When a rejection sent by mail takes effect is a question that does not seem to have been yet authoritatively decided. If such a rejection does not become effective until it reaches the offeror, a subsequent acceptance by telegraph will make a binding contract. And since an acceptance takes effect when mailed or dispatched by telegraph, if communication by such means is authorized,15 even an acceptance by mail sent after the rejection had been mailed but before it had reached the offeror would create a contract. The analogy of the law governing a revocation 16 may be urged in support of an argument that the rejection amounts to nothing until received, but the practical injustice of allowing the offeree to hold the offeror bound by an acceptance unknown to the latter until after he has received the rejection and is justified in supposing the offer at an end makes it not unlikely that the analogy of acceptance by mail would be followed and the rejection held effective from the time when it was mailed, if communication by mail was authorized.17 Such expression of judicial opinion as there is, however, following the analogy of the law of revocation, regards the receipt and not the dispatching of the rejection as the effective moment.18
14 The case of Farmers' Handy Wagon Co. v. Newcomb, 192 Mich. 634, 169 N. W. 152, seems to afford an illustration of this. In an agreement for the purchase of a silo the buyer reserved till a certain day the right "to reconsider" the purchase. The court said that there was a "contract" subject to a right on the part of the buyer to withdraw within the time stated. It seems clear that there was at the outset no contract and that each party must have had the right to withdraw, since the seller could not be bound in consideration of a promise by the buyer which was purely illusory until the time had passed within which reconsideration was possible. As the buyer did not reconsider before the day named, the court rightly held him
15 See infra, Sec.Sec. 81, 82. It was held in Waster v. Casein Co., 206 N. Y. 606, 100 N. E. 488, that repudiation by one party to a contract previously formed, also takes effect as a breach when dispatched.
16 See infra, Sec. 66.
It seems impossible to discuss the matter very satisfactorily on principle because of the two opposing analogies. As an original question the decisions of the courts that a contract becomes complete on the mailing of a letter of acceptance seems open to criticism;19 but that rule must be taken as established and it may therefore equally well be arguedrejection is analogous to an acceptance because coining from the offeree. On the second line of argument it is analogous to a revocation because destructive of the offer.
1. All answers by mail or telegram when that mode of communication is authorized, take effect when dispatched.
2. Any communication destroying or determining an offer takes effect only when received. On the first line of argument
17This difficulty may perhaps be avoided by the doctrine of estoppel. See infra, Sec. 98.
18In Jameo v. Darby, 100 Fed. Rep. 224, 229, 40 C. C. A. 341, the court side of a letter of rejection: "After [the offeror] received this letter [the offeree] would not have been allowed, if he had so desired, to have recalled it, and then accepted in unconditional terms . . . The receipt by [the offeror} of that letter rendered the option nugatory;" but the facte involved no question of the precise time when the rejection became effectual.
In Harris v. Scott, 67 N. H. 437,439, 32 Atl. 770, the court said of the defendant who had made an offer by mail: "She made the public post her agent to receive from the plaintiff an unqualified acceptance of her offer, but not to receive a counter-proposal or conditional acceptance." The question the court was deciding in this case, however, was that the counter-offer was not effective as an offer until received, not that letter might not operate as a rejection. It may seem odd to suggest the possibility that a letter containing a rejection of an offer, and also a new offer might become effective as to the rejection immediately, but as to the offer not until communication was complete; but if it is remembered that a letter revoking one offer and accepting another unquestionably takes effect at two different times there will seem less reason for surprise. The acceptance and revocation, however, though in the same letter are two distinct things whereas the counter-offer is itself the rejection. See an article by Dean Ashley in 12 Yale L. 3. 419. 19See infra, Sec. 81.