of Benjamin Franklin
Summary © 2014
executive summary of Benjamin Franklin's 13 Virtues from his autobiography.
Franklin was a "freethinker," inventor, scientist and, of course,
one of the American Forefathers.
conceived the bold and arduous project of arriving at moral perfection.
I wished to live without committing any fault at any time; I would
conquer all that either natural inclination, custom, or company might
lead me into.
knew, or thought I knew, what was right and wrong, I did not see why I
might not always do the one and avoid the other. But I soon found I had
undertaken a task of more difficulty than I had imagined. While my
care was employed in guarding against one fault, I was often surprised
by another; habit took the advantage of inattention; inclination was
sometimes too strong for reason. I concluded, at length, that the
mere speculative conviction that it was our interest to be completely
virtuous, was not sufficient to prevent our slipping; and that the
contrary habits must be broken, and good ones acquired and established,
before we can have any dependence on a steady, uniform rectitude of
purpose I therefore contrived the following method. In the various
enumerations of the moral virtues I had met with in my reading, I found
the catalogue more or less numerous, as different writers included more
or fewer ideas under the same name. Temperance, for example, was
by some confined to eating and drinking, while by others it was extended
to mean the moderating every other pleasure, appetite, inclination, or
passion, bodily or mental, even to our avarice and ambition. I
proposed to myself, for the sake of clearness, to use rather more names,
with fewer ideas annexed to each, than a few names with more ideas; and
I included under thirteen names of virtues all that at that time
occurred to me as necessary or desirable, and annexed to each a short
precept, which fully expressed the extent I gave to its meaning.
These names of virtues, with their precepts, were:
not to dullness; drink not to elevation.
not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling
all your things have their places; let each part of your
business have its time.
Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you
no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste
no time; be always employed in something useful; cut off all
Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if
you speak, speak accordingly.
none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your
extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they
Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, cloaths, or habitation.
not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.
Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to
dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another's peace
Imitate Jesus and Socrates.