Friday, September 23, 2011

Kent on Property

“The sense of property is inherent in the human breast, and the gradual enlargement and cultivation of that sense, from its feeble force in the savage state, to its full vigour and maturity among polished nations, forms a very instructive portion of the history of civil society. Man was fitted and intended by the Author of his being, for society and government, and for the acquisition and enjoyment of property. It is, to speak correctly, the law of his nature ; and by obedience to this law, he brings all his faculties into exercise, and is enabled to display the various and exalted powers of the human mind.”

“Occupancy, doubtless, gave the first title to property in lands and moveables. It is the natural and original method of acquiring it ; and upon the principles of universal law, that title continues so long as occupancy continues. There is no person, even in his rudest state, who does not feel and acknowledge, in a greater or less degree, the justice of this title. The right of property, founded on occupancy, is suggested to the human mind, by feeling and reason, prior to the influence of positive institutions.”

“There have been modern theorists, who have considered separate and exclusive property, and inequalities of property, as the cause of injustice, and the unhappy result of government and artificial institutions. But human society would be in a most unnatural and miserable condition, if it were possible to be instituted or reorganized upon the basis of such speculations. The sense of property is graciously bestowed on mankind, for the purpose of rousing them from sloth, and stimulating them to action ; and so long as the right of acquisition is exercised in conformity to the social relations, and the moral obligations which spring from them, it ought to be sacredly protected. The natural and active sense of property pervades the foundations of social improvement. It leads to the cultivation of the earth, the institution of government, the establishment of justice, the acquisition of the comforts of life, the growth of the useful arts, the spirit of commerce, the productions of taste, the erections of charity, and the display of the benevolent affections.”

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