At age 21, Benjamin Franklin formed most of his ingenious acquaintances into a club called The Junto. Members declared a love of humanity and liberty, and swore to seek and share impartial truth. The Junto met each Friday and discussed readings, philosophy and current events, trying to draw useful lessons from each. The aim was self improvement, but also service to the community and mankind.
A club with such lofty goals may seem naïve and pretentious until we remember that few men succeeded in improving themselves, their communities, and mankind as significantly as Benjamin Franklin.
Franklin borrowed The Junto from author Cotton Mather, and I have borrowed it from him. This Junto utilizes an internet format that I believe Franklin would approve of were he here today.
“I had form’d most of my ingenious acquaintance into a club of mutual improvement, which we called the Junto; we met on Friday evenings. The rules that I drew up required that every member, in his turn, should produce one or more queries on any point of Morals, Politics, or Natural Philosophy, to be discuss’d by the company; and once in three months produce and read an essay of his own writing, on any subject he pleased.
Our debates were to be under the direction of a president, and to be conducted in the sincere spirit of inquiry after truth, without fondness for dispute or desire of victory; and to prevent warmth, all expressions of positiveness in opinions, or direct contradiction, were after some time made contraband, and prohibited under small pecuniary penalties.”