The doctrine that courts of law will not inquire into the adequacy of consideration is based on their inability to determine what value the parties may have attached to a thing given or promised, and it does not apply to an exchange of things the value of which is exactly and conclusively fixed by law.49 In an Indiana case on this point the defendant had promised to pay the plaintiff and others $600 in consideration of a promise by them to pay him one cent, and the consideration was held inadequate. "It is true," said the court, "that, as a general proposition, inadequacy of consideration will not vitiate an agreement. But this doctrine does not apply to a mere exchange of sums of money - of coin - whose value is exactly fixed, but to the exchange of something of, in itself, indeterminate value, for money, or perhaps for some other thing of indeterminate value. In this case, had the one cent mentioned been some particular one cent, a family piece, or ancient, remarkable coin, possessing an indeterminate value, extrinsic from its simple money value, a different view might be taken. As it is, the mere promise to pay $600 for one cent, even had the portion of the cent due from the plaintiff been tendered, is an unconscionable contract, void at first blush upon its face, if it be regarded as an earnest one."50
46 Shadwell v. Shadwell, 9 C. B. (N. S.) 159; Wright v. Wright, 54 N. Y. 437; Peck v. Vandemark, 99 N. Y. 29, 1 N. E. 41; Dugan v. Gittings, 3 Gill (Md.) 138, 43 Am. Dec. 306; Rockafellow v. Newcomb, 57 111. 191; Frank's Appeal, 59 Pa. 194; Nowack v. Berger, 133 Mo. 24, 34 S. W. 4S9, 31 L. R. A. 810, 54 Am. St Rep. 663; Wright v. Wright, 114 Iowa, 748, 87 N. W. 709, 55 L. R, A. 261. Release from promise to marry is sufficient. Snell v. Bray, 56 Wis. 156, 14 N. W. 14. See "Contracts," Dec. Dig. (Key-No.) § 54; Cent. Dig. § 239.
47 Post, p. 145.
48Guerand v. Dandelet, 32 Md. 561, 3 Am. Rep. 164; Pierce v. Fuller, 8 Mass. 223, 5 Am. Dec. 102; McClurg's Appeal, 58 Pa. 51; Hubbard v. Miller, 27 Mich. 15, 15 Am. Rep. 153; Duffy v. Shockey, 11 Ind. 70, 71 Am. Dec. 348; Linn v. Sigsbee, 67 111. 75; Grasselli v. Lowden, 11 Ohio St. 349; Lawrence v. Kidder, 10 Barb. (N. Y.) 641 See "Contracts," Dec. Dig. (Key-No.) §§ 58, 116; Cent. Dig. §§ 281, 51,2.
49Langd. Cont. 70; SCHNELL v. NELL, 17 Ind. 29, 79 Am. Dec, 453, Throckmorton Cas. Contracts, 103; Shepard v. Rhodes, 7 R. I. 470, 84 Am. Dec 573; Brooks v. Ball, 18 Johns. (N. Y.) 337. See "Contracts," Dec. Dig. (Key-No.) § 53; Cent. Dig. §§ 231, 232.
Inadequacy of consideration will be taken into account to some extent by courts of equity in the exercise of their peculiar power to compel specific performance of contracts. It has been held that inadequacy of consideration, without more, is ground upon which specific performance may be resisted; but the better doctrine requires that there shall be such gross inadequacy as to shock the conscience, and amount in itself to evidence of fraud.51 And if a contract is sought.to be avoided on the ground of fraud or undue influence, the consideration may be inquired into, and inadequacy of consideration will be regarded as corroborative evidence in support of the suit;52 but mere inadequacy of consideration alone is not enough to warrant the court's interference53
67. Though the consideration need not be adequate to the promise, it must not be illusory or unreal; some benefit must be conferred on the promisor, or some detriment suffered by the promisee.