Your use, in so many passages of your Encyclical, of the inclusive term “property” or “private” property,
of which in morals nothing can be either affirmed or denied, makes your meaning,
if we take isolated sentences, in many places ambiguous. But reading it as
a whole, there can be no doubt of your intention that private property in
land shall be understood when you speak merely of private property. With
this interpretation, I find that the reasons you urge for private property
in land are eight. Let us consider them in order of presentation. You urge:
1. That what is bought with rightful property is rightful property. (RN,
paragraph 5) ...
2. That private property in land proceeds from man’s gift of reason.
(RN, paragraphs 6-7.) ...
3. That private property in land deprives no one of the use of land. (RN,
paragraph 8.) ...
4. That Industry expended on land gives ownership in the land itself. (RN,
paragraphs 9-10.) ...
5. That private property in land has the support of the common opinion of
mankind, and has conduced to peace and tranquillity, and that it is sanctioned
by Divine Law. (RN, paragraph 11.) ...
6. That fathers should provide for their children and that private property
in land is necessary to enable them to do so. (RN, paragraphs 14-17.) ...
7. That the private ownership of land stimulates industry, increases wealth,
and attaches men to the soil and to their country. (RN, paragraph 51.) ...
8. That the right to possess private property in land is from nature, not
from man; that the state has no right to abolish it, and that to take the
value of landownership in taxation would be unjust and cruel to the private
owner. (RN, paragraph 51.) ...
6. That fathers should provide for their children and that private
property in land is necessary to enable them to do so. (14-17.)
With all that your Holiness has to say of the sacredness of the family relation
we are in full accord. But how the obligation of the father to the child
can justify private property in land we cannot see. You reason that private
property in land is necessary to the discharge of the duty of the father,
and is therefore requisite and just, because —
It is a most sacred law of nature that a father must provide food and all
necessaries for those whom he has begotten; and, similarly, nature dictates
that a man’s children, who carry on, as it were, and continue his own
personality, should be provided by him with all that is needful to enable
them honorably to keep themselves from want and misery in the uncertainties
of this mortal life. Now, in no other way can a father effect this except
by the ownership of profitable property, which he can transmit to his children
by inheritance. (14.)
Thanks to Him who has bound the generations of men together by a provision
that brings the tenderest love to greet our entrance into the world and soothes
our exit with filial piety, it is both the duty and the joy of the father
to care for the child till its powers mature, and afterwards in the natural
order it becomes the duty and privilege of the child to be the stay of the
parent. This is the natural reason for that relation of marriage, the groundwork
of the sweetest, tenderest and purest of human joys, which the Catholic Church
has guarded with such unremitting vigilance.
We do, for a few years, need the providence of our fathers after the flesh.
But how small, how transient, how narrow is this need, as compared with our
constant need for the providence of Him in whom we live, move and have our
being — Our Father who art in Heaven! It is to him, “the giver
of every good and perfect gift,” and not to our fathers after the flesh,
that Christ taught us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” And
how true it is that it is through him that the generations of men exist!
Let the mean temperature of the earth rise or fall a few degrees, an amount
as nothing compared with differences produced in our laboratories, and mankind
would disappear as ice disappears under a tropical sun, would fall as the
leaves fall at the touch of frost. Or, let for two or three seasons the earth
refuse her increase, and how many of our millions would remain alive?
The duty of fathers to transmit to their children profitable property that
will enable them to keep themselves from want and misery in the uncertainties
of this mortal life! What is not possible cannot be a duty. And how is it
possible for fathers to do that? Your Holiness has not considered how mankind
really lives from hand to mouth, getting each day its daily bread; how little
one generation does or can leave another. It is doubtful if the wealth of
the civilized world all told amounts to anything like as much as one year’s
labor, while it is certain that if labor were to stop and men had to rely
on existing accumulation, it would be only a few days ere in the richest
countries pestilence and famine would stalk.
The profitable property your Holiness refers to, is private property in
land. Now profitable land, as all economists will agree, is land superior
land that the ordinary man can get. It is land that will yield an income
to the owner as owner, and therefore that will permit the owner to appropriate
the products of labor without doing labor, its profitableness to the individual
involving the robbery of other individuals. It is therefore possible only
for some fathers to leave their children profitable land. What therefore
your Holiness practically declares is, that it is the duty of all fathers
to struggle to leave their children what only the few peculiarly strong,
lucky or unscrupulous can leave; and that, a something that involves the
robbery of others — their deprivation of the material gifts of God.
This anti-Christian doctrine has been long in practice throughout the Christian
world. What are its results?
Are they not the very evils set forth in your Encyclical? Are they not,
so far from enabling men to keep themselves from want and misery in the uncertainties
of this mortal life, to condemn the great masses of men to want and misery
that the natural conditions of our mortal life do not entail; to want and
misery deeper and more wide-spread than exist among heathen savages? Under
the régime of private property in land and in the richest countries
not five per cent of fathers are able at their death to leave anything substantial
to their children, and probably a large majority do not leave enough to bury
them! Some few children are left by their fathers richer than it is good
for them to be, but the vast majority not only are left nothing by their
fathers, but by the system that makes land private property are deprived
of the bounty of their Heavenly Father; are compelled to sue others for permission
to live and to work, and to toil all their lives for a pittance that often
does not enable them to escape starvation and pauperism.
What your Holiness is actually, though of course inadvertently, urging,
is that earthly fathers should assume the functions of the Heavenly Father.
It is not the business of one generation to provide the succeeding generation “with
all that is needful to enable them honorably to keep themselves from want
and misery.” That is God’s business. We no more create our children
than we create our fathers. It is God who is the Creator of each succeeding
generation as fully as of the one that preceded it. And, to recall your own
words (7), “Nature [God], therefore, owes to man a storehouse that
shall never fail, the daily supply of his daily wants. And this he finds
only in the inexhaustible fertility of the earth.” What you are now
assuming is, that it is the duty of men to provide for the wants of their
children by appropriating this storehouse and depriving other men’s
children of the unfailing supply that God has provided for all.
The duty of the father to the child — the duty possible to all fathers!
Is it not so to conduct himself, so to nurture and teach it, that it shall
come to manhood with a sound body, well-developed mind, habits of virtue,
piety and industry, and in a state of society that shall give it and all
others free access to the bounty of God, the providence of the All-Father?
In doing this the father would be doing more to secure his children from
want and misery than is possible now to the richest of fathers — as
much more as the providence of God surpasses that of man. For the justice
of God laughs at the efforts of men to circumvent it, and the subtle law
that binds humanity together poisons the rich in the sufferings of the poor.
Even the few who are able in the general struggle to leave their children
wealth that they fondly think will keep them from want and misery in the
uncertainties of this mortal life — do they succeed? Does experience
show that it is a benefit to a child to place him above his fellows and enable
him to think God’s law of labor is not for him? Is not such wealth
oftener a curse than a blessing, and does not its expectation often destroy
filial love and bring dissensions and heartburnings into families? And how
far and how long are even the richest and strongest able to exempt their
children from the common lot? Nothing is more certain than that the blood
of the masters of the world flows today in lazzaroni and that the descendants
of kings and princes tenant slums and workhouses.
But in the state of society we strive for, where the monopoly and waste
of God’s bounty would be done away with and the fruits of labor would
go to the laborer, it would be within the ability of all to make more than
a comfortable living with reasonable labor. And for those who might be crippled
or incapacitated, or deprived of their natural protectors and breadwinners,
the most ample provision could be made out of that great and increasing fund
with which God in his law of rent has provided society — not as a matter
of niggardly and degrading alms, but as a matter of right, as the assurance
which in a Christian state society owes to all its members.
Thus it is that the duty of the father, the obligation to the child, instead
of giving any support to private property in land, utterly condemns it, urging
us by the most powerful considerations to abolish it in the simple and efficacious
way of the single tax.
This duty of the father, this obligation to children, is not confined to
those who have actually children of their own, but rests on all of us who
have come to the powers and responsibilities of manhood.
For did not Christ set a little child in the midst of the disciples, saying
to them that the angels of such little ones always behold the face of his
Father; saying to them that it were better for a man to hang a millstone
about his neck and plunge into the uttermost depths of the sea than to injure
such a little one?
And what today is the result of private property in land
in the richest of so-called Christian countries?
Is it not that
people fear to marry; that married
people fear to have children; that
life from sheer want of proper
nourishment and care, or compelled to toil when they ought to
be at school or at
play; that great
attain maturity enter it
with under-nourished bodies, overstrained nerves, undeveloped minds — under
conditions that foredoom them, not merely
to suffering, but to crime;
that fit them in
advance for the
If your Holiness will consider these things we are confident that instead
of defending private property in land you will condemn it with anathema!
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