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The Jeffersonian cyclopedia;

a comprehensive collection of the views of Thomas Jefferson classified and arranged in alphabetical order under nine thousand titles relating to government, politics, law, education, political economy, finance, science, art, literature, religious freedom, morals, etc.;

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5514. MORAL SENSE, Innate.—
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5514. MORAL SENSE, Innate.—

I think
it is lost time to attend lectures on moral
philosophy. He who made us would have been
a pitiful bungler, if He had made the rules of
our moral conduct a matter of science. For
one man of science, there are thousands who
are not. What would have become of them?
Man was destined for society. His morality,
therefore, was to be formed to this object. He
was endowed with a sense of right and wrong,
merely relative to this. This sense is as much
a part of his nature, as the sense of hearing,
seeing, feeling; it is the true foundation of
morality, and not the το καλον, truth, &c., as
fanciful writers have imagined. The moral
sense, or conscience, is as much a part of man
as his leg or arm. It is given to all human
beings in a stronger or weaker degree, as force
of members is given them in a greater or less
degree. It may be strengthened by exercise,
as may any particular limb of the body. This
sense is submitted, indeed, in some degree, to
the guidance of reason; but it is a small stock
which is required for this; even a less one than
what we call common sense. State a moral
case to a plowman and a professor. The former
will decide it as well and often better than the
latter, because he has not been led astray by
artificial rules. In this branch, therefore, read
good books, because they will encourage as well
as direct your feelings. The writings of Sterne,
particularly, form the best course of morality
that ever was written. Lose no occasion of
exercising your dispositions to be grateful, to
be generous, to be charitable, to be humane,
to be true, just, firm, orderly, courageous, &c.
Consider every act of this kind as an exercise
which will strengthen your moral faculties, and
increase your worth.—
To Peter Carr. Washington ed. ii, 238. Ford ed., iv, 428.
(P. 1787)