Know Much, Do Little

American Founding Father, John Dickinson (1732-1808)


There are so many bad things we can do to hurt America – but the saddest, and perhaps baddest of these is to “know much and do little.”

You know, to be one of the ones who has paid or is paying the price in learning but who hides his talents under a bushel, or who gets himself full of religion but neglects his call to be the salt of the earth, or who receives a remission of his sins only to think himself too holy to roll up his sleeves, get down in the trenches, and help clean up the mess in Babylon because “Well, I didn’t make it!”

Sure, those who know a lot – male and female – can come up with a host of excuses for their chickenhearted inaction.

Here are a few more: “The fix is on, so why try?” and “What good is my little mite in a world so wide?” or “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

There are others. No doubt my readers will send in a few.

But American Founder John Dickinson had one cure for them all. In his 1767 “Letters from a Pennsylvania Farmer” he notes:

“From my infancy I was taught to love humanity and liberty. Enquiry and experience have since confirmed my reverence for the lessons they have given me, by convincing me more fully of their truth and excellence. Benevolence toward mankind excites wishes for their welfare, and such wishes endear the means for fulfilling them. These can be found in liberty only, and therefore her sacred cause ought to be espoused by every man on every occasion, to the utmost of his power.”

Love is powerful. Love conquers all fear. Love prompts a free people to sacrifice for their neighbors, and this of their own free will, no matter the cost, no matter the odds.

Hey, just think about our mothers. Do they ever give up on any of us? Then why should we give up on saving our country, a country filled with our brothers and sisters, uncles and aunts, parents and grandparents, children and grandchildren?

Or maybe that’s just too tough an act to follow, to endure in love, against all odds, as our mothers do.

Yet love prompts us to act, Dickinson knew, even when the impact of our actions seems ever so slight.

He wrote:

“As a charitable, but poor person does not withhold his mite, because he cannot relieve all the distresses of the miserable, so should not any honest man suppress his sentiments concerning freedom, however small their influence is likely to be.”

And this is why:

“Perhaps he ‘may touch some wheel,’ that will have an effect greater than he could reasonably expect.”

Perhaps you haven’t noticed, but if you think about it, we all have at one time or another “touched some wheel” that had an effect greater than we “could reasonably expect” for good or ill. Can we doubt it?

And so our voice, our vote, our letters, our time, our talents, our financial contributions, carefully and prayerfully given, do matter. They always have. Every faithful mother, every hard-working father, every student of history or theology knows this is true.

The Founders knew it too. They went up against the mightiest military in the world with a ragtag bunch of farmers and merchants and won – because they loved God, their neighbor and the cause of liberty more than themselves. With God on their side, they believed they would triumph and they did.

Even in the case of the individual who only loves himself and his interests, it doesn’t make sense to stand idly by when liberty is at stake.

Again from Dickinson:

“He certainly not is a wise man who folds his arms, and reposes himself at home, viewing, with unconcern, the flames that have invaded his neighbor’s house, without using any endeavors to extinguish them.”

Yes, the comfortable, the prosperous, the protected, the withdrawn, who “sit upon their thrones in a state of thoughtless stupor, while [our] enemies are spreading the work of death around [us],” will have their day of reckoning, when the flames they took no interest in spread to their own homes. Wisdom, you see, cries out even to the selfish that their own interests are protected when they help and protect others.

“Know much, do little,” is that the problem? Hey, there’s an easy solution: Just ‘give a little love for your friends.’

Steve Farrell is the Founder and Editor In Chief of Self-Educated American (2008-Present), one of the original and most popular pundits at (1999-2007), Press Agent for Defend Marriage – a project of Brigham Young University’s, J. Reuben Clark Jr. Law School and United Families International (2003-2004), founding Managing Editor of Right Magazine (1998-1999), and the author of the highly praised inspirational novel Dark Rose (2003)

Contact Steve

Your comments