The case of Morley v. Loughnan is equally interesting to the student of human nature, the lawyer, and the psychologist. The details of the strange and painful story on which it turned are, no doubt, familiar to our readers, but a sketch of the salient features may not be inopportune. The late Mr. Henry Morley, from whom the defendant, Mr. W. H. Loughnan, a prominent member of the Close Sect of Plymouth Brethren, was alleged to have obtained sums of money, amounting to about £140,000, by undue influence, was an epileptic, possessed the exaggerated warmth of sentiment, the liability to alternate depression and elation, and the need for external guidance, which epileptics frequently display, and though not positively insane, passed at least the greater portion of his life on the borderland between the world of sane men and the realm of minds diseased. Conscious of the risks to which his son's mental condition exposed his substantial fortune, Mr. Morley's father had placed him under the friendly control of “companions;” and, when the narrative opens, this desirable appointment had just fallen to the lot of Mr. W. H. Loughnan. In the creed of the Close Sect of Plymouth Brethren the duties of entire dedication of property to religious purposes and sequestration from worldly society hold a cardinal place, and Mr. Loughnan laboured faithfully, and not without success, to imprint them upon the mind of his impressionable ward. At no time, however, was the balance between these great principles very accurately adjusted in Mr. Loughnan's teaching. At first the duty of dedication received excessive prominence, and Mr. Morley was dramatically asked whether the luxury with which he was surrounded was worthy of a disciple of Christ. Then the duty of sequestration became the lesson of the hour, and the imperative claims of dedication were somewhat feebly insisted on. At length Mr. Morley, after having written a letter of farewell to the world, went to live with his protector. Mr. Loughnan lent himself nobly to the task of making his self-invited guest's seclusion from temporalities complete, managing his business, conducting his correspondence, accepting large donations from his superabundant wealth, and drawing around him a close cordon of associations, corroborative of his own influence, from which Mr. Morley was only released by the hand of death. Then it appeared that Mr. Loughnan had benefited by his ward's weak generosity to the extent of £140,000, and the executors of the deceased gentleman properly subjected the nature of the relationship that had existed between Mr. Morley and his “companion” to the searching scrutiny of the Chancery Division. Into the miserable devices by which Mr. Loughnan endeavoured to resist first, the executor's claim, and, secondly, the exposure which its prosecution involved, we need not enter. Suffice it to say that Mr. Justice Wright, sitting as an additional judge of the Chancery Division, held that the gifts from Mr. Morley to the defendant were vitiated by the undue influence of the latter, and that the plaintiffs were entitled to receive the whole amount from him, and even from the innocent subdonees into whose hands part of the spoil had passed. We observe with surprise the statement in the pages of a legal contemporary that “this case presented no new legal difficulties.” The inaccuracy of this assertion is readily demonstrable. There are two classes of cases in which donations are set aside on the ground of undue influence; first, cases in which there is positive evidence that coercion has been brought to bear upon the donor; secondly, cases in which there existed a relation between the donor and the donee, capable of giving, and Calculated to give rise to undue influence, and the donee is unable to prove affirmatively that the donor had independent advice. Mr. Justice Wright held that in the case of Morley v. Loughnan there was positive proof of undue influence having been exercised. But his lordship was also prepared to hold, if necessary, that the relation between Mr. Morley and Loughnan was such a relation as brought the defendant within the second class of cases above referred to, and threw upon him the onus—which he had utterly failed to discharge—of vindicating the voluntary character of the gifts. This, if we mistake not, is a distinct advance upon previous decisions, and it will render the law of undue influence for the future much more difficult of evasion than it has been in the past.
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