This week we honor the life of Benjamin Franklin (January 17, 1706 – April 17, 1790 at age 84), considered by some to be one of the greatest diplomats, inventors, and sages of the founding period of the United States. He was also a Christian, political leader, philosopher, scientist, author, journalist, publisher, entrepreneur, husband to Deborah, and father of three.
A signer of both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, Benjamin Franklin played a crucial role as a Founding Father, serving in the first and second Continental Congress and the Committee of Five responsible for drafting the Declaration of Independence. His views on the birth of our nation as well as philosophical and theological topics were recorded in numerous letters, essays, and books, often with humor.
Those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.
We must, indeed, all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately. (Statement at the signing of the Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776.)
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.
Our new Constitution is now established, and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.
Love your enemies, for they tell you your faults.
I confess that there are several parts of this Constitution which I do not at present approve, but I am not sure I shall never approve them. For 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 game of Chess is not merely an idle amusement; several very valuable qualities of the mind, useful in the course of human life, are to be acquired and strengthened by it, so as to become habits ready on all occasions… By playing at Chess then, we may learn: first, foresight, which looks a little into futurity, and considers the consequences that may attend an action … second, circumspection, which surveys the whole Chess-board, or scene of action: — the relation of the several pieces, and their situations; … third, caution, not to make our moves too hastily…
For my own part, when I am employed in serving others, I do not look upon myself as conferring favors, but as paying debts. In my travels, and since my settlement, I have received much kindness from men, to whom I shall never have any opportunity of making the least direct return; and numberless mercies from God, who is infinitely above being benefited by our services.
Franklin’s 13 Virtues:
- Temperance: Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.
- Silence: Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.
- Order: Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.
- Resolution: Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.
- Frugality: Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing.
- Industry: Lose no time; be always employed in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.
- Sincerity: Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly.
- Justice: Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.
- Moderation: Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.
- Cleanliness: Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, cloths, or habitation.
- Tranquility: Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.
- Chastity: Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.
- Humility: Imitate Jesus and Socrates.
Let me add, that only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.
In those wretched countries where a man cannot call his tongue his own, he can scarce call anything his own. Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech … Without freedom of thought there can be no such thing as wisdom, and no such thing as public liberty without freedom of speech, which is the right of every man…
If men are so wicked as we now see them with religion what would they be if without it?
… In the beginning of the contest with Great Britain, when we were sensible of danger we had daily prayer in this room for the Divine Protection. – Our prayers, sir, were heard, and they were graciously answered. All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a Superintending Providence in our favor. … And have we now forgotten that powerful friend? or do we imagine that we no longer need His assistance. I have lived, Sir, a long time and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth – that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings that “except the Lord build they labor in vain that build it.” I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without his concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better than the builders of Babel: … I therefore beg leave to move – that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations, be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business, and that one or more of the Clergy of this City be requested to officiate in that service. [ Prayer in Congress ]
As to Jesus of Nazareth, my opinion of whom you particularly desire, I think the system of morals and his religion, as he left them to us, the best the world ever saw or is likely to see; but I apprehend it has received various corrupt changes, and I have, with most of the present dissenters in England, some doubts as to his divinity; tho’ it is a question I do not dogmatize upon, having never studied it, and I think it needless to busy myself with it now, when I expect soon an opportunity of knowing the truth with less trouble…
We hear of the conversion of water into wine at the marriage in Cana as of a miracle. But this conversion is, through the goodness of God, made every day before our eyes. Behold the rain which descends from heaven upon our vineyards; there it enters the roots of the vines, to be changed into wine; a constant proof that God loves us, and loves to see us happy.
Quotes from WikiQuote and Wikipedia. When applicable, spelling and punctuation have been revised to current standards.