Sir William Berkeley Quote

“I thank God, we have not free schools nor printing; and I hope we shall not have these hundred years. For learning has brought disobedience, and heresy and sects into the world; and printing has divulged them and libels against the government. God keep us from both!”

~ Sir William Berkeley


Ratings and Comments


Earl Brinson, Charleston, SC

I suppose it depends on the point you're trying to make. Since Sir William Berkeley was one of the most educated men of his day, having several degrees from Oxford University including one in law and being a published playright with several of his plays performed before King Charles I, I doubt that he was actually condemning education in general. I would suspect that he was probably lamenting with or without tongue in cheek the use of the written word by people he considered scoundrels furthering their own cause at the expense of his opinion of truth and integrity. Now that may have a ring of ironic truth on this website. I don't think we should comdemn Sir William for eternity simply because he became a little frustrated with his detractors. The five stars reflects my opinion of this quote in the above context. It reminds me of some Winston Churchill quotes. I love the British sense of humor. We should take lessons.

Barbara Smith, Charlottesville, VA

It's more of a class attitude than Earl Brinson's remarks suggest. Berkeley is against FREE schools, the sorts that educate the lesser and poorer sort of people who then begin to question the wisdom, justice, and entitlement of their (supposed) social betters. I don't think we should 'condemn Sir William for eternity' either, but we should acknowledge his powerful anti-egalitarian and elitist view as fundamental to his Virginia society--and as American as apple pie. Belief in hierarchy and in keeping the poor ignorant and uninformed about the acts of government has a long history in the U.S.

Emily, williamsburg

I don't know what i think about this article, if we didn't get free schools, when we looked at this article, we would thik that mabey he is right, but when we look at it now, because we do have free schools we might think that it is bad

R. Hess, Swords Creek,VA

If you live in Virginia today you would see a more subtile version of Berkely's ideals still very much alive. Education of the masses would dilute the advantage the elite of our Commonwealth enjoy and this would never do!!! The more things change the more they remain the same here in good old VA.

Mike, Norwalk

A thumbs down for the obvious contemp for the less than ruling class and their possible abilities when educated. Five stars for the elite's implementing of the dumbing down of America (not for the dumbing down itself but, in recognition of how complete and well executed the elite's/politico's efforts).

warren, olathe

His government was that of the king of England. He had the mindset of what was referred to later as a tori. In his time America was primarily being settled by emptying the British jails to send over. Others that came were not getting along so well with the laws and society in general. Religious dissidents were flocking to America. Im sure he saw all these as dangerous rabel. Now we keep em dumb so they will vote how we want and to increase the susceptibility to leftist propaganda.

J Carlton, Calgary

Spoken like a true tyrant.

E Archer, NYC

If the statement was made sarcastically, then I get the joke. However, the sentiment was common for the age in which it was spoken. If we expect the ruling class to educate us, we can expect to be taught to obey them.

Mel, Houston, TX

I like this quote simply because it illustrates the power of education and free-thinking. It makes sense that someone whose job was to control a population would have this point of view because knowledge and free-thinking were his greatest enemies. And it serves everyone else a warning - to forsake critical thinking and free-thought is to forsake freedom itself.

J Carlton, Calgary

Well said E Archer.

Mary, Largo

Years from now with all the doublespeak, no one will know if our politicians were being sarcastic or could actually be promoting some of the ideas they promote. Only those who speak truth like Kucinich and Paul will be easily interpreted. I don't think Berkeley was being sarcastic as hard as it is to believe the sincerity of his sentiments.

Dana, Lincoln

Ruling Virginia at the order of the king...loyal to the king and naturally not wanting the population to know anything better than "Mother England." Look what a little reading and printing of bibles brought to England not long before he was sent here...

Warren 2
  • Reply
    Warren 2    7/2/08

    The comment is sarcastic. Ironic. He was taking the piss! Holy shit people are thick.

    Bill, New Orleans

    Warren 2 misses the point entirely. This is not sarcastic in the least. In the mid-17th Century this is exactly how the ruling classes thought. There were no free (in either sense of the word) public schools, and no printing allowed without a license. Remember, these were colonial times and we were very much under the thumb of Britain. They were terrified of people learning to read so that they could think for themselves and communicate their ideas via the press. They preferred that the government/church tell them what they needed to know -- no thinking necessary. Berkeley's approach worked for a while -- until 1776.

    Chris, Boone

    You have to remember that at this time the First English Civil War was beginning as "lesser" people began to fight against the Monarchy and the loyalists, this was most likely a response to this overthrow.

    Anonymous, Anchorage, Alaska

    It's just a quote, folks. No need to get so hopped up over a quote that was said more than 200 years ago. You are the first people this man has offended in hundreds of years. Context, people, context.

    f, f
    • Reply
    f, f    10/5/10

    :)

    Lucy Heartfillia, New York City

    I think he is a selfish man. Ive donenalot of research on this dude....for a debate.... No just no.😒

    J. Brooks, Los Angeles, Ca.

    It's more of a class attitude than Earl Brinson's remarks suggest. Berkeley is against FREE schools, the sorts that educate the lesser and poorer sort of people who then begin to question the wisdom, justice, and entitlement of their (supposed) social betters. I don't think we should 'condemn Sir William for eternity' either, but we should acknowledge his powerful anti-egalitarian and elitist view as fundamental to his Virginia society--and as American as apple pie. Belief in hierarchy and in keeping the poor ignorant and uninformed about the acts of government has a long history in the U.S.
    -- Barbara Smith, Charlottesville, VA
    I hate to admit it, but I am forced to agree "Belief in hierarchy and in keeping the poor ignorant and uninformed about the acts of government.." precisely defines our bipartisan neoLiberal ruling regime of the past forty years.
    I like to believe the Eisenhower/Nixon Era was a exception to this, as eglatarianism seemed to reign supreme in that time, and Nixon one of our most open and transparent Presidents.

    J. Brooks, Los Angeles, Ca.

    Royal Governor Berkeley the Butcher. Fought in the English Civil War for the King, later made Gov. of Va.
    He, and the British King, and the Cherokee Indians, forcibly established the instititution of Black Slavery in North America.
    This led to Breeds revolt by Americans, which was crushed, land seized, mass hangings.
    I believe Berkeley was summing up his conclusion from both wars with uppity subordinates.
    "I thank God, we have not free schools nor printing;
    and I hope we shall not have these for a hundred years.
    For learning has brought disobedience,
    and heresy and sects into the world;
    and printing has divulged them
    and libels against our good government.
    God keep us from both!"

    J. Brooks, los Angeles Ca

    Printing came to Virginia relatively late in its colonial development. For more than a century after its founding, the colony's governors deemed printing a destabilizing influence to the standing order and actively opposed introducing printing into their dominion. Often that resistance came at the order of their superiors in London. Thus when William Parks was finally authorized to produce imprints for the government in 1728, his commission was limited. He could produce little more than what the government required.

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