Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790)
Printer, inventor, diplomat, founding father
Once early in his newspaper career he had to deal with the rival paper Mercury, which had the patronage of William Penn’s sons and Franklin as with many other patriots disliked their policies. One day a delegation of well meaning friends, Quakers, called on him at his house. They were there to warn him to moderate his political views. Anticipating what they were there for he invited them to stay for dinner, which consisted of some kind of mush and water. Franklin spooned the mush onto his dish and began to eat. His guests also tried to follow his example but they could not speak their point of view without getting the mush sticky in their throat. Franklin quietly tackled his food as he was well used to it. Finally the Quakers could not suffer the fare any longer and asked what it was.
‘You see what humble food I can live on,’ snapped Franklin, ‘He who can subsist upon saw-dust pudding and water doesn’t need the patronage of anyone.’
Note: There is a parallel to this in the life of Cato the elder. Plutarch writes about Marius Curius, a neighbour of Cato who had in his day scored a great victory over the Samnites. This War had lasted 298-90 BC. His simple living and hard work were well known. He continued to live in his humble cottage, working over the little patch of his land with his own hands even after he had celebrated his three triumphs. It was here that the ambassadors of the Samnites had found him sitting in front of his hearth boiling turnips. They offered him large sums of gold, but he sent them away, telling them that a man who could be satisfied with such a meal did not need gold.