DECREE, practice. The judgment or sentence of a court of equity.
2. It is either interlocutory or final. The former is given on some plea or
issue arising in the cause, which does not decide the main question; the latter
settles the matter in dispute, and a final decree has the same effect as a
judgment at law. 2 Madd. Ch. 462; 1 Chan. Cas. 27; 2 Vern. 89; 4 Bro. P. C.
287.; Vide 7r-Vin. Ab. 394; 7 Com. Dig. 445; 1 Supp. to Ves. Jr. 223 Bouv. Inst.
Index, h. t.
DECREE, legislation. In some countries as in France, some acts of the
legislature, or of the sovereign, which have the force of law, are called
decrees; as, the Berlin and Milan decrees.
DECREE ARBITRAL, Scotch law. A decree made by arbitrators chosen by
the parties; an award. 1 Bell's Com. 643.
DECREE OF REGISTRATION, Scotch law. A proceeding by which the creditor
has immediate execution; it is somewhat like a warrant of attorney to confess
judgment. 1 Bell's Com. B. 1, c. 1, p. 4.
DECRETAL ORDER. Chancery practice. An order made by the court of
chancery, upon a motion or petition, in the nature of a decree. 2 Dan. Ch. Pr.
DECRETALS. eccles. law. The decretals are canononical epistles,
written by the pope alone, or by the pope and cardinals, at the instance or suit
of some one or more persons, for the ordering and determining some matter in.
controversy, and have the authority of a law in themselves.
2. The decretals were published in three volumes. The first volume was
collected by Raymundus Barcinius, chaplain to Gregory IX., about the year 1231,
and published by him to be read in schools, and used in the ecclesiastical
courts. The second volume is the work of Boniface VIII compiled about the year
1298, with additions to and alterations of the ordinances of his predecessors.
The third volume is called the Clementines, because made by Clement V., and was
published by him in the council of Vienna, about the year 1308. To these may be
added the Extravagantes of John XXII. and other bishops of Rome, which,
relatively to the others, are called Novelle Constitutiones. Ridley's View,
&c. 99, 100,; 1 Fournel, Hist. des Avocats, 194-5.
3. The false decretals were forged. in the names of the early bishops of
Rome, and first appeared about A. D. 845-850. The author of them is not known.
They are mentioned in a letter written in the name of the council of Quiercy, by
Charles the Bald, to the bishops and lords. of France. See Van Espen Fleury,
Droit de Canon, by Andre.
DEDI, conveyancing. I have given. This word amounts to a warranty in
law, when it is in a deed; for example, if in a deed it be said, I have given,
&c., to A B, this is a warranty to him and his heirs. Brooke, Abr.
Guaranties, pl. 85. Yet the warranty wrought by this word is a special warranty,
and extendeth to the heirs of the feoffee during the life of the donor only. Co.
Litt. 884, b. Vide Concessi.
DEDICATION. Solemn appropriation. It may be expressed or implied.
2. An express dedication of property to public use is made by a direct
appropriation of it to such use, and it will be enforced. 2 Peters, R. 566; 6
Hill, N. Y. Rep. 407.
3. But a dedication of property to public or pious uses may be implied from
the acts of the owner. A permission to the public for the space of eight or even
six years, to use a street without bar or impediment, is evidence from which a
dedication to the public may be inferred. 2 Bouv. Inst. n. 1631; 11 East, R.
376; 12 Wheat. R. 585; 10 Pet. 662; 2 Watts, 23; 1 Whart. 469; 3 Verm, 279; 6
Verm. 365; 7 Ham. part 2, 135; 12 Wend. 172; 11 Ala. R. 63, 81; 1 Spencer, 86; 8
Miss. R. 448 5 Watts & S. 141; Wright, 150; 6 Hill, 407 24 Pick. 71; 6 Pet.
431, 498 9 Port.,527; 3 Bing. 447; sed vide 5 Taunt. R . 125. Vide Street, and
the following authorities: 3 Kent, Com. 450; 5 Taunt. 125 5 Barn. & Ald.
454: 4 Barn. & Ald. 447; Math. Pres. 833. As to what shall amount to a
dedication of an invention to public use, see 1 Gallis. 482; 1 Paine's C. C. R.
345; 2. Pet. R. 1; 7 Pet. R. 292; 4 Mason, R. 1018. See Destination.
DEDIMUS, practice. The name of a writ to commission private. persons
to do some act in the place of a judge; as, to administer an oath of office to a
justice of the peace, to examine witnesses, and the like. 4 Com. Dig. 319; 3
Com. Dig. 359; Dane's Ab. Index, h. t. Rey, in his Institutions Judiciaires, de
l'Angleterre, tom. 2, p. 214, exposes the absurdity of the name given to this
writ; he says it is applicable to every writ which emanates from the same
authority; dedimus, we have given.
DEDIMUS POTESTATEM DE ATTORNO FACIENCDO. The name of a writ which was
formerly issued by authority of the crown in England to authorize an attorney to
appear for a defendant.
2. By statute of Westminster 2, 13 Edw. I. c. 10, all persons impleaded may
make an attorney to sue for them in all pleas moved by or against them, in the
superior courts there enumerated. 3 Mann. & Gran. 184, note.
DEED, conveyancing, contracts. A writing or instrument, under seal,
containing some contract or agreement, and which has been delivered by the
parties. Co. Litt. 171; 2 Bl. Com. 295; Shep. Touch. 50. This applies to all
instruments in writing, under seal, whether they relate to the conveyance of
lands, or to any other matter; a bond, a single bill, an agreement in writing,
or any other contract whatever, when reduced to writing, which writing is sealed
and delivered, is as much a deed as any conveyance of land. 2 Serg. & Rawle,
504; 1 Mood. Cr, Cas. 57; 5 Dana, 365; 1 How. Miss. R. 154; 1 McMullan, 373.
Signing is not necessary at common law to make a deed. 2 Ev. Poth. 165; 11 Co.
Rep. 278 6 S. & R. 311.
2. Deed, in its more confined sense, signifies a writing, by which lands,
tenements, and hereditaments are conveyed, which writing is sealed and delivered
by the parties.
3. The formal parts of a deed for the conveyance of land are, 1st. The
premises, which contains all that precedes the habendum, namely, the date, the
names and descriptions of the parties, the recitals, the consideration, the
receipt of the same, the grant, the full description of the thing granted, and
the exceptions, if any.
4. - 2d. The habendum, which states that estate or interest is granted by the
deed this is sometimes, done in the premises.
5. - 3d. The tenendum. This was formerly used to express the tenure by which
the estate granted was to be held; but now that all freehold tenures have been
converted into socage, the tenendum is of no use and it is therefore joined to
the habendum, under the formula to have and to hold.
6th. The redendum is that part of the deed by which the grantor reserves
something to himself, out of the thing granted, as a rent, under the following
formula, Yielding and paying.
7. - 5th. The conditions upon which the grant is made. Vide Conditions.
8. - 6th. The warranty, is that part by which the grantor warrants the title
to the grantee. This is general when the warrant is against all persons, or
special, when it is only against the grantor, his heirs, and those claiming
under him. See Warranty.
9. - 7th. The covenants, if any; these are inserted to oblige the parties or
one of them, to do something beneficial to, or to abstain from something, which,
if done, might be prejudicial to the other.
10. - 8th. The conclusion, which mentions the execution and the date, either
expressly, or by reference to the beginning.
11. The circumstances necessarily attendant upon a valid deed, are the
following: 1. It must be written or printed on parchment or paper. Litt. 229, a;
2 Bl. Com. 297. 2. There must be sufficient parties. 3. A proper subject-matter
which is the object of the grant. 4. A. sufficient consideration. 5. An
agreement properly set forth. 6. It must be read, if desired. 7. It must be
signed and sealed. 8. It must be delivered. 9. And attested by witnesses. 10. It
should be properly acknowledged before a competent officer.
11. It ought to be recorded.
12. A deed may be avoided, 1. By alterations made in it subsequent to its
execution, when made by the party himself, whether they be material or
immaterial, and by any material alteration, made even by a stranger. Vide
2. By the disagreement of those parties whose concurrence is necessary; for
instance, in the case of a married woman by the disagreement of her hushand. 3.
By the judgment of a competent tribunal.
13. According to Sir William Blackstone, 2 Com. 313, deeds may be considered
as (1), conveyanees at common law, original and derivative. 1st. The original
are, 1. Feoffment. 2. Gift. 3. Grant. 4. Lease. 5. Exchange; and 6. Partition.
2d. Derivative, which are 7. Release. 8. Confirmation. 9. Surrender. 10.
Assignment 11. Defeasance. (2). Conveyances which derive their force by virtue
of the statute of uses; namely, 12. Covenant to stand seised to uses. 13.
Bargain and sale of lands. 14. Lease and release. 15. Deed to lead and declare
uses. 16. Deed of revocation of uses.
14. The deed of, bargain and sale, is the most usual in the United States.
Vide Bargain and Sale. Chancellor Kent is of opinion that a deed would be
perfectly competent in any part of the United States, to convey the fee, if it
was to the following effect: "I, A, B, in consideration of one dollar to me
paid, by C D, do bargain and sell , (or in some of the states, grant) to C D,
and his heirs, (in New York, Virginia, and some other states, the words, and his
heirs may be omitted,) the lot of land, (describing it,) witness my hand and
seal," &c. 4 Kent, Com. 452. Vide, generally, Bouv. Inst. Index, h. t.; Vin.
Abr. Fait; Com. Dig. Fait; Shep. Touch. ch. 4; Dane's Ab. Index, h. t.; 4
Cruise's Dig. passim.
15. Title deeds are considered as part of the inheritance and pass to the
heir as real estate. A tenant in tail is, therefore, entitled to them; and
chancery will, enable him to get possession of them. 1 Bro. R. 206; 1 Ves. jr.
227;11 Ves. 277; 15 Ves. 173. See Hill. Ab. c. 25; 1 Bibb, R. 333: 3 Mass. 487;
5 Mass. 472.
16. The cancellation, surrender, or destruction of a deed of conveyance, will
not divest the estate which has passed by force of it. 1 Johns. Ch. Rep. 417 2
Johns. Rep. 87. As to the effect of a redelivery of a deed, see 2 Bl. Com. 308 2
H. Bl. 263, 264.
DEED POLL, contracts. A deed made by one party only is not indented,
but polled or shaved quite even, and is, for this reason, called a deed poll, or
single deed. Co. Litt. 299, a.
2. A deed poll is not, strictly speaking, an agreement between two persons;
but a declaration of some one particular person, respecting an agreement made by
him with some other person. For example, a feoffment from A to B by deed poll,
is not an agreement between A and B, but rather a declaration by A addressed to
all mankind, informing them that he thereby gives and enfeoffs B of certain land
3. It was formerly called charta de una parte, and, usually began with these
words, Sciant praesentes et futuri quod ego A, &c.; and now begins, "Know
all men by these presents, that I, A B, have given, granted, and enfeoffed, and
by these presents do give, grant and enfeoff," &c. Cruise, Real Prop. tit.
32, c. 1, s. 23.
DEFALCATION, practice, contracts. The reduction of the claim of one of
the contracting parties against the other, by deducting from it a smaller claim
due from the former to the latter.
2. The law operates this reduction , in certain cases, for, if the parties
die or are insolvent, the balance between them is the only claim; but if they
are solvent and alive, the defendant may or may not defalcate at his choice. See
Set off. For the etymology of this word, see Bracken. Law Misc. 186; 1 Rawle's
R. 291; 3 Binn. R. 135.
3. Defalcation also signifies the act of a defaulter. The bankrupt act of
August 19, 1841, (now repealed), declares that a person who owes debts which
have been created in consequence of a defalcation as a public officer, or as
executor, administrator, guardian or trustee, or while acting in any other
fiduciary capacity, shall not have the benefit of that law.
DEFAMATION, tort. The speaking slanderous words of a person so as, de
bona fama aliquid detrahere, to hurt his good fame. Vide Slander.
2. In the United States, the remedy for defamation is by an action on the
case, where the words are slanderous.
3. In England, besides the remedy by action, proceedings may be instituted in
the ecclesiastical court for redress of the injury. The punishment for
defamation, in this court, is payment of costs and penance enjoined at the
discretion of the judge. When the slander has been privately uttered, the
penance may be ordered to be performed in a private place; when publicly
uttered, the sentence must be public, as in the church of the parish of the
defamed party, in time of divine service,, and the defamer may be required
publicly to pronounce that by such words, naming them, as set forth in the
sentence, he had defamed the plaintiff, and, therefore, that he begs pardon,
first, of God, and then of the party defamed, for uttering such words. Clerk's
Assist. 225; 3 Burn's Eccl. Law, Defamation, pl. 14; 2 Chit. Pr. 471 Cooke on
DEFAULT. The neglect to perform a legal obligation or duty; but in
technical language by default is often understood the non-appearance of the
defendant within the time prescribed by law, to defend himself; it also
signifies the non-appearance of the plaintiff to prosecute his claim.
2. When the plaintiff makes default, he may be nonsuited; and when the
defendant makes default, judgment by default is rendered against him. Com. Dig.
Pleader, E 42 Id. B 11. Vide article Judgment by Default, and 7 Vin. Ab. 429;
Doct. Pl. 208 Grah. Pr. 631. See, as to what will excuse or save a default, Co.
Litt. 259 b.
DEFAULT, contracts, torts. By the 4th section of the English statute
of frauds, 29 Car. H., c. 3, it is enacted that "no action shall be brought to
charge the defendant upon any special promise to answer for the debt, default,
or miscarriage of another person, unless the agreement," &c., "shall be in
writing," &c. By default under this statute is understood the
non-performance of duty, though the same be not founded on a contract. 2 B.
& A. 516.
DEFAULTER, com. law. One who is deficient in his accounts, or falls in
making his accounts correct.
DEFEASANCE, contracts, conveyancing. An instrument which defeats the
force or operation of some other deed or estate. That, which in the same deed is
called a condition, in another deed is a defeasance.
2. Every defeasance must contain proper words, as that the thing shall be
void. 2 Salk. 575 Willes, 108; and vide Carth. 64. A defeasance must be made in
eodem modo, and by, matter as high as the thing to be defeated; so that if one
be by deed) the other must also be by deed. Touchs. 397.
3. It is a general rule, that the defeasance shall be a part, of the same
transaction with the conveyance; though the defeasance may be dated after the
deed. 12 Mass. R. 13 Pie P. 413 1 N. 11. Rep. 41; but see 4 Yerg. 57, contra.
Vide Bouv. Inst. Index, h. t.; Vin. Ab. h. t.; Com. Dig. h. t.; Id. Pleader, 2 W
35, 2 W 37; Lilly's Reg. h. t.; Nels. Ab. h. t.; 2 Saund. 47 n, note 1; Cruise,
Dig. tit. 32, c. 7,, s. 25; 18 John. R. 45; 9 Wend. R. 538; 2 Mass. R. 493.
DEFEASIBLE. What may be undone or annulled.
DEFECT. The want of something required by law.
2. It is a general rule that pleadings shall have these two requisites; 1. A
matter sufficient in law. 2. That it be deduced and expressed according to the
forms of law. The want of either of these is a defect.
3. Defects in matters of substance cannot be cured, because it does not
appear that the plaintiff is entitled to recover; but when the defects are in
matter of form, they are cured by a verdict in favor of the party who committed
them. 3 Bouv. Inst. n. 3292; 2 Wash. 1; 1 Hen. & Munf. 153; 16 Pick. 128,
541; 1 Day, 315; 4 Conn, 190; 5 Conn. 416; 6 Conn. 176; 12 Conn. 455; 1 P. C. C.
R. 76; 2 Green, 133; 4 Blackf. 107; 2 M'Lean, 35; Bac. Ab. Verdict, X.
DEFENCE, torts. A forcible resistance of an attack by force.
2. A man is justified, in defending his person, that of his wife, children,
and servants, and for this purpose he may use as much force as may be necessary,
even to killing the assailant, remembering that the means used must always be
proportioned to the occasion, and an excess becomes, itself, an injury.
3. A man may also repel force by force in defence of his personal property,
and even justify homicide against one Who manifestly intends or endeavors by
violence or surprise to commit a known felony, as robbery.
4. With respect to the defence or protection of the possession of real
property, although it is justifiable even to kill a person in the act of
attempting to commit a forcible felony, as burglary or arson, yet this
justification can only take place when the party in possession is wholly without
fault. 1 Hale, 440, 444; 1 East, P. C. 259, 277. When a forcible attack is made
upon the dwelling-house of another, without any felonious intent, but barely to
commit a trespass, it is in general lawful to oppose force by force, when the
former was clearly illegal. 7 Bing. 305; S. C. 20 Eng. C. L. Rep. 139. Vide,
generally, Ham. N. P. 136, 151 1 Chit. Pr. 589, 616; Grot. lib. 2, c. 1 Rutherf.
Inst. B. 1, c. 16.
DEFENCE, pleading, practice. It is defined to be the denial of the
truth or validity of the complaint, and does not signify a justification. It is
a general assertion that the plaintiff has no ground of action, which assertion
is afterwards extended and maintained in the plea. 3 Bl. Com. 296; Co. Litt.
127. It is similar to the contestatio litis of the civilians.
2. Defence is of two descriptions; first half defence, which is as follows,
"venit et defendit vim et injuriam, et dicit," &c.; or secondly, full
defence, "venit et defendit vim et injuriam, quando," &c. meaning "quando et
ubi curia consideravit," (or when and where it shall behoove him,) " et damna et
quicquid quod ipse defendere debet et dicit," &c. Co. Litt. 127, b; Bac.
Abr. Pleas, D Willis, 41.
3. In strictness, the words quando, &c. ought not to be added when only
half defence is to be made; and after the words "venit et defendit vim et
injuriam," the subject matter of the plea should immediately be stated. Gilb. C.
P. 188; 8 T. R. 6 3 2; 3 B. & P. 9, n. a.
4. It has, however, now become the practice in all cases, whether half or
full defence be intended, to, state it a's follows: "And the said C D, by M N,
his attorney, comes and defends the wrong, (or in trespass, force) and injury,
when, &c. and says," which will be considered only as half defence in cases
where such defence should be made, and as full defence where the latter is
necessary. 8 T. R. 633; Willis, 41 3 B. & P. 9; 2 Saund. 209, c.
5. If full defence were made expressly by the words "when and where it shall
behoove him," and "the damages and whatever else he ought to defend," the
defendant would be precluded from pleading to the jurisdiction or in abatement,
for by defending when and where it shall behoove him, the defendant acknowledges
the jurisdiction of the court and by defending the damages he waives all.
exception to the person of the plaintiff. 2 Saund. 209, c.; 3 Bl. Com. 297 Co.
Litt. 127, b Bac. Abr. Pleas, D.
6. Want of defence being only matter of form, the omission is aided by
general demurrer. 3 Salk. 271. See further, 7 Vin. Abr. 497; 1 Chit. Pl. 410;
Com. Dig. Abatement, I 16; Gould. on Pl. c. 2, s. 6-15; Steph. Pl. 430.
7. In another sense, defence signifies a justification; as, the defendant has
made a successful defence to the charge laid in the indictment.
8. The Act of Congress of April 30, 1790, 1 Story, L. U. S. 89, acting upon
the principles adopted in perhaps all the states, enacts, §28, that every person
accused and indicted of the crime of treason, or other capital offence, shall
"be allowed and admitted to make his full defence by counsel learned in the law;
and the court before whom such person shall be tried, or some judge thereof,
shall, and they are hereby authorized and requited, immediately upon his
request, to assign to such person such counsel, not exceeding two, as such
person shall desire, to whom such counsel shall have free access, at all
seasonable hours; and every such person or persons, accused or indicted of the
crimes aforesaid, shall be allowed and admitted in his said defence, to make any
proof that he or they can produce, by lawful witness or witnesses, and shall
have the like process of the court where he or they shall be tried, to compel
his or their witnesses to appear at his or their trial, as is usually granted to
compel witnesses to appear on the prosecution against them."
9. Defences in equity may be classed in two divisions, namely into dilator
defences, (q. v.) and into those which are peremptory. Matters of peremptory or
permanent defences may be also divided into two sorts, first, those where the
plaintiff never had any right to institute the suit; for example: 1. That the
plaintiff had not a superior right to the defendant. 2. That the defendant has
no interest. 3. That there is no privity between the plaintiff and defendant, or
any right to sustain the suit. Secondly, those that insist that the original
right, if any, is extinguished or determined; as, 1. When the right is
determined by the act of the parties; or, 2. When it is determined by operation
of law. 4 Bouv. Inst. n. 4199, et seq.; 1 Montag. Eq. Pl. 89. See Dilatory
TO DEFEND. To forbid. This word is used in some old English statutes
in the sense it has in French, namely, to forbid. 5 Pic. 2, c. Lord Coke uses
the word in this sense: it is defended by law to distrain on the highway." Co
Litt. 160, b. 161 a. In an old work entitled , Legends, printed by Winkin de
Worde, in 1527, fo. 96, we find examples of the use of the word in this sense, "
He defended," (forbade) " to pay the wage," (tribute,) " for he said he was a
king." " She wrote the obligation when she put her hand to the tree against the
defence." (prohibition of God.)
2. In pleading, to defend is to deny; and the effect of the word "defends"
is, that the defendant denies the right of the plaintiff, or the force and wrong
charged. Steph. Pl. 432.
3. In contracts, to defend is to guaranty; to agree to indemnify. In most
conveyances of land the grantor covenants to warrant and defend. It is his duty,
then, to prevent all persons against whom he defends, from doing any act which
would evict him; when there is a mortgage upon the land, and the mortgagee
demands possession or payment of the covenantee, and threatens suit, this is a
breach of the covenant to defend, and for quiet enjoyment. 17 Mass. R. 586.
DEFENDANT. A party who is sued in a personal action. Vide Demandant;
Par- ties to Actions; Pursuer; and Com. Dig. Abatement, F; Action upon the case
upon assumpsit, E, b; Bouv. Inst. Index, h. t.
2. At common law a defendant cannot have judgment to recoyer a sum of money
of the plaintiff. But this rule is, in some cases, altered by the act of
assembly in Pennsylvania, as by the. Act of 1705, for defalcation, by which he
may sue out a sci. fac. on the record of a verdict for a sum found in his favor.
6 Binn. Rep. 175. See Account 6.
DEFENDANT IN ERROR. A party against whom a writ of error is sued
DEFENDER, canon law. The name by which the defendant or respondent is
known in the ecclesiastical courts.
DEFENSIVE ALLEGATION. The defence or mode of propounding a defence in
the spiritual courts, is so called.
DEFICIT. This Latin term signifies that something is wanting. It is
used to express the deficiency which is discovered in the accounts of an
accountant, or in the money in which he has received.
DEFINITE NUMBER. An ascertained number; the term is usually applied in
opposition to an indefinite number.
2. When there is a definite number of corporators, in order to do a lawful
act, a majority of the whole must be present; but it is not necessary they
should, be unanimous; a majority of those present can, in general, perform the
act. But when the corporators consist of an indefinite number, any number,
consisting of a majority of those present, may do the act. 7 Cowen, R. 402 9 B.
& Cr. 648, 851; 7 S. & 11. 517; Ang. & Am. on Corp. 281.
DEFINITION. An enumerition of the principal ideas of which a compound
idea is formed, to ascertain and explain its nature and character; or it is that
which denotes and points out the substance of a thing, to us. Ayliffe's Pand.
2. A definition ought to contain every idea which belongs to the thing
defined, and exclude all others.
3. A definition should be, 1st. Universal, that is, such that it will apply
equally to all individuals of, the same kind. 2d. Proper, that is, such that it
will not apply to any other individual of any other kind. 3d. Clear, that is,
without any equivocal, vague, or unknown word. 4th. Short, that is, without any
useless word, or any foreign to the idea intended to be defined.
4. Definitions are always dangerous, because it is always difficult to
prevent their being inaccurate, or their becoming so; omnis definitio injure
civili periculosa est, parum est enim, ut non subvertipossit.
5. All ideas are not susceptible of definitions, and many words cannot be
defined. This inability is frequently supplied, in a considerable degree, by
descriptions. (q. v.)
DEFINITIVE. That which terminates a suit a definitive sentence or
judgment is put in opposition to an interlocutory judgment; final. (q. v.)
DEFLORATION. The act by which a woman is deprived of her
2. When this is done unlawfully, and against her will, it bears the name of
rape, (q. v.) when she consents, it is fornication. (q. v.)
DE FORCIANT. One who wrongfully keeps the owner of lands and tenements
out of the possession of them. 2 Bl. Com. 350.
DEFORCIARE. To withhold lands or tenements from the right owner. This
is a word of art which cannot be supplied by any other word. Co. Litt. 331 b; 3
Tho. Co. Litt. 3; Bract. lib. 4, 238; Fleta, lib. c.
DEFORCEMENT, tort. In its most extensive sense it signifies the
holding of any lands or tenements to which another person has a right; Co .
Litt. 277; so that this includes, as well, an abatement, an intrusion, a
disseisin, or a discontinuance, as any other species of wrong whatsoever, by
which the owner of the freehold is kept out of possession. But, as
contradistinguished from the former, it is only such a detainer, of the
freehold, from him who has the right of property, as falls within none of the
injuries above mentioned. 3 Bl. Com. 173; Archb. Civ. Pl. 13; Dane's Ab. Index,
DEFORCEMENT, Scotch law. The opposition given, or resistance made, to
messengers or other officers, while they are employed in executing the law.
2. This crime is punished by confiscation of movables, the one half to the
king, and the other to the creditor at whose suit the diligence is used. Ersk.
Pr. L. Scot. 4,4,32.
DEFUNCT. A term used for one that is deceased or dead. In some acts of
assembly in Pennsylvania, such deceased person is called a decedent. (q. v.)
DEGRADATION, punishment, ecclesiastical law. A censure by which a
clergy man is deprived of his holy orders, which he had as a priest or
TO DEGRADE, DEGRADING. To, sink or lower a person in the estimation of
2. As a man's character is of great importance to him, and it is his interest
to retain the good opinion of all mankind, when he is a witness, he cannot be
compelled to disclose any matter which would tend to disgrace or degrade him, 13
How. St. Tr. 17, 334, 16 How. St. Tr. 161. A question having that tendency,
however, may be asked, and, in such case, when the witness chooses to answer it,
the answer is conclusive. 1 Phil. Ev. 269; R. & M. 383.
DEGREE, descents. This word is derived from the French degre, which is
itself taken from the Latin gradus, and signifies literally, a step in a
stairway, or the round of a ladder.
2. Figuratively applied, and as it is understood in law, it is the distance
between those who are allied by blood; it means the relations descending from a
common ancestor, from generation to generation, as by so many steps. Hence,
according to some Lexicographers, we obtain the word, pedigree (q. v.) Par
degrez, by degree, the descent being reckoned par degrez. Minshew. Each
generation lengthens the line of descent one degree, for the degrees are only
the generations marked in a line by small circles or squares, in which the names
of the persons forming it are written. Vide Consanguinity;, Line; and also
Ayliffe's Parergon, 209; Toull. Dr. Civ. Frau. liv. 3, t. 1, c. 3, n. 158; Aso
& Man. Inst. B. 2, t. 4, c. 3, §1.
DEGREE, measures. In angular measures, a degree is equal to sixty
minutes, or the thirtieth part of a sine. Vide Measure.
DEGREE, persons. By. degree, is understood the state or condition of a
person. The ancient English statute of additions, for example, requires that in
process, for the better description of a defendant, his state, degree, or
mystery, shall be mentioned.
DEGREES, academical. Marks of distinction conferred on students, in
testimony of their proficiency in arts and sciences. They are of pontifical
origin. See 1 Schmidt's Thesaurus, 144; Vicat, ad voc. Doctores Minshew, Dict.
ad voc Bacheler; Merl. Rep ad voc Universite; Van Espen, p. 1, tit. 10, c.
Giaunone Istoria, di Napoli, lib. xi. c. 2, for a full account of this
DEHORS. Out of; without. By this word is understood something out of
the record, agreement, will, or other thing spoken of; something foreign to the
matter in question.
DEI JUDICIUM. The judgment of God. This name was given to the
barbarous and superstitious trial by ordeal.
DEL CREDERE, contracts. A del credere commission is one under which
the agent, in consideration of an additional premium, engages to insure to his
principal not only the solvency of the debtor, but the punctual discharge of the
debt; and he is liable, in the first instance, without any demand from the
debtor. 6 Bro. P. C. 287; Beawes, 429; 1 T. Rep. 112; Paley on Agency, 39.
2. If the agent receive the amount of sales, and remit the amount to the
principal by a bill of exchange, he is not liable if it should be protested. 2
W. C. C. R. 378. See, also, Com. Dig. Merchant, B; 4 M. & S. 574.