At common law there were many restraints on the alienation of real property which impeded its full enjoyment. Estates were subject to escheat and forfeiture for treason. Statutes of mortmain had been passed, which prevented lands from being conveyed to religious corporations, and other restraints existed which prevented land becoming an article of commerce. In order that these burdens might be avoided, the practice of conveying lands to uses was introduced; that is, land would be conveyed to a person in whom the grantor had confidence, for the use of the grantor or another, and would by such grantee be disposed of or used according to the wishes of the grantor. The clergy were probably the first to employ this method of transferring and holding land. At first there were no means by which the grantor could compel the execution of the confidence thus imposed, but later the chancellors, who were ecclesiastics, gave a subpcena in chancery by which such confidences were enforced.7 Although in courts of law only the legal estate and title were recognized, yet in equity the person entitled to the beneficial interest was, for all purposes, recognized as owner.8 In this way a dual system of ownership arose, by the legal title to the land being held by one person, and all of the beneficial rights arising out of it belonging to another. These equitable interests were held free from most of the burdens attached to common-law estates. For example, they could be conveyed without a feoffment, or could be disposed of by will, which was not true of a legal estate.9
7 See Dig. Hist Real Prop. (4th Ed.) 313; Anon., Y. B. 14 Hen. VIII. 4 pi. 5. 8 2 Washb. Real Prop. (5th Ed.) 409.
9 2 Pol & M. Hist. Eng. Law, 226; Burgess v. Wheate, 1 W. Bl. 123; Chud-leigh's Case, 1 Coke, 120a.