...The Importance of Education





David Ramsay

No form of government can make a vicious and ignorant people happy. When the majority of our citizens becomes corrupt, even our well ballanced constitution cannot save us from slavery and ruin. Let it therefore be the unceasing study of all who love their country, to promote virtue and dispense knowledge through the whole extent of our settlements. Without them our growing numbers will soon degenerate into barbarism; but with them the citizens of the United States bid fair for possessing, under the new constitution, as great a share of happiness, as any nation has hitherto enjoyed.

Charleston, South Carolina May 27, 1788



Noah Webster

But while property is considered as the basis of the freedom of the American yeomanry, there are other auxiliary supports; among which is the information of the people. In no country, is education so general – in no country, have the body of the people such a knowledge of the rights of men and the principles of government. This knowledge, joined with a keen sense of liberty and a watchful jealousy, will guard our constitutions, and awaken the people to an instantaneous resistance of encroachments.

“A Citizen of America”
Philadelphia,
October 17, 1787



John Stevens, Jr.

We may safely admit as a fundamental truth, that an enlightened people can never be enslaved, merely by the instrumentality of the ordinary powers of a well constructed Government. To effect this purpose, the intervention of adventitious and extrinsic causes, are absolutely necessary.

“Americanus” VI
Daily Advertiser,
New York
January 12, 1788



James Madison

After all, the most effectual safeguard against heretical intrusions into the School of Politics, will be an Able & Orthodox Professor, whose course of instruction will be an example to his successors...

Letter to Thomas Jefferson
Montpelier,
February 8, 1825



John Adams

...wherever a general knowledge and sensibility have prevailed among the people, arbitrary government and every kind of oppression have lessened and disappeared in proportion.


“A Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law”



Thomas Paine

It is monarchical and aristocratical government only that requires ignorance for its support.

Rights of Man – Part Two



Benjamin Franklin

The good Education of Youth has been esteemed by wise Men in all Ages, as the surest Foundation of the Happiness both of private Families and of Common-wealths.


The Education of Youth



Thomas Jefferson

It was not, however, to be understood that instruction in religious opinion and duties was meant to be precluded by the public authorities, as indifferent to the interests of society. On the contrary, the relations which exist between man and his Maker, and the duties resulting from those relations, are the most interesting and important to every human being, and the most incumbent on his study and investigation. The want of instruction in the various creeds of religious faith existing among our citizens presents, therefore, a chasm in a general institution of the useful sciences. But it was thought that this want, and the entrustment to each society of instruction in its own doctrine, were evils of less danger than a permission to the public authorities to dictate modes or principles of religious instruction, or than opportunities furnished them by giving countenance or ascendancy to any one sect over another. A remedy, however, has been suggested of promising aspect, which, while it excludes the public authorities from the domain of religious freedom, will give to the sectarian schools of divinity the full benefit the public provisions made for instruction in the other branches of science...It has, therefore, been in contemplation, and suggested by some pious individuals, who perceive the advantages of associating other studies with those of religion, to establish their religious schools on the confines of the University, so as to give to their students ready and convenient access and attendance on the scientific lectures of the University; and to maintain, by that means, those destined for the religious professions on as high a standing of science, and of personal weight and respectability, as may be obtained by others from the benefits of the University...the regulations of the University should be so modified and accommodated as to give every facility of access and attendance to their students, with such regulated use also as may be permitted to the other students...But always understanding that these schools shall be independent of the University and of each other. Such an arrangement would...leave inviolate the constitutional freedom of religion, the most inalienable and sacred of all human rights, over which the people and authorities of this state, individually and publicly, have ever manifested the most watchful jealousy...

Minutes of the Board of Visitors,
University of Virginia,
October 7, 1822



James Madison

The present is a favorable season also for bringing again into view the establishment of a national seminary of learning within the District of Columbia...Such an institution claims the patronage of congress as a monument of their solicitude for the advancement of knowledge, without which the blessings of liberty can not be fully enjoyed or long preserved...

Seventh Annual Message to Congress
Washington,
December 5, 1815



John Adams

Laws for the liberal education of youth, especially of the lower class of people, are so extremely wise and useful, that, to a humane and generous mind, no expense for this purpose would be thought extravagant.

Thoughts on Government



Benjamin Franklin

Many of the first Settlers of these Provinces, were Men who had received a good Education in Europe, and to their Wisdom and good Management we owe much of our present Prosperity...The present Race are not thought to be generally of equal Ability...

The Education of Youth



George Washington

...if there cannot be money found to answer the common purposes of education, not to mention the necessary commercial circulation, it is evident that there is something amiss in the ruling political power which requires a steady, regulating and energetic hand to correct and control.

Letter to John Armstrong
Mount Vernon, Virginia
April 25, 1788



James Madison

The liberal appropriations made by the Legislature of Kentucky for a general system of Education cannot be too much applauded. A popular Government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.

Letter to William T. Barry
August 4, 1822



John Adams

They were convinced, by their knowledge of human nature, derived from history and their own experience, that nothing could preserve their posterity from the encroachments of the two systems of tyranny, in opposition to which, as has been observed already, they erected their government in church and state, but knowledge diffused generally through the whole body of the people. Their civil and religious principles, therefore conspired to prompt them to use every measure and take every precaution in their power to propagate and perpetuate knowledge.

“A Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law”



Benjamin Franklin

For though the American Youth are allow'd not to want Capacity; yet the best Capacities require Cultivation, it being truly with them, as with the best Ground, which unless well tilled and sowed with profitable Seed, produces only ranker Weeds.

The Education of Youth



Thomas Jefferson

Above all things I hope the education of the common people will be attended to; convinced that on their good sense we may rely with the most security for the preservation of a due degree of liberty.

Letter to James Madison
Paris,
December 20, 1787



James Madison

Learned Institutions ought to be favorite objects with every free people. They throw that light over the public mind which is the best security against crafty & dangerous encroachments on the public liberty.

Letter to William T. Barry
August 4, 1822



John Adams

A native of America who cannot read and write is as rare an appearance as a Jacobite or a Roman Catholic, that is, as rare a as a comet or an earthquake...And I have good authorities to say, that all candid foreigners who have passed through this country, and conversed freely with all sorts of people here, will allow, that they have never seen so much knowledge and civility among the common people in any part of the world.

“A Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law”



Benjamin Franklin

As to their STUDIES, it would be well if they could be taught every Thing that is useful, and every Thing that is ornamental: But Art is long, and their Time is short. It is therefore propos'd that they learn those Things that are likely to be most useful and most ornamental.

The Education of Youth



The principle circumstances, which render liberty secure, are a spirit of liberty among the people – a general diffusion of knowledge – a general distribution of property – a militia of freemen – and a fair representation in the supreme Legislature...The American citizens in general are by far better educated and more knowing than the people at large in other countries. And in those states where the people have heretofore had the fewest advantages for learning, they are setting up schools, and gaining fast in point of useful knowledge. This is a circumstance of the highest importance to at free people. For where the great body of the citizens are ignorant, and incapable of discerning their true interests, they may be duped by artful and factious men, and led to do things destructive to their own rights and liberties. But a sensible intelligent people, who have access to the sources of information, and are capable of discerning what measures are conducive to the public welfare, will not be easily induced to act contrary to their own interests, and destroy those rights and liberties which are the foundations of happiness.

“The Republican”
Connecticut Courant
Hartford, Connecticut,
January 7, 1788



James Madison

The American people owe it to themselves, and to the cause of free Government, to prove by their establishments for the advancement and diffusion of Knowledge, that their political Institutions, which are attracting observation from every quarter, and are respected as Models, by the new-born States in our own Hemisphere, are as favorable to the intellectual and moral improvement of Man as they are conformable to his individual & social Rights. What spectacle can be more edifying or more seasonable, than that of Liberty and Learning, each leaning on the other for their mutual & surest support?

Letter to William T. Barry
August 4, 1822



John Adams

Be it remembered, however, that liberty must at all hazards be supported. We have a right to it, derived from our Maker. But if we had not, our fathers have earned and bought it for us, at the expense of their ease, their estates, their pleasure, and their blood. And liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people, who have a right, from the frame of their nature, to knowledge, as their great Creator, who does nothing in vain, has given them understandings, and a desire to know...

“A Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law”



Benjamin Franklin

All should be taught to write a fair Hand, and swift, as that is useful to All. And with it may be learnt something of Drawing...Arithmetick, Accounts and some of the first Principles of Geometry and Astronomy.

The English Language might be taught by Grammar...Reading should also be taught and pronouncing, properly, distinctly, emphatically...To form their Stile, they should be put on Writing...To form their Pronunciation, they may be put on making Declamations, repeating Speeches, delivering Orations, &c...But is HISTORY be made a constant Part of their Reading...may not almost all Kinds of useful Knowledge be that Way introduc'd to Advantage, and with Pleasure to the the Student?...GEOGRAPHY, by reading with Maps, and being required to point out the Places where the greatest Actions were done...CHRONOLOGY...will enable them to tell when those Events happened...ANCIENT CUSTOMS, religious and civil, being frequently mentioned in History, will give Occasion for explaining them...MORALITY, by descanting and making continual Observations on the Causes of the Rise or Fall of any Man's Character, Fortune, Power, &c. mentioned in History...

The Education of Youth



James Madison

You do not overrate the interest I feel in the University, as the Temple thro which alone lies the road to that of Liberty.

Letter to Thomas Jefferson
Montpelier,
February 24, 1825



John Adams

Let us presume, what is in fact true, that the spirit of liberty is as ardent as ever among the body of the nation, though a few individuals may be corrupted...This spirit, however, without knowledge, would be little better than a brutal rage. Let us tenderly and kindly cherish, therefore, the means of knowledge. Let us dare to read, think, speak, and write.

“A Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law”


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