Few men boast such an impressive resumé as Benjamin Franklin. Not only was he one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, but he also made many contributions to the fields of politics, diplomacy, publishing, science, and much more. Arguably his greatest tools were his words, which he used to help build the U.S. and inspire a revolution.
Throughout his life and works, Franklin offered timeless advice and insights on everything from the human condition to freedom to the only certainties in life — death and taxes.
“Mankind naturally and generally love to be flatter'd.” - "A Dissertation on Liberty and Necessity, Pleasure and Pain"
“Geese are but Geese tho' we may think 'em Swans; and Truth will be Truth tho' it sometimes prove mortifying and distasteful.” - "A Dissertation on Liberty and Necessity, Pleasure and Pain"
“The good particular men may do separately, in relieving the sick, is small, compared with what they may do collectively.” - Appeal for the Hospital
“Slavery is such an atrocious debasement of human nature, that its very extirpation, if not performed with solicitious care, may sometimes open a source of serious evils.” - For the Pennsylvania Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery
“Life is a kind of Chess, in which we have often points to gain, and competitors or adversaries to contend with, and in which there is a vast variety of good and ill events, that are, in some degree, the effect of prudence, or the want of it.” - "The Morals of Chess"
“Do not anticipate trouble, or worry about what may never happen. Keep in the sunlight.” - quoted in Dictionary of Thoughts
“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.” - Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
“Most People dislike Vanity in others whatever Share they have of it themselves.” - Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
“I think opinions should be judged of by their influences and effects; and if a man holds none that tend to make him less virtuous or more vicious, it may be concluded that he holds none that are dangerous, which I hope is the case with me.” - letter to his father, 13 April 1738, in Memoirs of Benjamin Franklin
“I think all the heretics I have known have been virtuous men. Do not, however, mistake me. It is not to my good friend's heresy that I impute his honesty. On the contrary, 'tis his honesty that has brought upon him the character of heretic.” - Letter to Benjamin Vaughan (24 October 1788).
“Remember that time is money.” - Advice to a Young Tradesman, Written by an Old One
“Thus may the first Principles of sound Politics be fixed in the minds of youth.” - Proposals Relating to the Education of Youth in Pensilvania
“... in this world, nothing is certain except death and taxes." - letter to Jean-Baptiste Le Roy
Benjamin Franklin spent much of his career as a newspaper editor and publisher. His love of the English language served him and his country well as he later became an ambassador to France and authored many political essays.
“If all printers were determined not to print anything till they were sure it would offend nobody, there would be very little printed.” - Apology for Printers
“From a Child I was fond of Reading, and all the little Money that came into my Hands was ever laid out in Books.” - Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
“This Library afforded me the Means of Improvement by constant Study, for which I set apart an Hour or two each Day; and thus repair'd in some Degree the Loss of the Learned Education my Father once intended for me. Reading was the only Amusement I allow'd myself.” - Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
“Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.” - Poor Richard (1738)
As one of the Founding Fathers, the so-called “First American” Benjamin Franklin spoke passionately about the need for independence and the importance of liberty.
“Freedom of speech is a principal pillar of a free government; when this support is taken away, the constitution of a free society is dissolved, and tyranny is erected on its ruins. Republics and limited monarchies derive their strength and vigor from a popular examination into the action of the magistrates.” - "On Freedom of Speech and the Press", Pennsylvania Gazette
“Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” - Reply to the Governor
“God grant, that not only the Love of Liberty, but a thorough Knowledge of the Rights of Man, may pervade all the Nations of the Earth, so that a Philosopher may set his Foot anywhere on its Surface, and say, 'This is my Country.'” - The Writings of Benjamin Franklin
Franklin saw many wars during his lifetime and played a crucial role in repealing the Stamp Act and securing Franco-American relations. He was also one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, served as governor of Pennsylvania and was an abolitionist who spoke out against slavery.
“A great Empire, like a great Cake, is most easily diminished at the Edges.” - Rules By Which A Great Empire May Be Reduced To A Small One
“Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God.” - A Book of New England Legends and Folk Lore
“All Wars are Follies, very expensive, and very mischievous ones.” - Letter to Mary Hewson
“There never was a good war or a bad peace.” - letter to Josiah Quincy
“It is better 100 guilty Persons should escape than that one innocent Person should suffer, is a maxim that has been long and generally approved; never, that I know of, controverted.” - letter to Benjamin Vaughan
Many of Benjamin Franklin’s greatest quotes were originally penned in Poor Richard’s Almanack, an annual publication written by Franklin under the pseudonym Poor Richard or Richard Saunders. The almanack was incredibly popular at the time of publication between 1732 and 1758, and Franklin’s tokens of wisdom are just as applicable today as they were nearly 300 years ago.
“Distrust and caution are the parents of security.”
“If you desire many things, many things seem but a few.”
“Love your Enemies, for they tell you your Faults.”
“Better slip with foot than tongue.”
“Look before, or you’ll find yourself behind.”
“Don’t throw stones at your neighbors, if your own windows are glass.”
“He that falls in love with himself will have no rivals.”
“Well done is better than well said.”
“What you would seem to be, be really.”
“No gains, without pains.”
“Lost Time is never found again.”
“When you’re good to othere, you’re best to yourself.”
“Pardoning the Bad, is injuring the Good.”
“If you would keep your Secret from an enemy, tell it not to a friend.”
“A Penny sav’d is Twopence clear.” - Poor Richard (1737)
“Great Beauty, great strength, and great Riches, are really and truly of no great Use; a right Heart exceeds all.”- Poor Richard (1739)
“What more valuable than Gold? Diamonds. Than Diamonds? Virtue.” - Poor Richard Improved (1751)
“A true Friend is the best Possession.” - Poor Richard (1744)
Learn about some of American history’s most influential figures in their own words.