its most aristocratic tendencies. “Our general principles on the subject of government,” says Mr. Kent, “tend to favour the free circulation of property.”
It cannot fail to strike the French reader who studies the law of inheritance, that on these questions the French legislation is infinitely more democratic even than the American.
The American law makes an equal division of the father's property, but only in the case of his will not being known; “for every man,” says the law, “in the State of New York, (Revised Statutes, vol. iii.. Appendix, p. 51,) has entire liberty, power, and authority, to dispose of his property by will, to leave it entire, or divided in favour of any persons he chooses as his heirs, provided he do not leave it to a political body or any corporation.” The French law obliges the testator to divide his property equally, or nearly so, among his heirs.
Most of the American republics still admit of entails, under certain restrictions; but the French law prohibits entail in all cases.
If the social condition of the Americans is more democratic than that of the French, the laws of the latter are the most democratic of the two. This may be explained more easily than at first appears to be the case. In France, democracy is still occupied in the work of destruction; in America it reigns quietly over the ruins it has made.