Baptist Association v. Hart's Executors (1819)

In Baptist Association v. Hart's Executors (1819) 17 U.S. 1, it appeared that the testator, a citizen of Virginia, had bequeathed certain military certificates to "the Baptist Association that for ordinary meets at Philadelphia annually," to be a perpetual fund for the education of youths of the Baptist denomination, who shall appear promising for the ministry, always giving a preference to the descendants of his father's family. Before the death of the testator the legislature of the State had repealed all English statutes, including, of course, the 43d Elizabeth, c. 4, at that time generally regarded as the origin of the jurisdiction of equity over charities. The Court held that : 1. The Baptist Association, not having been incorporated at the testator's decease, could not take the trust as a society. 2. That the individuals composing it could not take. 3. That there were no persons who could take, if it were not a charity. 4. That the bequest could not be sustained as a charity. 5. That charitable bequests, where no legal interest is vested, and which are too vague to be claimed by those for whom the beneficial interest was intended, cannot, independently of the 43d Elizabeth, c. 4, be sustained by a court of equity, either in exercising its ordinary jurisdiction, or in enforcing the prerogative of the king as parens patriae. The Supreme Court, speaking through Chief Justice Marshall, held that the charitable bequest of a Virginia testator could not be established by a court of equity, independent of the statute of 43 Eliz., ch. 4 (often referred to as the Statute of Charitable Uses), and since the statute of 43 Elizabeth was repealed in 1792 by Virginia's general repeal of English Statutes, the bequest was void.