It has been held in a number of cases that the note or promise of one joint debtor to pay the whole or part of a liquidated debt, is sufficient consideration to support an agreement by the creditor,72 though there are also contrary decisions.73 The reason given in most of the cases upholding the bargain is that the obligation of joint debtors is regarded as a single and indivisible thing, distinct from the individual obligation of any one of the joint debtors; and, therefore, the new obligation imposes a detriment on the promisor. In these decisions, however, the joint debtors were partners, and a possible reason exists for upholding an agreement with an individual partner to accept his promise to pay a portion of a partnership debt in full satisfaction. In cases of distribution in bankruptcy or insolvency individual debts are paid primarily out of individual assets; partnership debts out of partnership assets. Accordingly the performance of an individual promise accepted in lieu of a firm debt involves both a chance of detriment to the obligor and of benefit to the creditor.74 If the joint debtors were not partners the reasoning supporting the validity of an agreement to accept the promise of one in full satisfaction can only be supported on a theory of consideration in bilateral contracts previously criticised,75 since whether or not the new individual promise would involve a detrimental obligation, performance of the promise would involve neither any detriment to the debtor nor any benefit to the creditor to which he was not previously legally entitled. That actual payment by one joint debtor of part of the joint debt with no preceding promise will not support a promise by the creditor is generally held,76 and his promise to pay should have no greater value than his performance. If the original obligation was joint and several the promise of one of the debtors to pay a part will clearly support no agreement on the part of the creditor, since the debtor was by the original obligation already individually and separately bound.77
71 McManus v. Bark, L. R. 5 Exch. 65; Austin Real Estate & Abstract. Co. v. Bahn, 87 Tex. 582, 29 S. W. 646, 30 S. W. 430 Cf. Bickel v. Wessinger, 68 Ore. 98, 113 Pac. 34.
72 Thompson v. Percival, 5 B. & Ad. 925; Lyth v. Ault, 7 Ex. 669; Harris v. Lindsay, 4 Wash. C. C. 271; First Nat. Bank d. Cheney, 114 Ala. 536, 21 So. 1002; Hoopes v. MeCann, 19 La. Ann. 201; Motley v. Wickoff, 113 Mich. 231, 71N. W. 520; Morris Canal & Banking Co. v. Van Vonrt's Admr'x, 1 Zab. 100, 119; Ludington v. Bell, 77 N. Y. 138, 33 Am. Rep. 601; Allison v. Abendroth, 108 N. Y. 470,15 N. E. 606; Jaffray v. Dans, 124 N. Y. 164,173,26 N. E. 351, 11 L.A, 710; Collyer v. Moulton,
9 R. I. 90, 98 Am. Dee. 370; Lewis v. Davidson's Exec, 39 Tex. 660; Frye v. Phillips, 46 Wash. 190, 89 Pac. 559; Burdett v. Greer, 63 W. Va. 515, 60 8. E. 497, 15 L. R. A. (N. S.) 1019, 129 Am. St. 1014; Grubbe v. Lahay, 156 Wis. 29, 145 N. W. 207.
73 Early v. Burt, 68 Ia. 716, 28 N. W. 35; Walstrom v. Hopkins, 103 Pa. 118; Olive v. Morgan, 8 Tex. Civ. App. 654, 28 S. W. 572; Wadhams v. Page, 1 Wash. 420, 422, 25 Pac. 462. See also Wild v. Dean, 3 Allen, 579; Bowyer v. Knapp, 15W.Va.277.
74 This is pointed out in Lyth v. Ault, 7 Ex. 669, and in Ludington v. Bell, 77 N. Y. 138, 33 Am. Rep. 601.