This beautifully crafted phrase from the Declaration of Independence implicitly states that we are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable Rights, among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Let’s take a moment to deconstruct that sentence.
First – those rights are endowed from our Creator, not granted by a government or other men. We were born with those rights and as Thomas Jefferson (the writer of the Declaration of Independence) further states,” That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…” So our government is there to defend those rights, not restrict or deny them.
Second – those rights are unalienable. The textbook definition of unalienable is impossible to take away or give up. So those rights are God-given and eternal. Governments are created (as stated above) to ensure that God-given rights are protected.
Third – our rights consist of life (the right to exist), liberty (essentially freedom), and the pursuit of happiness. Notice that Jefferson used an active verb to emphasize how a person achieves happiness – by pursing it, not having it given to them. That’s important because there is so much talk these days about what a government should and shouldn’t do. The most important duty of a government (according to Jefferson) is to get out of the way of the people as they pursue happiness within the rules of society.
Last – you are not allowed to infringe on the rights of others (their right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness) as you achieve yours. That also means you don’t have the right to take the fruits of someone else’s labor (their pursuit of happiness) and give it to another who will not actively pursue their own.
So, as we approach the 4th of July remember what Jefferson wrote and reflect on the meaning of Declaration of Independence. You were born with the unalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness – and the government should be defending those rights, not restricting them.