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Page:Harvard Law Review Volume 1.djvu/281

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Ireland to an equal share in the land of Ireland is equal and inalienable; that is to say, that the use and benefit of the land of Ireland belong rightfully to the whole people of Ireland; to each one as much as to every other; to no one more than to any other; not to some individuals to the exclusion of other individuals; not to one class to the exclusion of other classes; not to landlords, not to tenants, not to cultivators, but to the whole people. This right is irrefutable and indefeasible. It pertains to and springs from the fact of existence, the right to live. No law, no covenant, no agreement can bar it. One generation cannot stipulate away the rights of another generation. If the whole people of Ireland were to unite in bargaining away their right in the land, how could they justly bargain away the right of the child who the next moment is born? No one can bargain away what is not his; no one can stipulate away the rights of another. And if the new-born infant has an equal right to life, then has it an equal right to land. Its warrant, which comes direct from nature, and which sets aside all human laws and title-deeds, is the fact that it is born.”[1]

This simple deduction of a right to land belonging to every human being as against all other human beings becomes more forcible and convincing if placed in sharp contrast with the sources of the titles to land which the positive laws now uphold. “Consider for a moment [says George] the utter absurdity of the titles by which we permit to be gravely passed from John Doe to Richard Roe the right to exclusively possess the earth, giving absolute dominion as against all others. In California our land-titles go back to the Supreme Govemment of Mexico, who took from the Spanish King, who took from the Pope when he by a stroke of the pen divided lands yet to be discovered between the Spanish or Portuguese; or, if you please, they rest upon conquest. In the Eastern States they go back to treaties with Indians and grants from English kings; in Louisiana, to the Government of France; in Florida, to the Government of Spain; while in England they go back to the Norman conquerors. Everywhere not to a right which obliges, but to a force which compels. And when a title rests but on force, no complaint can be made when force annuls it. Whenever the people, having the power, choose to annul those titles, no objection can be made in the name of justice. There have existed men who had the power to hold or to give exclusive possession of

  1. “The Land Question,” chap ⅴ.