Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness by Peter Moore

Brendan’s Alternate Tagline for Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness:

Not everyone loved Benjamin Franklin.

Quick synopsis:

The story of how the phrase, “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” came to be in American culture.

Fact for Non-History People:

12 of the original colonies voted yes on the Declaration of Independence on July 4th. New York requested more time.

Fact for History Nerds:

“Magazine” didn’t start being used to refer to reading material until 1731.

My Take on Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness:

Late 1700s writers were a prickly group! In Peter Moore’s, “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness,” Moore looks at the lives of multiple literary giants including Benjamin Franklin and Samuel Johnson. It is an interesting look at how so many names attached to Great Britain and the nascent United States overlap. I liked a lot of things about this book. Franklin gets a lot of the spotlight and Moore leaves a lot of breadcrumbs showing how Franklin could be someone who loves England, but then became one of the main patriots. I knew very little of John Wilkes and Catherine Macaulay which made their sections especially interesting. Plus, there is plenty of drama between all these characters which keeps the narrative moving.

I did have one main criticism which does not sink the book but forced me to knock off a star on the rating. This book is a bit long and didn’t need to be. For instance, while Catherine Macaulay deserves to have plenty written about her, she is extraneous to the book and not fully developed. Of the 18 chapters, she disappears for the majority of them. In fact, this happens with a few of the characters. Thomas Paine is only in the last couple of chapters and seems to emerge from nowhere.

In summary, I liked everything Moore wrote, but also recognize there is a lot here that is not vital to the examination of the phrase, “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” This is still a good book and definitely worth a read.

(This book was provided as an advance copy by Netgalley and Farrar, Straus and Giroux.)


A great book for those interested in the period before the American Revolution. Buy it here!

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2 responses to “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness by Peter Moore”

  1. Barb Avatar

    Thanks for the heads up about the extraneous content. My pet peeve (well, one of them) is bloated writing. The older I get the less time I have for books that are unnecessarily long or wordy.

    1. Brendan Dowd Avatar

      Couldn’t agree more. I felt bad because the extra stuff in the book is still quite good, but it feels like too many tangents.

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