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Credit NationProperty Laws and Institutions in Early America$
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Claire Priest

Print publication date: 2021

Print ISBN-13: 9780691158761

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: September 2021

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691158761.001.0001

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Managing Risk through Property

Managing Risk through Property

The Fee Tail

(p.93) 5 Managing Risk through Property
Credit Nation

Claire Priest

Princeton University Press

This chapter investigates the fee tail, or entail, the principal private means by which individuals could shield wealth from creditors. In particular, it examines how the legal device of holding property in fee tail was used in some colonies as a means of designating some forms of property as outside the reach of creditors. Historical scholarship on the fee tail during the colonial period has typically looked backward from the founding era, when states' decisions to abolish the fee tail became a symbol of the power of republican ideology and its hostility to legal forms that might support an aristocracy. The chapter looks at the fee tail through a different lens: as a legal means to reduce risk. This practice had particular importance in Virginia, where the current historiography suggests that a significant amount of land was entailed at the time of the American Revolution, and thus shielded from English creditors and removed from market exchanges.

Keywords:   fee tail, entail, English creditors, property laws, colonial America, risk management, Virginia

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