Good morning, it's Nov. 13. Yes, Friday the 13th -- an unlucky day in the minds of the superstitious, but, really, hasn't 2020 been an unlucky year? Friday is also the day of the week when I pass along a quotation intended to be inspiring or informative. Today's comes from Benjamin Franklin, with a historical assist from Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Franklin Roosevelt was leery of Fridays, and the number 13. He had a mild case of what today we would call "triskaidekaphobia." So you can imagine how careful FDR was when a Friday fell on the 13th day of the month.
"Like most people with good luck, FDR was moderately -- not excessively -- superstitious," wrote Roosevelt biographer John Gunther. "He hated Friday the thirteenth, he would never start an important trip on a Friday if he could help it, and he disliked sitting down with thirteen at dinner."
As Edmund Warren Perry Jr. wrote on the National Portrait Gallery blog a few years ago, FDR's fears were misplaced. "Friday the thirteenth bore him no ill," Perry noted puckishly. "Franklin D. Roosevelt died on Thursday, April 12, 1945."
Death also came too soon for the much-loved Warren Perry; he died last year in his mid-50s, from cancer. But it comes to us all, in the end, as Benjamin Franklin put it in his own inimitable way.
On Nov. 13, 1789 -- yes, a Friday the 13th -- the ailing 83-year-old Franklin replied to a letter from French scientist Jean-Baptiste Le Roy. Franklin had been understandably concerned that he hadn't heard from his friend since the French Revolution had gone off the rails. Writing in French, Franklin provided a brief overview of the ratification of the U.S. Constitution, and the beginning of America's grand experiment in elective democracy.
"Our new Constitution is now established, everything seems to promise it will be durable; but, in this world, nothing is certain except death and taxes," Franklin observed. "My health continues much as it has been for some time, except that I grow thinner and weaker so that I cannot expect to hold out much longer."
He was right about that: Ben Franklin would be gone the following spring, though many of his words live on. But when we remember his bon mot about death and taxes, we ought to give the first part of his quote its due as well -- the one about our "durable" system of government. And that's our quote of the week.
Carl M. Cannon is the Washington bureau chief for RealClearPolitics. Reach him on Twitter @CarlCannon.