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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
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, al 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 thé 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 being the declared will of God, to induce them cheerfully to acquiesce, and steadfastly to practise the things that are just and honest. Though they have nothing to depend on but their industry, while many around them have been born to fortunes, they surely cannot fare worse than if these fortunes had not been made by the savings of successive generations. Would they have been better fed or more comfortably clothed if mankind had possessed all things in common ;-and if in place of having moved onwards to the habits and the accommodations of civilized life, they had continued to nestle in the cavern, and to cover themselves in the skins of animals? Do they complain that they have nothing, while others by their superabundance are elevated above manual labour? Let them remember that but for the institution of property, and that consequent inequality of circumstances which necessarily accompanies it, this surplus could never have existence ;—there could, therefore, have been no fund for rewarding industry; all would be on the same level of penury and wretchedness; all would often be in want, and none would have permanent plenty; all would be poor, and none could possibly become rich. The poorest among us would be poorer than they now are, with the additional inconvenience of finding their industry of little use to them, while all around them presented a scene of misery.
The children of the poorest parents in a civilized country are born to no inconsiderable inheritance ; to an inheritance of far greater value than that of an African Prince the absolute master of the lives and liberties of ten thousand naked savages. How su
perior is their habitation, their food, their clothing, and their attendance, from what they could have had if the rights of property had never existed. In such a country as our own, where the blessings of an elementary education are within the reach of all, and where the restrictions on trade are slender and few, every man has the fair prospect of obtaining, as the reward of his industry, a sufficiency for himself and his family. He who has health to labour, and who has the opportunity of selling his labour to the best advantage, has it in his power to place himself above indigence. Nor will it be doubted, that he who obtains this blessing as the reward of his labour, has much greater happiness in its acquisition, than he whose fortune has been accumulated by others;-so that in place of repining at what he might otherwise regard as an unequal distribution of Providence, he has much ground for thankfulness that the preponderance of substantial enjoyment is so decidedly in his favour.
The duty of acting with honesty towards the property of others, and of cultivating a contented state of mind, may, on these grounds alone, be enforced. But revelation suggests many other views to reconcile us to the practice of this duty. It teaches us that the providence of God, which ruleth over all, makes man the special object of its care; that He who feeds the raven when he cries, and clothes with beauty the grass of the field, will support him under necessities and distresses, and supply the means for their removal; and that the trials and sufferings of the present state are overruled; for promoting his real and everlasting good. It teaches us to look for our chief happiness to higher sources of enjoyment than this world can afford; while it presents to the contempla: tion of our faith a new heaven and a new earth, “ where there shall be no more death, neither sorrow nor crying, neither any more pain; the former things having passed away."
IN WHAT DOES THE RIGHT OF PROPERTY CONSIST ?
DIFFERENT solutions have been given of the question, In what does the right of property consist ?—and they all appear to contain a portion of truth. That principle, doubtless, affords the just solution which unites these together, and to which, as a general law, they are referrible.
Some moralists are of opinion, that the right of property consists in what may be called the general consent of mankind;—that when a particular person was allowed to occupy a piece of ground, others, by tacit consent, relinquished their right to it;—tha as the piece of ground belonged to mankind collectively, they, when they permitted the first peaceable occupier to remain on it, ceased to have any claim on it. This opinion resolves itself into the right of possession ; a right, which, for the greater part, it is expedient to consider as valid in a civilized country.
Others are of opinion, and of this number is Locke, that each man's labour is his own exclusively: that