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It is the general intention of God Almighty, that the produce of the earth be applied to the use of man. This appears from the constitution of nature, or, if you will, from his express declaration; and this is all that appears at first. Under this general donation, one man has the same right as another, You pluck an apple from a tree, or take a lamb from a flock, for your immediate use and nourishment, and I do the same; and we both plead for what we do, the general intention of the Supreme Proprietor. So far all is right : but you cannot claim the whole tree, or the whole flock, and exclude me from any share of them, and plead this general intention for what you do. The plea will not serve you; you must show something more. You must show, by probable arguments at least, that it is God's intention, that these things should be parcelled out to individuals; and that the established distribution, under which you claim, should be upholden. Show me this, and I am satisfied. But until this be shown, the general intention, which has been made appear, and which is all that does appear, must prevail ; and, under that, my title is as good as yours. Now there is no argument to induce such a presumption, but one; that the thing cannot be enjoyed at all, or en: joyed with the same, or with nearly the same advantage, while it continues in common, as when appro. priated. This is true, where there is not enough for all, or where the article in question requires care or labour in the production or preservation : but where no such reason obtains, and the thing is in its nature capable of being enjoyed by as many as will, it seems an arbitrary usurpation upon the rights of mankind, to confine the use of it to any.
If a medical spring were discovered in a piece of ground which was private property, copious enough for every purpose to which it could be applied, I would award a compensation to the owner of the field, and a liberal profit to the author of the discovery, especially if he had bestowed pains or expense upon the search : but I question whether any human laws would be justified, or would justify the owner, in prohibiting mankind from the use of the water, or setting such a price upon it, as would almost amount to a prohibition.
If there be fisheries which are inexhaustible, as the cod-fishery upon the Banks of Newfoundland, and the herring-fishery in the British seas, are said to be; then all those conventions, by which one of two nations claim to themselves, and guarantee to each other, the exclusive enjoyment of these fishe ries, are so many encroachments upon the general rights of mankind.
Upon the same principle may be determined a question, which makes a great figure in books of na. tural law, utrum mare sit liberum ? that is, as I un. derstand it, whether the exclusive right of navigat. ing particular seas, or a control over the navigation of these seas, can be claimed, consistently with tho law of nature, by any nation What is necessary for each nation's safety, we allow; as their own bays, creeks, and harbours, the sea contiguous to, that is, within cannon-shot, or three leagues of their coast : and upon this principle of safety (if upon any principle) must be defended the claim of the Venetian State to the Adriatic, of Denmark to the Baltic Sea, and of Great Britain to the seas which invest the island. But when Spain asserts a right to the Pacific Ocean, or Portugal to the Indian Seas, or when any nation extends its pretensions much ber yond the limits of its own territories, they erect a claim which interferes with the benevolent designs of Providence, and which no human authority can justify.
3. Another right, which may be called a general right, as it is incidental to every man who is in a situation to claim it, is the right of extreme necessity; by which is meant a right to use or destroy another's property, when it is necessary for our own preservation to do so; as a right to take without or against the owner's leave, the first food, clothes, of shelter, we meet with, when we are in danger of perishing through want of them; a right to throw goods overboard, to save the ship; or to pull down a house, in order to stop the progress of a fire; and a few other instances of the same kind. Of which right the foundation seems to be this : that when property was first instituted, the institution was not in tended to operate to the destruction of any; there fore,when sûch consequences would follow, all regar
to it is superseded. Or rather, perhaps, these are the few cases, where the particular consequence ex. ceeds the general consequence; where the remote mischief resulting from the violation of the general rule, is overbalanced by the immediate advantage.
Restitution however is due, when in our power : because the laws of property are to be adhered to, so far as consists with safety; and because restitution, which is one of those laws, supposes the danger to be over. But what is to be restored ? Not the full value of the property destroyed, but what it was worth at the time of destroying it; which, considering the danger it was in of perishing, might be very lītile.
of property. IF you should see a flock of pigeons in a field of corn: and if (instead of each picking where and what it liked, taking just as much as it wanted, and no more) you should see ninety-nine of them gathering all they got into a heap : reserving nothing for themselves but the chaff and the refuse ; keeping this heap for one, and that the weakest, perhaps worst, pigeon of the flock; sitting round, and looking on, all the winter, whilst this one was devouring, throwing about, and wasting it; and if a pigeon more hardy or hungry than the rest, touched a grain of the hoard, all the others instantly flying upon it, and tearing it to pieces ;--if you should see this, you
would see nothing more than what is every day prac. tised and established among men. Among men, you see the ninety-and-nine toiling and scraping together a heap of superfluities for one (and this one too, oftentimes the feeblest and worst of the whole setchild, a woman, a madman, or a fool;) getting no. thing for themselves all the while, but a little of the coarsest of the provision, which their own industry produces ; looking quietly on, while they see the fruits of all their labour spent or spoiled : and if one of the number take or touch a particle of the hoard, the others joining against him, and hanging him for the theft,
CHAP. II, The use of the institution of property, THERE must be some very important advantages to account for an institution, which, in the view of it above given, is so paradoxical and unnatural.
The principal of these advantages are the following:
1. It increases the produce of the earth. The earth, in climates like ours, produces little without cultivation : and none would be found willing to cultivate the ground, if others were to be admitted to an equal share of the produce. The same is true of the care of flocks and herds of tame animals,
Crabs and acorns, red deer, rabbits, game, and fish, are all which we should have to subsist upon in this country, if we trusted to the spontaneous productions of the soil; and it fares not much better with other countries. A nation of North American savages, consisting of two or three hundred, will take up, and be half starved upon, a tract of land, which in Europe, and with European management, would be sufficient for the maintenance of as many thousands.
In some fertile soils, together with great abundance of fish upon their coasts, and in regions where clothes are unnecessary, a considerable degree of population may subsist without property in land, which is the case in the islands of Otaheite: but in less favoured situations, as in the country of New Zealand, though this sort of property obtainı n a small degree, the in-habitants, for want of a more secure and regular establishment of it, are driven oftentimes by the scarcity of provision to devour one another.
II. It preserves the produce of the earth to maturity.
We may judge what would be the effects of a community of right to the productions of the earth, from the trilling specimens which we see of it at present. A cherry-tree in a hedge-row, nuts in a wood, the grass of an unstinted pasture, are seldom of much advantage to any body, because people do not wait for the proper season of reaping them. Corn, if any were sown, would never ripen; lambs and calves would never grow up to sheep and cows, because the first person that met them would reflect, that he had better take them as they are, than leave them for another.
III. It prevents contests.
War and waste, tumult and confusion, must be unavoidable and eternal, where there is not enough for all, and where there are no rules to adjust the division.
IV. It improves the conveniency of living.
This it does two ways. It enables mankind to divide themselves into distinct professions; which is impossible,unless a man can exchange the productions of his own art for what he wants from others; and exchange implies property. Much of the advantage of civilized over savage life depends upon this. When a man is from necessity his own tailor, tentmaker, carpenter, cook, huntsman, and fisherman, it is not probable that he will be expert at any of his callings. Hence the rude habitations, furniture, clothing, and implements, of savages ; and the tedious length of time which all their operations require.
It likewise encourages those arts, by which the accommodations of human life are supplied, by appropriating to the artist the benefit of his discoveries and improvements; without which appropriation, ingenuity will never be exerted with effect.
Upon these several accounts we may venture, with a few exceptions, to pronounce, that even the poorest and the worst provided, in countries where property and the consequences of property prevail, are