Did Thomas Jefferson a plagiarize?
Thomas Jefferson wrote: Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Jacques Rousseau wrote: life liberty and the pursuit of property. Is this plagiarism?
No, that one line changes the entire meaning of the phrase in my opinion.
I suppose maybe, technically, it could be considered that, but the fact that Rousseau was a philosopher sort of negates the possibility of plagiarizing his work by Jefferson at the time. As brandonhart100 said, it totally changes the meaning. To add to that: it's not like TJ just straight up copied Rousseau, he borrowed something well-known by enlightened individuals and put a spin on it. It's not the same as copy and pasting something from Wikipedia - he didn't copy out parts of the Social Contract and use it as his own, for example. Plus, he was writing a document that represented a body of people, not himself, and he was proving to the world that the colonies were populated by enlightened individuals by including something so similiar to Rousseau in the Declaration. Really, if anything, it's just good sales.
No, because of the nature of the document. The Declaration of Independence is a legal document; the entire practice of law is built on practices which would be plagiarizing if found in a different setting. Just take a look at various state's criminal laws on a particular subject. You will find that many recycle the same phrases.
The difference is that when someone writes a book or article for publication, they are representing to their readers that they are responsible for the content and presentation, unless they specifically indicate otherwise. Authors of documents which carry the force of law, such as statutes and constitutions, are not representing that the ideas expressed are their own. Quite the opposite, in fact; the significance of those documents comes from the fact that they represent the opinions of either a group of people, or even an entire community. So
It wasn't Jean-Jacques Rousseau, it was John Locke. And he wrote simply "property" without mentioning pursuing it.
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