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OF TITLE BY SUCCESSION, MARRIAGE, AND
In the present chapter we shall take into consideration three other species of title to goods and chattels.
V. The fifth method, therefore, of gaining a property in V. By succeschattels, either personal or real, is by succession: which is, in strictness, apin strictness of law only applicable to corporations aggregate plicable only to of many, as dean and chapter, mayor and commonalty, mas- porations. ter and fellows, and the like; in which one set of men may, by succeeding another set, acquire a property in all the goods, moveables, and other chattels of the corporation. The true reason whereof is, because in judgment of law a corporation never dies: and, therefore, the predecessors, who lived a century ago, and their successors now in being, are one and the same body corporate (a). Which identity is a property so inherent in the nature of a body politic, that, even when it is meant to give any thing to be taken in succession by such a body, that succession need not be expressed: but the law will of itself imply it. So that a gift to such a corporation, either of lands or of chattels, without naming their successors, vests an absolute property in them so long as the corporation subsists (6). And thus a lease for years, an *obligation, a jewel, a flock of sheep, or other chattel inter- [ *431 ] est, will vest in the successors, by succession, as well as in the identical members, to whom it was originally given. (a) 4 Rep. 65.
(6) Bro. Abr. t. Estates, 90. Cro. Eliz. 464.
As to corpora
But, with regard to sole corporations, a considerable tions sole.
distinction must be made. For, if such sole corporation be the representative of a number of persons; as the master of an hospital, who is a corporation for the benefit of the poor brethren; an abbot, or prior, by the old law before the reformation, who represented the whole convent; or the dean of some antient cathedral, who stands in the place of, and represents in his corporate capacity, the chapter; such sole corporations as these have, in this respect, the same powers as corporations aggregate have, to take personal property or chattels in succession. And, therefore, a bond to such a master, abbot, or dean, and his successors, is good in law; and the successor shall have the advantage of it, for the benefit of the aggregate society, of which he is in law the representative (c). Whereas, in the case of sole corporations, which represent no others but themselves, as bishops, parsons, and the like, no chattel interest can regularly go in succession: and, therefore, if a lease for years be made to the bishop of Oxford and his successors, in such case his executors or administrators, and not his successors shall have it (d). For, the word successors, when applied to a person in his political capacity, is equivalent to the word heirs in his natural; and as such a lease for years, if made to John and his heirs, would not vest in his heirs but his executors; so if it be made to John bishop of Oxford and his successors, who are the heirs of his body politic, it shall still vest in his executors and not in such his successors. The reason of this is obvious: for, besides that the law looks upon goods and chattels as of too low and perishable a nature to be limited either to heirs, or such successors as are equivalent to heirs; it would also follow, that, if any such chattel interest (granted to a sole corporation and his
successors) were allowed to descend to such successor, the [ *432 ] property thereof must be in abeyance from the *death of the
present owner until the successor be appointed: and this is contrary to the nature of a chattel interest, which can never (c) Dyer, 18. Cro. Eliz. 464.
(d) Co. Litt. 46.
be in abeyance (1) or without an owner (e); but a man's right therein, when once suspended, is gone for ever. This is not the case in corporations aggregate, where the right is never in suspense; nor in the other sole corporations before mentioned, who are rather to be considered as heads of an aggregate body, than subsisting merely in their own right: the chattel interest, therefore, in such a case, is really and substantially vested in the hospital, convent, chapter, or other aggregate body; though the head is the visible person in whose name every act is carried on, and in whom every interest is therefore said in point of form) to vest. But the general rule, with regard to corporations merely sole, is this, that no chattel can go to or be acquired by them in right of succession (f).
Yet, to this rule there are two exceptions. One in the Exceptions. case of the king, in whom a chattel may vest by a grant of it formerly made to a preceding king and his successors (g). The other exception is, where, by a particular custom, some particular corporations sole have acquired a power of taking particular chattel interests in succession. And this custom, being against the general tenor of the common law, must be strictly interpreted, and not extended to any other chattel interests than such immemorial usage will strictly warrant. Thus, the chamberlain of London, who is a corporation sole, may, by the custom of London, take bonds and recognizances to himself and his successors, for the benefit of the orphan's fund (h): but it will not follow from thence, that he has a capacity to take a lease for years to himself and his successors for the same purpose; for the custom extends not to that: nor that he may take a bond to himself and his successors, for
than the benefit of the orphan's fund; for that also is not warranted by the custom.
(e) Brownl. 132. (S) Co. Litt. 46.
(8) Ibid. 90.
(1) See ante, p. 107, ch. 7, with note (10) annexed thereto.
Wherefore, upon the whole, we may close this head with
laying down this general rule; that such right of succession [ *433 ] to chattels is * universally inherent by the common law in all
aggregate corporations, in the king, and in such single corporations as represent a number of persons; and may, by special custom, belong to certain other sole corporations for some particular purposes: although, generally, in sole cor
porations no such right can exist. VI.By marriage. VI. A sixth method of acquiring property in goods and
chattels is by marriage, whereby those chattels, which belonged formerly to the wife, are by act of law vested in the husband, with the same degree of property, and with the same powers, as the wife, when sole, had over them (2).
(2) The interest which a husband sustained in equity; and the same has in the personal estate and real doctrine was held in Slocombe v. Glubb, chattels which belonged to his wife (2 Br. 551), as it had previously been before marriage, is founded upon that in Blithe's case, (2 Freem. 91). But good faith which ought to be inviola- then, the circumstances must be very bly preserved in so solemn a contract special; as a general rule, after an inas that of marriage. The burthens to timacy with a view to marriage has which a husband is liable, are a con- commenced, a settlement made hy the sideration for his marital rights; upon
any part of her property in which rights, therefore, a fraud is com- exclusion of the marital rights of her mitted if the consideration is withheld husband, is fraudulent and void, if from him. A conveyance by a woman at
concealed from him. The passages of any time before her marriage, is primâ the judgment in Strathmore v. Bowes, facie good; but, if a woman, during from which it might be inferred, that the course of a treaty of marriage with mere concealment would not be suffiher, make, without notice to the in- cient to invalidate such an instrument, tended husband, a conveyance of any where the husband was not positively part of her property, a court of equity misled by some express affirmation on will set aside that conveyance, as af- the subject;—these passages, it has fected with fraud. (Countess of Strath- been judicially declared, must be undermore v. Bowes, 1 Ves. jun. 28. Draper's stood only as having reference to the
2 Freem. 29, 2nd edit.). Some of particular circumstances of the case in the dicta in the case just cited from Ve- which the dicta were pronounced. sey's Rep. may seem to intimate, that a '(Goddard v. Snow, 1 Russ. 494, the conveyance of her own property in trust judgment in which case refers to, and for herself, by a woman before marriage, analyses, all the leading previous dethough without her intended husband's ons on the subject). privity, may, under circumstances, be Marriage is an absolute gift to the
This depends entirely on the notion of an unity of person Chattels personbetween the husband and wife; it being held that they are husband absoone person in law ((), so that the very being and existence of lutely; the woman is suspended during the coverture, or entirely merged or incorporated in that of the husband. And hence it follows, that whatever personal property belonged to the wife, before marriage, is by marriage absolutely vested in the husband. In a real estate, he only gains a title to the chattels real, sub
modo only. rents and profits during coverture: for that, depending upon feodal principles, remains entire to the wife after the death of her husband, or to her heirs, if she dies before him; unless, by the birth of a child, he becomes tenant for life by the curtesy (3). But, in chattel interests, the sole and absolute property vests in the husband, to be disposed of at his pleasure, if he chuses to take possession of them: for, unless he reduces them to possession, by exercising some act of ownership upon them, no property vests in him, but they shall remain to the wife, or to her representatives, after the coverture is determined (4).
(i) See book I. c. 15.
husband of all the goods, personal court, to part with her contingent, or chattels and estate, which the wife was reversionary chattel interests, is a actually and beneficially possessed of question which has been much agitated. at that time, and of such other goods There are cases where the wife's conand personal chattels as come to her, sent has been taken de bene esse; in her own right, during the marriage. (Woollands v. Crowcher, 12 Ves. 178. (Co. Litt. 300 a, 351 a & b). But Richards v. Chambers, 10 Ves. 581); this interest the husband may wave but this practice does not appear to be by contract; (Hunt v. Pitt, 2 Freem. generally approved. (Sperling v. Roch79); and may empower his wife to fort, 8 Ves. 178, and see infra). . It is make a testamentary disposition of true, that, in Saddington v. Kinsman, her personal estate during her cover- (1 Br. 48), the leaning of Lord Thurture. (See ante, p. 375, note (4) to low's opinion was, that a wife's reverchapter 23, and post, p. 498).
sionary chattel interests might be as(3) See ante, p. 126, et seq. the third signed by her husband, if he had made section of chapter 8, with the notes a settlement upon her: (see also, Carthereto.
teret v. Paschal, 3 P. Wms. 199): (4) Whether it is competent to a and if the law were settled that a husmarried woman, by examination in band could, for a valuable considera