The Pursuit of Happiness--History

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North American (General)


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From 1823 forward, the phrase pursuit of happiness appeared in 96 United States Supreme Court cases. The Pursuit of Happiness was used by litigants to argue for everything from the right to privacy to the right to pursue one's chosen occupation. And it was invoked by the court to uphold the same Black's Law dictionary sites to that case law, as it defines the right to the pursuit of happiness as the constitutional right to pursue any lawful business or activity that might yield the highest enjoyment, increase one's prosperity or allow the development of one's faculties, as long as it is not inconsistent with others rights. While this definition reflects how the right to the pursuit of happiness has been sighted in Supreme Court case law from the 1820s forward, it does not tell us how the phrase was understood in its historical context.