“In 1732 I first published my Almanack … it was continued by me about twenty-five years, commonly called “Poor Richard’s Almanac.” … And observing that it was generally read, scarce any neighborhood in the province being without it, I considered it as a proper vehicle for conveying instruction among the common people, who brought scarcely any other books. I therefore filled all the little spaces that occurred between the remarkable days in the calendar with proverbial sentences…. These proverbs, which contained the wisdom of many ages and nations, I assembled and formed into a connected discourse prefixed to the Almanack of 1757, as the harangue of a wise old man to the people attending and auction. The bringing all these scattered counsels thus into a focus enabled them to make greater impression. The piece, being universally approved, was copied in all the newspapers of the Continent: reprinted in Britain”
Ben Franklin, while unmistakably a universal genius, was very much a man of the world. In his public affairs he had few equals and was able to set the tenor of nearly all of his social interactions. He possessed the intellect, self knowledge and a firm understanding of the nature of men in both the general and particular senses. He was the person who defined what it meant to be an American as he himself was its quintessential archetype.
When viewing Franklin in the context of other great men and thinkers, he though the rarest of diplomats, exemplified as a more externalized pedantic professor of virtue. Whether or not it was his intention, his teachings intended for the masses, we’re not received in a way that instilled virtue through individual experience linked with self revelation as virtue only can be, but rather as virtue being something to be sought externally for its own sake.
Virtue is only the result of internalized personal revelation and builds on itself from the internal connecting of the self and soul when truths are personally realized. In this way a sense of inner connection of the self to the soul and then the world, brings forth an inspiration and draws the individual forward towards virtue. The alternative, which is the case for the masses, is something to be willfully sought and toiled after, realizing in inner turmoil, guilt and dis-ease. This externalization of seeking virtue, as originally described and taught by Socrates, requires an ethic of enforcing and pushing the individual and the collective into submission and compliance, and what is virtuous, becomes drudgery.
“There are no techniques for virtuous living,
no veneer can be placed over that which is not so.”
Some Franklin Aphorisms.
Fools need advice most, but wise men only are the better for it.
Liberality is not giving much, but giving wisely.
Of learned fools I have seen ten times ten; of unlearned wise men I have seen a hundred.
The brave and the wise can both pity and excuse, when cowards and fools show no mercy.
The wise man draws more advantage from his enemies, than the fool from his friends.
Who is wise? He that learns from every one.