Benjamin Franklin Quotations

Benjamin Franklin / 1706–1790 / Province of Massachusetts Bay / Printer, Author, Diplomat

Freedom and Virtue

Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become more corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.

Source: Letter to Messrs., the Abbés Chalut and Arnaud, April 17, 1787.

Freedom of Thought and Speech

Without Freedom of Thought, there can be no such Thing as Wisdom; and no such Thing as publick Liberty, without Freedom of Speech; which is the Right of every Man, as far as by it, he does not hurt or controul the Right of another: And this is the only Check it ought to suffer, and the only Bounds it ought to know.

Source: “Silence Dogood, No. 8,” New-England Courant, July 9, 1722.

Liberty vs. Safety

Those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.

Source: Letter to Pennsylvania Governor Robert Hunter Morris on behalf of the colonial Assembly, 1755.

Uncertainty of Human Life

Our new Constitution is now established, everything seems to promise it will be durable; but, in this world, nothing is certain except death and taxes.

Source: Letter to Jean-Baptiste Le Roy, November, 1789.

Virtue and Constitutional Self-Government

I agree to this Constitution with all its faults, if they are such; because I think a general Government necessary for us, and there is no form of Government but what may be a blessing to the people if well administered, and believe farther that this is likely to be well administered for a course of years, and can only end in Despotism, as other forms have done before it, when the people shall become so corrupted as to need despotic Government, being incapable of any other.

Source: Speech to Constitutional Convention, Philadelphia, September 17, 1787.

Warfare Between the Governing & Governed

Reasons will never be wanting for proposed augmentations. And there will always be a party for giving more to the rulers, that the rulers may be able in return to give more to them. -Hence as all history informs us, there has been in every State & Kingdom a constant kind of warfare between the governing & governed: the one striving to obtain more for its support, and the other to pay less. And this has alone occasioned great convulsions, actual civil wars, ending either in dethroning of the Princes, or enslaving of the people. Generally indeed the ruling power carries its point, the revenues of princes constantly increasing, and we see that they are never satisfied, but always in want of more. The more the people are discontented with the oppression of taxes; the greater need the prince has of money to distribute among his partizans and pay the troops that are to suppress all resistance, and enable him to plunder at pleasure. There is scarce a king in a hundred who would not, if he could, follow the example of Pharoah [sic], get first all the peoples money, then all their lands, and then make them and their children servants for ever.

Source: Speech to Constitutional Convention, Philadelphia, June 2, 1787.

From Poor Richard’s Almanack

Lost Time is never found again.

Love your Enemies, for they tell you your Faults.

If you would not be forgotten, as soon as you are dead and rotten, either write things worth reading, or do things worth writing.

Speak little, do much.

A friend in need is a friend indeed!

Experience keeps a dear school, but fools will learn in no other, and scarce in that.

Fish and Visitors stink in 3 days.

Search others for their virtues, thyself for thy vices.

There are three faithful friends, an old wife, an old dog, and ready money.

A stitch in time may save nine.

Today is Yesterday’s Pupil.

He that’s content, hath enough; He that complains, has too much

Fools need Advice most, but wise Men only are the better for it

If you would persuade, appeal to interest and not to reason.

Source: Poor Richard’s Almanack, published annually, 1732–1758.