Anatole France lived from 1844 to 1924. His book, Penguin Island, tells the story of a near-sighted saint who, many centuries ago, sailed across the seas. He found an island populated by beings whom he proceeded to baptise. Too late, he discovered that they were not people but penguins. This led to a debate in heaven, as a result of which it was decided that the penguins would have to live as humans. On this basis, the author developed a classic satire on the history and society of France.
In an early scene, the saint, accompanied by the monk, Bulloch, observes a large penguin, carrying a heavy club, go down the hill to where a small penguin was tending his vegetables on his plot of land. 'Your field is mine', shouted the large penguin, and struck the small penguin on the head, killing him. The saint was deeply distressed, but the monk, Bulloch, gently reassured him.
'Take care, father', he said 'that what you call murder and robbery may really be war and conquest, those sacred foundations of empires, those sources of all human virtues and all human greatness... . [A]s regards ownership the right of the first occupier is uncertain and badly founded. The right of conquest, on the other hand, rests on more solid foundations. It is the only right that receives respect since it is the only one that makes itself respected. The sole and proud origin of property is force. It is born and preserved by force.'
Keywords: conquest, Europe, France, Anatole, property, property law
Author: Nettheim, Garth