Jefferson changed property to happiness


December 23, 2021

To The Eagle:

I disagree with a writer’s opinion that the Founders could not have intended the Constitution to restrict citizen’s access to the ballot or allow the wealthy to dominate the politics of power. That’s exactly what the founders intended. The new nation may have aspired toward the Enlightenment principles of liberty, equality and justice but there was scant evidence of those in 18th century America.

A rough draft of the Declaration of Independence declared the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of property. Jefferson changed “property” to “happiness.” Anyone was free to pursue happiness, but sharing power was another matter entirely. The right to vote was reserved for white male property owners. Women were denied the right to own property, or vote.

“Free” white women held the legal status of livestock while the founders of this nation bought and sold enslaved people whom they treated like draft animals. It was that kind of world. The aristocracy of merchant bankers and Southern planters possessed most of the land, wealth and power and intended to keep it that way. Two hundred and fifty years later the grip of the wealthy upon political power has tightened, with multimillionaires gaining most of the seats in the Senate and the Supreme court deciding corporate wealth to be the equivalent of political speech, with predictable results.

The evolution of our democracy ended slavery and extended the voting franchise to females. We remain at liberty to pursue happiness and property ownership. Those who can still afford a mortgage are free to work like slaves to keep up with the payments and the taxes.

Grace Ling

Puget Island


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