Strictly, it is a misnomer to speak of a past "consideration," for it is in fact no consideration at all. A past consideration, so called, is some act or forbearance in time past by which a man has benefited without thereby incurring any legal liability. If, afterwards, whether from good feeling or interested motives it matters not, he makes a promise to the person by whom he has been so benefited, and that promise is made upon no other consideration than the past benefit, the promise is gratuitous, and cannot be enforced.66 Thus, where a person who had previously sold a vicious horse without any warranty, either express or implied, afterwards promised that it was sound and free from vice, it was held that the promise was not binding for want of consideration.67 So, also, it has repeatedly been held that services rendered in the past, but not at the express or implied request of the person benefited by them, will not support a promise by him to pay for them.68 In a Michigan case in which liquor had been sold in violation of a statute, which was afterwards repealed, the court held that, as the contract was void, a promise by the buyer to pay, made after the statute was repealed, in consideration of the sale and of an extension of the time for payment originally agreed upon, was without consideration.69 So, where the balance of a debt has been voluntarily and effectually released on payment of a part of it, a subsequent promise by the debtor to pay the part released cannot be enforced.70
64Ante, PP- 47, 48; England v. Davidson, 11 Adol. & El. 856. See "Contracts," Dec. Dig. (Key-No.) §§ 78, 19; Vent. Dig. §§ S5J,S81.
65 "Whether the request be direct, as where the party is expressly desired by the defendant to pay, or indirect, where he is placed by him under a liability to pay, and does pay, makes no difference." Brittain v. Lloyd, 14 Mees. & W. 762. See "Contracts," Dec. Dig. (Key-No.) § 78; Cent. Dig. §§ 354-856.
66 MOORE v. ELMER, 180 Mass. 15, 61 N. E. 259, Throckmorton Cas. Contracts, 128; Hunt v. Bate (1568) Dyer, 272; Bulkley v. Landon, 2 Conn. 404; Bartholomew v. Jackson, 20 Johns. (N. Y.) 28, 11 Am. Dec. 237; Chaffee v. Thomas, 7 Cow. (N. Y.) 358; Greene v. First Parish in Maiden, 10 Pick. (Mass.) 500; Williams v. Hathaway, 19 Pick. (Mass.) 387; Wilson v. Edmonds, 24 N. H. 517; Marsh v. Chown, 104 Iowa, 556, 73 N. W. 1046; Stoneburner v. Motley, 95 Va. 784, 30 S. E. 364. Some of the earlier cases sustained, and many late cases seem to sustain, promises on a past consideration on the ground of moral obligation. Barnes v. Hedley, 2 Taunt. 184; Lee v. Mugger-idge, 5 Taunt. 36. See ante, p. 136; post, p. 175. See "Contracts," Dec. Dig. (Key-No.) § 79; Cent. Dig. §§ S57-S81.
67 Roscorla v. Thomas, 3 Q. B. 234. See "Contracts," Dec. Dig. (Key-No.) § 79; Cent. Dig. §§ S57S81.