Front Page Titles (by Subject) THE BUSY-BODY—NO. III - The Works of Benjamin Franklin, Vol. I Autobiography, Letters and Misc. Writings 1725-1734
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THE BUSY-BODY—NO. III - Benjamin Franklin, The Works of Benjamin Franklin, Vol. I Autobiography, Letters and Misc. Writings 1725-1734 
The Works of Benjamin Franklin, including the Private as well as the Official and Scientific Correspondence, together with the Unmutilated and Correct Version of the Autobiography, compiled and edited by John Bigelow (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1904). The Federal Edition in 12 volumes. Vol. I (Autobiography, Letters and Misc. Writings 1725-1734).
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THE BUSY-BODY—NO. III
Tuesday, February 18, 1728-9.
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 pleasures, to support himself with fortitude under his misfortunes, to behave with prudence in all his 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.
Virtue alone is sufficient to make a man great, glorious, and happy. He that is acquainted with Cato, as I am, cannot help thinking as I do now, and will acknowledge he deserves the name, without being honored by it. Cato is a man whom fortune has placed in the most obscure part of the country. His circumstances are such as only put him above necessity, without affording him any superfluities; yet who is greater than Cato? I happened but the other day to be at a house in town, where, among others, were met men of the most note in this place. Cato had business with some of them, and knocked at the door. The most trifling actions of a man, in my opinion, as well as the smallest features and lineaments of the face, give a nice observer some notion of his mind. Methought he rapped in such a peculiar manner, as seemed of itself to express there was one who deserved as well as desired admission. He appeared in the plainest country garb: his great coat was coarse, and looked old and threadbare; his linen was homespun; his beard, perhaps, of seven days’ growth; his shoes thick and heavy; and every part of his dress corresponding. Why was this man received with such concurring respect from every person in the room, even from those who had never known him or seen him before? It was not an exquisite form of person or grandeur of dress that struck us with admiration.
I believe long habits of virtue have a sensible effect on the countenance. There was something in the air of his face that manifested the true greatness of his mind, which likewise appeared in all he said, and in every part of his behaviour, obliging us to regard him with a kind of veneration. His aspect is sweetened with humanity and benevolence, and at the same time emboldened with resolution, equally free from diffident bashfulness and an unbecoming assurance. The consciousness of his own innate worth and unshaken integrity renders him calm and undaunted in the presence of the most great and powerful and upon the most extraordinary occasions. His strict justice and known impartiality make him the arbitrator and decider of all differences that arise for many miles around him, without putting his neighbours to the charge, perplexity, and uncertainty of law-suits. He always speaks the thing he means, which he is never afraid or ashamed to do, because he knows he always means well, and therefore is never obliged to blush, and feel the confusion of finding himself detected in the meanness of a falsehood. He never contrives ill against his neighbours, and therefore is never seen with a lowering, suspicious aspect. A mixture of innocence and wisdom makes him ever seriously cheerful. His generous hospitality to strangers according to his ability, his goodness, his charity, his courage in the cause of the oppressed, his fidelity in friendship, his humility, his honesty and sincerity, his moderation, and his loyalty to the government, his piety, his temperance, his love to mankind, his magnanimity, his public-spiritedness, and, in fine, his consummate virtue, make him justly deserve to be esteemed the glory of his country.
Who would not rather choose, if it were in his choice, to merit the above character, than be the richest, the most learned, or the most powerful man in the province without it?
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 a handsome person; but what is wit, or wealth, or form, or learning, when compared with virtue? It is 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.
O Cretico! thou sour philosopher! thou cunning statesman! thou art crafty, but far from being wise. When wilt thou be esteemed, regarded, and beloved like Cato? When wilt thou, among thy creatures, meet with that unfeigned respect and warm goodwill, that all good men have for him? Wilt thou never understand, that the cringing, mean, submissive deportment of thy dependents is (like the worship paid by Indians to the Devil) rather through fear of the harm thou mayest do them, than out of gratitude for the favors they have received of thee? Thou art not wholly void of virtue; there are many good things in thee and many good actions reported of thee. Be advised by thy friend. Neglect those musty authors; let them be covered with dust and moulder on their proper shelves, and do thou apply thyself to a study much more profitable—the study of mankind and thyself.
This is to give notice that the Busy-Body strictly forbids all persons, from this time forward, of what age, sex, rank, quality, degree, or denomination soever, on any pretence, to inquire who is the author of this paper, on pain of his displeasure (his own near and dear relations only excepted).
It is to be observed that if any bad characters happen to be drawn in these papers, they mean no particular person, if they are not particularly applied.
Likewise, that the author is no party-man, but a general meddler.
N. B. Cretico lives in a neighbouring province.