Mather was a classically severe Puritan, but advocacy for such financial restraint wasn’t a radical message at the time. His wary admirer, Benjamin Franklin, would soon translate this Christian idea of debt-free stewardship into a populist language of daily thrift and its rewards. Where Mather warned that debt encouraged self-indulgence, Franklin emphasized that it restricted autonomy and success. “Be industrious and frugal,” he wrote, “and you will be rich.” Franklin’s American version of thrift, intertwined with the ideal of independence, runs throughout the country’s history, buoyed by such varied figures as Mark Twain, Henry Ward Beecher, and John Kenneth Galbraith.
Read the rest of Ruth Graham on the culture of thrift.