Best Quotes from Benjamin Franklin’s Essay of The Way to Wealth and the Philosopher’s Stone
In 1757 Benjamin Franklin compiled many of his proverbs he had previously published in the Poor Richard’s Almanac and used them in a short essay entitled Father Abraham’s Sermon. Also known as The Way to Wealth this inspiring piece of work shares some of Franklin’s thoughts on time, money, action, delayed gratification and ultimately a way of life and path to treasure.
The Way to Wealth quotes Poor Richard many times. Most people know Poor Richard or Richard Saunders was a pseudonym for Benjamin Franklin. By using the character of Father Abraham, who quotes Poor Richard in the essay, Franklin offers his own wisdom through a narrative framework.
The first quote appears after Father Abraham is asked for advice by a gathering of people. They were complaining about current life, financial and political conditions of the time. Father Abraham begins his speech by saying, “I’ll give it you in short, for a word to the wise is enough, and many words won’t fill a bushel, as Poor Richard says.” Franklin knew people had short attention spans and so tried to offer as much wisdom as possible in the least amount of words.
As Father Abraham continues to quote Poor Richard throughout the essay some of the most recognizable quotes of today may be seen; like “Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise,” or “Lost time is never found again.” These well known quotes were used in a way to counsel the people concerned about bad times and high taxes.
And although Father Abraham agreed the taxes may be large, he felt the heaviest taxes were the ones the people placed on themselves. He says, “We are taxed twice as much by our idleness, three times as much by our pride, and four times as much by our folly.” Brilliantly, Franklin provided hope for the nature of man by writing, “God helps them that help themselves, as Poor Richard says.”
The structure of the essay allows powerful points to be made and understood by the reader without the reader feeling like he is the one being preached upon. The sermon continues with the same effective approach while providing valuable information regarding money.
“There are no gains, without pains” and “Little strokes fell great oaks, as Poor Richard says” are used in the essay to convey a message needed for success. Working hard and persistence are not evils. They are necessary actions which will benefit the person who embraces them.
As Poor Richards says, “At the working man’s house hunger looks in but dares not enter.” Father Abraham is quick to clarify that a person must not only earn money, he must also spend wisely. He warns the people, “Beware of little expenses; a small leak will sink a great ship” and reminds them, “tis easier to suppress the first desire than to satisfy all that follow it.”
The listeners of Father Abraham’s speech realized and agreed with all the wisdom which was shared to them. However, the reader is informed they did not act upon the advice which was asked for and freely given. The first quote of “A word to the wise is enough” then makes a reader question the passing wisdom of words. Is it enough? This contradiction causes the reader to engage himself.
The reader may consider Father Abraham’s last quotes of “We may give advice but we cannot give conduct”, or as Poor Richard furthers says, “If you will not hear reason she’ll surely rap your knuckles.” The reader is gently reminded the way to wealth, or treasure, is a choice each person has to make.
Franklin uses a quote near the end of the essay to summarize the way to wealth. “Get what you can, and what you get hold; tis the stone that will turn all your lead into gold.” The wealth which is referenced here is not only monetary, it is also a peace found within. Franklin adds, “And when you have the philosopher’s stone, surely you will no longer complain of bad times, or the difficulty of paying taxes.”
The essay ends with action being applied by a person who witnessed the entire incident of Father Abraham speaking to the people. As the teller of the whole story, Poor Richard, gracious by being quoted by Father Abraham, decided to follow his advice and not buy what he had originally came to town for. He went on his way to wealth. He had the Philosopher’s Stone. Contentment.
Franklin, Benjamin, The Way to Wealth