VII. Alienations (1)

Nelson's chapter 36 (pp. 191-4) deals with alienations.

Nelson gives a very distinctive definition of "alienations" which shall be looked at later. That Nelson can hardly have consulted works on the history of English law also appears from his continuous misspelling of the terms "seisin" or "seise" (Nelson writes "seizin" and "seize"). No author on land law up to now ever dared change the word "seiSed" into "seiZed" as Nelson is doing throughout. The reason for not doing so is compelling. The one is almost the opposite of the other. "To seize" lands, "seizure" of land is taking it away from another. "To be seised", "seisin" of lands is to be put into possession by another, legally and formally. Holdsworth explains in  History of English Law , Vol. III, p. 88):

"Seisin means possession. It is derived from the same root as the Roman  possessio  and the German besitz. 'The man who is seised is the man who is sitting on the land. When he was put in seisin he was set there and made to sit there.' ... The meaning of seisin constitute the background of principle which gives colour and unity to its various rules." It was the principle which was constitutive of the difference between lands, freeholds, and non-freeholds, lands considered as chattels, not as real estate.

The term "seisin" was reserved to real estate, the term "entry" to chattels (which included real chattles such as tenure for a term of years, not considered as real estate by common law). A tenant of land for a term of years took possession of the land not by some ceremony called "seisin," but by "entry". No author on land law up to now ever dared change the word "entry" into "entrance" as Nelson is doing throughout. "Entry" was used for the taking possession of land which was not accounted real estate by common law, but was regarded as chattels.

I suppose that Nelson thought "seisin" and "entry" unmodern forms of "seize" and "entrance." Instead of familiarizing himself a little with the law of the age, he applied his own "scholarship", apparently presuming that as a professor of English he could rightly automatically consider himself an "expert" and "professional" in matters of law history and any other matters written in English.

(to be continued)

© Robert Detobel