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Light and Liberty: Reflections on the Pursuit of Happiness (Modern Library)


Light and Liberty: Reflections on the Pursuit of Happiness (Modern Library) Cover


Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

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 Jeffersons 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 Americas 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, Jeffersons unique moral philosophy and vision shine through. Among the hundreds of magnificent sentences gathered in this volume, here are Jeffersons 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.”

Americas 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 the Author

ERIC S. PETERSEN is a managing partner at the New York law firm of Hawkins Delafield & Wood LLP. Educated at Brown University and the University of Chicago Law School, he has studied Jeffersons life and works since 1993. He lives in Connecticut and can be reached at

From the Hardcover edition.

Product Details

Petersen, Eric
Modern Library
Petersen, Eric
Jefferson, Thomas
Petersen, Eric
United States - General
Politics-Political Science
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Modern Library Classics
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
8 x 5.15 x 0.35 in 0.3 lb

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