The Pursuit of Happiness in the Democratic Creed: An Analysis of Political Ethics

By Ursula M. von Eckardt | Go to book overview

3
GOVERNMENTS ARE INSTITUTED AMONG MEN

The real revolution in America, wrote John Adams in a letter to Jefferson, took place "in the minds of the people" before a drop of blood was shed at Lexington.1

It was the task of the leaders of this revolution to formulate the principles of the conflict so that the world would regard it as a struggle for liberty and self-government. Thomas Jefferson, as one of the official voices of the revolutionaries, stated in The Declaration of Independence not only the political decisions but also the moral principles by which these decisions might be justifiable before mankind.

These principles were not original with Jefferson, nor were they the conclusions of a complete system of ideas adopted from any one philosopher. Jefferson was principally a statesman who approached political problems in terms of immediate needs rather than a thinker who attempted to formulate an original system of political philosophy. At the same time he was a moralist and an intellectual. Thus his convictions were set

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