This section is from the book "The Law Of Real Property and Other Interests In Land", by Herbert Thorn Dike Tiffany. Also available from Amazon: A Treatise on the Modern Law of Real Property and Other Interests in Land .
A corporation has, in the absence of an express prohibition, the same power as a private individual to transfer its land, as well as its other property, provided only that the transfer is for an object consistent with the purpose of its creation.80
At common law, a corporation has power to acquire such land as may be necessary for or reasonably incidental to carrying out the purposes of its creation.81 This principle is, in most of the states, confirmed by statutory provision, while in a few states there seems to be no limit upon the power to acquire land.82
79. 1 Woerner, Administration, Sec. 23 et seq; Page, Wills, Sec. 97 et seq; Bigelow, Wills, 72.
80. 2 Kent's Comm. 381; 1 Clark & Marshall Corporations. Sec. 152; Aurora Agricultural & Horticultural Soc. v. Paddock, 80 111. 264; Levering v. Bimel, 146 Ind. 545, 45 N. E. 775; State v. Western Irrigating Canal Co., 40 Kan. 96, 10 Am. St. Rep. 166, 19 Pac. 349; Treadwell v. Salisbury Mfg. Co., 7 Gray (Mass.) 393, 66 Am. Dec. 490; Holmes & Griggs Mfg. Co. v. Holmes & Wessell Metal Co., 127 N. Y. 252, 24 Am. St. Rep. 448, 27 N. E. 831; Barry v. Merchants' Exchange Co., 1 Sandf. Ch. (N. Y.) 280.
81. 1 Bl. Comm. 478; 2 Kent's Comm. 281; 1 Clark & M. Corp. Sec.Sec. 132, 138.
The common-law right of a corporation to acquire land was greatly circumscribed by the enactment of the various statutes of "mortmain," which, while directed chiefly at ecclesiastical bodies, applied in terms to all corporations, and prohibited their acquisition of land without license from the crown, and, during certain periods, from the mesne lord also.83 These statutes appear to have been adopted in but one state.84 There are, however, in a number of states, special statutory restrictions upon the power of religious corporations to acquire and hold land, and the United States statutes contain a provision to this effect applicable to corporations in any of the territories.85 In a few states, moreover, a testamentary provision in favor of a religious or charitable body is invalid if in excess of a certain amount, or if the will is not executed a certain length of time before the testator's death.86
Restrictions as to the quantity of land which a corporation may acquire, or the purposes for which it may acquire the land, do not usually invalidate a transfer to the corporation in violation thereof, so as to permit the transfer to be questioned by any private person, but the state only may assert the illegality of the transfer, and consequently, if the state fails so to do, the corporation may retransfer the land to another.87 Occasionally, however, it has been decided that a transfer by will to a corporation stands on a different footing in this respect from a transfer inter vivos, and that such a transfer may be attacked by the heirs of the testator.88
82. 2 Stimson's Am. St. Law, Sec. 8204.
83. See, as to these statutes, 2 Bl. Comm. 268; 2 Kent's Comm. 282.
84. Pennslyvania. See Lea-zure v. Hillegas, 7 Serg. & R. (Pa.) 313; 2 Kent's Comm. 283; 8 Harv. Law Rev. at p. 17.
85. 5 Thompson Corp. Sec. 5774. See Rev. St. U. S. Sec. 1890; In re McGraw's Estate, 111 N. Y. 66, 2 L. R. A. 387, 19 N. E. 233; Church Extension of M. E.
Church v. Smith, 56 Md 392.
86. 1 Stimson's Am. St. Law, Sec. 2618; Lancaster v. Amsterdam Improvement Co., 140 N. Y. 576, 586, 24 L. R. A. 322, 35 N. E. 964; Beasley v. Aberdeen & R. R. Co., 145 N. C. 272, 59 S. E. 60; Fayette Land Co v. Louisville & N. R. Co., 93 Va. 274, 24 S. E. 1016; Milton v. Crawford, 65 Wash. 145, 118 Pac. 32; See 8 Harv. Law Rev. at p. 15 et seq, 23 Id. 495 et seq.
While it is frequently said or implied that the state can object to the acquisition by a corporation of property in excess of its powers, the courts do not ordinarily indicate the method by which the state can assert such objection. The statement occasionally made that the state can claim such property by way of escheat appears, in the absence of a statute so providing, to be most questionable.89 Ordinarily, it would seem, the state can
87. 1 Clark & Marshall, Corp. Sec. 228 et seq; 3 Thompson, Corp. (2nd Ed.) Sec. 2390 et seq; Jones v. Habersham, 107 U. S. 174, 27 L. Ed. 401; Long v. Georgia Pac. Ry. Co., 91 Ala. 519, 24 Am. St. Rep. 931, 8 So. 706; Kohlruss v. Zachery, 139 Ga. 625, 77 S. E. 812; Alexander v. Tolleston Club, 110 111. 65; Louisville School Board v. King 32 Ky. L. Rep. 687, 107 S. W. 247; Farring-ton v. Putnam, 90 Me. 405, 38 L. R. A. 339, 37 Atl. 652; Hanson v. Little Sisters of the Poor of Baltimore, 79 Md. 434, 32 L. R. A. 293, 32 Atl. 1052; Nantasket Beach S. S. Co. v. Shea, 182 Mass. 147. 65 N. E. 57.
88. Gromie v. Home Soc, 3 Bush (Ky.) 865; In re McGraw's Estate, 111 N. Y. 66, 2 L. R. A. 387, 19 N. E. 233; Davidson College v. Chambers, 3 Jones Eq. (N. C.) 253; Wood v. Hammond, 16 R. I. 98, 17 Atl. 324, 18 Atl. 198; House of Mercy of New York v. Davidson, 90 Tex. 529, 39 S. W. 924. See Starkweather v. American Bible Soc. 72 111. 50;
DeCamp v. Dobbins, 31 N. J. Eq. 690; Contra, Brigham v. Peter Bent. Brigham Hospital, 126 Fed. 796, 801, 134 Id. 513, 527; Jones v. Habersham, 107 U. S. 174, 27 L. Ed. 401; Hamsher v. Ham-sher 132 111. 273, 8 L. R. A. 556, 23 N. E. 1123; Hayward v. Davidson, 41 Ind. 212 (semble); Farrington v. Putnam, 90 Me. 405, 38 L. R. A. 339, 37 Atl. 652; Hanson v. Little Sisters of the Poor of Baltimore, 79 Md. 434, 32 L. R. A. 293, 32 Atl. 1052; In re Stickney's Will, 85 Md. 79, 35 L. R. A. 693, 60 Am. St. Rep. 308, 36 Atl. 654; Hubbard v. Worcester Art Museum, 194 Mass. 280, 80 N. E. 490; Chambers v. St. Louis. 29 Mo. 543. The matter is discussed in 9 Harv. Law Rev. at p. 350, 11 Id. at p. 62, 20 Id. at p. 561. 24 Id. 546; 12 Columbia Law Rev. at p. 754.
89. See People v. Stockton Savings & Loan Society, 133 Cal. 611, 85 Am. St. Rep. 225, 65 Pac. 1078; Lancaster v. Amsterdam Improvement Co., assert its objection merely by a proceeding in the nature of quo warranto, to compel the corporation to relinquish the illegal holding, or perhaps to effect a forfeiture of the corporate franchise by reason of the abuse thereof.