Of the three universal rights, two of which are life and liberty, the last delineated right the Founding Fathers listed is the one most often misunderstood. The right to pursue happiness is most often couched as just to be happy, to create a personal circumstance where one can experience the most happiness in a world of misery. Pursuing happiness, though, is quite different from a state of happiness.
Happiness, for them, was best evidenced through self-support. To sustain ones self through labor is the most freeing and satisfying, dare one say, happy tasks a free person can do. To look down upon ones life and say, “My hands did this thing”, with smiling approval is happiness. Happiness for them was not worrying about whether the check was in the mail, but knowing they didn’t have to worry about the mail as long as there was life in their limbs.
Pursuing happiness was bound up in the proverb, “If a man does not work, he does not eat.” To pursue happiness requires innovation and initiative, a willingness to conceive a worthy idea and the drive to pursue it. That one thought, pursuing happiness, seems to have been lost through fifty years of welfare. The pursuit of happiness is about taking control of your life and refusing to depend on any other man or system of men to provide for your sustenance. Pursue happiness and the other two must necessarily come along.