Believe it or not, I get contacted regularly by reporters trying to confirm alleged quotes from the Founding Fathers. One recently asked me about the oft-cited quote, supposedly from Ben Franklin, that “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.” It sounds like something Franklin might have said, but here’s historian Nathan Kozuskanich explaining why it modifies something Franklin actually wrote about wine.
“On any given day, Franklin quotations pop up in hundreds of Twitter feeds. Some are actual quotations, and some are not. “A penny saved is a penny earned,” is a modern variation on Franklin’s original, “A Penny sav’d is Twopence clear.” . . . Neither did Franklin say, “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.” Rather, in a letter discussing how Jesus’ miracle of turning water into wine was performed on a daily basis in the French countryside, he wrote, “Behold the water that falls from heaven upon our vineyards. There, it enters the roots of the vines to be changed into wine; constant proof that God loves us and loves to see us happy.” Replacing wine with beer is evidence of the modern desire to see Franklin as “one of the guys,” but the meaning of the original and the altered modern quotation are more or less similar. Still, if you purchased one of the many T-shirts for sale with the erroneous Franklin quotation on it, you might want to ask for a refund.”
From Nathan R. Kozuskanich, Benjamin Franklin: American Founder, Atlantic Citizen, Routledge, 2014.
See also my article “Misquoting Patrick Henry: The Internet and Bogus Sayings of the Founders” and my book Benjamin Franklin: The Religious Life of a Founding Father.