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debts for them, he is obliged to pay them; but for any thing besides necessaries he is not chargeable. Also if a wife elopes, and lives with another man, the husband is not chargeable even for necessaries; at least if the person who furnishes them is sufficiently apprised of her elopement. If the wife be indebted before marriage, the husband is bound afterwards to pay the debt; for he has adopted her and her circumstances together. If the wife be injured in her person or her property, she can bring no action for redress without her husband's concurrence, and in his name, as well as her own: neither can she be sued without making the husband a defendant. There is indeed one case where the wife shall sue and be sued as a feme sole, viz. where the husband has abjured the realm, or is banished, for then he is dead in law; and, the husband being thus disabled to sue for or defend the wife, it would be most unreasonable if she had no remedy, or could make no defence at all. In criminal prosecutions, it is true, the wife may be indicted_and punished separately; for the union is only a civil union. But in trials of any sort they are not allowed to be witnesses for, or against, each other partly because it is impossible their testimony should be indifferent, but principally because of the union of person; and therefore, if they were admitted to be witnesses for each other, they would contradict one maxim of law, "nemo in propria causa testis esse debet;" and if against each other, they would contradict another maxim, "nemo tenetur seipsum accusare." But, where the offence is directly against the person of the wife, this rule has been usually dispensed with; and therefore, by statute 3 Hen. VII. c. 2, in case a woman be forcibly taken away, and married, she may be a witness against such her husband, in order to convict him of felony. For in this case she can with no propriety be reckoned his wife because a main ingredient, her consent, was wanting to the contract and also there is another maxim of law, that no man shall take advantage of his own wrong; which the ravisher here would do, if, by forcibly marrying a woman, he could prevent her from being a witness who is perhaps the only witness to that very fact.
In the civil law the husband and the wife are considered as two distinct persons, and may have separate estates, contracts, debts, and injuries; and therefore in our ecclesiastical courts, a woman may sue and be sued without her husband.
But though our law in general considers man and wife as one person, yet there are some instances in which she is separately con
sidered; as inferior to him, and acting by his compulsion. And therefore all deeds executed, and acts done, by her, during her coverture, are void; except it be a fine, or the like matter of record, in which case she must be solely and secretly examined, to learn if her act be voluntary. She cannot by will devise lands to her husband, unless under special circumstances; for at the time of making it she is supposed to be under his coercion. And in some felonies, and other inferior crimes, committed by her, through constraint of her husband, the law excuses her: but this extends not to treason or murder.
The husband also, by the old law, might give his wife moderate correction. For, as he is to answer for her misbehavior, the law thought it reasonable to intrust him with this power of restraining her, by domestic chastisement, in the same moderation that a man is allowed to correct his apprentices or children; for whom the master or parent is also liable in some cases to answer. But this power of correction was confined within reasonable bounds, and the husband was prohibited from using any violence to his wife, aliter quam ad virum, ex causa regiminis et castigationis uxoris suae, licite et rationabiliter pertinet. The civil law gave the husband the same, or a larger, authority over his wife: allowing him, for some misdemeanors, flagellis et fustibus acriter verberare uxorem; for others, only modicam castigationem adhibere. But with us, in the politer reign of Charles the Second, this power of correction began to be doubted; and a wife may now have security of the peace against her husband or, in return, a husband against his wife. Yet the lower rank of people, who were always fond of the old common law, still claim and exert their ancient privilege: and the courts of law will still permit a husband to restrain a wife of her liberty, in case of any gross misbehavior.
BLACKSTONE, COMMENTARIES, I, 304.
A lunatic, or non compos mentis, is one who hath had understanding, but by disease, grief, or other accident, hath lost the use of his reason. A lunatic is indeed properly one that hath lucid intervals, sometimes enjoying his senses, and sometimes not, and that frequently depending upon the change of the moon. But under the general name of non compos mentis (which Sir Edward Coke says is the most legal name) are comprised not only lunatics, but persons under frenzies; or who lose their intellects by disease; those that grow deaf, dumb, and blind, not being born so; or such, in short, as
are judged by the court of chancery incapable of conducting their own affairs. To these also, as well as idiots, the king is guardian, but to a very different purpose. For the law always imagines that these accidental misfortunes may be removed; and therefore only constitutes the crown a trustee for the unforunate persons, to protect their property, and to account to them for all profits received, if they recover, or after their decease to their representatives. And therefore it is declared by the statute 17 Edw. II. c. 10, that the king shall provide for the custody and sustentation of lunatics, and preserve their lands and the profits of them for their use, when they come to their right mind; and the king shall take nothing to his own use; and, if the parties die in such estate, the residue shall be distributed for their souls by the advice of the ordinary, and of course (by the subsequent amendments of the law of administration) shall now go to their executors or administrators.
On the first attack of lunacy, or other occasional insanity, while there may be hope of a speedy restitution of reason, it is usual to confine the unhappy objects in private custody under the direction of their nearest friends and relations; and the legislature, to prevent all abuses incident to such private custody, hath thought proper to interpose its authority by statute 14 Geo. III. c. 49, (continued by 19 Geo. III. c. 15,) for regulating private madhouses. But when the disorder is grown permanent, and the circumstances of the party will bear such additional expense, it is proper to apply to the royal authority to warrant a lasting confinement.
The method of proving a person non compos is very similar to that of proving him an idiot. The lord chancellor, to whom, by special authority from the king, the custody of idiots and lunatics is intrusted, upon petition or information, grants a commission in nature of the writ de idiota inquirendo, to inquire into the party's state of mind; and if he be found non compos, he usually commits. the care of his person, with a suitable allowance for his maintenance, to some friend, who is then called his committee.
PRESBURY V. HULL, Supreme Court of Missouri, 1863 (34 Mo.
Bates, J.: The statute of Missouri, which enacts that a sentence of imprisonment in the penitentiary for a term of less than life, suspends all civil rights of the person so sentenced during the term thereof, applies only to sentences in the State courts. We know of no similar act as to sentences by the Federal courts, and without
such act there is no such suspension. A sentence for life even would not have the effect of making the convict civilly dead. (Platner v. Sherwood, 6 John. Chy. 118.) Here the sentence was for one year.
It is of no consequence that Wolff's offense might have been punished by a State court (if it be so); for it is not the fact of criminality which, in any case, suspends his rights, but the conviction and sentence to the penitentiary.
BLACKSTONE, COMMENTARIES, IV, 380, 388.
When sentence of death, the most terrible and highest judgment in the laws of England, is pronounced, the immediate inseparable consequence from the common law is attainder. For when it is now clear beyond all dispute that the criminal is no longer fit to live upon the earth, but is to be exterminated as a monster and a bane to human society, the law sets a note of infamy upon him, puts him out of its protection, and takes no further care of him than barely to see him executed. He is then called attaint, attinctus, stained or blackened. He is no longer of any credit or reputation; he cannot be a witness in any court; neither is he capable of performing the functions of another man; for, by an anticipation of his punishment, he is already dead in law. This is after judgment; for there is great difference between a man convicted and attainted: though they are frequently through inaccuracy confounded together. After conviction only a man is liable to none of these disabilities; for there is still in contemplation of law a possibility of his innocence. Something may be offered in arrest of judgment; the indictment may be erroneous, which will render his guilt uncertain, and thereupon the present conviction may be quashed; he may obtain a pardon, or be allowed the benefit of clergy; both which suppose some latent sparks of merit which plead in extenuation of his fault. But when judgment is once pronounced, both law and fact conspire to prove him completely guilty; and there is not the remotest possibility left of anything to be said in his favor. Upon judgment, therefore, of death, and not before, the attainder of a criminal commences; or upon such circumstances as are equivalent to judgment of death; as judgment of outlawry on a capital crime pronounced for absconding or fleeing from justice, which tacitly confesses the guilt. And therefore, either upon judgment of outlawry, or of death, for treason or felony, a man shall be said to be attainted. The consequences of attainder are forfeiture and corruption of blood.
Another immediate consequence of attainder is the corruption of blood, both upwards and downwards, so that an attainted person can neither inherit lands or other hereditaments from his ancestors, nor retain those he is already in possession of, nor transmit them. by descent to any heir; but the same shall escheat to the lord of the fee, subject to the king's superior right of forfeiture: and the person attainted shall also obstruct all descents to his posterity, wherever they are obliged to derive a title through him to a remoter ancestor.
[Forfeiture and corruption of blood are now abolished.]
KENT, COMMENTARIES, II, 53, 61, 63.
We proceed next to consider the disabilities, rights, and duties.
(1) Disabilities of Aliens. An alien cannot acquire a title to real property by descent, or created by other mere operation of law.) The law quae nihil frustra never casts the freehold upon an alien heir who cannot keep it. This is a well-settled rule of the common law. The right to real estate by descent is governed by the municipal law of the individual states. Nor can an alien take as tenant by the curtesy or in dower. It is understood to be the general rule, that even a natural-born subject cannot take by representation from an alien, because the alien has no inheritable blood through which a title can be deduced. If an alien purchase land, or if land be devised to him, the general rule is, that in these cases he may take and hold, until an inquest of office has been had; but upon his death the land would instantly and of necessity (as the freehold cannot be kept in abeyance), without any inquest of office, escheat and vest in the state, because he is incompetent to transmit by hereditary descent.
Though an alien may purchase land, or take it by devise, yet he is exposed to the danger of being divested of the fee, and of having his lands forfeited to the state, upon an inquest of office found. His title will be good against every person but the state, and if he dies before any such proceeding be had, we have seen that the inheritance cannot descend, but escheats of course. If the alien should undertake to sell to a citizen, yet the prerogative right of forfeiture is not barred by the alienation, and it must be taken to be subject to the right of the government to seize the land. His conveyance is good as against himself, and he may, by a fine, bar