lesson image

Some men are great soldiers. Some are great lawmakers. Some men write great books. Some men make great inventions. Some men are great speakers.

Now you are going to read about a man that was great in none of these things. He was not a soldier. He was not a great speaker. He was never rich. He was a poor schoolteacher. He never held any office.

And yet he was a great man. He was great for his goodness.

He was born in France. But most of his life was passed in Philadelphia before the Revolution.

He was twenty-five years old when he became a schoolteacher. He thought that he could do more good in teaching than in any other way.

Schoolmasters in his time were not like our teachers. Children were treated like little animals. In old times the schoolmaster was a little king. He walked and talked as if he knew everything. He wanted all the children to be afraid of him.

But Anthony Benezet was not that kind of man. He was very gentle. He treated the children kindlier than their fathers and mothers did. Nobody in this country had ever seen a teacher like him.

He built a playroom for the children of his school. He used to take them to this room during school time for a little amusement. He managed each child as he found best. Some he could persuade to be good. Some he shamed into being good. But this was very different from the cruel beatings that other teachers of that time gave their pupils.

Of course, the children came to love him very much. After they grew to be men and women, they kept their love for the good little schoolmaster. As long as they lived they listened to his advice.

There were no good schoolbooks in his time. He wrote some little books to make learning easier to his pupils. He taught them many things not in their books. He taught them to be kind to brutes, and gentle with one another. He taught them to be noble. He made them despise every kind of meanness.

He was a great teacher. That is better than being a great soldier.

Benezet was a good man in many ways. He was the friend of all poor people. Once he found a poor man suffering with cold for want of a coat. He took off his own coat in the street and put it on the poor man, and then went home in his shirtsleeves.

In those days, black people were stolen from Africa to be sold into America. Benezet wrote books against this wrong. He sent these books over all the world. He also tried to persuade the Europeans of his own country to be honest and kind with the Indians. Great men in other countries were pleased with his books. They wrote him letters. When any of them came to this country, they went to see him. They wanted to see a man that was good to everybody. His house was a plain one. But great men liked to sit at the table of the good schoolmaster.

There was war between the English and French at that time. Canada belonged to the French. The United States belonged to the English. There was a country called Acadia. It was a part of what is now Nova Scotia. The people of Acadia were French.

The English forced the Acadians from their homes. They sent them to various places. Many families were divided. The poor Acadians lost their homes and all that they had.

Many hundreds of these people were sent to Philadelphia. Benezet became their friend. As he was born in France, he could speak their language. He got a large house built for some of them to stay in. He got food and clothing for them. He helped them to get work, and did them good in many other ways.

One day, Benezet's wife came to him with a troubled face. She said, "There have been thieves in the house. Two of my blankets have been stolen."

"Never mind, my dear," said Benezet, "I gave them to some of the poor Acadians."

One old Acadian was afraid of Benezet. He did not see why Benezet should take so much trouble for other people. He thought that Benezet was only trying to get a chance to sell the Acadians for slaves. When Benezet heard this, he had a good laugh.

Many years after this the Revolution broke out. It brought trouble to many people. Benezet helped as many as he could.

After a while the British army took Philadelphia. They sent their soldiers to stay in the houses of the people. The people had to take care of the soldiers. This was very hard for the poor people.

One day, Benezet saw a poor woman. Her face showed that she was in trouble.

"Friend, what is the matter?" Benezet said to her. She told him that six soldiers of the British army had been sent to stay in her house. She was a washerwoman. But while the soldiers filled up the house she could not do any washing. She and her children were in want.

Benezet went right away to see the general that was in command of the soldiers. The good man was in such a hurry that he forgot to get a pass. The soldiers at the general's door would not let him go in.

At last, someone told the general that a strange-looking fellow wanted to see him.

"Let him come up," said the general.

The odd little man came in. He told the general all about the troubles of the poor washerwoman. The general sent word that the soldiers must not stay any longer in her house.

The general liked the kind little man. He told him to come to see him again. He told the soldiers at his door to let Benezet come in whenever he wished to.

Soon after the Revolution was over, Benezet was taken ill. When the people of Philadelphia heard that he was ill, they gathered in crowds about his house. Everybody loved him. Everybody wanted to know whether he was better or not. At last, the doctors said he could not get well. Then the people wished to see the good man once more. The doors were opened. The rooms and halls of his house were filled with people coming to say goodbye to Benezet, and going away again.

When he was buried, it seemed as if all Philadelphia had come to his funeral. The rich and the poor, the black and the white, crowded the streets. The city had never seen so great a funeral.

In the company was an American general. He said, "I would rather be Anthony Benezet in that coffin than General Washington in all his glory."


Study the lesson for one week.

Over the week:

  • Read the story multiple times.
  • Review the synopsis.
  • Study the vocabulary words.
  • Learn the concepts.
  • Complete the enrichment activities.
  • Study the review questions.


Unlike many cruel schoolmasters of his time, Anthony Benezet treated children kindly. He wrote books against slavery, spoke up for the American Indians, and was kind to the poor. He helped to house and feed the French Acadians, who were forced from their island homes by the English. He also spoke with a British general on behalf of a washerwoman who had lost her home to the British army. The general agreed to give the woman her home back so she could do her washing and earn a living. When Anthony Benezet passed away, people from all walks of life, rich and poor, black and white, came to recognize him as a great good man.


Soldier: A person who serves in an army.
Lawmaker: A person who writes the laws, or rules, of the land.
Invention: A new process or device that solves a problem or provides a service.
Schoolmaster: A male teacher in a school.
Revolution: The overthrow of an existing government to form a new system.


In the story, Anthony Benezet helped many different types of people. One way people can help others is through volunteer work.

Facts about volunteer work:

  1. A volunteer is someone who freely offers to do something beneficial for their community or their country.
  2. Volunteers are not paid with money, but are rewarded with the satisfaction of helping other people and being useful and good.
  3. Volunteers may help an existing organization or start their own organization.

Examples of organizations with volunteers include:

  1. Habitat for Humanity, which builds houses for the homeless.
  2. The Humane Society, which houses, feeds, and finds families for homeless animals.
  3. The American Red Cross, which helps people who suffer from disasters.
  4. The Salvation Army, which does many things including helping to provide for people's basic needs.


Activity 1: Narrate the Story

  • After reading or listening to the story, narrate the story events aloud using your own words.

Activity 2: Act Out the Story

Be like Anthony Benezet. Do three kind things for other people this week. For example:

  • Help your sibling clean their room.
  • Write a nice email to a relative.
  • Draw a special picture for a family member.
  • Say something nice to a friend.

Activity 3: Color the Story   

  • Click the crayon above, and complete page 18 of 'History Coloring Pages for First Grade.'

Activity 4: Study the Story Picture

  • Study the picture of Anthony Benezet below. Zoom in to see the details.
  • What is Benezet doing? (Teaching children from a book.)
  • Who is Benezet teaching? (Two small children. Their skin color is significant since in Benezet's time, many black people were enslaved, educating black children was discouraged, and in some states educating black children was even illegal. Benezet was anti-slavery and founded a school for black children in Philadelphia.)
  • What else do you see in the picture? (A table, paper, another book. ink and quills, something framed on the wall, and trees outside.)


Question 1

How was Anthony Benezet different than other schoolmasters of his time?
1 / 3

Answer 1

Anthony Benezet did not beat his students. He was kind to his students.
1 / 3

Question 2

How did Anthony Benezet help the washerwoman?
2 / 3

Answer 2

Anthony Benezet spoke to the British General on the washerwoman's behalf to get her house back.
2 / 3

Question 3

What happened at Anthony Benezet's funeral?
3 / 3

Answer 3

Many types of people from different walks of life came to recognize the great, good man.
3 / 3

  1. How was Anthony Benezet different than other schoolmasters of his time? Anthony Benezet did not beat his students. He was kind to his students.
  2. How did Anthony Benezet help the washerwoman? Anthony Benezet spoke to the British General on the washerwoman's behalf to get her house back.
  3. What happened at Anthony Benezet's funeral? Many types of people from different walks of life came to recognize the great, good man.