Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness | US History | Khan Academy
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Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness | US History | Khan Academy


Man 1: “We hold these
truths to be self-evident, “that all men are created equal, “that they are endowed by their Creator “with certain unalienable
Rights, that among these are “Life, Liberty, and the
pursuit of Happiness.” It’s this amazing second sentence of the Declaration of
Independence that Jefferson and Adams and Franklin
wrote as part of a committee and we were looking at that sentence. Let’s go on to look at that
phrase, “they are endowed “by their Creator.” It’s interesting, they don’t
really mention Jesus Christ and not even God. They talk about the laws of
nature and of nature’s god and a creator. These are deists, people
who believe in the notion that there’s some grand
creator of the universe, but they don’t get into the
specifics of any particular religious dogma. The other thing is they’re
balancing where do our rights come from? In an earlier draft, and
we’ll talk about how they edit the earlier drafts in a later
video, but in an earlier draft it just says they’re endowed with certain unalienable
rights and you see that John Adams, probably,
is the one who wants to insert the phrase “their
Creator” and that was because they started the sentence with “We hold these truths to be sacred,” but they changed that to “self-evident.” They’re trying to say to
what extent is it rationality that gives us these rights, to what extent are these rights endowed by God and I think what they
finally come down to is that we all had a creator
and that creator made us all. So, to a certain sync,
we’re created equal. Our creator must love us
all, we are all created by the same creator, therefore
there’s a certain equality that we have and in
creating us, he gave us certain unalienable rights. Man 2: Unalienable just
means can’t be taken away. It can’t be separated. Man 1: It can’t be separated. You can’t take these rights away. The king can’t take these rights away. In other words, it’s not
as if we could give up these rights and in
particular, they are talking about this theory of
government that John Locke had, who was one of the
philosophers that they read, an English philosopher of that period, who said that when you created government or there is a government, you give up some of your rights. For example, if we all
agree that we’re part of a government, we may give up our right to take somebody else’s
property or whatever it may be. These are rights you can give up, but there are certain
rights that are unalienable, that you just can’t give up or
the king can’t take it away. Once again, you’ve got to
look at Thomas Jefferson, who actually owned slaves at this point and he’s saying among
those unalienable rights are life, liberty, and
the pursuit of happiness. There’s this inherent conflict
still, between rights, such as liberty, that you
can’t take away from a person and yet, Jefferson’s writing this phrase when he owns slaves. The phrase “Life, Liberty,
and the pursuit of Happiness” is also something that
derives from John Locke and these philosophers
of the Enlightenment that were writing in England. At one point, John Locke uses
the phrase “Life, Liberty, “and the pursuit of property,”
because Locke believed that owning property was
an important right you had and the government couldn’t just take your property away. However, you can see that they change it to a more elevated phrase
(laughter) that we each get to pursue our own notion
of what we want to do in our lives, our happiness. I don’t think they just
mean happiness like joy and frivolity. I think they mean pursuit
of meaning in life, what gives our life meaning and these are the unalienable rights. Then they go on and this gets to what’s called the contract
notion of government, is that why do we have governments? Whether it’s John Locke
or the other philosophers we’ve talked about, they say the reason we have government is that
we all had these rights, but we decided to get together. We instituted governments. Governments are instituted and the reason those governments have
their power is because of the consent of the governed. It’s like if you and I
and 20 people got together and formed a group and we
said, “We’re going to form “a group, we’ll give
up some of our rights, “because the group itself
will have certain powers, “but we’re consenting to do that.” It’s not because of the
divine right of kings. It’s the consent of the governed. The consent of the people
says we will institute a government amongst ourselves and that’s not to take away our rights, that’s to secure our rights. Man 2: Right. I might … The 20 of us might give up
our right to enforce things, police each other, to the government, so that we could have our life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. We’re more likely to have it secured. Man 1: Once you get to that
theory, you have to say, “What are the type of
rights we would give up?” Such as, maybe, the right
to decide the traffic laws or the policing of the thing,
or how property contracts are made, but there are
certain things that, no matter what you did,
if you were instituting a government among men,
you would not give up the right to life, you
would not give up the right to liberty, and you would not
say, “I’m going to give up “my right to pursue my own life ends, “my own happiness.” You would say, “We want
to secure those rights. “We’re not going to give
those up to government.”

39 Comments

  • Mauro Augusto Mexia

    This is because the document has held a nation together against the nature of Democracy. The Athenians had Democracy and they lasted for just 3 generations. Democracy does that. They knew that Democracy is the tyranny of the majority against the minority. And the smallest minority is the individual. So, to protect the individual or the minority from the majority, they instituted the bill of rights in the constitution, which were natural rights that Democracy couldn't take away by votes.

  • KuDeGrasBonVoyage

    So what about the deceptions, word play, loop holes, and unforeseen threats of undermining the constitution by government? i.e. the use of mass media and psychology to keep the populace uninformed and misdirected, while Americans predictably respond to the horizon that is presented to them.
    If the constitution is out dated, does that mean it is to be built on, not taken away from? and built in favor of the people vs. the power a hired establishment ?

  • stoneykr

    They used the word "Creator" because they did not want one religion to be the law of the land. Yes their were deists but mostly the men were Christians. George Washington took the first congress and prayed and consecrated America to God (God of the Bible). Jefferson was a deist and had his own version of the Bible which was the Bible w/o the miracles be cause HE thought they were impossible. Their was no imperial reasoning by him to refute the claims of the Bible that are historically reliable

  • nonchalantd

    If you don't think that owning slaves makes you a bad person, then you have no empathy. The fact that people do great things doesn't absolve them of the bad things. By definition, you cannot be willfully enslaved. A slave is property and does not have rights to decide whether they want to be enslaved. What about the disabled and elderly? Will you not accept/use Social Security, Medicare, and/or SSI when you qualify? Everyone has a master. If you work, then your master is the market.

  • nonchalantd

    Politics and economics are like religion to some. Fanatics use the Constitution to justify their dogma. For those people, the Constitution, especially the original drafting and interpretation, is like the Bible or some other holy book. Many believe that the writing in holy books should go unquestioned because it is the message of god. The weird thing is that some feel the same way about the Constitution, even though it was written and created by men.

  • Elvis Hurley

    Jefferson was a huge opponent of slavery, the laws at the time would require him to financially support his freed slaves (many which were inherited, without choice due to law). He could not afford to do so, so he maintained them. Suprised this lecturer doesn't even have a clue about Jeffersons actions  taken to ban slavery.  Jefferson believed slavery was contrary to the spirit of the American Revolution, and that slavery was contrary to nature's law.

  • MrTheeyeofone

    You do not have the Right to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. The Government through the Declaration of Independence away in the 5th and 14th amendments, by placing Life and Liberty under the Law. 

  • Thomas White

    Jefferson was not "conflicted" with his insertion of anti slave sentiments in the Declaration. He was very opposed to slavery. The laws at the time required he support all slaves whether inherited or not if he freed them thus he had to maintain them as he had quite a bit of debt at that time anyway. This "arm chair general" narrator obviously has no idea about Jefferson's attitude toward slavery.

  • Anti Hypocrite

    The Republic cans do not want the American people to enjoy the pursuit of happiness in our nation because they are stop for the big corporations like the insurance that wanna rob the American people and not give them affordable Health Care. And how can you pursued the right of happiness if you're sick or dead. Ronald Reagan was not much a role model because he was a pop the the wall street and there was a man called Donald Regan that was working for Wall Street and toll the present the hurry up to sign a bill so Wall Street that screw over the common people of this nation. Without being regulated and let the richest get richer why the common people suffer and die because without affordable Health Care. The common American people and 99 percent pay most the taxes in this nation . And they are the bosses of the nation because they pay more the bills around here but the 1% pays off the politicians to benefit them and not our nation and they're nothing but hypocrites. And a second tired of them put a presence name on some healthcare bill why can't they just call it Americ &Health Care or the freedom of Health Care. And the insurance program than republicans are coming up with tell you it's great and fantastic but when you sat reading that it's nothing but garbage and taken advantage of the common people. Crony capitalism is screwing over America and republicans all represent the people of our nation because there's more than just 1% of us here in this nation. But the American people are not that intelligent at least half of them that voted for someone like Donald trump or republican or corporate as democrats because Obama was an all that he was just a a blue dog republican out for Wall Street and the insurance companies so they can get wealthy and hell with the American people. America's gonna crash and burn just like the roman empire because they're the ones that killed Jesus Christ but religion is another thing that hurts America to forcing their believes down other people's throats because Republican Party uses religion to get votes and act like they care about you and they can care less about you if your common person. They don't care if you live or die but politicians in Congress and the president gets the best Health Care in the world and the common people pay and the politicians so Payette dam dime for it. But we the common people are as asking to let us have the right to pursue happiness and not let us get sicker die because you can not pursued the right of happiness if you're sick are died. America is nothing but a hypocritical country expressly when we have in god we trust on our currency and the American common people get back stabbed every step of the way . It just seems like our own government is our worst enemy because they love causing wars around the world because wars make people rich like the weapon manufacturers and those weapon manufactures give campaign donations through these politicians to keep the war machine working and they don't care how many soldiers come back in body bags. And the Republican Party hides behind religion I guess people never heard nothing about it too faced individual and that's what the Republican Party is they all act like they are pure and innocent but they love war. Because of actually people fall of the directions of the bible all men would have beards and garments of the same fabric and there will be no taxes on their skin but like I said America is as the hypocritical country and don't understand reality they live in this fantasy world just one about after their dad instead of improving society why we're living. America used and the phrase that we're number one but we're not number one we're 36 in the world because how our government treats are people and maybe the American people deserve that because they're not all that intelligent they are nothing but arrogant imbeciles and they deserve everything they get because they're not intelligent enough to get rid of the two party system because they just bicker and play games why the rest of us. suffer and die. And you can not pursued the right of happiness that way.

  • Vidyanand Bapat

    The words "Pursuit of Happiness" is the ingenuity of founding fathers. Nowhere else in the world you will find these words except those constitutions which are derived from the US Constitution.

  • Angie Matson

    What opportunities has Angela Angie AngeLeah or 1st name Cheryl Lynn Matson 4 14 1963 Changed to Angela Roxanne Matson 4 15 1963

  • Logan Anderson

    Benjamin Franklin considered private property to be a creature of society, not a natural right to be held sacred. He saw it as a consequence of a societies structure, and that society could outgrow the idea of private property.

  • Brad Wilson

    That all men are by nature equally free and independent and have certain inherent rights, of which, when they enter into a state of society, they cannot, by any compact, deprive or divest their posterity; namely, the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety. -The Virginia Declaration of Rights 1776

  • Checkerzzz gaming Hi

    This is how you can stop any city state who steal as well as any federal eventually they all get caught for stealing from the people if State or city or anyone took away your wright s for life happens of pursue you can have a full investigation showing your wright s were taken especially being a American you have a good Supreme Court hearing to change the people running state city or federal depending on whom and how you show your wright s were taken from you I certainly learned in NewYork people were paid not to help me with health care and much more tomorrow I pray to find a dr that actually gives me results and my records that I was denied in New York

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