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tion by what means, or for what offences, goods and chattels
become liable to forfeiture. Of penalties by In the variety of penal laws with which the subject is at statute.
present encumbered, it were a tedious and impracticable task to reckon up the various forfeitures inflicted by special statutes, for particular crimes and misdemesnors: some of which are mala in se, or offences against the divine law, either natural or revealed; but by far the greatest part are mala prohibita, or such as derive their guilt merely from their prohibition by the laws of the land: such as is the forfeiture of 40s. per month by the statute 5 Eliz. c. 4, for exercising a trade without having served seven years as an apprentice thereto; and the forfeiture of 101. by 9 Ann. c. 23, for printing an almanack without a stamp. I shall, therefore, confine myself to those offences only, by which all the goods and chattels of the offender are forfeited: referring the student for such, where pecuniary mulcts of different quantities are inflicted, to their several proper heads, under which very many of them have been or will be mentioned; or else to the collections of Hawkins, and Burn, and other laborious compilers. Indeed, as most of these forfeitures belong to the crown, they may seem as if they ought to have been referred to the preceding method of acquiring personal property, namely, by prerogative. But, as, in the instance of partial forfeitures, a moiety often goes to the informer, the poor, or sometimes to other persons; and as one total
forfeiture, namely, that by a bankrupt who is guilty of felo[ *421 ) ny by *concealing his effects, accrues entirely to his credi
tors, I have therefore made it a distinct head of transferring
property. Of the crimes Goods and chattels then are totally forfeited by convicwhich induce a tion of high treason or misprision of treason; of petit treaof goods and son; of felony in general, and particularly of felony de se, chattels.
and of manslaughter; nay even by conviction of excusable homicide (i); by outlawry for treason or felony; by convic
(i) Co. Litt. 391. 2 Inst. 316. 3 Inst. 320.
tion of petit larceny; by flight in treason or felony, even though the party be acquitted of the fact; by standing mute, when arraigned of felony; by drawing a weapon on a judge, or striking any one in the presence of the king's courts; by præmunire; by pretended prophecies, upon a second conviction; by owling; by the residing abroad of artificers; and by challenging to fight on account of money won at gaming. All these offences, as will more fully appear in the fourth book of these Commentaries, induce a total forfeiture of goods and chattels.
And this forfeiture commences from the time of convic- The forfeiture tion, not the time of committing the fact, as in forfeitures to commence of real property. For chattels are of so vague and fluctuat- conviction. ing a nature, that to affect them by any relation back, would be attended with more inconvenience than in the case of landed estates: and part, if not the whole of them, must be expended in maintaining the delinquent, between the time of committing the fact and his conviction. Yet a fraudulent conveyance of them, to defeat the interest of the crown, is made void by statute 13 Eliz, c. 5.
from the time of
OF TITLE BY CUSTOM.
IV. By custom. A FOURTH method of acquiring property in things personal,
or chattels, is by custom: whereby a right rests in some particular persons, either by the local usage of some particular place, or by the almost general and universal usage of the kingdom. It were endless, should I attempt to enumerate all the several kinds of special customs which may entitle a man to a chattel interest in different parts of the kingdom: I shall therefore content myself with making some observations on three sorts of customary interests, which obtain pretty generally throughout most parts of the nation, and are therefore of more universal concern; viz. heriots,
mortuaries, and heir-looms. 1. Heriots, 1. Heriots, which were slightly touched upon in a former which are of
chapter (a), are usually divided into two sorts: heriot-serheriot-service, vice, and heriot-custom. The former are such as are due
upon a special reservation in a grant or lease of lands, and therefore amount to little more than a mere rent(6): the latter arise upon no special reservation whatsoever, but depend merely upon immemorial usage and custom (c). Of these therefore we are here principally to speak: and they are defined to be a customary tribute of goods and chattels, payable to the lord of the fee on the decease of the owner of the land.
(a) Pag. 97.
(6) 2 Saund. 166.
(c) Co. Cop. s. 24.
The first establishment, if not introduction, of compul- Heriots were sory heriots into England, was by the Danes: and we find by the Danes. in the laws of king Canute (d) the several heregeates or heriots specified, which were then exacted by the king on the death of divers of his subjects, according to their respective dignities; from the highest eorle down to the most inferior thegne or landholder. These, for the most part, consisted in arms, horses, and habiliments of war; which the word itself, according to Sir Henry Spelman (e), signifies. These were delivered up to the sovereign on the death of the vasal, who could no longer use them, to be put into other hands for the service and defence of the country. And upon the plan of this Danish establishment did William the conqueror fashion his law of reliefs, as was formerly observed ($); when he ascertained the precise relief to be taken of every tenant in chivalry, and, contrary to the feodal custom and the usage of his own duchy of Normandy, required arms and implements of war to be paid instead of money (g).
The Danish compulsive heriots being thus transmuted Reliefs. into reliefs, underwent the same several vicissitudes as the feodal tenures, and in socage estates do frequently remain to this day in the shape of a double rent, payable at the death of the tenant: the heriots which now continue among us, and preserve that name, seeming rather to be of Saxon parentage, and at first to have been merely discretionary (h). These are now, for the most part, confined to copyhold tenures, and are due by custom only, which is the life of all estates by copy (l); and perhaps are the only instance where custom has favoured the lord. For this payment was originally a voluntary donation, or gratuitous legacy of the tenant (2); perhaps, in acknowledgment of his (d) C. 69.
(8) LL. Guil. Conq. c. 22, 23, 24. (e) Of feuds, c. 18.
(1) Lambard. Peramb. of Kent, 492. (1) Pag. 65.
(1) Sce ante, pp. 95–98, with the notes thereto; and also p. 150.
(2) The accuracy of the passage in the text was distrusted in Garland v.
having been raised a degree above villenage, when all his goods and chattels were quite at the mercy of the lord; and
Jekyll, (2 Bingh. 292): the Chief Jus- permanency of their property; it is by tice of the court of Common Pleas said, the establishment of the customs refercopyhold tenures appear to have grown able to copyholds in courts of justice, out of a state of pure villenage,--(this that this permanent interest has placed is also Blackstone's conclusion; see the copyholders in the happy situation in pages referred to in the last note),--and which they are now found ;---the copythere is no doubt, that, in the early pe- holder, now, has a permanent interest riods of our history, the whole personal in his estate as long as he performs his property of the villein belonged to the services, and the lord has certain rights lord: it is said, indeed, in Bracton and and dues. The heriot was a species of in Fleta, that heriots are ex gratia: but tribute which the heir paid on the death it is difficult to conceive how the doc- of his ancestor; it was the heir alone trine of ex gratiâ could be applied to who rendered it; he gave but one tritimes of villenage; the villein could bute, one beast, which would probably give nothing which the lord might not be his best beast. It may be asked, if at any time take. It is probable— the property was separated into differthough this is mere conjecture, for the ent tenements, was the lord to wait till history of heriots is so obscure, that it the death of all the tenants for one is impossible to ascertain how they ori- heriot? No. Of necessity, the instant ginated,—it is probable that heriots the estate became separate, there were were originally nothing more than the separate heirs, and each heir paid his gift which, in a rude state of society, a tribute: this service being incapable of person in an inferior situation, on ap- severance, was necessarily multiplied proaching one of a superior station, while the estate was held in severalty, always offered. It has occurred to us, or the lord would have lost his right; that heriots were a species of tribute, but the moment a re-union of the which the tenant offered to the lord at whole estate took place, the necessity the time he approached him, in order ceased, and the lord was placed in the to secure his protection, and to pray of same situation as when the grant of the the lord to confer on him the interest estate was first made, that is, he was which had been determined by the de- only entitled to one heriot. A rule as cease of his former tenant. But, whatever to copyholds (confirmed by Mr. Justhe situation of copyholders might have tice Blackstone, and every one who has been in the early part of our history, cus- written upon the subject), is this, that tom has now confirmed their interests the claims of the lord are not to be as tenants, and this same custom has con- carried to such an extent as would firmed and established the rights of work the disherison of the copyholder; the lord. This alteration has been but if a multiplication of heriot-services brought about by no statute.
It is to
and fees was to take place, it would, in lawyers in Westminster-Hall, that many cases, work a disherison of the slaves, for was the state of men in estate; it would make the estate what pure villenage, are indebted for the the civilians call damnosa hæreditas.