“At the age of 16, after reading a book by Tryon, Franklin made the countercultural decision to follow a Vegetable Diet. My refusing to eat flesh occasioned an Inconveniency, Franklin notes, and I was frequently chid for my singularity. Notwithstanding the chiding of his peers, Franklin continued in this practice because he found that it saved him money, gave him more time to read, and increased his aptitude for his studies, since he gained that greater Clearness of Head and quicker Apprehension which usually attend Temperance in Eating and Drinking. It wasn’t long, however, before Franklin found himself unable to maintain his vow. He was traveling for the first time by ship from Boston to Philadelphia when the crew caught and fried a large quantity of codfish. Hitherto I had stuck to my Resolution of not eating animal Food, Franklin observes, and on this Occasion consider’d, with my Master Tryon, the taking every Fish as a kind of unprovoked Murder, since none of them had, or ever could do us any Injury that might justify the Slaughter.
All this seemed very reasonable. But I had formerly been a great Lover of Fish, Franklin continues, and, when this came hot out of the Frying Pan, it smelt admirably well. I balanc’d some time between Principle & Inclination, till I recollected that, when the Fish were opened, I saw smaller Fish taken out of their Stomachs: Then thought I, ‘If you eat one another, I don’t see why we mayn’t eat you.’ So I din’d upon Cod very heartily, and continued to eat with other People, returning only now & then occasionally to a vegetable Diet. So convenient a thing it is to be a reasonable Creature, since it enables one to find or make a Reason for everything one has a mind to do.”
unknown, quoting Benjamin Franklin