cover of book

The Pursuit of Happiness in the Founding Era: An Intellectual History
by Carli N. Conklin
University of Missouri Press, 2020
Cloth: 978-0-8262-2185-8 | eISBN: 978-0-8262-7427-4 | Paper: 978-0-8262-2223-7
Library of Congress Classification KF4541
Dewey Decimal Classification 342.085


Scholars have long debated the meaning of the pursuit of happiness, yet have tended to define it narrowly, focusing on a single intellectual tradition, and on the use of the term within a single text, the Declaration of Independence. In this insightful volume, Carli Conklin considers the pursuit of happiness across a variety of intellectual traditions, and explores its usage in two key legal texts of the Founding Era, the Declaration and William Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England.

For Blackstone, the pursuit of happiness was a science of jurisprudence, by which his students could know, and then rightly apply, the first principles of the Common Law. For the founders, the pursuit of happiness was the individual right to pursue a life lived in harmony with the law of nature and a public duty to govern in accordance with that law. Both applications suggest we consider anew how the phrase, and its underlying legal philosophies, were understood in the founding era. With this work, Conklin makes important contributions to the fields of early American intellectual and legal history.

Nearby on shelf for Law of the United States / Federal law. Common and collective state law. Individual states: