It is agreed that the defendant was in the use of ordinary care and skill in managing his horses, until they were frightened; and *443 that they then became unmanageable, and ran against and broke a post on the plaintiff’s land. It is not explicitly stated that the defendant was without actual fault,–that he was not guilty of any malice, or unreasonable unskilfulness or negligence; but it is to be inferred that the fact was so: and we decide the case on that ground. We take the case as one where, without actual fault in the defendant, his horses broke from his control, ran away with him, went upon the plaintiff’s land, and did damage there, against the will, intent, and desire of the defendant.
**2 Sir Thomas Raymond’s report of Lambert & Olliot v. Bessey (T. Raym. 421) and Bessey v. Olliot & Lambert (T. Raym. 467) is, “The question was this: A gaoler takes from the bailiff a prisoner arrested by him out of the bailiff’s jurisdiction, Whether the gaoler be liable to an action of false imprisonment? and the judges of the common pleas did all hold that he was; and of that opinion I am, for these reasons.
1. In all civil acts, the law doth not so much regard the intent of the actor, as the loss and damage of the party suffering; and therefore Mich. 6 E. 4. 7. a. pl. 18. Trespass quare vi & armis clausum fregit, & herbam suam pedibus calcando consumpsit in six acres. The defendant pleads that he hath an acre lying next the said six acres, and upon it a hedge of thorns, and he cut the thorns, and they, ipso invito, fell upon the plaintiff’s land, and the defendant took them off as soon as he could, which is the same trespass; and the plaintiff demurred; and adjudged for the plaintiff; for though a man doth a lawful thing, yet, if any damage do thereby befall another, he shall answer for it, if he could have avoided it. As if a man lop a tree, and the boughs fall upon another, ipso invito, yet an action lies. If a man shoot at buts, and hurt another unawares, an action lies. I have land through which a river runs to your mill, and I lop the fallows growing upon the river side, which accidentally stop the water, so as your mill is hindered, an action lies. If I am building my own house, and a piece of timber falls on my neighbor’s house, and breaks part of it, an action lies. If a man assault me, and I lift up my staff to defend myself, and, in lifting it up, hit another, an action lies by that person, and yet I did a lawful thing. And the reason of all these cases is, because he that is damaged ought to be recompensed. But otherwise it is in criminal cases, for there actus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea.
Mich. 23. Car. 1. B. R.–Stile 72. Guilbert versus Stone. Trespass for entering his close, and taking away his horse. The defendant pleads, that he, for fear of his life, by threats of twelve men, went into the plaintiff’s house, and took the horse. The plaintiff demurred; and adjudged for the plaintiff, because threats could not excuse the defendant, and make satisfaction to the plaintiff.
Hob. 134, Weaver versus Ward. Trespass of assault and battery. The defendant pleads, that he was a trained soldier in London, and he and the plaintiff were skirmishing with their company, and the defendant, with his musket, casualiter, & per infortunium & contra voluntatem suam in discharging of his gun hurt the plaintiff; and resolved no good plea. *444 So here, though the defendant knew not of the wrongful taking of the plaintiff, yet that will not make any recompense for the wrong the plaintiff hath sustained. * * But the three other judges resolved, that the defendant, the gaoler, could not be charged, because he could not have notice whether the prisoner was legally arrested or not.”
**3 In Fletcher v. Rylandsa1 (L. R. 3 H. L. 330), Lord CRANWORTH said,–“In considering whether a defendant is liable to a plaintiff for damage which the plaintiff may have sustained, the question in general is not whether the defendant has acted with due care and caution, but whether his acts have occasioned the damage. This is all well explained in the old case of Lambert v. Bessey, reported by Sir Thomas Raymond (Sir T. Raym. 421). And the doctrine is founded on good sense. For when one person, in managing his own affairs, causes, however innocently, damage to another, it is obviously only just that he should be the party to suffer.”
The head-note of Weaver v. Ward, Hob. 134, is,–“If one trained soldier wound another, in skirmishing for exercise, an action of trespass will lie, unless it shall appear from the defendant’s plea that he was guilty of no negligence, and that the injury was inevitable.” The reason of the decision, as reported, was this: “For though it were agreed, that if men tilt or tourney in the presence of the king, or if two masters of defence playing their prizes kill one another, that this shall be no felony; or if a lunatic kill a man, or the like; because felony must be done animo felonico; yet in trespass, which tends only to give damages according to hurt or loss, it is not so; and therefore if a lunatic hurt a man, he shall be answerable in trespass; and therefore no man shall be excused of a trespass (for this is the nature of an excuse, and not of a justification, prout ei bene licuit), except it may be judged utterly without his fault; as if a man by force take my hand and strike you; or if here the defendant had said that the plaintiff ran cross his piece when it was discharging; or had set forth the case with the circumstances, so as it had appeared to the court that it had been inevitable, and that the defendant had committed no negligence to give occasion to the hurt.”
There may be some ground to argue that “utterly without his fault,” ““inevitable,” and “no negligence,” in the sense intended in that case, mean no more than the modern phrase “ordinary and reasonable care and prudence;” and that, in such a case, at the present time, to hold a plea good that alleges the exercise of reasonable care, without setting forth all “the circumstances” or evidence sustaining the plea would be substantially in compliance with the law of that case, due allowance being made for the difference of legal language used at different periods, and the difference in the forms of pleading. But the drift of the ancient English authorities on the law of torts seems to differ materially from the view now prevailing in this country. Formerly, *445 in England, there seems to have been no well-defined test of an actionable tort. Defendants were often held liable “because,” as Raymond says, “he that is damaged ought to be recompensed;” and not because, upon some clearly stated principle of law founded on actual culpability, public policy, or natural justice, he was entitled to compensation from the defendant. The law was supposed to regard “the loss and damage of the party suffering,” more than the negligence and blameworthiness of the defendant: but how much more it regarded the former than the latter, was a question not settled, and very little investigated. “The loss and damage of the party suffering,” if without relief, would be a hardship to him; relief compulsorily furnished by the other party would often be a hardship to him: when and why the “loss and damage” should, and when and why they should not, be transferred from one to the other, by process of law, were problems not solved in a philosophical manner. There were precedents, established upon superficial, crude, and undigested notions; but no application of the general system of legal reason to this subject.
**4 Mr. Holmes says,–“It may safely be stated that all the more ancient examples are traceable to conceptions of a much ruder sort (than actual fault), and in modern times to more or less definitely thought-out views of public policy. The old writs in trespass did not allege, nor was it necessary to show, anything savoring of culpability. It was enough that a certain event had happened, and it was not even necessary that the act should be done intentionally, though innocently. An accidental blow was as good a cause of action as an intentional one. On the other hand, when, as in Rylands v. Fletcher, modern courts hold a man liable for the escape of water from a reservoir which he has built upon his land, or for the escape of cattle, although he is not alleged to have been negligent, they do not proceed upon the ground that there is an element of culpability in making such a reservoir, or in keeping cattle, sufficient to charge the defendant as soon as a damnum occurs, but on the principle that it is politic to make those who go into extra-hazardous employments take the risk on their own shoulders.” He alludes to the fact that “there is no certainty what will be thought extra-hazardous in a certain jurisdiction at a certain time,” but suggests that many particular instances point to the general principle of liability for the consequences of extra-hazardous undertakings as the tacitly assumed ground of decision. 7 Am. Law Rev. 652, 653, 662; 2 Kent Com. (12th ed.) 561, n. 1; 4 id. 110, n. 1. If the hazardous nature of things or of acts is adopted as the test, or one of the tests, and the English authorities are taken as the standard of what is to be regarded as hazardous, “it will be necessary to go the length of saying that an owner of real property is liable for all damage resulting to his neighbour’s property from anything done upon his own land” (Mellish’s argument in Fletcher v. Rylands, L. R. 1 Ex. 272), and that an individual is answerable “who, for his own benefit, makes an improvement on his own land, according to his best skill and diligence, and not foreseeing it will produce any injury to his neighbor, if he thereby *446 unwittingly injure his neighbor”–GIBBS, C. J., in Sutton v. Clarke, 6 Taunt. 44, approved by BLACKBURN, J., in Fletcher v. Rylands, L. R. 1 Ex. 286. If danger is adopted as a test, and the English authorities are abandoned, the fact of danger, controverted in each case, will present a question for the jury, and expand the issue of tort or no tort, into a question of reasonableness in a form much broader than has been generally used; or courts will be left to devise tests of peril, under varying influences of time and place that may not immediately produce a uniform, consistent, and permanent rule.
**5 It would seem that some of the early English decisions were based on a view as narrow as that which regards nothing but the hardship “of the party suffering;” disregards the question whether, by transferring the hardship to the other party, anything more will be done than substitute one suffering party for another; and does not consider what legal reason can be given for relieving the party who has suffered, by making another suffer the expense of his relief. For some of those decisions, better reasons may now be given than were thought of when the decisions were announced: but whether a satisfactory test of an actionable tort can be extracted from the ancient authorities, and whether the few modern cases that carry out the doctrine of those authorities as far as it is carried in Fletcher v. Rylands–3 H. & C. 774; L. R. 1 Ex. 265; L. R. 3 H. L. 330; L. R. (Phil. ed.) 3 Ex. 352–can be sustained, is very doubtful. The current of American authority is very strongly against some of the leading English cases.
One of the strongest presentations of the extreme English view is by BLACKBURN, J., who says, in Fletcher v. Rylands (L. R. 1 Ex. 279, 280, 281, 282),–“We think that the true rule of law is, that the person who for his own purposes brings on his lands, and collects and keeps there anything likely to do mischief if it escapes, must keep it in at his peril, and if he does not do so, is prima facie answerable for all the damage which is the natural consequence of its escape. He can excuse himself by showing that the escape was owing to the plaintiff’s default; or perhaps that the escape was the consequence of vis major, or the act of God; but as nothing of this sort exists here, it is unnecessary to inquire what excuse would be sufficient. The general rule, as above stated, seems, on principle, just. The person whose grass or corn is eaten down by the escaping cattle of his neighbour, or whose mine is flooded by the water from his neighbour’s reservoir, or whose cellar is invaded by the filth of his neighbour’s privy, or whose habitation is made unhealthy by the fumes and noisome vapors of his neighbour’s alkali works, is damnified without any fault of his own; and it seems but reasonable and just that the neighbour, who has brought something on his own property which was not naturally there, harmless to others so long as it is confined to his own property, but which he knows to be mischievous if it gets on his neighbour’s, should be obliged to make good the damage which ensues if he does not succeed in confining it to his own property. But for his act in bringing it there no mischief could have accrued, and it seems but just that he should, at his peril, keep *447 it there so that no mischief may accrue, or answer for the natural and anticipated consequences. And upon authority, this we think is established to be the law, whether the things so brought be beasts, or water, or filth, or stenches. The case that has most commonly occurred, and which is most frequently to be found in the books, is as to the obligation of the owner of cattle which he has brought on his land, to prevent their escaping and doing mischief. The law, as to them, seems to be perfectly settled from early times: the owner must keep them in at his peril, or he will be answerable for the natural consequences of their escape,–that is with regard to tame beasts, for the grass they eat and trample upon, though not for any injury to the person of others, for our ancestors have settled that it is not the general nature of horses to kick, or bulls to gore (or he might have added, dogs to bite),–but if the owner knows that the beast has a vicious propensity to attack man, he will be answerable for that too. * * In these latter authorities (relating to animals called mischievous or ferocious), the point under consideration was damage to the person; and what was decided was, that where it was known that hurt to the person was the natural consequence of the animal being loose, the owner should be responsible in damages for such hurt, though where it was not known to be so, the owner was not responsible for such damages; but where the damage is, like eating grass or other ordinary ingredients in damage feasant, the natural consequence of the escape, the rule as to keeping in the animal is the same. * * There does not appear to be any difference, in principle, between the extent of the duty cast on him who brings cattle on his land to keep them in, and the extent of the duty imposed on him who brings on his land water, filth, or stenches, or any other thing, which will, if it escape, naturally do damage, to prevent their escaping and injuring his neighbour.”
**6 This seems to be substantially an adoption of the early authorities, and an extension of the ancient practice of holding the defendant liable, in some cases, on the partial view that regarded the misfortune of the plaintiff upon whom a damage had fallen, and required no legal reason for transferring the damage to the defendant. The ancient rule was, that a person in whose house, or on whose land, a fire accidentally originated, which spread to his neighbor’s property and destroyed it, must make good the loss. Filliter v. Phippard, 11 A. & E. (N. S.) 347, 354; Tubervil v. Stamp, 1 Comyns 32–S. C., 1 Salk. 13; Com. Dig., Action upon the case for Negligence (A 6.); 1 Arch. N. P. 539; Fletcher v. Rylands, 3 H. & C. 790, 793; Russell v. Fabyan, 34 N. H. 218, 225. No inquiry was made into the reason of putting upon him his neighbor’s loss as well as his own. The rule of such cases is applied, by BLACKBURN, to everything which a man brings on his land, which will, if it escape, naturally do damage. One result of such a doctrine is, that every one building a fire on his own hearth, for necessary purposes, with the utmost care, does so at the peril, not only of losing his own house, but of being irretrievably ruined if a spark from his chimney starts a conflagration which lays waste the neighborhood. “In conflict *448 with the rule, as laid down in the English cases, is a class of cases in reference to damage from fire communicated from the adjoining premises. Fire, like water or steam, is likely to produce mischief if it escapes and goes beyond control; and yet it has never been held in this country that one building a fire upon his own premises can be made liable if it escapes upon his neighbor’s premises, and does him damage without proof of negligence.” Losee v. Buchanan, 51 N. Y. 476, 487.
Everything that a man can bring on his land is capable of escaping,–against his will, and without his fault, with or without assistance, in some form, solid, liquid, or gaseous, changed or unchanged by the transforming processes of nature or art,–and of doing damage after its escape. Moreover, if there is a legal principle that makes a man liable for the natural consequences of the escape of things which he brings on his land, the application of such a principle cannot be limited to those things: it must be applied to all his acts that disturb the original order of creation; or, at least, to all things which he undertakes to possess or control anywhere, and which were not used and enjoyed in what is called the natural or primitive condition of mankind, whatever that may have been. This is going back a long way for a standard of legal rights, and adopting an arbitrary test of responsibility that confounds all degrees of danger, pays no heed to the essential elements of actual fault, puts a clog upon natural and reasonably necessary uses of matter, and tends to embarrass and obstruct much of the work which it seems to be man’s duty carefully to do. The distinction made by Lord CAIRNS–Rylands v. Fletcher, L. R. 3 H. L. 330–between a natural and a non-natural use of land, if he meant anything more than the difference between a reasonable use and an unreasonable one, is not established in the law. Even if the arbitrary test were applied only to things which a man brings on his land, it would still recognize the peculiar rights of savage life in a wilderness, ignore the rights growing out of a civilized state of society, and make a distinction not warranted by the enlightened spirit of the common law: it would impose a penalty upon efforts, made in a reasonable, skilful, and careful manner, to rise above a condition of barbarism. It is impossible that legal principle can throw so serious an obstacle in the way of progress and improvement. Natural rights are, in general, legal rights; and the rights of civilization are, in a legal sense, as natural as any others. “Most of the rights of property, as well as of person, in the social state, are not absolute but relative”–Losee v. Buchanan, 51 N. Y. 485; and, if men ever were in any other than the social state, it is neither necessary nor expedient that they should now govern themselves on the theory that they ought to live in some other state. The common law does not usually establish tests of responsibility on any other basis than the propriety of their living in the social state, and the relative and qualified character of the rights incident to that state.
**7 In Fletcher v. Rylands–L. R. 1 Ex. 286, 287–Mr. Justice BLACKBURN, commenting upon the remark of Mr. Baron MARTIN, “that, when*449 damage is done to personal property, or even to the person, by collision, either upon land or at sea, there must be negligence in the party doing the damage to render him legally responsible,” says,–“This is no doubt true; and, as was pointed out by Mr. Mellish during his argument before us, this is not confined to cases of collision, for there are many cases in which proof of negligence is essential, as, for instance, where an unruly horse gets on the footpath of a public street and kills a passenger–Hammack v. White, 11 C. B. N. S. 588, 31 L. J. (C. P.) 129; or where a person in a dock is struck by the falling of a bale of cotton which the defendant’s servants are lowering–Scott v. London Dock Company, 3 H. & C. 596, 35 L. J. (Ex.) 17, 220; and many other similar cases may be found. But we think these cases distinguishable from the present. Traffic on the highways, whether by land or sea, cannot be conducted without exposing those whose persons or property are near it to some inevitable risk; and that being so, those who go on the highway, or have their property adjacent to it, may well be held to do so subject to their taking upon themselves the risk of injury from that inevitable danger; and persons who, by the license of the owner, pass near to warehouses where goods are being raised or lowered, certainly do so subject to the inevitable risk of accident. In neither case, therefore, can they recover without proof of want of care or skill occasioning the accident; and it is believed that all the cases in which inevitable accident has been held an excuse for what, prima facie, was a trespass, can be explained on the same principle, viz., that the circumstances were such as to show that the plaintiff had taken that risk upon himself.” This would be authority for holding, in the present case, that the plaintiff, by having his post near the street, took upon himself the risk of its being broken by an inevitable accident carrying a traveller off the street. But such a doctrine would open more questions, and more difficult ones, than it would settle. At what distance from a highway would an object be near it? What part of London is not near a street? And then, as the defendant had as good a right to be at home with his horses as to be in the highway, why might not his neighbor, by electing to live in an inhabited country, as well be held to take upon himself the risk of an inevitable accident happening by reason of the country being inhabited, as to assume a highway risk by living near a road? If neighborhood is the test, who are a man’s neighbors but the whole human race? If a person, by remaining in England, is held to take upon himself one class of the inevitable dangers of that country because he could avoid that class by migrating to a region of solitude, why should he not, for a like reason, also be held to expose himself voluntarily to other classes of the inevitable dangers of that country? And where does this reasoning end?
**8 It is not improbable that the rules of liability for damage done by brutes or by fire, found in the early English cases, were introduced, by sacerdotal influence, from what was supposed to be the Roman or the Hebrew law. 7 Am. L. Rev. 652, note; 1 Domat Civil Law (Strahan’s translation, 2d ed.) 304, 305, 306, 312, 313; Exodus xxi: 28-32, *450 36; xxii: 5, 6, 9. It would not be singular if these rules should be spontaneously produced at a certain period in the life of any community. Where they first appeared is of little consequence in the present inquiry. They were certainly introduced in England at an immature stage of English jurisprudence, and an undeveloped state of agriculture, manufactures, and commerce, when the nation had not settled down to those modern, progressive, industrial pursuits which the spirit of the common law, adapted to all conditions of society, encourages and defends. They were introduced when the development of many of the rational rules now universally recognized as principles of the common law had not been demanded by the growth of intelligence, trade, and productive enterprise,–when the common law had not been set forth in the precedents, as a coherent and logical system on many subjects other than the tenures of real estate. At all events, whatever may be said of the origin of those rules, to extend them, as they were extended in Rylands v. Fletcher, seems to us contrary to the analogies and the general principles of the common law, as now established. To extend them to the present case would be contrary to American authority, as well as to our understanding of legal principles.
The difficulty under which the plaintiff might labor in proving the culpability of the defendant,–which is sometimes given as a reason for imposing an absolute liability without evidence of negligence–Rixford v. Smith, 52 N. H. 355, 359–or changing the burden of proof–Lisbon v. Lyman, 49 N. H. 553, 568, 569, 574, 575,–seems not to have been given in the English cases relating to damage done by brutes or fire. And, however large or small the class of cases in which such a difficulty may be the foundation of a rule of law, since the difficulty has been so much reduced by the abolition of witness disabilities,–the present case is not one of that class.
There are many cases where a man is held liable for taking, converting–C. R. Co. v. Foster, 51 N. H. 490–or destroying property, or doing something else, or causing it to be done, intentionally, under a claim of right, and without any actual fault. “Probably one half of the cases, in which trespass de bonis asportatis is maintained, arise from a mere misapprehension of legal rights.” METCALF, J., in Stanley v. Gaylord, 1 Cush. 536, 551. When a defendant erroneously supposed, without any fault of either party, that he had a right to do what he did, and his act, done in the assertion of his supposed right, turns out to have been an interference with the plaintiff’s property, he is generally held to have assumed the risk of maintaining the right which he asserted, and the responsibility of the natural consequences of his voluntary act. But when there was no fault on his part, and the damage was not caused by his voluntary and intended act; or by an act of which he knew, or ought to have known, the damage would be a necessary, probable, or natural consequence; or by an act which he knew, or ought to have known, to be unlawful,–we understand the general rule to be, that he is not liable. Vincent v. Stinehour, 7 Vt. 62; Aaron v. State, 31 Ga. 167; Morris v. Platt, 32 Conn. 75; and *451 Judge REDFIELD’S note to that case in 4 Am. L. Reg. (N. S.) 532; Townshend on Slander, secs. 67, 88, p. 128, n. 1 (2d ed.). In Brown v. Kendall, 6 Cush. 292, the defendant, having interfered to part his dog and the plaintiff’s which were fighting, in raising a stick for that purpose, accidentally struck the plaintiff, and injured him. It was held, that parting the dogs was a lawful and proper act which the defendant might do by the use of proper and safe means; and that if the plaintiff’s injury was caused by such an act done with due care and all proper precautions, the defendant was not liable. In the decision, there is the important suggestion that some of the apparent confusion in the authorities has arisen from discussions of the question whether a party’s remedy is in trespass or case, and from the statement that when the injury comes from a direct act, trespass lies, and when the damage is consequential, case is the proper form of action,–the remark concerning the immediate effect of an act being made with reference to damage for which it is admitted there is a remedy of some kind, and on the question of the proper remedy, not on the general question of liability. Judge SHAW, delivering the opinion of the court, said,–“We think, as the result of all the authorities, the rule is correctly stated by Mr. Greenleaf, that the plaintiff must come prepared with evidence to show either that the intention was unlawful, or that the defendant was in fault; for if the injury was unavoidable, and the conduct of the defendant was free from blame, he will not be liable. 2 Greenl. Ev., secs. 85 to 92; Wakeman v. Robinson, 1 Bing. 213. If, in the prosecution of a lawful act, a casualty purely accidental arises, no action can be supported for an injury arising therefrom. Davis v. Saunders, 2 Chit. R. 639; Com. Dig. Battery, A. (Day’s ed.) and notes; Vincent v. Stinehour, 7 Verm. 62;” James v. Campbell, 5 C. & P. 372; Alderson v. Waistell, 1 C. & K. 358.
**9 Whatever may be the rule or the exception, or the reason of it, in cases of insanity–Weaver v. Ward, Hob. 134; Com. Dig. Battery, A, note d, Hammond’s ed.; Dormay v. Borradaile, 5 M. G. & S. 380; Sedgwick on Damages 455, 456, 2d ed.; Morse v. Crawford, 17 Vt. 499;Dickinson v. Barber, 9 Mass. 225; Krom v. Schoonmaker, 3 Barb. 647; Horner v. Marshall, 5 Munf. 466; Yeates v. Reed, 4 Blackf. 463–and whatever may be the full legal definitions of necessity, inevitable danger, and unavoidable accident, the occurrence complained of in this case was one for which the defendant is not liable, unless every one is liable for all damage done by superior force overpowering him, and using him or his property as an instrument of violence. The defendant, being without fault, was as innocent as if the pole of his wagon had been hurled on the plaintiff’s land by a whirlwind, or he himself, by a stronger man, had been thrown through the plaintiff’s window. Upon the facts stated, taken in the sense in which we understand them, the defendant is entitled to judgment. 1 Hilliard on Torts, ch. 3, 3d ed.; Losee v. Buchanan, 51 N. Y. 476; Parrot v. Wells, 15 Wall. 524, 537; Roche v. M. G. L. Co., 5 Wis. 55; Eastman v. Co., 44 N. H. 143, 156.