Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness

Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness

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"Life, Liberty
Liberty is a moral and political principle, or Right, that identifies the condition in which human beings are able to govern themselves, to behave according to their own free will, and take responsibility for their actions...

 and the pursuit of Happiness"
is a well-known phrase
In everyday speech, a phrase may refer to any group of words. In linguistics, a phrase is a group of words which form a constituent and so function as a single unit in the syntax of a sentence. A phrase is lower on the grammatical hierarchy than a clause....

 in the United States Declaration of Independence
United States Declaration of Independence
The Declaration of Independence was a statement adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, which announced that the thirteen American colonies then at war with Great Britain regarded themselves as independent states, and no longer a part of the British Empire. John Adams put forth a...

 and considered by some as part of one of the most well crafted, influential sentences in the history of the English language. These three aspects are listed among the "unalienable rights" or sovereign rights of man.

Origin and phrasing

The seventeenth-century cleric and philosopher Richard Cumberland
Richard Cumberland
Richard Cumberland may refer to:* Richard Cumberland , bishop, philosopher* Richard Cumberland , civil servant, dramatist...

 wrote in 1672 that promoting the well-being of our fellow humans is essential to the "pursuit of our own happiness." John Locke
John Locke
John Locke FRS , widely known as the Father of Liberalism, was an English philosopher and physician regarded as one of the most influential of Enlightenment thinkers. Considered one of the first of the British empiricists, following the tradition of Francis Bacon, he is equally important to social...

, in his 1689 "A Letter Concerning Toleration," wrote that "Civil interest I call life, liberty, health, and indolency of body; and the possession of outward things..." Locke wrote in his 1693 Essay Concerning Human Understanding that "the highest perfection of intellectual nature lies in a careful and constant pursuit of true and solid happiness." Locke never associated natural right with happiness, but in 1693 Locke's philosophical opponent Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz made such an association in the introduction to his Codex Iuris Gentium. William Wollaston
William Wollaston
William Wollaston was an English philosophical writer. He is remembered today for one book, which he completed only two years before his death: ....

's 1722 book The Religion of Nature Delineated describes the "truest definition" of "natural religion" as being "The pursuit of happiness by the practice of reason and truth." The 1763 English translation of Jean Jacques Burlamaqui's Principles of Natural and Politic Law extolled the "noble pursuit" of "true and solid happiness" in the opening chapter discussing natural rights.

The first and second article of the Virginia Declaration of Rights
Virginia Declaration of Rights
The Virginia Declaration of Rights is a document drafted in 1776 to proclaim the inherent rights of men, including the right to rebel against "inadequate" government...

 adopted unanimously by the Virginia Convention of Delegates on June 12, 1776 and written by George Mason
George Mason
George Mason IV was an American Patriot, statesman and a delegate from Virginia to the U.S. Constitutional Convention...

, is:

That all men are by nature equally free and independent, and have certain inherent rights, of which, when they enter into a state of society, they cannot, by any compact, deprive or divest their posterity; namely, the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety.

Benjamin Franklin
Benjamin Franklin
Dr. Benjamin Franklin was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. A noted polymath, Franklin was a leading author, printer, political theorist, politician, postmaster, scientist, musician, inventor, satirist, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat...

 was in agreement with Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson was the principal author of the United States Declaration of Independence and the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom , the third President of the United States and founder of the University of Virginia...

 in downplaying protection of "property" as a goal of government. It is noted that Franklin found property to be a "creature of society" and thus, he believed that it should be taxed as a way to finance civil society. The United States Declaration of Independence, which was primarily drafted by Jefferson, was adopted by the Second Continental Congress
Second Continental Congress
The Second Continental Congress was a convention of delegates from the Thirteen Colonies that started meeting on May 10, 1775, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, soon after warfare in the American Revolutionary War had begun. It succeeded the First Continental Congress, which met briefly during 1774,...

 on July 4, 1776. The text of the second section of the Declaration of Independence reads:

We hold these truths to be self-evident
In epistemology , a self-evident proposition is one that is known to be true by understanding its meaning without proof....

, that all men are created equal
All men are created equal
The quotation "All men are created equal" has been called an "immortal declaration", and "perhaps" the single phrase of the United States Revolutionary period with the greatest "continuing importance". Thomas Jefferson first used the phrase in the Declaration of Independence as a rebuttal to the...

, that they are endowed by their Creator
Creator deity
A creator deity is a deity responsible for the creation of the world . In monotheism, the single God is often also the creator deity, while polytheistic traditions may or may not have creator deities...

 with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

An analysis of Jefferson's use of this phrase was provided by Garry Wills
Garry Wills
Garry Wills is a Pulitzer Prize-winning and prolific author, journalist, and historian, specializing in American politics, American political history and ideology and the Roman Catholic Church. Classically trained at a Jesuit high school and two universities, he is proficient in Greek and Latin...

, in his book Inventing America: Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence. While arguing against the commonly held belief that Jefferson took this phrase - but lightly - from Locke's "life, liberty, and property", Wills also argues against the belief that Jefferson was merely offering some vapid nicety, to which the government could not be held to account:

When Jefferson spoke of pursuing happiness, he had nothing vague or private in mind. He meant a public happiness which is measurable; which is, indeed, the test and justification of any government.

Towards a positive picture of Jefferson's non-vague and public "the pursuit of happiness", Wills suggests this quote from Adam Ferguson:

If, in reality, courage and a heart devoted to the good of mankind are the constituents of human felicity, the kindness which is done infers a happiness in the person from whom it proceeds, not in him on whom it is bestowed; and the greatest good which men possessed of fortitude and generosity can procure to their fellow creatures is a participation of this happy character. If this be the good of the individual, it is likewise that of mankind; and virtue no longer imposes a task by which we are obliged to bestow upon others that good from which we ourselves refrain; but supposes, in the highest degree, as possessed by ourselves, that state of felicity which we are required to promote in the world (Civil Society, 99-100).

Comparable mottos worldwide

This tripartite motto is comparable to "liberté, égalité, fraternité
Liberté, égalité, fraternité
Liberté, égalité, fraternité, French for "Liberty, equality, fraternity ", is the national motto of France, and is a typical example of a tripartite motto. Although it finds its origins in the French Revolution, it was then only one motto among others and was not institutionalized until the Third...

" (liberty, equality, fraternity) in France, "Einigkeit und Recht und Freiheit" (unity, justice and freedom) in Germany, "life, liberty, and prosperity" in Australia,, or "peace, order and good government
Peace, order and good government
In many Commonwealth jurisdictions, the phrase "peace, order and good government" is an expression used in law to express the legitimate objects of legislative powers conferred by statute...

" in Canada. It is also similar to a line in the Canadian Charter of Rights: "life, liberty, security of the person" (this line was also in the older Canadian Bill of rights, which added "enjoyment of property" to the list).

The phrase can also be found in Chapter III, Article 13 of the 1947 Constitution of Japan
Constitution of Japan
The is the fundamental law of Japan. It was enacted on 3 May, 1947 as a new constitution for postwar Japan.-Outline:The constitution provides for a parliamentary system of government and guarantees certain fundamental rights...

, and in President Ho Chi Minh
Ho Chi Minh
Hồ Chí Minh , born Nguyễn Sinh Cung and also known as Nguyễn Ái Quốc, was a Vietnamese Marxist-Leninist revolutionary leader who was prime minister and president of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam...

's 1945 declaration of independence
Proclamation of Independence of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam
The Proclamation of Independence of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam was written by Hồ Chí Minh, and announced in public at the Ba Đình flower garden on September 2, 1945. It led to the secession of North Vietnam.-History:Vietnam became a colony of France in the late nineteenth century...

 of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. An alternative phrase "life, liberty, and property", is found in the Declaration of Colonial Rights, a resolution of the First Continental Congress
First Continental Congress
The First Continental Congress was a convention of delegates from twelve of the thirteen North American colonies that met on September 5, 1774, at Carpenters' Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, early in the American Revolution. It was called in response to the passage of the Coercive Acts by the...

. The Fifth Amendment
Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution
The Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which is part of the Bill of Rights, protects against abuse of government authority in a legal procedure. Its guarantees stem from English common law which traces back to the Magna Carta in 1215...

 and Fourteenth Amendment
Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution
The Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was adopted on July 9, 1868, as one of the Reconstruction Amendments.Its Citizenship Clause provides a broad definition of citizenship that overruled the Dred Scott v...

 to the United States Constitution declare that governments cannot deprive any person of "life, liberty, or property" without due process of law. Also, Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a declaration adopted by the United Nations General Assembly . The Declaration arose directly from the experience of the Second World War and represents the first global expression of rights to which all human beings are inherently entitled...

reads, "Everyone has the right to life, liberty, and security of person."