the pursuit of happiness

I’ve been looking up this phrase and trying to remember where I heard, on TV recently, that it substituted for “property.” According to an article I just found, that was Ben Franklin’s suggestion but what I heard was that in those days, “property” was so tied to slavery that it would have been considered by the anti-slavery faction a sop to the slave owners, so “pursuit of happiness” was substituted and it has its own philosophical history.

Can anyone recall a source for this notion of property = slave ownership?



  1. 伟思礼 says:

    Doesn’t that article cite anything? I never heard that particular story, but I did read some time ago that one of the king’s crimes Jefferson condemned was slavery¹ but that was deleted from the final version to ensure the southern states would not balk.

    ¹a bit hypocritical, since he “owned” slaves all his life.

    1. Pat Barrett says:

      I keep losing this reply. Anyway, I wasn’t clear. The Ben Franklin item was in an article but the tendency back then to equate the word “property” with slaves came in something I heard and that is what I can’t remember.
      If Jefferson was hypocritical, and he was, he was both aware of it and not alone. I liken it to listening to our great-grandchildren asking us through their gas masks why we didn’t stop driving cars when we knew they were polluting the air.

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