As a sidebar to Samuel Goldman’s excellent post on Locke’s theory of property as it relates to the expropriation of land held by indigenous peoples, I commend to your attention an essay (found in this 1969 collection) by the political theorist John Dunn.

Dunn finds that one of the earliest appearances in New England of Locke’s Two Treatises of Government is found in a preface, written by the Rev. John Bulkley in 1725, to Roger Wolcott’s Poetical Meditations (see page 27 here).

Bulkley wrote thusly in justification of American colonists’ expropriation of Native American land:

…Living almost entirely on what Nature prepared to their Hands, and so disproportioned in number to the quantity of their Provisions that after their Consumption of what was needful for them, there remained enough for perhaps Ten Times the Number, and at the same time nothing in the Island either because of its Commonness or Perishableness fit to supply the place of Money; what Inducement could such Societies have by any Compact either with one another, or among themselves respectively, to fix a Property in Lands, beyond what was done in the way before mentioned by the Law of Nature, for my own part I can’t Excogitate any.

Goldman will correct me if I’m oversimplifying, but it seems to me that the Rev. Bulkley, via Locke, was essentially arguing, “What’s the point of having property if that’s all your going to do with it?!”

Interesting stuff.