The general rule is that whatever one has capacity to do himself he has capacity to appoint another to do for him.
If one has legal capacity and legal right to do a thing himself (though he may lack the requisite skill or knowledge) he may do that thing through another. If he may contract himself, he may employ an agent to make the contract for him.5
If he has no legal capacity to bind himself upon a contract, he cannot acquire that capacity by employing an agent.
A minor's contract, except contracts to pay for necessaries actually supplied, is voidable whether made by him or through an agent, but according to some authorities a minor's appointment of an agent is void, and everything done by virtue thereof is void.
5. Greenwood v. Spring, 54 Barb. (N. Y.) 375.
With the exception of his liability to pay for necessaries supplied to him, a minor's contracts are voidable, not void, that is, he may withdraw from them if he wishes, although the other party is bound unless the minor avoids the contract. It would seem logical that the power of the minor to contract through an agent, and the appointment of the agent itself would be subject to the same observations.6 And such is the rule in some jurisdictions. But in other jurisdictions the decisions are that the appointment of an agent is utterly void, and therefore everything done by virtue thereof is void.7
A corporation can act only through agents and has the power to appoint agents and servants for the purpose of doing anything within its express or implied charter powers.
Corporations being intangible creations of the law, can act only through agents. The power of a corporation to do an act is determined by its charter. Hence any agency created for the performance of an act beyond the corporate power would not be binding upon it, although if the act were actually done, so that the corporation had derived a benefit therefrom, under some authorities the act would be binding, and under others not binding, except that the corporation would be liable upon a quasi contractual basis for the reasonable value of the benefits.8
6. Coursole v. Weyerhouser, 69 Minn. 328; 72 N. W. 697.
7. Cole v. Pennoyer, 14.111. 158; McDonald v. Spring Valley, 285 111. 52.
8. See, generally, the law of corporations, in this series.
Any person, though without power to contract in his own right may act as an agent for another.
A person must be capable of acting in his own right (sui juris) to be principal, for the simple reason that what he has no power to do personally he cannot acquire power to do by doing it through another. But what one may not do for himself because he lacks capacity he may do for another who has the capacity9 He may not, of course, bind himself upon a contract of agency if he lacks capacity to contract, but he may, if he chooses, actually perform the function of an agent. Thus, minors may act as agents and the contracts made by them in the name of the principals and pursuant to authority are binding upon such principals. The reason is that the agent does not bind himself but acts as a mere intermediary through which the minds of the contracting parties meet, whereupon the agent has performed his office.
Example 4. P sends his office boy to buy supplies on P's credit from T. The boy orders the supplies according to his authority. This makes a contract between P and T as binding as though they had contracted personally.