Jones v. Habersham,
107 U.S. 174 (1883)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Jones v. Habersham, 107 U.S. 174 (1883)

Jones v. Habersham

Decided March 5, 1883

107 U.S. 174


1. In a will containing many legacies, bequests, and devises, each present and immediate in form, to individuals and to charitable institutions, a clause expressing a wish and direction that none of the legacies, bequests, or devises "shall be executed or take effect until" a certain memorial hall (in fact nearly finished at the time of the execution of the will and of the testator's death) on land previously conveyed by the testator in trust, "shall be completed and entirely paid for out of my estate," does not suspend the vesting, but only the payment and carrying out of the various legacies, bequests, and devises.

2. Section 2419 of the Code of Georgia of 1873 does not invalidate a charitable devise contained in a will executed within ninety days before the testator's death unless he leaves a wife or child or descendants of a child.

3. The validity of a charitable devise as against the heir at law depends upon the law of the state where the land lies.

4. The validity of a charitable bequest as against the next of kin depends upon the law of the testator's domicile.

5. The law of charities is fully adopted in Georgia as far as is compatible with a free government where no royal prerogative is exercised.

6. A parcel of land, with buildings thereon, was devised to the trustees of the Independent Presbyterian Church in Savannah, an incorporated religious society, "upon the following terms and conditions, and not otherwise:"

1st. That the trustees should appropriate annually out of the rents and profits the sum of $1,000

"to one or more Presbyterian or Congregational Churches in the Georgia in such destitute and needy localities as the proper officers of said Independent Presbyterian Church may select, so as to promote the cause of religion among the poor and feeble churches of the state."

2d. That the trustees should not materially alter the pulpit or galleries of the present church edifice, or sell the lot on which the Sabbath school room of the church stood.

3d. That the trustees should keep in order the burial place of the testator, which he devised to them for that purpose. Held that under the Code of Georgia of 1873, sec. 3157, the charitable purposes named in the first and third conditions were good charitable uses, sufficiently defined; that the trustees were capable of taking the devise, and that its validity was not impaired by the conditions subsequent.

7. A devise to a society incorporated "for the relief of distressed widows and the schooling and maintaining of poor children" of buildings and land, to "use and appropriate the rents and profits for the support of the school and charities of said institution, without said lot being at any time liable for the debts or contracts of said society" is a good charitable devise.

8. A devise to a society incorporated "for the relief of indigent widows and orphans in the City of Savannah" of buildings and land, "the rents and profits to be appropriated to the benevolent purposes of said society," is a good charitable devise.

9. The rule against perpetuities does not apply to charities, and if a devise is made to one charity in the first instance and then over upon a contingency

Page 107 U. S. 175

which may not take place within the limit of that rule, to another charity, the limitation over to the second charity is good.

10. Restrictions imposed by the charter of a corporation upon the amount of property that it may hold cannot be taken advantage of collaterally by private persons, but only in a direct proceeding by the state.

11. The provision of the Constitution of Georgia of 1808 which declares that "the General Assembly shall have no power to grant corporate powers and privileges to private companies" (with certain exceptions), "but it shall prescribe by law the manner in which such powers shall be exercised by the courts," does not take away from the General Assembly the power to amend the charters of existing corporations by modifying or enlarging their powers.

12. A devise to a historical society of a house containing a collection of books, documents, and works of art, in trust to keep and preserve the same, with the collection therein, and other books and works of art to be purchased by the officers of the society out of the income of a fund bequeathed by the devisor for the purpose, "as a public edifice for a library and academy of arts and sciences," and "to be open for the use of the public" on such terms and under such reasonable regulations as the society may prescribe, is a good charitable devise, and is not invalidated by a requirement to place and keep over the entrance a marble slab with the name of the testator engraved thereon, and if the society is incapable of executing the trust, a court of equity, in the exercise of its ordinary jurisdiction and under sec. 3105 of the Code of Georgia of 1873, may appoint a new trustee.

13. A devise and bequest in trust for the building, endowment, and maintenance of

"a hospital for females within the City of Savannah on a permanent basis into which sick and indigent females are to be admitted and cared for in such manner and on such terms as may be defined and prescribed by"

certain directresses named and their associates, who are to obtain an act of incorporation for the purpose, is a valid charitable devise and bequest, although no time is limited for the erection of the building or the obtaining of the charter.

14. A bequest

"to the first Christian church erected or to be erected in the village of Telfairville in Burke County, or to such persons as may become trustees of the same"

is a good charitable bequest.

The case is fully stated in the opinion of the Court.

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