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HÉ former book of these commentaries having treated at large of the jura perfonarum, or such rights and duties as are annexed to the persons
of men, the objects of our inquiry in this second book will be the jura rerum, or, those rights which a man may acquire in and to such external things as are unconnected with his person. These are what the writers on natural law stile the rights of dominion, or property, concerning the nature and original of which I shall first premise a few observations, before I proceed to distribute and consider, it's several objects. VOL. II.
· There is nothing which fo generally strikes the imagina. tion, and engages the affections of mankind, as the right of property; or that sole and despotic dominion which one man claims and exercises over the external things of the world, in total exclusion of the right of any other individual in the universe. And yet there are very few, that will give themselves the trouble to consider the original and foundation of this right. Pleased as we are with the poffeffion, we seem afraid to look back to the means by which it was 'acquired, as if fearful of fome defect in our title ; or at best we rest fatisfied with the decision of the laws in our favour, without examining the reason or authority upon which those laws have been built. We think it enough that our title is derived by the grant of the former proprietor, by descent from our ancestors, or by the last will and testament of the dying owner ; not caring to reflect that (accurately and strictly speaking) there is no foundation in nature or in natural law, why a fet of words upon parchment should convey the dominion of land; why the fon should have a right to exclude his fellow creatures from a determinate spot of ground, because his father had done fo before him; or why the occupier of a particular field or of a jewel, when lying on his death-bed and no longer able to maintain possession, should be entitled to tell the rest of the world which of them should enjoy it after him. These inquiries, it must be owned, would be useless and even troublesome in common life. It is well if the mass of mankind will obey the laws when made, without scrutinizing too nicely into the reasons of making them. But, when law is to be considered not only as matter of practice, but also as a rational science, it cannot be improper or useless to examine more deeply the rudiments and grounds of these positive conftitutions of society.
In the beginning of the world, we are informed by holy writ, the all-bountiful creator gave to man " dominion over o all the earth; and over the fish of the sea, and over the 6 fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth
upon the earth.”. This is the only true and folid foun dation of man's dominion over externál things, whatever airy metaphysical notions may have been started by fanciful writers upon this subject. The earth therefore, and all things therein, are the general property of all mankind, exo clufive of other beings, from the immediate gift of the creator. And, while the earth continued bare of inhabitants, it is reasonable to suppose, that all was in common among them,, and that every one took from the public stock to his own use such things as his immediate necessities required.
THESE general notions of property were then sufficient to anfwer all the purposes of human life; and might perhaps still have answered them, had it been poffible for mankind to have remained in a state of primaeval fimplicity: as may be collected from the manners of many American nations when first discovered by the Europeans; and from the antient method of living among the first Europeans themselves, if we may credit either the memorials of them preserved in the golden age of the poets, or the uniform accounts given by historian's of those times, wherein “ erant omnia communia et indivisa « omnibus, veluti unum cunctis patrimonium effet 6." Not that this communion of goods seems ever to have been applicable, even in the earliest ages, to ought but the substance of the thing; nor could it be extended to the use of it. For, by the law of nature and reason, he, who first began to use it, acquired therein a kind of transient property, that lasted so long as he was using it, and no longer : or, to speak with greater precision, the right of poffeffion continued for the fame time only that the act of poffeffion lasted. 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 determinate 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 that he