From The American Ideal...
THE RIGHT TO LIFE
Property must often--reputation must always be purchased:* liberty and life are the gratuitous gifts of heaven.
I shall certainly be excused from adducing any formal arguments to evince, that life, and whatever is necessary for the safety of life, are the natural rights of man. Some things are so difficult; others are so plain, that they cannot be proved.
U.S. Supreme Court Justice James Wilson (Lectures, 1790-1791) * (Meaning reputation must be earned.)
The pretence of an absolute, irresistible, despotic power, existing in every government somewhere, is incompatible with the first principle of natural right. Take for example the right to life. The moment an infant is born, it has a right to the life which it has received from the Creator . . . no human being, no combination of human beings, has the power, I say not the physical, but the moral power, to take a life not so forfeited [by commission of a crime], unless in self-defense or by the laws of war . . . (Emphasis per original.)
John Quincy Adams (Address, July 4, 1831)
THE INDIVIDUAL'S HAPPINESS CONDUCIVE TO THE WELFARE OF OTHERS
The all wise Creator of man imprest certain laws on his nature. A desire of happiness, and of society, are two of those laws. They were not intended to destroy, but to support each other. Man has therefore a right to promote the best union of both, in order to enjoy both in the highest degree. Thus, while this right is properly exercised, desires, that seem selfish, by a happy combination, produce the welfare of others. (Emphasis per original.)
John Dickinson (Political Writings, 1774)
PROGRESSIVE HAPPINESS---SEEKING PERFECTION
A progressive state is necessary to the happiness and perfection of man. Whatever attainments are already reached, attainments still higher should be pursued. Let us, therefore, strive with noble emulation. Let us suppose we have done nothing, while any thing yet remains to be done. Let us, with fervent zeal; press forward, and make unceasing advances in every thing that can support, improve, refine, or embellish society . . . The commencement of our government has been eminently glorious: let our progress in every excellence be proportionably great. It will--- it must be so.
James Wilson (In an oration, July 4, 1788)
That Mankind were intended to be happy, at least that God Almighty gave them power of being so, if they would properly exert the means He has bestowed upon them.
James Iredell (In an Essay, 1775)
SOME TRUTHS ABOUT PUBLIC HAPPINESS
. . . this eternal truth, that public happiness depends on a virtuous and unshaken attachment to a free constitution.
Dr. Joseph Warren (Emphasis per original.) (Oration, Boston, March 5, 1772)
As the happiness of a people and the good order and preservation of civil government essentially depend upon piety, religion, and morality . . .
Massachusetts Bill of Rights, 1780
RIGHT TO HAPPINESS, FREEDOM, PROPERTY
Kings or parliaments could not give the rights essential to happiness . . . We claim them from a higher source--from the King of kings, and Lord of all the earth. They are not annexed to us by parchments and seals. They are created in us by the decrees of Providence . . . It would be an insult on the divine Majesty to say, that he has given or allowed any man or body of men a right to make me miserable. If no man or body of men has such a right, I have a right to be happy. If there can be no happiness without freedom, I have a right to be free. If I cannot enjoy freedom without security of property, I have a right to be thus secured. (Emphasis per original.)
John Dickinson (Reply to a Committee in Barbadoes, 1766)
TRUE BASIS OF HAPPINESS-- TO BE ACHIEVED BY EACH INDIVIDUALMAN'S HAPPINESS IN RELATION TO THE AIM AND FORM OF GOVERNMENT
[Through education of the young in public schools] The first elements of morality too may be instilled in their minds; such as, when further developed as their judgments advance in strength, may teach them how to work out their own greatest happiness, by shewing them that it does not depend on the condition of life in which chance has placed them, but is always the result of a good conscience, good health, occupation, and freedom in all just pursuits.
Thomas Jefferson ("Notes on the State of Virginia," 1782)
MAN'S HAPPINESS IN RELATION TO THE AIM AND FORM OF GOVERNMENT
That government is, or ought to be instituted for the common benefit, protection, and security of the people, nation, or community; of all the various modes and forms of government, that is best which is capable of producing the greatest degree of happiness and safety, and is most effectually secured against the danger of maladministration . . . (Emphasis added.)
Virginia Declaration of Rights, 1776
Our true situation appears to me to be this. --a new extensive Country containing within itself the materials for forming a Government capable of extending to its citizens all the blessings of civil & religious liberty--capable of making them happy at home. This is the great end of Republican Establishments.
Charles Pinckney (In Framing Convention, 1787) (Note: "Republican" means those of a Republic.)
We are therefore brought exactly to the same point at last, whether we consider government as it is originally an appointment of Heaven, or, more immediately, the voluntary choice of men. The security and happiness of all the members composing the political body, must be the design and end thereof, considered in both these lights.
Rev. Jonathan Mayhew (Election Sermon, 1754)
The consequence is, that the happiness of society is the first law of every government. This rule is founded on the law of nature: it must control every political maxim: it must regulate the legislature itself. The people have a right to insist that this rule be observed; and are entitled to demand a moral security that the legislature will observe it. If they have not the first [that right], they are slaves; if they have not the second [that moral security], they are, every moment, exposed to slavery. (Emphasis per original.)
U.S. Supreme Court Justice James Wilson (Lectures, 1790-1791)