Open main menu

Page:Harvard Law Review Volume 1.djvu/206

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

the devolution of real property in case of intestacy conform to that of personal property, thus distributing the realty among the children, share and share alike, passed the House of Lords at its last session.

“The main object of this bill was to establish compulsory registration of title; and the clause abolishing primogeniture was incidental to this main object. The bill was introduced in the House of Lords by the Lord Chancellor on the 1st of April. It proposed, — 1, in respect to existing estates tail, that wherever a person of full age had power, without consent of any one else, to enlarge his estate tail by deed duly enrolled, then the Court shall do it for him; 2, that estates tail should not be created in future; and, 3, that the statute known as Westminster 2d be repealed. And it made the devolution of real to be the same as personal property. The bill passed the second reading, April, 1887. On July 7 it passed by a majority of 11.

“It failed to pass in the House of Commons, consideration being prevented by the engrossing subjects connected with the state of Ireland. The general expectation in England, however, is that it will be reintroduced and finally adopted, and that it is not likely that any amendments which may be made will impair the proposed abolition of primogeniture.”

The leading speakers in favor of primogeniture were the Earl of Feversham and Lord Abinger. The Marquis of Salisbury said that he would be exceedingly sorry to see the practice of devolving the land on the eldest son discontinued. He believed that the importance of the clause, abolishing primogeniture, was enormously exaggerated, and that it would not in practice alter the devolution of land, because owners could in the future do by will what the law of primogeniture now did. On the division the vote stood 66 to 55 against an amendment, introduced by the Earl of Feversham, to strike out the clause relating to primogeniture.


On this subject of entail the position of Mr. Gladstone is significant. In a speech, delivered Oct. 19, at the recent Congress of the English Liberal Federation, one of the largest meetings ever held by the Federation, Mr. Gladstone declared himself squarely in favor of abolishing the system of landed entail. In his plan for reducing the accumulated legislative arrears he gave this question of entail as the second of the great questions which he considered, after the disposal of the Irish difficulty, “to stand in the first rank of legislative urgency, and to demand the chief and principal application of the mind of the country.” His language was as follows: “I think no Liberal will, for a moment, doubt that the time has come when we ought to sweep away, I may say, to sweep away bodily, what we now understand by the system of landed entail. We want to have free trade in land. Bills of transfer have been proposed with respect to which the best legal authorities have taught us that, whether their intention be good or bad, they never could attain their purpose until entail is swept away; and that freedom of trade in land is to be recommended upon economical, upon moral, and upon social grounds, and because we have begun to recognize the extraordinary—I would almost say—necessity of our affording to our people at large a freer access to the uses of the land.”