was called in the law, right of entry, could be exercised was at first very short.
In the time of Bracton (thirteenth century) it was only four days, that being deemed sufficient time within which to arouse the neighbors and organize an invading force. The right was afterward recognized as continuing a year and a day. Still later it might be exercised during the lifetime of the intruder. Originally entry could be made only as against the intruder personally, not against one claiming under him. Afterward it could be made against the intruder's first successor, then against his second successor, still later against others still more remote, etc. It was about the time of Lord Bacon before a re-entry could be made after the lands, by death of the intruder, had passed into the possession of his heir. It was the wrongful character of the intruder's estate that was supposed to justify re-entry, and it was deemed inadmissible to treat the estate as wrongful in the hands of the heir, upon whom it had been cast by operation of law without any wrongdoing on his part.
The legal effect of a re-entry was to reinvest the ousted person with his lost estate. Originally it was no doubt necessary for him to eject the wrongdoer and resume complete control. It was soon perceived that where two persons were upon the same piece of ground, each claiming possession, he should be deemed to have the possession who had the right to it, and this principle was variously applied with salutary effects. The law was still further mitigated by considering that the effects of re-entry were attained and the estate of the intruder divested by even a temporary entrance of the ousted person upon the land under a claim of right, provided such entry was repeated at least once a year, thus keeping up publicly a continual claim to the land. And it came to be deemed sufficient as an entry if, when the ousted person could not go upon the land for fear of violence, he went as near to it as he safely could and publicly claimed it in the presence of witnesses. By these acts of re-entry and continual claim the person dispossessed could revive and keep alive his estate in the land, so as to have a conveyable and inheritable interest, although the intruder still remained in the actual possession; for, by construction of law, the entry and continual claim were treated as amounting to a recovery of the possession. The law also came to be so relaxed that where one, by the same intruder, was dispossessed of several tracts of land in one county, a re-entry upon one, in the name of all, was treated as a good entry upon all.
It is not surprising that under these circumstances there were few branches of our early law which experienced a more luxuriant growth than those that related to rights of entry, to descents that took away rights of entry, and to the making of continual claim.