This section is from the book "Popular Law Library Vol4 Torts, Damages, Domestic Relations", by Albert H. Putney. Also available from Amazon: Popular Law-Dictionary.
At common law, by marriage, all the personal property of the wife passed to her husband,1 who was also entitled to the rents and profits of her real estate during coverture.2 Choses in action became the property of the husband upon being reduced to possession. The subject of reduction to possession of the wife's choses in action is discussed in Tritts vs. Col-well's Admr.,3 as follows:
"It is unnecessary to pursue this subject further. The masterly discussion of Chief Justice Gibson in Siter's Case, 4 Rawle, 468, has left 'almost nothing unsaid.' If, then, the transaction between George M. Phillips and William Graham was an assignment of the bond of Mrs. Phillips for a valuable consideration, it must prevail against the wife, even though she survived her husband.
"It is, however contended that it was not an assignment, but a pledge. Undoubtedly, a pledge is insufficient to bar the wife's right, for it is no reduction into possession of her title. The instrument now before us is an assignment, not a pledge. It contains all the operative words fit and necessary to pass the title. It needs but one more witness, to make it a legal assignment under the Act of 28th of May, 1715, such as to enable an assignee to sue in his own name. That it passed the bond to Graham as a security collateral to the obligation expressed in the instrument makes the transaction no less an assignment. The title was in the assignee, defeasible on the performance of a condition subsequent, to-wit, the payment of the debt. That the existence of such a condition subsequent does not prevent the title from vesting in the assignee, is the result of all the authorities so far as I know, without exception. The case of Hartman vs. Dawdel, 1 Rawle, 279, relied upon by the plaintiff in error, in truth, asserts no other doctrine. Chief Justice Gibson, the author of the opinion, in speaking of it in Siter's case, remarks, that 'However the opinion of the court may have been expressed, it certainly was intended to rule the case expressly on the distinction between a voluntary assignment and one for value.' There the consideration for the equitable assignment was not, as here, an advance of money at the time, but a preexisting debt, which had been held in Petrie vs. Clark, 11 S. & R., 377, not to be a valuable consideration.
1 Carleton vs. Lovejoy, 54 Me., 445. 2 Shaw vs. Partridge, 17 Vt., 626;
Breeding vs. Davis, 76 Va., 639. 3 31 Pa. St., 228.
"Bates vs. Dandy, 2 Atk., 207, a case fully recognized in this state as of fundamental authority, was itself but an agreement to assign the wife's chose in action, as a collateral security for a present loan of money, yet it was decreed to prevail against the wife. A mortgage is only a collateral security, yet it passes the title. This is universally conceded; 2 Kent, Com. 581, Addison on Contracts, 318; Story's Eq., 1030. If, then, the assignment of George M. Phillips, conveyed to Graham the title to the chose, as we have seen that it did, and was for a valuable consideration, the court below correctly instructed the jury that it defeated Mrs. Phillip's right of survivorship. As was said in Woelper's appeal, 2 Barr, 71, it is the husband's assumption of title, and not the form of the act which it is indicated, which is the criterion. An actual use of the wife's chose in action for his own purposes, works a transfer of her ownership."