Ben Franklin Developed a List of 13 Virtues That He Lived His Life By

Benjamin Franklin LibertyToday I found out that Benjamin Franklin, through extensive study of the world’s major religions and various moral codes, came up with a list of thirteen main virtues that he felt every person should strive to live their life by.  As such, he himself attempted to always live by this code and developed charts with which he charted his progress from day to day, to make sure that he was constantly improving towards this end.

He would start with one of the virtues and plot his progress on the chart until he mastered that virtue; then moving on to the next; and so on until he mastered them all.  He ordered them specifically as shown below, as some of them naturally lend towards others.  Thus by sticking to this order, he felt it made it easier to achieve the whole.

This code is as follows:

  1. Temperance: Eat not to Dullness, drink not to elevation

  2. Silence: Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself. Avoid trifling Conversation
  3. Order: Let all your Things have their Places. Let each Part of your Business have its Time
  4. Resolution: Resolve to perform what you ought. Perform without fail what you resolve.
  5. Frugality: Make no Expense but to do good to others or yourself: i.e. Waste Nothing
  6. Industry: Lose no Time. Be always employ’d in something useful. Cut off all unnecessary Actions
  7. Sincerity: Use no hurtful Deceit. Think innocently and justly; and, if you speak; speak accordingly.
  8. Justice: Wrong none, by doing Injuries or omitting the Benefits that are your Duty.
  9. Moderation: Avoid Extremes. Forbear resenting Injuries so much as you think they deserve.
  10. Cleanliness: Tolerate no Uncleanness in Body, Clothes, or Habitation
  11. Tranquility: Be not disturbed at Trifles, or at Accidents common or unavoidable.
  12. 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.
  13. Humility: Imitate Jesus and Socrates.


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  • No wonder Ben looks depressed in the portrait.

    “Early to bed and early to rise”…makes Jack a dull man.

  • …or was it “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”?
    Well, almost the same thing.

  • His 13 virtues thing was a satire. In reality he was a drunken, loudmouthed, whore-monger who fucked French princesses in hot air balloons. He was also one of the earliest recorded trolls, back when one of the only forums were the editorial sections of Philadelphia newspapers. One of Ben Franklin’s trolling alts was Silent Dogood.

    During the constitutional convention (which took place in secret behind closed doors) the other delegates saw fit to have Ben Franklin tailed because he was well known for running his mouth.

    • Daven Hiskey

      @Gene: If you read his autobiography, you do see that element of his personality. Indeed, it has been stated that the reason he was not allowed to write the Declaration of Independence was because they thought he’d put subtle satirical jokes in it, with some that would not be detected until it was already released to the public and, thus, unable to be changed. However, in his autobiography, it doesn’t seem at all that his 13 virtues were something that were a satire, unlike other parts where things he says are clearly so. Beyond reading his autobiography a couple times, I’m not Ben Franklin expert. However, the person who compiled and printed the particular version of the autobiography and works I read seemed to think the virtues were not satire and were actually something Franklin attempted to live his life by. Although, even Franklin himself admitted freely he failed utterly at them quite a bit of the time. They were more something to strive towards, rather than something that is realistically attainable.

      • @Davern,
        I also read his autobiography and you’re correct, he did admit he had some problems with his list… and he contributed to the Bill of Rights, the Constitution of the United States, and was quite the ladies man in France, too.

      • Good for you. The virtues are alwdys domething we strive for. Nobody is perfect. I believe he saw his downfalls and worked to correct them. Was he perfect – no. Are any if us – no.

  • Franklin was a human being, just like the rest of us.. Those that would criticize him, a father of our country, I suspect, hate our country and are communists at heart.

  • @c you clearly have no respect for freedom of speach and do not truly understand the founders of our country at all. These amazing Founding Fathers were human and they were smart, good men to have on the job. But they, as humans, did have flaws (lots of them). By pointing out their flaws, it does not automatically mean you hate the founding fathers or America. Just that you understand and acknowledge the flaws of these men. Too many people revere Thomas Jefferson as a saint but he had multiple illegitamate children, who he claimed but still forced most into slavory in his household after he had impregnated their mothers (his slaves) through rape. But, he could still play one hell of a violin solo and he wrote a mean (in the good way) constitution.

    • Jefferson had almost nothing to do with the Constitution, per se, as he was, IIRC, Ambassador to France while it was being drafted.

  • One of my favorite books is a collection of Franklin’s essays, including the one with tips on choosing the right mistress. The book is called Fart Proudly, after another gem of advice. Definitely one of my top 5 dudes to hang with if I had a time machine.

  • like most of the American founders, he was a hypocrite, ranting on about human freedom yet being a slave holder and a supporter of slavery