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(môrt`mān') [Fr.,=dead hand], ownership of land by a perpetual corporationcorporation,
in law, organization enjoying legal personality for the purpose of carrying on certain activities. Most corporations are businesses for profit; they are usually organized by three or more subscribers who raise capital for the corporate activities by selling shares
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. The term originally denoted tenure (see tenuretenure,
in law, manner in which property in land is held. The nature of tenure has long been of great importance, both in law and in the broader economic and political context.
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, in law) by a religious corporation, but today it includes ownership by charitable and business corporations. In the Middle Ages the church acquired, by purchase and gift, an enormous amount of land and other property. The struggle over this accumulation of material wealth was an important aspect of the conflict between church and state. Moreover, lands held by monasteries and other religious corporations were generally exempt from taxation and payment of feudal dues, greatly increasing the burden on secular property. Attempts to limit ecclesiastic mortmain began as early as Carolingian times, and by the late 19th cent. the right of religious bodies to own land was in general highly restricted. In many countries the prevailing principle limited such ownership to absolutely necessary holdings. In the United States ecclesiastic mortmain was never a serious problem, and remaining statutes on the subject are essentially inoperative vestiges of former law.


See H. C. Lea, The Dead Hand (1900); C. Zollman, American Civil Church Law (1917).



one of the norms of feudal law in Western and Central Europe.

Under mortmain, a feudal lord had the right to confiscate part of the property of a deceased peasant, usually the best cattle and clothing or their corresponding monetary value. Until the llth century mortmain applied in some form to all individuals who were personally dependent on the landowner; from the 12th and 13th centuries it began disappearing as the peasants received personal freedom, but endured in some backward localities until the 16th to 18th centuries.

For the church mortmain signified a ban against alienation of the landed property of church institutions; in some countries, every landholding of the church was secured in this fashion. It was abolished in the Protestant countries during the Reformation of the 16th century and in France during the French Revolution.

References in periodicals archive ?
Consider how much better the global health professional commodity market would operate without the dead hand of regulation grasping for proof of credentials and comparability of qualifications.
He cautions against complacency, warning that The Dead Hand still lurks.
The Wrong Solution to a Real Problem: Dead Hand Control
His argument in one brief--indeed, cursory--chapter is merely that no viable alternative to markets exists as a macroeconomic organizing principle, so that the triumph of liberalism sooner or later must arrive despite stubborn and effective resistance from the forces of the dead hand.
The shocking thing about Dead Hand is that the ideas that motivated these nightmares--like sequels to a horror movie in which the serial killers resurface time after time -- are still loose in the world.
Cunningham, in contrast, proposes an ambitious and wide-ranging new "master narrative" of the history of anatomy, from the Greeks to the early seventeenth century; in particular, he aims to replace the old story that portrayed sixteenth-century anatomists, most notably Andreas Vesalius, as heroes who used their own experience of the dissected body to liberate their field from the dead hand of Greek textual authorities, such as Galen, and thereby to usher in a modern, "scientific" anatomy.
He shows the civilized side of the policy of the Roman Curia, anxious not to stifle intellectual debate and concerned to preserve the Church from the constraints of the dead hand of the past--`archeolatrie'.
So, since Congress is charged with declaring war, since we don't do that anymore, and since Bosnia--like other contingencies we can expect to face in the future--is strictly a peacekeeping mission anyway, maybe we're just tilting at phantom windmills and letting our, selves be strangled by the dead hand of constitutionalism by belaboring this Bosnia thing.
They variously contain literary criticism, polemics against the dead hand of Jewish tradition, and idealizations of Hasidism.
In the most obvious example, it was the gay black Chicago dj Frankie Knuckles who invented the lean, pared-down sound of house music, and thus helped liberate disco and dance culture from the dead hand of the corporate record industry, with its costly aristocracy moguls and superstars.
When Bonaventure became minister general of the Franciscan Order in 1257, he "understood that the only way to unfasten the grip of Francis's dead hand was to offer an alternative that would transform Francis's history into a new, less action-oriented, and less radical message" (147).
Selavy ordered for writers and directors casting about for relief from the dead hand of realism.