Explore the origins of the most iconic words and concepts in American history with English historian Peter Moore. His spirited group biography provides a richer understanding our country’s colonial past and current ideology.
The most famous phrase in American history once looked quite different. “The preservation of life, & liberty, & the pursuit of happiness” was how Thomas Jefferson put it in the first draft of the Declaration. Then came a series of deletions and a long chain of revisions stretching across the Atlantic and back. In making these words into rights, Jefferson reified the hopes (and debates) not only of a group of rebel-statesmen in the colonies, but also of an earlier generation of British thinkers who could barely imagine a country like the United States of America.
Peter Moore’s Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness tells the true story of what may be the most successful import in U.S. history: the “American dream.” Profiling the generation that preceded the Declaration in 1776, this fascinating work reveals the influence and impact of the day’s leading figures including Benjamin Franklin, the British publisher William Strahan, the cultural giant Samuel Johnson, the ground-breaking historian Catharine Macaulay, the firebrand politician John Wilkes, and revolutionary activist Thomas Paine. Moore shows why, and reveals how these still-nascent ideals made their way across an ocean and started a revolution.