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taking into his private occupation, such portion as he should judge convenient for his own use. Nor have the laws of nature in this case any regard to equal quantities in the division, but to a sufficiency for each. Whether any choose to make a more or less ample provision, no one is injured, no right infringed. The declaration of nature in the primitive state is, “ There is ample provision for all-come and select what portion you choose, with these only restrictions, that you interfere not with prior selections, and that you make no unnecessary waste.”

From what has been said of the origin and progress of the right of property in society, it will be evident to every reflecting mind, that all just conceptions of the legitimate rights of man, natural, civil, and political, are the genuine offspring of the same natural principle, a susceptibility of moral impression. All social rights are founded alternately in the same principles, and, consequently, all the duties corresponding to those rights are enforced by the same moral obligations.'

As the end and design of all the laws of nature is general utility or the promotion of the general interest and happiness of social man, the sure test of any rule set up as a law of nature is its general tendency to promote that end. If the test fail, the rule must at once be pronounced spurious. The execution of those laws, and the means of enjoying their benefit, and the means that may be employed to that end, are submitted to the same test, their tendency to promote the general interest. Among enlightened nations, the end sought is first proposed, and, with the means of attaining it, made a matter of deliberation. In the early and inexperienced state of mankind, they generally act with no remote views; but, by following the suggestions of present interest and convenience, they not unfrequently arrive at the same important end without having seen the final result. So intimately have the laws of nature, if simply pursued, united individual with the general interest, present interest with the future.

We have traced the right of property, in its progress from its commencement, in natural principles by occupancy, through the modes of acquisition by barter, and exchange or bargain, until it has become a permanent right. We may still trace

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those principles in the modifications which the right has received in the progress of society, and show more particularly their connection with hereditary right and a right of testamentary disposition ; but these are reserved for another chapter. The modes of acquisition, although all proceed from the same principles, are found to be very various according to the state and varying interest of society. In the earliest stages of society, the objects of property are few, and the modes of acquisition as few and simple. The objects of property are those things only that are necessary to support existence. The modes of acquisition are mostly confined to occupancy; The simple mode of gift and exchange are soon added. In the progress of society men learn to apply to their use, either for their necessities, or their pleasure, most of the productions of nature. By the assistance of art, as the powers of the human mind are expanded, new productions, considered either necessary, convenient, or agreeable, are multiplied without end. In proportion as men extend their views of what is useful or agreeable, the hoarding appetite gains strength; they become eager of the present, and provident of the future, and the objects of property become equally numerous with the objects of desire. In such a state of society the modes of acquisition are greatly diversified, and made the subject of a great variety of regulations.

The whole business of property now appears to be an artificial system; but the mode of acquisition and the tenure and use only, are the subjects of artificial regulations. The right of property itself, still remains founded in natural principles; the modes of acquisition serve only to bring the subjects of property within those principles. In this, which appears to be the only correct view of the origin of the right of property, it is not true as asserted by many writers, that it is merely a creature of the civil law; and the consequences, which they have drawn from that position, on a dissolution of government all property is annihilated, and that every revolution or radical reformation of government is destructive of the right itself, are wholly groundless. In such case, civil protection only is lost, the secure enjoyment is endangered, but the right, founded in a primary law of nature, remains unchanged.

We shall con clude this chapter with a few brief remarks. If a discovery of the right of property, (if, indeed, such right could have otherwise existed,) was left to reason and experience, instead of being discovered in the natural principle that has been unfolded, and rendered obvious to every one possessed of the common feelings and sentiments of our species, it must, if at all attainable, exact at least a considerable maturity of the reasoning powers.—To children and all of weaker intellects, it must be wholly unattainable. Force alone could prevent a constant

, violation of property ; prohibitory laws would be considered, as so many arbitrary impositions. How much better is the plan of nature. Who can forbear to admire the wisdom and goodness displayed in adapting the nature of man to that social and civil state, which he has ever found necessary, not only to his happiness, but to any tolerable existence in life. The Deity has implanted in man the germ of every necessary qualification, and left to him the cultivation. More it is probable, could not be indulged to a moral agent.



Of the right of inheritance and of making a testamentary disposition.

In the preceding chapter, we have found the inception of the right of property in a moral principle of our nature, that susceptibility of moral impressions which is common to all mankind; and have pursued its progress in natural principles, to its general reception, a right of transfer, and its final consummation, in the permanent and exclusive right of the individual; but the right has universally been carried farther, to the right of the owner to make a testamentary disposition, to direct who shall succeed to his property after his death, and to the right of inheritance and succession in next of kin to the deceased. We shall now enquire, how far these rights are founded on natural principles, and how far they are consistent with each other.

Judge Blackstone, who held that the permanent right of property in any one was not a natural, but a mere civil right, consistently with that doctrine tells us, ** All property must therefore cease upon death, considering men as absolute individuals, unconnected with civil society ; for then, by the principles before established, the next immediate occupant would acquire a right in all the deceased possessed ; but as under civilized governments, which are calculated for the peace of mankind, such a constitution would be productive of endless disturbances, the universal law of almost every nation, which

* 2 Comm. 10.


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is a kind of secondary law of nature-has either given the dying person a power of continuing his property, by disposing of his possession by will, or in case he neglects to dispose of it, or is not permitted to make any disposition at all, the municipal law of the country then steps in and declares who shall be the successor, representative, or heir of the deceased ;" and he further adds,-“ The right of inheritance, and descent to the children and relations of the deceased, seems to have been allowed much earlier than the right of devising by testament. We are apt to conceive at first view, that it has nature on its side; yet we often mistake for nature, what we find established by long and inveterate custom. It is certainly a wise and effectual, but clearly, a political establishment, since the permanent right of property vested in the ancestor himself, was no natural but a mere civil right.* The author seems to have been not a little confused


this subject. He has reckoned the right of private property among the absolute rights, which he says belongs to every individual, whether in society or out of it, and says it is probably derived from nature.t Yet he appears to suppose, that in its progress before it could become permanent, it ceased to be a natural, and became a mere civil right. Believing it, therefore, to have

a become a mere civil right, the creature of civil institutions, he very consistently supposes, that thereafter every legitimate mode of acquisition and disposal, the transfer of the right and mode by which it passes from one to another, must originate solely in the same institutions.

But it has been clearly proved, that the right of property originates in natural principles, independent of civil institutions, and is permanently established in society by the laws of nature, which are the sure foundation of all institutions, civil and political. It is therefore a reasonable conclusion, that the laws of nature reach also future acquisitions and disposals, and embrace the cases under consideration, to the exclusion of that constitution, which, as the author well observes, would be productive of endless disturbances; and that the almost universal

* 2 Comm. p. 10, 12.

+1 Comm. 123, 138.

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