Benjamin Franklin and Virtue

With all the virtue-challenged public figures these days, perhaps it’s time to go back to basics.  Founding fathers basics.

One of the most fascinating founding fathers was Ben Franklin.  He had a remarkable life as a successful businessman, humorist, scientist, and public servant.  Did he have a secret?

He may have.  I’ve been reading about a set of “virtue cards” he used to carry with him.  Actually it was one card a week, divided into seven columns and 13 rows.  The columns represented days of the week, and the rows represented virtues.  During the day, they served as a reference.  In the evening, he’d review the virtues, marking little boxes if he’d felt he’d practiced them during that preceding 24 hours.  Then he would carry a new card each week, cycling through 13 variations; each variation would concentrate on a specific virtue.

Franklin’s 13 virtues were temperance, silence, order, resolution, frugality, industry, sincerity, justice, moderation, cleanliness, tranquility, chastity, and humility.

That’s quite an ambitious plan for self-improvement.  Of course, you might wish to follow a different list; my house would be completely transformed if I practiced “order.”  But it certainly is something to think about.  Sometimes the old ways are the best.

For more information on Franklin’s virtues, see “Benjamin Franklin built his character around 13 virtues — and following his weekly plan could change your life” by Trent Hamm (  The photo came from that website.




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