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Death and taxes (idiom)

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"Death and taxes" is a phrase commonly referencing a famous quotation written by American statesman Benjamin Franklin:

Our new Constitution is now established, and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.

— Franklin, in a letter to Jean-Baptiste Le Roy, 1789[1]

Though Franklin is not the progenitor of the phrase, his usage is the most famous, especially in the United States.[2] Earlier versions from the 18th century include a line in Daniel Defoe's The Political History of the Devil (1726),[3] and a quotation from The Cobbler of Preston by Christopher Bullock (1716), which is the earliest known iteration.[4]

You lye, you are not sure; for I say, Woman, 'tis impossible to be sure of any thing but Death and Taxes

— Toby Guzzle, in Christopher Bullock, The Cobbler of Preston, p. 21

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Sparks, Jared (1856). The Writings of Benjamin Franklin, Vol. X (1789-1790). Macmillan. p. 410.
  2. ^ Liles, Jordan (20 July 2022). "Did Ben Franklin Pen the Famous 'Death and Taxes' Quote?". Snopes. Snopes Media Group Inc. Retrieved 11 November 2022.
  3. ^ DeFoe, Daniel (1726). The Political History of the Devil, As Well Ancient as Modern: In Two Parts. London: Black Boy in Pater-noster Row. p. 269.
  4. ^ Christopher Bullock (1767). The Cobler of Preston, a farce. As it is acted at the Theatre-Royal in Lincoln's-Inn-Field, Fifth Edition. Bladon, London, 1767. p. 21.