I am a mortal enemy to arbitrary government and unlimited power.
The most popular Benjamin Franklin quotes are short witticisms – lessons about the rewards for healthy sleeping habits and saving pennies, for example. It is good that the Founding Father’s advice is still heeded, but he was much more than some doughy 18th century Ann Landers.
Like so many heroes of the American Revolutionary War, Franklin’s legacy is usually condensed into a few tidbits. He’s the guy who “invented electricity” (not quite – he proved that storm clouds contain electricity), or the Founding Father who famously smoked weed (there is no real evidence that he partook, although he did own a hemp paper mill and may have roasted a bone here and there).
To many Americans, Franklin is “the guy on the $100 bill.” They can thank the success of All About the Benjamins starring Ice Cube for knowing this piece of trivia.
These credits don’t even remotely do Franklin justice. As a polymath and a genius the man feathered his caps with the titles of inventor, scientist, printer, author, musician and satirist. As a politician, statesman and diplomat he earned the title of “The First American.”
Franklin served as the first United States Postmaster General, the first United States Ambassador to France, and the sixth president of the Supreme Executive Council of Pennsylvania. He also helped to draft the Declaration of Independence. (It is said that Franklin’s peers did not trust him to actually write the Declaration for fear that he might include jokes. I doubt he would have taken the job so lightly, but understand any apprehensions about a man who would one day write A Letter to a Royal Academy About Farting.)
Franklin’s sense of humor did not make him any less of a patriot. His quotes about rights, rebellion, politics and freedom show that he loved his country, and also that he would have agreed with many core libertarian principles.
Benjamin Franklin Quotes: The Words of The First American
- “Make yourself sheep and the wolves will eat you.”
- “Those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
- “Every man…is, of common right, and by the laws of God, a freeman, and entitled to the free enjoyment of liberty.”
Merch Inspired By Benjamin Franklin
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Benjamin Franklin is the most highly regarded Founding Father who never served as president. He may just have done it had he not died one year after George Washington’s inaugural inauguration. Who knows if American voters would have been as receptive toward placing their country in the hands of an octogenarian as they apparently are today?
Franklin was probably happier off as the first American official to be received by a foreign government. When he wasn’t garnering French support for American independence (a mission that would ultimately, if not somewhat indirectly, nudge France along the path to its own revolution), he was surely enjoying the sights, sounds and people of Paris.
On second thought, the people of Paris were probably annoying douchebags back then, too. But at least Ben was two for three.
Why do we still regard Franklin so highly? Because he was a man living a comfortable life, having started multiple successful businesses long before Americans started a beef with Parliament. Had he remained neutral, and used that so big brain of his for personal gain only, he’d probably have been quite alright.
He instead risked his neck to found a free country. And that’s why we honor him; in doing so, we welcome the spirit of independence into our hearts.