(Half II of the collection, Half I is right here.)

The second half of the eighteenth century noticed the event, primarily in Scotland (although with vital French and different precedents),  of what would come to be often known as “stadial concept” or “four-stages concept.” This group of theories constructed on an age-old curiosity within the origins of society and its establishments, sharpened by contact with New World societies that reminded Europeans of societies described in classical Greco-Roman and biblical sources, and raised the difficulty of what separated “savage” or “barbaric” peoples from “civilized” ones. Stadial pondering provided a concept of progress:

In its most particular kind, the idea was that society ‛naturally’ or ‛usually’ progressed over time by means of 4 kind of distinct and consecutive levels, every similar to a distinct mode of subsistence, these levels being outlined as looking, pasturage, agriculture, and commerce. To every of those modes of subsistence, it got here to be argued, there corresponded completely different units of concepts and establishments referring to regulation, property, and authorities… (Ronald L. Meek, Social Science and the Ignoble Savage 6 (1976))

From the start, property regulation had a central place in one of these concept — it was, it appears, the motivating issue behind the idea  — and the dialogue of property displayed hanging similarities to facets of contemporary commons concept (to be mentioned in Half III beneath). John Dalrympleʼs three-stage concept, the primary printed model of stadial concept (1757), related the progress of society with growing specification of property rights. Furthermore, it attributed the transition between levels to what we’d immediately name growing strain on assets:

The primary state of society is that of hunters and fishers; amongst such a folks the concept of property shall be confined to a couple, and however a only a few moveables; and topics that are immoveable, shall be esteemed to be frequent. In accounts given of many American tribes we learn, that one or two of the tribe will wander 5 or 6 hundred miles from his normal place of dwelling, plucking the fruit, destroying the sport, and catching the fish all through the fields and rivers adjoining to all of the tribes which he passes, with none concept of such a property within the members of them, as makes him responsible of infringing the rights of others.

The subsequent state of society begins, when the inconveniencies and risks of such a life, lead males to the invention of pasturage. Throughout this era, as quickly as a flock have brouzed [sic] upon one spot of floor, their proprietors will take away them to a different; and the place they’ve quitted will fall to the subsequent who pleases to take possession of it: for that reason such shepherds may have no notion of property in immoveables, nor of proper of possession longer than the act of possession lasts. The phrases of Abraham to Lot are: “Is just not the entire land earlier than thee? Separate thyself, I pray thee, from me. If thou wilt take the left hand, then will I’m going to the proper; or if thou depart to the proper hand, then will I’m going to the left.” And we’re advised that the explanation of this separation, was, the amount of flocks, and herds, and tents, which every of them had, and which the land was unable to assist; and subsequently lord [sic] Stairs ingeniously observes, that the elements of the earth which the patriarchs loved, are termed within the scripture, not more than the possessions.

A 3rd state of society is produced, when males turn out to be so quite a few, that the flesh and milk of their cattle is inadequate for his or her subsistence, and when their extra prolonged intercourse with one another, has made them strike out new arts of life, and significantly the artwork of agriculture. This artwork main males to bestow thought and labour upon land, will increase their reference to a single portion of it; this connection lengthy continued, produces an affection; and this affection lengthy continued, along with the opposite, produces the notion of property. (John Dalrymple, An Essay In direction of a Normal Historical past of Property in Nice Britain 86–88 (1757))

Lord Kames

The jurist Henry House, Lord Kames, additionally related the levels of society to property regulation in his Historic Regulation Tracts (144–46 (Edinburgh, A. Kincaid & J. Bell, 1758), footnotes omitted and spelling modernized):

Within the two first levels of the social life, whereas males have been hunters or shepherds, there scarce could possibly be any notion of land-property. Males being strangers to agriculture, and in addition to the artwork of constructing, if it was not of huts, which could possibly be raised or demolished in a second, had no mounted habitations, however wandered about in hordes or clans, in an effort to discover pasture for his or her cattle. On this vagrant life males had scarce any reference to land greater than with air or water. A discipline of grass may be thought-about as belonging to a horde or clan, whereas they have been in possession; and so would possibly the air wherein they breathed, and the water of which they drunk: however the second they eliminated to a different quarter, there not subsisted any connection betwixt them and the sphere that was abandoned. It lay open to new-comers, who had the identical proper as if it had not been previously occupied. Therefore I conclude, that whereas males led the lifetime of shepherds, there was no relation shaped betwixt them and land, in any method so distinct as to acquire the title of Property.

Agriculture, which makes the third stage of the social life, produced the relation of land-property. A person who has bestowed labour in getting ready a discipline for the plough, and who has improved this discipline by clever tradition, varieties in his thoughts a really intimate reference to it.

Elsewhere Kames related the advance between levels with the strain of rising populations on assets: 

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