« EelmineJätka »
But without a reasonable degree of security in the enjoyment of property, who would undergo the toil and the trouble necessary to its attainment? Who would relinquish that indolence which is so natural to man, and steadily pursue a course of industrious exertion: The history of society shews that the prospect of wealth is not of itself a motive sufficiently powerful, unaccompanied with the security which law and regular government afford. Hence the necessity as well as the origin of laws for securing to the rightful owner the undisturbed possession of his
proportion as such laws are impartially enforced will industry and all its fruits increase and multiply. In confirmation of this remark many illustrations might be given from the history of every civilized people,proving that in the most fertile countries the inhabitants may be poor and indolent and wretched, while on a less genial soil, they may be active, and rich, and happy.
“ Perhaps there is no part of Europe,” says a distinguished traveller, “more fruitful than the Valteline, and yet there is no country in which the peasants are more wretched. The first and principal cause is the form of government *."
" What a contrast," says Brydone, an intelligent traveller, “is there between this (Sicily) and the little uncouth country of Switzerland. To be sure the dreadful consequences of oppression can never be set in a more striking opposition to the blessings and charms of liberty. Switzerland, the very excrescence of Europe, where nature seems to have thrown out all her cold and stagnating
humours; full of lakes, marshes, and woods, and surrounded by immense rocks, and everlasting mountains of ice, the barren but sacred ramparts of liberty: -Switzerland, enjoying every blessing where every blessing seems to have been denied; whilst Sicily, covered by the most luxuriant hand of nature, where heaven seems to have showered down its richest blessings with the utmost prodigality, groans under the most abject poverty, and with a pale and wan visage starves in the midst of plenty. It is liberty alone that works this standing miracle. Under her plastic hands the mountains sink, the lakes are drained, and these rocks, these marshes, these woods."
I shall only adduce another illustration, from Dr. Clarke's Travels, to shew how much the human character is degraded, and the design of society frustrated by the insecurity of property, whether it arise from the weakness or from the oppression of the government. “ In Circassia,” he observes, “ that the sower
, scattering the seed, or the reaper who gathers the sheaves, are constantly liable to an assault; and the implements of husbandry are not more essential to the harvest than the carbine, the pistol, and the sabre.” Of the isle of Cyprus, he says,
the soil everywhere exhibited a white marly clay, said to be exceedingly rich in its nature, although neglected. The Greeks are so oppressed by their Turkish masters, that they dare not cultivate the land ; the harvest would instantly be taken away from them if they did. Their whole aim seems to be, to scrape together barely sufficient, in the course of the whole year, to 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 inconve
; niences 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