PROPERTY. The right and interest which a man has in lands and chattels to the exclusion of others. 6 Binn. 98; 4 Pet. 511; 17 Johns. 283; 14 East, 370; 11 East, 290, 518. It is the right to enjoy and to dispose of certain things in the most absolute manner as he pleases, provided he makes no use of them prohibited by law. See Things.
2. All things are not the subject of property the sea, the air, and the like, cannot be appropriated; every one may enjoy them, but he has no exclusive right in them. When things are fully our own, or when all others are excluded from meddling with them, or from interfering about them, it is plain that no person besides the proprietor, who has this exclusive right, can have any, claim either to use them, or to hinder him from disposing of them as, he pleases; so that property, considered as an exclusive right to things, contains not only a right to use those things, but a right to dispose of them, either by exchanging them for other things, or by giving them away to any other person, without any consideration, or even throwing them away. Rutherf. Inst. 20; Domat, liv. prel. tit. 3; Poth. Des Choses; 18 Vin. Ab. 63; 7 Com. Dig. 175; Com. Dig. Biens. See also 2 B. & C. 281; S. C. 9 E. C. L. R. 87; 3 D. & R. 394; 9 B. & C. 396; S. C. 17 E. C. L. R. 404; 1 C. & M. 39; 4 Call, 472; 18 Ves. 193; 6 Bing. 630.
4. Property is also divided, when it consists of goods and chattels, into absolute and qualified. Absolute property is that which is our own, without any qualification whatever; as when a man is the owner of a watch, a book, or other inanimate thing: or of a horse, a sheep, or other animal, which never had its natural liberty in a wild state.
5. Qualified property consists in the right which men have over wild animals which they have redueed to their own possession, and which are kept subject to their power; as a deer, a buffalo, and the like, which are his own while he has possession of them, but as soon as his possession is lost, his property is gone, unless the animals, go animo revertendi. 2 Bl. Com. 396; 3 Binn. 546.
6. But property in personal goods may be absolute or qualified without ally relation to the nature of the subject-matter, but simply because more persons than one have an interest in it, or because the right of property is separated from the possession. A bailee of goods, though not the owner, has a qualified property in them; while the owner has the absolute property. Vide, Bailee; Bailment.
7. Personal property is further divided into property in possession, and property or choses in action. (q. v.)
8. Property is again divided into corporeal and incorporeal. The former comprehends such property as is perceptible to the senses, as lands, houses, goods, merchandise and the like; the latter consists in legal rights, as choses in action, easements, and the like.
10. - 1. It is lost by the act of man by, 1st. Alienation; but in order to do this, the owner must have a legal capacity to make a contract. 2d. By the voluntary abandonment of the thing; but unless the abandonment be purely voluntary, the title to the property is not lost; as, if things be thrown into the sea to save the ship, the right is not lost. Poth. h. t., n. 270; 3 Toull. ii. 346. But even a voluntary abandonment does not deprive the former owner from taking possessiou of the thing abandoned, at any time before another takes possession of it.
11. - 2. The title to property is lost by operation of law. 1st. By the forced sale, under a lawful process, of the property of a debtor to satisfy a judgment, sentence, or decree rendered against him, to compel him to fulfil his obligations. 2d. By confiscation, or sentence of a criminal court. 3d. By prescription. 4th. By civil death. 6th. By capture of a public enemy.
12. - 3. The title to property is lost by the act of God, as in the case of the death of slaves or animals, or in the total destruction of a thing; for example, if a house be swallowed up by an opening in the earth during an earthquake.
13. It is proper to observe that in some cases, the moment that the owner loses his possession, he also loses his property or right in the thing: animals ferae naturae, as mentioned above, belong to the owner only while he retains the possession of them. But, in general,' the loss of possession does not impair the right of property, for the owner may recover it within a certain time allowed by law. Vide, generally, Bouv. Inst. Index, b. t.