After a heated quarrel with his brother, Benjamin Franklin relates in his "Autobiography" that he went to sea because he could not find work in the printing business of which his brother was a part. While at sea, Franklin rescues a drunken Dutchman who has fallen overboard, and while on shore Franklin shares his bread with a poor woman and her children even though he himself has little money. Exhausted, he stops in a Quaker meetinghouse and falls asleep. A kind Quaker wakes him when their service is over.
It is at this point that Franklin has the idea of
arriving at moral perfection. I wished to live without committing any fault at any time.
However, such a goal, Franklin learns, is not easily attained. So, he contrives a method. he makes a book in which he writes each of the virtues and charts the days of the week. In this book, Franklin records his adherence or lack of adherence to these virtues.
This book marks the beginning of Franklin's instructions in morality. It stands as a book that testifies to the American themes of rags-to-riches and hard work bringing success. Later he published "Poor Richard's Almanack" with great success. In it Franklin wrote many aphorisms which are quoted yet today.