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4223. JUSTICE, Foundation of.—

I believe
that justice is instinct and innate, that
the moral sense is as much a part of our constitution
as that of feeling, seeing, or hearing;
as a wise Creator must have seen to be
necessary in an animal destined to live in society;
that every human mind feels pleasure
in doing good to another; that the non-existence
of justice is not to be inferred from
the fact that the same act is deemed virtuous
and right in one society which is held vicious
and wrong in another; because, as the circumstances
and opinions of different societies
vary, so the acts which may do them right or
wrong must vary also; for virtue does not
consist in the act we do, but in the end it is
to effect. If it is to effect the happiness of him
to whom it is directed, it is virtuous, while in
a society under different circumstances and
opinions, the same act might produce pain,
and would be vicious. The essence of virtue
is in doing good to others, while what is good
may be one thing in one society, and its contrary
in another.—
To John Adams. Washington ed. vii, 39.
(M. 1816)