landlord, Mr. William Scully, owning now 75,000 acres of the richest land in Illinois. It means the Maxwell Land Grant embracing in a single title 1,714,96494⁄100 acres of land. It means the half of England owned by some five thousand persons. It means Ireland. It means the crowded tenement-houses and the vacant lots of Manhattan Island. This reason of Prof. Sumner for allowing private property in land, as we now have it, is like that of the people in Lamb’s fable who burned down houses in order to roast their pig.
Whoever reflects upon this subject, however, will be likely to reserve his opinion till he has compared land as a subject of absolute property with other things. Here George and his opponents start from the same point. They, not less strenuously than he, insist that property in material things is sacred because founded upon a natural right which the positive laws may recognize, protect, and secure, but which they do not create, and cannot rightfully impair or take away. Generically, all natural rights may be grouped in one phrase, — the right as against all others of each man to himself, unlimited save by the equal correlative rights of others. A right to one’s self, — the idea plainly connotes a right (as against and to the exclusion of others) to what one acquires by the exertion of his natural faculties, whether mental or physical; plainly also a right to enjoy what is so acquired in any way one pleases, to use it, to give it away, to will it away, to exchange it for something more desired (provided another can be found willing to join in the exchange), and to hold what is received on exchange by its original title; and also a right in donee, legatee, and vendee to hold what they receive; and this is what is signified by the word property, whatever material thing it is applied to. Now, land can be acquired by the exercise of one’s natural faculties as really and effectually as can any other physical thing, e. g., a marble statue; for possession can be taken of it, the trees on it can be felled, the roots dug up, the weeds destroyed, the moisture drained off, the stones removed, the soil made mellow by the plough and rich with manure, — acts essentially similar to the quarrying of the marble and the chiselling of it into form. In neither case is any matter created, that being beyond man’s power to do. In both cases possession is taken and form is changed by brain-directed
- George, “Protection or Free Trade,” p. 129.
- Maxwell Land Grant Case, 121 U.S. 325.