Friday, October 07, 2011

Death Pledges

It seemeth that the cause why it is called mortgage is, for that it is doubtful whether the Feoffor will pay at the day limited such summe or not, & if he doth not pay, then the Land which is put in pledge upon condition for the payment of the money, is taken from him for ever, and so dead to him vpon condition, &c. And if he doth pay the money, then the pledge is dead as to the Tenant, &c. -- Sir Edward Coke
With all due respect to Sir Edward, this is absurd spin and obfuscation. It's called a "death pledge" for the simple reason that someone taking it on knows that he's going to be in debt until he dies. Debt peonage is as old as civilization: it's illuminating to consider,in fact, whether the two terms are not broadly equivalent.


Jarrett said...

As someone currently shopping for a tiny mortgage, and resisting efforts to sell me a large one, I'd stress that it's only a death pledge for those who are attached to their property. The American death pledge also allows for "walking away," a term we're hearing a lot in this context these days. Only attachment brings out the "mort" in mortgage.

Though I agree it's a remarkably honest word. Surprising that the marketers haven't come up with a more meaningless one.

Dale said...

Practically everyone, I reckon, imagines when they take on a mortgage that they're going to pay it off, eventually, and be a property owner, free and clear. The idea actually is to get out of peonage. But so few ever actually accomplish it! And meanwhile, the word sits there, mocking you :-)