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Property is any physical or intangible entity that is owned by a person or jointly by a group of people. Depending on the nature of the property, an owner of property has the right to consume, sell, rent, mortgage, transfer, exchange or destroy their property, or to exclude others from doing these things.


  • How is property given? By restraining liberty; that is, by taking it away so far as necessary for the purpose. How is your house made yours? By debarring every one else from the liberty of entering it without your leave.
    • Jeremy Bentham, "A Critical Examination of the Declaration of Rights; Article II" in The Works of Jeremy Bentham, Vol. II (1839), p. 503.
  • Private property… is a Creature of Society, and is subject to the Calls of that Society, whenever its Necessities shall require it, even to its last Farthing, its contributors therefore to the public Exigencies are not to be considered a Benefit on the Public, entitling the Contributors to the Distinctions of Honor and Power, but as the Return of an Obligation previously received, or as payment for a just Debt.
    • Benjamin Franklin, Queries and Remarks respecting Alterations in the Constitution of Pennsylvania, 1789.
  • The systems advocated by professed upholders of laissez-faire are in reality permeated with coercive restrictions of individual freedom. … What is the government doing when it "protects a property right"? Passively, it is abstaining from interference with the owner when he deals with the thing owned; actively, it is forcing the non-owner to desist from handling it, unless the owner consents. Yet Mr. Carver would have it that the government is merely preventing the non-owner from using force against the owner. This explanation is obviously at variance with the facts—for the non-owner is forbidden to handle the owner's property even where his handling of it involves no violence or force whatever. … In protecting property the government is doing something quite apart from merely keeping the peace. It is exerting coercion wherever that is necessary to protect each owner, not merely from violence, but also from peaceful infringement of his sole right to enjoy the thing owned.
    • Robert Hale, “Coercion and Distribution in a Supposedly Non-Coercive State,” Political Science Quarterly, Vol. 38, No. 3 (Sep., 1923), pp. 470-494.
  • Property is the fruit of labor—property is desirable—is a positive good in the world. That some should be rich, shows that others may become rich, and hence is just encouragement to industry and enterprize. Let not him who is houseless pull down the house of another; but let him labor diligently and build one for himself, thus by example assuring that his own shall be safe from violence when built.
    • Abraham Lincoln, reply to New York Workingmen's Democratic Republican Association (March 21, 1864), Roy P. Basler, ed., The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln (1953), vol. 7, p. 259–60.
  • As a man is said to have a right to his property, he may be equally said to have a property in his rights.
    • James Madison, "Property", National Gazette (March 29, 1792) in Gaillard Hunt, ed., The Writings of James Madison vol. 6 (1906), p. 101. These words are inscribed in the Madison Memorial Hall, Library of Congress James Madison Memorial Building.
  • If it had pleased them [the legislators] to order that this wealth, after having been possessed by fathers during their life, should return to the republic after their death, you would have no reason to complain of it.
  • The first man who, having fenced off a plot of land, thought of saying, 'This is mine' and found people simple enough to believe him was the real founder of civil society. How many crimes, wars, murders, how many miseries and horrors might the human race had been spared by the one who, upon pulling up the stakes or filling in the ditch, had shouted to his fellow men: 'Beware of listening to this imposter; you are lost if you forget the fruits of the earth belong to all and that the earth belongs to no one.'
  • "The mere abolition of rent would not remove injustice, since it would confer a capricious advantage upon the occupiers of the best sites and the most fertile land. It is necessary that there should be rent, but it should be paid to the state or to some body which performs public services; or, if the total rental were more than is required for such purposes, it might be paid into a common fund and divided equally among the population."
  • Civil government, so far as it is instituted for the security of property, is in reality instituted for the defense of the rich against the poor, or of those who have some property against those who have none at all.
  • The freest government, if it could exist, would not be long acceptable, if the tendency of the laws were to create a rapid accumulation of property in few hands, and to render the great mass of the population dependent and penniless. In such a case, the popular power would be likely to break in upon the rights of property, or else the influence of property to limit and control the exercise of popular power. Universal suffrage, for example, could not long exist in a community where there was great inequality of property…. In the nature of things, those who have not property, and see their neighbors possess much more than they think them to need, cannot be favorable to laws made for the protection of property. When this class becomes numerous, it grows clamorous. It looks on property as its prey and plunder, and is naturally ready, at all times, for violence and revolution.
    • Daniel Webster, "First Settlement of New England", speech delivered at Plymouth, Massachusetts (December 22, 1820), to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the landing of the Pilgrims at Plymouth. The Writings and Speeches of Daniel Webster (1903), vol. 1, p. 214.
  • The idea of property arises out of the combative instincts of the species. Long before men were men, the ancestral ape was a proprietor. Primitive property is what a beast will fight for. The dog and his bone, the tigress and her lair, the roaring stag and his herd, these are proprietorship blazing. No more nonsensical expression is conceivable in sociology than the term "primitive communism."Society, therefore, is from its beginnings the mitigation of ownership. Ownership in the beast and in the primitive savage was far more intense a thing than it is in the civilized world today. It is rooted more strongly in our instincts than in our reason.
    • H.G. Wells, "Pause In Reconstruction And The Dawn Of Modern Socialism", in The Outline of History (1919).
  • Private property … has led Individualism entirely astray. It has made gain not growth its aim. So that man thought that the important thing was to have, and did not know that the important thing is to be. The true perfection of man lies, not in what man has, but in what man is.
  • Give a man the secure possession of a bleak rock, and he will turn it into a garden; give him a nine years lease of a garden, and he will convert it into a desert…. The magic of PROPERTY turns sand to gold.
    • Arthur Young, journal entries for July 30 and November 7, 1787, Travels…, 2d ed. (1794, reprinted 1970), vol. 1, p. 51, 88.

The Dictionary of Legal Quotations (1904)[edit]

Quotes reported in James William Norton-Kyshe, The Dictionary of Legal Quotations (1904), p. 210-212.
  • A thing which is not in esse but in apparent expectancy is regarded in law.
    • Lord Edward Coke, Case of Sutton's Hospital (1612), 5 Rep. 303.
  • The power to regulate the disposal of property after death ought not to extend to doing it in a manner tending to the prejudice of the living.
    • Lord Truro, Brownlow v. Egerton (1854), 23 L. J. Rep. Part 5 (N. S.), Ch. 403.
  • The Court has of late years been much more ready to decide questions as to interests in futuro than it formerly was.
    • Kekeunch, J., In re Freme's Contract (1895), L. R. 2 C. D. [1895], p. 262.
  • Rules of property ought to be generally known, and not to be left upon loose notes, which rather serve to confound principles, than to confirm them.
    • Lord Mansfield, Goodtitle v. Duke of Chandos (1760), 2 Burr. Part IV., p. 1076.
  • Entry is not equivalent to possession.
    • Fry, J., Edwick v. Hawkes (1881), L. R. 18 C. D. 203.
  • The law is so benignant in this country that it sometimes contradicts itself in order to preserve estates.
    • Lord St. Leonards, Brownlow v. Egerton (1854), 23 L. J. Rep. Part 5 (N. S.), Ch. 407.
  • We must not be frighted when a matter of property comes before us by saying it belongs to the Parliament; we must exert the Queen's jurisdiction.
    • Holt, C.J., Ashby v. White (1703), Lord Raym. 938.
  • Personal property has no locality. … The meaning of that is, not that personal property has no visible locality, but that it is subject to that law which governs the person of the owner. With respect to the disposition of it, with respect to the transmission of it, either by succession or the act of the party, it follows the law of the person. The owner in any country may dispose of personal property. If he dies, it is not the law of the country in which the property is, but the law of the country of which he was a subject, that will regulate the succession.
    • Lord Loughborough, Sill v. Worswick (1791), 1 H. Bl. 690.
  • Monuments are memorials of great use in questions of descent, and in matters of family interest; decency and propriety likewise require that they should not remain in a state of ruin and decay.
    • Sir William Scott, Bardin v. Calcott (1789), 1 Hagg. Con. Rep. 16.
  • There is nothing illegal in keeping up a tomb; on the contrary, it is a very laudable thing to do.
  • I am afraid that the state of some other noble monuments of the finest Gothic architecture in this kingdom is not very consoling; that they are mouldering and crumbling into ruins. I have heard it observed with grave and serious regret, that no funds have been appropriated for the preservation of them: perhaps a time will come when that which I take to be an error will be corrected, and when it will be found that all the property of the Church is a fund for the sustentation of those fabrics.
    • Eyre, C.J., Jefferson v. Bishop of Durham (1797), 2 Bos. & Pull. 129.
  • If a man will make a purchase of a chance, he must abide by the consequences.
    • Richards, L.C.B., Hitchcock v. Giddings (1817), 4 Price, 135.
  • I know of no case in which you are to have a judicial proceeding, by which a man is to be deprived of any part of his property, without his having an opportunity of being heard.
    • Bayley, B., Capel v. Child (1832), 2 C. & J. 579.
  • The superior man loves his soul; the inferior man loves his property.
    • Confucius, cited in A Little Book of Aphorisms (New York: 1947), p. 185.
  • "None shall be disseised of his freehold" (Magna Charta).
    • Quoted by Denison, J., Rex. v. Inhabitants of Aythrop Rooding (1756), Burrow (Settlement Cases,), 414; reported in James William Norton-Kyshe, Dictionary of Legal Quotations (1904), p. 99.

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