The lapse of twenty years raises a presumption of
certain facts, and after such a time, the party against whom the presumption
has been raised, will be required to prove a negative to establish his
2. After twenty years from the time it became due, a bond will be
presumed to have been paid. 2 Cranch, 180; 3 Day, 289; 1 McCord, 145; 2 N.
& McC. 160; 1 Bay. 482; 9 Watts, 441; 2 Speers, 357. And the same
presumption arises that a judgment has been paid, if no steps have been taken
by the plaintiff for twenty years after its rendition. 3 Brev. 476; 5 Conn.
3. But the presumption of such payment is easily rebutted, by showing
that interest has been regularly paid. 1 Bailey, 148; that the obliger has
admitted it has not been paid 2 Harring, 124; 9 N. H. Rep. 398; or other
circumstances calculated to rebut the presumption. The proof of facts which
show that the obligor was poor and not likely to be able to pay the debt, is
not sufficient. 5 Verm. 236.
4. When a debt is payable in instalments and secured by a penal bond,
the presumption of payment arising from lapse of time applies to each
instalment as it falls due. 3 Harring. 421.
5. By the English act of limitation, 21 Jac. 1, c. 16, the period during
which a possessory action for land can be sustained is fixed at twenty years,
so that an adverse possession of twenty years is a bar to an action of
ejectment, and such lapse of time gives a possessory title to the land. This
period has been adopted in many of the states of the Union, but there has been
some variation in others. See Limitation of actions.
6. But this statute did not affect incorporeal hereditaments, which
remained as before. In analogy to the act of limitation the courts presumed a
grant after twenty years adverse possession. Ana new grants are presumed upon
proof of an adverse, exclusive, and uninterrupted enjoyment of an incorporeal
hereditament at the end of twenty years. And the burden of proving that the
possession was adverse, that is, under a claim of title, with the knowledge or
acquiescence of the owner of the land; and also that it was uninterrupted,
rests on the party claiming such incorporeal hereditaments. 3 Kent, 441; 1
Cheves, R. 2; 4 Mason, 402; 2 Roll. Ab. 269; 2 Greenl. Ev. 444.
7. The time of enjoyment of a former owner who is in privity with the
claimant, can, in general, be joined to his own in order to make up the period
of twentv years, as in the case of the heir and ancestor, of grantor and
grantee. 9 Pick. 251. But the enjoyment of a former owner whose title has
escheated to the state by forfeiture, cannot be added to the time of the
enjoyment of the grantee of the state. 2 Greenl. Ev. 543.
Source: Bouviers Law Dictionary 1856 Edition