and ten thousand others.” Though a blessing for common people, a republic seemed dangerously fragile.
Republican political theory of the day held that empires and monarchies could thrive without an educated populace.
He favored taxing the rich to educate the poor as essential for the common good.
Jefferson assured George Washington, “It is an axiom in my mind that our liberty can never be safe but in the hands of the people themselves, and that too of the people with a certain degree of instruction.
To override the selfishness assumed to be innately human, people had to be taught the value of virtue.
Thomas Jefferson noted, “I have looked on our present state of liberty as a short-lived possession, unless the mass of the people could be informed to a certain degree.” To sustain their republics, American leaders felt compelled to reform the morals and manners of the nation’s citizens.
“We have changed our forms of government,” Benjamin Rush declared, “but it remains yet to effect a revolution in our principles, opinions, and manners so as to accommodate them to the forms of government that we have adopted.” Having grown up in colonies ruled by an empire committed to monarchy, the founders wanted the next generation of Americans to master a new culture of republicanism.
Schools needed to produce well-informed protectors of republican government.
They lived in a dangerous world dominated by empires and kingdoms run by monarchs and aristocrats who inherited and guarded their wealth and power.
In European history, previous republics had been short-lived and usually small: cantons or city-states such as Pisa and Florence.