There is much confusion and conflict in the authorities as to the effect of the contracts of infants. In an early English case the doctrine was stated to be that (1) where the court could pronounce the contract for the benefit of the infant, as for necessaries, it was good; (2) that where the court could pronounce it to be to his prejudice it was void; and (3) that in those cases where the benefit or prejudice were uncertain the contract was voidable only.37 And the same doctrine has been laid down by some of the American courts and text writers.38
This cannot, however, be accepted as a correct statement of the law to-day. In the first place, many contracts are binding on an infant without regard to whether they are for his benefit or not. In the second place, the great weight of authority is against making any distinction between contracts of an infant as being void or voidable, and in favor of holding all contracts other than valid ones, with a very few exceptions, simply voidable by the infant at his option.39 The object of the law is merely to protect the infant, and this object is amply secured by not allowing the contract to be enforced against him during his infancy, and allowing him to repudiate it on attaining his majority. Moreover, such a distinction must necessarily be arbitrary and doubtful, for it must always be difficult, if not impossible, to say whether a particular contract may not possibly be beneficial. It is better to allow the infant to decide this question for himself when he becomes of age.40
34 Metc. Cont. (Heard's Ed.) 43; Herbert v. Turball, 1 Keble, 589, Ewell's Cas. 1; Bardwell v. Purrington, 107 Mass. 419; State v. Clarke, 3 Har. (Del.) 557; Hamlin v. Stevenson, 4 Dana (Ky.) 597; Wells v. Wells, 6 Ind. 447; Linhart v. State, 33 Tex. Cr. R. 504, 27 S. W. 260. See "Time," Dec. Dig. (Key-No.) § 11; Cent. Dig. § 53.
35 Mason v. Wright, 13 Metc. (Mass.) 306; Tyler v. Fleming, 68 Mich. 185, 35 N. W. 902, 13 Am. St. Rep. 336; Genereux v. Sibley, 18 R. I. 43, 25 Atl. 345; Wickham v. Torley, 136 Ga. 594, 71 S. E. 881, 36 L. R. A. (N. S.) 57 [cit. Clark on Contracts (2d Ed.) 150]. See "Infants," Dec. Dig. (Key-No.) §§ 9, 46; Cent. Dig. §§ 10, 98-110.
36 Shipley v. Smith, 162 Ind. 526, 70 N. E. 803. See "Infants," Dec. Dig. (Key-No.) § 10; Cent. Dig. § 11.
37 Keane v. Boycott, 2 H. Bl. 511. See "Infants," Dec. Dig. (Key-No.) § 47; Cent. Dig. §§ 99-110.
38 Vent v. Osgood, 19 Pick. (Mass.) 572; Tucker v. Moreland, 10 Pet. 65, 9 L. Ed. 345; Owen v. Long, 112 Mass. 403; Dunton v. Brown, 31 Mich. 182; Green v. Wilding, 59 Iowa, 679, 13 N. W. 761, 44 Am. Rep. 696; Robinson v. Weeks, 56 Me. 102. See "Infants," Dec. Dig. (Key-No.) § 47; Cent. Dig. §§ 99-110.