Eat not to Dullness; drink not to elevation.
speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.
Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.
Resolve to perform what you ought ; perform without fail what you resolve.
Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e. waste nothing.
lose no time; be always employ’d in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.
Use no Hurtful deceit; think it innocently and justly; and, if you speak, speak accordingly.
Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.
avoid extreams; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.
Tolerate no Uncleanliness in body, clothes, or habitation.
Be not disturbed at trifles or at accidents common or unavoidable.
rarely use Venery but for health and Offspring, never to dulness, weakness, or injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.
Imitate Jesus and Socrates.
my intention being to acquire the habitude of all these virtues, I judged it would be well not to distract my attention by attempting the whole at once, but to fix it on one of them at a time; and when I should be the master of that, then to proceed to another, and so on, till I should have gone thro’ the thirteen; and, as some of the acquisition of some might facilitate the acquisition of certain others, I arranged them with that view, as they stand above. Temperance first as it tends to procure that coolness and clearness of head, which is so necessary where constant vigilance was to be kept up, and guard maintained against the unremitting attraction of ancient habits, and the force of perpetual temptations…I gave silence the second place. This and the next, order, I expected would allow me more time for attending to my project and my studies. Resolution, once become habitual, would keep me firm in my endeavors to obtain all the subsequent virtues; Frugality and Industry freeing me from my remaining debt and producing affluence and independence would make more easy the practice of sincerity and Justice etc. etc. Conceiving then, that, agreeably to the advice of Pythagoras in his golden verses, daily examination would be necessary, I contrived the following method for conducting that examination” (Franklin 215-18)
Franklin’s thirteen commandments are not to be taken, in any way, seriously. His need to quantify intangible virtues and feelings through a regimented system of practicing those virtues is in line with the philosophy of his time period, the age of reason; for Franklin, and many others, believed that they could conquer nature, emotion, and society though a system of scientific processes as opposed to religious dogma. However, the scientific system breaks down when it meets humanity: Often, Franklin’s commandments are extremely idealistic and leave no room for human error. For example,
“2. Silence. speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.”
As a habit to try and attain, avoiding trifling conversation is a beautiful concept: one’s words are seldom wasted and embarrassment is hard to come by. Sadly, humanity is prone to error. We all slip up and will fall into the rumor mill without so much as a whisper in protest. Franklin was no exception in that he was constantly vying for public attention as a sort of tabloid star. Though his acts as a father of the United States are indisputable, he was just as famous for his affairs as he was for his public service.
Franklin’s affairs, especially in France, are well documented (he went so far as to send a treaty to one of his madams stipulating an open relationship with her through a political contract). This directly contradicts Article 12:
12. Chastity. Rarely use Venery but for health and Offspring, never to dulness, weakness, or injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.
For Franklin often used Venery in the hopes of experiencing pure bliss (and possibly some public attention). He was (in)famously adored by the women of France and got his pick of the crop (as he saw it) of like-minded revolutionaries. It is quite probable that he never actually even attempted to regiment his practice of chastity as he promised himself he would do in the above passage along with all his other moral treatises. The fact that he courted married women and widows at the same time shows that he also completely disregarded his commandment of humility as he created a public persona based on being a sex symbol and took advantage of that persona to court many, many women and, in effect, disregarded the regimented morals that he wrote into his own autobiography making him look like a first-class hypocrite.