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universal law of almost every nation (which is a kind of secondary law of nature) has either given the dying person a power of continuing his property, by disposing of his possessions by will; or, in case he neglects to dispose of it, or is not permitted to make any disposition  at all, the municipal law of the country then steps in, and declares who shall be the successor, representative, or heir of the deceased; that is, who alone shall have a right to enter upon this vacant possession, in order to avoid that confusion, which it's becoming again common would occasion. And farther, in case no testament be permitted by the law, or none be made, and no heir can be found so qualified as the law requires, still, to prevent the robust title of occupancy from again taking place, the doctrine of escheats is adopted in almost every country whereby the sovereign of the state, and those who claim under his authority, are the ultimate heirs, and succeed to those inheritances, to which no other title can be formed.* [See note 6, page 35.]
The right of inheritance, or descent to the children and relations of the deceased, seems to have been allowed much earlier than the right of devising by testament. We are apt to conceive at first view that it has nature on it's side; yet we often mistake for nature what we find established by long and inveterate custom. It is certainly a wise and effectual, but clearly a political, establishment; since the permanent right of property, vested in the ancestor himself, was no natural, but merely a civil, right.† It is true, that the transmission of one's possessions to posterity has an evident tendency to make a man a good citizen and a useful member of society: it sets the passions on the side of duty, and prompts a man to deserve well of the
k It is principally to prevent any vacancy of possession, that the civil law considers father and son as one person; so that upon the death of either, the inheritance does not so properly descend, as continue in the hands of the survivor. Ff. 28. 2. 11.
*Cited, 2 Swan, 49. Cf. 4 Kent Com. 424.
+ Cited and approved, 15 Conn. 129.
public, when he is sure that the reward of his services will not die with himself, but be transmitted to those with whom he is connected by the dearest and most tender affections. Yet, reasonable as this foundation of the right of inheritance may seem, it is probable that it's immediate original arose not from speculations altogether so delicate and refined, and if not from fortuitous circumstances, at least, from a plainer and more simple principle. A man's children or nearest relations are usually about him on his  death-bed, and are the earliest witnesses of his decease. They became therefore generally the next immediate occupants, till at length in process of time this frequent usage ripened into general law. And therefore also in the earliest ages, on failure of children, a man's servants born under his roof were allowed to be his heirs; being immediately on the spot when he died. For we find the old patriarch Abraham, expressly declaring, that "since God had given him no seed, his steward Eliezer, one born in his house, was his heir."1*
While property continued only for life, testaments were useless and unknown; and, when it became inheritable, the inheritance was long indefeasible, and the children or heirs at law were incapable of exclusion by will. Till at length it was found, that so strict a rule of inheritance made heirs disobedient and head-strong, defrauded creditors of their just debts, and prevented many provident fathers from dividing or charging their estates as the exigence of their families required. This introduced pretty generally the right of disposing of one's property, or a part of it, by testament; that is, by written or oral instructions properly witnessed and authenticated, according to the pleasure of the deceased: which we therefore emphatically stile his will. This was established in some countries much later than 1 Gen. xv. 3.
Cited 15 Conn. 129; 21 Mich. 73.
in others. With us in England, till modern times, a man could only dispose of one third of his movables from his wife and children; and, in general, no will was permitted of lands till the reign of Henry the eighth; and then only for a certain portion: for it was not till after the restoration that the power of devising real property became so universal as at present.
*Wills therefore and testaments, rights of inheritance and successions, are all of them creatures of the civil or municipal laws, and accordingly are in all respects regulated by them; every distinct country having different ceremonies and requisites to make a testament completely valid: neither does anything vary more than the right of inheritance under different  national establishments. In England particularly, this diversity is carried to such a length, as if it had been meant to point out the power of the laws in regulating the succession to property, and how futile every claim must be, that has not it's foundation in the positive rules of the state. In personal estates the father may succeed to his children; in landed property he never can be 2their immediate 2 heir, by any the remotest possibility: in general only the eldest son, in some places only the youngest, in others all the sons together, have a right to succeed to the inheritance: in real estates males are preferred to females, and the eldest male will usually exclude the rest; in the division of personal estates, the females of equal degree are admitted together with the males, and no right of primogeniture is allowed.
This one consideration may help to remove the scruples of many well-meaning persons, who set up a mistaken conscience in opposition to the rules of law. If a man disinherits his son, by a will duly executed, and leaves his estate to a stranger, there are many who 2 And in erratum of the first edition.
**Quoted and approved, 18 Ill. 186. Held, acquisition of property does not carry right to devise it according to the law as it exists at the time of the acquisition. Cited, 10 Ohio, 464.
consider this proceeding as contrary to natural justice: while others so scrupulously adhere to the supposed intention of the dead, that if a will of lands be attested by only two witnesses instead of three, which the law requires, they are apt to imagine that the heir is bound in conscience to relinquish his title to the devisee. But both of thein certainly proceed upon very erroneous principles, as if, on the one hand, the son had by nature a right to succeed to his father's lands; or as if, on the other hand, the owner was by nature entitled to direct the succession of his property after his own decease. Whereas the law of nature suggests, that on the death of the possessor the estate should again become common, and be open to the next occupant, unless otherwise ordered for the sake of civil peace by the positive law of society. The positive law of society, which is with us the municipal law of England, directs it to vest in such person as the last proprietor shall by will, attended with certain requisites, appoint; and, in defect of such appointment, to go to some particular person, who from the result  of certain local constitutions, appears to be the heir at law. Hence it follows, that, where the appointment is regularly made, there cannot be a shadow of right in any one but the person appointed: and, where the necessary requisites are omitted, the right of the heir is equally strong and built upon as solid foundation, as the right of the devisee would have been, supposing such requisites were observed.
But, after all, there are some few things, which notwithstanding the general introduction and continuance of property, must still unavoidably remain in common; being such wherein nothing but an usufructuary property is capable of being had: and therefore they still belong to the first occupant, during the time he holds possession of them, and no longer. Such (among others) are the elements of light, air, and water; which a man may occupy by means of his windows, his gardens, his
mills, and other conveniences: such also are the generality of those animals which are said to be feræ naturæ, or of a wild and untamable disposition: which any man may seise upon and keep for his own use or pleasure. All these things, so long as they remain in possession, every man has a right to enjoy without disturbance; but if once they escape from his custody, or he voluntarily abandons the use of them, they return to the common stock, and any man else has an equal right to seise and enjoy them afterwards.†
Again; there are other things, in which a permanent property may subsist, not only as to the temporary use, but also the solid substance; and which yet would be frequently found without a proprietor, had not the wisdom of the law provided a remedy to obviate this inconvenience. Such are forests and other waste grounds, which were omitted to be appropriated in the general distribution of lands: such also are wrecks, estrays, and that species of wild animals, which the arbitrary constitutions of positive law have distinguished from the rest by the well-known appellation of game. With regard to these and some others, as disturbances and quarrels  would frequently arise among individuals, contending about the acquisition of this species of property by first occupancy, the law has therefore wisely cut up the root of dissension, by vesting the things themselves in the sovereign of the state; or else in his representatives appointed and authorized by him, being usually the lords of manors. And thus the legislature of England has universally promoted the grand ends of civil society, the peace and security of individuals, by steadily pursuing that wise and orderly maxim, of assigning to everything capable of ownership a legal and determinate owner.‡
3 "Subsistance." All other editions as in text.
*-† Quoted, 79 Me. 458.
† Cited, 1 Halst. 71; 10 Am. Dec. 363; 4 Ga. 249.
‡ Cited, 1 Halst. 80; 10 Am. Dec. 371