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[French, Dead hand.] A term to denote the conveyance of ownership of land or tenements to any corporation, religious or secular.

Traditionally, such transfers were made to religious corporations. Like any corporation, the religious society had unlimited, perpetual duration under the law. It could, therefore, hold land permanently unlike a natural person, whose property is redistributed upon his or her death. The holdings of religious corporations grew as contributions were received from their members. Because such holdings were immune from responsibilities for taxes and payment of feudal dues, greater burdens were placed on noncorporate secular property. Therefore, land in mort-main was said to be held in perpetuity in one dead hand, that of the corporation.


the state or condition of lands or buildings, held inalienably, as by an ecclesiastical or other corporation.

MORTMAIN. An unlawful alienation of lands, or tenements to any corporation, sole or aggregate, ecclesiastical or temporal. These purchases having been chiefly made by religious houses, in consequence of which lands became perpetually inherent in one dead hand, this has occasioned the general appellation of mortmain to be applied to such alienations. 2 Bl. Com. 268; Co. Litt. 2 b; Ersk. Inst. B. 2, t. 4, s. 10; Barr. on the Stat. 27, 97.
     2. Mortmain is also employed to designate all prohibitory laws, which limit, restrain, or annul gifts, grants, or devises of lands and other corporeal hereditaments to charitable uses. 2 Story, Eq. Jur. Sec. 1137, note 1. See Shelf. on Mortm. 2, 3.

References in periodicals archive ?
The first revolution happened because a large number of mostly non-Islamist Egyptian youths grew fed up with the suffocating dead hand of the Mubarak era -- a hand so dead that way too many young Egyptians felt they were living in a rigged system, where they had no chance of realizing their full potential, under a leader with no vision.
Consider how much easier it would be to introduce new types of health worker without the dead hand of regulation clutching for evidence of their safety to practise.
The Wrong Solution to a Real Problem: Dead Hand Control
Mr Dullsville is a dead hand whose mere presence seems to the suck the drama out of any tense situation.
The wastelands of dereliction in this city are not due to the hand of God, nor market forces, but socialist-type policies combined with the dead hand of council bureaucracy.
Chracterised by tactful and imaginative handling of light and views, Barajas has managed to break free from the dead hand of airport anomie.
A methodological point of considerable significance is Lindsey's use of qualitative evidence to show that statism refuses to die and is defended everywhere by vested interests and laws that are difficult to change, making the struggle between the dead hand and the invisible one a momentous issue of our time.
It's long over time for the dead hand of privilege and self agrandissment to be removed from the reins of a glorious sport.
Brink Lindsey, in his book Against the Dead Hand, points out that state-owned enterprises remain a major presence in 74 countries which have a total of two-thirds of the world's population.
Dead Hand argues that the headline problems of poverty, war, and more are far more insidious than any that can be blamed on business or any single cause because they emerge fundamentally from incorrect thinking about the relative merits of collectivism versus freedom, particularly free trade.
Workin' on the Chain Gang: Shaking off the Dead Hand of History
Cunningham, in contrast, proposes an ambitious and wide-ranging new "master narrative" of the history of anatomy, from the Greeks to the early seventeenth century; in particular, he aims to replace the old story that portrayed sixteenth-century anatomists, most notably Andreas Vesalius, as heroes who used their own experience of the dissected body to liberate their field from the dead hand of Greek textual authorities, such as Galen, and thereby to usher in a modern, "scientific" anatomy.