Monday, September 25, 2006

Fake Ben Franklin Quote?

I have been working today to try and verify a quote.

Benjamin Franklin is quoted as once saying "The US Constitution doesn't guarantee happiness, only the pursuit of it. You have to catch up with it yourself."

I am beginning to think this might not actually be a real Franklin quote. I have checked over 20 reference quotation books and none list this as an actual quote from Franklin's writings. I also checked a variety of online collections of Franklin writings and can not find this quote using keyword searches.

This quote does appear all over the Web. It is a popular Franklin saying but none of the sites have an actual citation to the original source. It appears this quote has been copied over and over again from different sites.

Is this a fake Franklin quote? Ben Franklin is much like Mark Twain. He is a famous American wise man and any quote of wisdom is often attributed to him. However, this could indeed be a real quote and I have just not been fortunate enough to find the original source.

Does anyone have an original source for this quote? Also, does anyone have evidence this is a made up Franklin quote? Feel free to leave me a comment if you know now or three years in the future if you find this and have a possible answer. I will concede that I may not have looked in the right spot yet.

9 comments:

Cas said...

Isn't it the Declaration of Independence that says that, "...amoung these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness," not the US Constitution? I beleive Ben Franklin was one of the few founding fathers to be present at the drafting of both documents, and I don't think he would have made this mistake.

elementaryhistoryteacher said...

Thanks for attempting to de-mythisize history...a favorite pastime of mine. Have you tried emailing someone at one of the Franklin historic sites? or the Library of Congress?

This is interesting....keep us posted.

Jennie W said...

I think it might be one of those many "attributed" quotes that no one really knows where came from. Like a lot of Abe Lincoln quotes!

annulla said...

Hard to imagine Franklin using such awkward syntax as "You have to catch up with it yourself."

James Stripes said...

I searched the Papers of Benjamin Franklin (www.franklinpapers.org) for the phrase "pursuit of happiness". The words pursuit and happiness appear near each other three times, but the phrase itself appears wholly absent from his writings.

Viktoria said...

Maybe because the Constitution isn't the source document for the "pursuit of happiness". The Declaration of Independence is.

WDYC said...

If anyone's still there, I was wondering if there ever was an answer to this question.
Thanks!

Sy said...

Although it is important for a variety of reasons to verify sources. The fact remains, the quote itself and what it embodies is the nessage. Regardless of the originator, we'll spend hours researching and dabating who said this and why. It was my reading, my comprehension, my perception, my experiences drawn and God given intellect that helped assist me to decipher & evaluate the quote. My conclusion- Whoever said it, was right. I could care less who wrote it.

TexasQuinn said...

The design of the constitution is what guarantees the pursuit! This quote is not saying that the pursuit of happiness is stated in the constitution.