Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 2

Changes of Law in the United States

Changes of Law in the United States.

Changes of Law in the United States.

Our colonies have dealt not less rudely with the principles of English land laws. The various States of North America retained them for many years, so long as they remained colonies, but after separation from the mother-country, commenced to amend them. By then new constitution the subject of the land laws was left to the discretion of the State legislatures. It is strong testimony to the strength of public opinion against these laws, and also to the result of the change, that every page 53

Changes of Law in the United States.

State has in succession abolished primogeniture and has so restricted the power of settlement that what we call entail is impossible. They have universally, however, retained the freedom of willing. They have rejected the French system of compulsory division of property. They have preserved the parental authority intact. The universal custom, however, of testators is to distribute property on death equally among their children. Any preference not justified by exceptional circumstances is most rare, is condemned by public opinion, and where attempted not unfrequently leads to the will being disputed and upset on the ground of undue influence. Land transfer is exceedingly simple and uncostly; mortgages, which are almost a necessity for the existence of small properties, are effected with the greatest ease and at a most trifling cost, and the whole process of dealing with land is assimilated to that of personal property. Any legislation which tends to the monopoly of land or to reduce or curtail the free rights and dominions of its owners has everywhere been repudiated.
Under this system, and under the influence of public opinion, there is no tendency to create landed estates on the English principle, and the country throughout its length and breadth is farmed by men owning their own land. Hence the multitude of owners of land. The relation of landlord and tenant of farming land is all but page 54

Changes of Law in the United States.

unknown. The general aspect of the country, specially in such states as New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and New England would surprise those who have not been out of England. The rural districts have a more populous appearance than even in this country. Every hundred to a hundred and fifty acres belong to a separate owner, who has a substantial house, and who farms the land himself. There are no large owners. The three millions of landowners are the foundation of the social system, are the cause of stability, are the conservative element in a system otherwise profoundly democratic, and are also the promoters of prosperity to the numerous cities and towns. The same condition of things is extending through the far West, hundreds of miles beyond Chicago, and will eventually, and at no distant day, stretch across the continent.
In a similar manner have our other Anglo Saxon colonies cast off the old shell of our land-laws as soon as they were endowed with the power to legislate. They seem to have found them an in tolerable nuisance, wholly unsuited to modern life and to the necessities of an industrial society, of which freedom of commerce in land is the very life breath. These changes have universally taken the same direction; the withdrawal of state sanction to accumulation or to the preference of one chili over another; the assimilation of the law with respect to all kinds of property; the limitation of page 55 family settlements, and the prohibition of a family

Changes Favour Individualism.

succession different from that of the state; the registration of titles; the simplification of transfer.