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What do Jefferson, Madison, and Hamilton mean by "Happiness"?

  1. My Esoteric profile image91
    My Esotericposted 21 months ago

    The term "Happiness" is in the Declaration of Independence and is used often in the Federalist Papers.  It is always used in the context of the "purpose of government".  For example, in comparing and contrasting the existing government under the Articles of Confederation with the new government, should the Constitution be ratified, Hamilton says in Federalist Paper #59 the new government will do a better job at the "advancement of happiness" than the current government can do.

    So, what does happiness mean?

    1. ahorseback profile image60
      ahorsebackposted 21 months agoin reply to this

      Meant entirely  as the  moving away from colonialism and towards liberties  , towards the liberties that the left is fast moving our system away FROM !  The definition of happiness is liberty for all , NOT just the  entitled left.

      1. My Esoteric profile image91
        My Esotericposted 21 months agoin reply to this

        If "happiness" were "liberty,"; then should Jefferson and the committee of five written the DOI with the words "life, liberty, and the pursuit of liberty"?  Doesn't make sense to me.  You might read this and get back to me http://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusiv … -happiness

      2. rhamson profile image77
        rhamsonposted 20 months agoin reply to this

        Yeah its got to be those lefty commies. Let's get rid of them and we will all be happy. Really?

    2. tsmog profile image81
      tsmogposted 20 months agoin reply to this

      I share I am pondering with perhaps new enlightenment while pondering is the key term. I searched the web finding several sites. Perhaps is helpful or maybe TMI. They are:

      Lexical Investigations: Happiness

      Rick Santorum says happiness 'at the time of our founders' was 'doing what you ought to do'

      The first gives food for thought. It offers with this quote a perspective of happiness relative to mindsets of the day; "more political interpretation of happiness to English speakers with his 1725 treatise An Inquiry into the Original of Our Ideas of Beauty and Virtue. It is rather long and I only skimmed. Also, it is the original print format and 'Old English'. So, easily I became lost. It would be nice to see it in a translated to modern English.

      The second is inspired by a speech by Rick Santorum discussing happiness. The contrast with today is then it was a result of something you ought to do perhaps a duty (Civic?) contrast today seeking perhaps gratification. Locke's essay Essay Concerning Human Understanding is mentioned. The link arrives where necessity of happiness is explained while the following section offers the reason for it. A key is there seems to be the exchange for happiness with felicity used in the second section. That lend credibility to the dictionary meaning referenced next. The article offers dictionary meanings from Jefferson's library copy of Johnson's Dictionary (1775) and others too. Those for Happiness from Johnson's are:

      " Happiness

      1. Felicity; state in which the desires are satisfied

      2. Good luck; good fortune.

      3. Fortuitous elegance" 

      I bookmarked for further reading and study. Really a lot to digest, yet wished to share adding to. Thank you for asking the question and providing for pondering . . . I'll listen to further contributions while trying to form a perspective.

  2. Live to Learn profile image80
    Live to Learnposted 21 months ago

    I've always thought, when I read the words 'pursuit of happiness', that it does imply liberty. But, on a broader scale than the simple first word in the sentence in the Declaration. Liberty from a tyrannical government is not the same as freedom from a stifling society. I think they were hoping to forge a society which openly accepted and welcomed diverse beliefs and ideas. And, by creating such an environment we would be in a better position to freely pursue our individual ideas of happiness without fear of being ostracized.

    1. My Esoteric profile image91
      My Esotericposted 20 months agoin reply to this

      I more or less see your point; without liberty, you cannot pursue happiness (whether it be Aristotelian or Lockean kind).  But, I can't equate the two, I can only get as close as 1st cousins.

      1. Live to Learn profile image80
        Live to Learnposted 20 months agoin reply to this

        I would think you have some idea as to what you think it means. Could you share?

        1. My Esoteric profile image91
          My Esotericposted 20 months agoin reply to this

          I will, but I would like to see how the discussion proceeds (assuming it does) before I jump in.

  3. ahorseback profile image60
    ahorsebackposted 20 months ago

    Happiness without liberty , liberty without freedom , freedom without vigilance  ,  vigilance without  knowledge ,  knowledge without sacrifice .   sacrifice without  love of country. Cannot exist .

    1. My Esoteric profile image91
      My Esotericposted 20 months agoin reply to this

      I almost agree with that because you can easily have "vigilance without knowledge" and "knowledge without sacrifice".  To me "freedom without vigilance, knowledge, and sacrifice" is more true.

      Nevertheless, this does not say "Happiness = Liberty".  Liberty is a precondition to Happiness in the same way breathable air is a precondition to life.  While, in the latter case, one is a precondition to the other, no one can say air = life in terms of characteristics.

  4. ahorseback profile image60
    ahorsebackposted 20 months ago

    We can mix words day after day after day ,   The founding  or floundering Fathers .....:-}.... Knew exactly  what happiness meant  , I have been studying  something new in my family genealogy  and  their  involvement in the revolution in America , before it's beginning, some of it written down   .    I truly believe that we can easily lose our  understanding of the happiness  after the opposite  during the tyrannical rule of an outsider .  What is that saying  of,   Franklins ?......"I am a soldier so that my son can be a farmer  , so that his son can be an artist "?

    I believe that we as Americans today are trying to understand the meaning of their definition of happiness  And we may very well  be doing it from OUR  occupation as" artists"  !   Rather than as the "farmers"  for tyranny that  our fore-fathers fully understood.

    Perhaps we have become  spoiled by our new found occupations .