Happiness, natural law, and the Declaration of Independence

by Schmeeckle, John S., M.A., CALIFORNIA STATE UNIVERSITY, FULLERTON, 2008, 240 pages; 1456018


My thesis challenges the Lockean reading of the Declaration of Independence. The definition of "happiness," as used in the Declaration, is "internal peace, virtue, and good order." John Adams wrote this definition, which Congress approved in the resolution of May 10 and 15, 1776, authorizing the suppression of royal government. This definition of happiness encapsulates Cicero's Tusculan Disputations. The elements of this definition appear in English jurisprudence, in Cumberland's Treatise of the Laws of Nature , and in Burlamaqui's Principles of Natural and Politic Law . Burlamaqui's association of natural right with happiness, informing the like principle in the Declaration of Independence, develops a similar thought in Leibniz's Codex Juris Gentium, which is rooted in Ciceronian natural law. John Witherspoon recognized Leibniz as the source of the "moral sense" philosophy of Shaftesbury and Hutcheson. American revolutionary leaders used "moral sense" as a synonym for "conscience," which the resolution of May 10 and 15 paired with "reason" (a preferred synonym for natural law) as the authorities for the colonies to suppress royal government.

AdviserGordon Morris Bakken
Source TypeThesis
SubjectsAmerican history; Philosophy; Political Science
Publication Number1456018

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