Where Does the Saying “Nothing Is Certain Except Death and Taxes” Come From?

 

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Ah, taxes. As a small-business owner, I know it is true: Nothing is certain except death and taxes. But where does this popular saying come from? Let’s investigate its origin.

That phrase is most commonly attributed to Benjamin Franklin, who wrote to French scientist Jean-Baptiste Leroy in 1789: “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 wrote this in French, and English translations vary.)

However, Franklin wasn’t the first to bemoan this reality. In 1716, Christopher Bullock wrote in his play, Cobbler of Preston, “Tis impossible to be sure of anything but death and taxes!”

 

In 1724, playwright Edward Ward wrote in The Dancing Devils, “Death and taxes, they are certain.”

And, Daniel Defoe wrote in his 1726 book, The Political History of the Devil, “Things as certain as death and taxes, can be more firmly believed.”

Well, maybe there is one more thing certain in life other than death and taxes: politicians taking credit for other people’s ideas.

 

Erin Servais is the founder of Dot and Dash, LLC, an author-services company focusing on women writers and offering a range of book editing, author coaching, and social media packages.

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