The happiness of a people and the good order and preservation of civil government essentially depend upon piety, religion and morality, and . . . these cannot be generally diffused through a community but by the institution of the public worship of God and of public instructions in piety, religion and morality. Massachusetts Constitution of 1780
In the previous post, we traced the development of the meaning of “happiness” through the centuries and contrasted its original emphasis on community and vocation with its present selfish and hedonistic associations.
Other historic documents encourage us to expand our understanding of happiness even further so as to include morality and religion. Article 3 of the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 says that that:
Religion, morality, and knowledge, [are] necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind…
This view of happiness goes way beyond the individual, and even beyond the individual’s relationship to society, and includes the individual’s relationship to God.
A Very Different Happiness
In summary, we can say that the Founders view of happiness was community-focused not self-centered; it was about work and vocation rather than leisure and pleasure; and it was religious and moral rather than secular and immoral.
How unexpected! How counter-intuitive! How different to today’s version of happiness! No wonder it is so rarely experienced and enjoyed.
“Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord,
The people He has chosen as His own inheritance.”