This section is from the book "The Law Of Contracts", by William Herbert Page. Also available from Amazon: Commercial Contracts: A Practical Guide to Deals, Contracts, Agreements and Promises.
Great as was the bulk of authority when the first edition of this work appeared, an enormous number of cases have been decided in the fourteen years that have elapsed since that time; and, poor as the facilities for historical investigation still are, they have increased greatly.
The rapid changes in social, political and economic conditions are causing corresponding changes in the branches of the law that are most immediately affected thereby; and none of them is more intimately and deeply affected than the law of contracts. The centralization of power in business and in labor organizations, and the gradual disappearance of free competition, have led to an increase in state control which is withdrawing some topics, such as insurance, from the field of contract law; and the desire for unity and certainty has led to attempts to restate other branches, such as negotiable instruments, in statutory form with the inevitable result of raising far more questions with reference to the scope and extent of statutory changes than are solved thereby.
The continued progress of the ideas of equity in modifying the rigid rules of common law, has brought some of the fundamental principles of contract law before the courts for re-examination, almost as though they were new principles. Far from being settled, problems such as those of offer and acceptance, of the effect of mistake, and of the wisdom of insisting upon the consideration in a simple executory contract, that have been discussed for centuries, are treated almost as if they were open questions. The social and economic changes of the past decade and a half, have led to a re-examination of the problems of the illegal and the void contract, and a marked change in the solutions offered therefor. It is clear to all that law is moving rapidly, and that even for the most practical purposes its path in the future can be calculated only by a study of its past. Only by grasping the fundamental ideas of its past can we understand its present, or guess at its future.
In this edition, special emphasis is laid upon problems which are presented most frequently under modern conditions, but the complete presentation of the subject has not been neglected. Earlier cases have been discussed where necessary to show the trend of development of a legal principle. American law has not been treated as either appendant to modern English law, or as a peculiar variant therefrom; but American cases have been treated as at least of rank equal to English cases, in the effort to state the law as it is today.
WM. HERBERT PAGE. Madison, Wisconsin,