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20 Enduring Proverbs Written By Ben Franklin

Benjamin Franklin was a man of many talents: scientist, inventor, statesman, writer, political philosopher, and founding father. His greatest financial success, however, came from printing and publishing, most notably the Pennsylvania Gazette and Poor Richard's Almanac. The latter was first published in 1732, with a new edition printed every year until 1758. It became one of the most widely read secular pamphlets in colonial America, selling around 10,000 copies annually. It was so popular, in fact, that Napoleon Bonaparte had it translated into Italian.  

Franklin wrote Poor Richard's Almanac under the pseudonym of Poor Richard, or Richard Saunders, a name he borrowed from the author of a popular almanac published in London. Franklin’s almanac contained all sorts of information, including the calendar, weather predictions, poems, recipes, and trivia. But it was most famous for its witty aphorisms and practical proverbs. These short sayings covered a range of subjects, from industry and frugality to hard work and the pleasures of a simple life.

Franklin considered his almanac as literature for the masses, suitable for common people who couldn’t necessarily afford books. The sayings ranged from serious to cynical to funny (“Fish and visitors stink in three days”), but generally offered some kind of practical or moral instruction. Some of the aphorisms, such as “No gains without pains” and “Haste makes waste,” were already in existence before Franklin included them in his almanac — but he certainly helped to solidify such expressions in American vernacular.

Hundreds of sayings were published in Poor Richard's Almanac over the years. Some, especially those related to colonial financial dealings, make little sense to the modern reader. Others, however, such as the 20 quotes below, remain just as relevant now as they did back then.

Be at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let every New Year find you a better man.

Diligence is the mother of good luck.

Love your enemies, for they tell you your faults.

He that would live in peace and at ease, must not speak all he knows or judge all he sees.

Great beauty, great strength, and great riches are really and truly of no great use; a right heart exceeds all.

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

The sting of a reproach, is the truth of it.

Reading makes a full man, meditation a profound man, discourse a clear man.

Beware of little expenses: A small leak will sink a great ship.

Hide not your talents, they for use were made: What’s a sun-dial in the shade?

Do you love life? Then do not squander time, for that is the stuff life is made of.

Well done is better than well said.

Glass, china, and reputation, are easily crack’d, and never well mended.

He that lies down with Dogs, shall rise up with fleas.

Genius without education is like silver in the mine.

If man could have half his wishes, he would double his troubles.

The poor have little, beggars none, the rich too much, enough not one.

Don’t throw stones at your neighbors, if your own windows are glass.

A true friend is the best possession.

Wish not so much to live long as to live well.

Photo credit: Wim Wiskerke/ Alamy Stock Photo

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About the Author
Tony Dunnell
Tony is an English writer of non-fiction and fiction living on the edge of the Amazon jungle.
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