Our Founding Fathers were concerned with political issues of liberty, equality, law, and self-government. However, above the rest, they were concerned with what they firmly believed to be the ultimate purpose of life and government – the individual and aggregate happiness of the people. Following are a few quotes from the Founders with their teachings and counsel as to the sources and foundation of happiness.
"[T]here is no truth more thoroughly established, than that there exists . . . an indissoluble union between virtue and happiness." – George Washington (First Inaugural Address, 1789).
“The aggregate happiness of society, which is best promoted by the practice of a virtuous policy, is or ought to be the end of all government.” -- George Washington (Letter to Count De Moustier. Mount Vernon, November 1, 1790).
“[I]t is of infinite moment that you should properly estimate the immense value of your national Union to your collective and individual happiness; that you should cherish a cordial, habitual, and immovable attachment to it; accustoming yourselves to think and speak of it as the Palladium of your political safety and prosperity; watching for its preservation with jealous anxiety . . . .” –George Washington (Farewell Address, 1796).
“Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of Patriotism who should labor to subvert these great Pillars of human happiness ‑these firmest props of the duties of Men and citizens. The mere Politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity.” –George Washington (Farewell Address, 1796).
"Can it be that Providence has not connected the permanent felicity of a nation with its virtue?" -- George Washington (Farewell Address, 1796).
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” – Thomas Jefferson (Declaration of Independence, 1776)
“What more is necessary to make us a happy and a prosperous people? Still one thing more, fellow citizens -- a wise and frugal Government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned.” – Thomas Jefferson (First Inaugural Address, 1801)
"If we can but prevent the government from wasting the labours of the people, under the pretence of taking care of them, they must become happy." - Thomas Jefferson (Letter to Thomas Cooper, November 29, 1802).
“The order of nature [is] that individual happiness shall be inseparable from the practice of virtue.” – Thomas Jefferson (Letter to M. Correa de Serra, 1814).
“Without virtue, happiness cannot be.” – Thomas Jefferson (Letter to Amos J. Cook, 1816).
"The equal rights of man, and the happiness of every individual, are now acknowledged to be the only legitimate objects of government." --Thomas Jefferson (Letter to A. Coray, 1823)
“The happiness of society is the end of government.” – John Adams (Thoughts on Government, 1776
“The form of government which communicates ease, comfort, security, or, in one word, happiness, to the greatest number of persons, and in the greatest degree, is the best.” – John Adams (Thoughts on Government, 1776
"To suppose that any form of government will secure liberty or happiness without any virtue in the people, is a chimerical idea." – James Madison (Virginia Ratifying Convention, 20 June 1788).
“A good government implies two things: first, fidelity to the object of government, which is the happiness of the people; secondly, a knowledge of the means by which that object can be best attained.” – James Madison (Federalist No. 62, 1788).
“The diminution of public Virtue is usually attended with that of public Happiness, and the public Liberty will not long survive the total Extinction of Morals.” – Samuel Adams (Letter to John Scollay, 1776).