“Lend money … to a friend and thou will lose him” – Benjamin Franklin
Money is a staple of modern day society, but more so spending money one does not presently have. With the invention of credit cards, people are able to dine at a $$$ restaurant on yelp without immediately paying the price. Often times this delayed cost leads consumers to purchase beyond their means. In Benjamin Franklin’s day, a person’s eyes were similarly larger than their figurative wallet, but instead of leaning on a large, financially stable credit card company, people often turned to friends and family.
Benjamin Franklin experienced first hand the hardships of lending money in his relationship with his childhood best friend John Collins. Upon settling down in Philadelphia in 1724, Franklin wrote enthusiastically to Collins about his love for this new city. Collins took to heart Franklin’s words and decided to join him in Pennsylvania, but when Ben met up with John in New York, he discovered his friend’s extensive dabbling in gambling and alcohol at the expense of his bills. Franklin, pitying his friend, lent money to Collins to pay off his bills in order to return with him to Philadelphia.
At this point, John Collins capitalized on his friendship with Benjamin Franklin by placing that relationship as collateral for a loan, valuing their friendship more than “free money.” Collin’s use of friendship as a form of assurance by its nature made the loan personal ensuring any defaults on the loan were of a personal nature. If ever Collins could not repay the loan, two consequences would ensue 1) Franklin would take personal offense and experience righteous anger towards the situation and 2) Collins would lose his collateral: friendship with Franklin.
Unfortunately Collins frequent vices prevented him from this introspective foresight and he quickly wracked up debt he could not repay as an unemployable drunk. Collins, likely unable to deal with the badgering of his friend and perhaps even the weight of his own guilt, eventually ran away to Barbados where he severed all contact. Franklin never saw a penny of his loans and never heard from his childhood best friend again.
When you lend money to a friend, you risk losing both. One might suggest treating friendship as a sort of self-sacrifice and simply giving the money to a friend as a gift. In essence, Franklin did just that. At some point, Franklin must have known Collins would not repay any money he would give him. This gifting of money did not create significant enough remorse to prevent Collins from treating Franklin like a doormat. Even so, not offering to spot a cashless friend at Big Chill would just be… unfriendly. Perhaps Franklin simply meant to encourage society to think twice before mixing the personal and professional as with friendships and loans.
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