Ben Franklin’s Virtues and the Pennsylvania Primary

While reading a Ben Franklin biography (“The First American,” by H. W. Brands), I was struck by a list of 13 virtues he wrote while in his mid-20s to guide his life:

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. 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.

The thesis of the book is that Franklin was the first person to fully embody what it meant to be an American – as opposed to a Colonist. So, reading this list, and constantly hearing perspectives about the upcoming Democratic Presidential Primary in Pennsylvania, led me to wonder – since Franklin spent most of his adult life in Philadelphia – “who would Ben Franklin support?” My tally came out at 6-4 with 3 ties.

What do you think?

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