04 July 2010

The Thirteen Virtues of Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin was a renowned author, diplomat, politician, and inventor; a regular renaissance man. He is best known for being one of America's founding fathers. It is fitting that we should discuss Benjamin Franklin to-day, as our friends across the pond celebrate their national holiday, but it isn't just a seasonal topic. While the birth of a nation may have been Franklin's best known project, one of his greatest is by far underrated.

Franklin is a remarkable role model for men to-day. Well-rounded, he was always striving to improve himself. His greatest work, in our humble opinion, is his series of thirteen virtues which he developed at age twenty and used to guide his life from that point on. Every man would do well to take a leaf from his book.

Franklin would work on one of the thirteen each week "leaving all others to their ordinary chance". He kept a collection of thirteen charts which listed each virtue in the rows and each day of the week in the columns. He would place a mark next to each virtue if he violated it. After thirteen weeks he would have cycled through all the virtues and would then begin again.

We would be doing a great service to ourselves and to society by imitating Franklin, working on one of these virtues each week and logging our process. One can only expect never to attain perfection, but to be satisfied with mediocrity will not suffice. Throughout our lives we must continue to strive towards perfection even though we can only hope to obtain it in death and rebirth. Men who do not strive always to better themselves, but rather are content to wallow in callous imperfection, are not men at all but animals.

Listed below are Franklin's virtues with descriptions in his own words.

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 extreams; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.

10. CLEANLINESS. Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, cloaths, or habitation.

11.TRANQUILLITY. Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.

12. CHASTITY. Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dulness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another's peace or reputation.

13. HUMILITY. Imitate Jesus and Socrates.

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