Benjamin Franklin Quotes — Words of Wisdom from One of America's Most Important Founding Fathers

January 17, 1706–April 17, 1790

Benjamin Franklin was a Founding Father who helped shape the ideas that led to the American Revolution. This collection includes important quotes from Franklin about Liberty, the American Revolution, the Constitution, and other important topics.

Benjamin Franklin, Portrait, Duplessis

Portrait of Benjamin Franklin by Joseph Duplessis. Image Source: Wikimedia.

Benjamin Franklin — Famous Quotes

Without Freedom of Thought, there can be no such Thing as Wisdom; and no such Thing as publick Liberty, without Freedom of Speech.

— Benjamin Franklin, from “Silence Dogood” letters, printed in the New England Courant, July 9, 1722.

If all printers were determined not to print anything till they were sure it would offend nobody, there would be very little printed.

— Benjamin Franklin, from “Apology for Printers,” 1731.

We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.

— Benjamin Franklin, while signing the Declaration of Independence, on July 4, 1776.

Our new Constitution is now established, and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.

— Benjamin Franklin, letter to Jean-Baptiste Leroy, November 13, 1789.

Benjamin Franklin — Important Quotes from the Founding Father

Printers are educated in the Belief, that when Men differ in Opinion, both Sides ought equally to have the Advantage of being heard by the Publick; and that when Truth and Error have fair Play, the former is always an overmatch for the latter.

— Benjamin Franklin, from “Apology for Printers,” 1731.

I condole with you, we have lost a most dear and valuable relation, but it is the will of God and Nature that these mortal bodies be laid aside, when the soul is to enter into real life…We are spirits. That bodies should be lent us, while they can afford us pleasure, assist us in acquiring knowledge, or doing good to our fellow creatures, is a kind and benevolent act of God…when they become unfit for these purposes and afford us pain instead of pleasure…instead of an aid, become an incumbrance and answer none of the intentions for which they were given, it is equally kind and benevolent that a way is provided by which we may get rid of them. Death is that way.

— Benjamin Franklin, letter to his stepdaughter on the death of his brother, February 22, 1756.

A man is not completely born until he is dead. Why then should we grieve that a new child is born among the immortals, a new member added to their happy society?

— Benjamin Franklin, letter to Elizabeth Hubbard, February 23, 1756.

We must not in the course of public life expect immediate approbation and immediate grateful acknowledgment of our services. But let us persevere through abuse and even injury. The internal satisfaction of a good conscience is always present, and time will do us justice in the minds of the people, even those at present the most prejudiced against us.

— Benjamin Franklin, letter to Joseph Galloway, December 2, 1765.

I wish most sincerely..that a Constitution [were] formed…for America, that we might know what we are and what we have, what our Rights and what our Duties, in the Judgment of this Country as well as in our own. Till such a Constitution is settled, different Sentiments will ever occasion Misunderstandings.

— Benjamin Franklin, letter to Joseph Galloway, February 18, 1774.

I must soon quit the scene, but you may live to see our country flourish; as it will amazingly and rapidly after the war is over; like a field of young Indian corn, which long fair weather and sunshine had enfeebled and discolored, and which in that weak state, by a sudden gust of violent wind, hail, and rain, seemed to be threatened with absolute destruction; yet the storm being past, it recovers fresh verdure, shoots up with double vigor, and delights the eye not of its owners only, but of every observing traveler.

— Benjamin Franklin, letter to George Washington, March 5, 1780.

We assemble parliaments and councils, to have the benefit of their collected wisdom; but we necessarily have, at the same time, the inconvenience of their collected passions, prejudices, and private interests. By the help of these, artful men overpower their wisdom, and dupe its possessors; and if we may judge by the acts, arrets, and edicts, all the world over, for regulating commerce, an assembly of great men is the greatest fool upon earth.

— Benjamin Franklin, letter to Benjamin Vaughn, July 26, 1784.

That it is better one hundred guilty persons should escape than that one innocent person should suffer is a maxim that has been long and generally approved.

— Benjamin Franklin, letter to Benjamin Vaughn, March 14, 1785.

I have often observed that by lending words for my thoughts I understand my thoughts the better. Thoughts are a kind of mental smoke, which require words to illuminate them.

— Benjamin Franklin, letter to Thomas Paine, December 31, 1785.

I confess that there are several parts of this Constitution which I do not at present approve, but I am not sure I shall ever approve them. For 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.

— Benjamin Franklin, speech at the Constitutional Convention, September 17, 1787.

I doubt…whether any other Convention…may be able to make a better constitution; for, when you assemble a number of men, to have the advantage of their joint wisdom, you inevitably assemble with those men all their prejudices, their passions, their errors of opinion, their

local interests, and their selfish views. From such an assembly can a perfect production be expected? It therefore astonishes me, Sir, to find this system approaching so near to perfection…

— Benjamin Franklin, speech at the Constitutional Convention, September 17, 1787.

In these sentiments, sir, 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 believe further, 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.

— Benjamin Franklin, speech at the Constitutional Convention, September 17, 1787.

On the whole, Sir, I cannot help expressing a wish, that every member of the Convention who may still have objections to it, would with me on this occasion doubt a little of his own infallibility, and, to make manifest our unanimity, put his name to this Instrument.

— Benjamin Franklin, speech at the Constitutional Convention, September 17, 1787.

The older I grow, the more apt I am to doubt my own judgment, and to pay more respect to the judgment of others.

— Benjamin Franklin, speech at the Constitutional Convention, September 17, 1787.

I have the happiness to know that it is a rising, and not a setting sun.

— Benjamin Franklin, when the Constitutional Convention endorsed the document.

A republic, if you can keep it.

— Benjamin Franklin, answered to Mrs. Powel, who asked him, “Well, doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?” as he left the Constitutional Convention.

By my rambling digressions I perceive myself to be growing older.

— Benjamin Franklin, from his autobiography, 1798.