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was the property of his king-were it our custom to chain a porter to his cell on one side of the door, opposite to the kennel of the house-dog on the other, as in Athens and Rome—did we sacrifice men to the gods, or send our prisoners of war to be torn to pieces in an amphitheatre, it might be needful to enforce the doctrines here enunciated, by showing the expediency of acting upon them. But happily we live in better times; and may congratulate ourselves on having reached a phase of civilization, in which the rights of life and personal liberty no longer require inculcating
$ $ 3. Into such questions as the punishment of death, the perpetual imprisonment of criminals, and the like, we cannot here enter. These implying, as they do, antecedent infractions of the law, and being, as they are, remedial measures for a diseased moral state, belong to what has been elsewhere termed Therapeutical Ethics, with which we have now nothing to do.
THE RIGHT TO THE USE OF THE EARTH.
§ 1. Given a race of beings having like claims to pursue the objects of their desires-given a world adapted to the gratification of those desires—a world into which such beings are similarly born, and it unavoidably follows that they have equal rights to the use of this world. For if each of them “has freedom to do all that he wills provid. ed he infringes not the equal freedom of any other," then each of them is free to use the earth for the satisfaction of nis wants, provided he allows all others the same liberty.
And conversely, it is manifest that no one, or part of them, may use the earth in such a way as to prevent the rest from similarly using it; seeing that to do this is to assume greater freedom than the rest, and consequently to break the law.
$ 2. Equity, therefore, does not permit property in land. For if one portion of the earth's surface may justly become the possession of an individual, and may be held by him for his sole use and benefit, as a thing to which he has an exclusive right, then other portions of the earth's surface may be so held; and eventually the whole of the earth's surface may be so held; and our planet may lapse altogether into private hands. Observe now the dilemma to which this leads. Supposing the entire habitable globe to be so enclosed, it follows that if the landowners have a valid right to its surface, all who are not landowners, have no right at all to its surface. Hence, such can exist on the earth by sufferance only. They are all trespassers. Save by the permission of the lords of the soil, they can have no room for the soles of their feet. Nay, should the others think fit to deny them a resting. place, these landless men might equitably be expelled from the earth altogether. If, then, the assumption that land can be held as property, involves that the whole globe may become the private domain of a part of its inhabitants; and if, by consequence, the rest of its inhabitants can then exercise their faculties—can then exist even-only by consent of the landowners; it is mani. fest, that an exclusive possession of the soil necessitates an infringement of the law of equal freedom. For, men who cannot “live and move and have their being” without the leave of others, cannot be equally free wit those others.
PROPERTY IN LAND,
§ 3. Passing from the consideration of the possible, to that of the actual, we find yet further reason to deny the rectitude of property in land. It can never be pretended that the existing titles to such property are legitimate. Should any one think so, let him look in the chronicles. Violence, fraud, the prerogative of force, the claims of superior cunning—these are the sources to which those titles may be traced. The original deeds were written with the sword, rather than with the pen : not lawyers, but soldiers, were the conveyancers : blows were the current coin given in payment; and for seals, blood was used in preference to wax. Could valid claims be thus constituted ? Hardly. And if not, what becomes of the pretensions of all subsequent holders of estates so obtained ? Does sale or bequest generate a right where it did not previously exist ? Would the original claimants be nonsuited at the bar of reason, because the thing stolen from them had changed hands ? Certainly not. And if one act of transfer can give no title, can many ? No: though nothing be multiplied forever, it will not produce one. Even the law recognizes this principle. An existing holder must, if called upon, substantiate the claims of those from whom he purchased or inherited his property; and any flaw in the original parchment, even though the property should have had a score intermediate owners, quashes his right.
“But Time," say some, “is a great legalizer. Immemorial possession must be taken to constitute a legitimate claim. That which has been held from age to age as prirate property, and has been bought and sold as such, must now be considered as irrevocably belonging to individuals.” To which proposition a willing assent shall be giren when its propounders can assign it a definite meanIng. To do this, however, they must find satisfactory answers to such questions as, Ilow long does it take for what was originally a wrong to grow into a right? At what rate per annum do invalid claims become valid ? If a title gets perfect in a thousand years, how much more than perfect will it be in two thousand years ?-and so forth. For the solution of which they will require a new calculus.
Whether it may be expedient to admit claims of a certain standing, is not the point. We have here nothing to to do with considerations of conventional privilege or legislative convenience. We have simply to inquire what is the verdict given by pure equity in the matter. And this verdict enjoins a protest against every existing pretension to the individual possession of the soil; and dictates the assertion, that the right of mankind at large to the earth's surface is still valid; all deeds, customs, and laws notwithstanding.
§ 4. Not only have present land tenures an indefensible origin, but it is impossible to discover any mode in which land can become private property. Cultivation is commonly considered to give a legitimate title. He who has reclaimed a tract of ground from its primitive wildness, is supposed to have thereby made it his own. But if his right is disputed, by what system of logic can he vindicate it ? Let us listen a moment to his pleadings.
“Hallo, you Sir," cries the cosmopolite to some backwoodsman, smoking at the door of his shanty, “by what authority do you take possession of these acres that you have cleared ; round which you have put up a snake-fence, and on which you have built this log-house?”
“By what authority? I squatted here because there was no one to say nay—because I was as much at liberty lo do so as any other man. Besides, now that I have cut down the wood, and ploughed and cropped the ground
TIIE LANDOWNER'S CLAIM.
this farm is more mine than yours, or anybody's; and I mean to keep it.”
" Ay, so you all say. But I do not yet see how you have substantiated your claim. When you came here you found the land producing trees-sugar-maples, perhaps; or may be it was covered with prairie-grass and wild strawberries. Well, instead of these you made it yield wheat, or maize, or tobacco. Now I want to understand how, by exterminating one set of plants, and making the soil bear another set in their place, you have constituted yourself lord of this soil for all succeeding time."
“Oh, those natural products which I destroyed were of little or no use; whereas I caused the earth to bring forth things good for food—things that help to give life and happiness."
“Still you have not shown why such a process makes the portion of earth you have so modified yours. What is it that you have done? You have turned over the soil to a few inches in depth with a spade or a plough; you have scattered over this prepared surface a few seeds; and you have gathered the fruits which the sun, rain, and air, helped the soil to produce. Just tell me, if you please, by what magic have these acts made you sole owner of that vast mass of matter, having for its base the surface of your estate, and for its apex the centre of the globe ? all of which it appears you would monopolize to yourself and your descendants forever.”
“Well, if it isn't mine, whose is it? I have dispossessed nobody. When I crossed the Mississippi yonder, I found nothing but the silent woods. If some one else had settled here, and made this clearing, he would have had as good a right to the location as I have. I have done nothing but what any other person was at liberty to do had he come before me. Whilst they were unreclaimed, these lands belonged to all men—as much to one as to