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

By Ursula M. von Eckardt | Go to book overview

6
BOLD IN THE PURSUIT OF KNOWLEDGE

Jefferson stated that he consulted no book or pamphlet while writing The Declaration of Independence nor sought to follow the philosophy of any particular thinker. He read and studied widely, but for pleasure and edification rather than in a deliberate search for philosophical concepts. Naturally, what he read tended both to reinforce and to modify already formed attitudes. An examination of the writers who most caught Jefferson's attention can help reveal the meaning of his own philosophical ideas and of the intellectual tradition or traditions which provide his frame of reference.


The Common-Place Book of Thomas Jefferson

Jefferson kept a Common-Place Book of legal and political observations, as well as a Literary Bible of his favorite poetic passages and aphorisms. Although he copied out excerpts throughout his life1 (scholars date them from 1764 to 1824), a significant number of them were copied between 1774 and

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