Letter: Happiness is an 18th-century word

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The Independent Online
Sir: In her article 'Happiness? Give me equilibrium anyday' (22 November) Angela Lambert finds Jefferson misleading his nation when he places 'happiness' as a fundamental right in the Declaration of Independence. Had he been living now he would entirely agree, since 18th and 20th century definitions of the word are so different.

Like Ms Lambert, Jefferson was never happier than when allowed to retire to Montecello to write books. He tried to write so that others might find that happiness which roughly meant 'blessed' or 'shalom' and translates as justice, peace, health and wellbeing altogether.

How different is the frantic, materialistic and individualistic search and how right Ms Lambert is to suggest that a deeper and wider meaning would make a fundamental difference to the American way of life and enhance the meaning of our Thanksgiving Day on 25 November.

Yours faithfully,

CHARLES BROCK

Chaplain and Director of Ministerial Training

Mansfield College

Oxford

22 November

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