A Truly Great Man


A Truly Great Man ~Benjamin Franklin

From “The Busy-Body, No. III,” 1728

It is said that the Persians in their ancient constitution, had public schools in which virtue was taught as a liberal art or science; and it is certainly of more consequence to a man that he has learnt to govern his passions; in spite of temptation to be just in his dealings, to be temperate in his pleasure, to support himself with fortitude under his misfortunes, to behave with prudence in all affairs and in every circumstance of life; I say, it is of much more real advantage to him to be thus qualified, than to be a master of all the arts and sciences in the world beside.

Almost every man has a strong natural desire of being valued and esteemed by the rest of his species; but I am concerned and grieved to see how few fall into the right and only infallible method of becoming so. That laudable ambition is too commonly misapplied and often ill employed. Some to make themselves considerable pursue learning, others grasp at wealth, some aim at being thought witty, and others are only careful to make the most of an handsome person; but what is wit, or wealth, or form, or learning when compared with virtue? ’Tis true, we love the handsome, we applaud the learned, and we fear the rich and powerful; but we even worship and adore the virtuous. Nor is it strange; since men of virtue, are so rare, so very rare to be found. If we were as industrious to become good, as to make ourselves great, we should become really great by being good, and the number of valuable men would be much increased; but it is a grand mistake to think of being great without goodness; and I pronounce it as certain, that there was never yet a truly great man that was not at the same time truly virtuous.


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