Jump to content

Welcome Guest

Navigation

  • Objectivism Online Wiki

On Social Media:

Welcome to Objectivism Online Forum
Register now to gain access to all of our features. Once registered and logged in, you will be able to create topics, post replies to existing threads, give reputation to your fellow members, get your own private messenger, post status updates, manage your profile and so much more. This message will be removed once you have signed in.
Login to Account Create an Account
Photo

John Locke vs. Thomas Jefferson

- - - - -

  • You cannot start a new topic
  • Please log in to reply
7 replies to this topic

#1
NickS

NickS

    Advanced Member

  • Regulars
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 568 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Orlando, FL, USA
  • Chat Nick:NickS
  • Real Name:Nick Stanley
In John Locke's "Two Treatises of Government", published in the late 17th century, he uses the phrase "Life, Liberty, and Property". Less than a century later, Thomas Jefferson uses the phase "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness". Why would Jefferson replace "Property" with the "Pursuit of Happiness"? Doesn't the "Pursuit of Happiness" go hand-in-hand with "Liberty"? Did Jefferson have a reason to leave out "Property"? This is a question that has bugged me for some time.
And here, over the portals of my fort, I shall cut in the stone the word which is to be my beacon and my banner. The word which will not die, should we all perish in battle. The word which can never die on this earth, for it is the heart of it and the meaning and the glory. The sacred word: EGO.

#2
themadkat

themadkat

    Advanced Member

  • Regulars
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 713 posts
  • Gender:Female
  • Chat Nick:Kat

In John Locke's "Two Treatises of Government", published in the late 17th century, he uses the phrase "Life, Liberty, and Property". Less than a century later, Thomas Jefferson uses the phase "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness". Why would Jefferson replace "Property" with the "Pursuit of Happiness"? Doesn't the "Pursuit of Happiness" go hand-in-hand with "Liberty"? Did Jefferson have a reason to leave out "Property"? This is a question that has bugged me for some time.


Yes, as far as I know Jefferson was pressured to change it, part of it had something to do with slavery and other people who, although clearly people, were not permitted to own property. It was another one of those compromises that find their way into things.

#3
aleph_0

aleph_0

    Advanced Member

  • Regulars
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 905 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:New York City
  • Chat Nick:Al_0
  • Real Name:Allah
It's my understanding that he did include it, but under editorial review he was "convinced" to replace it with "pursuit of happiness".* I cannot remember the exact reason why the editors (some of whom were John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and other founders) wanted to omit "property". It's been suggested that "pursuit of happiness" covers broader rights, like those that would later come in the Bill of Rights--but that doesn't sound right to me.

* I say "convinced" because Jefferson acquiesced to many editorial reviews, all under protest. He believed his first Declaration was perfect.

#4
punk

punk

    Member

  • Regulars
  • PipPipPip
  • 466 posts

In John Locke's "Two Treatises of Government", published in the late 17th century, he uses the phrase "Life, Liberty, and Property". Less than a century later, Thomas Jefferson uses the phase "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness". Why would Jefferson replace "Property" with the "Pursuit of Happiness"? Doesn't the "Pursuit of Happiness" go hand-in-hand with "Liberty"? Did Jefferson have a reason to leave out "Property"? This is a question that has bugged me for some time.


I've always heard that he originally did use "Property".

Remember the Declaration of Independence was subject to approval by a committee.

I believe it was felt that using the word "Property" wasn't going to resonate with the poorer population, that it would make the Revolution sound like it was for rich people and the poor people were just fodder.

So, for PR purposes it was changed to "Pursuit of Happiness".
Worker bees can leave
Even drones can fly away
The queen is their slave

#5
mrocktor

mrocktor

    Advanced Member

  • Regulars
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 783 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:SJK
  • Real Name:Peter
This draft document already uses "the pursuit of happiness". I also heard the original cited property, but have not found actual documented evidence.

#6
JMartins

JMartins

    Member

  • Regulars
  • PipPipPip
  • 172 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Norway
  • Chat Nick:JMartins
The Declaration and Resolves of the First Continental Congress (also known as the Declaration of Colonial Rights), which was passed two years before the Declaration of Independence, uses the phrase 'life, liberty and property' instead. http://www.yale.edu/...on/resolves.htm

#7
4reason

4reason

    Member

  • Regulars
  • PipPipPip
  • 118 posts
  • Gender:Female
  • Location:Denver, CO
The Declaration and Resolves of the First COntinental COngress was written by John Sullivan of New Hampshire and yes, it did use the word property over happiness. This resolve was passed to thwart Joseph Galloway's persistent efforts to try and unite the colonies but to do so while keeping them within the British EMpire (he wanted a reallignment of power, not independence). But the resolves, authored by Sullivan, were pretty much the first agreed upon declaration by the COntinental Congress that that was not the path the Congress would pursue (though many stalwarts remained, particularly among NY --who never actually consented to vote for independence; they abstained -- and John Dickinson of Penn. who though he could not bring himself to vote for independence, he excused himself from the vote, thus letting Penn under the direction of Franklin add their name to the list of consenting colonies. Sullivan, I suspect, was more inclined to quote Locke directly because he was less well-read than Jefferson (though not uneducated by any means). I would suspect -and this is my subjective argument here- that Sullivan pulled it directly from Locke because he knew that it was familiar thinking amongst the Congressmen, and thus more likely to achieve his purpose of casting off the efforts of men like Galloway once and for all. And it did just that.

But by the time Jefferson was writing the DEclaration of Independence two years later, the Congress was already more accomodating to the ideas that Sullivan had posed years ago and were incorporating those resolves into their daily thinking (though again they had not officially voted for independence until after his drafting had begun). He, therefore, did not have the urgency to defeat a conservative movement, like SUllivan had, and thus had more time to ponder his words (though 17 days doesn't seem like much).

Here's the big problem, though: we do not have the original draft of Jefferson's; it is not known to exist anymore. Only a fragment of what is believed to possibly be his first draft has been found. Historians refer to this as the "composition draft" and it is literally a torn half of a paper that contains part of Jefferson's defamations of the King; this possible piece of Jefferson's first draft does not reveal the first paragraphs that contain the phrase we're all pondering here.

The earliest complete draft, in entirity, is referred to as the "Rough Draft," but historians now think that this is actually Jefferson's first revision after his first presentation of his original draft to the committe of five. (Franklin, Adams, Livingston, and Sherman were the other members of the committee). This draft DOES NOT use the word propert; it contains, without any marks upon it, the phrase "pusuit of happiness." Thus, as best we can tell, Jefferson NEVER used the word property. I've heard some people say well, maybe he just couldn't remember the quote quite right since he didn't have his books with him at the time, but I find that highly unlikely (Jefferson accurately quoted passages from literature and political writings at length in other writings when he is also known to have not had that book he was quoting from with him). The drafts and the revisions made along the way are difficult for historians to piece together because all of these meetings were conducted in secracy; they had to be for they were all committing treason. What we know about what revisions were made are based on 1) that first revised draft, 2) the later recollections of Jefferson, and 3) the later recollection of Adams. Livingston and Sherman are not known to have recording anything about changes made; at least not that I have ever seen, but neither of those men were very prolific writers.

While Adams and Jefferson's recollections of the events surrounding the Declaration contradict one another on many points (such as why Jefferson was chosen to write the thing), one thing they do not dispute is this phrase. It never appears to have been an issue. The congress undoubtedly recognized the difference, but NO ONE appears to have contested that it should be adapted back to Locke's property version. There were surprisginly few revision, it appears, to have been made to the document, and most of these were made by Franklin. Most notably he revised the phrase "We hold these truths to be sacred and undeniable" to "we hold these truths to be self-evident," and this, ironically, appears to have been one of the two changes that upset Jefferson the most. Adams records that Jefferson's response to Franklin's suggestion was " I assure you each word was chosen with great care and purpose," or something along those lines. The other change that wounded Jefferson was Franklin's deletion of Jefferson's charge that the King was responsible for having introduced and perpetuating the slave trade in the Americas. Franklin thought, and proabably rightly so, that that was not the issue at hand and a phrase like that was likely to prevent the colonies from united together in this cause. The other changes were minimal: they took out the phrase "everlasting Adieu!" because they thought it too haughty, they changed "he has dissolved" to "He has refused" and changed the word "subject" to "reduce" in reference to the king keeping the colonies from running their own government acc to their own needs.

Long story short, Jefferon's declaration, from what we know of the drafts that do exist, and the recollections of himself and Adams, NEVER contained the word property, and I would argue that this was deliberate on his part, and not simply a misquotation. Jefferson was much more of a Romantic thinker than many of the delegates there, most notably compared to Adams. I don't think that he felt the pursuit of property was not an inalienable right (excuse me, "a sacred and undeniable right", acc to his original words :D ) but I think he thought of it more as an incidental right that stemmed out of the pursuit of happiness. We have to be subjective when we speculate on why he chose one word over the other, because he never wrote about his semantic thinking on this particular phrase. Maybe he used the word happiness because he himself had never been in the position of having to pursue property, having been born into privelege. He had economic pursuits, but he failed miserably at them (if only he had known how to market his cool inventions, like the lazy-susan, the polygraph, the dumbwaiter, etc( his polygraph was a device that copied letters in duplicate; it was not the kind that assesses truth-telling). If one knew what values to pursue -- what made them happy -- and had the ability to pursue them they would be living the life of an independent and free man, and thus achieve happiness. Maybe property made people happy - it certainly made him happy; he shopped non-stop and died miserably in debt. But perhaps he thought that property was one of those things you could CHOOSE to pursue to obtain happiness, and thus it was not a fundamental right in his thinking. But then, one could always CHOOSE not to pursue life or liberty... but that's another debate. I believe he 100% deliberately interchanged the phrases because he thuoght property was part of what could contribute to happiness, but that happiness was the higher achievement to be had. But he is a hard man to pin down in terms of his personal thoughts. He didn't keep a journal or personal thoughts like other Founders did (or if he did, he destroyed it along with many of his most private correspondence). What he writes in his letters that we do have, and what others recall about the same events don't always match up. What he said about things and what has actually been proven later were also often contradictory. Unfortunately, we have to guess about his intentions because he didn't leave us a lot to work with in regard to the Declaration.

( I wrote my thesis on Adams an Jefferson, can anyone tell? :P ).

Edited by 4reason, 12 September 2008 - 05:47 PM.


#8
4reason

4reason

    Member

  • Regulars
  • PipPipPip
  • 118 posts
  • Gender:Female
  • Location:Denver, CO
Okay, as if my previous post wasn't long enough, I've actually been thinking about this in great depth these last few days, and I think I have a better idea as to why Jefferson omitted the word "property."

The document that really helped establish Jefferson among the leaders of the revolutionary cause was his Summary View of the Rights of British America, which was originally published anonymously as a pamphlet in 1774. In this document, Jefferson expounds in great length on what he considered many disagreeable British statues regarding property: including laws that gave certain, favored British merchants monopolies over colonial trade, laws that prohibited American manufactures, and laws that laid American lands open to the demands of British creditors. To say that Jefferson didn't consider "property" an important right because he didn't choose to list it amongst his "top three" that he chose for the Declaration is simply not true. Note the phrase "that among these rights" that precedes his list in the Declaration. It was not an exclusive list. And if one takes the entire context of Jefferson's published political writings into consideration (including his Notes on the State of Virginia, which came out nearly a decade later) it becomes evident that the pursuit of property was very important to him. But lets remember that the Declaration was meant to be "harmonizing" statement of a populace united in a common cause; there was no room in that document to raise non-harmonious issues, such as slavery. Having reviewed Jefferson's earliest draft that we have, and comparing it to the final draft approved by the Congress, I noticed another significant deletion: Congress eliminated Jefferson's contention that the American colonists had expatriated themselves long ago when they originally settled the land. Jefferson points out in great length in his Summary View, and in lesser detail in his draft of the Declaration, that the settlers who came from Britain to the New World did so largely at their own expense and fought to defend their settlements and maintain their survival with their own blood and sweat; the British government, it is true, did not really start providing military support for the colonies until they were already well-established. This view, however, was uniquely Jefferson's and the other members of Congress - including Adams - were not comfortable with this historical interpretation of events.

I would contend, then, that while all the Founders considered the pursuit of property by one's own efforts an inalienbale right, they didn't feel that that was the cause of their need for independence. Their grievances were more focused upon the division and application of governmental power, and while we can argue that a government stepping in to interfere with one's pursuit of property is a violation of man's natural rights, I do believe Jefferson considered it less important than the idea of the right of expatriation which is the foundation of his property-based arguments in his Summary View. He felt that the settlers came to America to find their own happiness by pursuing those values (religious, economic, etc) that they were unable to pursue in Britain., and that they then had to pursue property --more as a necessity than a desire, in his view-- property for the mere sake of survival. The ideas of capitalism and free markets were still in infancy (indeed, perhaps prior to Smith, one could say they were still in utero). The best evidence that the right to pursue property was not the greatest concern is the fact that the colonists, in the decade prior and all the way up to the vote for independence, were not contesting the fact that they were being taxed: they were contesting that they were being EXCLUSIVELY taxed in ways that other parts of Britain's emerging empire were not; that a government in which they had non-representation was taking exclusively from them and offering them nothing in return. it was robbery. Political writings records of political debates abound from the decade or so before 1776 that prove this point: It wasn't that they were protesting taxation/government seizure of property per se, but rather that the government wasn't allowing them any say in the process. It was a revolution meant for greater representation of the people's will in government; not a revolution to establish capitalism. Capitalism stems out of this idea, and would not be possible in any other type of government. But capitalism and the stronger notions of the right to property really start to emerge later in American history; post American revolution. Jefferson had a lot to contribute on the matter; but I think it is unfair for us to feel unsatisfied that he was not the great defender of private property that we wish he had been, because American thinking wasn't quite there yet. I think his political writings prove he was close, but even he was wise enough to understand how unique his views were at the time - and how those views might not help the cause of the greater issue at hand.

Edited by 4reason, 14 September 2008 - 09:56 AM.



1 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 1 guests, 0 anonymous users