About Us  
Get Involved
& Events
Learning Center
Mailing List
Breeds Hill?





We don’t use the word anymore. It’s fallen from our modern lexicon and with it the idea has disappeared from our minds. To speak the word sounds somewhat quaint and possibly even quixotic. Try using it in conversation and watch the eyebrows raise around you. The word we have lost is “virtue.”

Webster’s defines virtue as, “a good or admirable quality” and, “conformity of one's life and conduct to moral and ethical principles.” Virtue was a word and an idea as prominent in the founding generation as it is absent today. Those men did not just talk about virtues; they pursued them, watched for them and worked to develop them. As a young man, Benjamin Franklin actually wrote out a list of virtues he hoped to attain. As an adult he kept a small book that listed these virtues, and he marked his daily successes and failures in keeping to them. In a similar fashion, 13-year-old George Washington copied a book of rules of civility that he used as a guide to better himself. Wisdom and virtue were things to be gained in the minds of their generation, and great persons were those who exhibited great virtues.


This was the Age of Reason, when the prevailing belief was that all problems could be solved through rational thought. Men believed that greatness was achievable if only one studied the great virtues and incorporated them into daily life. This idea stood in contrast to centuries of thinking that one could not expect to rise above the station to which he was born. It’s from this Reason Revolution that America became a nation of dreamers and achievers. The idea that a person could better himself, do great works and prosper was the American dream before there was even an American nation.

So what happened? Where did the value of virtue go?  Simple--we lost virtue when we lost reason. We no longer live in an age of reason. In fact, we have torn down reason and replaced it with the philosophies of evolution and relativity. Understand that I am not attacking the scientific theories of evolution or relativity, but the general popular philosophies they have generated. In popular thinking we are all “evolving,” and so we must be getting better. We don’t actually have to try to get better; we are all being pulled along and improving through an act of nature without any effort of our own. And since everything is “relative” we need make no judgment calls on what is good or bad or right or wrong. These delightful philosophies eliminate the need to actively change or to pursue virtues. We can sit back, relax, and watch ourselves improve.

 Often I am asked what made the Founding Generation great.  My answer is, “The pursuit of virtue and the belief that they could become great.” I’m not saying that anyone in the era was perfect; they were full of the same insecurities, vanities and jealousies that we all have today.  What made the difference was that they tried to overcome their faults by developing virtue.

Abigail Adams once wrote,

 “Great necessities call out great virtues.”

But can we expect to call out great virtues in our current times of great necessity when we have forgotten what virtues are? Many of the founders believed the very survival of the country depended on it’s becoming a virtuous nation. Listen to the words of the Founders regarding the value of virtue:



“He therefore is the truest friend to the liberty of his country who tries most to promote its virtue, and who, so far as his power and influence extend, will not suffer a man to be chosen into any office of power and trust who is not a wise and virtuous man.”

                     Sam Adams

“Sell not virtue to purchase wealth, nor Liberty to purchase power.”

                              Benjamin Franklin

“I hope I shall possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain what I consider the most enviable of all titles, the character of an honest man.”

                  George Washington

I'll close this article with Benjamin Franklin’s list of 13 virtues, as well as a few others I found. Look them over and ask yourself if there are any worth adding to your own character or if you are truly daring ask a friend which ones you lack.

Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues

Temperance: Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.

Silence: Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.

Order: Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.

Resolution: Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.

Frugality: Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing.

Industry: Lose no time; be always employed in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.

Sincerity: Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly.

Justice: Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.

Moderation: Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.

Cleanliness: Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, clothes, or habitation.

Tranquility: Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.

Chastity: Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another's peace or reputation.

Humility: Imitate Jesus and Socrates.


Further Virtues

commitment, compassion, courage, courtesy, determination ,diligence, excellence, forgiveness, generosity, helpfulness, honesty, honor, humility, integrity, justice, kindness, Knowledge, love, loyalty, modesty, patience, perseverance, reliability, respect, responsibility, self-discipline, service, tact, thankfulness, tolerance, trustworthiness, understanding, wisdom

If you believe that virtue is worth developing in your life, the above list will give you plenty to work with.  If, on the other hand, you believe that virtues and vices are all relative, just continue to wait for them to evolve.   




Donate Today



Breeds Hill Institute 1636 N. Gymkhana Orange CA 92869