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What law of nature can give this dominion? What can be the evidence of it? His superiority over all other animals and the having the power to subdue them, is all the evidence that can be derived from the light of nature. And this evidence is sufficient; for power gives dominion, and is the ultima ratio of it. As between men and other animals, it may be put upon the ground of mutual benefit; but except in the case of the dog, the benefit would seem to be all on the side of man. The dog, of every species, seems by his attachment to man, and by the mutual interest of both, to be associated with man; but it is as subservient, to which condition, he seems willing to submit, that their mutual interest can exist. In fact, supposing a mutual benefit to exist on the side of any other animal from his association with man, it can only be under the idea, and on the actual ground of subserviency to this the lord of the creation. But can his right not only to the services of these animals, but to their lives be shewn by the light, or be derived from a kaw of nature? the carnivorous teeth of man, may be recurred to as the same evidence which nature exhibits in the brutal creation. Beast devours beast; and fish and fowl, even those that have not teeth, prey upon the inferior, or in other words the weaker as a law of their nature.
But as between men, and those whom he can subdue of his own species what is the law of nature. All respect their peculiar species, but it is confined to animals of the same species. For though dog will not eat dog, as the proverb is, yet he is hostile to the fox, which is not far removed from his kind; perhaps not farther than man is in many instances from man.
But though it may not be a law of nature that men should devour such as are in the shape of men, yet what hinders to compel their services if they have it in their power; more especially if at least one side is benefitted by it, which is disputed. For the holder of a slave is said by moralists to be equally injured by the holding, with the slave himself. But this leads to a disquisition into which I shall not enter. I shall confine myself to consider the sovereignty Q
of man over the inanimate creation or the earth itself. Of this right of dominion there is some evidence, above brute animals, in favour of such as cultivate the earth; because it is ameliorated or made more productive, by the skill and labour of such. But as to savages who do not cultivate the soil, or sustain themselves to much extent, by that means, they are in the same situation as to this evidence of right, with the beasts.
This leads to the question as to the right of men between themselves, with regard to portions of the earth. I have discussed both this and the preceding question elsewhere; and which discussion I shall save myself trouble by inserting here. It is from a miscellany entitled Gazette Publications. It comprehends also some thoughts with regard to the discovery of a soil, as giving some priority of claim.
"THE right of Great Britain to the soil of North-America, founded on the first discovery of the coast, however just in its nature, yet was limited in its extent, by the right of the natives, and the right of other nations. The right of the natives has been generally supposed not to limit but exclude all others. For the law of nature vests the soil in the first occupant, and these from the earliest times had possessed the country. But shall a few tribes thinly scattered over an immense continent retain possession of it, while other parts of the globe are overcharged with inhabitants?
To set this matter in a clear point of view, we shall revert to the origin of that right which all men have, in common with each other, to the earth, the water and the air; and this we shall find in the extensive grant to the first pair, and in them equally to all their descendants. This grant is recorded in the first chapter and the first book of the sacred law; And God blessed them, and God said unto them, be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth. The words of this grant convey no right of primogeniture, or any other right by which one man may occupy a larger portion of the soil than his neighbour; for rights of this kind
are the establishments of civil policy, and can have no place between individuals in a state of nature; or between different nations, who are in a state of nature; with relation to each other. The unequal distribution of the soil, would disappoint the manifest intention of the grant, which was to people and improve the earth; for it is unfavorable to population that societies or individuals should possess a greater quantity of soil than is necessary for their own subsistence.
To apply this to the aborigines or native Indians of America: Shall these tribes, inferior in number to perhaps one twentieth of the inhabitants of Europe, possess ten times the territory? It will be said that their manner of life makes a greater quantity of soil necessary. They live by hunting, and though their tribes are thinly scattered over the continent, yet the whole is no more than sufficient for a hunting ground; nay, with even this extent of country their subsistence is precarious, and they frequently experience the 'severest rage of famine, when the wild animals that make their food are rendered scarce, or have withdrawn to a different forest of the country. But do the laws of revelation or of nature leave every man at liberty to use what manner of life he pleases? This will deserve some consideration.
Before the fall, the earth spontaneously brought forth every herb and every tree for the use of man, and we may reasonably presume, that without cultivation it would then support a larger number of inhabitants than it can at present with the utmost labour we are able to bestow upon it. In this state of things it was not necessary to exercise the arts of industry; but when the curse attendant on the lapse of Adam, "glanced aslope upon the ground," and it became sterile, the cultivation of it was enjoined on man, not only as his punishment, but as now the only means by which he could support himself, and comply with the conditions of the grant, “replenish the earth and subdue it. The Lord God sent him (the first man) forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground."
I acknowledge in the early times the cultivation of the earth was not so immediately enjoined as necessary; for the
few inhabitants might live by pasturage, and for some space of time posterior to the general deluge, when the flesh of animals was given to the use of man, they might subsist by hunting; but on the closer settlements of families and nations, this manner of life became impossible to one, without engrossing more territory than could be spared to another, and as all could not subsist in this manner, no one had a right to claim it as an exclusive privilege.
The law of nature, where the law of revelation is not known, sufficiently enjoins on every man that he contract his claim of soil to equal bounds, and pursue that manner of life which is most consistent with the general population of the earth, and the increase of happiness to mankind : and it will easily appear that the mode of life by pasturage or hunting, requires a more extensive territory than by agriculture; and at the same time from the very circumstance of thin and scattered settlements in that state, the powers of genius are inactive, the arts and sciences remain unknown, and man continues to be an animal differing in nothing but in shape from the beasts of prey that roam upon the mountain. The life of these is therefore not human; for it is abhorrent from the way of life which God and nature points out as the life of man. "The Lord God sent him forth to till the ground;" and common reason has discovered that from the goodness and benevolence apparent in the whole creation, and from that provision made abundantly for every creature, it must be most agreeable to the Creator that the earth be stored with inhabitants; and that in order to this end, a way of life be chosen in which individuals or particular nations may subsist with the least extent of territory.
The aborigines of this continent can therefore have but small pretence to a soil which they have never cultivated. The most they can with justice claim, is a right to those spots of ground where their wigwams have been planted, and to so much of the soil around them as may be necessary to produce grain to support them, their families, in towns upon the coast, or in the inland country, where they have inha bited. Perhaps they may have some priority of right to oc
cupy a different country, should it be their choice to change the situation where former circumstances may have placed them.
The continent of North-America may therefore on the first discovery of the coast, by any civilized European nation, be considered as, the greater part of it, a vacant country and liable to become the property of those who should take the trouble to possess it. Nevertheless I do not mean to justify the waging an unnecessary war against the natives, or the extirpation of them altogether; but yet I would justify encroachment on the terrritory claimed by them, until they are reduced to smaller bounds, and under the necessity of changing their unpolished and ferocious state of life, for fixed habitations and the arts of agriculture. At the same time I think it still adviseable to purchase from them, if it may be done conveniently; because it is a dictate of humanity to decline insisting on the full extent of any claim of property, if it may involve the shedding of the blood of those, who though sunk beneath the dignity of human nature, yet bear the name and are seen in the shape of men.
From the whole of this reasoning it will be evident, that the right of Great-Britain to the soil of this continent, in consequence of the first discovery of the coast, was limited by the rights of the aborigines or native Indians found upon it, but it was limited in a small degree, and the greater part of this immense territory was then in strict view of revealed and of natural law, without an owner or inhabitant.
The right of Great-Britain to the soil of North-America, limited by the right of the natives, was also limited by the right of other nations. The terms of the grant made to Adam, and renewed to Noah, equally embraced the whole of their descendents. The earth lay in common, and the occupancy of a portion of the soil, was that alone which gave to individuals an exclusive right to hold it. We must restrict the right of occupancy to a moderate portion of the soil, because it is inconsistent with the original condition and express purpose of the grant, that an individual, or a nation should possess a more extensive tract of country, than is ne