This may come as a shock to a lot of conservatives. Just one more example of the “Socialist” tendencies of the founding fathers. thomas jefferson ranked Locke, (http://www.constitution.org/jl/2ndtreat.htm) along with Locke’s compatriot Algernon Sidney, as the most important thinkers on liberty. (http://www.thefreemanonline.org/features/john-locke-natural-rights-to-life-liberty-and-property/) But he changed Locks words (“Life, Liberty, and Property”) to “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness” when he wrote the Declaration of Independence. These letters to Isaac McPherson and james madison explains why. As he stated here, The right to property “ceases to be his when himself ceases to be, and reverts to the society.” Heirs do not inherit “… by any natural right, but by a law of the society of which they are members, and to which they are subject.”
Thomas Jefferson To Isaac McPherson, August 13, 1813
It is agreed by those who have seriously considered the subject, that no individual has, of natural right, a separate property in an acre of land, for instance. By an universal law, indeed, whatever, whether fixed or movable, belongs to all men equally and in common, is the property for the moment of him who occupies it; but when he relinquishes the occupation, the property goes with it. Stable ownership is the gift of social law, and is given late in the progress of society.
Thomas Jefferson Letter To James Madison, Sep. 6, 1789
I suppose to be self evident, “that the earth belongs in usufruct* to the living;” that the dead have neither powers nor rights over it. The portion occupied by an individual ceases to be his when himself ceases to be, and reverts to the society. If the society has formed no rules for the appropriation of its lands in severalty, it will be taken by the first occupants. These will generally be the wife and children of the decedent. If they have formed rules of appropriation, those rules may give it to the wife and children, or to some one of them, or to the legatee of the deceased. So they may give it to his creditor. But the child, the legatee or creditor takes it, not by any natural right, but by a law of the society of which they are members, and to which they are subject.
* usufruct |ˈyoōzəˌfrəkt; -sə-| noun Roman Law the right to enjoy the use and advantages of another’s property short of the destruction or waste of its substance.
What Jefferson is saying is that the “ownership” of property is only “in usurfruct” and the “owner” of property has “the right to enjoy the use and advantages of another’s property short of the destruction or waste of its substance” and that “when himself ceases to be” the property “reverts to the society.” In other words the true owner of all property is society and that the rights of the “owners” of property exist only “by a law of the society of which they are members, and to which they are subject.”