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subject to the strictest entail, carrying political privileges of the highest importance, and especially registered in immense separate volumes in the provincial capital; they also include (by way of contrast), the tiny subdivisions of the peasant proprietors of the Rhine provinces, where the principles and practices of the Code Napoleon are still deeply rooted in the customs and feelings of the people. They include, on the other hand, specimens taken from the rapidly developing building properties in the suburbs of Berlin, where there are villa residences and restricted covenants, and, on the other, the remote Silesian manors, with their tenant farmers, antique rights of common and commuted rents, and service dating from feudal times. They show the system as applied to vast featureless plains, like the corn growing regions of Hungary, to the busy mining and industrial districts of Saxony and the Black Country of Germany, close to the Russian frontier, as well as to the picturesque Alpine hamlets and pastures, with their innumerable independent rights of way, water and other complicated easements, to be found in Syria and Saltzkammergut; they pass from the intricacies of cellars and flats, courts and passages of the Jews' quarter of the city of Prague to the simple conditions of a quiet agricultural district in Brandenburg; from mortgages on first-class property, involving hundreds of thousands of pounds, and subject to the most complicated subsequent dealings by way of transfer, alteration, subdivisions and collateral security, down to rows of petty charges on diminutive shares in an inconsiderable estate; from the great cities, where values are measured almost by the square inch, to trackless wastes and bare mountains of scarcely any value at all. Over the whole of this vast and diversified tract, embracing an area more than seven times the size of England and Wales, systems of registration of titles differing in no essential particular from the systems established under the Land Registry Acts in England and Ireland, have been in almost universal operation for a considerable period, amounting in the principal Austrian provinces to upwards of eighty years, and in certain places dating from a much more remote period.”


Before entering upon a discussion of the system itself, a brief sketch of the author, whose name it bears, may be interesting and not inappropriate.

Sir Robert Richard Torrens, G. C. M. G., was born at Cork, in Ireland, in 1814, and educated at Trinity College, Dublin. In 1840 he emigrated to South Australia and became collector of customs at Adelaide in 1841. In January, 1852, he was appointed Colonial Treasurer and Registrar General, and when the Colonial Government was established in 1857, he represented the City of Adelaide in the House of Assembly, and became the first Premier of South Australia. His duties as Collector of Customs having made him familiar with the shipping laws, about the year 1850 he. conceived the idea of applying their principles to the registration of land. He labored for eight years without avail to get his system adopted, but finally his efforts were crowned with success, and on January 27, 1858, the “Torrens Act” became the law of South Australia. Amendments were made in 1860 and 1861, and in 1862 the system was adopted practically throughout Australia.

Further amendments to the original act were made in 1878, and in 1886 all the statutes on the subject were embodied in one act, which was subsequently amended in 1887. The system has grown steadily in popularity and efficiency, and probably 80 per cent. of all the lands of Australia have now been brought under its provisions and registered. In 1863 Sir Robert returned to England and was elected to Parliament for the Borough of Cambridge in 1868. He died at Falmouth on August 31, 1884. Most of his energies were devoted to the perfection and extension of his land system, and he wrote a number of articles and pamphlets on the subject. One of the best known and most frequently quoted is “An Essay on the Transfer of Land by Registration," published by the Cobden Club, London, in 1882. In this he emphasizes the fact that his object is to simplify, quicken and cheapen the transfer of real estate, and to render titles safe and indefeasible. And he makes the following claims for his system:

"First-It has substituted security for insecurity.

“Second-It has reduced the cost of conveyancing from pounds to shillings, and the time occupied from months to days.

“Third-It has substituted clearness and brevity for obscurity and verbiage.

“Fourth-It has so simplified ordinary dealings that any person who has mastered the ‘Three Rs can transact his own conveyancing

"Fifth-It affords protection against the largest class of frauds, such as have heretofore been perpetrated.

“Sixth-It has restored to their natural value many estates held under good holding titles, but depreciated on account of some blot or technical defect, and has barred the recurrence of any such defect.

"Seventh-It has largely diminished the number of chancery suits by removing the conditions which afford grounds for them.”

(Extract from biographical sketch by Massie).

It will thus be seen that one of the greatest measures of reform in the law of real property inaugurated in the entire history of the common law was conceived and put into successful operation by a layman without legal training.

Through the influence of Torrens, the other Australian Colonies, Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland, West Australia, Tasmania and New Zealand, quickly followed with similar acts, and since 1874 the system has come into general use throughout all of the British Australasian Colonies.


The first act of this kind in England was Lord Westbury's Act, so-called, 1862. Simultaneously the Declaration of Titles Act was passed, 1862, and in 1865 "An Act for the Recording of Titles in Ireland."

In 1875 the Land Transfer Act (Lord Cairn's Act), was passed. In 1891, 54 and 55 Vict., c. 66, was passed, entitled “An Act to Establish Local Registries of Titles to Land in Ireland," and in 1897 an act amendatory of the Land Transfer Act was

passed. The act of 1875 did not provide for any indemnity; the act of 1897 supplied this feature. Lord Cairn's Act made the registration of titles to land optional, but not compulsory; but by 60 and 61 Vict., c. 65 (1897), it is provided that by order in council, to be published in the "London Gazette,” the Queen may declare that as to any county or part of county registration of title to land is to be compulsory on sale, and in that case the title shall not pass until the transferee is registered as the proprietor of the land.

Under this provision compulsory registration has been extended to the county of London, and since May 1, 1901, no title in the city or county of London can be transferred unless registered. A similar policy is likely to be soon pursued by the council with reference to lands in all the counties of England and Ireland. Compulsory registration is thus proceeding as rapidly as the necessary examination of titles can be made by the Registrar and his officials. A large number of properties have already been placed upon the register without any yet reported loss to adverse claimants, and the certificates of title meet with general satisfaction.

The business in the Registrar's offices in London has lately increased to such an extent that in 1900 Parliament passed an act appropriating $1,325,000 for the purchase of a tract of land in Lincoln's-Inn-Fields and the erection of a new building suitable for the enlarged needs of the department. The new quarters are now in course of construction, if not already completed, and when finished will provide sufficient office space for the registration of all land titles in England.


The unquestioned success of the system in the Australian Colonies led to its adoption in the greater part of Canada and the other British possessions in North America, British Columbia having adopted it in 1870 and Manitoba and Ontario in 1885. Several of our Colorado miners returning from the Klondike have assured us that the system is in operation up there and seems to work admirably. It is notorious that the claim jumper, intimidator and all-around bad man, from whose depredations we have suffered so much in all the early mining excitements in the United States, when he ran up against the Torrens Law as applied to mining titles got such a set-back that he abandoned his vocation in disgust and either went to work or left the country.


ILLINOIS. The State of Illinois is entitled to the distinction of being the first of the United States to adopt a Land Title Registration Act. In 1891 the Illinois State Bar Association and the Chicago Real Estate Board approved resolutions favoring the passage of a joint resolution by the Thirty-seventh General Assembly authorizing the appointment of a commission to consider whether the Australian or Torrens system of registering titles could be adapted to the Constitution and Laws of that State. The resolution was adopted and Governor Fifer appointed the commission, composed of five eminent attorneys, of which the late AttorneyGeneral Edsall was chairman.

The Commission filed its report, together with a draft of a bill, in 1892. The bill failed to pass at that session, but received the approval of the next legislature, under the title of "An Act Concerning Land Titles," approved June 13, 1895. That act contained a referendum clause under which it was adopted in Cook county at the general election in 1895 by practically the unanimous vote of the county. The constitutionality of the law was tested in a quo warranto proceeding, and by its decision, in the case of the People vs. Chase, 165 Ill., 526, the Supreme Court of Illinois, by a bare majority of its members, held the act invalid upon the ground that its provisions for initial registration conferred judicial power upon the Registrar. The act as it then stood did not provide for any judicial proceeding as a basis for the initial registration. A new act under the same title was prepared, providing that the ownership of land should be determined by decree entered in a court of competent jurisdiction, upon which decree the Registrar should issue the first certificate of title. That law passed the Fortieth General Assembly with but four dissenting

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