The Suspension of the Absolute Power of Alienation

In his Nature and Sources of Law, John Chipman Gray says, “The Common Law has often been reproached with the lack of precision and certainty in its definitions, but, in truth, it is a great advantage of the Common Law, and of the mode of its development by judicial decision, that its definitions are never the matters resolved by the cases; they are never anything but dicta. If at the end of the sixteenth, or of the seventeenth, or even of the eighteenth century, there had been definitions binding by statute on the Courts; if the meaning of ‘contract’, and ‘malice’, and .’possession’, and ‘perpetuities’ had been fixed, what fetters would have been imposed on the natural development of the Law. And it is the great disadvantage of a code, that practising lawyers and jurists alike are hampered by the cast-iron classification and definitions of a former generation, which, in the advancement of legal thought and knowledge, are now felt to be imperfect and inadequate.”‘ Confining the illustration to the word ‘perpetuities’ the above quotation is so apt to the purpose of this article that it may well serve as a text for it.