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property, weak

No bounds are set to hoarding, where an appetite for artificial wants is indulged : love of money becomes the ruling passion: it is coveted by many in order to be hoarded; and means are absurdly converted into an end. The sense of

among

favages, ripens gradually till it arrives at maturity in polished nations. In every stage of the progress, some new power is added to property; and now for centuries, men have enjoy'd every power over their own goods, that a rational mind can defire (a): they have the free difpofal during life; and even after death, by naming an heir. These powers are sufficient for accomplishing every rational purpose : they are sufficient for commerce, and they are sufficient for benevolence. But the artificial wants of men are boundless not content with the full enjoyment of their property dusing life, nor with the prospect of its being enjoy'd by a favourite heir, they are anxiously bent to preserve it to themselves for ever. A man who has amaffed a great estate in land, is miserable at the (a) Historical Law-tracts, tract 3.

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prospect of being obliged to quit his hold: to sooth his diseased fancy, he makes a deed securing it for ever to certain heirs ; who must without end bear his name, and preserve his estate entire. Death, it is true, must at last separate him from his idol : it is some consolation, however, that his will governs and gives law to every subsequent proprietor. How repugnant to the frail state of man, are such swollen conceptions! Upon these however are founded entails, which have prevailed in many parts of the world, and unhappily at this day infest Scotland. Did entails produce no other mischief but the gratification of a distempered appetite, they might be endured, though far from deserving approbation : but, like other transgressions of nature and reason, they are productive of much mischief, not only to commerce, but to the very heirs for whose fake alone it is pretended that they are made.

Considering that the law of nature has bestow'd on man every power

of

property that is necessary either for commerce or for benevolence, how blind was it in the English legillature to add a moft irråtional Bijlon

power,

power, that of making an entail !

But men will always be mending; and when a lawgiver ventures to tamper with the laws of nature, he hazards much mischief. We have a pregnant instance above, of an attempt to mend the laws of God in many absurd regulations for the poor ; and that the law authorising entails is another instance of the same kind, will be evident from what follows.

The mischievous effects of English entails were soon discovered : they occasioned such injustice and oppression, that even the judges ventured to relieve the nation from them, by an artificial form, termed fine and recovery. And yet, though no moderate man would desire more power over his estate than he has by common law, the legislature of Scotland enabled every land-proprietor to fetter his estate for ever; to tyrannize over his heirs; and to reduce their property to a shadow, by prohibiting them to alien, and by prohibiting them to contract debt were it even to redeem them from death or slavery. Thus many a man, fonder of his estate than of his wife and children, grudges the use of it to his natural heirs, reducing them to

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the state of mere liferenters. Behold the consequences. A number of noblemen and gentlemen among us, lie in wait for every parcel of land that comes to market. Intent upon aggrandizing their family, or rather their estate which is the favourite object, they secure every purchase by an entail; and the same course will be followed, till no land be left to be purchased. Thus every

entailed estate in Scotland becomes in effect a mortmain, admitting additions without end, but absolutely barring alienation; and if the legislature interpose not, the period is not distant, when all the land in Scotland will be locked

up by entails, and withdrawn from commerce.

The purpofe of the present essay, is to fet before our legislature, coolly and impartially, the destructive effects of a Scotch entail. I am not so fanguine as to hope, that men, who convert means into an end and avariciously covet land for its own fake, will be prevailed upon to regard, either the interest of their country or of their pofterity: but I would gladly hope, that the legillature may be roused to give at

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tention to a national object of no flight importance.

I begin with effects of a private or domestic nature. To the possessor, an entail is a constant source of discontent, by subverting that liberty and independence, which all men covet with respect to their goods as well as their persons. What can be more vexatious to a proprietor of a great land-estate, than to be barred from the most laudable acts, suitable provisions for example to a wife or children ? not to mention numberless acts of benevolence, that endear individuals to each other, and sweeten society. A great proportion of the land in Scotland is in such a state, that by laying out a thousand pounds or so, an intelligent proprietor may add a hundred pounds yearly to his rent-roll. But an entail effectually bars that improvement: it affords the proprietor no credit ; and supposing him to have the command of money independent of the estate, he will be ill-fated if he have not means to employ it more profitably for his own interest. An entail, at the same time, is no better than a trap for an improvident pof-, feffor: to avoid altogether the contracting

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