Franklin's Autobiography (Eclectic English Classics)

By Benjamin Franklin

Page 77

was about this time I conceived the bold and arduous project of
arriving at moral perfection. I wished to live without committing any
fault at any time; I would conquer all that either natural
inclination, custom, or company might lead me into. As I knew, or
thought I knew, what was right and wrong, I did not see why I might
not always do the one and avoid the other. But I soon found I had
undertaken a task of more difficulty than I had imagined. While my
care was employed in guarding against one fault, I was often surprised
by another; habit took the advantage of inattention; inclination was
sometimes too strong for reason. I concluded at length that the mere
speculative conviction that it was our interest to be completely
virtuous was not sufficient to prevent our slipping; and that the
contrary habits must be broken, and good ones acquired and
established, before we can have any dependence on a steady, uniform
rectitude of conduct. For this purpose I therefore contrived the
following method.

In the various enumerations of the moral virtues I had met with in my
reading, I found the catalogue more or less numerous, as different
writers included more or fewer ideas under the same name. Temperance,
for example, was by some confined to eating and drinking, while by
others it was extended to mean the moderating every other pleasure,
appetite, inclination, or passion, bodily or mental, even to our
avarice and ambition. I proposed to myself, for the sake of clearness,
to use rather more names, with fewer ideas annexed to each, than a few
names with more ideas; and I included under thirteen names of virtues
all that at that time occurred to me as necessary or desirable, and
annexed to each a short precept, which fully expressed the extent I
gave to its meaning.

These names of virtues, with their precepts, were:

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 employed 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 extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they
deserve.

10. CLEANLINESS.

Tolerate

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Text Comparison with The Complete Works in Philosophy, Politics and Morals of the late Dr. Benjamin Franklin, Vol. 3 [of 3]

Page 73
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Page 91
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Page 172
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Page 177
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Page 196
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17.
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Adams, and E.
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