… fortitude [Webster’s 7th New Collegiate: strength, strength of mind], you know, is one of his [Epicurus’] four cardinal virtues. That 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.
To William Short, October 31, 1819
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Effective leaders must have fortitude, a strength of mind.
Jefferson’s post two days ago warned about the dangers of sloth. From the same letter, he now encouraged his younger friend of many years to draw wisdom from Epicurus, whose values Short claimed to embrace. Fortitude was what Short needed in the face of indolence (sloth), and no less an authority than Epicurus recommended it as a key virtue.
Fortitude enabled one to face difficulties and perhaps overcome them. Cowards fled difficulties, thinking they would escape. Not so, said Jefferson. Escape brought only temporary relief. Those same difficulties would return and vex time and again, until confronted and overcome with … fortitude.
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