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The pursuit of happiness : how classical writers on virtue inspired the lives of the founders and defined America  Cover Image Book Book

The pursuit of happiness : how classical writers on virtue inspired the lives of the founders and defined America / Jeffrey Rosen, President and CEO, National Constitution Center.


The Declaration of Independence identified “the pursuit of happiness” as one of our unalienable rights, along with life and liberty. Jeffrey Rosen, the president of the National Constitution Center, profiles six of the most influential founders—Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and Alexander Hamilton—to show what pursuing happiness meant in their lives.By reading the classical Greek and Roman moral philosophers who inspired the Founders, Rosen shows us how they understood the pursuit of happiness as a quest for being good, not feeling good—the pursuit of lifelong virtue, not short-term pleasure. Among those virtues were the habits of industry, temperance, moderation, and sincerity, which the Founders viewed as part of a daily struggle for self-improvement, character development, and calm self-mastery. They believed that political self-government required personal self-government. For all six Founders, the pursuit of virtue was incompatible with enslavement of African Americans, although the Virginians betrayed their own principles.The Pursuit of Happiness is more than an elucidation of the Declaration’s famous phrase; it is a revelatory journey into the minds of the Founders, and a deep, rich, and fresh understanding of the foundation of our democracy.

Record details

  • ISBN: 9781668002476
  • ISBN: 1668002477
  • Physical Description: vii, 355 pages ; 24 cm
  • Edition: First Simon & Schuster hardcover edition.
  • Publisher: New York : Simon and Schuster, 2024.

Content descriptions

Bibliography, etc. Note:
Includes bibliographical references (pages 287-334) and index (pages 335-355).
Subject: Founding Fathers of the United States > Books and reading > Biography.
Founding Fathers of the United States > History > Biography.
Happiness > Philosophy.
Virtue > Literary themes, motives.
Ethics, Ancient > Influence.
Philosophy, Ancient > Influence.
United States > Politics and government > Philosophy.
United States > Politics and government > History.
Founding Fathers of the United States > History.
Philosophy, Ancient.
United States > History.
Character > Political aspects > United States > History.
Social values > United States > History.
Democracy > United States > History.
Genre: Biographies.

Available copies

  • 5 of 7 copies available at Missouri Evergreen. (Show)
  • 1 of 1 copy available at Rolla Public.


  • 1 current hold with 7 total copies.
Show Only Available Copies
Location Call Number / Copy Notes Barcode Shelving Location Status Due Date
Rolla Public Library NF 973.3092 ROS (Text) 38256101913600 Adult Nonfiction Available -

Additional Resources