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Pursuit of Happiness

The term pursuit of happiness, which occurs in the second sentence of the Declaration of Independence, has attracted the attention of countless scholars over the past two centuries. The phrase differs from the triad of rights put forward by John Locke in his Two Treatises of Government (1690), where he defended the rights of Englishmen to their “Life, Liberty, and Estates.” Whigs had traditionally included estates or property as an essential element of the liberties of Englishmen, which was classified among the natural rights that all men possessed. So why did Jefferson change the formula from “Life, Liberty, and Estates” to “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness”? The question has produced a distinctive subcategory to the general study of the Declaration.

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