Born: January 17, 1706, Boston; Died: April 17, 1790, Philadelphia
As one of the most quoted men in American history, I wonder how often we quote Benjamin Franklin
and don't even know it.
Ben Franklin dropped out of school at age ten and went on to become one of the founding fathers of the United States when he helped frame the nation's Declaration of Independence in 1776. Eleven years later he would be part of the delegation in the Philadelphia Convention that framed the US Constitution. To Americans at the time looking forward to their own constitution to improve their lives, Franklin had this to say: "the Constitution only gives people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself."
Franklin is hailed as the only Founding Father whose signature appeared in the four major documents in the birthing of the nation. Between the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution, he was also a signatory in the Treaty of Alliance with France where he served as ambassador from 1776 to 1873, and the Treaty of Paris that ended the American uprising against Britain.
Apart from being an accomplished politician and statesman, Ben was also a leading author and satirist, a socio-political theorist, scientist-inventor, musician, civic activist, and diplomat. As an author, he published his now famous Poor Richard's Almanac under the pseudonym Richard Saunders. It contained timeless admonitions that have come down to us as adages like "a penny saved is a twopence dear"
which has since been misquoted as "a penny earned is a penny saved." Franklin was also the man behind one of the most famous saying's "Honesty is the best policy."
Another is "Never leave till tomorrow which you can do today,"
a common maxim that procrastinators should do well to follow.
The decades after the US constitution was drafted has been termed as America's age of enlightenment that paralleled much of the industrial revolution and the progressive thinking that swept much of Western Europe during the 18th and 19th centuries. But even prior to this, Ben Franklin already showed his innovative thinking and inventiveness.
As a scientist-inventor, his more famous works celebrated in pop culture are the Franklin stove, the lighting rod, bifocals, a carriage odometer and the glass "harmonica." It is interesting to note that he never patented his inventions and viewed them with a level of altruism that can only happen when commerce steps out of the way. In his autobiography, Franklin said: "as we enjoy great advantages from the inventions of others, we should be glad of an opportunity to serve others by any invention of ours; and this we should do freely and generously."
As a writer, philosopher and thinker, Ben Franklin can be said to be advance for his time. He predated 21st century preoccupation with weight loss when he jokingly said that "since the improvement of cookery, mankind in general eats twice as much as nature requires" and followed this up with a weight loss advice: "to lengthen thy life, lessen the meals"
. He also recognized the value of credit about two hundred years before credit cards were invented when he said" "Remember that credit is money."
But at the same time he made a cautionary remark: "Rather go to bed without dinner than to rise in debt."
Lastly, this quote aptly describes the creditor-debtor relationship that is true today as it was during the time Franklin said it: "Creditors have better memories than debtors."