Note from Bob: Happy 4th of July! When I read Josh Spector’s “Guest Post” about Benjamin Franklin, who of course was one of the signers of the American “Declaration of Independence” I instantly thought in honor of Ben Franklin this one has to be posted on the 4th of July!
At 21-years-old, Benjamin Franklin created an interesting way to spend his Friday evenings.
In 1727, he gathered together a group of people— printers, surveyors, a cabinetmaker, a clerk and a bartender among them — to meet weekly and discuss ways to make themselves and their community better.
The club, which Franklin called a “Junto,” led to innovations such as volunteer fire-fighting clubs, improved security through night watchmen, a public hospital and even the first public library.
While their discussions were designed to cover a mix of personal, intellectual, business, and community topics, they were rooted in a set of 24 questions Franklin created.
If you wanted to be a part of the group and spend time with Franklin, these are the things you’d have to talk about.
The questions, which can be found in Franklin’s papers, are listed below along with some of the general areas they covered.
Even today, they’re not a bad starting point for any discussion you might have with people interested in improving our world.
“Have you met with any thing in the author you last read, remarkable, or suitable to be communicated to the Junto? particularly in history, morality, poetry, physics, travels, mechanic arts, or other parts of knowledge?”
“What new story have you lately heard agreeable for telling in conversation?”
“Has any citizen in your knowledge failed in his business lately, and what have you heard of the cause?”
“Have you lately heard of any citizen’s thriving well, and by what means?”
“Have you lately heard how any present rich man, here or elsewhere, got his estate?”
“Do you know of any fellow citizen, who has lately done a worthy action, deserving praise and imitation? or who has committed an error proper for us to be warned against and avoid?”
“What unhappy effects of intemperance have you lately observed or heard? of imprudence? of passion? or of any other vice or folly?”
“What happy effects of temperance? of prudence? of moderation? or of any other virtue?”
“Who do you know that are shortly going [on] voyages or journeys, if one should have occasion to send by them?”
Hath any deserving stranger arrived in town since last meeting, that you heard of? and what have you heard or observed of his character or merits? and whether think you, it lies in the power of the Junto to oblige him, or encourage him as he deserves?
“Have you or any of your acquaintance been lately sick or wounded? If so, what remedies were used, and what were their effects?”
“Do you think of any thing at present, in which the Junto may be serviceable to mankind? to their country, to their friends, or to themselves?”
“Do you know of any deserving young beginner lately set up, whom it lies in the power of the Junto any way to encourage?”
“Have you lately observed any defect in the laws, of which it would be proper to move the legislature an amendment? Or do you know of any beneficial law that is wanting?”
“Have you lately observed any encroachment on the just liberties of the people?”
“Is there any man whose friendship you want, and which the Junto, or any of them, can procure for you?”
“In what manner can the Junto, or any of them, assist you in any of your honourable designs?”
“Have you lately heard any member’s character attacked, and how have you defended it?”
“Hath any man injured you, from whom it is in the power of the Junto to procure redress?”
“Hath any body attacked your reputation lately? and what can the Junto do towards securing it?”
“What benefits have you lately received from any man not present?”
“Have you any weighty affair in hand, in which you think the advice of the Junto may be of service?”
“Is there any difficulty in matters of opinion, of justice, and injustice, which you would gladly have discussed at this time?”
“Do you see any thing amiss in the present customs or proceedings of the Junto, which might be amended?”
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