Commentaries on American Law (1826-30)
Chancellor James Kent
Of Estates in Remainder
ESTATES in expectancy are of two kinds; one created by the act of the parties, and called a remainder; the other by the act of law, and called a reversion. I shall confine myself in this Lecture to estates in remainder.
To give as much perspicuity as possible to the arrangement and discussion of so intricate a subject, I shall treat of remainders in the following order:
1. Of the general nature of remainders. 2. Of vested remainders. 3. Of the nature and variety of contingent remainders. 4. Of the rule in Shelley’s case. 5. Of the particular estate requisite to support a remainder. 6. Of remainders limited by way of use. 7. Of the time within which a contingent remainder must vest. 8. Of the destruction of contingent remainders. 9. Of some remaining properties of contingent remainders.
(1.) Of the general nature of remainders.
A remainder is a remnant of an estate in land, depending upon a particular prior estate, created at the same time, and by the same instrument, and limited to arise immediately on the determination of that estate, and not in abridgment of it.1 In the New York Revised Statutes,2 it is defined to be an estate limited to commence in possession at a future day, on the determination, by lapse of time, or otherwise, of a precedent estate, created at the same time. Mr. Cornish, after a careful analysis of Lord Coke’s definition, substitutes his own. A remainder, he says, is “an estate in lands, hereditaments, or chattels real, limited to one who may take a new estate therein, on the natural determination of a particular estate in the same subject matter, created either in fact, or in contemplation of law, together with such particular estate, and forming, to certain purposes, but one estate therewith.”3
A remainder may consist of the whole remnant of the estate; as in the case of a lease to A. for years, remainder to B. in fee; or it may consist of a part only of the residuary estate, and there may be a reversion beyond it left vested in the grantor, as in the case of a grant to A. for years, remainder to B. for life; or there may be diverse remainders over exhausting the whole residuum of the estate, as in the case of a grant to A. for years, remainder to B. for life, remainder to C. in tail, remainder to D. in fee. The various interests into which an estate may be thus subdivided, make, for many purposes, but one estate, being different parts or portions of the same entire inheritance.4
Though a remainder, in its original simplicity, would appear to be very easy, safe, and practical, yet the doctrine of remainders, when the collateral refinements, and complex settlements which have, in the course of time, grown out of it, are considered, will be found to surpass all the modifications of property in the difficulties which attend the study and the practice of it. The subdivision of the interest of an estate, to be enjoyed partitively, and in succession, is a very natural and obvious contrivance, and must have had a place in early civilization.5
If the whole fee be granted, there cannot, as a matter of course, be any remainder.6 So, if an estate be granted to A. and his heirs, till C. returns from Rome, and then to the use of B. in fee, the limitation to B. cannot be good as a remainder, though it may enure as a shifting use or executory limitation; for the entire fee passed to A. as a base or qualified fee, in which the grantor retained only a possibility of reverter.7 But if the estate had been granted to A. without words of inheritance, until C. returned from Rome, he would have taken only a freehold estate, and the residue of the estate, upon the return of C., if limited to the use of B., would be a remainder. It would equally have been a remainder, if the estate had been limited to A. and the heirs of his body, until the return of C. from Rome, and then to the use of B. in fee; for an estate tail, not being the whole inheritance like a qualified fee, but only a portion of the entire estate, the remnant to B. would be a remainder.
There can be no remainder limited after an estate of inheritance, except it be after an estate tail. There may be a future use, or executory devise, but it will not be a remainder.8 In a devise a subsequent interest may frequently be supported as a remainder, notwithstanding a limitation to the heirs of the prior devisee, provided the generality of the word heirs be restrained to issue, as a devise to A. and his heirs, and if he dies without issue, remainder over.9 If the prior fee be contingent, a remainder may be created to vest in the event of the first estate never taking effect, though it would not be good as a remainder, if it was to succeed, instead of being collateral to the contingent fee.
Thus, a limitation to A. for life, remainder to his issue in fee, and in default of such issue remainder to B., the remainder to B. is good as being collateral to the contingent fee in the issue. It is not a fee mounted upon a fee, but it is a contingent remainder with a double aspect, or, as Mr. Douglas says with less quaintness, on a double contingency.10 But if the remainder over to B. had been merely in the event of such issue dying before twenty-one, it would have been good only as a shifting use or executory devise, for it would have rested on an event which rescinds a prior vested fee.11
There is likewise a double contingency when estates are limited over in the alternative, or in succession. If the previous estate takes effect, the subsequent limitation awaits its determination, and then vests. But if the first estate never vests by the happening of the contingency, then the subsequent limitation vests at the time when the first ought to have vested 12 The New York Revised Statutes13 have provided for this case of limitations in the alternative, by declaring, that two or more future estates may be created to take effect in the alternative, so that if the first in order shall fail to vest, the next in succession shall be substituted for it., and take effect accordingly.
Cross remainders are another qualification of these expectant estates, and they may be raised expressly by deed, and by implication in a devise. If a devise be of one lot of land to A., and of another lot to B. in fee, and if either dies without issue, the survivor to take, and if both die without issue, then to C. in fee, A. and R. have cross-remainders over by implication, and on the failure of either, the other, or his issue, takes, and the remainder to C. is postponed.14 So, if different parcels of land are conveyed to different persons by deed, and by the limitation they are to have the parcel of each other when their respective interests shall determine, they take by cross-remainders; and this complex doctrine of cross-remainders, in the mode in which the parties become entitled, and in their proportions, though not in their interests, has a great analogy, as Mr. Preston observes, to the order of succession between coparceners.15
(2.) Of vested remainders.
Remainders are of two sorts, vested and contingent.
An estate is vested when there is an immediate right of present enjoyment, or a present fixed right of future enjoyment. It gives a legal or equitable seizin.16 The definition of a vested remainder in the New York Revised Statutes,17 appears to be accurately and fully expressed. It is u when there is a person in being who would have an immediate right to the possession of the lands, upon the ceasing of the intermediate or precedent estate.” A grant of an estate to A. for life, with a remainder in fee to B., is a grant of a fixed right of immediate enjoyment in A., and a fixed right of future enjoyment in B. So, if the grant was only to A. for life, or years, the right under it would be vested in A. for the term, with a vested reversion in the grantor. Reversions, and all such future uses and executory devises as do not depend upon any uncertain event or period, are vested interests.18
A vested remainder is a fixed interest to take effect in possession after a particular estate is spent. If it be uncertain whether a use or estate limited in futuro shall ever vest, that use or estate is said to be in contingency.19 But though it may be uncertain whether a remainder will ever take effect in possession, it will nevertheless be a vested remainder if the interest be fixed. The law favors vested estates, and no remainder will be construed to be contingent, which may, consistently with the intention, be deemed vested. A grant to A. for life, remainder try B., and the heirs of his body, is a vested remainder, and yet it is uncertain whether B. may not die without heirs of his body, before the death of A., and so the remainder never take effect in possession. Every remainder-man may die, and without issue, before the death of the tenant for life.
It is the present capacity of taking effect in possession, if the possession were to become vacant, that distinguishes a vested from a contingent remainder.20 When the event on which the preceding estate is limited, must happen, and when it also may happen before the expiration of the estate limited in remainder, that remainder is vested; as in the case of a lease to A. for life, remainder to B. during the life of A., the preceding estate determines on an event which must happen, and it may determine by forfeiture or surrender before the expiration of A.’s life, and the remainder is, therefore, vested.21 A remainder, limited upon an estate tail, is held to be vested, though it must be uncertain whether it will ever take place.22
The lines of distinction between vested and contingent remainders are so nicely drawn, that they are sometimes difficult to be traced, and, in some instances, a vested remainder would seem to possess the essential qualities of a contingent estate. The struggle with the courts has been for that construction which tends to support the remainder by giving it a vested character; for if the remainder be contingent, it is in the power of the particular tenant to defeat it by a fine or feoffment. The courts have been subtle and scrutinizing in their discriminations between vested and contingent remainders. The stability of title has depended very much on the distinction, and the judges observed, in the case of Parkhurst v. Smith,23 that if they were to adopt the definition of a contingent remainder contended for upon the argument, they would overturn all the settlements that ever were made.
A limitation, after a power of appointment, as to the use of A. for life, remainder to such use as A. shall appoint, and, in default of appointment, remainder to B., is a vested remainder, though liable to be divested by the execution of the power.24 The better opinion also is, that if there be a devise to trustees and their heirs, during the minority of a beneficial devisee, and then to him, or upon trust to convey to him, it conveys a vested remainder in fee, and takes effect in possession when the devisee attains twenty-one. The general rule is, that a trust estate is not to continue beyond the period required by the purposes of the trust; and notwithstanding the devise is to trustees and their heirs, they take only a chattel interest; for the trust, in such a case, does not require an estate of a higher quality. If the devisee dies before the age of twenty-one, the estate descends to his heirs as a vested inheritance. The Master of the Rolls said, that the trustees in such a case had an estate for so many years as the minority of the devise might last.25
Vested remainders are actual estates, and may be conveyed by any of the conveyances operating by force of the statute of uses. Where estates tail exist, they may be destroyed by a common recovery suffered by the tenant in tail, for that destroys every thing, as well remainders and reversions, as all ulterior limitations, whether by shifting use or executory devise. But if a particular tenant for life or years, on whose estate a vested remainder depends, makes a tortious conveyance which merely works a forfeiture of his particular estate, and does not ransack the whole estate, the next remainder-man whose estate was disturbed and displaced, may take advantage of the forfeiture, and enter.26
Where a remainder is limited to the use of several persons, who do not all become capable at the same time, as a devise to A. for life, remainder to his children, the children living at the death of the testator take vested remainders, subject to be disturbed by after-born children. The remainder vests in the persons first becoming capable, and the estate opens and becomes divested in quantity by the birth of subsequent children, who are let in to take vested proportions of the estate.27
(3.) Of the nature and variety of contingent remainders.
A contingent remainder is limited so as to depend on an event or condition which is dubious and uncertain, and may never happen or be performed, or not until after the determination of the particular estate. It is not the uncertainty of enjoyment in future, but the uncertainty of the right to that, enjoyment, which marks the difference between a vested and contingent interest.28 The contingency on which the remainder is made to depend, must be a common, or near possibility, as death, or death without issue, or coverture. If it be founded on a remote possibility, as a remainder to a corporation not then in being, or to the heirs of B., who is not then in being, (and which the law terms a possibility upon a possibility,) the remainder is void.29 The definition of a contingent remainder embraces four species of them, and Mr. Fearne is of opinion, that every known instance of a contingent remainder may be reduced to one or the other of the following classes.
(1.) The first sort is where the remainder depends on a contingent determination of the preceding estate, and it remains uncertain whether the use or estate limited in futuro, shall ever vest. Thus, if A. makes a feoffment to the use of B., till C. returns from Rome, and after such return the estate to remain over in fee, the remainder over depends entirely on the uncertain or contingent determination of the estate in B., by the return of C. from Rome.30
(2.) The second sort is where the contingency on which the remainder is to take effect is independent of the determination of the preceding estate, as if a lease be to A. for life, remainder to B. for life, and if B. die before A., remainder to C. for life. The event of B. dying before A., does not affect the determination of the preceding estate, but it is a dubious event which must precede, in order to give effect to the remainder in C.31
(3.) A third kind is where the condition upon which the remainder is limited is certain in event, but the determination of the particular estate may happen before it. Thus, if a grant be made to A. for life, and after the death of B. to C. in fee; here, if the death of B. does not happen until after the death of A., the particular estate is determined before the remainder is vested, and it fails from the want of a particular estate to support it. 32
(4.) The fourth class of contingent remainders is where the person to whom the remainder is limited is not ascertained, or not in being: as in the case of a limitation to two persons for life, remainder to the survivor of them; or in the case of a lease to A. for life, remainder to the right heirs of B. then living. B. cannot have heirs while living, and if he should not die until after A., the remainder is gone, because the particular estate failed before the remainder could vest.33
There is a distinction which operates by way of exception to the third class of contingent remainders. Thus a limitation for a long term of years, as, for instance, to A. for eighty years, if B. should live so long, with remainder over, after the death of B., to C. in fee, gives a vested remainder to C., notwithstanding it is limited to take effect on the death of A., which possibly may not happen until after the expiration of the preceding estate for eighty years. The possibility that a life in being will endure thereafter for that period, is so exceedingly small, ‘that it does not amount to a degree of uncertainty sufficient to constitute a contingent remainder. If, however, the limitation had been for a term of years so short, say twentyone years, as to leave a common possibility that the life on which it is determinable may exceed it, then the remainder would be contingent, and there must be a present vested freehold estate to support it, and prevent the limitation over from being void as a freehold to commence in futuro.34
Exceptions exist also to the generality of the rule which governs the fourth class of contingent remainders. Thus, if the ancestor takes an estate of freehold, and an immediate remainder is limited thereon, in the same instrument, to his heirs in fee, or in tail, the remainder is not contingent, or in abeyance, but is immediately executed in possession in the ancestor, and he becomes seized in fee, or in tail. So, if some intermediate estate for life, or in tail, be interposed between the estate of freehold in A. and the limitation to his heirs, still the remainder to his heirs vests in the ancestor, and does not remain in contingency or abeyance. If there be created an estate for life to A., remainder to the heirs of his body, this is not a contingent remainder to the heirs of the body of A., but an immediate estate tail in A.; or if there be an estate for life to A., remainder to B. for life, remainder to the right heirs of A., the remainder in fee is here vested in A., and after the death of A., and the termination of the life estate in B., the heirs of A. take by descent as heirs, and not by purchase.35
The possibility that the freehold in A. may determine in his lifetime, does not keep the subsequent limitation to his heirs from attaching in him, and it is a general rule, that when the ancestor takes an estate of freehold, and there be in the same conveyance an unconditional limitation to his heirs in fee, or in tail, either immediately, without the intervention of any estate of freehold between his freehold and the subsequent limitation to his heirs, or mediately with the interposition of some such intervening estate, the subsequent limitation vests immediately in the ancestor, and becomes, as the case may be, either an estate of inheritance in possession, or a vested remainder.36
The rule does not operate so as absolutely to merge the particular estate of freehold, where the limitations intervening between the preceding freehold and the subsequent limitation to the heirs, are contingent, because that would destroy such intervening limitations. The two limitations are united, and executed in the ancestor, only until such time as the intervening limitations become vested, and they then open and become separate, in order to admit such limitations as they arise.37 But if the estate limited to the ancestor be merely an equitable, or trust estate, and the subsequent limitation to his heirs carries the legal estate, the two estates will not incorporate into an estate of inheritance in the ancestor, as would have been the case under the rule in Shelley’s case, if they had been of one quality, that is, both legal or both equitable estates, and the limitation to the heirs will operate as a contingent remainder.38
The freehold in the ancestor, and the limitation to his heirs, must be by the same deed or instrument, or they will not consolidate in the ancestor. If he acquires the freehold by one deed, and the limitation to his heirs be by another, the limitation will continue, as it originally was, a contingent remainder.39 But if the estate be limited to A. for life by one deed, and afterwards, in his lifetime, to the heirs of his body, under the execution of a power of appointment contained in the same deed, the limitations unite according to the general rule; and on this principle, that a limitation under a power contained in a conveyance to uses, operates as a use created by, and arising under, the conveyance itself. It is a branch of one and the same settlement.40 This arises from the retrospective relation which appointments bear to the instrument containing the power.41
Another exception to the fourth class of contingent remainders, is where there is a limitation by a special designation by will, to the heirs of a person in esse, as to the heirs of the body of A. now living. The limitation is deemed to be vested in the heirs so designated by purchase, and, consequently, there is no contingent remainder in the case. Heirs are construed here to be words of purchase, and not of limitation, in order to carry into effect the manifest intention of the testator, which, in this instance controls the common law maxim, that nemo est haeres viventis.42 There is also a class of cases under this branch of the law of remainder, which relate to the condition annexed to a preceding estate, and which give rise to the question whether it be not a condition precedent tending to give effect to the ulterior limitations.
Mr. Fearne43 distinguishes such cases into three classes; first, where there are limitations after a preceding estate which is made to depend on a contingency that never takes effect; and the decisions show, that in order to support the testator’s intention, the contingency is deemed to affect only the estate to which it is annexed, without extending to, or running over, the whole ulterior train of limitations.44 Secondly; limitations over upon a conditional contingent determination of a preceding estate, where such preceding estate never takes effect. Here there is no apparent distinction between the preceding estate and those which follow it, and, consequently, the contingency will extend to, and connect itself with, all the subsequent limitations, and destroy them as contingent remainders, depending on a contingency which never happens.45 Thirdly; (imitations over upon the determination of a preceding estate by a contingency, which, though such preceding estate takes effect, never happens. In this case the subsequent limitations will take place.46
(4.) Of the rule in Shelley’s case.
The rule in Shelley’s case has been already alluded to, but it occupies so prominent a place in the history of the law of real property, that it ought not to be passed over without more particular attention. In Shelley’s case,47 the rule was stated, on the authority of several cases in the Year Books, to be, “that when the ancestor, by any gift or conveyance, takes an estate of freehold, and in the same gift or conveyance an estate is limited, either mediately or immediately, to his heirs in fee, or in tail, the heirs are words of limitation of the estate, and not words of purchase.” Mr. Preston, in his elaborate essay on the rule,48 gives us, among several definitions, one of his own, which appears to be full and accurate. “When a person takes an estate of freehold, legally or equitably, under a deed, will, or other writing, and in the same instrument there is a limitation by way of remainder, either with or without the interposition of another estate, of an interest of the same legal or equitable quality, to his heirs, or heirs of his body, as a class of persons to take in succession, the limitation to the heirs entitles the ancestor to the whole estate.49
The words heirs, or heirs of the body, create a remainder in fee, or in tail, which the law, to prevent an abeyance, vests in the ancestor who is tenant for life, and by the conjunction of the two estates he becomes tenant in fee or in tail; and whether the ancestor takes the freehold by express limitation, or by resulting use, or by implication of law, in either case the subsequent remainder to his heirs unites with, and is executed on his estate for life. Thus, where A. was seized in fee, and covenanted to stand seized to the use of his heirs male, it was held, that as the use during his life was undisposed of, it of course remained in him for life by implication, and the subsequent limitation to his heirs attached in him.50
The cases from the Year Books, as cited in Shelley’s case, are 40 Edw. III. 38 Edw. III. 24 Edw. III. 27 Edw. III.; and Mr. Preston gives at large a translation of the first of these cases as being one precisely in point in favor of the rule.51 Sir William Blackstone, in his opinion in the case of Perrin v. Blake,52 relies on a still earlier case in 18 Edw. II. as establishing the same rule. It has certainly the pretension of high antiquity, and it was not only recognized by the court in the case of Shelley, but it was repeated by Lord Coke, in his Institutes, as a clear and undisputed rule of law, and it was laid down as such in the great abridgments of Fitzherbert and Rolle.53
The rule is equally applicable to conveyances by deed, and to limitations in wills, whenever the limitation gives the legal, and not the mere trust or equitable title; but there is more latitude of construction allowed in the case of wills, in furtherance of the testator’s intention; and the rule seems to have been considered as of more absolute control in its application to deeds. When the rule applies, the ancestor has the power of alienation, for he has the inheritance in him; and when it does not apply, the children, or other relations under the denomination of heirs, have an original title in their own right, and as purchasers by that name. The policy of the rule was, that no person should be permitted to raise in another an estate which was essentially an estate of inheritance, and at the same time make the heirs of that person purchasers.
Various considerations have been supposed to have concurred in producing the rule, but the judges, in Perrin v. Blake, imputed the origin of it to principles and policy deduced from feudal tenure, and that opinion has been generally followed in all the succeeding discussions. The feudal policy undoubtedly favored descents as much as possible. There were feudal burdens which attached to the heir when he took as heir by descent, from which he would have been exempted if he took the estate in the character of purchaser. An estate of freehold in the ancestor attracted to him the estate imported by the limitation to his heirs, and it was deemed a fraud upon the feudal fruits and incidents of wardship, marriage and relief, to give the property to the ancestor for his life only, and yet extend the enjoyment of it to his heirs, so as to enable them to take as purchasers, in the same manner, and to the same extent precisely, as if they took by hereditary succession.
The policy of the law would not permit this, and it accordingly gave the whole estate to the ancestor, so as to make it descendible from him in the regular line of descent. Mr. Justice Blackstone, in his argument in the Exchequer Chamber, in Perrin v. Blake,54 does not admit that the rule took its rise merely from feudal principles, and he says he never met with a trace of any such suggestion in any feudal writer. He imputes its origin, growth, and establishment, to the aversion that the common law had to the inheritance being in abeyance, and it was always deemed by the ancient law to be in abeyance during the pendency of a contingent remainder in fee, or in tail. Another foundation of the rule, as he observes, was the desire to facilitate the alienation of land, and to throw it into the track of commerce one generation sooner, by vesting the inheritance in the ancestor, and thereby giving him the power of disposition.
Mr. Hargrave, in his observations concerning the rule in Shelley’s case,55 considers the principle of it to rest on very enlarged foundations, and though one object of it might be to prevent frauds upon the feudal lord, another, and a greater one was, to preserve the marked distinctions between descent and purchase, and prevent title by descent from being stripped of its proper incidents, and disguised with the qualities and properties of a purchase. It would, by that invention, become a compound of descent and purchase an amphibious species of inheritance, or a freehold with a perpetual succession to heirs without the other properties of inheritance. In Doe v. Laming,56 Lord Mansfield considered the maxim to have been originally introduced, not only to save to the lord the fruits of his tenure, but likewise for the sake of specialty creditors. Had the limitation been construed a contingent remainder, the ancestor might have destroyed it for his own benefit, and if he did not, the lord would have lost the fruits of his tenure, and the specialty creditors their debts.
But, whatever may have been the original cause and true policy of the rule, it has been firmly established as an axiom in the English law of real property for near five hundred years; and yet it is admitted to interfere, in most cases, with the presumed, and in many others with the declared intention of the parties to the instrument to which it is applied. The rule as to legal estates has had a prescriptive and uncontrollable authority, but the courts of equity have not considered themselves bound to an implicit observance of it in respect to limitations which do not include or carry the legal estate. In marriage articles, for instance, where there is a covenant to settle an estate upon A. for life, and the heirs of his body, the courts look at the end and consideration of the settlement, and beyond the legal operation of the words; and heirs of the body are construed to be words of purchase, and an estate for life only is decreed to the first taker, and an estate tail to his eldest son, in order to carry marriage articles into execution by way of strict settlement.57
So, also, in decreeing the execution of executory trusts, the Court of Chancery has departed from what would be the legal operation of the words limiting the trust, when applied to legal estates; and the word heirs of the body of cestui que trust, although preceded by a limitation for life to the cestui que trust, are construed to be words of purchase, and not of limitation.58 When the testator devises the legal estate, he takes upon himself to order the limitations, and the rules of law will control them. But when the will or settlement is in the light of a set of instructions merely for the purpose of a conveyance to be made by the directions of chancery, a court of equity will follow the instructions, and execute the trust in conformity to the intention.59
In Bagshaw v. Spencer,60 there was a devise to trustees in fee, in trust, and after diverse limitations in trust, then to B. for life, remainder to the trustees and their heirs, during his life, to preserve contingent remainders, and after the death of B., remainder to the heirs of his body. Lord Hardwicke decided, that this was a trust in equity, and that B. did not take an estate tail under the will, for the words heirs of the body were taken to be words of purchase to fulfill the manifest intent. This decision was founded upon a most elaborate examination of the cases, and a train of very forcible and ingenious reasoning. But it has not been able to endure the scrutiny of subsequent criticism. There is a settled distinction between trusts executory, and trusts executed. In the former, something is left to be done, some conveyance thereafter to be made, and where, as in the case of marriage articles, a trust is created to be subsequently carried into execution.61 This discrimination Lord Hardwicke confounded in the case cited, and he endeavored to establish one general line of distinction between trusts and legal estates, in order to avoid the force of the decision of the K. B. in Coulson v. Coulson,62 in which the rule in Shelley’s case had been emphatically and recently enforced in a similar case. The decision has been severely questioned, and permanently overruled by Lord Northington, in Wright v. Pearson,63 and by Lord Thurlow in Jones v. Morgan64 on the ground, that the case before Lord Hardwicke was not the case of an executory trust. It is settled, that the same construction ought to be put upon, and the same rule of law applied to, words of limitation, in cases of trust and of legal estates, except where the limitations were imperfect, and something was left to be done by the trustee, or, in other words, except the trust was executory, and not a trust executed. If a limitation in trust was perfected, and declared by the testator, it receives the same construction as an estate executed.65
There are several cases in which, in a devise, the words heirs, or heirs of the body, have been taken to be words of purchase, and not of limitation, in opposition to the rule in Shelley’s case. (1.) Where no estate of freehold is devised to the ancestor, or he is dead at the time of the devise; in that case the heir cannot take by descent when the ancestor never had in him any descendible estate. It is the same thing if the ancestor takes only a chattel interest by the devise, for if there be no vested estate of freehold interposed between the term of the ancestor and the estate of his heirs, the latter can take only by way of executory devise; and if there be such a vested estate, the contingent remainder to the heir is supported by the intermediate estate, and not by the chattel interest of the ancestor.66
(2.) Where the testator annexes words of explanation to the word heirs, as to the heirs of A., now living, showing thereby that he meant by the word heirs, a mere descriptio personarum, or specific designation of certain individuals;67 or where the testator superadds words of explanation, or fresh words of limitation, and a new inheritance is grafted upon the heirs to whom he gives the estate. Thus it is in the case of a limitation to A. for life, or for life only, and to the next heir male of his body, and the heirs male of such heir male; and in the case of a devise of gavelkind lands to A., and the heirs of her body, as well female as male, to take as tenants in common. In such cases, it appears that the testator intended the heirs to be the root of a new inheritance, or the stock of a new descent, and the denomination of heirs of the body was merely descriptive of the persons who were intended to take.68
The great difficulty has been, to settle when the rule, and when the intention, in opposition to the rule, shall prevail. We have seen the effort that was made by Lord Hardwicke in Bagshaw v. Spencer, to allow the rule to be controlled by the intention of the testator, and in the great case of Perrin v. Blake, the Court of K. B. made the rule yield to the testator’s manifest intent, even where the limitation was of a legal, and not of a trust estate. In that case,69 the testator declared, in his will, his intent and meaning to be, that none of his children should sell his estate for a longer time than their lives, and “to that intent” he devised a part of his estate to his son John, for and during the term of his natural life, remainder over during his life, remainder to the heirs of the body of John, with remainders over.
The question was, whether the son took an estate for life, or an estate tail, under the will; and that depended upon the further question, whether the words heirs of the body were, as used in that will, to be taken to be words of purchase to effect the manifest intent of the will, or words of limitation, according to the rule in Shelley’s case. A majority of the court decided that the intent was to prevail. On error to the Exchequer Chamber, the judgment of the K. B. was reversed by a large majority of the judges, and upon a further writ of error to the House of Lords, the dispute was at length compromised, and a non pros. entered on the writ of error by consent. The result of that famous controversy tended to confirm, by the weight of judicial authority at Westminster Hall, the irresistible pre-eminence of the rule, so that even the testator’s manifest intent could not control the legal operation of the word heirs, when standing for the ordinary line of succession as a word of limitation, and render it a word of purchase.
If the term heirs, as used in the instrument, comprehended the whole class of heirs, and they became entitled, on the death of the ancestor, to the estate, in the same manner, and to the same extent, and with the same descendible qualities as if the grant or devise had been simply to A. and his heirs, then the word heirs is a word of limitation, and the intention will not control the legal effect of the word. The term must be used as a mere designation of one or more individuals, or a new import given to it by superadded, or engrafted words of limitation, varying its sense and operation, in order to make it a word of purchase.30
In Perrin v. Blake, the judges considered the intention of the testator that his son should take only an estate for life, to be manifest; and, assuming that fact, they insisted, that in the construction of wills the intention was always emphatically regarded. They were for confining the rule in Shelley’s case within its exact bounds, especially as the reason and policy of the rule had ceased; and they relied upon a series of cases, principally in chancery, to show that words of limitation had, in particular cases, and in deeds, as well as in wills, been held to be words of purchase, and controlled in their ordinary meaning, by superadding explanatory words denoting a different species of heirs to have been intended.71
The strongest case in favor of the decision was Bagshaw v. Spencer, before Lord Hardwicke, in 1748, and the most difficult one to surmount, because the one of the most point and authority against the innovation upon the rule, was Coulson v. Coulson, before the K. B. in 1744. Lord Mansfield denied, as he had done before in Doe v. Laming, that there was any solidity in the distinction between trusts executed and trusts executory; and he held, that all trusts were executory, because a trust executed was within the statute of uses. He insisted, also, that there was no sense in the distinction between the trust and the legal estate, and that courts of equity, as well as courts of law, were equally bound by a general rule of law. If he could have established these principles, he would have brought the decision in Bagshaw v. Spencer73 to bear upon the case with unqualified and imperative force.
The minds of the court were well prepared for such a decision, for in Doe v. Laming,74 which arose a few years before in the K. B., Lord Mansfield had reasoned upon the rule and authorities in the same way, and in a still more elaborate manner, and he ransacked most of the cases. The doctrine of the court was, that the rule in Shelley’s case was to be adhered to as a rule of property, in all cases literally within it, but when circumstances took any case out of the letter of the rule, it was to be held subservient to the manifest intention, whether the limitation was created by deed or will.
In the opinion of Mr. Justice Blackstone, in the Exchequer Chamber, upon the case of Perrin v. Blake,74 he admitted that the rule in Shelley’s case might be controlled by the manifest intent of the testator; and he has classified and given a very clear and comprehensive summary of the several cases which have created exceptions to the operation of the rule. He concurred in principle with the Court of K. B., but he held, that in the case before him the intent was not sufficiently clear and precise, and, there. fore, he was for reversing the judgment. It was true that the testator meant that his son should only take a life estate, but it was not certain, he said, that the testator meant that the heirs of the body should take as purchasers, and, consequently, the rule must be left to operate. According to this opinion, two things must appear upon the face of the will: (1.) That the testator meant to confine the first taker to an estate for his life, and (2.) that he meant to effectuate that intent by some clear and intelligent expression of a design to have the heirs of his son take by purchase, and not by descent.
This opinion has been much admired, as containing incontestable evidence of the skill and talents of its great author. But the premises and the conclusion do not appear to be very consistent. The argument admits, that the intention of the testator will control the rule, and it would seem then naturally to follow, that when the testator explicitly declared that the son was not to have a power to sell and dispose of the estate for a longer time than his life, and to that intent gave him a life estate, with an intervening contingent remainder, and then with remainder to the heirs of his body, that the words heirs of the body were not intended to operate to the destruction of that intent, so as to give the son a fee with the power to sell. The presumption that those technical words were intended to be used in a technical sense, was certainly rebutted when that technical sense would inevitably destroy the testator’s declared intent, and confer upon the son, by the magical operation of attraction and merger, an estate tail, which the testator never intended.
The decision in Perrin v. Blake has called forth a series of essays upon the rule in Shelley’s case, which have been distinguished for laborious learning, great talents, and free and liberal investigation. Mr. Hargrave, in his observations on the rule, is for giving it a most absolute and peremptory obligation. He considered that the rule was beyond the control of intention when a fit case for its application existed. It was a conclusion of law of irresistible efficacy, when the testator did not use the word heirs, or heirs of the body, in a special or restrictive sense, for any particular person or persons who should be the heir of the tenant for life at his death, and, in that instance, inaptly denominated heir, and when he did not intend to break in upon, and disturb the line of descent from the ancestor, but used the word heirs as a nomen collectivum, for the whole line of inheritable blood.
It is not, nor ought to be, in the power of a grantor or testator, to prescribe a different qualification to heirs from what the law prescribes, when they are to take in their character of heirs; and the rule, in its wisdom and policy, did not intend to leave it to parties to decide what should be a descent, and what should be a purchase. The rule is absolute, (and this was the doctrine of Lord Thurlow in Jones v. Morgan75) that whoever takes in the character of heir, must take in the quality of heir. All the efforts of the party to change the qualification, while he admits the character of heirs, by saying that they shall take as purchasers, or otherwise, are fruitless, and of no avail. The rule in Shelley’s case, if applied to real property, enlarges the estate for life into an inheritance, and gives to the tenant for life the capacity of a tenant in fee, by which he can defeat the entail or strict settlement intended by the party. If the rule be applied to personal property, it makes the tenant for life absolute owner, instead of being a mere usufructuary, without any power over the property beyond the enjoyment of it for his life.
Mr. Fearne’s essay on the rule in Shelley’s case, is in every view a spirited and masterly production, and it is confessedly the groundwork of Mr. Preston’s complicated analysis, and long and painful, but thorough discussion of the rule.76 All the great property lawyers justly insist upon the necessity and importance of stable rules, and they deplore the perplexity, strife, litigation and distress which result from the pursuit of loose and conjectural intentions, brought forward to counteract the settled and determinate meaning of technical expressions.77 It is now generally admitted, that the decision in Perrin v. Blake was directly contrary to the stream of former authorities on the same subject; and in Mr. Fearne’s view of the case,78 convenience and policy equally dictate an adherence to the old and established doctrine.
By turning the word heirs into a word of purchase, in limitations, to the father for life, remainder to his heirs, or heirs of the body, a contingent remainder is given to the heirs; and as it is impossible to say who will be the heirs until the father’s death, it would be out of his power, in conjunction with any of his children, to make a secure and effectual settlement of the estate, either upon marriage, or upon any other occasion, and the inheritance must remain suspended during the father’s life. This every grantor, and every testator, will be enabled, at his pleasure, to do, if we depart from Shelley’s rule; and he may impose a strict, and very inconvenient clog, upon the alienation of property. It was always in the power of the owner, under the rule as it stood, by marriage settlements, and the creation of executory trusts, or springing uses, to guard an estate from prodigal waste by a dissipated son. The rule has no application to such cases.
Since the termination of the case of Perrin v. Blake, Lord Thurlow came out a decided champion for the rule, and he held, in Jones v. Morgan,79 that a devise to trustees, to stand seized to the use of A. for life, and, after his death, to the use of the heirs male of his body, severally, successively, and in remainder, created an estate tail in A. This was repugnant to the doctrine in Bagshaw v. Spencer, for here, as in that case, was a trust estate. So, the case of Hodgson v. Ambrose,80 filling literally within the purview of that of Coulson v. Coulson, received from the K. B. the same determination; and Mr. Justice Buller observed, that if the testator made use of technical words only, the courts were bound to understand them in the legal sense. But if he used other words, manifestly indicating what his intention was, and that he did not mean what the technical words imported, the intention must prevail, if consistent with the rules of law.
That qualification applies only to the nature and operation of the estate devised, and not to the construction of the words. A man is not to be permitted by will to counteract the rules of law, and change the nature of property; and, therefore, he cannot create a perpetuity, or put the freehold in abeyance, or make a chattel descendible to heirs, or destroy the power of alienation by a tenant in fee, or in tail. In Doe v. Smith,81 Lord Kenyon took a distinction between a general and a secondary intention in a will, and he held, that the latter must give way when they interfered. If, therefore, the testator intended that the first taker should take only an estate for life, and that his issue should take as purchasers, yet, if he intended that the estate should descend in the line of hereditary succession, the general intent prevails, and the issue is a word of limitation.
To conclude: The rule in Shelley’s case survived all the rude assaults which it received in the controversy under Perrin v. Blake, and it has continued down to the present time in full vigor, with commanding authority, and with its roots struck immovably deep in the foundations of the English law. All the modern cases contain one uniform language, and declare that the words heirs of the body, whether in deeds or wills, are construed as words of limitation, unless it clearly and unequivocally appears, that they were used to designate certain individuals answering the description of heirs at the death of the party.82
The rule in Shelley’s case has been received and adopted in these United States as part of the system of the common law. In South Carolina the rule was early acknowledged,83 and, in a recent case, after a long controversy, and conflicting decisions, the Court of Appeals, upon great consideration, decided a case upon the basis of the authority of the rule in Shelley’s case.84 The rule was also fully admitted as a binding authority in Virginia, in the case of Roy v. Garnett,85 though it was allowed to be under the control of the testator’s intention; and in Maryland it has received the clearest elucidation, and the most unqualified support. In Horne v. Lyeth,86 the rule, under all its modifications and exceptions, was learnedly and accurately expounded. In that case, a devise of a term for ninety-nine years to A., during her natural life, and, after her death, to her heirs, was held to pass to A. the entire interest in the term. It was admitted by Ch. J. Dorsey, that if it had been a devise of an estate of inheritance, the remainder would have been immediately executed in the ancestor, and he would have been seized of an estate in fee.
The word heirs, when used alone, without explanation, is always a word of limitation, and not of purchase, and no presumed intention will control its legal operation. Even superadded words of limitation, engrafted on the first limitation, would not alter the rule, unless they went to alter, abridge, or qualify the words, and to establish a new succession inconsistent with the descent pointed out by the first words, so as to make the next heir the terminus, or stock by reference to whom the future succession was to be regulated. To change the term into a word of purchase, the heirs must not be able to take as heirs, by reason of a distributive direction incompatible with the ordinary course of descent, or the limitation must be directed to the then presumptive heirs of the person on whom the estate for life is limited.
This very correct view of the rule of law, admitted the acknowledged exceptions to the rule, in the case of limitations in marriage articles, and of executory trusts, and also where the ancestor takes a trust or equitable estate, and the heir the legal estate or an executed use; and, assuming the rule to have been introduced on feudal principles, yet, to disregard rules of interpretation sanctioned by a succession of ages, and by the decisions of the most enlightened judges, under pretense that the reason of the rule no longer exists, or that the rule itself is unreasonable, would not only prostrate the great landmarks of property, but would introduce a latitude of construction boundless in its range, and pernicious in its consequences.”
It was further declared in the same case, that the rule in Shelley’s case applied to leasehold estates, as well as to estates of inheritance, and that in the bequest of chattels, a gift to A. for life, with remainder to his heirs, or to the heirs of his body, would carry the entire interest. The word issue, in grants, was exclusively a word of purchase, and in devises of real estate it often means children, and is then a word of purchase, though it may be used either as a word of limitation or of purchase. Afterwards, in Lyles v. Digge,87 the rule was recognized as equally applicable to limitations in wills, and conveyances by deed, and a case was withdrawn from its operation on the acknowledged exception, in the instance where the testator shows a manifest intent to give the first taker only an estate for life, by using superadded words of explanation and limitation, in the selection of sons of the first taker in succession, and the heirs of their bodies successively, and making those sons evidently the stock of a new line of descent.
In Pennsylvania, in the case of James’ claim,88 the rule was recognized in a decided manner, and the word issue, in a case of a devise of an estate of inheritance to A. for life, remainder to his lawful issue, was held to be a word of limitation, and that A. consequently took an estate tail. Afterwards, in Findley v. Riddle,89 there was a devise to A. for life, and if he died leaving lawful issue, to his heirs as tenants in common, and their respective heirs and assigns; and the court, under the circumstances, in furtherance of the intent, held the words of limitation to be words of purchase, and that A. took only an estate for life, with a contingent remainder to his heirs.
The English doctrine on the subject of Shelley’s rule, with all its refinements and distinctions, was fully admitted, but with an evident leaning towards the doctrine of the K. B. in Perrin v. Blake, in favor of the manifest intent of the testator. The English rule was entirely recognized in Connecticut in the case of Bishop v. Selleck.90 This was in 1804, but, recently, we are informed, that the rule has been abrogated by statute;91 and in Massachusetts, by statute, in the year 1791, the rule was abolished, as to wills, by a provision declaring, that “a devise to a person for life, and after, his death to his children, or heirs, or right heirs, in fee, shall vest an estate for life only in such devisee, and a remainder in’ fee in his children,” etc. It is to be inferred, that the rule in Shelley’s case exists in that state in full force as to deeds.
In New York, the rule, according to the English view of it, was considered, in the case of Brant v. Gelston,92 to be of binding authority; and so it continued to be until the revisers lately recommended its abolition, as being a rule “purely arbitrary and technical,” and calculated to defeat the intentions of those who are ignorant of technical language. The New York Revised Statutes93 have accordingly declared, that “where a remainder shall be limited to the heirs, or heirs of the body of a person to whom a life estate in the same premises shall be given, the persons who, on the termination of the life estate, shall be the heirs, or heirs of the body of such tenant for life, shall be entitled to take as purchasers, by virtue of the remainder so limited to them.”
The abolition of the rule applies equally to deeds and wills, and, in its practical operation, it will, in cases where the rule would otherwise have applied, change estates in fee into contingent remainders, and it will tie up property from alienation during the life of the first taker, and the minority of his heirs, But this, it may perhaps be presumed, was the actual intention of the party in every case in which he creates an express estate for life in the first taker, for otherwise he would not have so limited it. It is just to allow individuals the liberty to make strict settlements of their property in their own discretion, provided there be nothing in such dispositions of it affecting the rights of others, nor inconsistent with public policy, or the settled principles of law.
But this liberty of modifying at pleasure the transmission of property, is in many respects controlled, as in the instance of a devise to a charity, or to aliens, or as to the creation of estates tail; and the rule in Shelley’s case only operated as a check of the same kind, and to a very moderate degree. Under the existence of the rule, land might be bound up from circulation for a life, and twenty-one years afterwards, only the settlor was required to use a little more explicitness of intention, and a more specific provision. The abolition of the rule facilitates such settlements, though it does not enlarge the individual capacity to make them; and it is a question for experience to decide, whether this attainable advantage will overbalance the inconvenience of increasing fetters upon alienation, and shaking confidence in law, by such an entire and complete renunciation of a settled rule of property, memorable for its antiquity, and for the patient cultivation and discipline which it has received.94
(5.) Of the particular estate requisite to support a remainder.
There must be a particular estate to precede a remainder, for it necessarily implies, that a part of the estate has been already carved out of it, and vested in immediate possession in some other person. The particular estate must be valid in law, and formed at the same time, and by the same instrument, with the remainder.95 The latter cannot be created for a future time without an intervening
estate to support it. If it be an estate of freehold, it must take effect presently, either in possession or remainder, for, at common law, no estate of freehold could pass without livery of seizin, which must operate either immediately, or not at all. “If a man,” said Lord Coke,96 “makes a lease for life to begin at a day to come, he cannot make present livery to a future estate, and, therefore, in that case, nothing passes.” Though a term for years may be granted to commence in futuro, an estate of freehold, limited on such future interest, would be void. When, therefore, a freehold remainder is intended to be created and vested, it is necessary to create a previous particular estate to subsist in the mean time, and to deliver immediate possession of it, which is construed to be giving possession also to him in remainder, since the particular estate, and the remainder, constitute one and the same estate in law. The remainder man is seized of his remainder at the same time that the tenant of the particular estate is possessed of his estate.97 It was necessary to make livery of seizin on the particular estate, even though that particular estate was a chattel interest, as a term for years, provided a freehold vested remainder was to be created. In no other way could a freehold in remainder be created at common law. It could not be made directly to the person in remainder without destroying the estate of the lessee for years, and livery to the particular tenant enures to the benefit of the remainder man, as the particular estate and the remainder are but one estate.98 It follows, from these principles, that an estate at will cannot support a remainder, for, livery to the tenant, at will, and the limitation over, would either of them determine the will.99
If the particular estate be void in its creation, or be defeated afterwards, the remainder, created by a conveyance at common law, and resting upon the same title, will be defeated also, as being, in such a case, a freehold commencing in futuro. The person in remainder cannot take advantage’ of conditions annexed to the preceding estate. If, therefore, an estate for life be upon condition, and the grantor enters for breach of the condition, and avoids the estate, the remainder over, as we have already seen,100 will be defeated, because the entry defeats the livery made to the first lessee or feoffee on the creation of the original estate, and the grantor is in of his old estate.101 But if a vested remainder rests upon good title, and not upon the defeasible title of the particular estate, it will remain, though the particular estate be defeated, as in the case put by Coke, of a lease to an infant for life, remainder to B. in fee, though the infant disagrees to the estate for life when he comes of age, yet the remainder shall stand, for it did not depend upon the same title with the particular estate, and it was once vested by a good title.102 In Duo v. Brabant,103 Lord Thurlow declared the old rule of law to be, that where there was a particular estate created, with a remainder over, and the first estate is void, as if made to a person incapable of taking, the remainder-man will take immediately, as if it were an original estate. The observation can only be correct as to uses and devises, for, in conveyances at common law, and not to uses, the rule is clearly otherwise; and it is repugnant to the general principle, that a remainder cannot be created without a particular estate to precede it in its creation. The rule is well established in the old law, that if the particular estate be void in its inception, the remainder limited upon it is void also.104 In the case of a grant for life to a person incapable of taking, or to a person not in rerum natura, with remainder over, the remainder is not good, for there is no particular estate to support it.105 Though in wills and conveyances to uses, the remainder may be good, notwithstanding the particular estate be void, yet, in future uses, and executory devises, if one class of limitations be void, the limitations over will be void for the same reason.
If the estate in remainder be limited in contingency, and amounts to a freehold, a vested freehold must precede it, and pass at the same time out of the grantor.106 This rule holds equally in the limitation of uses, and in estates executed in possession at common law. Thus, in the case of a devise to B. for fifty years, if he should so long live, remainder to the heirs of his body, the remainder was held void for want of a freehold to support it.107 But if the remainder had been to trustees during the life of B., remainder to the heirs of his body, in that case the contingent remainder had been good, because preceded by a vested freehold remainder to the trustees.108 The reason of the rule requiring a contingent remainder to be supported by a freehold, was that the freehold should not be in abeyance, and that there should be always a visible tenant of the freehold, who might be made tenant to the praecipe, and answer for the services required.109 It does not apply to contingent interests for years, for they were considered, in the case of Corbet v. Stone,110 to be merely executory contracts. It will be sufficient if a right of entry exists in the rightful tenant of the particular estate, when the contingent remainder vests. The contingent remainder is not destroyed, though there be no actual seizin; for though a mere right of action will not, yet a right of entry will support a contingent remainder. Lord Holt, in Thompson v. Leach,111 illustrates the distinction by saying, that if there be tenant for life with a contingent remainder over, and he be disseized, the whole estate is divested, but the right of entry remaining in the tenant will support the remainder; whereas, if, during the disseizin, the contingent remainder expectant upon the life estate, does not vest before five years after a descent cast, the remainder is gone for ever, for the right of entry is turned into a right of action.
(6.) Of remainders limited by way of use.
Remainders may be limited by way of use, as well as by common law conveyances, but the operation which the statute of uses of 27 Ken. VIII. had upon contingent uses, was formerly a matter of great and protracted discussion. The history of the judicial controversy on this subject is a great curiosity, and though we have not much practical concern with it in these United States, it will well reward a few moments’ attention of the diligent and inquisitive student who desires to understand the progress, mutations, and genius, of the very complicated machinery of the English law of real estates.
Before the statute of uses, the feoffees to uses were seized of the legal estate, and if they were disseized, no use could be executed until, by their entry, they had regained their seizin, for the statute only executed those uses which had a seizin to support them.112 After the statute of uses there was great difficulty to ascertain where the estate which was to support the contingent uses resided. Soma held, that the estate was vested in the first cestui que use, subject to the uses which should be executed out of his seizin; but this opinion was untenable, for a use could not arise out of a use. It was again held, that the seizin to serve contingent uses was in nubibus, or in custodia legis, or had no substantial residence any where, and the conclusion attached to these opinions was, that contingent uses could not be barred by any act whatever. Others were of opinion, that so much of the inheritance as was limited to the contingent uses, remained actually vested in the feoffees until the uses arose. But the prevailing doctrine was, that there remained no actual estate, and only a possibility of seizin, or a scintilla juris in the feoffees, or releasees to uses, to serve the contingent uses as they arose.113 The doctrine of scintilla juris, Mr. Sugden says, was first started in Brent’s case,114 in 16th Eliz. and the judges had great difficulties in settling the construction of contingent uses. One opinion was, that the feoffees had a fee simple determinable to continue until the future use arose, and that they were not divested of the whole interest until the execution of all the uses limited upon the feoffment, but a sufficient portion of the fee simple to serve the contingent uses, remained vested in the feoffees. It was also held, that the estate, in the interim, resulted to the feoffor. A majority of the court agreed, that the statute divested the feoffees of all the estate when the contingency arose by a person being in esse to take.
In Manning and Andrew’s case,115 the judges were equally unsettled in their notions respecting the operation of the statute on contingent uses. Some of them were of opinion, that a sufficient actual estate remained in the feoffees to support the uses, while others thought that the feoffees were, by the statute of uses, made mere conduit pipes, through which the estate was conveyed to the uses as they arose, and that they were divested of all estate. The statute drew the confidence out of the feoffees, and reposed it upon the land, which rendered the use to every person entitled in his due season under the limitation. According to this opinion, the feoffees had no right of entry, and could not, by release, confirmation, or otherwise, do any thing to the prejudice of the uses limited. In a few years Chudleigh’s case116 arose, and has ever been regarded as a great and leading case on the doctrine of contingent uses.
The principal question in that case was concerning the power of feoffees to uses, to destroy contingent uses by fine or feoffment, before the uses came into being. It was a very complex settlement case. Lands were conveyed by feoffment, to feoffees, in a series of successive uses, and, among others, to the use of the feoffees and their heirs, during the life of the settlor’s eldest son, remainder to the grandsons of the settlor, successively in tail, with remainder to the right heirs of the eldest son. The feoffees seized to these uses after the death of the feoffor, enfeoffed his eldest son in fee without consideration, and with notice in the son of the uses in the settlement. The eldest son had a son born thereafter, and after that birth he conveyed to a stranger in fee, and the question arose between the title of the stranger under the conveyance, and the title of the grandson under the settlement. The point was, whether the act of the feoffees destroyed the contingent remainders, so that a use could never arise out of the estate of the feoffees, when the contingency afterwards happened by the birth of the grandson. The judgment of the court was, that by the feoffment the whole estate was divested, and drawn out of the feoffees, and the future contingent uses destroyed.117
The minority of the judges held, that there was no estate, right, or scintilla juris remaining in the feoffees, and that the notion of a scintilla was as imaginary as the Utopia of Sir Thomas Moore. The seizin which the feoffees had at the beginning by the feoffment to them, was sufficient to serve all the future uses when they came in esse, and it was not in their power to affect, suspend, or destroy the future uses, which were in the interim in nubibus, and in the preservation of the law, and the cestui que use was, consequently, entitled. But a large majority of the judges decided, that the feoffment made by the feoffees divested all the estates, and the future uses; and they assimilated contingent uses to contingent remainders, and endeavored to bring them within the same rules, and render them liable to be destroyed in the same manner. They held, that the statute could not execute any uses that were not in esse, and that contingent uses might be destroyed or discontinued before they came in esse, by all such means, as for instance, by feoffment, forfeiture, or release of the estate, as uses might have been discontinued or destroyed by the common law. They held, that not a mere scintilla remained in the feoffees, but a sufficient estate to serve and support the contingent uses when they came inn esse, unless their possession was disturbed by disseizin or otherwise, and then they would have a right of entry, unless they did some act to bar it. One great principle of policy is said118 to have governed the judges in this case, in holding that contingent remainders might be thus destroyed, was to prevent perpetuities, which were so odious in the ancient law. The decision in Chudleigh’s case settled the doctrine that contingent remainders, even by way of use, were destroyed by the destruction of the particular estate. The judges gave the same operation to a feoffment in regard to contingent uses, as they did in respect to contingent remainders.119
The fiction of a scintilla juris, or possibility of entry in the feoffees, or releasees to uses, sufficient to feed the contingent uses when they come into existence, and thereby to enable the statute to execute them, has been deduced from these ancient cases.120 Such a particle of right or interest has been supposed to be indispensable, to sustain the contingent use. Upon conveyances to uses, when there is a person in esse seized to the uses, the seizin is immediately transferred to the cestui que use, and the whole estate is divested and drawn out of the feoffee or releasee. But contingent uses cannot be executed when there is no cestui que use in existence; and the doctrine has been stated, (and it was assumed by the judges in Chudleigh’s case,) that there was a necessity of supposing some person seized to the use, when the contingency arose, to enable the statute to operate. There must be a person seized, and a use in esse, or there cannot be an execution of the possession to the use. The estate in the land is supposed to be transferred to the person who has the estate in the use, and not to the use, and it is inferred, that no use can become a legal interest, until there shall be a person in whom the estate may vest. When the estate of the use is divided into portions, and there be a discontinuance of the legal estate, the contingent remainder by way of use, cannot be continued, until the trustee, or the tenant of some preceding vested estate, has by entry or action regained the seizin, so as to serve and supply the contingent uses when the contingency happens. To meet the difficulty, recourse was had to the refinement of a scintilla juris remaining in the feoffee to uses, and if the contingent use, limited upon a precedent estate of freehold, should be divested, actual entry was deemed necessary to revest the scintilla juris of the feoffees, or releasees to uses, and thereby enable them to support the contingent springing or shifting use when it arises. There must be either an actual seizin to support the contingent use, or this possibility of entry or scintilla; and if such seizin or scintilla be divested before the use arises, as was the fact in Chudleigh’s case, the use is totally destroyed.121
This view of the subject has been met and opposed by some of the most distinguished writers on real property at the present day.122
Mr. Fearne questions the existence and application of the doctrine of the scintilla juris to that extent, and denies the necessity of actual entry, any more in the case of contingent uses, than in the case of contingent remainders, in order to regain the requisite seizin to serve the contingent uses. He denies the necessity of actual entry by any person to restore a contingent use, so long as a right of entry subsists in the cestui que use, and the scintilla juris, if of any real efficacy, must be competent to serve contingent uses without the necessity of actual entry. The whole controversy relates to the common law conveyances, as feoffments, releases, fines, and recoveries, which operate by transmutation of possession, and under which the fee simple vests in the feoffees, and the uses arise out of their seizin. Mr. Sugden takes a higher and bolder stand, and, by a critical review of all the cases, puts to flight this ignis fatuus of a scintilla, and shows that it never had any foundation in judicial decisions, but was deduced from extrajudicial dicta. he considers that the fiction operates mischievously, by requiring actual entry to restore the divested estate, or a feoffee to uses actually existing when the contingent uses arise. The sound construction of the statute requires, that limitations to uses should be construed in like manner as limitations at common law. Thus, if by feoffment, or release to some third persons, (who are generally strangers in interest to the estate,) or by covenant to stand seized, or perhaps by bargain and sale,23 a use be limited to A. for life, remainder to trustees to preserve contingent uses, remainder to the first and other unborn sons in tail, the use is vested in A., and the uses to the sons are contingent, depending on the particular estate; and in case of a feoffment or release by A. the tenant for life, the uses would be supported by the right of entry in the trustees. The feoffees, or releasees to uses, could neither destroy nor support the contingent uses. The statute draws the whole estate in the land out of the feoffees, and they become divested, and the estates limited prior to the contingent uses, take effect as legal estates, and the contingent uses take effect as they arise by force of the original seizin of the feoffees. If there be any vested remainders, they take effect according to the deed, subject to divest, and open, and let in the contingent uses, in the proportions in which persons afterwards arising may become capable of taking under the limitation. To give a fuller illustration of this abstruse point, we may suppose a feoffment in fee to A., to the use of B. for life, remainder to his first and other sons unborn, successively in tail, remainder to C. in fee, the statute immediately draws the whole estate out of A., and vests it in B. for life, remainder to C. in fee, and those estates exhaust the entire seizin of A., the feoffee. The estate in contingency in the unborn sons, is no estate until the contingency happens; and the statute did not intend to execute contingent uses, but the contingent estates are supported by holding that the estates in B. and C. were vested sub modo only, and would open, so as to let in the contingent estates as they come in esse. There is no scintilla whatever remaining in A., the feoffee, but the contingent uses, when they arise, take effect, by relation, out of the original seizin. By this clear and masterly view of the subject, Mr. Sugden destroys all grounds for the fiction of any scintilla juris in A., the feoffee, to feed the contingent uses.124
Mr. Preston, in his construction of the statute of uses, is also of opinion, that limitations of contingent uses do give contingent interests, and that the estate may be executed to the use, though there be no person in whom the estate thus executed may vest. The statute passes the estate of the feoffees in the land, to the estates and interests in the use, and apportions the estate in the land to the estates and interests in the use. Immediately after the conveyance to uses, no scintilla juris, or the most remote possibility of seizin, remains with the trustees. But Mr. Preston speaks with diffidence of his conclusions, and he is of opinion, that the doctrine respecting the scintilla juris requires to be settled by judicial decision.125
I am not aware that the English doctrine of remainders and uses has undergone any essential alteration in these United States, except it be in the late revised statutes of New York. The general doctrines of the English law on the subject constitute, as I presume, a branch of the municipal jurisprudence of this country. A statute of Virginia, in 1792, made some alteration of the law of remainders, by declaring that a contingent remainder to a son or daughter unborn, was good, although there was no particular estate to support it after the father’s death. But, in New York, very deep innovations have recently been made upon the English system. No valid remainder can be defeated by the determination of the precedent estate, before the happening of the contingency on which the remainder is limited to take effect, but the remainder takes effect when the contingency happens, in the same manner, and to the same extent, as if the precedent estate had continued.126 This relieves us in New York, and fortunately and wisely relieves us, from the burden of investigating and following all the inventions and learning calculated to elude the fatal consequences of the premature destruction of the particular estate. But another, and more momentous change in the law, has annihilated at once all this doctrine of remainders by way of use. The New York Revised Statutes127 have abolished uses and trusts, except as authorized and modified in that article, and has turned them into legal rights. The article is a very short one, and allows resulting trusts, and four sorts of express trusts. Every contingent remainder which, under the English law, is by way of use, is now, in this state, a strictly legal contingent remainder, and governed by the same rules. There is no longer any need of trustees to preserve contingent remainders, and they could not exist if they were necessary, for their duty is not one of the express trusts which may be created. It is declared, that every disposition of lands, whether by deed or devise, shall be directly to the person in whom the right to the possession and profits shall be intended to be invested, and not to any other, to the use of, or in trust for, such person, and if so made, no estate or interest, legal or equitable, vests in the trustee.128 But to proceed with the review of the general law on the subject of remainders, there is one case which forms an exception to the rule that a preceding particular estate of freehold is requisite to support contingent limitations, and that is where the legal estate is vested in trustees. The estate will continue, in that instance, notwithstanding the failure of an intermediate life estate, until the persons who were to take the contingent remainder should come in esse, and in the interval the rents will belong to the grantor, or to his heirs by way of resulting trust.129
(7.) Of the time within which a contingent remainder must vest.
The interest to be limited as a remainder, either vested or contingent, must commence or pass out of the grantor in the same instrument, and at the time of the creation of the particular estate, and not afterwards.130 It must vest in the grantee, either in esse, or by right of entry, during the continuance of the particular estate, or at the very instant that it determines.131 The rule was founded on feudal principles, and was intended to avoid the inconvenience of an interval when there should be no tenant of the freehold to do the services of the lord, or answer to the suit of a stranger, or preserve an uninterrupted connection between the particular estate and the remainder. If, therefore, A. makes a lease to B. for life, with remainder over the day after his death, or if an estate be limited to A. for life, remainder to the eldest son of B., and A. dies before B. has a son, the remainder, in either case, is void, because the first estate was determined before the appointment of the remainder. There must be no interval or “mean time,” as Lord Coke expresses it, between the particular estate, and the remainder supported by it. If the particular estate terminates before the remainder can vest, the remainder is gone for ever, for a freehold cannot, according to the common law, commence in futuro.132
The remainder must be so limited as to await the natural determination of the particular estate, and not to take effect in possession upon an event which prematurely determines it.133 This is the true characteristic of a remainder, and the law will not allow it to be limited to take effect on an event which goes to defeat, or abridge, or work the destruction of the particular estate, and if limited to commence on such a condition, it is void. Thus, if there be a lease to A. for life, and if B. do a certain act, that the estate of A. shall then cease, and the remainder immediately vest in C., it is clear that the remainder will be void in that case.134 This rule applies to common law conveyances, and follows from the maxim that none but the grantor and his heirs shall take advantage of a condition, and both the preceding estate, and the remainder, are defeated by the entry of the grantor.135 If limitations on such conditions be made in conveyances to uses, and in wills, they are good as conditional limitations, or future or shifting uses, or executory devises; and upon the breach of the condition, the first estate, ipso facto, determines without entry, and the limitation over commences in possession.136 The distinction appears to turn essentially on the difference between a limitation and a condition, and the remainder over will be good in the former case, for it is of the nature of a limitation to embrace those estates to which fixed boundaries are prescribed, and which, by the terms of the instrument creating them, expire when they have arrived at those limits.137
The New York Revised Statutes,138 allow a remainder to be limited on a contingency, which, in case it should happen, would operate to abridge or determine the precedent estate; and every such remainder is to be construed a conditional limitation, and to have the same effect as such a limitation would have at law. This legislative provision meets the very case, and abolishes the strict and hard rule of the old law applicable to common law conveyances; but as the rule was never applied to conveyances to uses, or to devises, the statute only reaches a dormant principle, which was rarely, if ever, awakened at the present day. The New York Revised Statutes, in many other respects, have made very essential alterations in the common law doctrine of remainders; and a summary of those alterations cannot be unacceptable to the student in every state. Thus, a contingent remainder in fee may be created on a prior remainder in fee, to take effect in the event that the prior estate determines before the person to whom it is limited attains the age of twenty-one.139 No remainder can be created upon an estate for the life of any other person or persons than the grantee or devisee of such estate, unless such a remainder be a fee; nor can a remainder be created upon such an estate in a term for years, unless it be for the whole residue of such term.140 Nor can a remainder be made to depend upon more than two successive lives in being, and if more lives be added, the remainder takes effect upon the death of the two first persons named.141 A contingent remainder cannot be created on a term for years, unless the nature of the contingency on which it is limited be such that the remainder must vest in interest during the continuance of not more than two lives in being at the creation of such remainder, or upon the termination thereof.142 No estate for life can be limited as a remainder on a term of years, except to a person in being at the creation of such estate.143 A freehold estate, as well as a chattel real, (to which these regulations equally apply,) may be created to commence at a future day; and an estate for life may be created in a term of years, and a remainder limited thereon; and a remainder of a freehold or chattel interest, either contingent or vested, may be created expectant on the determination of a term of years.144 Two or more future estates may be created to take effect in the alternative, so that if the first in order shall fail to vest, the next in succession shall be substituted for it; and no future estate, otherwise valid, shall be void on the ground of the probability or improbability of the contingency on which it is limited to take effects.145 When a remainder on an estate for life, or for years, shall not be limited on a contingency defeating or avoiding such precedent estate, it shall be construed as intended to take effect only on the death of the first taker, or the expiration by lapse of time, of such term of years.146 No expectant estate shall be defeated or barred by any alienation, or other act of the owner of the intermediate estate, nor by any destruction of such precedent estate by disseizin, forfeiture, surrender, merger, or otherwise, except by some act or means which the party creating the estate shall, in the creation thereof, have provided for or authorized. Nor shall any remainder be defeated by the determination of the precedent estate before the happening of the contingency on which the remainder is limited to take effect, and should the contingency afterwards happen, the remainder shall take effect in the same manner, and to the same extent, as if the precedent estate had continued to the same period.147
Some of the above enactments are not very material, and are only declaratory of the existing law; but those which relate to the precedent estate, and render such an estate no longer requisite to sustain the remainder, will produce a very beneficial change in the doctrine of remainders, and disperse a cloud of difficulties, and a vast body of intricate learning relating to the subject. As these provisions do not affect vested rights, or the construction of deeds and instruments which took effect prior to the first of January, 1830,148 the learning of the English law on the subject of remainders, and conveyances to uses, will not become dormant in New York during the existence of the present generation.
A contingent remainder may fail as to some, and take effect as to other persons, in consequence of some only of the persons entitled in remainder coming in esse during the particular estate, as in the case of a remainder to the right heirs of A. and B., and A. only dies during the continuance of the preceding estate, whereby the remainder vests in his heirs.149
(8.) Of the destruction of contingent remainders.
If the particular estate determines, or be destroyed, before the contingency happens on which the expectant estate depended, and leaves no right of entry, the remainder is annihilated. The alteration in the particular estate which will destroy the contingent remainder, must amount to an alteration in its quantity, and not merely in the quality150, and, therefore, the severance of the jointure between two joint tenants for life, will not destroy the contingent remainder, limited after their joint estate. The particular estate in the tenant in tail, or for life, may be destroyed by feoffment or fine, for these conveyances gain a fee by disseizin, and leave no particular estate in esse, or in right, to support the contingent remainder.151 So, if the tenant for life disclaimed on record as by a fine, a forfeiture was incurred upon feudal principles, and if the owner of the next vested estate of freehold entered for the forfeiture, the contingent remainder was destroyed.152 A merger, by the act of the parties of the particular estate, is also equally effectual as a fine to destroy a contingent remainder.153 But with respect to this doctrine of merger, there are some nice distinctions arising out of the case of the inheritance becoming united to the particular estate for life by descent, for, as a general rule, the contingent remainder is destroyed by the descent of the inheritance on the particular tenant for life. Out of indulgence, however, to last wills, the law makes this exception, that if the descent from the testator, or the particular tenant, be immediate, there is no merger; as if A. devises to B. for life, remainder to his first son unborn, and dies, and the land descends on B. as heir at law. Here the descent is immediate. But if the fee, on the death of A., had descended on C., and at his death on B., here the descent from A. would be only mediate, and the contingent remainder to the unborn son of B., would be destroyed by merger of the particular estate on the accession of the inheritance. Mr. Fearne154 vindicates this distinction, and reconciles the jarring cases by it, and it has been since judicially established in Crump v. Norwood.155 In equity, the tenant for life of a trust cannot, even by a fine, destroy the contingent remainder dependent thereon, and it will only operate on the estate he can lawfully grant.156 A court of equity does not countenance the destruction of contingent remainders, and Lord Loughborough observed, that it had been intended to bring a bill into Parliament to prevent the necessity of trustees to preserve contingent remainders.157 There is also an established distinction between those wrongful conveyances at common law which act on the possession, and those innocent conveyances which do not; and, therefore, a conveyance of a thing lying in grant does not bar a contingent remainder. Nor do conveyances which derive their operation from the statute of uses, as a bargain and sale, lease and release, and covenant to stand seized, bar contingent remainders, for none of them pass any greater estate than the grantor may lawfully convey.158 There are also some acts of a tenant for life, which, though they amount to a forfeiture of the estate, and give the vested remainder-man a title to enter, yet they do not destroy the contingent remainder, unless advantage be taken of the forfeiture by some subsequent vested remainder-man. They do not, ipso facto, discontinue, divest, or disturb any subsequent estate, nor make any alteration or merger of the particular estate.159 Though a right of entry, even after the particular tenant be disseized, will support a contingent remainder, yet when once the right of entry is gone, it is gone for ever, and a new title of entry will not restore the remainder. If there be, therefore, a tenant for life, with contingent remainder over, and the tenant for life makes a feoffment in fee upon condition, and the contingency happens before the condition is broken, or before entry for breach thereof, the remainder is totally destroyed, though the tenant for life should afterwards enter for the condition broken, and regain his former estate.160
To preserve the contingent remainder from the operation of the feoffment, which, in this respect, sacrificed right to fiction and metaphysical subtlety, recourse has been had to the creation of trustees to preserve the contingent remainder during the life of the tenant of life, notwithstanding any determination of the particular estate prematurely, by forfeiture or otherwise. This precaution is still used in settlements on marriage, or by will, where there are contingent remainders to be protected. The legal estate limited to trustees during the tenant’s life, is a vested remainder in trust, existing between the beneficial freehold and the contingent remainder. The trustees are entitled to a right of entry in case of any wrongful alienation by the tenant for life, or whenever his estate for life determines in his lifetime by any other means.161 The trustees are under the cognizance of a court of equity, and it will control their acts, and punish them for a breach of trust; and if the feoffment be made with notice by the purchaser of the trust, as was the fact in Chudleigh’s case, a court of chancery will hold the lands still subject to the former trusts.163 But this interference of equity is regulated by the circumstances and justice of the particular case. The court may, in its discretion, forbear to interfere, or it may, and will, even allow or compel the trustees to join in a sale to destroy the contingent remainder, if it should appear that such a measure would answer the uses originally intended by the settlement.163
(9.) Of some remaining properties of contingent remainders.
If a contingent remainder be created in conveyances by way of use, or in dispositions by will, the inheritance, in the mean time, if not otherwise disposed of, remains in the grantor, or his heirs, or descends to the heirs of the testator to remain until the contingency happens. This general and equitable principle is of acknowledged authority,164 Conveyances to uses are governed by doctrines derived from courts of equity, and the principles which originally controlled them they retained when united with the legal estate. So much of the use as is not disposed of, remains in the grantor, and if the remainder in fee be in contingency, the inheritance or use, in the mean time, results to the grantor, and descends to his heirs, and becomes a springing or shifting use, as the contingency arises. The same doctrine is applied to executory devises, and the fee remains unaffected by the will, and goes to the heir, subject to be defeated when the devise takes effect, provided it takes effect within the period prescribed against perpetuities.165 Though the fee descends, in the interim, to the heir, there shall be an hiatus, as was observed in Plunkett v. Holmes, to let in the contingency when it happens. It was fully and definitively settled by Lord Parker, on appeal from the Rolls, in Carter v. Barnadiston,166 that the inheritance descends to the heir in the case of a contingent remainder created by will to await the happening of the contingency. The only debatable question, according to Mr. Fearne, is, whether the rule applies to conveyances at common law. As conveyances in this country are almost universally by way of use, the question in this case, and in many others arising upon common law conveyances, will rarely occur;167 but it is still a point involved in the general history and doctrines of the English law, and is, therefore, deserving of the attention of the student.
If a conveyance be made to A. for life, remainder to the heirs of B. then living, and livery be made to A., Mr. Fearne contends that the inheritance continues in the grantor, because there is no passage open for its transition at the time of the livery. The transition itself may rest in abeyance, or expectation, until the contingency or future event occurs to give it operation; but the inheritance, in the mean time, remains in the grantor, for the very plain and unanswerable reason, that there is no person in rerum natura to receive it, and he, or his heirs, must be entitled, on the determination of the particular estate before the contingent remainder can take place, to enter and resume the estate. He treated with ridicule the notion that the fee was in abeyance, or in nubibus, or in mere expectation, or remembrance, without any definite or tangible existence; and he considered it as an absurd and unintelligible fiction.168 Of the existence of such a technical rule of the common law there can be no doubt. The principle was, perhaps, coeval with the common law, that during the pendency of a contingent remainder in fee, upon a life estate, as in the case already stated, the inheritance was deemed to be in abeyance.169 But a state of abeyance was always odious, and never admitted but from necessity, because, in that interval, there could not be any seizin of the land, nor any tenant to the praecipe, nor any one of ability to protect the inheritance from wrong, or to answer its burdens and services. This was the principal reason why a particular estate for years was not allowed to support a contingent remainder in fee.170 The title, if attacked, could not be completely defended, because there was no one in being whom the tenant could pray in aid to support his right, and, upon a writ of right patent, the lessee for life could not join the use upon the mere right. The particular tenant could not be punishable for waste, for the writ of waste could only be brought by him who was entitled to the inheritance. So many operations of law were suspended by this sad theory of an estate in abeyance, that great impediments were thrown in the way of it, and no acts of the parties were allowed to put the immediate freehold in abeyance by limiting it to commence in, futuro; and we have seen, that one ground on which the rule in Shelley’s case is placed, was to prevent an abeyance of the estate.171 Though the good sense of the thing, and the weight of liberal doctrine, are strongly opposed to the ancient notion of an abeyance, the technical rule is, that livery of seizin takes the reversion or inheritance from the grantor, and leaves him no tangible or disposable interest. Instead of a reversion, he has only a potential ownership, subsisting in contemplation of law, or a possibility of reverter; and Mr. Preston172 insists, that an estate of freehold depending on another estate of freehold, and limited in contingency, must be in abeyance, and not in the grantor. The fee passes out of the grantor, and a vested estate of freehold necessarily precedes the remainder, and the inheritance is in contingency as well against the grantor, who has no power over it, as against the person to whom the contingent remainder is limited. Mr. Preston confidently asserts, that the argument of Mr. Fearne, however abstractedly just and reasonable, is without authority, and contrary to all settled technical rules. Another able writer173 also contends, that the doctrine of abeyance was never shaken or attacked until Mr. Fearne brought against it the weight of his eloquence and talents.174
A vested remainder, lying in grant, passes by deed without livery; but a contingent remainder is a mere right, and cannot be transferred before the contingency happens, otherwise than by way of estoppel. Lord Coke175 divides estoppels into three kinds, viz. by matter of record, as by letters patent, fine, common recovery, and pleading; by matter in writing, or by deed indented; and by matter in pals, as by livery, by entry, by acceptance of rent, and by partition. Any conveyance by matter of record, or by deed indented, of an executory or contingent interest, will work an estoppel. Thus, if there be an estate to A. and B., and to the survivor in fee, a conveyance operating by way of estoppel will bind the contingent remainder in fee in the survivor. A lease and release, if the latter be by deed indented, will work an estoppel.176 The estate for life is the only tangible interest, and the other is a mere possibility, and estoppels exists where no interest passes from the party.177
All contingent and executory interests are assignable in equity, and will be enforced if made for a valuable consideration; and it is settled, that all contingent estates of inheritance, as well as springing and executory uses, and possibilities, coupled with an interest, where the person to take is certain, are transmissable by descent, and devisable. But if the person be not ascertained, they are not then possibilities coupled with an interest, and they cannot be either devised, or descend, at the common law.178 Contingent and executory, as well as vested interests, pass to the real and personal representatives, according to the nature of the interest, and entitle the representatives to them when the contingency happens.179
1. Co. Litt. 49. a. 143. a. 2 Blacks. Com. 163. Preston on Estates, vol. i. 90, 91.
2. N.Y. Revised Statutes, vol. i. 723. sec. 10, 11.
3. Cornish’s Essay on the Doctrine of Remainders, 1827, p. 96. Mr. Cornish pronounces his own definition to be accurate, but he is not remarkably happy, either in brevity, or neatness, or clearness of expression. He ought to be accurate ad unguem, for he has occupied upwards of seventy pages in a labored analysis to produce his definition; and some parts of his inquiry involve critical discussions upon the most abstruse, subtle, and artificial distinctions in the law. They could not be made intelligible without giving more space to them than these lectures will allow.
4. 2 Blacks. Com. 164.
5. Mr. Cornish has detected, in some ancient authorities, the evidence that partial interests, carved out of the inheritance, with a limitation of remainders over, existed among the Anglo Saxons.-Essay on Remainders, p. 3.
6. This is a clear principle of the common law; but the New York Revised Statutes, vol. i. 723. sec. 16. have changed the whole doctrine on this point, and allowed a contingent remainder in fee to be created on a prior remainder in fee, and to take effect in the event that the persons to whom the first remainder is limited, shall die under the age of twenty-one years, or upon any other contingency, by which the estate of such persons may be determined before they attain their full age. So, a fee maybe limited upon a fee, upon a contingency which, if it should occur, must happen within the period prescribed by the article, that is, two lives in being, at the creation of the estate. Ibid. sec. 24.
7. 10 Co. 97. b. 1 Eq. Cas. Abr. 186. E. 1. vide supra, p. 10. in notis.
8. 2 Inst. 336. Fearne on Rem. p. 7, 8.
9. Doe v. Ellis, 9 East’s Rep. 382. Tenny v. Agar, 12 ibid. 253. Dansey v. Griffith, 4 Maule & Selw. 61. The series of cases on this subject, as Mr. Humphreys expresses it, in his Observations on Real Property, have been “obscurely shading down from a fee simple to a fee tail.” The N.Y. Revised Statutes, (vol. i. 722. sec. 3, 4.) have provided for the preservation of valid remainders, limited upon every estate, which, under the English law, would be adjudged an estate tail. They are declared valid, as conditional limitations upon a fee, and vest in possession on the death of the first taker, without issue living at the time of his death.
10. Luddington v. Kine, 1 Lord Raym. 203. Doug. Rep. 505. note,
11. Cornish on Remainders, p. 27-29.
12. Doug. ub. sup.
13. N.Y. Revised Statutes, vol. i. 724. sec. 25.
14. Chadock v. Cowly, Cro. J. 695. 2 Blacks. Com, 381.
15. Preston on Estates, vol. i. 94, 98.
16. Preston on Estates, vol. i. 64. Mr. Preston says, there may be an executory interest, which is neither vested nor contingent, and yet carries with it a certain and fixed right of future enjoyment; and he instances the case of a devise of a freehold, to commence on the death of B. This, he says, is a certain interest, which is not executed immediately, so as to be vested; but this is excessive refinement. Is it not a vested right of future enjoyment? The distinction appears to be fanciful.
17. N.Y. Revised Statutes, vol. i. 723. sec. 13.
18. Fearne’s Int. to his Treatise on Remainders.
19. 10 Co. 85. a.
20. Parkhurst v. Smith, Willes’ Rep. 337. Fearne on Rem. 277.278. Mr. Cornish, however, observes very justly, that there are cases in which a remainder is vested, without a present capacity for taking effect in possession, if the particular estate were to determine immediately.-Essay on Rem. 102.
21. Fearne, 279-286.
22. Badger v. Lloyd, 1 Salk. 232. 1 Lord Raym. 523. S. C. Ives v. Legge, 3 Term Rep. 488. note. Thus, in a case of a devise to A. and the heirs of his body, and in default thereof to B.; or in the case of a devise to B., and after his death, without male issue, to C.; and after his death, without male issue, to D.; and if D. die without male issue, none of these prior devisees being living, to E. in fee; here the remainder to B., in the one case, and to E., in the other, is vested. There was a like decision in Luddington v. Kime, 1 Lord Raym. 203. though the judges were not unanimous on the question, whether the remainder was vested or contingent.
23. Willes’ Rep. 337.
24. Cunningham v. Moody, 1 Vesey’s Rep. 174. Doe v. Martin, 4 Term; Rep. 39.
25. Doe v. Lea, 3 Term Rep. 41. Stanley v. Stanley, 16 Vesey’s Rep. 491. Doe v. Nicholls, 1 Barnw. & Cress. 336. Mr. Cornish, in his Essay on Remainders, 105. 107. considers this principle as a glaring anomaly in the law, holding an estate with words of inheritance, a mere chattel devolvable upon executors; and that if it was to be applied to conveyances instead of wills, it would extirpate the most rooted principles of the system of property.
26. Litt. sec. 416. Co. Litt. 252. a.
27. Fearne, p. 394-396. Doe v. Perryn, 3 Term Rep. 484. Lawrence v. Maggs, 1 Eden, 453. Doe v. Provoost, 4 Johns. Rep. 61. Right v. Creber, 5 Barnw. & Cress. 866. Annable v. Patch, 3 Pickering, 360.
28. Fearne on Rem. 3. Preston on Estates, vol. i. 71. 74.
29. The Mayor of London v. Alford, Cro. C. 576. 2 Co. 51. Cholmley’s case. This difficulty is provided for by the N.Y. Revised Statutes, vol. i. 724. sec. 26. which declare that no future estate, otherwise valid, should be void, on the ground of the probability or improbability of the contingency on which it is limited to take effect.
30. 3 Co. 20. a. b. Lovie’s Case, 10 Co. 85. a.
31. 3 Co. 20. a. Co. Litt. 378. a.
32. 3 Co. 20. a.
33. Cro. C. 102. 3 Co. 20. a. Fearne, p. 3-6. The examples which are here cited by Mr. Fearne to support and illustrate this classification of contingent remainders are mostly taken from Boraston’s case, 3 Co. 19. As Mr. Fearne’s treatise has attained the authority of a text book on this abstruse branch of the law, I have followed, though without entirely approving of his arrangement. The more comprehensive division by Sir William Blackstone, has the advantage of being less complex, and more simple. The definition in the N. Y. Revised Statutes, vol. i. 723. sec. 13. is brief and precise. A remainder, says the statute, is contingent, whilst the person to whom, or the event upon which it is limited to take effect, remains uncertain. Contingent remainders are divided by Sir William Blackstone into two kinds, viz. remainders limited to take effect either to a dubious and uncertain person, or upon a dubious and uncertain event. The three first of Mr. Fearne’s remainders are all resolvable into the contingency of a dubious and uncertain event, and it is only the last that is limited to a dubious and uncertain person. Lord Ch. J. Willes, in the opinion which he gave before the House of Lords, on behalf of all the judges, in the case of Parkhurst v. Smith, (Willes’ Rep. 327.) declared, that there were but two sorts of contingent remainders; (1.) Where the person to whom the remainder was limited was not in esse; (2.) Where the commencement of the remainder depended on some matter collateral to the determination of the particular estate. He put, as an instance of the second kind, the case of a limitation to A. for life, remainder to B. after the death of C., or when D. returns from Rome; and Mr. Fearne’s three first species of contingent remainders are included under the second class here stated. It must be admitted, in the words of Ch. J. Willes, that “the notion of a contingent remainder is a matter of a good deal of nicety.” Professor Wooddeson, in his Vinerian Lectures, (vol. ii. 191.) though he had the classification of Mr. Fearne before him, followed that of his illustrious predecessor. Mr. Counish, in his recent work, severely criticises Mr. Fearne’s classification of contingent remainders as not being tenable, though he admits that. it imparted a beautiful and scientific arrangement to his essay. Three of Mr. Fearne’s sorts of remainders are avowedly identical. Mr. Cruise, on the other hand, in his Digest, has closely copied the arrangement of Mr. Fearne. On this vexatious subject of classifications, I am disposed to concur in the criticisms of Mr. Cornish; but in recurring to the chapter on expectant estates, in the commentaries of Sir William Blackstone, what a relief to the patience and taste of the reader! The doctrine of remainders, whether vested or contingent, is there most ably digested, and reduced to a few simple elementary principles. Its merits have never been duly acknowledged by subsequent writers on the subject. It far surpasses them all, if we take into one combined view, its perspicuity, simplicity, comprehension, compactness, neatness, accuracy, and admirable precision. I have read the chapter frequently, but never without a mixture of delight and despair.
34. Napper v. Sanders, Hutten, 118. Opinion of Lord Ch. J. Hale, in Weall v. Lower, Pollexfen, 67. Fearne, p. 17-23.
35. Shelley’s case, 1 Co. 104. 2 Rol..Abr. 417.
36. Fearne on Rem. 32.
37. Fearne, 36.
38. Tippin v. Cosin, Carth. 272. 4 Mod. Rep. 380. S. C. Jones v. Lord Say and Seal, 8 Viner, 262. pl. 19. Shapland v. Smith, 1 Bro. 75. Silvester v. Wilson, 2 Term Rep. 444. Mr. Fearne on Remainders, p. 67. supposes the rule to be the same if the case was reversed, and the ancestor had the legal estate, and the limitation over to his heirs was ail equitable estate, as in a devise to A. for life, and after his death to the use of trustees, in trust for the heirs of his body. If such a devise in trust would not be a trust or use executed by the statute of uses, or entitled to the same construction as a legal estate, as I should think that it ought under the doctrine in Wright v. Pearson, (i Eden, 119.) yet the N.Y. Revised Statutes would operate to destroy such a trust, for it is declared, (vol. i. 727, 728. sec. 47. 49.) that every disposition of lands by deed or devise, shall be directly to the person in whom the right to the possession and profits shall be intended to be vested, and not to any other to the use of, or in trust for, such person; and if made to one or more persons, to the use of, or in trust for another, no estate or interest, legal or equitable, shall vest in the trustee. The legal estate is attached to the beneficial interest. There would be no difficulty, therefore, under that statute, of the union of the two estates in the case stated by Mr. Fearne, for they would both be legal estates; and, upon the doctrine of the English law, the devisee for life would take an estate tail. But another insuperable obstacle to that conclusion occurs under the N.Y. Revised Statutes, which have destroyed the rule in Shelley’s case, root and branch. It is declared, (N.Y. Revised Statutes, vol.i. 725. sec. 28.) that where a remainder shall be limited to the heirs, or heirs of the body of a person to whom a life estate in the same premises shall be given, the persons who, on the termination of the life estate, shall be the heirs, or heirs of the body, of such tenant for life, shall be entitled to take as purchasers, by virtue of the remainder so limited to them. The limitation, then, in the case stated by Mr. Fearne, instead of being an estate tail, settles down into a contingent remainder. This is arriving, diver so intuitu, to the same result with the English theory. The extent and consequences of this alteration in the doctrine of real estates, we shall have occasion to consider hereafter.
39. Moore v. Parker, 1 Lord Raym. 37. where Lord Ch. J. Holt traces hack the distinction to 29 Edw. III. Doe v. Founereau, Doug. Rep. 487.
40. Butler’s note, 261. to 2 Co. Litt. 299. b. The observations of Mr. Fearne, on this point, are with his usual acuteness.-Fearne on Rem. 85.
41. Mr. Preston, on Abstracts of Title, vol, i. 115. speaks too generally, when he says that all estates, arising from the execution of powers, operate by way of executory devise, or shifting use. There is no doubt that a remainder may arise under the execution of a power. Cornish on Remainders, p. 45.
42. Burchett v. Durdant, 2 Vent. 311. James v. Richardson, 2 Jones’ Rep. 99. 2 Lev. 232. S. C. Goodright v. White, 2 Blacks. Rep. 1010. Lord Coke says, (Co. Litt. 24. b.) that if lands be given to A. and the heirs female of his body, and he dies leaving a son and daughter, the daughter shall inherit. But if A. has a son and daughter. and a lease for life be made, remainder to the heirs female of the body of A., the heir female takes nothing, for she must be both heir and heir female to take by purchase, and her brother and not she is heir. The distinction turns on the difference between the operation of words of limitation, and words of purchase. In the first case, the daughter takes by descent. and in the second she takes by purchase. and must answer to the whole description, of being both heir and female. Mr. Hargrave, in a long and learned note, (note 145.) undertakes to vindicate the reasonableness and solidity of this distinction of Lord Coke, against the severity of modern criticism. Mr. Fearne, (p. 277.) refers with great approbation to this note of Mr. Hargrave; but I notice it only as one strong illustration of the fact, that the English law of real property has, in the lapse of ages, become encumbered with much technical and abstruse refinement, which destroys its simplicity and good sense, and renders it almost impossible for ordinary minds to obtain the mastery of the science. Lord Chancellor Cowper’s scorn of this distinction is very apparent in his powerful and spirited opinion in Brown v. Barkham, (Prec. in Chan. 461.) where he says, that “it has no foundation in natural reason, but is raised and supported purely by the artificial reasoning of lawyers. “Lord Hardwicke, also, when the same case was brought before him, on a bill of review, declared himself “fully convinced of the unreasonableness of the rule,” though he bowed to the authority of it.
43. Essay on Rem. p. 300.
44. Napper v. Sanders, Hutton, 119, Tracey v. Lethieulier, 3 Atk. Rep. 774. Amb. 204. S. C. Horton v. Whitaker, 1 Term Rep. 346.
45. Davis v. Norton, 2 P. Wms. 390. Doe v. Shippard, Doug. Rep. 75.
46. Scatterwood v. Edge, 1 Salk. Rep. 229. Avelyn v. Ward, 1 Vesey’s Rep. 422. To those who wish to pursue into greater detail these abstruse distinctions, I refer to Mr. Fearne’s analysis of the cases which declare and enforce them, in order to carry into effect the intention of the testator.-Fearne on Rem. p. 300-317. It would certainly be incompatible with the general purpose of these essays, to be raking in the ashes of antiquated cases, and critically sifting dry facts and circumstances arising on wills and settlements, merely to arrive at some technical reasoning, adapted to promote the testator’s or the settlor’s views. As far as it is necessary, on this subject, it is happily done to our hand, by the acute investigations of Mr. Fearne himself.
47. 1 Co. 104.
48. 1 Preston on Estates, vol. i. p. 263–419.
49. I have ventured to abridge the definition in a slight degree, and with some small variation in the expressions, without intending to impair its precision.
50. Pibus v. Mitford, 1 Vent. 372. Hayes v. Foorde, 2 Blacks. Rep. 698. Fearne on Rem.42. 52, 53.
51. The case of the Provost of Beverley, 40 Edw. III. Preston on Estates, vol. i. 304.
52. Harg. Law Tracts, 501.
53. Fitz. Abr. tit. Feoffment, p.109. Co. Litt. 22. b. 319. b. 2 Rol, Abr. 417.
54. Harg. Law Tracts, 489.
55. Ibid. 551.
56. 2 Burr. Rep. 1100.
57. Trevor v. Trevor, 1 Eq. Cas. Abr. 387. pl. 7. Jones v. Laughton, ibid. 392. pl. 2. Streatfield v. Streatfield, Cases temp. Talb. 176. Honor v. Honor, 2 Vern. 658. Bale v. Coleman, 1 P. Wms. 142 Highway v. Bonner, 1 Bro. 584.
58. Fearne. p. 141.
59. Yates J., in Perrin v. Blake.
60. 1 Vesey’s Rep. 142. 2 Atk. Rep. 346. 570. 1 Coll. Jurid. No. 15. In this last work, the case is very fully reported, and taken from an original MS.
61. Fearne, 141. 175-181.
62. 2 Atk. Rep. 246. Str. 1125.
63. 1 Eden, 119. Fearne on Rem. 159-169.
64. 1 Bro. 206.
65. In Papillon v. Voice, 2 P. Wms. 471. Lord King very clearly illustrated the distinction between executory and executed trusts. Where the devise was of lands to B. for life, with remainder to trustees, to support contingent remainders, remainder to the heirs of the body of B., the limitation was held to be an estate tail in B.; but so far as the will directed lands to be purchased, and settled in the same way, it was an executory estate, or trust, and the intention was to govern, and not the rule of law.
66. Sir Thomas Tippen’s case, cited in 1 P. Wms. 359. Co. Litt. 319. b.
67. Burchett v. Durdant, 2 Vent. 311. Carth. 154. S. C.
68. Archer’s case, 1 Co. 66. Lisle v. Gray, 2 Lev. 223. T. Raym. 315. S. C. Luddington v. Kime,1 Lord Raym. 203. Backhouse v. Wells, 1 Equ. Cas. Abr. 184. pl. 27. Doe v. Laming, 2 Burr. Rep. 1100. Mr. Justice Blackstone’s argument in Perrin v. Blake, Harp;. Law Tracts, 504, 505.
69. 1 Col. Jurid. No. 10. 4 Burr. Rep. 2579.
70. The case of Perrin v. Blake was first brought into discussion before the K. B. in 1769, and decided there in February, 1770, but the litigation upon that will involving merely the validity of a widow’s jointure of 1000 pounds a year, was first commenced by an action of ejectment in the Supreme Court of the island of Jamaica, as far back as the year 1746; and after the question had traveled, in two ejectment suits, through the Supreme Court, and the Court of Appeals and Error in Jamaica, it passed the Atlantic on appeal in each suit to the king in council. After a reversal in one suit, a new ejectment was instituted in the island of Jamaica, and it passed through the Court of Appeals and Errors there, and back again to the king in council, and then, upon recommendation, the question was brought before the K. B. as already stated. The final termination (by mutual consent) of this protracted litigation, was in 1777, after an exhausting strife of upwards of thirty years. See Barg. Law Tracts, 489-493. in the notes.
71. Archer’s case, 1 Co. 66. Waker v. Snowe, Palm. 359. Lisle v. Gray, 2 Lev. 223. and these two last cases arose upon deeds. Backhouse v. Wells, 1 Equ. Cas. Abr. 184. Luddington v. Kime, 1 Lord Raym. 203. Bagshaw v. Spencer, 1 Coll. Jurid. No. 15.
72. Lord Mansfield’s opinion does not appear, upon the whole, to be equal to the occasion, or on a level with his fame. It is not to be Compared, in research or ability, to that of Lord Hardwicke in Bagshaw v. Spencer, and some of his reflections had a sarcastic allusion. “There are, and have been always,” he observed, “lawyers of a different bent of genius, and different course of education, who have chosen to adhere to the strict letter of the law, and they will say that Shelley’s case is uncontrollable authority, and they will make a difference between trusts and legal estates to the harassing of a suitor.” Mr. Justice Yates, who dissented from the opinion of his brethren in this case, and in whose presence these words were pronounced, immediately resigned his seat as a judge, and was transferred to the C. B. He resigned, says Junius, (Letter to Lord Mans, field,) because, “after years of ineffectual resistance to the pernicious principles introduced by his lordship, and uniformly supported by his humble friends upon the bench, he determined to quit a court whose proceedings and decisions he could neither assent to with honor, nor oppose with success.” But all this was monstrous exaggeration, and that celebrated and still unknown author was, in this instance, so far overcome by the malignity of his temper, and the bitterness of his invective, as to be utterly regardless of truth. Mr. Justice Yates had been associated with Lord Mansfield on the bench from January, 1764, to February, 1770, and, with the exception of this case of Perrin v. Blake, and the great case of Miller v. Taylor, concerning copyright, there was no final difference of opinion in the court in any case, or upon any point whatsoever. Every order, rule, judgment, and opinion, until the decision in the latter case, in April, 1769, had been unanimous. (See 4 Burr. Rep. 2395. 2582.) It was, however, greatly to the credit of Judge Yates’s abilities as a lawyer, that in both of these cases in which he dissented from the decision of the K. B., and on very nice and debateable questions, the decision was reversed upon error.
73. 2 Burr. Rep. 1100.
74. Harg. Law Tracts, 489.
75. 1 Bro. 206.
76. My objection to the work of Mr. Preston is, that he has analysed, and divided, and subdivided the subject, already sufficiently intricate., until he has involved it still deeper in “involutions wild.”
77. Mantica, a civilian, wrote a learned treatise, de conjecturis ultimarum voluntatum, and Sir William Blackstone hoped never to see such a title in the English law.
78. Fearne on Rem. 223.
79. 1 Bro. 206,
80. Doug. Rep. 337.
81. 7 Term Rep. 531.
82. Doe v. Colyear, 11 East’s Rep. 548. Doe v, Jesson, 2 Bligh, 2. Doe v. Harvey, 4 Barnw. & Cress. 610.
83. Dott v. Cunnington, 1 Bay, 453.
84. Carr v. Porter, 1 McCord’s Ch. Rep. 60.
85. 2 Wash. Rep. 9.
86. 4 Harr. & Johns. Rep. 431.
87. 6 Harr. & Johns. Rep. 364.
88. 1 Dallas’ Rep. 47.
89. 3 Binney’s Rep. 139.
90. 1 Day’s Rep. 299.
91. 5 Conn. Rep. 100. I have not seen the statute, and am not informed to what extent it goes with the rule.
92. 2 John. Gas. 384.
93. N.Y. Revised Statutes, vol. i. 725. sec. 28.
94. The juridical scholar, on whom his great master, Coke, has bestowed some portion of the “gladsome light of jurisprudence,” will scarcely be able to withhold an involuntary sigh, as he casts a retrospective glance over the piles of learning, devoted to destruction by an edict, as sweeping and unrelenting as the torch of Omar. He must bid adieu for ever to the renowned discussions in Shelley’s Case, which were so vehement and so protracted as to arouse the scepter of the haughty Elizabeth. He may equally take leave of the multiplied specimens of profound logic, skillful criticism, and refined distinctions, which pervade the varied cases in law and equity, from those of Shelley and Archer, down to the direct collision between the courts of law and equity, in the time of Lord Hardwicke. He will have no more concern with the powerful and animated discussions in Perrin v. Blake, which awakened all that was noble and illustrious in talent and endowment, through every precinct of Westminster Hall. He will have occasion no longer, in pursuit of the learning of that case, to tread the clear and bright paths illuminated by Sir William Blackstone’s illustrations, or to study and admire the spirited and ingenious dissertation of Hargrave, the comprehensive and profound disquisition of Fearne, the acute and analytical essay of Preston, the neat and orderly abridgment of Cruise, and the severe and piercing criticisms of Reeve. What I have, therefore, written on this subject, may be considered, so far as my native state is concerned, as a humble monument to the memory of departed learning.
95. Plowd. 25. a. Dr. & Stud. Dial. 2. ch. 20. Moor v. Parker, 4 Mod. Rep. 316.
96. Barwick’s Case, 5 Co. 94. b.
97. 2 Blacks. Com. 166.
98. Litt. sec. 60. Co. Litt. ibid. Co. Litt. 217. a. Plowd. 25. The refinements anciently adopted upon this rule were very subtle and technical. Thus, to use the illustrations made by one of the sergeants in the case from Plowden, if a lease be made to A. for years, and the lessor afterwards confirms the estate for years, with remainder over in fee, the remainder is void, because the estate for years was created before, and not at the time of, the confirmation and the remainder. And if the lessor disseize his tenant for life, and then grants him a new lease, with remainder over in fee, the remainder is void, because the tenant for life is remitted to his first estate. So, if the heir endows the widow with remainder over in fee, the remainder is void, though livery of seizin be made to the widow, because the dower has relation back to the death of the husband, and therefore the remainder was not coeval with it in point of time. To destroy an estate by the operation of such legal fictions, is very unreasonable and absurd. It is actually reversing the maxim, that in fictione juris semper cequitas existit.
99. Bacon’s Abr. tit. Remainder and Reversion, G. This head of G willim’s Bacon was taken from a MS. treatise, by Lord Ch. B. Gilbert, furnished by Mr. Hargrave.
100. Supra, p. 122.
101. Wms. Jones’ Rep. 58. Co. Lint. 298. a. 1 Rot. Abr. 474. P.
102. Co. Litt. 298. a.
103. 3 Bro. C. C. 393.
104. Plowd. 35. a. Dyer, 140. b.
105. Sergeant Rolle cites for this 9 Hen. VI. 24. b. and he raises the true distinction in this respect between a grant and a devise. 2 Rol. Abr. 415. C. The same examples, byway of illustration, taken by Rolle from 9 Hen. VI. are relied on in Plowden, 35. a. 414. a. and in Comyn’s Dig. tit. Estate, B. 14. in support of the same rule.
106. Co. Litt. 217. a. 1 Co. 130. 134. b.
107. Goodright v. Cornish, 1 Salk. Rep. 226.
108. Ellie v. Osborne, 2 Vern. Rep. 754.
109. Lord Mansfield, 1 Burr. Rep. 107.
110. T. Raym. 140.
111. 12 Mod. Rep. 174.
112. Delamere v. Sermon, Plowd. Rep. 346.
113. Sugden on Powers, 2d London ed. 13,14.
114. Dyer, 340. a. 2 Leon. 14.
115. 1 Leon. 256.
116. 1 Co. 120. 1 Anderson, 309. Mr. Sugden says, that Ch. J. Anderson’s report of this case is indisputably the best, and an abstract of the translation of it is in Gilbert’s Uses, by Sugden, App. p. 521
117. Chudleigh’s case was argued several times before all the judges of England, and we find the great names of Bacon and Coke among the counsel who argued the cause. The case is replete with desultory and curious discussion, and some of it Lord Hardwicke admitted to be so refined and speculative, as not to be easily understood. The disposition and policy of the judges’ was to check contingent uses, which they deemed to be productive of mischiefs, and tending to perpetuities. They regarded the statute of uses as intending to extirpate uses, which were often found to be subtle and fraudulent contrivances, and their evident object was to restore the simplicity and integrity of the common law. Notwithstanding the scholastic and mysterious learning with which this case abounds, it carries with it decisive evidence of the acuteness, industry, and patriotic views of the sages of the law at that day.
118. 1 Vent.306.
119. See Sugden on Powers, ch. 1. sec. 3. who has ransacked all these cases, and whose clear analysis of them has guided, and greatly assisted me. Mr. Preston, in his Treatise on Estates, vol. i. 160-171. has gone over the same cases, though riot in the same critical and masterly manner.
120. Chudleigh’s Care, ub. sup. Wegg v. Villers, 2 Rol. Abr. 796. 11-16.22. Viper. 228. 229. S. C.
121. Preston on Estates, vol. i. 159. Cruise’s Dig. tit. Remainder. ch.5 sec. 3. 5. ch. 6. sec. 37. 39.
122. Fearne on Rem. 377 – 380.
123. Mr. Sugden, in his Treatise on Powers, p. 38 says, that covenants to stand seized are, at this day, wholly disused. This I should not have supposed from the great use of them in the precedents, and Lord Ch. J. Pollexfen, in Hales v. Risley, (Pollex. Rep. 383.) speaks of covenants to stand seized, as one of the usual modes of raising uses in marriage settlements. It was said by Newdigate, J. in Heyns v. Villars, (2 Sid. Rep. 158.) that a contingent use could not be raised by bargain and sale; and Mr. Sugden is of the same opinion, because a bargain and sale requires a consideration, and the intended cestui que use, not in esse, cannot pay a consideration, and a consideration paid by the tenant for life, would not extend to the unborn son. (Gilbert on Uses, by Sugden, p. 398.) Lord Ch. Baron Gilbert raises a doubt upon the same point, and this is no doubt the settled English rule, but it is a hard and unreasonable technical objection, and the good sense of the thing is, that the consideration paid by the tenant for life, should enure to sustain the deed throughout, in like manner as a promise to B., for the benefit of C., will enure to the benefit of C., and give him a right of action. (Dutton v. Pool, 2 Lev. 210. T. Raym. 302. Schermerhorne v. Vanderheyden, 1 Johns. Rep. 139. Owings v. Owings, 1 Harr. 4 Gill, 484.) The consideration requisite is merely nominal. A peppercorn is a sufficient consideration to raise a use. (Anon. 2 Vent. 35.) If no consideration be stated in the pleadings, setting forth a deed of bargain and sale, the omission is but matter of form, and can only be objected to on special demurrer. (Bolton v. Bishop of Carlisle, 2 H. Blacks. Rep. 259.) And why should not the courts admit the consideration paid by the tenant for life to enure to sustain the deed, with all its contingent uses? An assignment of property to a creditor is good without his knowledge, if he comes in afterwards and assents to it, (7 Wheat. Rep. 556. 11 ibid. 97.) and why should not the son, when he comes in esse, be permitted to advance a consideration, and give validity to the use? In New York, the question can never hereafter arise, for we have no longer any conveyances to uses. The statute of uses is repealed, and uses are abolished and turned into legal estates, except so far as they may exist in the shape of trusts, or be attendant on powers. All future or expectant estates, and all vested estates and interests in land are equally conveyed by grant. Feoffments and fines are abolished, and though deeds of bargain and sale, and of lease and release, may continue to be used, they shall be deemed grants. N.Y. Revised Statutes, vol. i. 727. sec. 45. Ibid. 725. sec. 35. Ibid. 738, 739. See. also, further on this subject, infra.
124. Sugden on Powers, ch. i. sec. 3.
125. Preston on Estates, vol. i. 164-184. It is very extraordinary that Mr. Cornish should undertake to write and publish from the temple, an Essay on the Doctrine of Remainders, so late as 1827, and assert that the doctrine of scintilla juris rested on paramount authority, without even once taking notice of such full and exhausting discussions in opposition to it, by such masters of the science as Preston and Sugden. Is it possible that he had never read these treatises? If not, pro pudor!
126. N.Y. Revised Statutes, vol. i. 725. sec. 34.
127. Ibid. vol. i. 727. sec. 45. 50. 55.
128. Ibid. vol. i. 728. sec. 49. See also, infra, under the head of Uses and Trusts.
129. Fearne, p. 383, 384. Preston on Estates, vol. i. 241. In Hopkins v. Hopkins, Cases temp. Talbot, 43., Lord Talbot considered such a limitation as good by way of executory devise, but, afterwards, in Chapman v. Blissett, ibid, 145. he held it to be good either way, and might be taken as a future limitation, or as a contingent remainder of a trust. A strict conditional limitation does not require any particular estate to support it. But the difficulty of distinguishing between such a limitation and a contingent remainder, has been already noticed, (see supra, p. 123.) and in Doe v. Heneage, (4 Term Rep. 13.) both the bar and bench assumed a conditional limitation to be, what Mr. Cornish says (Essay on Remainders, p. 221.) it was not, viz. a contingent remainder. If this be so, the distinction must be very latent and fine spun, to have escaped detection by such judges as Lord Kenyon, and Mr. Justice Buller!
130. Plowd. 25. 28. Co. Litt. 49. a. b.
131. Colthirst v. Bejuskin, Plowd. Rep. 25. Archer’s case, 1 Co. 66. Chudleigh’s case, 1 Co. 138.
132. 3 Co. 21. a. 2 Blacks. Com. 168. Preston on Abstracts, vol. i. 114.
133. Cogan v. Cogan, Cro. Eliz. 360. Plowd. Rep. 24. b. 29. a. b.
134. Plowd. Rep. 29. b.
135. Fearne, p. 332.
136. Fearne, 319.
137. See supra, p. 123
138. Vol. i. 725. sec. 27.
139. N.Y. Revised Statutes, vol. i. 723. sec. 16.
140. N.Y. Revised Statutes, vol. i. 724. sec. 16.
141. ibid. sec. 19. Vide supra, p. 17.
142. Ibid. sec. 20.
143. Ibid. sec. 21
144. Ibid. sec. 24.
145. Ibid. sec. 25, 26.
146. N.Y. Revised Statutes, p. 725. sec. 29.
147. Ibid. sec. 32, 33, 34.
148. Ibid. vol. i. 750. sec. 1l.
149. Bro. tit. Done and Rem. pl. 21. Matthews v. Temple, Comb. 467. Fearne, p. 393.
150. Fearne, p. 426. Lane v. Pannel, 1 Rol. Rep. 238. 317. 438. Harrison v. Belsey, T. Raym. 413.
151. Archer’s Case, 1 Co. 66. Chudleigh’s Case, 1 Co. 120. 137. b. 2 Rol..Abr. 418. pl. 1, 2. Purefoy v. Rogers, 2 Lev. 39. Chudleigh’s case is a strong authority to prove that a feoffment, without consideration, and even with notice in the feoffee of the trust, will destroy a contingent remainder. It is a doctrine flagrantly unjust, and repugnant to every settled principle in equity, as now understood.
152. Co. Litt. 252. a. There has been a long and vexed question in the English law, how far a common recovery, suffered by a tenant in tail, would bar a remainder to the king. It was declared by the highest authorities in the House of Lords, in the late case of Blasse v Clanmorris, (3 Bligh, app. 62.) to be still a doubtful point of law. I allude to it merely as fresh proof of the everlasting uncertainty that perplexes this branch of legal science.
153. Purefoy v. Rogers, 2 Saund. Rep. 386.
154. Fearne on Rem. p. 432-434.
155. 7 Taunton’s Rep. 362. This is one among a thousand samples of the refinements which have gradually accumulated, until they have, in a very considerable degree, overshadowed and obscured many parts of the English law of real property. It has become almost as laborious a task to undertake to master the science, as it would be to understand the scholastic subtleties of the schoolmen of the middle ages, or the mystical metaphysics of the modern Germans. I am more and more impressed with a sense of the great utility of the New York provision, rescuing contingent remainders by legislative authority, from all perplexing dependence on the particular estate.
156. Lord Hardwicke, in Lethieullier v. Tracy, 3 Atk. Rep. 730.
157. 5 Vesey’s Rep. 648. This has been done, as we have already observed, in New York, by the N.Y. Revised Statutes, vol. i. 725. sec. 32. 34. rendering expectant estates or remainders no longer dependent on the continuance of the precedent estate. Mr. Cornish thinks that the doctrine of remainders can scarcely be said to apply to equitable estates, for every ulterior limitation of a trust is, in substance, an executory trust, and more analogous to a future use or executory devise, than to a remainder.-Cornish on Rem. 208.
158. Gilbert’s Law of Uses, by Sugden, 312. Litt. sec. 600. Magennis v McCullough, Gilbert’s Rep. 236.
159. Fearne, p. 405, 406.
160. Thompson v. Leach, 2 Salk. Rep. 576. Hale, Ch. J. in Purefoy v. Rogers, 2 Saund. Rep. 387. Fearne, p. 438, 439. 2 Woodd. Lec. 196, 197.
161. 2 Blacks. Com. 171. Fearne, 409, 410,
162. Mansel v. Mansel, 2 P. Wms. 678.
163. Sir Thomas Tippen’s case, cited in 1 P. Wms. 359. Platt v. Sprigg, 2 Vern. Rep. 303. Frewin v. Charleton, 1 Equ. Cas. Abr. 380. pl 4. Symance v. Tattam, 1 Atk. Rep. 613. Fearne, 410-423. Biscoe v. Perkins, 1 Ves. & Beames. 485.
164. Sir Edward Cleve’s case, 6 Co. 17. b. Davies v. Speed, Carth. Rep. 262. Purefoy v. Rogers, 2 Saund. Rep. 380. Plunkett v. Holmes, T. Raym. 28. Lord Parker. in Carter v. Barnadiston. 1 P. Wms. 516.
165. Preston on Estates, vol. i. 240. 242.
166. 1 P. Wms. 505.
167. In New York, the conveyances by feoffment, with livery, and by fines, and common recoveries, are abolished. N.Y. Revised Statutes, vol. i. 738. sec. 136. Ibid. vol. ii. 343. sec. 24. All conveyances are now to be deemed grants, and though deeds of bargain and sale, and of lease and release, may be used, they are to be deemed grants. This was a common law conveyance, and it is now declared to pass all the interest of the grantor, if so intended. (Ibid. 739. sec. 138. 142. Ibid. 748. sec. 1, 2.) I see no reason why the question in the text should not apply to grants in New York, equally as it would have done to feoffments with livery before they were abolished.
168. Fearne, p. 452-458. That an estate in abeyance is to be considered as in nubibus, was a doctrine frequently suggested and admitted in Plowden. (p 29. a. 35. a. 556. 563, 564.) and Lord Coke, in Co. Litt. 342. b. said, that an estate placed in such a nondescript situation, had the quality of fame-inter nubile caput. This does not help the matter, but such an occasional glimpse at fairy land, serves at least to cheer us amidst the disheartening gloom of the subject.
169. Bro. tit. Done Rem. pl. 6.. Gawdy, J. in Chudleigh’s case, 1 Co. 135.
170. Hob. 153
171. Hob. 153. Sir William Blackstone’s argument in Perrin v. Blake. Preston on Estates, vol. i. 220. 249-255.
172. Preston on Estates, vol. i. 255. Preston on Abstracts, vol. ii. 103-106.
173. Cornish’s Essay on Remainders, p. 175.
174. There can be no doubt, though good sense was with Mr. Fearne, that the book authorities are against him. We cannot surmount the technical rule, if technical rules are binding in questions on property. The one in this case deduces its lineage from high antiquity. It is found in the Year Books, and is dispersed over Plowden and Coke. Mr. Preston and Mr. Cornish have the undoubted advantage, and though Mr. Fearne’s Treatise on Remainders is distinguished for its searching analysis of cases, he has abandoned them in this instance, and followed the irresistible impulse of his judgment. Those other writers are equally masters of abstruse law, and the latter in particular is a shrewd and dry critic, dealing in occult points. The fee will take an occasional flight to the clouds, and cannot be stayed, for common sense is disabled, and pierced by the longe fallente sagitta!
175. Co. Litt. 352. a.
176. Weale v. Lower, Pollex. Rep. 54. 61.
177. Co. Litt. 45. a.
178. Roe v. Jones, 1 H. Blacks. Rep. 30. Moor v. Hawkins, cited in 1 H. Blacks Rep. 33. Jones v. Roe, 3 Term Rep. 88. Roe v. Griffiths, 1 Wm. Blacks. Rep. 605.
179. Fearne, 459. Preston on Abstracts, vol. ii. 119. I apprehend, that the rule at the common law, that executory interests cannot be transferred by deed, except by way of estoppel, no longer exists in New York. By the N.Y. Revised Statutes, (vol. i. 723. sec. 9, 10. 13. ibid. 725. sec. 35.) estates in expectancy include all future estates, vested and contingent, and all expectant. estates are descendible, devisable, and alienable, in the same manner as estates in possession. This sweeping provision would seem to embrace every executory and contingent interest, and all conveyances whatsoever are reduced to simple grants.