"Nothing Can Be Said To Be Certain, Except Death And Taxes"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Benjamin Franklin, probably the most versatile genius of the eighteenth century, carried on a large correspondence with his many friends at home and abroad; in these letters he exchanged ideas and information with the leading scientists, statesmen, and political thinkers of his day. One such friend was Jean Baptiste Le Roy, French physicist; and it is interesting to note that in most of Franklin's letters, regardless of their recipient, there is the same warmth and wisdom associated with him in other matters. His penchant for appropriate sayings and deceptively simple maxims did not desert him in his correspondence. This letter to M. Le Roy, written shortly before Franklin's death, proves that his powers did not fail him in his old age. In it Franklin inquires after his friend's health, jokes about the danger of living in France in 1789, and expresses some concern over Le Roy's safety; he has not heard from the latter in almost a year. Before concluding the letter, he adds a bit of important news and a characteristic comment:

Our new Constitution is now established, and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.