Page:The Settled Estates Act, 1882.djvu/19

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give a life estate to his widow or daughter, or to provide against the extravagance of a thriftless son. Supposing a lady possessed of land about to marry, is she not to be allowed to limit the estate to herself for life, with remainder to her child? Must she take the estate absolutely, or, in other words, leave the future of her children dependent on the chances of her husband turning out a provident man? Or, take the case of a man dying leaving an only daughter, is he to be obliged to leave his property unconditionally to his daughter, with the chance of its being dissipated and squandered by her husband? This is clearly an abridgement of the liberty of free disposition of land, which would be intolerable to Englishmen, and disastrous to the social well-being of the country! On the other hand, as has been well pointed out by Mr. Underbill, in his late pamphlet on "Freedom of Land;" the second scheme would not effect the object in view; for, even supposing life estates were allowed, but the property was not to be settled on any unborn persons, except the children of a tenant for life, there is nothing to prevent the very same evil of resettlement which is sought to be abolished.

We are reduced therefore to this, that, granting the embarassments of life tenants, and the evils incident to a limited tenure, some other method had to be discovered to remedy the shortcomings of the law. This Lord Cairns' Act. is provided and provided in the right way by Lord Cairns' Act. I do not go so far as to say with Mr. Hastings, in his address to the Social Science Congress that this is the greatest revolution, legal and social, that has been accomplished since the Restoration. Revolution it certainly is not, for if there is one thing that is characteristic of it, it is that while