by Benjamin Franklin
In the opening lines from the “Preface to 1733” edition of Poor Richard’s Almanack, Franklin peeks through his veil of Poor Richard’s identity to remind the common man that work builds wealth.
“I might in this place attempt to gain thy favor by declaring that I write almanacks with no other view than that of the public good; but in this I should not be sincere, plain truth of the matter is, I am excessive poor, and my wife, good woman, is, I tell her, excessive proud; she cannot bear, she says, to sit spinning in her shift of tow, while I do nothing but gaze at the stars; and has threatned more than once to burn all my books and rattling-traps, (as she calls my instruments,) if I do not make some profitable use of them for the good of my family. The printer has offer’d me some considerable share of the profits, and I have thus began to comply with my dame’s desire. …”
Six years later, he laments that his “printer” was pocketing his profits, but added, with irony:
“I do not grudge it him; he is a man I have great regard for.”
On a different subject, later in 1733, Poor Richard offered his readers this poem about lawyers:
The Benefit of going to Law.
Dedicated to the Counties of K—t and H-n–––rd-n.
Two Beggars travelling along,
One blind, the other lame,
Pick’d up an Oyster on the Way
To which they both laid claim:
The Matter rose so high, that they
Resolv’d to go to Law,
As often richer Fools have done,
Who quarrel for a Straw.
A Lawyer took it strait in hand,
Who knew his Business was,
To mind nor one nor t’other side,
But make the best o’ th’ Cause;
As always in the Law’s the Case:
So he his Judgment gave,
And Lawyer-like he thus resolv’d
What each of them should have:
Blind Plaintiff, lame Defendant, share
The Friendly Laws impartial Care,
A Shell for him, a Shell for thee,
The Middle is the Lawyer’s Fee.