It became settled not a great while after the allowance of the action of assumpsit to enforce a promise to pay an antecedent debt, that a new promise by the debtor to pay his debt whether then barred by the Statute of limitations or not, bound the promisor for a new period of six years.98 There can be little doubt that the general doctrine that a precedent debt was sufficient consideration for a subsequent promise99 furnished the basis for the present doctrine allowing the enforcement of promises to pay debts barred by the statute though such promises are supported by no new consideration. When it became the law that the mere existence of a debt gave the creditor, under the fiction of a promise implied by law, a right to treat the debtor as if he had made a promise to pay the debt,1 it was natural that an acknowledgment of indebtedness as distinguished from a promise should be held to justify the implication of such a promise as would extend the bar of the statute, especially as the circumstances frequently warranted the inference of a promise implied in fact; and on this new promise, whether implied in fact or simply imposed by the law the debtor became liable afresh.2
97 Evans v. Bell, 15 Lea, 569.
98 In Dickson v. Thomson, 2 Show. 126, the court held "promise of payment within six years, though the debt were contracted long before, will evade the Statute of Limitations, but confession or only acknowledgment that he owed the plaintiff so much will not do it." Other early cases recognising the some doctrine are-Bland v. Haselrig, 2 Vent. 151; Heyling v. Hastings, 5 Mod. 425, a. c. 1 Salk. 28, Carth, 470; Dean v. Crane, 1 Salk. 28, s. c. 6 Mod. 300, sub nom. Green v. Crane, Ld.
Ray. 1101; Williams v. Gun, Fortescue, 177.
99 See supra, Sec. 143.
1 See supra, Sec. 143.
2 Hyleing v. Hastings, 1 Ld. Ray. 421; Williams v. Gun, Fortescue, 177, 181, quoting from a decision of Lord Holt a few years previously,-" Though he that acknowledges a debt doth not thereby promise payment, yet it is evidence to the jury of a promise, which creates a new debt though upon an old foundation."