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manner, inculcates, when he bids his disciples 'gather up the fragments that nothing be lost. And it opens indeed a new field of duty. Schemes of wealth or profit prompt the active part of mankind to cast about, how they may convert their property to the most advantage ; and their own advantage, and that of the Public, commonly concur. But it has not as yet entered into the minds of mankind, to reflect that it is a duty to add what we can to the common stock of provision, by extracting out of our estates the most they will yield; or that it is any sin to neglect this.
From the same intention of God Almighty, we also deduce another conclusion, namely, 'that nothing ought to be made exclusive property, which can be conveniently enjoyed in common.'
It is the general intention of God Almighty, that the produce of the earth be applied to the use of Man. This appears from the constitution of nature, or, if you will, from his express declaration; and this is all that appears at first. Under this general donation, one man has the same right as another. You pluck an apple from a tree, or take a lamb from a flock, for • your immediate use and nourishment, and. I do the same ; and we both plead for what we do, the general intention of the Supreme Proprietor. So far all is right: but you cannot claim the whole tree, or the whole flock, and exclude me from any share of them, and plead this general intention for what you do. The plea will not serve you ; you must show something more. You must show, by probable arguments at least, that it is God's intention, that these things should be parcelled out to individuals ; and that the established distribution, under which you claim, should be upholden. Show me this, and I am satisfied. But until this be shown, the general intention, which has been made appear, and which is all that does appear, must prevail; and, under that, my title is as good as yours. Now there is no argument to induce such a presumption, but one; that the thing cannot be enjoyed at all, or enjoyed with the same, or with nearly the same advantage, while it continues in common, as when appropriated. This is true, where there is not enough for all, or where the article in question requires care or labour in the production or preservation : but where no such reason obtains, and the thing is in its nature capable of being enjoyed by as many as will, it seems an arbitrary usurpation upon the rights of mankind to confine the use of it to any.
If a medicinal spring were discovered in a piece of ground which was private property, copious enough for every purpose to which it could be applied, I would award a compensation to the owner of the field, and a liberal profit to the author of the discovery, especially if he had bestowed pains or expense upon the search : but I question whether any human laws would be justified, or would justify the owner, in prohibiting mankind from the use of the water, or setting such a price upon it as would almost amount to a prohibition.
If there be fisheries, which are inexhaustible, as the cod-fishery upon the banks of Newfoundland, and the herring-fishery in the British Seas, are said to be; then all those conventions, by which one or two nations claim to themselves, and guarantee to each other, the exclusive enjoyment of these fisheries, are so many encroachments upon the general rights of mankind.
Upon the same principle may be determined a question, which makes a great figure in books of natural law, utrum mare sit liberum ? that is, as I understand it, whether the exclusive right of navigating particular seas, or a control over the navigation of these seas, can be claimed, consistently with the law of nature, by any nation? What is necessary for each nation's safety, we allow; as their own bays, creeks, and harbours, the sea contiguous to, that is, within cannon-shot, or three leagues of their coast: and upon this principle of safety (if upon any principle), must be defended the claim of the Venetian State to the Adriatic, of Denmark to the Baltic Sea, and of Great Britain to the seas which invest the island. But, when Spain asserts a right to the Pacific Ocean, or Portugal to the Indian Seas, or when any nation extends its pretensions much beyond the limits of its own territories, they erect a claim which interferes with the benevolent designs of Providence, and which no human authority can justify.
3. Another right, which may be called a general right, as it is incidental to every man who is in a situation to claim it, is the right of extreme necessity ; by which is meant, a right to use or destroy another's property, when it is necessary for our own preservation to do so; as a right to take, without or against the owner's leave, the first food, clothes, or shelter we meet with, when we are in danger of perishing through want of them ; a right to throw goods overboard to save the ship; or to pull down a house, in order to stop the progress of a fire; and a few other instances of the same kind. Of which right the foundation seems to be this: that when property was first instituted, the institution was not intended to operate to the destruction of any; therefore when such consequences would follow, all regard to it is superseded. Or rather, perhaps, these are the few cases, where the particular consequence exceeds the general consequence; where the remote mischief resulting from the violation of the general rule is overbalanced by the immediate advantage.
Restitution however is due, when in our power : because the laws of property are to be adhered to, so far as consists with safety; and because restitution, which is one of those laws, supposes the danger to be over. But what is to be restored ? Not the full value of the property destroyed, but what it was worth at the time of destroying it ; which, considering the danger it was in of perishing, might be very little.
'It seems to me .... that we are beholden for it to the per
mission recorded in Scripture.' It seems left doubtful whether this permission is restricted to those who know of it; or whether (which surely is paradoxical) a course of conduct which would be unjustifiable but for a certain express permission, is justifiable in those—the far greater part of mankind—who never heard of any such permission.
The converting of Manors into a forest ...; or, which is not
much better, suffering them to continue in that state.'
This incidental remark was probably thrown' out hastily and without thought. A very little reflection will show how widely different are the two things here spoken of as nearly alike. To throw out of cultivation land already productive, is a positive loss. Leaving waste-land as it is, is merely the absence of a
possible gain. The one procedure, if carried on to any considerable extent, would cause ruin to the occupiers, and distress to the whole community: the other is merely negative, and hurts nobody. It is only as if our island had been originally just so much smaller ; in which case, though less powerful, there is no reason to suppose it would have been less prosperous. There is no one, probably, who would think of assigning as a cause of any distress that may exist in Great Britain, the circumstance of the Island being no bigger than it is; though if a large portion of the existing island were swallowed up by the sea, this would cause great distress : and if on the contrary it were enlarged by an extensive tract of fertile land rising up from the adjoining sea, this would be a source of wealth, till the new land had become as fully populated as the old.
· The expenditure of human food on superfluous dogs or horses.'
This maxim seems to forbid the keeping of horses at all, except such as are indispensable for agriculture and travelling. For, the oats which they eat are (as Dr. Johnson records) 'food for men in Scotland.' But indeed the same may be said to be, virtually, the case with all the food of horses. For though the clover, for instance, which they eat is not itself human food, it is purposely cultivated for them in land which might otherwise bear such vegetables as do afford human food.
The cultivation of a flower-garden would be forbidden by the same rule.
But Paley's extreme anxiety for the greatest possible multiplication of the human species led him to overlook some circumstances of great importance to human welfare. When a dearth arises, a nation which has been living on a system which Paley would condemn as wasteful, has a resource to resort to. Part of the barley which had been raised for brewing, and of the oats which had been destined for horses, may be used as food for man. And land which had been kept as pasture or pleasure-ground may be broken up for the cultivation of articles of human nutriment. But a people who have been accustomed in ordinary seasons to make the most of everything that can sustain Man's life, have nothing for it, when a season of famine comes, but to sit down and die. In the fable of the Frogs seeking Water, when it was proposed to jump down into a deep well, the wisest of their party objected : “if the water in this dries up, where can we go next? being at the bottom of a well, we must perish.'
In his second volume—that on Political Philosophy, Paley puts forth more fully the doctrine which was, till of late years, the prevailing one respecting population. He teaches that the direct encouragement of population is the object which in all countries ought to be aimed at, in preference to every other political purpose whatever. And this is to be done by inducing the mass of the people to content themselves with the lowest description of food, clothing, and dwellings that are compatible with a bare subsistence. The result is; such a. condition as that of the chief portion of the population in many parts of India, and in some of the worst districts of Ireland a few years ago. Indeed India and Ireland are the very countries Paley refers to with approbation. You have a swarming population, very poor, debased, and leading a life approaching that of savages. This is the state of things in ordinary seasons. But when there comes a failure in the ricecrop or the potato-crop, the people having nothing to fall back upon, perish by myriads from famine and its attendant diseases.
It must be remembered, however, in Paley's favour, that the above doctrine was nearly universal, up to the time when Malthus wrote. And even now, persons may be found among what are called the educated classes,' who decry that eminent and most valuable writer. They do not indeed disprove his facts, or answer his arguments. In truth, one might as well talk of answering Euclid. But they misrepresent him ; which is easily done, to those who judge of a book merely from hearsay. And they allude to him as an author long since so thoroughly refuted and exploded as not to be worth notice: which is what may easily be said,—though not always so easily proved,-of anything whatever.
But Paley, as I have said, is only maintaining the erroneous notions, which, up to his time, had never received, as they have since, a clear refutation.