The Americanness of the American Revolution: Why the Founders Succeeded
…The Russian Revolution switched one despotism for another; and a century later, after the millions of deaths from its purges, slave camps, and intentionally inflicted famines, Russia remains a despotism, without rights or justice. We all get only one life: imagine someone born under the billowing flags of the new Soviet Union in 1917, who had to live that whole single life without the freedom so much as to speak the truth of the squalid, oppressive reality he saw in front of his own eyes. One single life—and what you can make of the one you have depends so much on what others have done to mold the time and place in which you live.
The Founders knew that truth so well that they announced their nationhood by significantly changing John Locke’s catalog of natural rights. The shift began in the Virginia Declaration of Rights, where George Mason emended Locke’s right to “Lives, Liberties and Estates” to “Life and Liberty, with the Means of acquiring and possessing Property, and pursueing and obtaining Happiness and Safety.” Two months later, Thomas Jefferson penned the final pithy formulation of “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” in the Declaration of Independence. The pursuit of happiness! Who but the Americans made a revolution to vindicate the paramount right of each individual to try to make the most of his life by his own effort as he sees fit?