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In chapter 8 of his autobiography, Benjamin Franklin describes his attempts to achieve "moral Perfection" by examining certain aspects of his character. When Franklin attended a Presbyterian sermon that focused on Philippians 4:8 ("Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, or of good report, if there be any virtue, or any praise, think on these things."), he was unsatisfied with the 5 virtues that the minister provided ("1. Keeping holy the Sabbath day. 2. Being diligent in reading the holy Scriptures. 3. Attending duly the publick worship. 4. Partaking of the Sacrament. 5. Paying a due respect to God's ministers."). He made his own. 12 of them.

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 employ'd 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 extreams; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.

10. Cleanliness
Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, cloaths, or habitation.

11. Tranquility
Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.

12. Chastity
Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another's peace or reputation.

"My list of virtues contain'd at first but twelve; but a Quaker friend having kindly informed me that I was generally thought proud; that my pride show'd itself frequently in conversation; that I was not content with being in the right when discussing any point, but was overbearing, and rather insolent, of which he convinc'd me by mentioning several instances..."

13. Humility
Imitate Jesus and Socrates.


Franklin then made a booklet and dedicated a page to each virtue. Each page looked something like this:

+-----------------------------------------------+
|                  TEMPERANCE.                  |
|-----------------------------------------------|
|              EAT NOT TO DULNESS;              |
|            DRINK NOT TO ELEVATION.            |
|-----------------------------------------------|
|     |  S. |  M. |  T. |  W. |  T. |  F. |  S. |
|-----+-----+-----+-----+-----+-----+-----+-----|
|  T. |     |     |     |     |     |     |     |
|-----+-----+-----+-----+-----+-----+-----+-----|
|  S. |  *  |  *  |     |  *  |     |  *  |     |
|-----+-----+-----+-----+-----+-----+-----+-----|
|  O. |  ** |  *  |  *  |     |  *  |  *  |  *  |
|-----+-----+-----+-----+-----+-----+-----+-----|
|  R. |     |     |  *  |     |     |  *  |     |
|-----+-----+-----+-----+-----+-----+-----+-----|
|  F. |     |  *  |     |     |  *  |     |     |
|-----+-----+-----+-----+-----+-----+-----+-----|
|  I. |     |     |  *  |     |     |     |     |
|-----+-----+-----+-----+-----+-----+-----+-----|
|  S. |     |     |     |     |     |     |     |
|-----+-----+-----+-----+-----+-----+-----+-----|
|  J. |     |     |     |     |     |     |     |
|-----+-----+-----+-----+-----+-----+-----+-----|
|  M. |     |     |     |     |     |     |     |
|-----+-----+-----+-----+-----+-----+-----+-----|
|  C. |     |     |     |     |     |     |     |
|-----+-----+-----+-----+-----+-----+-----+-----|
|  T. |     |     |     |     |     |     |     |
|-----+-----+-----+-----+-----+-----+-----+-----|
|  C. |     |     |     |     |     |     |     |
|-----+-----+-----+-----+-----+-----+-----+-----|
|  H. |     |     |     |     |     |     |     |
+-----------------------------------------------+
Franklin devoted one week to each virtue, during which he would strive to rid the day of any offenses or bad habits related to that virtue, "leaving the other virtues to their ordinary chance." Each evening, he would mark any offenses in the appropriate box, and Franklin hoped that the 13th week would leave him with a blank page, having already spent a week on each of the first 12 virtues.


In addition to these pages, the booklet contained several quotations that Franklin believed would help him break his habits:

"Here will I hold. If there's a power above us (And that there is all nature cries aloud Thro' all her works), He must delight in virtue; And that which he delights in must be happy." - Joseph Addison, "Cato"

"O vitae Philosophia dux! O virtutum indagatrix expultrixque vitiorum! Unus dies, bene et ex praeceptis tuis actus, peccanti immortalitati est anteponendus." - Marcus Tullius Cicero

"Length of days is in her right hand, and in her left hand riches and honour. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace." - Proverbs 3:16-17


To assist himself with Order, Franklin created this daily schedule and placed it in the booklet:

The Morning - What good shall I do this day?
5am-9am: Rise, wash, and address Powerful Goodness! Contrive day's business, and take the resolution of the day; prosecute the present study, and breakfast.
9am-12pm: Work

Noon
12pm-3pm: Read, or overlook my accounts, and dine.
3pm-6pm: Work

Evening - What good have I done today?
6pm-7pm: Put things in their places.
7pm-9pm: Supper. Music or diversion, or conversation.
9pm-1am: Examination of the day.

Night
1am-5am: Sleep.


Franklin saw his faults diminish as he performed the complete 13-week examination several times over the next few years. Business and voyages abroad began to interfere in his examinations, but he always kept the booklet with him.

All information and quotations were found in Franklin's autobiography and all of the odd spellings are preserved from the original document.

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