The parties to an obligation must be definite, both those having the right to exercise control and those bound. A man cannot be under an obligation to the entire community. His liabilities to the political society of which he is a member are matters of public or criminal law. Nor can the whole community be under an obligation to him. The correlative right on his part would be a right in rem, and would constitute property, as opposed to obligation.
14 Anson, Cont. (4th Ed.) 7. "By 'obligation' we mean the relation that exists between two persons, of whom one has a private and peculiar right (that is, not a merely public or official right, or a right incident to ownership or a permanent family relation) to control the other's actions by calling upon him to do or forbear some particular thing." Pol. Cont. 3.
15 Faulkner v. Lowe, 2 Exch. 595. See "Contracts," Dec. Dig. (Key-No.) §§ 11-14; Cent. Dig. §§ 42-48.
16Eastman v. Wright, 6 Pick. (Mass.) 316. And see Allin v. Shadburne's Ex'r, 1 Dana (Ky.) 68, 25 Am. Dec. 121. See, also, ante, p. 3, note 5. Bee "Contracts," Dec. Dig. (Key-No.) §§ 11-14; Cent. Dig. §§ 42-48.
Whether the right is to personal freedom or security, to character, or to those more material objects which we commonly call property, it imposes a corresponding duty on all to forbear from molesting the right. Such a right is a right in rem. It is of the essence of obligation that the liabilities imposed are imposed on definite persons, and are themselves definite. The rights which it creates are rights in personam.17 There are apparent exceptions to this rule in the case of contracts made by and with cities and other municipal corporations and with the state. The state represents the public, and such is also the case with municipal corporations, but this fact does not prevent contracts with them. A municipal corporation or the state is a definite party, distinct from the members of the community.