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THE HISTORY OF PROPERTY.

PROPERTY is the right or lawful power, which a person has to a thing. Of this right there are three different degrees. The lowest degree of this right is a right merely to possess a thing. The next degree of this right is a right to possess and to use a thing. The next and highest degree of this right is a right to possess, to use, and to dispose of a thing.

one, or it

This right, in all its different degrees, may be vested in

may

be vested in more than one man. When this right is vested in more than one man, it

may be vested in them either as a number of individuals, or as a body politick.

Concerning the origin and true foundation of property, or the right of persons to things, many opinions have been formed and entertained. With regard to property in land, Mr. Paley declares, that the real foundation of it is municipal law. Others consider property as a natural right; but as a right, which may be extended or modified by positive institutions. b

The general property of man in animals, in the soil, and in the productions of the soil, is the immediate gift of the bountiful Creator of all. « God created man in his own image ; in the image of God created he him : male and female created he them. And God blessed them; and God said unto them, be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the carth.”c Immediately after the deluge, the great charter of general property was renewed. u God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them, be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth. And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every fowl of the air, and upon all that moveth upon the earth, and upon all the fishes of the sea; into your hand are they delivered. Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green berb have I given you all things.”

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The information which is expressly revealed is congenial to those inferences, which may be drawn by sound and legitimate reasoning. Food, raiment, and shelter are necessary and useful to us. Things proper, for our food, raiment, and shelter are provided around us. It is natural to conclude, that those things were provided to supply our wants and necessities. The same train of reasoning will apply to the enjoyments, as well as to the necessities of man.

a 1. Paley. 133. 138.

b Ins. 2. 1. 11. El. Jur. 15.

« Gen, i. 27. 28.

d Gen, ix. 1, 2, 3.

While men were few, and the supplies of every thing were abundant, it is probable that many things were possessed and used in common. With regard to the possession and use of some things, however, this could never be strictly the case. In the fruit plucked or gathered by one for his subsistence; in the spot which he occupied for his shelter or repose ; in the bow which he has made for ensuring his safety, or procuring his subsistence; in the skin which he has obtained by his skill and swiftness in the chace, and which covers his body from the inclemency of the weather, he gains a high degree of exclusive right; and of this right he cannot be dispossessed without a proportioned degree of injustice. “A publick theatre,” says Cicero, e with his usual luminous propriety,“ is common to all the citizens ; but the seat which each occupies may, during the entertainment, be denominated his own.” But, in the early period of society, concerning which we now speak, things, in general, would be viewed as belonging equally to all; in other words, to those who should first have occasion to use or possess them.

In this situation, we have reason to believe, society continued after the deluge, while the whole earth was of one language and of one speech.” On the confusion of languages, and the dispersion of families, when mankind dwelt no longer in the same plain," : this general society was dissolved, and no one subject of property could, in this new situation, be reasonably deemed as belonging equally to all. The different families and associations, however, who diverged from the common centre of emigration, would still consider many things, and particularly the country in which they commenced their new settlements, as common to each family or association.

e De fin. l. 3. c. 20.

f Gen. xi. 1. Erant omnia communia et indivisa omnibus, veluti unum cunctis patrimonium esset. Just. 1. 43. c.

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The things most immediately necessary to the subsistence of life would become the first objects of exclusive property. The next objects would be such as ministered to its conveniency and comfort. Personal property, or property in movables, would become separate ; while real property, or property in land, would continue com

When the association became too numerous, and the personal property of its members became too large, to subsist or live commodiously together; then a separation of landed possessions necessarily took place. Of these remarks we have a strong and striking illustration in the history of Abram and Lot.

“ Abram was very rich in cattle: Lot also had flocks, and herds, and tents. And the land was not able to bear them that they might dwell together; for their substance was great. And there was a strife between the herdmen of Abram's cattle and the herdmen of Lot's cattle. And 'Abram said unto Lot, let there be no strife, I pray thee, between thee and me, and between my herdmen and thy herdmen; for we be brethren. Is not the whole land before thee? Separate thyself, I pray thee, from me: if thou wilt take the left hand, then will I go to the right: or if thou

& Gen. xi. 2.

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