Eating lunch at the food carts a couple days ago, the question came up, “What does happiness mean in the Declaration of Independence?” I’ve read at least one person who says that “happiness” back then didn’t mean what we usually think it means now; happiness was more “goodness”.
On Wikipedia, I read “…suggests Adam Ferguson as a good guide to what Jefferson had in mind:
“If, in reality, courage and a heart devoted to the good of mankind are the constituents of human felicity, the kindness which is done infers a happiness in the person from whom it proceeds, not in him on whom it is bestowed; and the greatest good which men possessed of fortitude and generosity can procure to their fellow creatures is a participation of this happy character. If this be the good of the individual, it is likewise that of mankind; and virtue no longer imposes a task by which we are obliged to bestow upon others that good from which we ourselves refrain; but supposes, in the highest degree, as possessed by ourselves, that state of felicity which we are required to promote in the world.
-Adam Ferguson, Essay on the History of Civil Society (1767) pages 99-100
via the Wikipedia article “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”
Unfortunately we know sometimes there are laws and beliefs which do block or stifle this, either for the purpose of selling more product, or out of fear, or perhaps other reasons too. And then such a Declaration is brought into being, as a happiness.