Is the Anglo-American notion of private property, as encoded in the American constitutional system of rights, biblical? If so, does that mean it is of divine mandate or preference? Put another way, even if biblical, does it harmonize with principles of the restored Gospel, which Latter-day Saints believe reveals the will or preference of God on issues to which it speaks?
This first “installment” will investigate the first of the above questions, whether the Anglo-American concept of private property rights is in fact biblical or to what extent did the Bible influence this concept and the protection accorded it in founding philosophies and documents of the American constitutional system.
It appears that the Bible indeed influenced the American civil right to private property. It is less clear whether that right is biblical, despite such influence.
The Founders referred frequently to God or a Supreme Being during the period of the founding of the United States, often approaching their philosophies and political theories from a generally Judeo-Christian perspective. Part of this historical context was a general belief throughout eighteenth-century New England in a biblically sanctioned right to own property. For example, New England ministers frequently quoted the reference in Micah 4:4 to sitting “every man under his vine and under his fig tree” as support for universal freeholding. Additionally, and perhaps more politically significant, in enshrining the quintessentially American right to private property in the Constitution and its Amendments, the Founders also indirectly incorporated biblical support for a right to property through their reliance on John Locke’s theory of property in the Two Treatises of Government (1690) and on William Blackstone’s endorsement of private property in his Commentaries on the Laws of England (1765–1769) that had both already influenced the Declaration of Independence.
The Bible initially influenced the American development of the right to property in part through its support of the political and legal theories of (A) John Locke and (B) William Blackstone. First, the Lockean conception of natural law and private property figured prominently in the natural rights reasoning of the Founders. Locke, for his part, derived his views on private property largely from his understanding of the Bible. Also, Blackstone’s Commentaries “taught American Revolutionaries their rights, helped inspire the Declaration of Independence, [and] influenced the deliberations of the Constitutional Convention.” Like Locke, Blackstone turned to the Bible for a starting point in his theory of private property. Finally, Chancellor James Kent of New York, “America’s Blackstone,” also acknowledged Genesis as the starting point for a theory of private property.
Through their emphasis on natural rights in defense of England’s Glorious Revolution, John Locke’s Treatises played a paramount role in the American founding. Following Grotius and Pufendorf, as well as other natural rights theorists, Locke first reaffirmed the natural rights of life and liberty. Then Locke conflated these rights with the right to property, defining the latter as “Life, Liberty and Estate.” In short, Locke “tried to prove that property is natural, that the right to property is a natural right, and that private ownership is an institution, not of man, but of nature.” In this way, the Lockean natural rights triumvirate of “life, liberty, and property” came into being. In constructing this triumvirate, Locke looked first to the Bible for justification of a natural right to property.
1. The Biblical Nature of Locke’s Labor Theory of Private Property
Locke not only grouped the right to own property with other natural rights, but he also justified this right through a labor theory of property proceeding from biblical first principles. True, Locke inferred from the biblical book of Genesis that God initially “hath given the World to Men in common.” But he reasoned further that,
Though the Earth, and all inferior Creatures be common to all Men, yet every Man has a Property in his own Person. This no Body has any Right to but himself. The Labour of his Body, and the Work of his Hands, we may say, are properly his. Whatsoever then he removes out of the State that Nature hath provided, and left it in, he hath mixed his Labour with, and joined to it something that is his own, and thereby makes it his Property. It being by him removed from the common state Nature placed it in, it hath by this labour something annexed to it, that excludes the common right of other Men. For this Labour being the unquestionable Property of the Labourer, no Man but he can have a right to what that is once joined to, at least where there is enough, and as good left in common for others.
Locke went on to examine other scriptural accounts from the book of Genesis to support this labor theory of property. And despite the caveat in this labor theory that there must be “enough, and as good left in common for others” after such appropriation through mixing labor, “[f]rom Locke’s day to our own, the Lockean theory of property has been thought of as the natural right theory of property . . . and it has been used to explain and defend both the unequal distribution and the complex rights of property in modern societies.”  Locke’s right to property stood behind the most important natural rights based political revolutions in history, particularly the American Revolution, and the Bible stood behind Locke’s influential theory.
2. The Lockean Nature of American Founding Documents
Political theory in America at the time of the Founding was very Lockean in nature. As a general matter, pre-Revolutionary eighteenth-century Americans justified a feeling of “unique superiority” over their English kin through Locke’s theories of liberty and property. More specifically, the Founders incorporated Locke’s theory of property directly into founding documents, adopting it as their own.
Locke’s natural right to property surfaces in most of America’s founding documents. As early as 1774, the Continental Congress declared officially that “the immutable laws of nature” guaranteed the colonists the rights of “life, liberty, and property.” Two years later, Thomas Jefferson, “one of the foremost exponents of natural right,” curiously rephrased the Lockean triumvirate of “life, liberty, and property” with “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” as “inalienable rights” with which men are “endowed by their Creator” in the Declaration of Independence. This may have reflected Blackstone’s influence on Jefferson: Blackstone’s notion of private property, although just as biblical, as will be shown, differed slightly from Locke’s in that Blackstone viewed the right to property more as a conventional right—a right created by society—than as a natural right, a view closely resembling that of the Scottish Enlightenment. Or it may have simply reflected an awareness of the inherent contradictions in Locke’s own theory due to the caveat that a natural property right exists as long as there is “enough, and as good left in common for others.”
At any rate, Jefferson’s semantic change did not alter America’s view of inalienable or natural rights as including property. “Rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are equivalent to the rights of life, liberty, and property. These are the fundamental rights which can only be taken sway by due process of law . . . and these rights . . . belong to the citizens of every free government.” For instance, immediately after the Declaration of Independence, most of the states created new constitutions whose Bills of Rights contained the natural right to property. Two of the most important of these, the Virginia Bill of Rights, drafted by George Mason, and the Massachusetts Bill of Rights, authored by John Adams, clearly evidenced a Lockean understanding of the natural right of property.
Finally, and most significantly, the U.S. Constitution directly incorporated Locke’s natural right of property through its Fifth Amendment. The Fifth Amendment to the Constitution explicitly guarantees that “[n]o person shall be . . . deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.” Effectively, this Amendment “enacted into law the Civil Government of Mr. John Locke.” And following the Civil War, the Fourteenth Amendment reinforced this Lockean right: “The Fifth Amendment, supplemented by the Fourteenth, which prohibited state as well as federal government from depriving men of property ‘without due process of law,’ both interpreted by a Supreme Court with strong views on the rights of property, became the chief legal barrier to popular demands for the limitation of private ownership.” Thus, the provisions in American founding documents protecting a natural right to property stem at least in part directly from Locke’s theory of private property, which Locke in turn had derived from a biblical starting point.
Much like Locke, Blackstone’s writings exerted a tremendous influence on the philosophy of the American Founding. Blackstone has been viewed as somewhat of a “rights-zealot and, especially, as a property-rights zealot.” However, Blackstone’s notion of private property differed from Locke’s in that Blackstone viewed private property as a conventional civil right—one created by the necessity of living in society rather than by nature; that is, first possession justified property constellations out of societal convention and consent.
1. Biblical Influence in Blackstone’s Theory of Private Property
The Bible provided Blackstone with a starting point in his theory of private property. Blackstone begins his discussion of the right to property by quoting from Genesis 1:28. The Bible was a natural starting place for Blackstone, since he considered this verse from the book of Genesis to be “the only true and solid foundation of man’s dominion over external things, whatever airy metaphysical notions may have been started by fanciful writers upon this subject.”
Blackstone initially comes to the same conclusion as Locke: that God gave man the world in common. But Blackstone goes on to justify possession of private property on different grounds—through the theory of first possession. As the population grew after God’s initial grant of property to Adam and Eve, “[n]ecessity begat property: and, in order to insure that property, recourse was had to civil society, which brought along with it a long train of inseparable concomitants; states, governments, laws, punishments, and the public exercise of religious duties.” In a certain sense, then, Blackstone even espoused the concept that societal relationships came into existence to protect property rights, and that property rights, therefore, are conventional or societal. In fine,
Property, both in lands and moveables, being thus originally acquired by the first taker, which taking amounts to a declaration that he intends to appropriate the thing to his own use, it remains to him, by the principles of universal law, till such time as he does some other act which shews an intention to abandon it; for then it becomes, naturally speaking, publici juris once more, and is liable to be again appropriated by the next occupant.
To support this first possession theory of property rights as a societal convention, Blackstone seeks detailed support in other biblical accounts. For example, he quotes the book of Genesis for the experiences of Abraham and Abimelech, Isaac, and Abraham and Lot. Indeed, the Bible played a central role in Blackstone’s formulation of a theory of property rights; Blackstone’s Commentaries, in turn, proved to be a highly influential treatise on the common law at the time of the American Founding.
2. Blackstone’s Influence in America at the Time of the Founding
It is hard to imagine today the profound influence of Blackstone’s Commentaries on the American legal systems at the time of the Founding. Even today, the Commentaries must be regarded as “the most influential law book in Anglo-American history.” In fact, “[a]ll of our formative documents—the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Federalist Papers, and the seminal decisions of the Supreme Court under John Marshall—were drafted by attorneys steeped in [Blackstone’s Commentaries].” For instance, anecdotally, “[b]y the time he turned twenty-seven, [John] Marshall had read the Commentaries four times.”
Following Locke, Blackstone imbued his treatise on the common law with views of civil rights that resonated with the American Founders. Blackstone wrote of three absolute rights of Englishmen: personal security, personal liberty, and private property, i.e. Locke’s rights of life, liberty, and property. The Founders trumpeted Blackstone’s legal perspectives on these rights in the Commentaries as much as Locke’s political insistence on them in the Treatises.
Some aspects of Blackstone’s theories, however, proved to be repugnant to American Revolutionaries. That is, “Blackstone’s favorable reception was dampened in some quarters by his political opposition to the claims of American colonists, his denial that Americans enjoyed the common law rights of British subjects, his view that freedom of the press consisted only of freedom from prior censorship, and his apologies for the Crown, the established church and other resented English institutions.” These issues prompted sharp criticism from Jefferson, who otherwise admired the Commentaries: “In 1812, while describing Blackstone’s Commentaries as ‘the most elegant and best digested of our law catalogue,’ Jefferson protested ‘canoniz[ation]’ of the book.”
Despite some of these negative feelings towards Blackstone as a Member of Parliament inimical to the interests of the American colonies, the Commentaries’ influence on the Founding of America was unavoidable. “In the history of American institutions, no other book—except the Bible—has played so great a role . . . .” Moreover, “[i]n the first century of American independence, the Commentaries were not merely an approach to the study of law; for most lawyers they constituted all there was of the law.” Finally, “Blackstone’s work was much more fully absorbed into legal thinking here than in England, where legal resources were both more diverse and more readily available. . . . It would be hard to exaggerate the degree of esteem in which . . . the Commentaries were held.”
Although founding philosophies and documents refer often to a God or Supreme Being while at the same time refraining from quoting directly from the Bible, the Bible nevertheless exerted a great deal of influence on the creation of the American right to private property. Provisions in American founding documents protecting a natural right to property stem directly from Locke’s and Blackstone’s theories of private property; these theories, in turn, both stemmed from a biblical starting point in defining a civil right to property. By serving as a starting point and foundational premise for both Locke and Blackstone in their treatment of property rights, the Bible heavily influenced the civil right to private property as enshrined in the Constitution and its Amendments because of the profound impact of Locke’s and Blackstone’s writings on the philosophies of the American Founders.
 WILLIAM B. SCOTT, IN PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS: AMERICAN CONCEPTIONS OF PROPERTY FROM THE SEVENTEENTH TO THE TWENTIETH CENTURY 2 (1977).
 RICHARD SCHLATTER, PRIVATE PROPERTY: THE HISTORY OF AN IDEA 191 (2d ed. 1973) (“[T]here is little doubt that if [the Founders] had been pressed to explain the right of property they would have paraphrased Locke.”); Jeffrey Reidinger, Property Rights and Democracy: Philosophical and Economic Considerations, 22 CAP. U. L. REV. 893, 897 (1993) (noting the “considerable influence of John Locke and his conceptions of natural law and property rights in the constitutional law of the United States”).
 See, e.g., JOHN LOCKE, TWO TREATISES OF GOVERNMENT, bk. 2, ch. 5, § 25, at 303–04 (Peter Laslett ed., Cambridge Univ. Press 1960) (1690) (quoting Psalms 115:16 for his first principle that God initially granted the earth to mankind in common); id. at bk 2, ch. 5, § 38, at 313–14 (discussing biblical accounts of Cain and Abel, Abraham and Lot, and Esau and Jacob in explanation of his theory of private property).
 Albert W. Alschuler, Rediscovering Blackstone, 145 U. PA. L. REV. 1, 15 (1996).
 See, e.g., 2 WILLIAM BLACKSTONE, COMMENTARIES *2 (quoting Genesis 1:28 for the proposition that God gave man dominion over the earth); id. at *5-6 (quoting Abraham’s encounter with Abimelech in Genesis 21:32-32 and Abraham’s contention with Lot in Genesis 13 in support of his notion that scarcity justified a system of private property in which first possession trumped).
 Herbert W. Titus, God’s Revelation: Foundations for the Common Law, 4 REGENT U. L. REV. 1, 18 (1994).
 See, e.g., 2 JAMES KENT, COMMENTARIES ON AMERICAN LAW *317–18 (refuting Golden Age theories of communal property by citing to Cain’s murder of Abel in Genesis 4); id. at *318 (pointing to Genesis to support notions of separate property).
 LOCKE, supra note 3, at bk. 2, ch. 7, § 87; SCHLATTER, supra note 1, at 159.
 SCHLATTER, supra note 2, at 152.
 Gen. 1:28 (KJV) (“And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.”).
 LOCKE, supra note 3, at bk. 2, ch. 5, § 26; see also id. at bk. 1, ch. 4, §§ 21-24 (observing that the grant in Genesis 1:28 was to all mankind in common and not to Adam alone as the sole Power or Monarch).
 Id. at bk. 2, ch. 5, § 27.
 Id. at bk. 2, ch. 5, § 38 (discussing Cain and Abel, Abraham and Lot in Genesis 8, and Esau in Genesis 36).
 SCHLATTER, supra note 2, at 159.
 Id. at 151 (“The theory that property was a natural right triumphed with the Glorious, the American, and the French Revolutions.”).
 Id. at 188 (“Behind the slogan, ‘no taxation without representation,’ stood the Lockean theory of property.”).
 SCOTT, supra note 1, at 24.
 SCHLATTER, supra note 2, at 162 (“The doctrine of property revealed to John Locke suffered the fate of more famous revelations: it was more welcome to foreigners than to his own countrymen.”)
 Id. at 188 (quoting DECLARATION AND RESOLVES OF THE FIRST CONTINENTAL CONGRESS).
 Id. at 199.
 Alschuler, supra note 4, at 23. In truth, Locke had addressed both sides of the right to property—both as a natural and as a conventional right: “The necessary forms of private property could be created without the unanimous consent of all mankind. Property could be natural. But in fact, Locke added, it is now conventional. Modern property rights were created by men and are valid only because men have agreed to respect them.” SCHLATTER, supra note 2, at 157. Even though Locke tended towards this conclusion, he had elevated the right to property to the level of a natural right, and that is how his theory was received both in England, America, and France until “the decline of liberalism” when “the theory ceased to be a self-evident truth,” id. at 151, as “socialists appropriated it and utilitarians found a substitute for it” in the late nineteenth century, id. at 161.
 SCHLATTER, supra note 2, at 199 (“Jefferson, like many Liberal revolutionaries, could conclude that natural property, cleansed of the excrescences of aristocratic privilege, would be the foundation of a free society. Even so, he seemed ready to abandon the theory of natural right [of property] whenever in practice it led to contrary conclusions.”).
 The Slaughter-House Cases, 83 U.S. 36, 116 (Bradley, J., dissenting).
 SCHLATTER, supra note 2, at 188.
 Id. at 188–89 (declaring that “all men are by nature equally free and independent, and have certain inherent rights . . . namely, the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety”).
 Id. at 189 (stating that “all men are born free and equal and have certain natural, essential, and unalienable rights; among which may be reckoned the right of enjoying and defending their lives and liberties; that of acquiring, possessing, and protecting property; in fine, that of seeking and obtaining their safety and happiness”).
 Id. at 193 (George Mason in drafting the Virginia Bill); Id. at 191 (John Adams in writing the Massachusetts Bill).
 U.S. CONST. amend. V.
 SCHLATTER, supra note 2, at 193.
 Id. at 194.
 Alschuler, supra note 4, at 18.
 Titus, supra note 6, at 23–24.
 2 BLACKSTONE at *2–3.
 Id. at *3.
 Id. at *8; see also 1 BLACKSTONE at *299 (“all property is derived from society.”).
 Id. at *9.
 Id. at *5 (quoting Gen. 21:30).
 Id. at *6 (quoting Gen. 26:15, 18).
 Id. (quoting Gen. 13).
 Alschuler, supra note 4, at 2.
 Id. (quoting ROBERT A. FERGUSON, LAW AND LETTERS IN AMERICAN CULTURE 11 (1984)).
 Id. at 5.
 Id. at 9 (internal citations omitted).
 Id. at 10.
 Id. at 7 (quoting DANIEL J. BOORSTIN, THE MYSTERIOUS SCIENCE OF THE LAW, at iii (1958)).
 Id. at 7 n.30 (quoting BOORSTIN, at 3).
 Id. at 7 (quoting MARY ANN GLENDON, RIGHTS TALK: THE IMPOVERISHMENT OF POLITICAL DISCOURSE 23 (1991)).