Alternative Source for Jefferson’s Pursuit of happiness

There are Alternative Hypotheses to the source of Jefferson’s use of Pursuit of Happiness:

Garry Wills has argued that Jefferson did not take the phrase from Locke and that it was indeed meant to be a standard by which governments should be judged.[16] Wills suggests Adam Ferguson as a good guide to what Jefferson had in mind:

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.
—Adam Ferguson, An Essay on the History of Civil Society

Sources:

Ferguson, Adam (1995) [1767]. Oz-Salzberger, Fania, ed. An Essay on the History of Civil Society. Cambridge, NY: Cambridge University Press. pp. 99–100.

Wills, Gary (2002) [1978]. Inventing America: Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence. New York, NY: Mariner Books.

One thought on “Alternative Source for Jefferson’s Pursuit of happiness

  1. I had always believed that Jefferson, not wanting to enshrine property in the Declaration, chose to substitute the pursuit of happiness rather than give ammunition to his pro slavery countrymen.

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