Sivut kuvina

maintain others of far greater confequence: it permits an infant to present a clerk (who, if unfit, may be rejected by the bishop) rather than either fuffer the church to be unferved till he comes of age, or permit the infant to be debarred of his right by lapfe to the bishop. An infant may alfo purchase lands, but his purchafe is incomplete: for when he comes to age, he may either agree or difagree to it, as he thinks prudent or proper, without alleging any reafon; and fo may his heirs after him, if he dies without having completed his agreement. It is, farther, generally true, that an infant, under twenty one, can make no deed but what is afterwards voidable: yet in fome cafes he may bind himself apprentice by deed indented, or indentures, for feven years; and he may by deed or will appoint a guardian to his children, if he has any. Laftly, it is generally true, that an infant can make no other contract that will bind him: yet he may bind himself to pay for his neceffary meat, drink, apparel, phyfic, and fuch other neceffaries; and likewife for his good teaching and inftruction, whereby he may profit himself afterwards. And thus much, at present, for the privileges and difabilities of infants.

b Co. Litt. 2.

c Stat. 5 Eliz. c. 4. 43 Eliz. c. 2. Ero. Car. 179.

d Stat. 12 Car. II. c. 24)

c Co. Litt. 172.





E have hitherto confidered perfons in their natural capa, cities, and have treated of their rights and duties. But, as all perfonal rights die with the perfon; and, as the neceffary forms of investing a series of individuals, one after another, with the fame identical rights, would be very inconvenient, if not impracticable; it has been found neceffary, when it is for the advantage of the public to have any particular rights kept on foot and continued, to conftitute artificial perfons, who may maintain a perpetual fucceffion, and enjoy a kind of legal immortality.

THESE artificial perfons are called bodies politic, bodies corporate, (corpora corporata) or corporations; of which there is a great variety subsisting, for the advancement of religion, of learning, and of commerce; in order to preserve entire and for ever thofe rights and immunities, which, if they were granted only to thofe individuals of which the body corporate is compofed, would upon their death be utterly loft and extinct. To fhew the advantages of these incorporations, let us confider the cafe of a college in either of our universities, founded ad ftudendum et orandum, for the encouragement and fupport of religion and learning. If this was a mere voluntary affembly, the individuals which compofe it might indeed read, pray, ftudy, and perform fcholaftic exercises together, fo long as they could agree to do fo: but they L112 could

could neither frame, nor receive, any laws or rules of their conduct; none at least, which would have any binding force, for want of a coercive power to create a fufficient obligation. Nei ther could they be capable of retaining any privileges or immunitics: for, if fuch privileges be attacked, which of all this unconnected affembly has the right, or ability, to defend them? And, when they are difperfed by death or otherwise, how shall they transfer these advantages to another set of students, equally unconnected as themselves? So alfo, with regard to holding estates or other property, if land be granted for the purposes of religion or learning to twenty individuals not incorporated, there is no legal way of continuing the property to any other perfons for the same purposes, but by endless conveyances from one to the other, as often as the hands are changed. But, when they are confolidated and united into a corporation, they and their fucceffors are then confidered as one perfon in law: as one person, they have one will, which is collected from the fenfe of the majority of the individuals: this one will may establish rules and orders for the regulation of the whole, which are a fort of municipal laws of this little republic; or rules and ftatutes may be prescribed to it at it's creation, which are then in the place of natural laws: the privileges and immunities, the eftates and poffeffions, of the corporation, when once vested in them, will be for ever vested, without any new conveyance to new fucceffions; for all the individual members that have exifted from the foundation to the prefent time, or that fhall ever hereafter exift, are but one perfon in law, a perion that never dies: in like manner as the river Thames is ftill the fame river, though the parts which compofe it are changing every inftant.

THE honour of originally inventing these political conftitutions entirely belongs to the Romans. They were introduced, as Plutarch fays, by Numa; who finding, upon his acceffion, the city torn to pieces by the two rival factions of Sabines and Romaus, thought it a prudent and politic measure, to subdivide thefe two into many fmaller ones, by inftituting feparate focietics of


every manual trade and profeffion. They were afterwards much confidered by the civil law', in which they were called univerfi tates, as forming one whole out of many individuals; or collegia, from being gathered together: they were adopted alfo by the canon law, for the maintenance of ecclefiaftical difcipline; and from them our spiritual corporations are derived. But our laws have confiderably refined and improved upon the invention, according to the ufual genius of the English nation: particularly with regard to fole corporations, confifting of one person only, of which the Roman lawyers had no notion; their maxim being that "tres faciunt collegium." Though they held, that if a corporation, originally confifting of three perfons, be reduced to one, ❝ fi univerfitas ad unum redit," it may still subsist as a corporation, et ftet nomen univerfitatis."

BEFORE We proceed to treat of the several incidents of corporations, as regarded by the laws of England, let us first take a view of the several forts of them; and then we fhall be better enabled to apprehend their refpective qualities.


THE first divifion of corporations is into aggregate and fole. Corporations aggregate confift of many perfons united together into one focięty, and are kept up by a perpetual fucceffion of members, fo as to continue for ever: of which kind are the mayor and commonalty of a city, the head and fellows of a college, the dean and chapter of a cathedral church. Corporations fole confift of one perfon only and his fucceffors, in some particular station, who are incorporated by law in order to give them fome legal capacities and advantages, particularly that of perpetuity, which in their natural perfons they could not have had. In this fenfe the king is a fole corporation': fo is a bishop: fo are fome deans, and prebendaries, distinct from their feveral chapters and fo is every parfon and vicar. And the neceffity, or at leaft ufe, of this inftitution will be very apparent, if we


[blocks in formation]

confider the cafe of a parfon of a church. At the original endowment of parish churches, the freehold of the church, the churchyard, the parfonage house, the glebe, and the tithes of the parish, were vested in the then parfon by the bounty of the donor, as a temporal recompenfe to him for his fpiritual care of the inhabitants, and with intent that the fame emoluments should ever afterwards continue as a recompenie for the fame care. But how was this to be effected? The freehold was vefted in the parfon; and, if we fuppofe it vested in his natural capacity, on his death it might defcend to his heir, and would be liable to his debts and incumbrances: or, at beft, the heir might be compellable, at fome trouble and expenfe, to convey these rights to the fucceeding incumbent. The law therefore has wifely ordained, that the parfon, quatenus parfon, fhall never die, any more than the king; by making him and his fucceffors a corporation. By which means all the original rights of the parfonage are preserved entire to the fucceffor: for the prefent incumbent, and his predeceffor who lived feven centuries ago, are in law one and the fame perfon; and what was given to the one was given to the other alfo.

ANOTHER divifion of corporations, either fole or aggregate, is into ecclefiaftical and lay. Ecclefiaftical corporations are where the members that compofe it are entirely fpiritual perfons; fuch as bishops, certain deans, and prebendaries; all archdeacons, parfons, and vicars; which are fole corporations; deans and chapters at prefent, and formerly prior and convent, abbot and monks and the like, bodies aggregate, Thefe are erected for the furtherance of religion, and perpetuating the rights of the church. Lay corporations are of two forts, civil and eleemofynary. The civil are fuch as are erected for a variety of temporal purpofes. The king, for instance, is made a corporation to prevent in general the poffibility of an interregnum or vacancy of the throne, and to preferve the poffeffions of the crown entire; for, immediately upon the demife of one king, his fucceffor is, as we have formerly feen, in full poffeffion of the regal rights and dignity. Other lay corporations are erected for the good government of a


« EdellinenJatka »