All this while, the soil and pasture of the earth remained still in common as before, and open to every occupant;
except, perhaps, in the neighborhood of towns, where the necessity of a sale and exclusive property in lands, (for the sake of agriculture,) was earlier felt, and therefore more readily complied with.
Otherwise, when the multitude of men and cattle had consumed everyconvenience on one spot of ground,
it was deemed a natural right to seize upon and occupy such other lands as would more easily supply their necessities.
We have a striking example of this in the history of Abraham and his nephew Lot.
When their joint substance became so great that pasture and other conveniences grew scarce,
the natural consequence was that a strife arose between their servants; so that it was no longer practicable to dwell together.
This contention, Abraham thus endeavored to compose: "Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee.
Is not the whole land before thee? Separate thyself, I pray thee, from me.
If thou wilt take the left hand, then I will go to the right; or if thou depart to the right hand, then I will go to the left."
This plainly implies an acknowledged right in either to occupy whatever ground he pleased that was not preoccupied by other tribes.
"And Lot lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere, even as the garden of the Lord.
Then Lot chose him all the plain of Jordan, and journeyed east; and Abraham dwelt in the land of Canaan."
As the world by degrees grew more populous, it daily became more difficult to find out new spots to inhabit, without encroaching upon former occupants;
and, by constantly occupying the same individual spot, the fruits of the earth were consumed, and its spontaneous products destroyed, without any provision for future supply or succession.
It, therefore, became necessary to pursue some regular method of providing a constant subsistence;
and this necessity produced, or at least promoted and encouraged the art of agriculture.
And the art of agriculture, by a regular connection and consequence,
introduced and established the idea of a more permanent property in the soil than had hitherto been received and adopted.