benjamin franklin quotes

160+ Benjamin Franklin Quotes on Liberty

Benjamin Franklin was a statesman, scientist, and diplomat, best known for being a Founding Father and an inventor of things we use every single day: bifocals (glasses), the lightning rod, swim fins (flippers), the Franklin stove, and more. Ben Franklin’s inventions paved the way for others. Without Franklin’s role in the most pivotal moments in history, things might be quite different today. 

Despite the little education, money, and resources when he was growing up in Boston, Massachusetts, he was an avid reader and taught himself how to write. When he was 16 years old, he contributed essays to a local newspaper under the pseudonym “Silence Dogood.” Then, when he was 17 years old, he ran away to Philadelphia, and that’s when his success really began. 

He started a printing business and participated in duties as a civic activist by helping launch a library, a hospital, and a college. He achieved fame with his publication of Poor Richard’s Almanack in 1733 (also written as Poor Richard’s Almanac), where he wrote under a pseudonym, Richard Saunders. Poor Richard’s Almanack was known for witty sayings, jokes, weather reports, moon phases, and more. Poor Richard’s Almanack was so popular–selling 10,000 copies a year–that Napoleon ordered it and had it translated into Italian. 

He was quite active in politics, too: he served in the Second Continental Congress, he helped write the Declaration of Independence, he negotiated in the Treaty of Paris (1783), and was a delegate in the Constitutional Convention. Along with all of this, he conducted several infamous experiments with electricity, creating inventions we use today. 

Benjamin Franklin was a Freemason, a political theorist, an inventor, and so much more who lived to be 85 years old. He left us with brilliant inventions, and we honor him with museums, autobiography books, and with his face on every $100 bill. His legacy will live on forever! 

benjamin franklin quotes
Joseph Duplessis

Here are some famous quotes by the legendary Benjamin Franklin:

Benjamin Franklin Quotes on Liberty and Freedom 

“They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

“The Constitution only guarantees the American people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself.”

“There was never a bad peace or a good war.”

“Without freedom of thought, there can be no such thing as wisdom; and no such thing as public liberty, without freedom of speech.”

“Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech.”

“From a persuasion that equal liberty was originally the portion, it is still the birthright of all men.”

“Every man…is, of common right, and by the laws of God, a freeman, and entitled to the free enjoyment of liberty.”

God grant that not only the love of liberty but a thorough knowledge of the rights of man may pervade all the nations of the earth, so that a philosopher may set his foot anywhere on its surface and say: This is my country.”

“I believe there is one Supreme most perfect being. […] I believe He is pleased and delights in the happiness of those He has created; and since without virtue man can have no happiness in this world, I firmly believe He delights to see me virtuous.”

“I agree to this Constitution with all its faults, if they are such: because I think a General Government necessary for us, and there is no Form of Government but what may be a Blessing to the People if well-administered; and I believe farther that this is likely to be well administered for a Course of Years and can only end in Despotism as other Forms have done before it, when the People shall become so corrupted as to need Despotic Government, being incapable of any other.”

“When the people find that they can vote themselves money that will herald the end of the republic.”

“Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.”

“Slavery is such an atrocious debasement of human nature that its very extirpation, if not performed with solicitous care, may sometimes open a source of serious evils. The unhappy man who has been treated as a brute animal too frequently sinks beneath the common standard of the human species. The galling chains that bind his body do also fetter his intellectual faculties and impair the social affections of his heart… To instruct, to advise, to qualify those, who have been restored to freedom, for the exercise and enjoyment of civil liberty… and to procure for their children an education calculated for their future situation in life; these are the great outlines of the annexed plan, which we have adopted.”

“The way to secure peace is to be prepared for war. They that are on their guard, and appear ready to receive their adversaries, are in much less danger of being attacked, than the supine, secure, and negligent.”

“Where liberty is, there is my country.”

“When there is so much to be done for yourself, your family, and your country, be up by peep of day! Let not the sun look down and say, ‘Inglorious here he lies!’”

“Our opinions are not in our own power; they are formed and governed much by circumstances that are often as inexplicable as they are irresistible.”

“We need a revolution every 200 years because all governments become stale and corrupt after 200 years.”

“He who sacrifices freedom for security deserves neither.”

“It seems to me that if statesmen had a little more arithmetic or were accustomed to calculation, wars would be much less frequent.”

“No nation was ever ruined by trade.”

“By the collision of different sentiments, sparks of truth are struck out, and political light is obtained. The different factions, which at present divide us, aim all at the public good; the differences are only about the various modes of promoting it.”

“Security without liberty is called prison.”

Benjamin Franklin Quotes About Work, Success, and Failure

“He that can have patience can have what he will.”

“You may delay, but time will not.”

“A penny saved is a penny earned.”

“Tell me, and I forget, teach me, and I may remember, involve me, and I learn.”

“I didn’t fail the test; I just found 100 ways to do it wrong.”

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”

“An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.”

“Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that’s the stuff life is made of.”

“Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.”

“Never confuse Motion with Action.”

“Educate your children to self-control, to the habit of holding passion and prejudice and evil tendencies subject to an upright and reasoning will, and you have done much to abolish misery from their future and crimes from society.”

“Work as if you were to live a thousand years, play as if you were to die tomorrow.”

“It is the working man who is the happy man. It is the idle man who is the miserable man.

“Beware of little expenses; a small leak will sink a great ship.

“Words may show a man’s wit, actions his meaning.”

“We are all born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain stupid.”

“There are two ways of being happy — we may either diminish our wants or augment our means — either will do, the result is the same, and it is for each man to decide for himself, and do that which happens to be the easiest. If you are idle or sick or poor, however hard it may be to diminish your wants, it will be harder to augment your means.”

“Employ your time well, if you mean to get leisure.”

“If you know how to spend less than you get, you have the philosopher’s stone.”

“Well done is better than well said.”

“He that is known to pay punctually and exactly to the time he promises, may at any time, and on any occasion, raise all the money his friends can spare.”

“Having been poor is no shame; being ashamed of it is.”

“The art of getting riches consists very much in thrift. All men are not equally qualified for getting money, but it is in the power of every one alike to practice this virtue.”

“I never knew a man who was good at making excuses who was good at anything else.”

“Common sense is something that everyone needs, few have, and none think they lack.”

“Hide not your talents; they for use were made. What’s a sun-dial in the shade?”

“The eye of the master will do more work than both his hands.”

“To the generous mind, the heaviest debt is that of gratitude, when it is not in our power to repay it.”

“Some, to make themselves considerable, pursue learning; others grasp at wealth; some aim at being thought witty; and others are only careful to make the most of a handsome person; but what is wit, or wealth, or form, or learning, when compared with virtue? It is true we love the handsome, we applaud the learned, and we fear the rich and powerful; but we even worship and adore the virtuous.”

“Energy and persistence conquer all things.”

“If you would know the value of money, go try to borrow some; for he that goes a-borrowing goes a-sorrowing.”

“Reading makes a full man, meditation a profound man, discourse a clear man.”

“There are three things extremely hard: steel, a diamond, and to know one’s self.”

“I would advise you to read with a pen in hand and enter in a little book short hints of what you find that is curious, or that may be useful; for this will be the best method of imprinting such particulars in your memory.”

“Would you live with ease, do what you ought and not what you please.”

“The ancients tell us what is best, but we must learn of the moderns what is fittest.”

“Content makes poor men rich; discontentment makes rich men poor.”

“If you would persuade, you must appeal to interest rather than intellect.”

“Wink at small faults; remember thou hast great ones.”

“Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning.”

“To succeed, jump as quickly at opportunities as you do at conclusions.”

When you’re testing to see how deep water is, never use two feet.”

Benjamin Franklin Quotes from Poor Richard’s Almanack

“Three may keep a secret if two of them are dead.”

“Love your enemies, for they tell you your faults.”

“In the Affairs of this World, Men are saved, not by faith, but by the Lack of it.”

“Lost Time is never found again.”

“No gains without pains.”

“Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.”

“The way to see by faith is to shut the eye of reason.”

“Women are books, and men the readers be…”

“There cannot be good living where there is not good drinking.”

“Speak little, do much.”

“He that lies down with dogs shall rise up with fleas.” 

“To all apparent beauties blind, each blemish strikes an envious mind.”

“Clean your finger before you point at my Spots.”

“Search others for their virtues, thyself for thy vices.”

“There are three faithful friends, an old wife, an old dog, and ready money.”

“He that’s content, hath enough; He that complains has too much.”

“The World is full of fools and faint hearts, and yet everyone has courage enough to bear the misfortunes, and wisdom enough to manage the Affairs of his neighbor.”

“Better slip with foot than tongue.”

“He that falls in love with himself will have no rivals.”

“Look before, or you’ll find yourself behind.”

“Don’t throw stones at your neighbors if your own windows are glass.”

“He that would live in peace & at ease, Must not speak all he knows or judge all he sees.”

“Well done is better than well said.”

“What you seem to be, be really.”

“A true friend is the best Possession.”

“When you’re good to others, you’re best to yourself.”

“Pardoning the Bad is injuring the Good.”

“Hide not your Talents; they for Use were made. What’s a Sun-Dial in the shade!”

“Glass, China, and Reputation are easily crack’d, and never well mended.”
“What more valuable than Gold? Diamonds. Than Diamonds? Virtue.”

“Haste makes Waste.”

“It is better to take many Injuries than to give one.”

 “Wish not so much to live long as to live well.”

“A right Heart exceeds all.”

Ben Franklin Quotes on Life, Death, Health, and Man

“If a sound body and a sound mind, which is as much as to say health and virtue, are to be preferred before all other considerations, ought not men, in choosing a business either for themselves or children, to refuse such as are unwholesome for the body, and such as make a man too dependent, too much obliged to please others and too much subjected to their humors in order to be recommended and get a livelihood?”

“If a man empties his purse into his head, no man can take it away from him. An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.”

“One today is worth two tomorrows.”

“I look upon death to be as necessary to our constitution as sleep.”

“The best of all medicines are rest and fasting.”

“The most trifling actions of a man, in my opinion, as well as the smallest features and lineaments of the face give a nice observer some notion of his mind.”

“After all, wedlock is the natural state of man. A bachelor is not a complete human being. He is like the odd half of a pair of scissors, which has not yet found its fellow, and therefore is not even half so useful as they might be together.”

“Be not sick too late, nor well too soon.”

“Fear to do ill, and you need fear naught else.”

“If you are active and prosperous, or young, or in good health, it may be easier for you to augment your means than to diminish your wants. But if you are wise, you will do both at the same time, young or old, rich or poor, sick or well; and if you are wise, you will do both in such a way as to augment the general happiness of society.”

“He that falls in love with himself will have no Rivals.”

“Having lived long, I have experienced many instances of being obliged by better information or fuller consideration to change opinions, even on important subjects, which I once thought right, but found to be otherwise.”

“A fat kitchen makes a lean will.”

“God heals, and the Doctor takes the Fees.”

“Man and woman have each of them qualities and tempers in which the other is deficient, and which in union contribute to the common felicity.”

“To expect people to be good, to be just, to be temperate, etc., without showing them how they should become so, seems like the ineffectual charity mentioned by the apostle, which consisted in saying to the hungry, the cold and the naked, be ye fed, be ye warmed, be ye clothed, without showing them how they should get food, fire or clothing.”

“There is much difference between imitating a man and counterfeiting him.”

“Those that won’t be counseled can’t be helped.”

“Men are subject to various inconveniences merely through lack of a small share of courage, which is a quality very necessary in the common occurrences of life, as well as in a battle. How many impertinences do we daily suffer with great uneasiness, because we have not courage enough to discover our dislike.”

“Eat to live and not live to eat.”

“To lengthen thy Life, lessen thy Meals.”

“I don’t believe in stereotypes. I prefer to hate people on a more personal basis.”

“Most men die from the neck up at age twenty-five because they stop dreaming.”

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Other Benjamin Franklin Quotes 

“In wine, there is wisdom; in beer, there is Freedom; in water, there is bacteria.”

“Never ruin an apology with an excuse.”

“Fear not death, for the sooner we die, the longer we shall be immortal.”

“I am for doing good to the poor, but…I think the best way of doing good to the poor is not making them easy in poverty but leading or driving them out of it. I observed…that the more public provisions were made for the poor, the less they provided for themselves, and of course, became poorer. And, on the contrary, the less was done for them, the more they did for themselves, and became richer.”

“Be at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let every new year find you a better man.”

“Remember not only to say the right thing in the right place but far more difficult still, to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.”

“Tis a great confidence in a friend to tell him your faults; greater to tell him his.”

“The person who deserves most pity is a lonesome one on a rainy day who doesn’t know how to read.”

“He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else.”

“Whatever is begun in anger ends in shame.”

“Do not anticipate trouble or worry about what may never happen. Keep in the sunlight.”

“The heart of a fool is in his mouth, but the mouth of a wise man is in his heart.”

“Be slow in choosing a friend, slower in changing.”

“…but in this world, nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”

“Speak ill of no man, but speak all the good you know of everybody.”

“Never leave till tomorrow that which you can do today.”

“The best thing to give to your enemy is forgiveness; to an opponent, tolerance; to a friend, your heart; to your child, a good example; to a father, deference; to your mother, conduct that will make her proud of you; to yourself, respect; to all others, charity.”

“The wit of conversation consists more in finding it in others than showing a great deal yourself. He who goes out of your company pleased with his own facetiousness and ingenuity, will the sooner come into it again.”

“A learned blockhead is a greater blockhead than an ignorant one.”

“It is a common error in friends when they would extol their friends, to make comparisons, and to depreciate the merits of others.”

“Each year, one vicious habit rooted out, in time might make the worst man good throughout.”

“A great talker may be no fool, but he is one that relies on him.”

“The worship of God is a duty; the hearing and reading of sermons may be useful; but if men rest in hearing and praying, as too many do, it is as if a tree should value itself in being watered and putting forth leaves, tho’ it never produced any fruit.”

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

“Don’t go to the doctor with every distemper, nor to the lawyer with every quarrel, nor to the pot for every thirst. ”

“I never saw an oft removed tree, nor yet an oft-removed family, that throve so well as those that settled be.”

“When you incline to have new clothes, look first well over the old ones, and see if you cannot shift with them another year, either by scouring, mending, or even patching if necessary. Remember, a patch on your coat, and money in your pocket is better and more creditable than a writ on your back, and no money to take it off.”

“A new truth is a truth; an old error is an error. ”

“Tricks and treachery are the practice of fools, that don’t have brains enough, to be honest.”

“There are in life real evils enough, and it is folly to afflict ourselves with imaginary ones; it is time enough when the real ones arrive.”

“Creditors have better memories than debtors.”

“When I am employed in serving others, I do not look upon myself as conferring favors, but as paying debts. I have received much kindness from men to whom I shall never have an opportunity of making the least direct returns; and numberless mercies from God, who is infinitely above being benefited by our services. Those kindnesses from men I can, therefore, only return on their fellow-men, and I can only show my gratitude for those mercies from God by a readiness to help His other children.”

“God helps them who help themselves.”

“Life, like a dramatic piece, should not only be conducted with regularity, but it should finish handsomely.”

“Necessity never made a good bargain.”

“Hope and faith may be more firmly built upon charity than charity upon faith and hope.”

“Don’t misinform your Doctor nor your Lawyer.”

“When the well’s dry, we know the worth of water.”

Life’s tragedy is that we get old too soon and wise too late.”

“It is easier to prevent bad habits than to break them.”

“Remember not only to say the right thing in the right place but far more difficult still, to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.”

“There never was a truly great man that was not at the same time, truly virtuous.”

More Quotes:

About the author
January Nelson is a writer, editor, and dreamer. She writes about astrology, games, love, relationships, and entertainment. January graduated with an English and Literature degree from Columbia University. Read more articles from January on Thought Catalog.

Learn more about Thought Catalog and our writers on our about page.

Related