« PreviousContinue »
God's immediate donation, Gen. i. 28, and that of fatherhood from the act of begetting. Now in all inheritance, if the heir succeed not to the reason upon which his father's right was founded, he cannot succeed to the right which followeth from it. For example, Adam had a right of property in the creatures upon the donation and grant of God Almighty, who was lord and proprietor of them all: let this be so our author tells us, yet upon his death his heir can have no title to them, no such right of property in them, unless the same reason, viz. God's donation, vested a right in the heir too: for if Adam could have had no property in, nor use of the creatures, without this positive donation from God, and this donation were only personally to Adam, his heir could have no right by it; but upon his death it must revert to God, the lord and owner again; for positive grants give no title farther than the express words convey it, and by which only it is held. And thus, if, as our author himself contends, that donation, Gen. i. 28, were made only to Adam personally, his heir could not succeed to his property in the creatures : and if it were a donation to any but Adam, let it be shown that it was to his heir in our author's sense, i. e. to one of his children, exclusive of all the rest.
8 86. But not to follow our author too far out of the way, the plain of the case is this : God having made man, and planted in him, as in all other animals, a strong desire of self-preservation, and furnished the world with things fit for food and raiment, and other necessaries of life, subscrvient to his design, that man should live and abide for some time upon the face of the carth, and not that so curious and wonderful a piece of workmanship, by his own negligence, or want of necessaries, should perish again, presently after a few moments continuance; God, I say, having made man and the world thus, spoke to him, (that is) directed him by his senses and reason, as he did the inferior animals by their sense and insti which were serviceable for his subgistence, and given him as the means of his preservation ; and there
fore I doubt not, but before these words were pronounced, Gen. i. 28, 29, (if they must be understood literally to have been spoken) and without any such verbal donation, man had a right to an use of the creatures, by the will and grant of God: for the desire, strong desire, of preserving his life and being, having been planted in him as a principle of action by God himself, reason, “ which was the voice of God in him," could not but teach him and assure him that pursuing that natural inclination he had to preserve his being, he followed the will of his Maker, and therefore had a right to make use of those creatures which by his rea. son or senses he could discover would be serviceable thereunto. And thus man's property in the creatures was founded upon the right he had to make use of those things that were necessary or useful to his being.
8 87. This being the reason and foundation of Adam's property, gave the same title on the same ground to all his children, not only after his death, but in his life. time: so that here was no privilege of his heir above his other children, which could exclude them from an equal right to the use of the inferior creatures, for the comfortable preservation of their beings, which is all the property man hath in them; and so Adam's sovereignty built on property, or, as our author calls it, private dominion, comes to nothing. Every man had a right to the creatures by the same title Adam had, viz. by the right every one had to take care of and provide for their subsistence: and thus men had a right in common, Adam's children in common with him. But if any one had begun, and made himself a property in any particular thing, (which how he, or any one else, could do, shall be shown in another place) that thing, that possession, if he disposed not otherwise of it by his positive grant, descended naturally to his children, and they had a right to succeed to it and possess it.
$ 88. It might reasonably be asked here, how come children by this right of possessing, before any other, the properties of their parents upon their decease? for it being personally the parents, when they die, without actually transferring their right to another, why doesit not
return again to the common stock of mankind ? It will perhaps be answered, that common consent hath disposed of it to their children. Common practice, we see indeed, does so dispose of it; but we cannot say that it is the common consent of mankind; for that hath never been asked, nor actually given; and if common tacit consent hath established it, it would make but a positive, and not a natural right of children to inherit the goods of their parents : but where the practice is universal, it is reasonable to think the cause is natural. The ground then I think to be this: the first and strongest desire God planted in men, and wrought into the very principles of their nature, being that of self-preservation, that is the foundation of a right to the creatures for the particular support and use of each individual person
himself. But, next to this, God planted in men a strong desire also of propagating their kind, and continuing themselves in their posterity; and this gives children a title to share in the property of their parents, and a right to inherit their possessions. Men are not proprietors of what they have, merely for themselves; their children have a title to part of it, and have their kind of right joined with their parents in the possession, which comes to be wholly theirs, when death, having put an end to their parents' use of it, hath taken them from their possessions; and this we call inheritance: men being by a like obligation bound to preserve what they have begotten, as to preserve themselves, their issue come to have a right in the goods they are possessed of. That children have such a right is plain from the laws of God; and that men are convinced that children have such a right is evident from the law of the land; both which laws require parents to provide for their children.
$ 89. For children being by the course of nature born weak, and unable to provide for themselves, they have by the appointment of God himself, who hath thus ordered the course of nature, a right to be nourished and maintained by their parents ; nay, a right not only to a bare subsistence, but to the conveniencies and comforts of life, as far as the conditions of their parents
can afford it. Hence it comes, that when their parents leave the world, and so the care due to their children ceases, the effects of it are to extend as far as possibly they can, and the provisions they have made in their lifetime are understood to be intended, as nature requires they should, for their children, whom, after themselves, they are bound to provide for: though the dying parents, by express words, declare nothing about them, nature appoints the descent of their property to their children, who thus come to have a title, and natural right of inheritance to their fathers' goods, which the rest of mankind cannot pretend to.
§ 90. Were it not for this right of being nourished and maintained by their parents, which God and nature has given to children, and obliged parents to as a duty, it would be reasonable that the father should inherit the estate of his son, and be preferred in the inheritance before his grandchild : for to the grandfather there is due a long score of care and expenses laid out upon the breeding and education of his son, which one would think in justice ought to be paid. But that having been done in obedience to the same law, whereby he received nourishment and education from his own parents; this score of education, received from a man's father, is paid by taking care and providing for his own children; is paid, I say, as much as is required of payment by alteration of property, unless present necessity of the parents require a return of goods for their necessary support and subsistence: for we are not now speaking of that reverence, acknowledgment, respect, and honour, that is always due from children to their parents; but of possessions and commodities of life valuable by money. But though it be incumbent on parents to bring up and provide for their children, yet this debt to their children does not quite cancel the score to their parents; but only is made by nature preferable to it: for the debt a man owes his father takes place, and gives the father a right to inherit the son's goods, where, for want of issue, the right of issue doth not exclude that title; and therefore a man having a right to be maintained by his children, where he needs it, and to enjoy also the com
forts of life from them, when the necessary provision due to them and their children will afford it; if his son die without issue, the father has a right in nature to possess his goods and inherit his estate, (whatever the municipal laws of some countries may absurdly direct otherwise); and so again his children and their issue from him; or, for want of such, his father and his issue. But where no such are to be found, i. e. no kindred, there we see the possessions of a private man revert to the community, and so in politic societies come into the hands of the public magistrate; but in the state of nature become again perfectly common, nobody having a right to inherit them : nor can any one have a property in them, otherwise than in any other things common by nature; of which I shall speak in its due place.
$ 91. I have been the larger, in showing upon what ground children have a right to succeed to the possession of their fathers' properties, not only because by it, it will appear, that if Adam had a property (a titular, insignificant, useless property; for it could be no better, for he was bound to nourish and maintain his children and posterity out of it) in the whole earth and its product; yet all his children coming to have, by the law of nature, and right of inheritance, a joint title, and a right of property in it after his death, it could convey no right of sovereignty to any one of his posterity over the rest; since every one having a right of inheritance to his portion, they might enjoy their inheritance, or any part of it, in common, or share it, or some parts of it, by division, as it best liked them. But no one could pretend to the whole inheritance, or any sovereignty supposed to accompany it; since a right of inheritance gave every one of the rest, as well as any one, a title to share in the goods of his father. Not only upon this account, I say, have I been so particular in examining the reason of children's inheriting the property of their fathers, but also because it will give us farther light in the inheritance of rule and power, which in countries where their particular municipal laws give the whole possession of land entirely to the first-born, and descent of power has gone so to men by this custom, that some