Agrarian Justice

To preserve the benefits of what is called civilized life, and to remedyat the same time the evil which it has produced, ought to considered asone of the first objects of reformed legislation.

Whether that state that is proudly, perhaps erroneously, called civilization,has most promoted or most injured the general happiness of man is a questionthat may be strongly contested. On one side, the spectator is dazzled bysplendid appearances; on the other, he is shocked by extremes of wretchedness;both of which it has erected. The most affluent and the most miserable ofthe human race are to be found in the countries that are called civilized.

To understand what the state of society ought to be, it is necessary tohave some idea of the natural and primitive state of man; such as it is at this day among the Indians of North America. There is not, inthat state, any of those spectacles of human misery which poverty and wantpresent to our eyes in all the towns and streets in Europe.

Poverty, therefore, is a thing created by that which is called civilizedlife. It exists not in the natural state. On the other hand, the naturalstate is without those advantages which flow from agriculture, arts, scienceand manufactures.

The life of an Indian is a continual holiday, compared with the poor ofEurope; and, on the other hand it appears to be abject when compared tothe rich.

Civilization, therefore, or that which is so-called, has operated two ways:to make one part of society more affluent, and the other more wretched,than would have been the lot of either in a natural state.

It is always possible to go from the natural to the civilized state, butit is never possible to go from the civilized to the natural state. Thereason is that man in a natural state, subsisting by hunting, requires tentimes the quantity of land to range over to procure himself sustenance,than would support him in a civilized state, where the earth is cultivated.

When, therefore, a country becomes populous by the additional aids of cultivation,art and science, there is a necessity of preserving things in that state;because without it there cannot be sustenance for more, perhaps, than atenth part of its inhabitants. The thing, therefore, now to be done is toremedy the evils and preserve the benefits that have arisen to society bypassing from the natural to that which is called the civilized state.

In taking the matter upon this ground, the first principle of civilizationought to have been, and ought still to be, that the condition of every personborn into the world, after a state of civilization commences, ought notto be worse than if he had been born before that period.

But the fact is that the condition of millions, in every country in Europe,is far worse than if they had been born before civilization begin, had beenborn among the Indians of North America at the present. I will show howthis fact has happened.

It is a position not to be controverted that the earth, in its natural,cultivated state was, and ever would have continued to be, the commonproperty of the human race. In that state every manwould have been born to property. He would have been a joint life proprietorwith rest in the property of the soil, and in all its natural productions,vegetable and animal.

But the earth in its natural state, as before said, is capable of supportingbut a small number of inhabitants compared with what it is capable of doingin a cultivated state. And as it is impossible to separatethe improvement made by cultivation from the earth itself, upon which thatimprovement is made, the idea of landed property arosefrom that parable connection; but it is nevertheless true, that it is thevalue of the improvement, only, and not the earth itself, that is individualproperty.

Every proprietor, therefore, of cultivated lands, owes to the community ground-rent (for I know of no better term to express theidea) for the land which he holds; and it is from this ground-rent thatthe fund prod in this plan is to issue.

It is deducible, as well from the nature of the thing as from all the storiestransmitted to us, that the idea of landed property commenced with cultivation,and that there was no such thing, as landed property before that time. Itcould not exist in the first state of man, that of hunters. It did not existin the second state, that of shepherds: neither Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, nor Job, so far as the history of the Bible may credited in probablethings, were owners of land.

Their property consisted, as is always enumerated in flocksand herds, they traveled with them from place to place. The frequentcontentions at that time about the use of a well in the dry country of Arabia,where those people lived, also show that there was no landed property. Itwas not admitted that land could be claimed as property.

There could be no such thing as landed property originally. Man did notmake the earth, and, though he had a natural right to occupy it,he had no right to locate as his property in perpetuityany part of it; neither did the Creator of the earth open a land-office,from whence the first title-deeds should issue. Whence then, arose the ideaof landed property? I answer as before, that when cultivation began theidea of landed property began with it, from the impossibility of separatingthe improvement made by cultivation from the earth itself, upon which thatimprovement was made.

The value of the improvement so far exceeded the value of the natural earth,at that time, as to absorb it; till, in the end, the common right of allbecame confounded into the cultivated right of the individual. But thereare, nevertheless, distinct species of rights, and will continue to be,so long as the earth endures.

It is only by tracing things to their origin that we can gain rightful ideasof them, and it is by gaining such ideas that we, discover the boundarythat divides right from wrong, and teaches every man to know his own. Ihave entitled this tract "Agrarian Justice" to distinguish itfrom "Agrarian Law."

Nothing could be more unjust than agrarian law in a country improved bycultivation; for though every man, as an inhabitant of the earth, is a jointproprietor of it in its natural state, it does not follow that he is a jointproprietor of cultivated earth. The additional value made by cultivation,after the system was admitted, became the property of those who did it,or who inherited it from them, or who purchased it. It had originally noowner. While, therefore, I advocate the right, and interest myself in thehard case of all those who have been thrown out of their natural inheritanceby the introduction of the system of landed property, I equally defend theright of the possessor to the part which is his.

Cultivation is at least one of the greatest natural improvements ever madeby human invention. It has given to created earth a tenfold value. But thelanded monopoly that began with it has produced the greatest evil. It hasdispossessed more than half the inhabitants of every nation of their naturalinheritance, without providing for them, as ought to have been done, anindemnification for that loss, and has thereby created a species of povertyand wretchedness that did not exist before.

In advocating the case of the persons thus dispossessed, it is a right,and not a charity, that I am pleading for. But it is that kind of rightwhich, being neglected at first, could not be brought forward afterwardstill heaven had opened the way by a revolution in the system of government.Let us then do honor to revolutions by justice, and give currency to theirprinciples by blessings.

Having thus in a few words, opened the merits of the case, I shall now proceedto the plan I have to propose, which is,

To create a national fund, out of which there shall be paid to every person,when arrived at the age of twenty-one years, the sum of fifteen pounds sterling,as a compensation in part, for the loss of his or her natural inheritance,by the introduction of the system of landed property:

And also, the sum of ten pounds per annum, during life, to every personnow living, of the age of fifty years, and to all others as they shall arriveat that age.