Open main menu

Page:Harvard Law Review Volume 1.djvu/64

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

and the use of the same word to express the right is a defect of nomenclature which is unfortunate, as it has given rise to much confusion of ideas.

Obligations are either personal or real, according as the duty is imposed upon a person or a thing. An obligation may be imposed upon a person either by his own act, namely, by a contract, or by act of law.[1]

An obligation may be imposed upon a thing either by the will of its owner, manifested by such act or acts as the particular system of law requires, or by act of law. It is in such obligations that those rights of property originate which are called rights in the property of another,—jura in re aliena. Instances of real obligations will be found in servitudes or easements, in which the law regards the servient tenement as owing the service; also in the Roman pignus and hypotheca, in which the res, pignorated or hypothecated to secure the payment of a debt, was regarded as a surety for the debt. The pignus has been adopted into our law under the name of pawn or pledge. The hypotheca has been rejected by our common law,[2] though it has been adopted by the admiralty law. A lien is another instance of a real obligation in our law, the very words “lien” and “obligation,” having the same meaning and the same derivation. A familiar instance of a real obligation created by law will be found in the lien of a judgment or recognizance.[3]


  1. Strictly, every obligation is created by the law. When it is said that a contract creates an obligation, it is only meant that the law annexes an obligation to every contract. A contract may be well enough defined as an agreement to which the law annexes an obligation.

    Strictly, also, a tort gives rise to an obligation as much as a contract; namely, an obligation to repair the tort or to make satisfaction for it; but this is an obligation which the law imposes upon a tort-feasor merely by way of giving a remedy for the tort. In the same way the breach of a contract gives rise to a new obligation to repair or make satisfaction for the breach.

  2. It would, however, be more correct to say that our law does not permit the owner of property to hypothecate it at his own will and pleasure; for hypothecations created by law do exist with us, as will presently be seen.
  3. Such a lien is an hypothecation created by law. It is what civilians call a general hypothecation, because it attaches to all the land of the judgment debtor or recognizor, whether then owned by him or afterwards acquired.

    Instances of hypothecations of goods created by law will be found in the lien given to a landlord on the goods of his tenant to secure the payment of rent, and in the lien on beasts damage feasant, given to the person injured to secure satisfaction for the injury done. These liens are enforced by distress. The former is in a sense general; i.e., it attaches on all the goods which are on the demised premises when the rent becomes due.