Perhaps the best-known and most succinct, but most misrepresented statement of the meaning of property comes from Sir William Blackstone’s Second Book of the Commentaries on the Laws of England:
‘There is nothing which so generally strikes the imagination, and engages the affections of mankind, as the right of property; or that sole and despotic dominion which one man claims and exercises over the external things of the world, in total exclusion of the right of any other individual in the universe.’
Of course, what it gained in succinctness, Blackstone’s statement lost in accuracy, or, at least, in the way it has been used by others; for Blackstone never meant this statement to represent a full account of all that property was. The way in which most others ever-after have portrayed Blackstone’s words is, at best, inaccurate and, at worst, disingenuous; property is nothing like the absolutist picture painted by an uncritical acceptance of Blackstone’s pithy quotation.
Babie, Paul T., Sovereignty as Governance: An Organising Theme for Australian Property Law (December 23, 2013). 2013 University of New South Wales Law Journal. Volume 36(3) 1075; U. of Adelaide Law Research Paper No. 2013-31.