Page images

features of the system for the accommodation of the gentleman from Mecklenburg, he can do so.

Mr. Massie: I will take great pleasure in giving the gentleman some literature, if he will drop by my office.

Mr. Williams: I understand the question is to be voted on now; it will be too late afterwards to get the information from the Secretary. It may be a good thing; gentlemen in whom I have the greatest confidence seem to think so, but others seem to want to know more about it.

Mr. Massie: Mr. President and gentlemen, I have, on various other occasions, attempted to explain this system in my own way, and now, at the request of the gentleman who has just spoken, I will read from the report of the Committee on Legislation and Law Reform of the Michigan State Bar Association in advocacy of the movement in that State. The advantages were set forth under four heads. This extract has been published very recently in the Law Register, at my instance, but it is such an excellent statement I will read it for the benefit of the gentleman from Clarksville and others who may not have seen it.


"The Torrens System substitutes for the present system of registering deeds a system of registering titles. Instead of an ever-lengthening list of deeds to be examined by a lawyer, whose opinion as to the validity of the title conveyed is often the purchaser's sole guaranty, is substituted a certificate as simple as a certificate of stock, showing on its face in whom the title is vested, and also all the liens or other interests existing in the premises in question. The correctness of this certificate is guaranteed by law.


"The evils of the present system are manifest, particularly in large cities and in the older communities. These are:

"1. Expense. The cost of the abstract, or its continuation, and the opinion of counsel thereon upon every transfer.

"2. Delay. This may extend to several months, the time being spent to procure abstract and deeds to fill the gaps in the chain of title and in negotiating as to claimed defects.

"3. Insecurity. Errors may and often do exist in the abstract. They may and do also exist in the opinion of counsel.

"4. The constantly lengthening chain of deeds to be examined constantly increases the expense, delay and insecurity.

"5. These defects operate as a perpetual tax upon the holder. of real estate, depreciate its value and make it notoriously a 'slow' asset.


"Actual experience has demonstrated that the Torrens System will correct all these defects.

"1. The expense of the initial registration does not exceed the cost of a single transfer under the present system. In all subsequent transfers the expense will be much less than now. In ordinary cases the total expense would not exceed two dollars.

"2. Speed. In the generality of cases, the transfer or mortgage, including the examination of title, all may be completed within an hour.

"3. The title is rested or quieted at every transfer; there is no long chain of deeds to be examined; the chance for error is eliminated; and the title, as transferred, is guaranteed not only by the seller's warranty, but by the law.


"4. The records are shortened. No deeds are recorded. original or duplicate deed is filed and left with the registrar. "5. This safe, short and inexpensive method of transfer increases the value of the land and makes it a 'quick' asset."

[ocr errors]

Mr. Massie: If you want to borrow money on your real estate now, you have to record a deed of trust, which notifies all the world that you are borrowing money in the market, and not only injures the credit of the borrower, but may injure the value of the real estate. Under this system it is possible to have transactions with real estate somewhat as with personal prop

erty, and you need not always take the public into your confidence whenever you have such transactions.

I read further

from the report:


"The principles of the Torrens System are:

"1. A public examination of title in the United States by a court of competent jurisdiction.

"2. A registration of the title found upon such examination. "3. Issuance of a certificate of title.

"4. Re-registration of title upon every subsequent transfer. "5. Notice on the certificate of any matter affecting a registered title. Claims not registered have no validity.

"6. Indemnity against loss out of an assurance fund."

I trust this succinct and admirable statement may give the gentleman from Clarksville such information as he desires; and if he will examine the certificate of title I now hand him from Australia, it will cast further light upon the subject. Such a certificate affords the best illustration of the advantages of the system. Any one can tell from it at a glance the exact state of the title, and every one can rely upon the facts set forth therein.

Mr. George Bryan, of Richmond: Mr. President, I hope it will be the pleasure of the Association to adopt the motion of the gentleman from Alexandria. I do not know what the ideas of Mr. Smith are about rushing. I have been a member of the Association for about four years, and it seems to me that we have been lulled to sleep at every meeting by the Torrens System. Every member of the Association is charged with actual or constructive notice of the Torrens System, because the literature is there, and if any one does not know what the Torrens System is, it is not the fault of the Association. Therefore, I do not think the motion is chargeable with the objection of being too speedy in its nature.

Another point is this and I can speak from a little experience on the subject: It is a recommendation to the Legislature, that is all. I had a measure here last year which I

wished to obtain legislative action upon, and I was mindful of the fact that the endorsement of the Association would carry some weight at least, I thought it would. I presented it to the proper committee of the Legislature, and was advised not to present it as coming from the Association, because it would then be at once regarded with suspicion, that it would be thought that the lawyers had some "cat in the meal-tub," and were trying to strangle the rights of the people of Virginia by some measure which they had considered carefully beforehand, but which the Legislature did not understand. Acting upon this suggestion, I said nothing about the Association, but introduced it to the Assembly on its own merits, and it was promptly passed by both branches. Therefore, I say that if there is anything in the measure to-day, the recommendation of the Association would be death to the measure when it came before the Legislature, and consequently I see no harm that can come, except to the measure itself, from such action; and as its proponents and patrons request us to act, I think we will be taking no radical steps in giving it our approbation at this stage, or dropping it into the depths.

Mr. Jackson Guy, of Richmond: Mr. President, I cannot help feeling that if the Association adopts the resolution which has been offered, it will be hasty action. Our deliberations should certainly have the force of due consideration, and of some perfect need and necessity behind them. We are dealing professedly with something which is an experiment. I feel myself totally incompetent to judge of its merits, either for good or for bad. But I do feel, sir, an increasing hesitation to give my voice, and particularly the voice of this influential and dignified body of our State, to some measure of purely untried expediency. This plan of dealing with land titles, which must be a total revolution in everything we have been accustomed to, has been introduced, our friend informs us, in five States of the Union in the last five or ten years; but those are such States as are adapted to the making of such experiments. I hardly think that old Virginia, with its conservatism, is prepared to take any such step. We were told, sir, in the

delightful address we had from you on yesterday, that the State of Massachusetts, which is the leader in the adoption of the Torrens System, has wealth surpassing anything we have in Virginia. They can afford experiments; their experiments may succeed or they may fail, and it will not hurt them.

But what impresses me is, as Mr. Massie has just informed us, that under the Torrens System a negotiation may be effected with real estate without publicity. That, sir, constitutes the crowning objection to the system, in the beginning, certainly, to my mind. I will undertake to say that no one can controvert the proposition that all of our economic laws dealing with real estate and with tangible personal property are based upon the supposition that the party who is in possession of such property is the owner of that property, and that as such it constitutes a basis of credit for him, and that any one who deals with the party who is in possession is entitled to assume that that party owns that property, unless what? Unless the public records of the judicial division of the State in which the property is situated discloses to the public that there is a lien upon it. Now, sir, it seems to me that the Virginia Bar Association, in going to the Legislature with it, must be conceded the slight consideration we have given to this subject, and presuming to advise a total change in all our laws on the subject of the registry of lands, would be doing a thing which we should hesitate some time before we attempt to do.

I shall be very glad to see the Torrens System ventilated in this State, its merits and demerits discussed, and I think we would be imprudent and hasty and subject to criticism ourselves, if we, with the little we know about it, advise the Legislature to incorporate it into our system of laws and subvert all that we have had during the ages on the subject of liens on property.

Mr. John S. Barbour, of Culpeper: Mr. President, I am inclined to favor the Torrens System, but I certainly sympathize with those gentlemen who say that they do not know enough about it now to endorse it. In other words, when I endorse anything, I want to know what I am endorsing. A bill

« PreviousContinue »