Ben Franklin: Duty & Calling of Training Youth in Wisdom & Virtue

Liberty Letters, Benjamin Franklin, 1750

I think with you, that nothing is of more importance for the public weal, than to form and train up youth in wisdom and virtue. Wise and good men are, in my opinion, the strength of a state; much more so than riches or arms, which, under the management of ignorance and wickedness, often draw on destruction, instead of providing for the safety of the people. And though the culture bestowed on many should be successful only with a few, yet the influence of those few and the service in their power may be very great. Even a single woman, that was wise, by her wisdom saved the city.

I think also, that general virtue is more probably to be expected and obtained from the education of youth, than from the exhortation of adult persons; bad habits and vices of the mind being, like diseases of the body, more easily prevented than cured. I think, moreover, that talents for the education of youth are the gift of God; and that he on whom they are bestowed, whenever a way is opened for the use of them, is as strongly called as if he heard a voice from heaven; nothing more surely pointing out duty in a public service, than ability and opportunity of performing it.


Source: Benjamin Franklin letter to Samuel Johnson, August 23, 1750. Dr. Samuel Johnson was the first president of King’s (now Columbia) College, New York, the venerable father of the Episcopal Church of Connecticut, and the apostle of sound learning and elegant literature in New England.


Liberty Letters is a project of The Moral Liberal’s, Editor in Chief, Steve Farrell. Collection as a whole, along with any introductory or explanatory notes, unique formatting, or spelling modernizations, on individual pieces, Copyright © 2012 Steve Farrell.