No other few words in American history are more well-known and iconic than the phrase from the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” (492). Recognized by some as one of the most eloquent and influential sentences in the history American text, Thomas Jefferson’s words have stuck with us for more than two centuries and we still don’t have a clear definition of what these “unalienable rights” truly mean. While many usually can agree on the meanings of life and liberty, happiness on the other hand has long been a matter of discourse. As Americans embark into a new ideal of American life, it's worth contemplating about what this indefinable phrase really means. Though our nation’s founding document states that we are given these rights, what did Jefferson really mean by the pursuit of happiness? Is happiness truly attainable? And more importantly what is the meaning for us today?
The statement issued by Congress on July 4, 1776, as America split bonds with Britain and embarked on a path of Independence, has become a distinctive American concept. In the forming of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson is said to have taken from John Locke's Second Treatise of Government which notes "life, liberty, and estate" and “lives, liberties, and fortunes” replacing the third term for happiness. “In any case, it can hardly be doubted that for many Americans—Jefferson included—property in the eighteenth century was a value associated with the pursuit of happiness, taking its place alongside life, liberty, and
security as basic ri...
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Leland, John. "The Nation; Pursuing Happiness, Jefferson To J.Lo." New York Times 29 June 2003: 1. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 20 July 2011.
McMahon, Darrin M. "The Market and the Pursuit of Happiness.” Society 43.2 (2006): 53-61. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 20 July 2011.
Norberg, Johan. "The Scientist’s Pursuit of Happiness.” Policy 21.3 (2005): 9-13. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 20 July 2011.
O'Rourke, P.J. "Life, Liberty, and Whoop-de-do!." Forbes 168.14 (2001): 18-20. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 20 July 2011.
Sandler, Lauren. "The American Nightmare: We Have Everything the American Dream Prescribed, So Why Aren't We Happy?" Psychology Today 44.2 (2011): 70-77. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 20 July 2011.
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