Light and Liberty by Thomas Jefferson
Reflections on the Pursuit of Happiness (Modern Library)

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Synopsis

Were Thomas Jefferson alive to read this book, he would recognize every sentence, every elegant turn of phrase, every lofty, beautifully expressed idea. Indeed, every word in the book is his. In an astonishing feat of editing, Eric S. Petersen has culled the entirety of Thomas Jefferson’s published works to fashion thirty-four original essays on themes ranging from patriotism and liberty to hope, humility, and gratitude. The result is a lucid, inspiring distillation of the wisdom of one of America’s greatest political thinkers.

From his personal motto—“Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God”—to his resounding discourse on “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” in the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson defined the essential truth of the American spirit. In the essays that Petersen has crafted from letters, speeches, and public documents, Jefferson’s unique moral philosophy and vision shine through. Among the hundreds of magnificent sentences gathered in this volume, here are Jefferson’s pronouncements on

Gratitude: “I have but one system of ethics for men and for nations—
to be grateful, to be faithful to all engagements and under all circumstances, to be open and generous.”

Religion: “A concern purely between our God and our consciences.”

America’s national character: “It is part of the American character to consider nothing as desperate; to surmount every difficulty with resolution and contrivance.”

Public debt: “We shall all consider ourselves unauthorized to saddle posterity with our debts, and morally bound to pay them ourselves.”

War: “I abhor war and view it as the greatest scourge of mankind.”

In stately measured cadences, these thirty-four essays provide timeless guidance on leading a spiritually fulfilling life. Light and Liberty is a triumphant work of supreme eloquence, as uplifting today as when Jefferson first set these immortal sentences on paper.


From the Hardcover edition.
 

About Thomas Jefferson

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Politician, philosopher, farmer, architect, and author, Jefferson was born to Peter and Jane Randolph Jefferson on April 13, 1743, in Tuckahoe, Virginia. As Jefferson observed in his autobiography, his parents could "trace their pedigree far back in England and Scotland." At the age of 16, Thomas Jefferson entered William and Mary College; at age 24, Jefferson was admitted to the bar; at 25, he was elected to the Virginia Assembly. Renowned for his political contributions to the American colonies, and later, to the embryonic Republic, Jefferson published in 1774 A Summary View of the Rights of British America, celebrating the inalienable natural rights claimed by the colonialists. In 1775 Jefferson was elected to the Continental Congress; in 1776 he joined the five-person committee responsible for drafting the Declaration of Independence---a document that is widely regarded as being largely Jefferson's own work. In 1779 Jefferson was elected governor of the state of Virginia, and in subsequent years he distinguished himself both as a cosmopolitan international politician and as a man committed to the future of Virginia. In 1789 he was appointed U.S. secretary of state, in 1797 he served as vice president under President John Adams, and in 1801 he was elected third president of the United States. Jefferson's literary career was no less stellar than his political accomplishments. He authored tracts and books on such diverse subjects as gardening, the life of Jesus, the history of Virginia, and the practices of farming. The precise descriptions of nature that inform his Notes on the State of Virginia (1787) are frequently credited with foreshadowing the Hudson River school of aesthetics. Thomas Jefferson died on the fourth of July. His grave marker, engraved with words of his own choosing, states, "Here lies Thomas Jefferson, Author of the Declaration of American Independence, of the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom and Father of the University of Virginia.
 
Published June 1, 2004 by Modern Library. 176 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Political & Social Sciences, Self Help, Education & Reference, Health, Fitness & Dieting. Non-fiction

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