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using it, and no longer: thus the ground was in common, and no part of it was the permanent property of any man in particular; yet whoever was in the occupation of any determined spot of it, for rest, for shade, or the like, acquired, for the time, a sort of ownership, from which it would have been unjust, and contrary to the law of nature to have driven him by force; but the instant he quitted the use or occupation of it, another might seize it without injustice. Thus also a vine or other tree might be said to be in common, as all men were equally entitled to its produce; and yet any private individual might gain the sole property of the fruit, which he had gathered for his own repast. A doctrine well illustrated by Cicero, who compares the world to a great theatre, which is common to the public, and yet the place which any man has taken is for the time his own.
But when mankind increased in number, craft, and ambition, it became necessary to entertain conceptions of more permanent dominion, and to appropriate to individuals not the immediate use only, but the very substance of the thing to be used. Otherwise innumerable tumults must have arisen, and the good order of the world been continually broken and disturbed, while a variety of persons were striving who should get the first occupation of the same thing, or disputing which of them had actually gained it. As human life grew more refined, abundance of conveniences were devised to render it more easy, commodious and agreeable; as, habitations for shelter and safety, and raiment for warmth
and decency. But no man would be at the trouble to provide either, so long as he had only an usufructuary property in them, which was to cease the instant that he quitted possession : if, as soon as he walked out of his tent, or pulled off his garment, the next stranger that came by would have a right to inhabit the one and to wear the other. In the case of habitations in particular, it was natural to observe, that even the brute creation, to whom every thing else was in common, maintained a kind of permanent property in their dwellings, especially for the protection of their young; that the birds of the air had nests, and the beasts of the field had caverns, the invasion of which they esteemed a very flagrant injustice, and would sacrifice their lives to preserve them. Hence a property was soon established in every man's house and homestall: which seem to have been originally mere temporary huts or moveable cabins, suited to the design of Providence for more speedily peopling the earth, and suited to the wandering life of the owners, before any extensive property in the ground or soil was established. And there can be no doubt but that moveables of every kind became sooner appropriated than the permanent substantial soil: partly because they were more susceptible of a long occupancy, which might be continued for months together without any sensible interruption, and at length by usage ripen in: to an established right: but principally because few of them could be fit for use, till improved and meliorated by the bodily, labour of the occupant: which bodily, labour, bestowed upon any subject which be
fore lay in common to all men, is universally allowed to give the fairest and most reasonable title to an exclusive property therein. The article of food was a more immediate call, and therefore a more early consideration. Such, as were not contented with the spontaneous product of the earth, sought a more solid refreshment in the flesh of beasts, which they obtained by hunting. But the frequent disappointments, incident to that method of provision, induced them to gather together such animals as were of a more tame and sequacious nature; and to establish a permanent property in their flocks and herds, in order to sustain themselves in a less precarious manner, partly by the milk of the dams, and partly by the flesh of the young. The support of these their cattle made the article of water also a very important point. And therefore the book of Genesis, the most venerable monument of antiquity, considered merely with a view to history, will furnish us with frequent instances of violent contentions concerning wells; the exclusive property of which appears to have been established in the first digger or occupant, even in such places where the ground and herbage remained yet in common. Thus we find Abraham, who was but a sojourner, asserting his right to a well in the country of Abimelech, and exacting an oath for his security, because he had digged that well. And Isaac, about ninety years afterwards, reclaimed this, his father's property; and after much contention with the Philistines, was suffered to enjoy
it in peace.
" BYRON,” FROM POLLOK'S COURSE OF
With Nature's self
His flight sublime, and on the loftiest top
Because there was no more to drink.