Title: Light and Liberty: Reflections on the Pursuit of Happiness.
Author: Thomas Jefferson.
Genre: Non-fiction, politics, philosophy, religion, economics.
Publication Date: Between 1775-1826 (this book in 2004).
Summary: In stately measured cadences, these 34 essays provide timeless guidance on leading a spiritually fulfilling life. Eric S. Petersen has culled the entirety of Thomas Jefferson’s published works to fashion original essays on themes ranging from patriotism and liberty to hope, humility, and gratitude. The result is a lucid, inspiring distillation of the wisdom of one of America’s greatest political thinkers.
My rating: 8.5/10.
♥ I have ever thought religion a concern purely between God and our consciences, for which we were accountable to Him, and not to the priests. I never told my own religion, nor scrutinized that of another. I never attempted to make a convert, nor wished to change another’s creed. I have ever judged of the religion of others by their lives, for it is in our lives, and not from our words, that our religion must be read. By the same test the world must judge me.
♥ Adore God; reverence and cherish your parents; love your neighbor as yourself, and your country more than life. Be just; be true; murmur not at the ways of Providence - and the life into which you have entered will be one of eternal and ineffable bliss.
♥ Happiness is the aim of life. Virtue is the foundation of happiness. Utility is the test of virtue.
♥ The only orthodox object of the institution of government is to secure the greatest degree of happiness possible to the general mass of those associated under it.
♥ If we can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people, under the pretense of taking care of them, they must become happy.
♥ If, in my retirement to the humble station of a private citizen, I am accompanied with the esteem and approbation of my fellow citizens, trophies obtained by the blood-stained steel, or the tattered flags of the tented field, will never be envied. The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only legitimate object of good government. We wish the happiness and prosperity of every nation.
♥ Body and mind both unemployed, our being becomes a burden, and every object about us loathsome, even the dearest. Idleness begets ennui, ennui the hypochondriac, and that a diseased body. No laborious person was ever yet hysterical. I am constantly roving about to see what I have never seen before, and shall never see again.
♥ The field of imagination is thus laid open to our use and lessons may be formed to illustrate and carry home to the heart every moral rule of life. Thus a lively and lasting sense of filial duty is more effectually impressed on the mind of a son or daughter by reading King Lear, than by all the dry volumes of ethics, and divinity that were ever written. This is my idea of well written Romance, of Tragedy, Comedy, and Epic poetry.
♥ When we see ourselves in a situation which must be endured and gone through, it is best to make up our minds to it. Meet it with firmness and accommodate everything to it in the best way practicable. This lessens the evil, while fretting and fuming only serves to increase our own torment. Fortitude teaches us to meet and surmount difficulties; not to fly from them, like cowards; and to fly, too, in vain, for they will meet and arrest us at every turn of our road. GFo on therefore with courage and you will find it grows easier and easier.
♥ The weather should be little regarded. A person not sick will not be injured by getting wet. Brute animals are the most healthy, and they are exposed to all weather and, of men, those are healthiest who are the most exposed. The recipe of these two descriptions of beings is simple diet, exercise, and the open air, be its state what it will; and we may venture to say that this recipe will give health and vigor to every other description. The sun is my almighty physician.
Having been so often a witness to the salutary efforts which mature makes to re-establish the disordered functions, the judicious, the moral, the human physician should rather trust to their action, than hazard the interruption of that, and a greater derangement of the system, by conjectural experiments on a machine so complicated and known as the human body, and a subject so sacred as human life.
♥ All the world will love you continue good humored, prudent, and attentive to everybody, as I am sure you will do from temper as well as reflection. Life is of no value but as it brings us gratifications. Among the most valuable these is rational society. It informs the mind, sweetens the temper, cheers our spirits, and promotes health.
I estimate the qualities of the mind; 1, good humor; 2, integrity; 3, industry; 4, science. The preference of the first to the second quality may not at first be acquiesced in; but certainly we had all rather associate with a good-humored, light-principled man, than with an ill-tempered rigorist in morality. Good humor is one of the preservatives of our peace and tranquility. It is among the most effectual, and its effect is so well imitated and aided, artificially, by politeness, that this also becomes an acquisition of first rate value. Nothing enables a man to get along in business so well as a smooth temper.
♥ It is a happy circumstance in human affairs, that evils which are not cured in one way will cure themselves in some other. No man has greater confidence than the I have, in spirit of the oeioke, tri a rational extent. Whatever they can, they will. I cannot act as if all men were unfaithful because some are so; nor believe that all will betray me, because some do. I had rather be the victim of occasional infidelities, than relinquish my general confidence in the honesty of man.
♥ It is wise and well to be contented with the good things which the Master of the feast places before us, and to be thankful for what we have, rather than thoughtful about what we have not. Lose no occasion of exercising your dispositions to be grateful, to be generous, to be charitable, to be humane, to be true, just, firm, orderly, and courageous. Consider every act of this kind as an exercise which will strengthen your moral faculties and increase your worth.
♥ The exact truth should be told. They will believe the good, if we candidly tell them the bad also. Honesty promotes interest in the long run. I can conscientiously declare that as to myself, I wish that not only no act but no thought of mine should be unknown.
… I hope I may be allowed to say that my public proceedings were always directed by a single view to the best interests of our country. I meddled in no intrigues, pursued no concealed object. I disdained all means which were not as open and honorable, as their object was pure. The whole art of government consists in the art of being honest. Only aim to do your duty, and mankind will give you credit where you fail. Let common sense and common honesty have fair play and they will soon set things to rights.
♥ Sincerity I valuer above all things; as, between those who practice it, falsehood and malice work their efforts in vain. I disdain everything like duplicity. Good faith is every man’s surest guide. Of you, my neighbors, I may ask, in the face of the world, “Whose ox have I taken, or whom have I defrauded? Whom have I oppressed, or of whose hand have I received a bribe to blind mine eyes therewith?” On your verdict I restr with conscious security.
♥ No man ever had less desire of entering into public offices than myself. In truth, I wish for neither honors nor offices. I am happier at home than I can be elsewhere. I have no ambition to govern men; no passion which would lead me to delight to ride in a storm. Whenever a man has cast a longing eye on offices, a rottenness begins in his conduct. I love to see honest and honorable men at the helm, men who will not bend their politics to their purses, nor pursue measures by which they may profit, and then profit their measures. I have the consolation of having added nothing to my private fortune, during my public service, and of retiring with hands as clean as they are empty.
♥ Wealth, title, and office are no recommendations to my friendship. On the contrary, great good qualities are requisite to make amends for their having wealth, title, and office. I have not observed men’s honesty to increase with their riches.
♥ I have never been so well pleased, as when I could shift power from my own, on the shoulders of others; nor have I ever been able to conceive how any rational being could propose happiness to himself from the exercise of power over others. I have seen enough of political honors to know that they are bit splendid torments. The little spice of ambition which I had in my younger days has long since evaporated, and I set still less store by a posthumous than present name. Pride costs us more than hunger, thirst, and cold.
♥ As to myself, my religious reading has long been confined to the moral branch of religion, which is the same in all religions; while in that branch which consists of dogmas, all differ, all have a different set. The former instructs us how to live well and worthily in society; the latter are made to interest our minds in the support of the teachers who inculcate them.
♥ The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg. Is this then our freedom of religion? and are we to have a censor whose imprimatur shall say what books may be sold, and what we may buy? And who is thus to dogmatize religious opinions for our citizens? Whose foot is to be the measure to which ours are all to be cut or stretched?
♥ The supremacy of the civil over the military authority; economy in the public expense, that labor may be lightly burdened; the honest payment of our debts and sacred preservation of the public faith; encouragement of agriculture, and of commerce as its handmaid; the diffusion of information and the arraignment of all abuses at that bare of public reason; freedom of religion; freedom of the press; freedom of person under the protection of the habeas corpus; and trial by juries impartially selected - these principles form the bright constellation which has gone before us, and guided our steps through an age of revolution and reformation. The wisdom of our sages and the blood of our heroes have been devoted to their attainment. They should be the creed of our political faith - the text of civil instruction - the touchstone by which to try the services of those we trust; and should we wander from them in moments of error or alarm, let us hasten to retrace our steps and to regain the road which alone leads to peace, liberty, and safety.
♥ In a virtuous government, and more especially in times like these, public offices are, what they should be, burdens to those appointed to them, which it would be wrong to decline, though foreseen to bring with them intense labor, and great private loss.
♥ I have ever found in my progress through life, that, acting for the public, if we do always what is right, the approbation denied in the beginning will surely follow us in the end. It is from posterity we are to expect remuneration for the sacrifices we are making for their service, of time, quiet, and good will.
♥ Nature has written her moral laws on the head and heart of every rational and honest man, where every man may read them for himself. If ever you are about to say anything amiss, or to do anything wrong, consider beforehand you will feel something within you which will tell you it is wrong, and ought not to be said or done. This is your conscience, and be sure and obey it. Our Maker has given us all this faithful internal monitor, and if you always obey it you will always be prepared for the end of the worlds; or for a much more certain event, which is death. This must happen to all; it puts an end to the world as to us; and the way to be ready for it is never to do a wrong act. Conscience is the only sure clue which will eternally guide a man clear of all doubts and inconsistencies.
♥ No reformation can be hoped where there is no repentance.
♥ Man, once surrendering his reason, has no remaining guard against absurdities the most monstrous, and like a ship without rudder, is the sport of every wind. With such persons, gullibility, which they call faith, takes the helm from the hand of reason, and the mind becomes a wreck.
Is uniformity attainable? Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch toward uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery and error all over the earth. Force cannot give right.
♥ We should all then, like the Quakers, live without an order of priests, moralize for ourselves, follow the oracle of conscience, and say nothing about what no man can understand, nor therefore believe; for I suppose belief to be the assent of the mind to an intelligible proposition.
♥ Take from man his selfish propensities, and he can have nothing to seduce him from the practice of virtue. Or subdue those propensities by education, instruction, or restraint, and virtue remains without a competitor. Bold, unequivocal virtue is the best handmaid even to ambition.
♥ The uniform tenor of a man’s life furnishes better evidence of what he has said or done on any particular occasion than the word of any enemy, and of an enemy too, who shows that he prefers the use of falsehoods which suit him to truths which do not. I never did, or countenanced, in public life, a single act inconsistent with the strictest good faith; having never believed there was one code of morality for a public, and another for a private man. There is not a truth existing which I fear, or would wish unknown to the whole world.
♥ Though you cannot see, when you take one step, what will be the next, yet follow truth, justice, and plain dealing, and never fear their leading you out of the labyrinth, in the easiest manner possible. The knot which you thought a Gordian one, will untie itself before you. Nothing is so mistaken as the supposition that a person is to extricate himself from a difficulty by intrigue, by chicanery, by dissimulation, by trimming, by an untruth, by an injustice. This increases the difficulties tenfold; and those, who pursue these methods, get themselves so involved at length, that they can turn no way but their infamy becomes more exposed.
♥ The right of opinion shall suffer no invasion from me. Those who have acted well have nothing to fear, however they may have differed from me in opinion: those who have done ill, however, have nothing to hope; nor shall I fail to do justice lest it should be ascribed to that difference of opinion. For even if we differ in principle more than I believe we do, you and I know too well the texture of the human mind, and the slipperiness of human reason, to consider differences of opinion otherwise than differences of fort or feature. Integrity of views more than their soundness, is the basis of esteem.
♥ I am for government rigorously frugal and simple. The accounts of the United States ought to be, and may be made as simple as those of a common farmer, and capable of being understood by common farmers.
♥ I had rather be shut up in a very modest cottage, with my books, my family, and a few old friends, dining on simple bacon, and letting the world roll on as it liked, than to occupy the most splendid post, which any human power can give.
♥ That our Creator made the earth for the use of the living and not of the dead; that those who exist nor can have no use nor right in it, no authority or power over it; that one generation of men cannot foreclose or burden its use to another, which comes to it in its own right and by the same divine beneficence; that a preceding generation cannot bind a succeeding one by its laws or contracts; these deriving their obligation from the will of the existing majority, and that majority being removed by death, another comes in its place with a will equally free to make its own laws and contacts; these are axioms so self-evident that no explanation can make them plainer; for he is not to be reasoned with who says that non-existence can control existence, or that nothing can move something. Let us draw a veil over the dead, and hope the best for the living.
♥ Our duty is to act upon things as they are, and make a reasonable provision for whatever they may be. Never put off till tomorrow what you can do today.
♥ Bigotry is the disease of ignorance, of morbid minds; enthusiasm of the free and buoyant. Education and free discussion are the antidotes of both.
♥ There is not a sprig of grass that shoots uninteresting to me, nor anything that moves.
The motion of my blood no longer keeps time with the tumult of the world. It leads me to seek for happiness in the lap and love of my family, in the society of my neighbors and my books, in the wholesome occupations of my farm and my affairs, in an interest or affection in every bud that opens, in every breath that blows around me, in an entire freedom of rest, of motion, of thought, owing account to myself alone if my hours and actions.
♥ In every government on earth is some trace of human weakness, some germ of corruption and degeneracy, which cunning will discover and wickedness insensibly open, cultivate, and improve. Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone. The people themselves, therefore, aren't its only safe depositories. And to render even them safe, their minds must be improved to a certain degree.
♥ It should be remembered, as an axiom of eternal truth in politics, that whatever power in any government is independent, is absolute also; in theory only, at first, while the spirit of the people is up, but in practice, as fast as that relaxes. Independence can be trusted nowhere but with the people in mass. They are inherently independent of all but moral law.
♥ The time to guard against corruption and tyranny, is before they shall have gotten hold of us. It is better to keep the wolf out of the fold, than to trust to drawing his teeth and claws after he shall have entered.
♥ And say, finally, whether peace is best preserved by giving energy to the government, or information to people. This last is the most certain, and the most legitimate engine of government. Educate and inform the whole mass of the people. Enable them to see that it is their interest to preserve peace and order, and they will preserve them. And it requires no very high degree of education to convince them of this. They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of liberty.
♥ To preserve the independence of the people, we must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt. We must make our election between economy and liberty, or profusion and servitude. Considering the general tendency to multiply offices and dependencies, and to increase expense to the ultimate term of burden which the citizen can bear, may it never be seen here that, after leaving to labor the smallest portion of its earnings on which it can subsist, government shall itself consume the residue of what it was instituted to guard.
♥ In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection of his own. It is easier to acquire wealth and power by this combination than by deserving them, and to effect this, they have perverted the purest religion ever preached to man into mystery and jargon, unintelligible to all mankind, and therefore the safer engine for their purposes. History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance, of which their civil as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purposes. I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man. Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God.
♥ We are all created by the same Great Spirit; children of the same family. Why should we not live then as brothers ought to do? In that branch of religion which regards the moralities of life, and the duties of a social being, which teaches us to love our neighbors as ourselves, and to do good to all men, I am sure that you and I do not differ. He who steadily observes those moral precepts in which all religions concur, will never be questioned at the gates of heaven, as to the dogmas in which they all differ.
On entering the gate of heaven, we leave the badges of religious schism behind, and find ourselves united in those principles only in which God has united us all. Let us not be uneasy then about the different roads we may pursue, as believing them the shortest, to that our last abode; but, following the guidance of a good conscience, let us be happy in the hope that by these different paths we shall all meet in the end. And that you and I may there meet and embrace is my earnest prayer.
♥ I had rather be deceived than live without hope. It is so sweet! It makes us ride so smoothly over the roughness of life. My theory has always been, that if we are to dream, the flatteries of hope are as cheap, and pleasanter than the gloom of despair.
♥ The most fortunate of us, in our journey through life, frequently meet with calamities and misfortunes which may greatly afflict us; and, to fortify our minds against the attacks of these calamities and misfortunes, should be one of the principal studies and endeavors of our lives. The only method of doing this is to assume a perfect resignation to the Divine will, to consider that whatever does happen, must happen; and that, by our uneasiness, we cannot prevent the blow before it does fall, but we may add to its force after it has fallen. My principle is to do whatever is right, and leave the consequences to Him who has the disposal of them.
Deeply practiced in the school of affliction, the human heart knows no joy which I have not lost, no sorrow of which I have not drunk! Fortune can present no grief of unknown form to me! Who, then, can so softly bind up the wound of another, as he who has felt the same wound himself? To the question, indeed, on the utility of grief, no answer remains to be given. I see that, with the other evils of life, it is destined to temper the cup we are to drink.
♥ We have no rose without its thorn; no pleasure without alloy. It is the law of our existence; and we must acquiesce. It is the condition annexed to all our pleasures, not by us who receive, but by Him who gives them.
♥ What more sublime delight than to mingle tears with one whom the hand of heaven hath smitten! To watch over the bed of sickness, and to beguile its tedious and its painful moments! To share our bread with one whom misfortune has let none! This world abounds indeed with misery; to lighten its burden, we must divide it with one another.
♥ When I hear another express an opinion which is not mine, I say to myself, he has a right to his opinion, as I to mine; why should I question it? His error does me no injury, and shall I become a Don Quixote, to bring all men by force of argument to one opinion? If a fact be misstated, it is probably he is gratified by a belief of it, and I have no right to deprive him of the gratification. If he wants information, he will ask for it, and then I will give it in measured terms; but if he still believes his own story, and shows a desire to dispute the fact with me, I hear him and say nothing. It is his affair, not mine, if he prefers error. I tolerate with the utmost latitude the right of others to differ from me in opinion without imputing to them criminality. I know too well the weakness and uncertainty of human reason to wonder at its different results.
♥ One side fears most the ignorance of the people; the other, the selfishness of rulers independent of them. Which is right, time and experience will prove.
♥ Let us come together as friends and explain to each other what is misrepresented or misunderstood, the clouds will fly away like morning fog, and the sun of friendship appear and shine forever bright and clear. Friendship is precious, not only in the shade, but in the sunshine of life; and thanks to a benevolent arrangement of things, the greater part of life is sunshine.
An honest heart being the first blesing, a knowing head is the second. Lose one moment in improving your head, nor any opportunity of exercising your heart in benevolence. Be you the link of love, union, and peace for the whole family. The world will give you the more credit for it, in proportion to the difficulty of the task, and your own happiness will be the greater as you perceive that you promote that of others.
♥ … my heart would in expressing to you all its friendship. The happiest moments it knows are those in which it is pouring forth its affections to a few esteemed characters. Friendship is like wine, raw when new, ripened with age, the true old man’s milk and restorative cordial. I find as I grow older, that I love those most whom I loved first.
♥ In truth, politeness is artificial good humor; it covers the natural wants of it, and ends by rendering habitual a substitute nearly equivalent to the real virtue. It is the practice of sacrificing to those whom we meet in society, all the little conveniences and preferences which will gratify them, and deprive us of nothing worth a moment’s consideration; it is the giving a pleasing and flattering turn to our expressions, which will conciliate others, and make them pleased with us as well as themselves. How cheap a price for the good will of another!
♥ Strive to be good under every situation and to all living creatures. Never trouble another for what you can do yourself. Remote from all other aid, we are obliged to invent and to execute; to find means within ourselves, and not to lean on others. Dependence begets subservience and venality, suffocates the germ of virtue, and prepares fit tools for the designs of ambition.
♥ Take any race of animals, confine them in idleness, whether in a stye, a stable, or a state-room, pamper them with high diet, gratify all their sexual appetites, immerse them in sensualities, nourish their passions, let everything bend before them, and banish whatever might lead them to think, and in a few generations they become all body and no mind. In a world which furnishes so many employments which are so useful, so many which are amusing, it is our own fault if we ever know what ennui is, or if we are driven to the miserable resource of gaming, which corrupts our dispositions and teaches us a habit of hostility against all mankind.
♥ If there be one principle more deeply rooted than any other in the mind of every American, it is, that we should have nothing to do with conquest. The energies of the nation, as depends on me, shall be reserved for improvement of the condition of man, not wasted in his destruction. The lamentable resource of war is not authorized for evils of imagination, but for those actual injuries only, which would be more destructive of our well-being than war itself. Peace, justice, and liberal intercourse with all the nations of the world, will, I hope, with all nations, characterize this commonwealth. Friendly nations always negotiate little differences in private. I hope our wisdom will grow with our power, and teach us, that the less we use our power, the greater it will be.
♥ To protect tranquility of mind we must avoid desire and fear, the two principal diseases of the mind. Man is a free agent. Virtue consists in, 1. Prudence. 2. Temperance. 3. Fortitude. 4. Justice. To which are opposed, 1. Folly. 2. Desire. 3. Fear. 4. Deceit. Never throw off the best affections of nature in the moment when they become most precious to their object; nor fear to extend your hand to save another, less you should sink yourself.
♥ I never had an opinion in politics or religion which I was afraid to own. I fear no injury which any man can do me. I have never done a single act, or been concerned in any transaction, which I fear to have fully laid open, or which could do me any hurt if truly stated.
♥ There are, indeed, (who might say nay)n gloomy and hypochondriac minds, inhabitants of diseased bodies, disgusted with the presence, and despairing of the future; always counting that the worst will happen, because it may happen. To these I say, how much pain have cost us the evils which have never happened! My temperature is sanguine. I steer my bark with Hope in the head, leaving Fear in the stern.
♥ Long tried in the school of affliction, no loss which can rend the human heart is unknown to mine; and a like one particularly, at about the same period of life, had taught me to feel the sympathies of yours. The same experience has proved that time, silence, and occupation are its only medicines.
Be a listener only, keep within yourself, and endeavor to establish within yourself a habit of silence. I think one travels more usefully when alone, because he reflects more. To every obstacle, oppose patience, perseverance, and soothing language. A firm, but quiet opposition will be the most likely to succeed. We often repent of what we have said, but never of that which we have not.
♥ In the first place, divest yourself of all bias in favor of novelty and singularity of opinion. Indulge them in any other subject rather than that of religion. It is too important, and the consequences of error may be too serious. On the other hand, shake off all the fears and servile prejudices, under which weak minds are servilely crouched. Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear.
♥ Truth advances,and error recedes step by step only; and to do our fellow-men the most good in our power, we must lead where we can, follow where we cannot, and still go with them, watching always the favorable moment for helping them to another step. Truth will do well enough if left to shift for herself. She seldom has received much aid from the power of great men to whom she is rarely known and seldom welcome. She has no need of force to procure entrance into the minds of men.