MORTMAIN (O. Fr. mortemain; med. Lat. mortua manus, dead hand), the state or condition of lands or tenements when held by a corporation in perpetual or inalienable tenure. Alienation in mortmain having the effect of depriving the lord of the incidents of seignory, which arose through the death or felony of the tenant or failure of his heirs, many English statutes were passed directed against such alienation. The earliest is that of Henry III. 36 (Magna Carta) ; others being 7 Edward 1. 13 (De Viris Religiosis); 13 Edward I. 32; 15 Richard II. 5; and 23 Henry VIII. 10. The present law is regulated by the Mortmain and Charitable Uses Act 1888, as amended by the act of 1891.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)