Founding Fathers Quotes on the Importance of Wisdom and Education in a Free Society

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Founding Fathers Quotes on the Importance of Wisdom and Education in a Free SocietyWhile it’s fashionable today to see intellectuals as useless, the Founding Fathers prized education, literacy and wisdom. Indeed, the starting point for much of the early American republic was the notion that the electorate would be comprised primarily of virtuous, literate, educated yeomanry. Many of the Founders believed that a society of liberty was impossible without a literate and educated society to maintain it.

It’s difficult to argue with this belief of the Founders. The expansion of government mirrors very closely a lack of interest in the classical heritage of the West, as well as education firmly rooted in the long view of intellectual history. The average college graduate is arguably less well read than the average eighth grader 100 years ago. Our society has paid the price for this, not in the abstract, but in specific and identifiable loss of liberty.

On Wisdom

“Illuminate, as far as practicable, the minds of the people at large, and more especially to give them knowledge of those facts, which history exhibiteth, that, possessed thereby of the experience of other ages and countries, they may be enabled to know ambition under all its shapes, and prompt to exert their natural powers to defeat its purposes.”

“It is favourable to liberty. Freedom can exist only in the society of knowledge. Without learning, men are incapable of knowing their rights, and where learning is confined to a few people, liberty can be neither equal nor universal.”

“The class of literati is not less necessary than any other. They are the cultivators of the human mind—the manufacturers of useful knowledge – the agents of the commerce of ideas—the censors of public manners—the teachers of the arts of life and the means of happiness.”

“There is existing in man, a mass of sense lying in a dormant state, and which, unless something excites it to action, will descend with him, in that condition, to the grave.”

“Enlighten the people generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like evil spirits at the dawn of the day.”

“A diffusion of knowledge is the only guardian of true liberty.”

“If virtue and knowledge are diffused among the People, they will never be enslav'd. This will be their great Security.”

“It is an object of vast magnitude that systems of education should be adopted and pursued which may not only diffuse a knowledge of the sciences but may implant in the minds of the American youth the principles of virtue and of liberty and inspire them with just and liberal ideas of government and with an inviolable attachment to their own country.”

“Friends and neighbors complain that taxes are indeed very heavy, and if those laid on by the government were the only ones we had to pay, we might more easily discharge them; but we have many others, and much more grievous to some of us. We are taxed twice as much by our idleness, three times as much by our pride, and four times as much by our folly; and from these taxes the commissioners cannot ease or deliver us by allowing an abatement. However, let us hearken to good advice, and something may be done for us: ‘God helps them that help themselves,’ as Poor Richard says.”

On Education

“On education all our lives depend. And few to that, too few, with care attend.”

“It should be your care, therefore, and mine, to elevate the minds of our children and exalt their courage; to accelerate and animate their industry and activity; to excite in them an habitual contempt of meanness, abhorrence of injustice and inhumanity, and an ambition to excel in every capacity, faculty, and virtue. If we suffer their minds to grovel and creep in infancy, they will grovel all their lives.”

John Adams, Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law, 1765

“I consider knowledge to be the soul of a republic, and as the weak and the wicked are generally in alliance, as much care should be taken to diminish the number of the former as of the latter. Education is the way to do this, and nothing should be left undone to afford all ranks of people the means of obtaining a proper degree of it at a cheap and easy rate.”

John Jay to Benjamin Rush, March 21, 1785

“Let our common people be compelled by law to give their children (what is commonly called) a good English education. Let schoolmasters of every description be supported in part by the public, and let their principles and morals be subjected to examination before we employ them. … This plan of general education alone will render the American Revolution a blessing to mankind.”

“Children should be educated and instructed in the principles of freedom.”

“Every child in America should be acquainted with his own country. He should read books that furnish him with ideas that will be useful to him in life and practice. As soon as he opens his lips, he should rehearse the history of his own country.”

“It is an object of vast magnitude that systems of education should be adopted and pursued which may not only diffuse a knowledge of the sciences but may implant in the minds of the American youth the principles of virtue and of liberty and inspire them with just and liberal ideas of government and with an inviolable attachment to their own country.”

“I take a deep interest, as a parent and a citizen, in the success of female education, and have been delighted whenever I have been, to witness the attention paid to it.”

James Monroe, Commenting on Harvard University in “A Narrative of a Tour of Observation,” 1818

Ammo.com's Resistance Library: Quotes: Founding Fathers

Founding Fathers Quotes: Our Favorite Quotes from America's Courageous Revolutionaries
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Founding Fathers Quotes on Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Press in the First Amendment
Founding Fathers Quotes on Guns and the Second Amendment's Right to Keep & Bear Arms
Founding Fathers Quotes on Standing Armies and Quartering Troops in the Third Amendment
Founding Fathers Quotes on Privacy, Search, and Seizures in the Fourth Amendment
Founding Fathers Quotes on Due Process and Eminent Domain in the Fifth Amendment
Founding Fathers Quotes on Criminal Justice and the Right to Counsel in the Sixth Amendment
Founding Fathers Quotes on Civil Lawsuits and Common Law in the Seventh Amendment
Founding Fathers Quotes on Excessive, Cruel or Unusual Punishment in the Eighth Amendment
Founding Fathers Quotes on the Dangers of Centralized Power in the Ninth and Tenth Amendments
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Founding Fathers Quotes on the Limited Executive Powers of the United States Presidency
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