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HUGH SWINTON LEGARE (1797–1843)

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Originally appearing in Volume V16, Page 374 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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HUGH SWINTON LEGARE (1797–1843), American lawyer and statesman, was born in Charleston, South Carolina, on the 2nd of January 1797, of Huguenot and Scotch stock. Partly on account of his inability to share in the amusements of his fellows by reason of a deformity due to vaccine poisoning before he was five (the poison permanently arresting the growth and development of his legs), he was an eager student, and in 1814 he graduated at the College of South Carolina with the highest rank in his class and with a reputation throughout the state for scholarship and eloquence. He studied law for three years in South Carolina, and then spent two years abroad, studying French and Italian in Paris and jurisprudence at Edinburgh. In 1820–1822 and in 1824–1830 he was a member of the South Carolina legislature. In 1827, with Stephen Elliott (1771–1830), the naturalist, he founded the Southern Review, of which he was the sole editor after Elliott's death until 1834, when it was discontinued, and to which he contributed articles on law, travel, and modern and classical literature. In 1830–1832 he was attorney-general of South Carolina, and, although a State's Rights man, he strongly opposed nullification. During his term of office he appeared in a case before the United States Supreme Court, where his knowledge of civil law so strongly impressed Edward Livingston, the secretary of state, who was himself an admirer of Roman Law, that he urged Legare to devote himself to the study of this subject with the hope that he might influence American law toward the spirit and philosophy and even the forms and processes of Roman jurisprudence. ' The Finance Bill 1909–1910 re-imposed this duty, and extended it to husbands and wives as well as descendants and ancestors. refer it may refer to realty; the proper word, however, for gifts of realty is devise. Legacies may be either specific, general or demonstrative. A specific legacy is " something which a testator, identifying it by a sufficient description and manifesting an intention that it should be enjoyed in the state and condition indicated by that description, separates in favour of a particular legatee from the general mass of his personal estate," e.g. a gift of " my portrait by X," naming the artist. A general legacy is a gift not so distinguished from the general mass of the personal estate, e.g. a gift of £ioo or of a gold ring. A demonstrative legacy partakes of the nature of both the preceding kinds of legacies, e.g. a gift of £ioo payable out of a named fund is a specific legacy so far as the fund named is available to pay the legacy; after the fund is exhausted the balance of the legacy is a general legacy and recourse must be had to the general estate to satisfy such balance. Sometimes a testator bequeaths two or more legacies to the same person; in such a case it is a question whether the later legacies are in substitution for, or in addition to, the earlier ones. In the latter case they are known as cumulative. In each case the intention of the testator is the rule of construction; this can often be gathered from the terms of the will or codicil, but in the absence of such evidence the following rules are followed by the courts. Where the same specific thing is bequeathed twice to the same legatee or where two legacies of equal amount are bequeathed by the same instrument the second bequest is mere repetition; but where legacies of equal amounts are bequeathed by different instruments or of unequal amounts by the same instruments they are considered to be cumulative. If the estate of the testator is insufficient to satisfy all the legacies these must abate, i.e. be reduced rateably; as to this it should he noticed that specific and demonstrative legacies have a prior claim to be paid in full out of the specific fund before general legacies, and that general legacies abate rateably inter se in the absence of any provision to the contrary by the testator. Specific legacies are liable to ademption where the specific thing perishes or ceases to belong to the testator, e.g. in the instance given above if the testator sells the portrait the legatee will get nothing by virtue of the legacy. As a general rule, legacies given to persons who predecease the testator do not take effect; they are said to lapse. This is so even if the gift be to A and his executors, administrators and assigns, but this is not so if the testator has shown a contrary intention, thus, a gift to A or his personal representative will be effective even though A predecease the testator; further, by the Wills Act 1837, devises of estates tail and gifts to a child or other issue of the testator will not lapse if any issue of the legatee survive the testator. Lapsed legacies fall into and form part of the residuary estate. In the absence of any indication to the contrary a legacy becomes due on the day of the death of the testator, though for the convenience of the executor it is not payable till a year after that date; this delay does not prevent the legacy vesting on the testator's death. It frequently happens, however, that a legacy is given payable at a future date; in such a case, if the legatee dies after the testator but prior to the date when the legacy is payable it is necessary to discover whether the legacy was vested or contingent, as in the former case it becomes payable to the legatee's representative; in the latter, it lapses. In this, as in other cases, the test is the intention of the testator as expressed in the will; generally it may be said that a gift " payable " or " to be paid " at a certain fixed time confers a vested interest on the legatee, while a gift to A " at " a fixed time, e.g. twenty-one years of age, only confers on A an interest contingent on his attaining the age of twenty-one. Legacy Duty is a duty charged by the state upon personal property devolving upon the legatees or next of kin of a dead person, either by virtue of his will or upon his intestacy. The duty was first imposed in England in 178o, but the principal act dealing with the subject is the Legacy Duty Act 1796. The principal points as to the duty are these. The duty is charged on personalty only. It is payable only where the person on whose death the property Through Livingston, Legare was appointed American charge d'affaires at Brussels, where from 1833 to 1836 he perfected himself in civil law and in the German commentaries on civil law. In 1837-1839, as a Union Democrat, he was a member of the national House of Representatives, and there ably opposed Van Buren's financial policy in spite of the enthusiasm in South Carolina for the sub-treasury project. He supported Harrison in the presidential campaign of 1840, and when the cabinet was reconstructed by Tyler in 1841, Legare was appointed attorney-general of the United States. On the 9th of May 1843 he was appointed secretary of state ad interim, after the resignation of Daniel Webster. On the loth of June 1843 he died suddenly at Boston. His great work, the forcing into common law of the principles of civil law, was unaccomplished; but Story says " he seemed about to accomplish [it]; for his arguments before the Supreme Court were crowded with the principles of the Roman Law, wrought into the texture of the Common Law with great success." As attorney-general he argued the famous cases, the United States v. Miranda, Wood v. the United States, and Jewell v. Jewell. See The Writings of Hugh Swinton Legare (2 vols., Charleston, S.C., 1846), edited by his sister, Mrs Mary Bullen, who contributed a biographical sketch; and two articles by B. J. Ramage in The Sewanee Review, vol. x. (New York, 1902).
End of Article: HUGH SWINTON LEGARE (1797–1843)
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