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hand, a widow may enter at once, without any formal process, on her jointure land; as she also might have done on dower ad oftium ecclefiae, which a jointure in many points resembles; and the resemblance was still greater, while that species of dower continued in it's primitive state : whereas no small trouble, and a very tedious method of proceeding, is necessary to compel a legal assignment of dower *. And, what is more, though dower be forfeited by the treason of the husband, yet lands settled in jointure remained unimpeached to the widowo. Wherefore fir Edward Coke very justly gives it the preference, as being more sure and safe to the widow, than even dower ad oftium ecclefiae, the most eligible species of any.
* Co. Litt. 36.
o Ibid. 37:
F estates, that are less than freehold, there are three
forts; 1. Estates for years: 2. Estates at will : 3. Eftates by sufferance.
I. An estate for years is a contract for the possession of lands or tenements, for some determinate period : and it happens where a man letteth them to another for the term of a certain number of years, agreed upon between the lessor and the lessee, and the lessee enters thereon b. If the lease be but for half a year, or a quarter, or any less time, this lessee is respected as a tenant for years and is ftiled so in some legal proceedings; a year being the shortest term which the law in this case takes notice of. And this may, not improperly, lead us into a short explanation of the division and calculation of time by the English law.
The space of a year is a determinate and well-known period, consisting commonly of 365 days: for, though in bis
a We may here remark, once for all, that the terminations of “-or” and " Lee” obtain, in law, the one an active, the other a passive fignification; the former usually denoting the doer of any act, the latter him to whom it is done. The feoffor is he that maketh a feoffment; the fcoffee is he to whom it
is made : 'the donor is one that giveth
b Ibid. 58.
sextile or leap-years it consists properly of 366, yet by the statute 21 Hen. III. the increasing day in the leap-year, together with the preceding day, shall be accounted for one day only. That of a month is more ambiguous: there being, in common use, two ways of calculating months ; either as lunar, consisting of twenty eight days, the supposed revolu.. tion of the moon, thirteen of which make a year; or, as calendar months, of unequal lengths, according to the Julian divifion in our common almanacs, commencing at the caJends of each month, whereof in a year there are only twelve. A month in law is a lunar month, or twenty eight days, unless otherwise expressed; not only because it is al. ways one uniform period, but because it falls naturally into a quarterly division by weeks. Therefore a lease for "twelve months” is only for forty eight weeks ; but if it be for la twelvémonth” in the fingular number, it is good for the whole year d. For herein the law recedes from it's usual calculation, because the ambiguity between the two methods of computation ceases; it being generally understood that by the space of time called thus, in the singular number, a twelvémonth, is meant the whole year, consisting of one solar revolution. In the space of a day all the twenty four hours are usually reckoned; the law generally rejecting all fractions of a day, in order to avoid difuptes. Therefore, if I am bound to pay money on any certain day, I discharge the obligation if I pay it before twelve o'clock at night; after which the following day commences. But to return to estates for years.
These estates were originally granted to mere farmers or husbandmen, who every year rendered some equivalent in money, provisions, or other rent, to the leffors or landlords; but, in order to encourage them to manure and cultivate the ground, they had a permanent interest granted them, not determinable at the will of the lord. And yet their poffeffion was esteemed of so little consequence, that they were rather considered as the bailiffs or servants of the lord, who were to
op 6 Rep. 65.
e Co. Litt. 335i .
receive and account for the profits at a settled price, than as having any property of their own. And therefore they were not allowed to have a freehold estate : but their interest (such as it was) vested, after their deaths in their executors, who were to make up the accounts of their teftator with the lord, and his other creditors, and were entitled to the stock upon the farm. The lessee's estate might also, by the antient law, be at any time defeated, by a common recovery suffered by the tenant of the freeholdf; which annihilated all leases for years then subfisting, unless afterwards renewed by the recoveror, whose title was supposed superior to his by whom those leases were granted.
While estates for years were thus precarious, it is no wonder that they were usually very short, like our modern leases upon rack rent; and indeed we are told & that by the antient law no leases for more than forty years were allowable, because any longer poffeffion (especially when given without any livery declaring the nature and duration of the estate) might tend to defeat the inheritance. Yet this law, if ever it existed, was soon antiquated; for we may observe, in Madox's collection of antient instruments, some leases for years of a pretty early date, which considerably exceed that period h; and long terms, for three hundred years or a thousand, were certainly in use in the time of Edward III, and probably of Edward I k. But certainly, when by the statute 21 Hen. VIII. c. 15. the termor (that is, he who is entitled to the term of years) was protected against these fictitious recoveries, and his interest rendered secure and permanent, long terms began to be more frequent than before ; and were afterwards extensively introduced, being found exo tremely convenient for family settlements and mortgages : continuing subject, however, to the fame rules of succession,
f Co. Litt. 46.
h Madox Formulare Anglican. no. 239. fol. 140. Demise for eighty years, 21 Ric, II..... Ibid, no. 245. fol. 146. for the like term, A. D. 1429.
..... Ibid. no. 248. fol. 148. for fifty years, 7 Edw. IV.
i 32 Aff. pl. 6. Bro, abr, t, mordauncester, 42. Spoliation. 6.
k Stat. of mortmain, 7 Edw. I,
and with the same inferiority to freeholds, as when they were little better than tenancies at the will of the landlord. I
Every eftate which must expire at a period certain and prefixed, by whatever words created, is an estate for years. And therefore this estate is frequently called a term, terminus, because it's duration or continuance is boạnded, limited, and determined : for every such estate must have a certain begin. ning, and certain end'. But id certum est, quod certum reddi poteft : therefore if a man make a lease to another, for so many years as J. S. shall name, it is a good lease for years in ; for though it is at present uncertain, yet when J. S. hath named the years, it is then reduced to a certainty. If no day of commencement is named in the creation of this estate, it begins from the making, or delivery, of the leasen. A lease for so many years as J. S. shall live, is void from the beginningo; for it is neither certain, nor can ever be reduced to a certainty, during the continuance of the lease. And the same doctrine holds, if a parson make a leafe of his glebe for so many years as he shall continue parson of Dale; for this is still more uncertain. But a lease for twenty or more years, if J. S. fhall so long live, or if he shall so long continue parson, is good P: for there is a certain period fixed, beyond which it cannot last; though it may determine sooner, on the death of J. S. or his ceasing to be parson there.
· WE have before remarked, and endeavoured to assign the
reason of, the inferiority in which the law places an estate for years, when compared with an estate for life, or an inheritance : observing, that an estate for life, even if it be pur auter vie, is a freehold; but that an estate for a thousand years is only a chattel, and reckoned part of the personal estate. Hence it follows, that a léase for years may be made to commence in futuro, though a lease for life cannot. As, if I grant lands to Titius to hold from Michaelmas next for
I Co. Litt, 45. m 6 Rep. 35.
Co. Litt. 46,
• Ibid. 45. .