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CH A P. IV,
IN WHAT THE RIGHT OF PROPERTY IS
W E now speak of Property in Land : and
there is a difficulty in explaining the origin of this property, consistently with the law of nature ; for the land was once no doubt common, and the question is, how any particular part of it could justly be taken out of the common, and so appropriated to the first owner, as to give him a better right to it than others; and, what is more, a right to exclude all others from it.
Moralists have given many different accounts of this matter; which diversity alone perhaps is a proof that none of them are satisfactory.
One tells us that mankind, when they fuffered a particular person to occupy a piece of ground, by tacit consent relinquished their right to it; and, as the piece of ground belonged to mankind collectively, and mankind thus gave
up their right to the first peaceable occupier, it thenceforward became his property, and no one afterwards had a right to moleft him in it. · The objection to this account is, that consent can never be presumed from silence, where the person whose consent is required knows nothing about the matter; which must have been the case with all mankind, except the neighbourhood of the place where the appropriation was made. And to suppose that the piece of ground previ"oully belonged to the neighbourhood, and that they had a just power of conferring a right to it upon whom they pleased, is to suppose the question resolved, and a partition of land to have already taken place.
Another says, that each man’s limbs and labour are his own exclusively; that, by occupying a piece of ground a man inseparably mixes his labour with it; by which means the piece of ground becomes thenceforward his own, as you cannot take it from him, without depriving him at the same time of something, which is indisputably his.
This is Mr. Locke's solution; and seems indeed a fair reason, where the value of the labour bears a considerable proportion to the value of the thing; or where the thing derives its I 2
chief use and value from the labour. Thus game and fish, though they be common, whilst at large in the woods or water, instantly become the property of the person that catches them ; because an animal, when caught, is much more valuable than when at liberty; and this increase of value, which is inseparable from, and makes a great part of the whole value, is ftri&ly the property of the fowler, or fisherman, being the produce of his personal labour. For the same reason, wood or iron, manufactured into utenfils, become the property of the manufacturer ; because the value of the workmanship far exceeds that of the materials. And upon a similar principle, a parcel of unappropriated ground, which a man should pare, burn, plow, harrow, and fow, for the production of corn, would justly enough be thereby made his own. But this will hardly hold, in the manner it has been applied, of taking a ceremonious possession of a tract of land, as navigators do of new discovered islands, by erecting a standard, engraving an infcription, or publishing a proclamation to the birds and beasts; or of turning your cattle into a piece of ground, setting up a landmark, digging a ditch, or planting a hedge round it. Nor will even the clearing, manuring, and plow
ing of a field, give the first occupier a right to it in perpetuity, and after this cultivation and all effects of it are ceased.
Another, and in my opinion a better account of the first right of ownership, is the following: that, as God has provided these things for the use of all, he has of consequence given each leave to take of them what he wants ; by virtue therefore of this leave, a man may appropriate what he stands in need of to his own use, without asking, or waiting for the consent of others; in like manner, as when an entertainment is provided for the freeholders of a county, each freeholder goes, and eats and drinks what he wants or chooses, without having or waiting for the consent of the other guests.
But then, this reason justifies property, as far as necessaries alone, or, at the most, as far as a competent provision for our natural exigencies. For, in the entertainment we speak of (allow(ing the comparison to hold in all points), although every particular freeholder may sit down and eat till he be satisfied, without any other leave than that of the master of the feast, or any other proof of that leave, than the general invitation, or the manifest design with which the entertainment is provided ; yet you would
hardly permit any one to fill his pockets or his wallet, or to carry away with him a quantity of provision to be hoarded up, or wasted, or given to his dogs, or ftewed down into fauces, or converted into articles of superfluous luxury; especially, if by so doing, he pinched the guests. at the lower end of the table.
These are the accounts that have been given of the matter by the best writers upon the subject ; but, were these accounts perfectly unexceptionable, they would none of them, I fear, avail us in vindicating our present claims of property in land, unless it were more probable than it is, that our estates were actually acquired at first, in some of the ways which these accounts fuppose; and that a regular regard had been paid to justice, in every successive transmission of them since: for if one link in the chain fail, every title posterior to it falls to the ground.
The real foundation of our right is THE LAW OF THE LAND.
It is the intention of God, that the produce of the earth be applied to the use of man ; this intention cannot be fulfilled without establishing property ; it is consistent therefore with his will, that property be established. The land cannot be divided into separate property, without leaving