The law governing agreements made during infancy is of considerable antiquity. In 1292 a decision is reported regarding a guardian's account.45 It was there said that a release by the infant would not bar him from suing when he came of age, and the court added, "for if an infant under age borrow of another twenty marks on the security of a good writing made between them, and by the twenty marks make a profit of forty marks, and the creditor, when the borrower attains his full age, bring a writ of Debt against him and put forward the writing against him, he may say that he was under age when, etc., and may pray judgment, and so bar him of his action. And although the plaintiff say that the infant has made a profit, yet thereby the infant shall not be prejudiced." But it was said that if acknowledgement of full receipt from the guardian was made by the infant, in a court of record, he would be barred when he came of age.
43 Matthews v. Murchison, 17 Fed. 760, 768; Flittner v. Equitable Life' Assur. Soc, 30 Cal. App. 209, 157 Fac. 630; Union Trust Co. v. Knabe, 122 Md. 684, 89 Atl. 1106.
44See Professor Beale's exhaustive articles in 23 Harv. L. Rev. 1, 79, 194 260; Netherwood v. Raymer, 253 Fed. 515.
45 Y. B. 20 and 21 Edw. I, p. 318.
46 Y. B. 18 Edw. IV, pl. 7. See also 10 Hen. VI, pl. 46.
In the books after that time a number of decisions are reported.47
About the year sixteen hundred, it was laid down by Perkins 48 that gifts or grants of an infant which are not delivered by his own hand are void, but if they take effect by delivery of his own hand they are voidable only. No one has been able to give any satisfactory explanation of the reason for such a rule, but it has furnished the basis for the doctrine that an infant's power of attorney is invalid; 49 and even that any act done by an agent on behalf of an infant is void.50
Infants' acts were also divided into void, voidable, and binding, according as they were prejudicial to the infant, or possibly beneficial, or certainly beneficial to him as necessaries.51 And these classifications have left some impression on the law.
It is unnecessary to trace here in detail the subsequent English decisions. The development of the law will sufficiently appear from the analyses in the following sections.