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own reasonable will, by occult means or open violence, that which belongs to him.
Now, by what right does a man call an object his own? By the natural right? Certainly not, according to our opponents. In consequence of certain natural relations which may have arisen, owing to a certain fact, between man's personality and the object? For instance, suppose a man paints a beautiful image on a piece of wood, the example given by Tournely; owing to that fact a natural and essential relation has arisen between him and that object, should he by force of that relation of cause and effect, of activity and of its term, own that picture? Certainly not, reply the Compactists; before the division of the earth and of all permanent objects, and the setting up of private ownership by the jus gentium, that painter would not own that picture or call it his own property, in spite of his activity and labor, so that any one could have taken it from him as any other product of the earth. Then whoever owns anything does so, exclusively speaking, on the strength of a human law. Therefore, if I deprive him of it I break and violate a purely human law, but do not contravene any intrinsic relation of things; my natural liberty to do or to omit that action is restrained and limited, not by the nature of things, but by a pure human command; should that cease, no reason founded on the essence of things could any longer limit my natural freedom.
Billuart contends that though the title to private ownership comes from the jus gentium, a mere human law, yet stealing is a violation of the natural law, because the natural law forbids the taking away from another what belongs to him, no matter what jus or right or title has secured it to him. “Quia jus naturæ prohibet rem auferre alteri quovis jure illam possideat."-(Bill., ib.) By a slight inadvertence the good Billuart fails to see that he is begging the question, the very question under discussion, and which modern authors are testing. Is it contrary to the law of nature to take away from a man that which he owns solely and exclusively on the strength of a human law?
That is the question. Billuart and the Compactists answer in the affirmative. Modern authors answer in the negative, and prove their negative answer as follows: Then and then only would stealing be contrary to the law of nature if it violated some natural intrinsic relation between the object stolen and its owner; because, as the law of nature is that rule of action which results from the essential relations of things, only the contravention of these relations can be a violation of natural law. But it is admitted by the Compactists that no natural essential relation binds the owner with the object he possesses, not even when the object derives its value in the greatest part from the owner's activity and labor. Therefore stealing cannot be a violation of the law of nature.
The example brought forward by Billuart is a sorry quibble unworthy of the gravity of a theologian of his stamp. “ A man possesses his wife through human choice, yet adultery is contrary to the law af nature."—(Billuart, ib.)
The answer is too obvious not to present itself to the minds of our readers. Marriage, as many other things, is one of those natural contracts, the essential nature and conditions of which are established by the law of nature and cannot be altered by any human power. All that the contracting parties are at liberty to do in the matter is to make choice of the persons or acts which realize the contract and cause its existence. This done, the contracting parties must submit to the inevitable conditions Aowing from the essence of the thing. The man, then, who chooses a wife, and the woman who agrees to take him, cause the contract of marriage to exist in concrete, and in this particular instance; but their choice and consent do not affect or establish the essential laws of marriage already determined by nature. Therefore, anyone offending against them breaks the natural law, even if both parties should consent to the violation. But the case is different as to the present question. It is admitted and strenuously contended by the Compactists that nature and the natural jus do not give existence and origin to the right of individual proprietorship; that such a right springs simply and solely from human law, that without this human law it would not exist, that if such a law ceased the right itself would cease, and that that which was unlawful during the continuance of the human law forbidding it would be lawful and right the moment the law discontinued to be in force. Therefore to violate such a right can be nothing more than a violation of a human law.
Gerdil and Carriere agree with Billuart, but have no better reason to allege in favor of their opinion. Lessius makes a better attempt. He argues that the right to own property comes from a human law, yet stealing must be held as a violation of the natural law, “because the natural law forbids the taking anything from a man against his inclination, whatever may be the jus by which he may have come by the thing.”—(Lessius, De Jure et Jus., Sectio Prima, Disp. 3.)
Lessius, then, has recourse to the resentment which one feels when deprived of his own. And we admit that the reason appears to have greater plausibility; but it is only an appearance, since it is false that the natural law forbids the taking anything from a man when he objects to it, and when the thing is done against his consent expressed or supposed, and when we may easily suppose
that he will resent it. The law of nature forbids the taking something from a man against his reasonable inclination, and not against his inclination; it proscribes the doing anything which man may resent, but that resentment must be juridical resentment, that is, a resentment founded on reason and right. Why, if you take from a thief what he has just stolen, he will object to it by every means in his power and resent the action. Does it follow that it is against the natural law to deprive him of it ? Certainly not, because his resentment is not juridical or reasonable.
What makes a man a proprietor? A human law. What protects and guarantees him in his property? A human law. Therefore he must be satisfied with that and claim no more.
Should he have recourse to the natural law, the violator might say, I know very well what I am doing; how can I be breaking the law of nature when what you claim as your own comes to you on the strength of a human law ?
But I feel bad about it. It is not right, it is cruel and unnatural for you thus to tamper with my feelings. Neither is it right for you, would the law-breaker answer, to tamper with mine. The law of nature made all things neither for you nor for me in particular, but for all. What you own has come to you through an arbitrary human law. If I take something, is it not enough for you that I am breaking a positive law and am ready to abide the consequences of my violation, without your dragging in the law of nature, which has nothing at all to do with your being a proprietor.
But suppose the jus gentium to have created private ownership and the contemporary generations perfectly satisfied with the arrangement because the new jus was founded on their own consent expressed or implied, would such an arrangement have any binding force on future generations ?
Certainly the contrary, on the principles of the Compactists. The thing did not originate in the natural jus; it was not strictly necessary, but was commended only as expedient and beneficial ; it was founded on a compact of the generations who freely entered upon it. How, then, can future generations be morally bound to respect and to abide by it? This mutual agreement, says Signorello, could bind none except those who freely entered upon it; those who came after them could not surely be held by it except it were founded on the natural law. (Philos. Moralis, Par. 2, Ch. 2, Art. 4.)
“I would like to inquire,” says Liberatore, " by what reason this compact could take the force of jus and oblige all future generations who never gave their vote for it." (Jus Naturæ, Par. 1, Ch. 4.)
A recent writer has attempted an answer to this argument by saying that the essential character of man's nature, which rendered the division necessary, especially after the Fall, not being changed, but remaining the same, must weigh equally with future generations as it did with those who established individual property. Besides, the blessing and law of the increase of population render their distribution more and more indispensable as generations succeed to generations.
This assuredly is a sorry defence of the pretended compact, and not at all calculated to recommend it to future generations. What does the defence amount to? To this, that, especially after the Fall, the division was rendered necessary by the essential character of man's nature, and that future generations should hold it sacred and inviolate because the essential character of their nature, not being changed, demands the same division; the necessity of which is made more indispensable and imperative in proportion as generations follow each other and become more and more numerous by reason of the law of increase.
We would beg of the common sense of our readers to decide whether this kind of reasoning, instead of demonstrating the necessity of any pretended compact causing individual proprietorship, does not, on the contrary, put in the best possible light the truth that such a right flows from the law of nature. What is necessary to the essential character of man's nature, what is indispensable to it, what becomes more and more exacting and imperative every day as generations of men succeed each other, is assuredly natural and not arbitrary, and must be derived from a law of man's nature and not from an imaginary compact which never existed, and which, considering that dire necessity, men would not have been at liberty to withhold, if ever called upon to offer an opinion.
Finally, the last reason against the Compact theory urged by modern writers is its liability to be changed or abolished on the same authority which established it.
The right of changing or abolishing altogether that arrangement which set up private ownership entered upon either by means of a formal or tacit agreement must be conceded to every generation of man, and to the same generation as often as they deem it just or expedient to exercise it. For if one generation could convene and establish by a common consent individual proprietorship in permanent objects, why could not another generation come together and sweep away at one stroke all private ownership? Surely the early generations had no more power than the present one now has; therefore the latter can overthrow by an explicit or implied consent what the former set up by the same means. Billuart, the theologian, so much quoted and so much relied upon by the recent defenders of this theory, freely and cheerfully admits the consequence. In his “ De Jure," Diss. I, art. 3, he says: “The natural jus is absolutely
and of its own nature necessary, independently of any human consent; the jus gentium is not absolutely and of its own nature necessary, but has been introduced by the good will and consent of men in view of its usefulness and expediency. This is proven by the example of those things which are admitted to originate in the jus gentium, such as the division of land, private ownership, etc. These and all such things are not absolutely and of their own nature necessary to human life, but have been introduced simply as useful and convenient by the will of men, so that they can be abrogated by the same will.
The power, therefore, of abrogating the division of land and of individual ownership must be conceded to all generations of men, present as well as past. And who can fail to perceive the fearful and pernicious tendency of such a theory? Who can fail to see the tremendous weapon which is put in the hands of Socialists and Communists by saying to them, “ You can at your pleasure, if you see fit and the majority consent to it, overthrow the whole social fabric and set up another on purely socialistic and communistic principles most agreeable to yourselves ? ”
They (the Compactists), says the Civilta Cattolica, have concluded that the division of possessions was a positive institution, having its foundation in a primitive contract, in the civil law, or in the will of the State. If they thought to have strengthened private ownership by such means, they were sadly mistaken. The Socialists have made better use of such opinion for their own cause. And, indeed, on all such theories every right of property must always be precarious. Do you suppose it is based on a contract ? Why, the contract can be rescinded. You maintain that it is founded on laws; the laws may be repealed at the pleasure of the legislators. Do you hold it to depend upon the will of the state ? That will can vary at pleasure. Therefore, in consequence of the possibility of change, all sorts of property are shaken, vacillate, and remain uncertain for to-morrow. (Series 8, Vol. 9, page 437.)
The same writer quoted above argues against this conclusion by saying that what has been arbitrarily gotten up cannnot always be pulled down without injustice. We can only reply by saying that the writer, in giving such an answer, evidently shows that he has not considered fully the import of his theory, nor worked it out to its remote consequences. Because, on the theory of the Compactists, which he so valiantly defends,-and it requires no common skill to make such an absurd opinion plausible,—the word injustice has no sense as applied between those who set up the jus gentium with regard to property and those who benefit by it. How stands the theory ? That the title to all kinds of individual proprietorship, the property which comes from the occupancy of permanent ob
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