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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.

West's Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


the state or condition of lands or buildings, held inalienably, as by an ecclesiastical or other corporation.
Collins Dictionary of Law © W.J. Stewart, 2006

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.

A Law Dictionary, Adapted to the Constitution and Laws of the United States. By John Bouvier. Published 1856.
References in periodicals archive ?
A line in the fourth (and only undated) section of "Mortmain" explains the inevitable counter-flowing blend of cause into effect and effect into cause (father into son and son into father): "I hear the toad's intercession / For us, and all, who do not know / How cause flows backward from effect / To bless the past occasion." In such a way does "Mortmain," written shortly after the father's death in 1955, bless the past occasion of R.
THE location of the Mortmain family home in I Capture the Castle was provided by Manorbier Castle near Tenby.
A waqf is the conveyance by a settlor (waqif) of property (amlak, asbab) to mortmain (in perpetuity) with the designation of its usufruct (manfa'a) to named beneficiaries.
"Hawthorne: Mortmain." Arizona Quarterly: A Journal of American Literature, Culture, and Theory 71.3 (Autumn 2015): 27-57.
(25) The ecclesiastics also sought to avoid the operation of the statutes of Mortmain, including the Statute De Viris Religiosis 1279 (26) which prohibited the conveyance of land to religious corporations in perpetuity without the authority of the Crown.
Palabras clave: Trust, Use, Charitable Trust, Common Law, Equity, Derecho canonico, Fideicomiso, Mortmain, Fundacion, lus Commune.
It may be thought that, at least for corporations, mortmain statutes were an exception.
The Hamas Charter asserts that "all Palestine is waqf (endowed or mortmain property belonging to the Muslim umma)"--a claim that means that churches, and their considerable properties, currently owned by the Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox Churches in Palestine, would come under Muslim control, as they have throughout Syria and Iraq wherever ISIS has conquered.
In both England and Canada, the courts developed and refined the common law concept of a charitable purpose in judgments concerning the validity of charitable trusts, the application of mortmain legislation and, eventually, the application of tax legislation.
His Oxford College was at least partly founded on certificates of mortmain that he arranged while serving as royal Chancellor in the early 1450s.
(5.) A French term, rooted in medieval church and fuedal history, which basically means "the incapacity of selling possessions or estates," see, and "Mortmain," Catholic Encyclopedia (New York: Robert Appleton Company,1913).
Kubler disparaged with a vivid legal term the submissiveness of Renaissance and modern European -artists and historians to classical, archaic, and prehistoric forms: He described the cold grip of the past as a "mortmain action." Paralyzed by history's dead hand and harried by the present, the German critical theorists sought ever more recondite escape routes, for example Walter Benjamin's fantastical, neo-scholastic concept of the Jetztzeit, an event that "recapitulates the entire history of mankind in a monstrous abbreviation." A philosophy of history, like Benjamin's, that takes the past too seriously--a pragmatist would say--will devolve into a theology of history.