Ben Franklin's Autobiography
Ben Franklin’s Autobiography
Ben Franklin’s autobiography is one of the greatest autobiographies from the American Colonial period. He originally wrote it for his son William. In Chapter eight Franklin lists thirteen moral virtues that he “met with in my reading”. He goes on to explain how he would concentrate on one virtue at a time and rotate through the thirteen virtues four times a year. I have listed below the moral virtues as they are in his book.
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.
Every one of us could benefit from using this list. I have a list of my own “virtues” that I use to improve myself. My list is more specific than Franklin’s list. I should add to my list not to forget the list.
Ben Franklin’s autobiography is interesting not only because of Franklin’s unique intelligence but also because it is a window into the Colonial period.
To read Franklin’s autobiography online: