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pay their tax to the Governor. The omission of this is punished by torture or by death: and in case of their inability to supply the impost, the inhabitants fly from the island. So many emigrations of this sort happen during the year, that the population of Cyprus rarely exceeds 60,000 persons, a number formerly insufficient to have peopled one of its towns.”
These remarks, suggested by a survey of the actual condition of European nations, shew that unless property is secured to the rightful owners,--that is, to the persons by whose industry and labour it is acquired, mankind would remain inactive and degraded. It is not so much wealth, as the secure possession of it, that forms the incentive to persevering exertion and enterprise.
It was observed, that it was labour originally that constitutes the right of property. Though in an early stage of society all the members of the community possessed all things in common, it would soon be found that all would be more active, and, consequently, that there would be a much greater abundance acquired, if each were allowed to have an exclusive property in the fruits of his own industry. The hunter, the fisher, the herdsman would become more careful and dexterous, when they found that their subsistence depended on their success ;-and their industry would be stimulated, not merely by the prospect of food, but by the consequence which they would gradually assume in the community, from their power of procuring a greater supply of the necessaries of life. This would introduce a degree of inequality in circumstances; and this inequality, from the operation
of the same cause being gradually on the increase, would render it necessary to appropriate the houses and land which at first were enjoyed in common. On general grounds it would seem that in this division he would have the best right to a field by whom it was first cleared and cultivated ; and he who built a house would have an exclusive right to possess it. But the circumstances in which the children of such parents came into the world were very different from those in which their fathers were placed; and this change of circumstances would give rise to a new set of laws regulating the succession of property. The parents had laboured, and the accumulation of their property was the result of their labour ; but to whom should this property descend, but to those whom Providence has rendered so entirely dependent on their protection? The principles of equity, then, as well as the most comprehensive views of general expediency, would allot the field which the father by his labour had made fertile to the son.
Many are the advantages which arise from the institution of property, and even from that inequality which it occasions; and though the number of inconveniences may be unnecessarily augmented among a people who have arrived at a high degree of civilization, the benefits which, on the whole, accompany this order of things, are essential to the progressive improvement and happiness of mankind. Without the institution of property,–
I. None could ever enjoy abundance. This were true if our earth were as fertile as paradise. For, on the supposition that there were no exclusive and indi
vidual right, the fruit would be gathered before it came to maturity, and animals killed before they were fit for food : for, who would protect what was not his own; or, who would economize, when all the stores of nature were open to him? There would be a strange mixture of plenty, waste, and famine. Paley illustrates this, by remarking, that in this country, where the only common property consists in hedge-nuts and blackberries, they are seldom allowed to ripen.
But in truth, our earth produces comparatively little without cultivation. And who would labour to make it fruitful unless they were assured of being allowed to share in its fruits? What husbandman would sow if he were deprived of the hope that he should also reap? And what would be the consequence of such an order of things, but that the scanty and miserable population would be reduced to the extremest want?
II. Without the institution of property, the fruits and conveniences of industry, which are so essential to the improvement of the species, could have had no existence. The division of labour, which has tended to elevate man as a moral and intellectual being, is but one of these fruits; and yet, how many comforts does this put within the reach of the poorest inhabitant of a civilized country. The accommodation of those in the lowest ranks of life, as is forcibly observed by Dr. Adam Smith, is the product of the united industry of many people.
“ Without the assistance and co-operation of many thousands, the very meanest person in a civilized country could not be provided, even according to what we very falsely imagine the easy and simple manner in which he is commonly accommodated. Compared, indeed, with the more extravagant luxury of the great, his accommodation must, no doubt, appear extremely simple and easy; and yet it may be true, perhaps, that the accommodation of an European Prince does not always so much exceed that of an industrious and frugal peasant as the accommodation of the latter exceeds that of many an African King, the absolute master of the lives and liberties of ten thousand naked savages."
If there had been no appropriation of property, all men must have continued to till the ground, that they might procure a scanty and insecure subsistence: there could have been no part of the produce of the earth reserved for mere intellectual labourers; and thus the poets, philosophers, and legislators, who have exalted our common nature, would not have had the opportunity of transmitting to succeeding generations the lights of genius and of science.
These are thy blessings, Industry! rough power!
And wrapt him in the woolly vestment warm;
If the institution of property has produced effects so numerous and valuable, we must believe that its existence is owing, not to casual circumstances, but to the will of God; and it would, therefore, be surprising, if, in a revelation of his will, there should be no mention of an ordinance so essential to the moral improvement and happiness of man. Of the ten commandments of the law, one has an exclusive reference to the right of property; and enjoins the duty of refraining from appropriating to ourselves the property of our neighbours. From other parts of the sacred volume we learn, that there is much implied in the performance of this duty,—that we are bound to shun fraud in all its forms,-and every art by which we might injure either directly or indirectly the property of others. The precept obviously prohibits the detention in whole or in part of the hire of the labourer, the acquisition of gain by base and unlawful means, and the reception of bribes in the discharge of important trusts. Among the offences which exclude from the kingdom of heaven, the unrepented commission of injustice in relation to the property of others is enumerated: “ Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God ?"
However painfully the inequalities arising out of the institution of property may press on some individuals, there are obvious considerations, besides its