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Washington University Jurisprudence Review

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The Origins Of The Pursuit Of Happiness, Carli N. Conklin Jan 2015

The Origins Of The Pursuit Of Happiness, Carli N. Conklin

Washington University Jurisprudence Review

Scholars have long struggled to define the meaning of the phrase “the pursuit of happiness” in the Declaration of Independence. The most common understandings suggest either that the phrase is a direct substitution for John Locke’s conception of property or that the phrase is a rhetorical flourish that conveys no substantive meaning. Yet, property and the pursuit of happiness were listed as distinct—not synonymous—rights in eighteenth-century writings. Furthermore, the very inclusion of “the pursuit of happiness” as one of only three unalienable rights enumerated in the Declaration suggests that the drafters must have meant something substantive when ...