mortmain

(Old French morte meyn, dead hand)

Inalienable possession of land, a dead man's clutch on it. The term signiifies possession in perpetuity; possession of land, or tenements, by any corporation. It was at one time invoked, particularly in England, to question the title of religious and charitable trusts, with a view to misappropriating them, especially such as were invested in the Catholic Church. The policy never found favor in the colonies except in Pennsylvania, in order to prevent dedications of property to superstitious usee, and it can have no place in the jurisprudence of the United States.

New Catholic Dictionary

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