It comes from the US Declaration of Independence: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness."
Everyone assumes it was written by Thomas Jefferson.
In fact, Thomas Jefferson borrowed the phrase from the British philosopher John Locke.
And Benjamin Franklin altered the borrowed phrase.
The original phrase was: "Life, Liberty, and Property."
Two hundred years before Karl Marx, Locke saw property as stored labour.
A piece of wood or metal had no value until someone’s labour had formed it into something useful.
So property was a man’s labour, and he was entitled to keep it.
And the state should protect that right.
Jefferson, some years after Locke, was influenced by him.
Like Locke, he was a Liberal thinker.
So Jefferson included Locke’s phrase "Life, Liberty, and Property" in the original Declaration of Independence.
But Franklin was more pragmatic than Jefferson.
He saw that, after independence, they would need a government, a bureaucracy, a police force, an army, an entire infrastructure.
Someone would have to pay for all that.
They would need taxes.
Which meant the government would have to regularly take a slice of "property" from all the citizens.
So they could hardly have "property" enshrined as an "unalienable right".
And "Property" was replaced with the more ambiguous "pursuit of Happiness".
And one of the most famous phrases in the English language was born.
Not out of altruism but out of pragmatism.
And no-one missed the original because no-one had seen it.
It’s worth remembering that.
Recently, someone told me that one of their favourite campaign lines had always been for Red Rock Cider.
They loved the line: "It’s not red and it’s got no rocks."
Nick Wray wrote that years ago at GGT.
The brief was for a cider with a totally different taste.
So Nick used Leslie Nielsen, from Police Squad, with the strapline: "It’s not red, it’s got no rocks, and it doesn’t taste like cider."
It had everything we wanted: branding and a consumer benefit.
But just before we were due to shoot, the brief changed.
The client decided that Red Rock did in fact taste like cider after all.
So what could we do, it felt like a disaster?
We lost the whole reason for the line.
But instead of dropping the whole line, we just dropped "it doesn’t taste like cider" off the end of the line.
And we still had a strongly branded campaign.
And many years later people still quote "It’s not red and it’s got no rocks" as one of their favourite lines.
No-one missed "and it doesn’t taste like cider" because no-one had ever heard it.
At the time, change can seem like a disaster to us.
But it’s important to remember that people don’t miss what they never had.
(This article first appeared on Campaignlive.co.uk)