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Ben Franklin’s 13 Core Life Virtues

Benjamin Franklin was born in 1706 in Boston Massachusetts into a family of modest means. His Puritan family harped on the importance of industry, frugality, and hard work. The Franklin’s were hard working, diligent, honest, frugal people who would be classified today as lower middle class at best. His parents had just enough money to send him to school for a couple of years in hope that he could eventually join the clergy, but by the age of 10, he was done with school. He was a print shop apprentice by the age of 12, climbing around on printing presses, sorting letters, mixing ink, wheelbarrowing paper stock, and all of the other tasks needed to keep a printing press running.

From that humble background, Franklin became a highly successful printer, well known writer, newspaper owner, publisher, scientist, meteorologist, politician, and a diplomat, among the many other hats he wore. As a result of those efforts, he accumulated enough wealth to effectively retire independently wealthy in his forties, and he largely devoted the rest of his life to public service and individual interest. Franklin was the editor for Thomas Jefferson in his writing of the Declaration of Independence. He was also a critical member of the Continental Congress whose members wrote the Articles of Confederation which was the precursor to the US Constitution. He was such a towering figure in the American Revolution that he was deservedly called the “first American,” and his light shines brightly even today.

Franklin attributed his success to his development and strict adherence to his 13 core life virtues. Franklin developed these by age 20 and had a system to remind him of the virtues daily which focused his attention on them. Below are the 13 core life virtues that Franklin practiced as he lived his life and made decisions. The results are now a major part of American history. Franklin’s father quoted a Proverb to his children constantly: “a person diligent in his calling, will stand before kings.” Ben Franklin stood before and had audiences with 5 kings during his life.

Enjoy the 13 core life virtues of Ben Franklin. In a future post, I’ll discuss the daily practice and system Franklin used to reinforce the virtues.

  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 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 dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another's peace or reputation.
  13. Humility. Imitate Jesus and Socrates.