Excerpt from The Princeton Review, Vol. 58: January-June, 1882
This is of course said upon the presumption that the labor has been employed on a substance to which no other person had previously acquired a claim by labor bestowed. If one labors upon a substance to which such a Claim has been previously established, he will not acquire ownership till he extinguishes that claim by an equivalent, to the satisfaction of the previous owner. It is only acquired by labor bestowed on that which before was free to all, whereby it has been rendered service able to human well-being as it was not before.
To this law land is equally subject as all other material things. The reason of the law holds in respect to land as truly as in respect to anything else. There are some substances which, under ordinary conditions, never are owned. Air and water are such. Yet when labor must be exerted to make water contribute to human use, when it must be obtained from wells dug deep in the earth, or carried to a distance from the source of supply, it just as naturally becomes the property of an individual as wheat or vegetables. It is not perhaps im possible to suppose a case in which a certain portion of the atmosphere has undergone modification by the application of labor to fit it for some special use; if so it would also become private property.
What may sometimes happen in respect to these two univer sal gifts of the Creator to all, in respect to land always does happen. It is precisely here that the opponents of the private ownership of land lay the whole stress of their argument. Land say they, as truly as air and water, is God's free gift to all alike, and therefore cannot be the exclusive property of any. It is also precisely here that their argument breaks down. Land never is found in its natural condition to be fit for human use. It must be prepared for cultivation by processes which are always laborious, and often exceedingly costly. The rank and useless growths of nature must be exterminated, channels for drainage must be opened, and it must be protected from the incursions of brute animals both wild and tame by suitable fences. Buildings must also be erected for the use of its culti vators. In this necessity is found the natural foundation for the private ownership of land. The Creator has given land to the human race under very different conditions from those under which he has given air and water.
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