Nothing More Important than Educating Youth In Wisdom and Virtue


In an August 23, 1750 letter to Samuel Johnson (the first President of King’s—now Columbia—College), American Founding Father Benjamin Franklin wrote:

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, Philadelphia, 23 August 1750, as quoted in Jared Sparks, ed., The Works of Benjamin Franklin, Volume 7, p. 48.

They Were Believers is researched, compiled, edited (with occasional commentary and explanatory notes), and formatted for the Internet by Steve Farrell. As uniquely edited and formatted Copyright © 2016 Steve Farrell.