(Reference: John Bouvier, A Law Dictionary Adapted to the Constitution and Laws of the United States of America and the Several States of the American Union, Childs & Peterson, c1856.)
POSSESSION, property. The detention or enjoyment of a thing which a man holds or exercises by himself or by another who keeps or exercises it in his name. By the possession of a thing, we always conceive the condition, in which not only one's own dealing with the thing is physically possible, but every other person's dealing with it is capable of being excluded. Thus, the seaman possesses his ship, but not the water in which it moves, although he makes each subserve his purpose.
In order to complete a possession two things are required. 1st. That there be an occupancy, apprehension, (q.v.) or taking. 2dly. That the taking be with an intent to possess (animus possidendi), hence persons who have no legal wills, as children and idiots, cannot possess or acquire possession. Poth. h. It.; Etienne, h.t. See Mer. R. 358; Abbott on Ship. 9, et seq. But an infant of sufficient understanding may lawfully acquire the possession of a thing.
Possession is natural or civil; natural, when a man detains a thing corporeal, as by occupying a house, cultivating grounds or retaining a movable in his custody; possession is civil, when a person ceases to reside in the house, or on the land which he occupied, or to detain the movable he possessed, but without intending to abandon the possession. See, as to possession of lands, 2 Bl. Com. 116; Hamm. Parties, 178; 1 McLean's R. 214, 265.
Possession is also actual or constructive; actual, when the thing is in the immediate occupancy of the party. 3 Dey. R. 34. Constructive, when a man claims to hold by virtue of some title, without having the actual Occupancy; as, when the owner of a lot of land, regularly laid out, is in possession of any part, he is considered constructively in possession of the whole. 11 Vern. R. 129. What removal of property or loss of possession will be sufficient to constitute larceny, vide 2 Chit. Cr. Law, 919; 19 Jurist, 14; Etienne, h.t. Civ. Code of Louis. 3391, et seq.
Possession, in the civil law, is divided into natural and civil. The same division is adopted by the Civil Code of Louisiana.
Natural possession is that by which a man detains a thing corporeal, as by occupying a house, cultivating ground, or retaining a movable in his possession. Natural possession is also defined to be the corporeal detention of a thing, which we possess as belonging to us, without any title to that possession, or with a title which is void. Civ. Code of Lo. art. 3391, 3393.
Possession is civil, when a person ceases to reside in a house or on the land which he occupied, or to detain the movable which he possessed, but without intending to abandon the possession. It is the detention of a thing, by virtue of a just title, and under the conviction of possessing as owner. Id. art. 3392, 3394.
Possession applies properly only to corporeal things, movables and immovables. The possession of incorporeal rights, such as servitudes and other rights of that nature, is only a quasi. possession, and is exercised by a species of possession of which these rights are susceptible. Id. art. 3395.
Possession may be enjoyed by the proprietor of the, thing, or by another for him; thus the proprietor of a house possesses it by his tenant or farmer.
To acquire possession of a property, two things are requisite. 1. The intention of possessing as owner. 2. The corporeal possession of the thing. Id. art. 3399.
Possession is lost with or without the consent of the possessor. It is lost with his consent, 1. When he transfers this possession to another with the intention to divest himself of it. 2. When he does some act, which manifests his intention of abandoning possession, as when a man throws into the street furniture or clothes, of which he no longer chooses to make use. Id. art. 3411. A possessor of an estate loses the possession against his consent. 1. When another expels him from it, whether by force in driving him away, or by usurping possession during his absence, and preventing him from reentering. 2. When the possessor of an estate allows it to be usurped, and held for a year, without, during that time, having done any act of possession, or interfered with the usurper's possession. Id. art. 3412.
As to the effects of the purchaser's taking possession, see Sugd. Vend. 8, 9; 3 P. Wms. 193; 1 Ves. Jr. 226; 12 Ves. Jr. 27; 11 Ves. Jr. 464. Vide, generally, 5 Harr. & John. 230, 263; 6 Har. & John. 336; 1 Har. & John. 18; 1 Greenl. R. 109; 2 Har. & McH. 60, 254, 260; 3 Bibb, R. 209 1 Har. & McH., 210; 4 Bibb, R. 412, 6 Cowen, R. 632; 9 Cowen, R. 241; 5 Wheat. R. 116, 124; Cowp. 217; Code Nap. art. 2228; Code of the Two Sicilies, art. 2134; Bavarian Code, B. 2, c. 4, n. 5; Prus. Code, art. 579; Domat, Lois Civ. liv. 3, t, 7, s. 1; Vin. Ab. h.t.; Wolff, Inst. Sec. 200, and the note in the French translation; 2 Greenl. Ev. Sec. 614, 615; Co. Litt. 57 a; Cro. El. 777; 5 Co. 13; 7 John. 1.