"Doing Well by Doing Good"

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Thu Jun 13 18:04:09 UTC 2013

Franklin by way of Cotton Mather?

1)  Franklin wrote (I think in his Autobiography) of being influenced
by Mather's "Bonifacius: An essay upon the good" (1710; EAI, ECCO).

2)  Mather's "Diary"?  I think only vol. 1 may be on-line, e.g. the
edition published in the Collections of the MHS.

Perhaps not close enough, but a precursor? Page 589:  "26 d. 3 m.
[May, 1707]  I preached, on, Psal. 37. 3. Trusting in the Lord, and
Doing of Good, the assured Way to be well provided for in the worst
of Times. (Because of the peculiar Temptations of this Time.)"

Although I suppose Mather was not concerned with the possible
financial rewards of doing good, as Franklin perhaps was.  (I don't
know what the "peculiar temptations" of May 1707 might have been.  In
May 1707 Massachusetts led an expedition against Port Royal, Nova
Scotia (one which was not enthusiastically supported), but it had
only just arrived there on May 26.  And the General Court began its
"election" session May 28.)


At 6/12/2013 10:53 PM, Shapiro, Fred wrote:
>Someone has asked me for information on the origin of the expression
>"do well by doing good" or "doing well by doing good."  Although
>this is frequently attributed to Benjamin Franklin, the earliest
>citation I can find in 15 minutes of research is Tom Lehrer's 1953
>song, "The Old Dope Peddler."  Can anyone supply any earlier
>evidence than that?
>Fred Shapiro
>The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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