“Possession is eleven points in the law, and they say they are but twelve.”
With deference to the Scots, possession is not nine-tenths of the law, as the saying has been adapted. The legal concept of adverse possession developed in early British jurisprudence. Its rare usage in the U.S. today is applied in the event of an owner neglecting or forgetting about a property under their possession. The second hurdle requires a judge determining that the trespasser has been using or caring for said property for so long that evicting would create a hardship. If those burdens cannot be met, the legal owner is the titleholder. But what of lands possessed, but to which no written title exists?
In the history of the world, there are countless examples of conquerors vanquishing their own laws in the name of imperialism. New Zealand, of which I wrote extensively a few weeks back, is the most glaring example. When Europeans first landed in 1860, the Māori held 80% of the land. By 2000, that percentage had nearly vanished to 4%. The annals describe of moments that land was purchased, but the outcome stands as sufficient testament to lands having been confiscated.
War is another means by which possession is seized. Between 1890 and 1940, Germany fulfilled its goal of Lebensraum, or “living space” requirements that posited that the country’s survival depended on its self-sufficiency in terms of territory and resources. All the way back to the Middle Ages, overpopulation in Germanic states had led to the steady colonization of Eastern Europe. It took the addition of poisonous philosophies of the twentieth century to warp Lebensraum such that lands and the reserves within them were wasted on racially “inferior” peoples, especially the non-Aryans of Poland, the Ukraine, Russia, Czech and other Slavic nations. We’re well aware of how the final apocryphal chapter of that book ended.