James W. Ceaser
wrote a letter—already a quasi-ocial act—to General Ulysses S. Grant expressing his“prooundest gratitude” or the “skill, courage, and perseverance” displayed in achievingvictory, and the Congress ollowed up shortly thereater with a joint resolution to thesame eect. When it comes to the political realm, terms such as “duty” or “obligation”in expressing gratitude are no mere gures o speech. Webster, in the next sentenceo his entry, concurs: “Gratitude is a virtue o the highest excellence, as it implies aeeling and generous heart, and
a proper sense o duty
.”The obligation to display gratitude in public lie leads to the development o “rules”respecting the time, place, and manner or the perormance o the rites. Yet gratitudehas the special characteristic that its outer orm should also be thought to express aninner disposition; it includes sincerity, which means that people are always looking orevidence o good intention. Gratitude in this respect diers rom many other virtues,like practicing justice or even honoring one’s ather and mother, where the state o mindis, by comparison, a lesser consideration in judging the virtue and where doing one’sduty counts most. The importance o “interiority” or gratitude has the consequencethat deviations rom the ordinary orms are sometimes permitted, and perhaps evenencouraged, on the grounds that mechanistically ollowing convention can betray alack o genuine eeling.Still, rules are important. Matters cannot be let up to each individual, as i what he orshe does is all that counts. Gratitude involves considering the times and occasionswhen it ought to be elt. It must accord with a standard, even i there is no simpleormula or governing conduct or all occasions. Many actors, including the intentiono the beneactor, the degree o sacrice incurred, and, the magnitude o the git, mustbe taken into account.In cases where gratitude is expected, the ailure to make a respectul and properacknowledgement, or, worse, the display o a willul disregard toward the beneactor,opens one to the charge o ingratitude. Even the proud must learn to submit to theyoke o gratitude. Ingratitude is more than just the obverse o gratitude; it is a greatervice than gratitude is a virtue.
Gratitude and Culture
Gratitude gures importantly in the shaping o three great constituents o Americanand Western culture: religion, understandings o human nature, and doctrines o socialchange.The connection o gratitude to religion is one o the major themes o religious thought.Martin Luther, or instance, called gratitude “the basic Christian attitude,” and it hasbeen at the heart o the liturgies o both Christianity and Judaism. Its centrality turnsmost on the biblical view that there is no necessity or God to have created the heavensand earth, made man in his likeness, or shown his grace. God is accordingly the ultimate