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CHAPTER IV.: Of Adam’s title to sovereignty, by donation, Gen. i. 28. - John Locke, The Works of John Locke, vol. 4 Economic Writings and Two Treatises of Government 
The Works of John Locke in Nine Volumes, (London: Rivington, 1824 12th ed.). Vol. 4.
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Of Adam’s title to sovereignty, by donation, Gen. i. 28.
Having at last got through the foregoing passage, where we have been so long detained, not by the force of arguments and opposition, but by the intricacy of the words, and the doubtfulness of the meaning; let us go on to his next argument, for Adam’s sovereignty. Our author tells us in the words of Mr. Selden, that “Adam by donation from God, Gen. i. 28. was made the general lord of all things, not without such a private dominion to himself, as without his grant did exclude his children. This determination of Mr. Selden,” says our author, “is consonant to the history of the Bible, and natural reason,” Obs. 210. And in his Pref. to his Observations on Aristotle, he says thus, “The first government in the world was monarchical in the father of all flesh, Adam being commanded to multiply and people the earth, and to subdue it, and having dominion given him over all creatures, was thereby the monarch of the whole world. None of his posterity had any right to possess any thing, but by his grant or permission, or by succession from him. The earth, saith the Psalmist, hath he given to the children of men, which shows the title comes from fatherhood.”
Before I examine this argument, and the text on which it is founded, it is necessary to desire the reader to observe, that our author, according to his usual method, begins in one sense, and concludes in another; he begins here with Adam’s propriety, or private dominion, by donation; and his conclusion is, “which shows the title comes from fatherhood.”
But let us see the argument. The words of the text are these: “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, Gen. i. 28.” from whence our author concludes, “that Adam, having here dominion given him over all creatures, was thereby the monarch of the whole world;” whereby must be meant, that either this grant of God gave Adam property, or, as our author calls it, private dominion over the earth, and all inferior or irrational creatures, and so consequently that he was thereby monarch; or 2dly, that it gave him rule and dominion over all earthly creatures whatsoever, and thereby over his children; and so he was monarch: for, as Mr. Selden has properly worded it, “Adam was made general lord of all things,” one may very clearly understand him. that he means nothing to be granted to Adam here but property, and therefore he says not one word of Adam’s monarchy. But our author says, “Adam was hereby monarch of the world,” which, properly speaking, signifies sovereign ruler of all the men in the world; and so Adam by this grant, must be constituted such a ruler. If our author means otherwise, he might with much clearness have said, that “Adam was hereby proprietor of the whole world.” But he begs your pardon in that point: clear distinct speaking not serving every where to his purpose, you must not expect it in him, as in Mr. Selden, or other such writers.
In opposition, therefore, to our author’s doctrine, that “Adam was monarch of the whole world,” founded on this place I shall show,
1. That by this grant, Gen. i. 28. God gave no immediate power to Adam over men, over his children, over those of his own species; and so he was not made ruler, or monarch, by this charter.
2. That by this grant God gave him not private dominion over the inferior creatures, but right in common with all mankind; so neither was he monarch, upon the account of the property here given him.
1. That this donation, Gen. i. 28. gave Adam no power over men, will appear if we consider the words of it: for since all positive grants convey no more than the express words they are made in will carry, let us see which of them here will comprehend mankind, or Adam’s posterity; and those, I imagine, if any, must be these, “every living thing that moveth:” the words in Hebrew are תשמרה היה i. e. “bestiam reptantem,” of which words the scripture itself is the best interpreter: God having created the fishes and fowls the fifth day, the beginning of the sixth, he creates the irrational inhabitants of the dry land, which, ver. 24, are described in these words, “Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind; cattle and creeping things, and beasts of the earth, after his kind, and ver. 2. and God made the beasts of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth on the earth after his kind:” here, in the creation of the brute inhabitants of the earth, he first speaks of them all under one general name, of living creatures, and then afterwards divides them into three ranks. 1. Cattle or such creatures as were or might be tame, and so be the private possession of particular men; 2. היח which, ver. 24, 25. in our Bible, is translated beasts, and by the Septuagint ϑηρία, wild beasts, and is the same word, that here in our text, ver. 28, where we have this great charter to Adam, is translated living thing, and is also the same word used, Gen. ix. 2. where this grant is renewed to Noah, and there likewise translated beast. 3. The third rank where the creeping animals, which ver. 24, 25, are comprized under the word, תשמרה, the same that is used here, ver. 28, and is translated moving, but in the former verses, creeping, and by the Septuagint in all these places ἑρπετὰ, or reptiles, from whence it appears that the words which we translate here in God’s donation, ver. 28. “living creatures moving,” are the same, which in the history of the creation, ver. 24, 25. signify two ranks of terrestrial creatures, viz. wild beasts and reptiles, and are so understood by the Septuagint.
When God had made the irrational animals of the world, divided into three kinds, from the places of their habitation, viz. fishes of the sea, fowls of the air, and living creatures of the earth; and these again into cattle, wild beasts, and reptiles; he considers of making man, and the dominion he should have over the terrestrial world, ver. 26. and then he reckons up the inhabitants of these three kingdoms, but in the terrestrial leaves out the second rank היח or wild beasts: but here, ver. 28, where he actually exercises this design, and gives him this dominion, the text mentions the fishes of the sea, and fowls of the air, and the terrestrial creatures in the words that signify the wild beasts and reptiles, though translated living thing that moveth, leaving out cattle. In both which places, though the word which signifies wild beasts, be omitted in one, and that which signifies cattle in the other, yet, since God certainly executed in one place, what he declares he designed in the other, we cannot but understand the same in both places, and have here only an account how the terrestrial irrational animals, which were already created, and reckoned up at their creation, in three distinct ranks of cattle, wild beasts, and reptiles, were here, ver. 28. actually put under the dominion of man, as they were designed, ver. 26. nor do these words contain in them the least appearance of any thing that can be wrested to signify God’s giving to one man dominion over another, to Adam over his posterity.
And this further appears from Gen. ix. 2. where God renewing this charter to Noah and his sons, he gives them dominion over the fowls of the air, and the fishes of the sea, and the terrestrial creatures, expressed by היח שמרר wild beasts and reptiles, the same words that in the text before us, Gen. i. 28. are translated every moving thing, that moveth on the earth, which by no means can comprehend man, the grant being made to Noah and his sons, all the men then living, and not to one part of men over another: which is yet more evident from the very next words, ver. 3. where God gives every שמר “every moving thing,” the very words used, ch. i. 28. to them for food. By all which it is plain, that God’s donation to Adam, ch. i. 28. and his designation, ver. 26, and his grant again to Noah and his sons; refer to, and contain in them, neither more nor less than the works of the creation the fifth day, and the beginning of the sixth, as they are set down from the 20th to 26th ver. inclusively of the 1st ch. and so comprehend all the species of irrational animals of the terraqueous globe; though all the words, whereby they are expressed in the history of their creation, are no where used in any of the following grants, but some of them omitted in one, and some in another. From whence I think it is past all doubt that man cannot be comprehended in this grant, nor any dominion over those of his own species be conveyed to Adam. All the terrestrial irrational creatures are enumerated at their creation, ver. 25. under the names “beasts of the earth, cattle, and creeping things;” but man, being not then created, was not contained under any of those names; and therefore, whether we understand the Hebrew words right or no, they cannot be supposed to comprehend man in the very same history, and the very next verses following, especially since that Hebrew word שמר which, if any in this donation to Adam, ch. i. 28. must comprehend man, is so plainly used in contradistinction to him, as Gen. vi. 20. vii. 14, 21, 23. Gen. viii. 17, 19. And if God made all mankind slaves to Adam and his heirs, by giving Adam dominion over “every living thing that moveth on the earth,” ch. i. 28. as our author would have it; methinks sir Robert should have carried his monarchical power one step higher, and satisfied the world, that princes might eat their subjects too, since God gave as full power to Noah and his heirs, ch. ix. 2. to eat “every living thing that moveth,” as he did to Adam to have dominion over them: the Hebrew word in both places being the same.
David, who might be supposed to understand the donation of God in this text, and the right of kings too, as well as our author, in his comment on this place, as the learned and judicious Ainsworth calls it, in the 8th Psalm, finds here no such charter of monarchical power; his words are, “Thou hast made him, i. e. man, the son of man, a little lower than the angels; thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and the beasts of the field, and fowls of the air, and fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the sea.” In which words, if any one can find out that there is meant any monarchical power of one man over another, but only the dominion of the whole species of mankind, over the inferior species of creatures, he may, for aught I know, deserve to be one of sir Robert’s monarchs in habit, for the rareness of the discovery. And by this time, I hope it is evident, that he that gave “dominion over every living thing that moveth on the earth,” gave Adam no monarchical power over those of his own species, which will yet appear more fully in the next thing I am to show.
2. Whatever God gave by the words of this grant, Gen. i. 28. it was not to Adam in particular, exclusive of all other men: whatever dominion he had thereby it was not a private dominion, but a dominion in common with the rest of mankind. That this donation was not made in particular to Adam, appears evidently from the words of the text, it being made to more than one; for it was spoken in the plural number, God blessed them, and said unto them, have dominion. God says unto Adam and Eve, have dominion; thereby, says our author, “Adam was monarch of the world:” but the grant being to them, i. e. spoken to Eve also, as many interpreters think with reason, that these words were not spoken till Adam had his wife, must not she thereby be lady, as well as he lord of the world? If it be said, that Eve was subjected to Adam, it seems she was not so subjected to him, as to hinder her dominion over the creatures, or property in them: for shall we say that God ever made a joint grant to two, and one only was to have the benefit of it?
But perhaps it will be said, Eve was not made till afterwards: grant it so, what advantage will our author get by it? The text will be only the more directly against him, and show that God, in this donation, gave the world to mankind in common, and not to Adam in particular. The word them in the text must include the species of man, for it is certain them can by no means signify Adam alone. In the 26th verse, where God declares his intention to give this dominion, it is plain he meant, that he would make a species of creatures that should have dominion over the other species of this terrestrial globe. The words are, “And God said, let us make man in our image, after our likeness, and let them have dominion over the fish,” &c. They then were to have dominion. Who? even those who were to have the image of God, the individuals of that species of man that he was going to make; for that them should signify Adam singly, exclusive of the rest that should be in the world with him, is against both scripture and all reason; and it cannot possibly be made sense, if man in the former part of the verse do not signify the same with them in the latter; only man there, as is usual, is taken for the species, and them the individuals of that species: and we have a reason in the very text. God makes him “in his own image, after his own likeness; makes him an intellectual creature, and so capable of dominion:” for wherein soever else the image of God consisted, the intellectual nature was certainly a part of it, and belonged to the whole species, and enabled them to have dominion over the inferior creatures; and therefore David says in the 8th Psalm above cited, “Thou hast made him little lower than the angels, thou hast made him to have dominion.” It is not of Adam king David speaks here, for verse 4, it is plain it is of man, and the son of man, of the species of mankind.
And that this grant spoken to Adam was made to him, and the whole species of man, is clear from our author’s own proof out of the Psalmist. “The earth,” saith the Psalmist, “hath he given to the children of men, which shows the title comes from fatherhood.” These are sir Robert’s words in the preface before cited, and a strange inference it is he makes: God hath “given the earth to the children of men, ergo the title comes from fatherhood.” It is pity the propriety of the Hebrew tongue had not used fathers of men, instead of children of men, to express mankind; then indeed our author might have had the countenance of the sounds of the words to have placed the title in the fatherhood. But to conclude, that the fatherhood had the right to the earth, because God gave it to the children of men, is a way of arguing peculiar to our author: and a man must have a great mind to go contrary to the sound as well as sense of the words before he could light on it. But the sense is yet harder, and more remote from our author’s purpose: for as it stands in his preface, it is to prove Adam’s being monarch, and his reasoning is thus, “God gave the earth to the children of men, ergo Adam was monarch of the world.” I defy any man to make a more pleasant conclusion than this, which cannot be excused from the most obvious absurdity, till it can be shown, that by children of men, he who had no father, Adam alone is signified; but whatever our author does, the scripture speaks not nonsense.
To maintain this property and private dominion of Adam, our author labours in the following page to destroy the community granted to Noah and his sons, in that parallel place, Gen. ix. 1, 2, 3. and he endeavours to do it two ways.
1. Sir Robert would persuade us against the express words of the scripture, that what was here granted to Noah, was not granted to his sons in common with him His words are, “As for the general community between Noah and his sons, which Mr. Selden will have to be granted to them, Gen. ix. 2. the text doth not warrant it.” What warrant our author would have, when the plain express words of scripture, not capable of another meaning, will not satisfy him, who pretends to build wholly on scripture, is not easy to imagine. The text says, “God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them, i. e. as our author would have it, unto him: for, saith he, although the sons are there mentioned with Noah in the blessing, yet it may best be understood, with a subordination or benediction in succession.” O. 211. That indeed is best for our author to be understood, which best serves to his purpose; but that truly may best be understood by any body else, which best agrees with the plain construction of the words, and arises from the obvious meaning of the place: and then with subordination and in succession, will not be best understood, in a grant of God, where he himself put them not, nor mentions any such limitation. But yet our author has reasons, why it may best be understood so. “The blessing, says he in the following words, might truly be fulfilled, if the sons, either under or after their father, enjoyed a private dominion.” O. 211, which is to say, that a grant, whose express words give a joint title in present (for the text says, into your hands they are delivered) may best be understood with a subordination, or in succession; because it is possible, that in subordination, or in succession, it may be enjoyed. Which is all one as to say, that a grant of any thing in present possession may best be understood of reversion; because it is possible one may live to enjoy it in reversion. If the grant be indeed to a father and to his sons after him, who is so kind as to let his children enjoy it presently in common with him, one may truly say, as to the event, one will be as good as the other; but it can never be true, that what the express words grant in possession, and in common, may best be understood to be in reversion. The sum of all his reasoning amounts to this: God did not give to the sons of Noah the world in common with their father, because it was possible they might enjoy it under, or after him. A very good sort of argument against an express text of scripture: but God must not be believed, though he speaks it himself, when he says he does any thing which will not consist with sir Robert’s hypothesis.
For it is plain, however he would exclude them, that part of this benediction, as he would have it in succession, must needs be meant to the sons, and not to Noah himself at all: “Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth,” says God in this blessing. This part of the benediction, as appears by the sequel, concerned not Noah himself at all: for we read not of any children he had after the flood; and in the following chapter, where his posterity is reckoned up, there is no mention of any; and so this benediction in succession was not to take place till 350 years after: and to save our author’s imaginary monarchy, the peopling of the world must be deferred 350 years; for this part of the benediction cannot be understood with subordination, unless our author will say, that they must ask leave of their father Noah to lie with their wives. But in this one point our author is constant to himself in all his discourses, he takes care there should be monarchs in the world, but very little that there should be people; and indeed his way of government is not the way to people the world: for how much absolute monarchy helps to fulfil this great and primary blessing of God Almighty, “Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth,” which contains in it the improvement too of arts and sciences, and the conveniencies of life; may be seen in those large and rich countries which are happy under the Turkish government, where are not now to be found one-third, nay in many, if not most parts of them, one-thirtieth, perhaps I might say not one-hundredth of the people, that were formerly, as will easily appear to any one, who will compare the accounts we have of it at this time, with ancient history. But this by the by.
The other parts of this benediction, or grant, are so expressed, that they must needs be understood to belong equally to them all; as much to Noah’s sons, as to Noah himself, and not to his sons with a subordination, or in succession. “The fear of you, and the dread of you, says God, shall be on every beast,” &c. Will any body but our author say, that the creatures feared and stood in awe of Noah only, and not of his sons without his leave, or till after his death? And the following words, “into your hands they are delivered,” are they to be understood, as our author says, if your father please, or they shall be delivered into your hands hereafter? If this be to argue from scripture, I know not what may not be proved by it; and I can scarce see how much this differs from that fiction and fancy, or how much a surer foundation it will prove than the opinions of philosophers and poets, which our author so much condemns in his preface.
But our author goes on to prove, that “it may best be understood with a subordination, or a benediction in succession; for, says he, it is not probable that the private dominion which God gave to Adam, and by his donation, assignation, or cession to his children, was abrogated, and a community of all things instituted between Noah and his sons—Noah was left the sole heir of the world; why should it be thought that God would disinherit him of his birth-right, and make him of all men in the world the only tenant in common with his children.” O. 211.
The prejudices of our own ill-grounded opinions, however by us called probable, cannot authorize us to understand scripture contrary to the direct and plain meaning of the words. I grant it is not probable that Adam’s private dominion was here abrogated; because it is more than improbable, (for it will never be proved) that Adam had any such private dominion; and since parallel places of scripture are most probable to make us know how they may be best understood, there needs but the comparing this blessing here to Noah and his sons, after the flood, with that to Adam after the creation, Gen. i. 28. to assure any one that God gave Adam no such private dominion. It is probable, I confess, that Noah should have the same title, the same property and dominion after the flood, that Adam had before it: but since private dominion cannot consist with the blessing and grant God gave to him and his sons in common, it is a sufficient reason to conclude, that Adam had none, especially since in the donation made to him, there are no words that express it, or do in the least favour it; and then let my reader judge whether it may best be understood, when in the one place there is not one word for it, not to say what has been above proved, that the text itself proves the contrary; and in the other, the words and sense are directly against it.
But our author says, “Noah was the sole heir of the world; why should it be thought that God would disinherit him of his birth-right?” Heir indeed, in England, signifies the eldest son, who is by the laws of England to have all his father’s lands; but where God ever appointed any such heir of the world, our author would have done well to have showed us; and how God disinherited him of his birthright, or what harm was done him if God gave his sons a right to make use of a part of the earth for support of themselves and families, when the whole was not only more than Noah himself, but infinitely more than they all could make use of, and the possessions of one could not at all prejudice, or, as to any use, straiten that of the other.
Our author probably foreseeing he might not be very successful in persuading people out of their senses, and, say what he could, men would be apt to believe the plain words of scripture, and think, as they saw, that the grant was spoken to Noah and his sons jointly; he endeavours to insinuate, as if this grant to Noah conveyed no property, no dominion; because “subduing the earth, and dominion over the creatures are therein omitted, nor the earth once named.” And therefore, says he, “there is a considerable difference between these two texts; the first blessing gave Adam a dominion over the earth and all creatures; the latter allows Noah liberty to use the living creatures for food: here is no alteration or diminishing of his title to a property of all things, but an enlargement only of his commons.” O. 211. So that, in our author’s sense, all that was said here to Noah and his sons, gave them no dominion, no property, but only enlarged the commons; their commons, I should say, since God says, “to you are they given;” though our author says his; for as to Noah’s sons, they, it seems, by sir Robert’s appointment, during their father’s lifetime, were to keep fasting days.
Any one but our author would be mightily suspected to be blinded with prejudice, that in all this blessing to Noah and his sons, could see nothing but only an enlargement of commons; for as to dominion, which our author thinks omitted, “the fear of you, and the dread of you, says God, shall be upon every beast,” which I suppose expresses the dominion, or superiority, was designed man over the living creatures, as fully as may be: for in that fear and dread seems chiefly to consist what was given to Adam over the inferior animals, who, as absolute a monarch as he was, could not make bold with a lark or rabbit to satisfy his hunger, and had the herbs but in common with the beasts, as is plain from Gen. i. 2, 9, and 30. In the next place, it is manifest that in this blessing to Noah and his sons, property is not only given in clear words, but in a larger extent than it was to Adam. “Into your hands they are given,” says God to Noah and his sons; which words, if they give not property, nay, property in possession, it will be hard to find words that can; since there is not a way to express a man’s being possessed of any thing more natural, nor more certain, than to say, it is delivered into his hands. And ver. 3, to show, that they had then given them the utmost property man is capable of, which is to have a right to destroy any thing by using it: “Every moving thing that liveth, saith God, shall be meat for you;” which was not allowed to Adam in his charter. This our author calls, “a liberty of using them for food, and also an enlargement of commons, but no alteration of property.” O. 211. What other property man can have in the creatures, but the “liberty of using them,” is hard to be understood: so that if the first blessing, as our author says, gave Adam “dominion over the creatures,” and the blessing to Noah and his sons gave them “such a liberty to use them,” as Adam had not; it must needs give them something that Adam with all his sovereignty wanted, something that one would be apt to take for a greater property; for certainly he has no absolute dominion over even the brutal part of the creatures; and the property he has in them is very narrow and scanty, who cannot make that use of them, which is permitted to another. Should any one, who is absolute lord of a country, have bidden our author subdue the earth, and given him dominion over the creatures in it, but not have permitted him to have taken a kid or a lamb out of the flock to satisfy his hunger, I guess, he would scarce have thought himself lord or proprietor of that land, or the cattle on it; but would have found the difference between “having dominion,” which a shepherd may have, and having full property as an owner. So that, had it been his own case, sir Robert, I believe, would have thought here was an alteration, nay, an enlarging of property; and that Noah and his children had by this grant, not only property given them, but such property given them in the creatures, as Adam had not: for however, in respect of one another, men may be allowed to have propriety in their distinct portions of the creatures; yet in respect of God the maker of heaven and earth, who is sole lord and proprietor of the whole world, man’s propriety in the creatures is nothing but that “liberty to use them,” which God has permitted; and so man’s property may be altered and enlarged, as we see it here, after the flood, when other uses of them are allowed, which before were not. From all which I suppose it is clear, that neither Adam, nor Noah, had any “private dominion,” any property in the creatures, exclusive of his posterity, as they should successively grow up into need of them, and come to be able to make use of them.
Thus we have examined our author’s argument for Adam’s monarchy, founded on the blessing pronounced, Gen. i. 28. Wherein I think it is impossible for any sober reader to find any other but the setting of mankind above the other kinds of creatures in this habitable earth of ours. It is nothing but the giving to man, the whole species of man, as the chief inhabitant, who is the image of his Maker, the dominion over the other creatures. This lies so obvious in the plain words, that any one but our author would have thought it necessary to have shown, how these words, that seemed to say the quite contrary, gave “Adam monarchical absolute power” over other men, or the sole property in all the creatures; and methinks in a business of this moment, and that whereon he builds all that follows, he should have done something more than barely cite words, which apparently make against him; for I confess, I cannot see any thing in them tending to Adam’s monarchy, or private dominion, but quite the contrary. And I the less deplore the dulness of my apprehension herein, since I find the apostle seems to have as little notion of any such “private dominion of Adam” as I, when he says, “God gives us all things richly to enjoy;” which he could not do, if it were all given away already to monarch Adam, and the monarchs his heirs and successors. To conclude, this text is so far from proving Adam sole proprietor, that, on the contrary, it is a confirmation of the original community of all things amongst the sons of men, which appearing from this donation of God, as well as other places of scripture, the sovereignty of Adam, built upon his “private dominion,” must fall, not having any foundation to support it.
But yet, if after all, any one will needs have it so, that by this donation of God, Adam was made sole proprietor of the whole earth, what will this be to his sovereignty? and how will it appear, that propriety in land gives a man power over the life of another? or how will the possession even of the whole earth give any one a sovereign arbitrary authority over the persons of men? The most specious thing to be said is, that he that is proprietor of the whole world, may deny all the rest of mankind food, and so at his pleasure starve them, if they will not acknowledge his sovereignty, and obey his will. If this were true, it would be a good argument to prove, that there never was any such property, that God never gave any such private dominion; since it is more reasonable to think, that God, who bid mankind increase and multiply, should rather himself give them all a right to make use of the food and raiment, and other conveniencies of life, the materials whereof he had so plentifully provided for them, than to make them depend upon the will of a man for their subsistence, who should have power to destroy them all when he pleased, and who, being no better than other men, was in succession likelier, by want and the dependence of a scanty fortune, to tie them to hard service, than by liberal allowance of the conveniencies of life to promote the great design of God, “increase and multiply:” he that doubts this, let him look into the absolute monarchies of the world, and see what becomes of the conveniencies of life, and the multitudes of people.
But we know God hath not left one man so to the mercy of another, that he may starve him if he please: God, the Lord and Father of all, has given no one of his children such a property in his peculiar portion of the things of this world, but that he has given his needy brother a right to the surplusage of his goods; so that it cannot justly be denied him, when his pressing wants call for it: and therefore no man could ever have a just power over the life of another by right of property in land or possessions; since it would always be a sin, in any man of estate, to let his brother perish for want of affording him relief out of his plenty. As justice gives every man a title to the product of his honest industry, and the fair acquisitions of his ancestors descended to him; so charity gives every man a title to so much out of another’s plenty as will keep him from extreme want, where he has no means to subsist otherwise: and a man can no more justly make use of another’s necessity to force him to become his vassal, by with-holding that relief God requires him to afford to the wants of his brother, than he that has more strength can seize upon a weaker, master him to his obedience, and with a dagger at his throat offer him death or slavery.
Should any one make so perverse an use of God’s blessings poured on him with a liberal hand; should any one be cruel and uncharitable to that extremity; yet all this would not prove that propriety in land, even in this case, gave any authority over the persons of men, but only that compact might; since the authority of the rich proprietor, and the subjection of the needy beggar, began not from the possession of the lord, but the consent of the poor man, who preferred being his subject to starving. And the man he thus submits to, can pretend to no more power over him, than he has consented to, upon compact. Upon this ground a man’s having his stores filled in a time of scarcity, having money in his pocket, being in a vessel at sea, being able to swim, &c. may as well be the foundation of rule and dominion, as being possessor of all the land in the world: any of these being sufficient to enable me to save a man’s life, who would perish, if such assistance were denied him; and any thing, by this rule, that may be an occasion of working upon another’s necessity to save his life, or any thing dear to him, at the rate of his freedom, may be made a foundation of sovereignty, as well as property. From all which it is clear, that though God should have given Adam private dominion, yet that private dominion could give him no sovereignty: but we have already sufficiently proved, that God gave him no “private dominion.”