Commentaries on the Laws of England (1765-1769)
Sir William Blackstone
Of Title by Purchase, And First by Escheat
PURCHASE, perquisitio, taken in its largest and most extensive sense, is thus defined by Littleton;1 the possession of lands and tenements, which a man has by his own act or agreement; and not by descent from any of his ancestors or kindred. In this sense it is contradistinguished from acquisition by right of blood, and includes every other method of coming to an estate, but merely that by inheritance; wherein the title is vested in a person, not by his own act or agreement, but by the single operation of law.2
PURCHASE, indeed, in its vulgar and confined acceptation, is applied only to such acquisitions of land, as are obtained by way of bargain and sale, for money, or some other valuable consideration. But this falls far short of the legal idea of purchase: for, if I give land freely to another, he is in the eye of the law a purchaser;3 and falls within Littleton’s definition, for he comes to the estate by his own agreement, that is, he consents to the gift. A man who has his father’s estate settled upon him in tail, before he is born, is also a purchaser; for he takes quite another estate than the law of descents would have given him. Nay even if the ancestor devises his estate to his heir at law by will, with other limitations or in any other shape than the course of descents would direct, such heir shall take by purchase.4 But if a man, seized in fee, devises his whole estate to his heir at law, so that the heir takes neither a greater nor a less estate by the devise than he would have done without it, he shall be adjudged to take by descent,5 even though it be charged with encumbrances;6 for the benefit of creditors, and others, who have demands on the estate of the ancestor. If a remainder be limited to the heirs of Sempronius, here Sempronius himself takes nothing; but, if he dies during the continuance of the particular estate, his heirs shall take as purchasers.7 But, if an estate be made to A for life, remainder to his right heirs in fee, his heirs shall take by descent: for it is an ancient rule of law, that wherever the ancestor takes an estate for life, the heir cannot by the same conveyance take an estate in fee by purchase, but only by descent.8 And, if A dies before entry, still his heir shall take by descent, and not by purchase; for, where the heir takes any thing that might have vested in the ancestor, he takes by way of descent.9 The ancestor, during his life, bears in himself all his heirs;10 and therefore, when once he is or might have been seized of the land, the inheritance to limited to his heirs vests in the ancestor himself: and the word “heirs” in this case is not esteemed a word of purchase, but a word of limitation, enuring so as to increase the estate of the ancestor from a tenancy for life to a fee-simple. And, had it been otherwise, had the heir (who is uncertain till the death of the ancestor) been allowed to take as a purchasers originally nominated in the deed, as must have been the case if the remainder had been expressly limited to Matthew or Thomas by name; then, in the times of strict feudal tenure, the lord would have been defrauded by such a limitation of the fruits of his seigniory, arising from a descent to the heir.
WHAT we call purchase, perquisitio, the feudists call conquest, conquaestus, or conquisitio:11 both denoting any means of acquiring an estate out of the common course of inheritance. And this is still the proper phrase in the law of Scotland;12 as it was, among the Norman jurists, who styled the first purchaser (that is, he who first brought the estate into the family which at present owns it) the conqueror or conquereur.13 Which seems to be all that was meant by the appellation which was given to William the Norman, when his manner of ascending the throne of England was, in his own and his successors’ charters, and by the historians of the times, entitled conquaestus, and himself conquaestor or conquisitor;14 signifying, that he was the first of his family who acquired the crown of England, and from whom therefore all future claims by descent must be derived: though now, from our disuse of the feudal sense of the word, together with the reflection on his forcible method of acquisition, we are apt to annex the idea of victory to this name of conquest or conquisition; a title which, however just with regard to the crown, the conqueror never pretended with regard to the realm of England, nor, in fact, ever had.15
THE difference in effect, between the acquisition of an estate by descent and by purchase, consists principally in these two points: 1. That by purchase the estate acquires a new inheritable quality, and is descendible to the owner’s blood in general, and not the blood only of some particular ancestor. For, when a man takes an estate by purchase, he takes it not ut feudem paternum [as a paternal fee] or maternum [maternal fee], which would descend only to the heirs by the father’s or the mother’s side: but he takes it ut feudum antiquum, as a feud of indefinite antiquity; whereby it becomes inheritable to his heirs general, first of the paternal, and then of the maternal line.16 2. An estate taken by purchase will not make the heir answerable for the acts of the ancestor, as an estate by descent will. For, if the ancestor by any deed, obligation, covenant, or the like, binds himself and his heirs, and dies; this deed, obligation, or covenant, shall be binding upon the heir, so far forth only as he had any estate of inheritance vested in him (or in some other in trust for him17) by descent from that ancestor, sufficient to answer the charge;18 whether he remains in possession, or has aliened it before action brought:19 which sufficient estate is in law called assets; from the French word, assez, enough.20 Therefore if a man covenants, for himself and his heirs, to keep my house in repair, I can then (and then only) compel his heir to perform this covenant, when he has an estate sufficient for this purpose, or assets, by descent from the covenanter: for though the covenant descends to the heir, whether he inherits any estate or no, it lies dormant, and is not compulsory, until he has assets by descent.21
THIS is the legal signification of the word perquisitio, or purchase; and in this sense it includes the five following methods of acquiring a title to estates: 1. Escheat. 2. Occupancy. 3. Prescription. 4. Forfeiture. 5. Alienation. Of all these in their order.
1. ESCHEAT, we may remember,22 was one of the fruits and consequences of feudal tenure. The word itself is originally French or Norman,23 in which language it signifies chance or accident; and with us denotes an obstruction of the course of descent, and a consequent determination of the tenure, by some unforeseen contingency: in which case the land naturally results back, by a kind of reversion, to the original grantor or lord of the fee.24
ESCHEAT therefore being a title frequently vested in the lord by inheritance, as being the fruit of a seigniory to which he was entitled by descent, (for which reason the lands escheating shall attend the seigniory, and be inheritable by such only of his heirs as are capable of inheriting the other25) it may seem in such cases to fall more properly under the former general head of acquiring title to estates, viz. by descent, (being vested in him by act of law, and not by his own act or agreement) than under the present, by purchase. But it must be remembered that in order to complete this title by escheat, it is necessary that the lord perform an act of his own, by entering on the lands and tenements so escheated, or suing out a writ of escheat:26 on failure of which, or by doing any act that amounts to an implied waiver of his right, as by accepting homage or rent of a stranger who usurps the possession, his title by escheat is barred.27 It is therefore in some respect a title acquired by his own act, as well as by act of law. Indeed this may also be said of descents themselves, in which an entry or other seizin is required, in order to make a complete title; and therefore this distribution by our legal writers seems in this respect rather inaccurate: for, as escheats must follow the nature of the seigniory to which they belong, they may vest by either purchase or descent, according as the seigniory is vested. And, though Sir Edward Coke considers the lord by escheat as in some respects the assignee of the last tenant,28 and therefore taking by purchase; yet, on the other hand, the lord is more frequently considered as being ultimus haeres [the last heir], and therefore taking by descent in a kind of caducary succession.
THE law of escheats is founded upon this single principle, that the blood of the person last seized in fee-simple is, by some means or other, utterly extinct and gone: and, since none can inherit his estate but such as are of his blood and consanguinity, it follows as a regular consequence, that when such blood is extinct, the inheritance itself must fail; the land must become what the feudal writers denominate feudum apertum [an open fee]; and must result back again to the lord of the fee, by whom, or by those whose estate he has, it was given.
ESCHEATS are frequently divided into those propter defectum sanguinis [through failure of issue] and those propter delictum tenentis [through the fault of the tenant]: the one sort, if the tenant dies without heirs; the other, if his blood be attainted.29
But both these species may well be comprehended under the first denomination only; for he that is attainted suffers an extinction of his blood, as well as he that dies without relations. The inheritable quality is expunged in one instance, and expires in the other; or, as the doctrine of escheats is very fully expressed in Fleta,30 “dominus capitalis feodi loco haeredis habetur, quoties per defectum vel delictum extinguitur sanguis tenentis.” [“The chief lord of the fee is accounted heir whenever the blood of the tenant is extinct either by failure of issue or corruption.”]
ESCHEATS therefore arising merely upon the deficiency of the blood, whereby the descent is impeded, their doctrine will be better illustrated by considering the several cases wherein hereditary blood may be deficient, than by any other method whatsoever.
1, 2, 3. THE first three cases, wherein inheritable blood is wanting, may be collected from the rules of descent laid down and explained in the preceding chapter, and therefore will need very little illustration or comment. First, when the tenant dies without any relations on the part of any of his ancestors: secondly, when he dies without any relations on the part of those ancestors from whom his estate descended: thirdly, when he dies without any relations of the whole blood. In two of these cases the blood of the first purchaser is certainly, in the other it is probably, at an end; and therefore in all of them the law directs, that the land shall escheat to the lord of the fee: for the lord would be manifestly prejudiced, if, contrary to the inherent condition tacitly annexed to all feuds, any person should be suffered to succeed to lands, who is not of the blood of the first feudatory, to whom for his personal merit the estate is supposed to have been granted.
4. A MONSTER, which has not the shape of mankind, but in any part evidently bears the resemblance of the brute creation, has no inheritable blood, and cannot be heir to any land, albeit it be brought forth in marriage: but, although it has deformity in any part of its body, yet if it has human shape, it may be heir.31 This is a very ancient rule in the law of England;32 and its reason is too obvious, and too shocking, to bear a minute discussion. The Roman law agrees with our own in excluding such births from successions:33 yet accounts them, however, children in some respects, where the parents, or at least the father, could reap any advantage thereby;34 (as the jus trium liberorum [the right of three children], and the like) esteeming them the misfortune, rather than the fault, of that parent. But our law will not admit a birth of this kind to be such an issue, as shall entitle the husband to be tenant by the curtesy;35 because it is not capable of inheriting. And therefore, if there appears no other heir than such a prodigious, birth, the land shall escheat to the lord.
5. BASTARDS are incapable of being heirs. Bastards, by our law, are such children as are not born either in lawful wedlock, or within a competent time after its determination.36 Such are held to be nullius filii, the sons of nobody; for the maxim of law is, qui ex damnato coitu nascuntur, inter liberos non computantur [the offspring of an illicit connection are not reckoned as children].37 Being thus the sons of nobody, they have no blood in them, at least no inheritable blood; consequently, none of the blood of the first purchaser: and therefore, if there be no other claimant than such illegitimate children, the land shall escheat to the lord.38 The civil law differs from ours in this point, and allows a bastard to succeed to an inheritance, if after its birth the mother was married to the father:39 and also, if the father had no lawful wife or child, then, even if the concubine was never married to the father, yet she and her bastard son were admitted each to one twelfth of the inheritance,40 and a bastard was likewise capable of succeeding to the whole of his mother’s estate, although she was never married; the mother being sufficiently certain, though the father is not.41 But our law, in favor of marriage, is much less indulgent to bastards.
THERE is indeed one instance, in which our law has shown them some little regard; and that is usually termed the case of bastard eignè [an elder son, born before the marriage of his parents] and mulier puisnè [a legitimate son, whose elder brother is illegitimate]. This happens when a man has a bastard son, and afterwards marries the mother, and by her has a legitimate son, who in the language of the law is called a mulier, or as Glanvil42 expresses it in his Latin, filius mulieratus; the woman before marriage being concubina [concubine], and afterwards mulier [wife]. Now here the eldest son is bastard, or bastard eignè; and the younger son is legitimate, or mulier puisnè. If then the father dies, and the bastard eignè enters upon his land, and enjoys it to his death, and dies seized thereof, whereby the inheritance descends to his issue; in this case the mulier puisnè, and all other heirs,(though minors, feme-coverts, or under any incapacity whatsoever) are totally barred of their right.43 And this, I. As a punishment on the mulier for his negligence, in not entering during the bastard’s life, and evicting him. 2. Because the law will not suffer a man to be bastardized after his death, who entered as heir and died seized, and so passed for legitimate in his lifetime. 3. Because the canon law (following the civil) did allow such bastard eignè to be legitimate, on the subsequent marriage of his mother: and therefore the laws of England (though they would not admit either the civil or canon law to rule the inheritances of this kingdom, yet) paid such a regard to a person thus peculiarly circumstanced, that, after the land had descended to his issue, they would not unravel the matter again, and suffer his estate to be shaken. But this indulgence was shown to no other king of bastard; for, if the mother was never married to the father, such bastard could have no colorable title at all.44
As bastards cannot be heirs themselves, so neither can they have any heirs but those of their own bodies. For, as all collateral kindred consists in being derived from the same common ancestor, and as a bastard has no legal ancestors, he can have no collateral kindred; and, consequently, can have no legal heirs, but such as claim by a lineal descent from himself. And therefore if a bastard purchases land, and dies seized thereof without issue, and intestate, the land shall escheat to the lord of the fee.45
6. ALIENS also are incapable of taking by descent, or inheriting:46 for they are not allowed to have any inheritable blood in them; rather indeed upon a principle of national or civil policy, than upon reasons strictly feudal. Though, if lands had been suffered to fall into their hands who owe no allegiance to the crown of England, the design of introducing our feuds, the defense of the kingdom, would have been defeated. Wherefore if a man leaves no other relations but aliens, his land shall escheat to the lord.
As aliens cannot inherit, so far they are on a level with bastards; but, as they are also disabled to hold by purchase,47 they are under still greater disabilities. And, as they can neither hold by purchase, nor by inheritance, it is almost superfluous to say that they can have no heirs, since they can have nothing for an heir to inherit: but so it is expressly held,48 because they have not in them any inheritable blood.
AND father, if an alien be made a denizen [citizen] by the king’s letters patent, and then purchases lands, (which the law allows such a one to so) his son, born before his denization [citizenship], shall not (by the common law) inherit those lands; but a son born afterwards may, even though his elder brother be living; for the father, before denization, had no inheritable blood to communicate to his eldest son; but by denization it acquires an hereditary quality, which will be transmitted to his subsequent posterity. Yet, if he had been naturalized by act of parliament, such eldest son might then have inherited; for that cancels all defects, and is allowed to have a retrospective energy, which simple denization has not.49
SIR Edward Coke50 also holds, that if an alien comes into England, and there has issue two sons, who are thereby natural born subjects; and one of them purchases land, and dies; yet neither of these brethren can be heir to the other. For the commune vinculum, or common stock of their consanguinity, is the father; and, as he had no inheritable blood in him, he could communicate none to his sons; and, when the sons can by no possibility be heirs to the father, the one of them shall not be heir to the other. And this opinion of his seems founded upon solid principles of the ancient law; not only from the rule before cited,51 that cestuy, que doit inheriter al pere, doit inheriter al fits [he who is heir to the father is heir to the son]; but also because we have seen that the only feudal foundation upon which newly purchased land can possibly descend to a brother, is the supposition and fiction of law, that it descended from some one of his ancestors: but in this case as the immediate ancestor was an alien, from whom it could by no possibility descend, this should destroy the supposition, and impede the descent, and the land should be inherited ut feudum stricte novum [as a fee strictly new]; that is, by none but the lineal descendants of the purchasing brother; and, on failure of them, should escheat to the lord of the fee. But this opinion has been since overruled:52 and it is now held for law, that the sons of an alien, born here, may inherit to each other. And reasonably enough upon the whole: for, as (in common purchases) the whole of the supposed descent from indefinite ancestors is but fictitious, the law may as well suppose the requisite ancestor as suppose the requisite descent.
IT is also enacted, by the statute II & 12 W III. c. 6. that all persons, being natural-born subjects of the king, may inherit and make their titles by descent from any of their ancestors lineal or collateral; although their father, or mother, or other ancestor, by, from, through, or under whom they derive their pedigrees, were born out of the king’s allegiance. But inconveniences were afterwards apprehended, in case persons should thereby gain a future capacity to inherit, who did not exist at the death of the person last seized. As, if Francis the elder brother of John Stiles be an alien, and Oliver the younger be a natural-born subject, upon John’s death without issue his lands will descend to Oliver the younger brother: now, if afterwards Francis has a child, it was feared that, under the statute of king William, this newborn child might defeat the estate of his uncle Oliver. Wherefore it is provided, by the statute 25 Geo. II. c. 39. that no right of inheritance shall accrue by virtue of the former statute to any persons whatsoever, unless they are in being and capable to take as heirs at the death of the person last seized: with an exception however to the case, where lands shall descend to the daughter of an alien; which daughter shall resign such inheritance to her after-born brother, or divide it with her after-born sisters, according to the usual rule53 of descents by the common law.
7. BY attainder also, for treason or other felony, the blood of the person attainted is so corrupted, as to be rendered no longer inheritable.
GREAT care must be taken to distinguish between forfeiture of lands to the king, and this species of escheat to the lord; which, by reason of their similitude in some circumstances, and because the crown is very frequently the immediate lord of the fee and therefore entitled to both, have been often confounded together. Forfeiture of lands, and of whatever else the offender possessed, was the doctrine of the old Saxon law,54 as a part of punishment for the offense; and does not at all relate to the feudal system, nor is the consequence of any seignory or lordship paramount:55 but, being a prerogative vested in the crown, was neither superseded nor diminished by the introduction if the Norman tenures; a fruit and consequence of which escheat must undoubtedly be reckoned. Escheat therefore operates in subordination to this more ancient and superior law of forfeiture.
THE doctrine of escheat upon attainder, taken singly, is this: that the blood of the tenant, by the commission of any felony, (under which denomination all treasons were formerly comprised56) is corrupted and stained, and the original donation of the feud is thereby determined, it being always granted to the vassal on the implied condition of dum bene se gesserit [during good behavior]. Upon the thorough demonstration of which guilt, by legal attainder, the feudal covenant and mutual bond of fealty are held to be broken, the estate instantly falls back from the offender to the lord of the fee, and the inheritable quality of his blood is extinguished and blotted out for ever. In this situation the law of feudal escheat was brought into England at the conquest; and in general superadded to the ancient law of forfeiture. In consequence of which corruption and extinction of hereditary blood, the land of all felons would immediately revest in the lord, but that the superior law of forfeiture intervenes, and intercepts it in its passage; in case of treason, for ever; in case of other felony, for only a year and a day, after which time it goes to the lord in a regular course of escheat,57 as it would have done to the heir of the felon in case the feudal tenures had never been introduced. And that this is the true operation and genuine history of escheats will most evidently appear from this incident to gavelkind lands, (which seem to be the old Saxon tenure) that they are in no case subject to escheat for felony, though they are liable to forfeiture for treason.58
As a consequence of this doctrine of escheat, all lands of inheritance immediately revesting in the lord, the wife of the felon was liable to lose her dower, till the statute I Edw. VI. c. 12. enacted, that albeit any person be attainted of misprision of treason, murder, or felony, yet his wife shall enjoy her dower. But she has not this indulgence where the ancient law of forfeiture operates, for it is expressly provided by the statute 5 & 6 Edw. VI. c. II. that the wife of one attaint of high treason shall not be endowed at all.
HITHERTO we have only spoken of estates vested in the offender, at the time of his offense, or attainder. And here the law of forfeiture stops; but the law of escheat pursues the matter still farther. For, the blood of the tenant being utterly corrupted and extinguished, it follows, not only that all he now has should escheat from him, but also that he should be incapable of inheriting any thing for the future. This may farther illustrate the distinction between forfeiture and escheat. If therefore a father be seized in fee, and the son commits treason and is attainted, and then the father dies: here the land shall escheat to the lord; because the son, by the corruption of his blood, is incapable to be heir, and there can be no other heir during his life: but nothing shall be forfeited to the king, for the son never had any interest in the lands to forfeit.59 In this case the escheat operates, and not the forfeiture; but in the following instance the forfeiture works, and not the escheat. As where a new felony is created by act of parliament, and it is provided (as is frequently the case) that it shall not extend to corruption of blood: here the lands of the felon shall not escheat to the lord, but yet the profits of them shall be forfeited to the king so long as the offender lives.60
THERE is yet a farther consequence of the corruption and extinction of hereditary blood, which is this: that the person attainted shall not only be incapable himself of inheriting, or transmitting his own property by heirship, but shall also obstruct the descent of lands or tenements to his posterity, in all cases where they are obliged to derive their title through him from any remoter ancestor. The channel, which conveyed the hereditary blood from his ancestors to him, is not only exhausted for the present, but totally dammed up and rendered impervious for the future. This is a refinement upon the ancient law of feuds, which allowed that the grandson might be heir to his grandfather, though the son in the intermediate generation was guilty of felony.61 But, by the law of England, a man’s blood is so universally corrupted by attainder, that his sons can neither inherit to him nor to any other ancestor,62 at least on the part of their attainted father.
THIS corruption of blood cannot be absolutely removed but by authority of parliament. The king may excuse the public punishment of an offender; but cannot abolish the private right, which has accrued or may accrue to individuals as a consequence of the criminal’s attainder. He may remit a forfeiture, in which the interest of the crown is alone concerned: but he cannot wipe away the corruption of blood; for therein a third person has an interest, the lord who claims by escheat. If therefore a man has a son, and is attainted, and afterwards pardoned by the king; this son can never inherit to his father, or father’s ancestors; because his paternal blood, being once throughly corrupted by his father’s attainder, must continue fo: but if the son had been born after the pardon, he might inherit; because by the pardon the father is made a new man, and may convey new inheritable blood to his after-born children.63
HEREIN there is however a difference between aliens and persons attainted. Of aliens, who could never by any possibility be heirs, the law takes no notice: and therefore we have seen, that an alien elder brother shall not impede the descent to a natural-born younger brother. But in attainders it is otherwise: for if a man has issue a son, and is attainted, and afterwards pardoned, and then has issue a second son, and dies; here the corruption of blood is not removed from the eldest, and therefore he cannot be heir: neither can the youngest be heir, for he has an elder brother living, of whom the law takes notice, as he once had a possibility of being heir; and therefore the younger brother shall not inherit, but the land shall escheat to the lord: though, had the elder died without issue in the life of the father, the younger son born after the pardon might well have inherited, for he has no corruption of blood.64 So if a man has issue two sons, and the elder in the lifetime of the father has issue, and then is attainted and executed, and afterwards the father dies, the lands of the father shall not descend to the younger son: for the issue of the elder, which had once a possibility to inherit, shall impede the descent to the younger, and the land shall escheat to the lord.65 Sir Edward Coke in this case allows,66 that if the ancestor be attainted, his sons born before the attainder may be heirs to each other: and distinguishes it from the case of the sons of an alien, because in this case the blood was inheritable when imparted to them from the father: but he makes a doubt (upon the same principles, which are now overruled67) whether sons, born after the attainder, can inherit to each other; for they never had any inheritable blood in them.
UPON the whole it appears, that a person attainted is neither allowed to retain his former estate, nor to inherit any future one, nor to transmit any inheritance to his issue, either immediately from himself, or mediately through himself from any remoter ancestor; for his inheritable blood, which is necessary either to hold, to take, or to transmit any feudal property, is blotted out, corrupted, and extinguished for ever: the consequence of which is, that estates, thus impeded in their descent, result back and escheat to the lord.
THIS corruption of blood, thus arising from feudal principles, but perhaps extended farther than even those principles will warrant, has been long looked upon as a peculiar hardship: because, the oppressive parts of the feudal tenures being now in general abolished, it seems unreasonable to reserve one of their most inequitable consequences; namely, that the children should not only be reduced to present poverty, (which, however severe, is sufficiently justified upon reasons of public policy) but also be laid under future difficulties of inheritance, on account of the guilt of their ancestors. And therefore in most (if not all) of the new felonies, created by parliament since the reign of Henry the eighth, it is declared that they shall not extend to any corruption of blood: and by the statute 7 Ann. c. 21. (the operation of which is postponed by the statute 17 Geo. II. c. 39.) it is enacted, that, after the death of the pretender, and his sons, no attainder for treason shall extend to the disinheriting any heir, nor the prejudice of any person, other than the offender himself: which provisions have indeed carried the remedy farther, than was required by the hardship above complained of; which is only the future obstruction of descents, where the pedigree happens to be deduced through the blood of an attainted ancestor.
BEFORE I conclude this head, of escheat, I must mention one singular instance in which lands held in fee-simple are not liable to escheat to the lord, even when their owner is no more, and has left no heirs to inherit them. And this is the case of a corporation: for if that comes by any accident to be dissolved, the donor or his heirs shall have the land again in reversion, and not the lord by escheat: which is perhaps the only instance where a reversion can be expectant on a grant in fee-simple absolute. But the law, we are told,68 does tacitly annex a condition to every such gift or grant, that if the corporation be dissolved, the donor or grantor shall re-enter; for the cause of the gift or grant fails. This is indeed founded upon the self-same principle as the law of escheat; the heirs of the donor being only substituted instead of the chief lord of the fee: which was formerly very frequently the case in subinfeudations, or alienations of lands by a vassal to be held as of himself; till that practice was restrained by the statute of quia emptores [because of purchasers], 18 Edw. I. St. I. to which this very singular instance still in some degree remains an exception.
THERE is one more incapacity of taking by descent, which, not being productive of any escheat, is not properly reducible to this head, and yet must not be passed over in silence. It is enacted by the statute II & 12 Will. III. c. 4. that every papist who shall not abjure the errors of his religion by taking the oaths to the government, and making the declaration against transubstantiation, within six months after he has attained the age of eighteen years, shall be incapable of inheriting, or taking, by descent as well as purchase, any real estates whatsoever; and his next of kin, being a protestant, shall hold them to his own use till such time as he complies with the terms imposed by the act. This incapacity is merely personal; it affects himself only, and does not destroy the inheritable quality of his blood, so as to impede the descent to others of his kindred. In like manner as, even in the times of popery, one who entered into religion and became a monk professed was incapable of inheriting lands, both in our own69 and the feudal law; eo quod desiit esse miles seculi qui factus est miles Christi; nec beneficium pertinet ad eum qui non debet gerere officium.70 [“He who becomes a soldier of Christ has ceased to be a soldier of the world, nor is he entitled to any reward who acknowledges no duty.”] But yet he was accounted only civiliter mortuus [dead in law]; he did not impede the descent to others, but the next heir was entitled to his or his ancestor’s estate.
THESE are the several deficiencies of hereditary blood, recognized by the law of England; which, so often as they happen, occasion lands to escheat to the original proprietary or lord.
1. § 12.
2. Co. Litt. 18.
4. Lord Raym. 728.
5. I Roll. Abr. 626.
6. Salk. 241. Lord Raym. 728.
7. I Roll. Abr. 627.
8. I Rep. 104. 2 Lev. 60. Raym. 334.
9. I Rep. 98.
10. Co. Litt. 23.
11. Crag. l. I. t. 10. § 18.
12. Dalrymple of feuds. 210.
13. Gr. Coustum. Gloss. c.25. pag. 40.
14. Spelm. Gloss. 145.
15. See Book I. ch. 3.
16. See pag 236.
17. Stat. 29 Car. II. c. 3.
18. I P. Wms. 777.
19. Stat. 3 & 4 W. & M. c. 14.
20. Finch. law. 119.
21. Finch. Rep. 86.
22. See pag. 72.
23. Eschet or êchet, formed from the verb eschoir or êchoir, to happen.
24. I Feud. 86. Co. Litt. 13.
25. Co. Litt. 13.
26. Bro. Abr. tit. escheat. 26.
27. Ibid. tit. acceptance. 25. Co. Litt. 268.
28. I Inst. 215.
29. Co. Litt. 13. 92.
30. l. 6. c. I.
31. Co. Litt. 7, 8.
32. Qui contra formam humani generis converso more procreantur, ut si mulier monstrosum vel prodigiosum enixa sit, inter liberos non computentur. Partus tamen, cui natura aliquantulum addiderit vel diminuerit, ut si sex vel tantum quatuor digitos habuerit, bene debet inter liberos connumerari; et, si membra sint inutilia aut tortuosa, non tamen est partus monstrosus. [Those who are born with a form not human are not considered children; as when a woman by a perversion of nature brings forth something monstrous or prodigious. Nevertheless the offspring to which nature has only added, or from which withheld something, as if it should have six or only four fingers, ought to be reckoned among children; and though its limbs be useless or distorted, yet is it not a monstrous birth.] Bracton. l. I. c. 6. & l. 5. tr. 5. c. 30.
33. Ff. I. 5. 14.
34. Ff. 50. 16. 135. Paul. 4 sent. 9. § 63.
35. Co. Litt. 29.
36. See Book I. ch, 16.
37. Co. Litt. 8.
38. Finch. law. 1147.
39. Nov. 89. c. 8.
40. Ibid. c. 52.
41. Cod. 6. 57. 5.
42. l. 7. c. I.
43. Litt. § 399. Co. Litt. 244.
44. Litt. § 400.
45. Bract. l. 2. c. 7. Co. Litt. 244.
46. Co. Litt. 8.
47. Ibid. 2.
48. Ibid. I. Lev. 59.
49. Co. Litt. 129.
50. I Inst. 8.
51. See pag. 223 and 239.
52. I Ventr. 473. I Lev. 59. I Sid. 193.
53. See pag. 208 and 214.
54. LL. Aelfred. c. 4. LL. Canut. C. 54.
55. 2 Inst. 64. Salk. 85.
56. 3 Inst. 15. Stat. 25 Edw. III. c. 2. § 12.
57. 2 Inst. 36.
58. Somner. 53. Wright. Ten. 118.
59. Co. Litt. 13.
60. 3 Inst. 47.
61. Van Leeuwen in 2 Feud. 31.
62. Co. Litt. 391.
63. Ibid. 392.
64. Co. Litt. 8.
65. Dyer. 48.
66. Co. Litt. 8.
67. I Hal. P. C. 357.
68. Co. Litt. 13.
69. Co. Litt. 132.
70. 2 Feud. 21.