your heart; to your child, a good example; to a father, deference; to your mother, conduct that will make her proud of you; to yourself, respect; to all others, charity.
-Security without liberty is called prison.
-The best of all medicines are rest and fasting.
-Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.
-It seems to me, that if statesmen had a little more arithmetic, or were accustomed to calculation, wars would be much less frequent.
-The most trifling actions of a man, in my opinion, as well as the smallest features and lineaments of the face give a nice observer some notion of his mind.
-He who sacrifices freedom for security deserves neither.
-I never knew a man who was good at making excuses who was good at anything else.
-Common sense is something that everyone needs, few have, and none think they lack.
-Most men die from the neck up at age twenty-five because they stop dreaming.
-The ancients tell us what is best; but we must learn of the moderns what is fittest.
-I don’t believe in stereotypes. I prefer to hate people on a more personal basis.
-To lengthen thy Life, lessen thy Meals.
-Do not anticipate trouble, or worry about what may never happen. Keep in the sunlight.
-Content makes poor men rich; discontentment makes rich men poor.
-Employ your time well, if you mean to get leisure.
-Well done is better than well said.
-Energy and persistence conquer all things.
-If you would know the value of money, go try to borrow some; for he that goes a-borrowing goes a-sorrowing.
-If you would persuade, you must appeal to interest rather than intellect.
-The eye of the master will do more work than both his hands.
-Creditors have better memories than debtors.
-Hide not your talents, they for use were made. What’s a sun-dial in the shade?
-When the well’s dry, we know the worth of water.
-To the generous mind the heaviest debt is that of gratitude, when it is not in our power to repay it.
-It is the working man who is the happy man. It is the idle man who is the miserable man.
-Words may show a man’s wit but actions his meaning.
-There is much difference between imitating a man and counterfeiting him.
-If you know how to spend less than you get, you have the philosopher’s stone.
-No nation was ever ruined by trade.
-Speak ill of no man, but speak all the good you know of everybody.
-Educate your children to self-control, to the habit of holding passion and prejudice and evil tendencies subject to an upright and reasoning will, and you have done much to abolish misery from their future and crimes from society.
-There are three things extremely hard: steel, a diamond, and to know one’s self.
-Where liberty is, there is my country.
-By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.
-We are all born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain stupid.
-He that falls in love with himself, will have no Rivals.
-Wink at small faults; remember thou hast great ones.
-Necessity never made a good bargain.
-In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.
-Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning.
-Beware of little expenses. A small leak will sink a great ship.
-The Constitution only gives people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself.
-To succeed, jump as quickly at opportunities as you do at conclusions.
-Those that won’t be counseled can’t be helped.
-People will accept your idea much more readily if you tell them Benjamin Franklin said it first.
David H. Comins
-My ideal man is Benjamin Franklin—the figure in American history most worthy of emulation. Franklin is my ideal of a whole man. Where are the life-size—or even pint-size—Benjamin Franklins of today?
Isidor Isaac Rabi
-When Franklin drew the lightning from the clouds, he little dreamed that in the evolution of science his discovery would illuminate the torch of Liberty for France and America. The rays from this beacon, lighting this gateway to the continent, will welcome the poor and the persecuted with the hope and promise of homes and citizenship.
-As an answer to those who are in the habit of saying to every new fact, “What is its use?” Dr. Franklin says to such, “What is the use of an infant?” The answer of the experimentalist would be, “Endeavour to make it useful.
-Whilst I am writing to a Philosopher and a Friend, I can scarcely forget that I am also writing to the greatest Statesman of the present, or perhaps of any century, who spread the happy contagion of Liberty among his countrymen.
Erasmus Darwin, Letter to Benjamin Franklin