per stirpes

Terms borrowed from Roman law, though Burke has somewhat changed the original significance of the former. He uses it to denote the eldest and most worthy of the same blood, a reference to the Celtic system of " tanistry," a system which prevailed in Ireland to the time of James I., and in which the right of succession lay not with the individual but with the family in which it was hereditary, and by the family the holder of office or lands was elected. This system was partly in force in England in early days; gradually it gave place in the case of private possessions to that of inheritance 'per stirpem' or 'stirpes', i. e. by direct descent, and the principle was extended to the Crown by the lawyers about the middle of the thirteenth century. While Edward I. in his proclamation refers to "hereditary succession and the will of the nobles," the last words were omitted in the proclamation of Edward II. Burke elsewhere says the 'heir per capita' bases his right on consanguinity, the heir 'per stirpes' on representation, from his standing in the place of his predecessor.

Note by A.J.Grieve (MA), from Price's Sermon in Part One of Reflections On The Revolution In France
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