Happiness is not on my list of priorities. I just deal with day-to-day things. If I’m happy, I’m happy–and if I’m not, I don’t know the difference.
~Bob Dylan (link)Happiness is so important that we're entitled to its pursuit. And yet, the word itself must be carefully parsed lest one feel entitled to equate it with mere gratification or the right to be left alone. Of course one can make that equivalence, but I don't think that's what Jefferson had in mind. What he did have in mind might be found here: Link.
Words change with time. The original concept of happiness is closely linked to luck or good fortune:
late 14c., 'lucky, favored by fortune, prosperous;' of events, 'turning out well,' from hap (n.) 'chance, fortune' + -y (2). Sense of 'very glad' first recorded late 14c. Ousted O.E. eadig (from ead 'wealth, riches') and gesælig, which has become silly. Meaning 'greatly pleased and content' is from 1520s. O.E. bliðe 'happy' survives as blithe. From Greek to Irish, a great majority of the European words for 'happy' at first meant 'lucky.' An exception is Welsh, where the word used first meant 'wise.'
Blake quotes Will Durant: "Societies enter stoic and exit epicurean."
Added: Sole reader of this blog post, Calypso Facto quips:
'Societies enter stoic and exit epicurean'- Hopefully that was the banner hanging over the secret, star-studded White House Halloween party.