Posted by: Democratic Thinker | September 14, 2009

Bold & Arduous Project

Things Every Literate Person Knows


In Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography, Franklin, who made his way up from poverty, tells of creating a “bold and arduous project of arriving at moral perfection.” By this plan he would acquire certain virtues which would make him a more profitable and useful businessman and citizen

As part of his project he listed certain virtues he wanted to acquire and added a precept that would tell him exactly what each virtue meant. He had found in his study that different writers attached all kinds of different ideas to what a particular virtue meant. He wanted a clear understanding of what he wanted to do. He also put them the order he though most important to attaining his goal.

He made a little book on which he could record his progress. Each week he would pay particular attention to a single virtue, tracking the others only as he noticed them—thirteen in all:


Names of Virtues with their Precepts.

  1. TemperanceEat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.
  2. SilenceSpeak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.
  3. OrderLet all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.
  4. ResolutionResolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.
  5. FrugalityMake no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e. waste nothing.
  6. IndustryLose no time; be always employed in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.
  7. SincerityUse no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly; and, if you speak, speak accordingly.
  8. JusticeWrong none by doing injuries or omitting the benefits that are your duty.
  9. ModerationAvoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.
  10. CleanlinessTolerate no uncleanliness in body, clothes, or habitation.
  11. TranquilityBe not disturbed at trifles or at accidents common or unavoidable.
  12. ChastityRarely use venery, but for health or offspring: never to dullness or weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.
  13. HumilityImitate Jesus and Socrates. Forbear all direct contradiction to the sentiments of others and all positive assertion of your own.