Tag Archives: Virtue

Can happiness exist without morality?

I believe firmly with you in the connection between virtue & happiness: that the latter can never exist [without the former] …: and that virtuous habits are produced by exercising the mind in and contemplating good moral writings. the publication of these [Blair’s writings] cannot therefore but be publicly useful …
To Mason Locke Weems, June 12, 1801

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Moral leaders know virtue must precede happiness.
Weems (1759-18250), a Maryland Episcopal priest, wrote to Jefferson about publishing the sermons of a deceased Scottish theologian named Blair. Perhaps Weems, whose letter has not been found, asked Jefferson to endorse his work.

Jefferson agreed with Weems, that virtue and happiness were closely related: There can be no true happiness without virtue. A virtuous life. resulting in a happy one, was built by absorbing “good moral writings.” Blair’s sermons were that kind of writing

Thus, Jefferson commended Weem’s effort. In keeping with his neutral policy, however, Jefferson said the only support he could give would be to buy a copy of the finished work.

”By all accounts, your appearance as Thomas Jefferson was a bit hit.”
President, Missouri Council on New and Expanding Business
Mr. Jefferson’s comments will be a hit with your audience, too.
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
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You think I am without vices? Ha!

You have never had but one vice. I compliment your fatherland and both worlds on the fact that you have finally lost it. Greetings and respect.
To Thomas Jefferson from du Pont (De Nemours), New York, Feb. 20, 1801

How many hard struggles, my dear friend, would it save me, had I really parted with my last vice on the 3d. of March. I thought you had known me better: but as you do not, I must endeavor to conceal, if I cannot eradicate, what remains amiss.
To Pierre Samuel du Pont De Nemours, March 21, 1801

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Honest leaders recognize their own vices.
Four years older, the French intellectual du Pont and Jefferson became acquainted during the latter’s time in France. The du Pont family later fled French anarchy and emigrated to America, where the friendship continued.
The full text of du Pont’s letter is above. (Credit for the translation is provided in the sidebar at the first link.) What former single vice he referred to is unclear. Might it have been a matter of jest between friends? du Pont wrote three days after the House of Representatives finally decided the contested Presidential race in Jefferson’s favor.
Jefferson’s reply contained a bit of his rare, wry humor. First, he identified his last vice as public office and lamented he didn’t part with it on March 3, his last day as Vice President. Instead, he had committed himself to four more years in the public eye.
Next, perhaps Jefferson is jesting back, suggesting his friend really doesn’t know him very well, to ascribe only one vice, and it now departed. But since du Pont was already deceived, Jefferson would attempt to conceal all the rest of his faults, too.
One of du Pont’s sons was a chemist and founded what would become the world-wide conglomerate known today by the same name.

Your audience might see a bit of Jefferson’s rare, wry humor, too!
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
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How would you define virtue? Its opposite?

I will place under this a syllabus of the doctrines of Epicurus …
                Virtue consists in
                                1. Prudence.
                                2. Temperance.
                                3. Fortitude.
                                4. Justice
                To which are opposed,
                                1. Folly.
                                2. Desire.
                                3. Fear.
                                4. Deceit.
To William Short, October 31, 1819

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders seek wisdom from others.
Jefferson summarized the doctrines of Epicurus in about 20 easily understandable points  appended to this letter. In his last two posts, he warned his friend against indolence and proposed fortitude as the anti-dote. Short admired the philosopher, and Jefferson reminded him, “…fortitude, you know, is one of his [Epicurus’] four cardinal virtues.”

Here, Jefferson summarized Epicurus’ view of virtue in four points and the opposite of each. The former President could have written these himself!

“I want to thank you for your outstanding contribution to the education
and entertainment of the record audiences you attracted.”

Professor Emeritus and Chautauqua Director, Prairieland Chautauqua

Invite Thomas Jefferson to inspire, instruct and entertain your audience!
Call Patrick Lee, 573-657-2739

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We did our part. Now, you do yours.

We have spent the prime of our lives in procuring them the precious blessing of liberty. Let them spend theirs in showing that it is the great parent of science and of virtue; and that a nation will be great in both, always in proportion as it is free.
To Doctor Willard, March 24, 1789

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders understand that freedom is the basis for all other advancements.
Dr. Joseph Willard was the president of Harvard University. Jefferson thanked the University for his honorary degree, and commented on issues in literature, mathematics and chemistry. He wrote about Thomas Paine’s design for an iron bridge and Mr. Rumsey’s for steam powered navigation. He speculated on how much more there was yet to learn, “What a field we have at our doors to signalize ourselves in!”
Jefferson commended Dr. Willard and his institution, “so eminent a seat of science,” for their work in producing young men who would explore such wonders. Then he wrote the sentences above:
1. We gave our best years to procure the “precious blessing of liberty” that allows for such exploration.
2. With this freedom, let your students now labor to develop in both science and virtue.
3. These qualities will flourish only to the degree that freedom flourishes.
4. It is freedom and the advantages that flow from it that truly make a nation great.

Mr. Jefferson will inspire your audience to remain free … and be great!
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739

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