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.
The following cases illustrate the attitude of the courts towards attempted revocation of an offer to be accepted by the performance of a series of acts or by a continuous act. If A subscribes to a railway and such subscription is made payable when such railway is constructed to a certain point, it is said that beginning such work is an acceptance of such offer so that A can not revoke thereafter.1 On error this judgment was reversed on the theory that the railway had demanded certain total amount subscriptions, satisfactory provision for the payment thereof and satisfactory provision for paying certain damages, before it would extend its line; and that A had revoked his subscription to the fund before the other arrangements were completed; and that the act of the railway in beginning to extend its line before all of such arrangements were completed, could not be regarded as an acceptance.2 A made an offer which was construed as a promise to pay ten thousand dollars for a charitable purpose on consideration that others would subscribe one hundred ninety thousand dollars. Several persons subscribed an aggregate of fourteen thousand dollars before A died. It was said that A could withdraw at any time before performance was begun by the promisee,3 but not afterwards.4 This principle has been applied in some cases where it would seem that the prescribed act was single and entire and not continuous; and the offeree's attempts to perform have been treated as partial performance. A promise to consent to an assignment of a lease to an acceptable assignee has been construed as an offer, to be accepted by the act of expending time and money, and thereby securing an "acceptable" assignee.5 The courts always construe an offer as calling for an acceptance by a counterpromise, wherever such construction is permissible; and sometimes, it would seem where it is not permissible.6 Some of these cases have been solved by saying that, notwithstanding the words of the offer, the offer was really one which might be accepted by the counter-promise of the offeree, and that commencement of performance by the
24 Alabama. Pratt Consolidated Coal Co. v. Short, 191 Ala. 378, 68 So. 63.
California. Los Angeles Traction Co. v. Wilshire, 135 Cal. 654, 67 Ac. 1086.
District of Columbia. Minton v. F. G. 8mith Piano Co., 36 D. C. App. 137, 33 L. R. A. (N.S.) 305.
Indian Territory. Doherty v. Arkansas & Oklahoma Ry., 5 Ind. Terr. 537, 82 S. W. 899 [reversed on another ground, Doherty v. Arkansas & Oklahoma Ry., 142 Fed. 104, 73 C. C. A 328].
Iowa. Hankins v. Young, 174 la. 383, 156 N. W. 380.
Kansas. Elkins y. Board of Commissioners, 86 Kan. 305, 46 L. R. A. (N.S.) 662, 120 Ac. 542; Braniff v. Baier, 101 Kan. 117, L. R. A. 1917E, 1036, 165 Ac. 816.
Massachusetts. Martin v. Meles, 179 Mass. 114, 60 N. E. 397.
Minnesota. Mooney v. Daily News Co., 116 Minn. 212, 37 L. R. A. (N.S.) 183, 133 N. W. 573.
Pennsylvania. In re Converse's Estate, 240 Pa. St. 458, 87 Atl. 849.
Wisconsin. Zwolanek v. Baker Mfg. Co., 150 Wis. 517, 137 N. W. 769.
See also, Underwood Typewriter Co. v. Century Realty Co., 220 Mo. 522, 119 S. W. 400.
25 A. B. Dick Co. v. Fuller, 213 Fed. 98.
26 Franklin v. Tuckerman, 68 la. 572, 27 N. W. 759; Hankins v. Young, 174 la, 383, 156 N. W. 380.
27 See Sec. 154 et seq.
1 Doherty v. Arkansas & Oklahoma Ry., 5 Ind. Terr. 537, 82 S. W. 899 [reversed, Doherty v. Arkansas & Oklahoma Ry., 142 Fed. 104, 73 C. C. A. 328].
The railway company is not usually bound, however, to complete its line. Bentier v. Cincinnati, Covington & Er-langer Railway Co., 180 Ky. 497, L. R. A. 1918E, 315, 203 S. W. 199.
2 Doherty v. Arkansas & Oklahoma Ry., 142 Fed. 104, 73 C. C. A. 328 [reversing Doherty v, Arkansas & offeree was in effect the making of such counter-promise.7 A gave a note payable thirty days after the payee, a traction company, should complete its double track to a specified point. Subsequently the traction company obtained a franchise for laying such track from the city and paid the city therefor; and began the construction of such track. Before the track was laid to the point named in the subscription, A revoked such offer. It was held that the offer could not be revoked, on the theory that when the traction company had bid for the franchise and paid therefor, "the promised consideration had been partly performed and the contract had taken on a bilateral character."8 There is nothing in the terms of the subscription to indicate that the traction company had incurred any liability if it had determined to abandon the construction of the track; and had released A from his subscription. Where the prescribed acts have been performed, the theory that the offer is really bilateral, probably does no harm, although it may not express the real intention of the parties at the outset.9 It has been suggested that the offeree may accept by promise or by act at his election.10 In a contract in which A agreed to sell for B a certain number of bonds within a certain time after B should put such bonds into A's hands, unless prevented by some means beyond A's control, and A agreed to pay to B a certain sum for such bonds, A to get the excess if any, and to make up the deficit if any, it was said that B could accept by promising performance in a reasonable time; by beginning performance in a reasonable time; or by completing performance. This seems to be obiter, since it appears that B had performed in full; and the question under discussion was whether such contract was to be regarded as an oral contract or a written contract.11 If a number of persons subscribed to a fund to be used in paying the expense of litigation to protect their business against one who claims that they are making use of his patent, and such fund is to be paid to a committee which is to undertake the litigation, it is said that if such offer was made in consideration of the promise of the committee, the act of the committee in receiving the subscriptions and undertaking the litigation, amounted to a promise, and if such offer was to be accepted by the act of the committee, the first substantial act made the contract complete. Accordingly it was held that a subscriber could not avoid liability by paying his share of the expenses up to the time that he gave notice that he had revoked his offer.12 A case which has been cited as holding that such offer may be revoked at any stage of performance of the prescribed acts short of complete performance,13 was one in which A had offered a reward for "the delivery to the sheriff * * * with evidence to convict" certain criminals. B arrested X, but did not produce evidence enough to have X bound over to the grand jury. A then withdrew the offer of reward and promised to pay B what his services were worth if he would proceed to ascertain and convict the criminals. B subsequently secured the arrest and conviction of X, and brought suit for the reward. It was held that B could not recover the reward offered; but that he could only recover the reasonable value of his services. The statement of fact in this case does not show whether B accepted A's proposition to withdraw the reward and pay a reasonable compensation or not. As it does not appear that B dissented, and as B himself offered such agreement in evidence, it seems likely that B assented to such proposition. If this is so, this case is not an authority upon A's right to revoke. The principle which then would be involved is that if A withdraws with B's consent, and promises to pay a reasonable compensation, B's right to recover is limited to such amount. If A offers a reward for the arrest of a murderer, together with information leading to his conviction, and B causes the arrest of such murderer and gives information which eventually leads to conviction, and A withdraws such offer with B's consent after such performance, but before conviction, B can recover reasonable compensation.14 The principles suggested in this discussion do not apply to cases of lapse, where the offeree fails to perform the stipulated acts.15 If an offer to sell land is by its terms to be accepted only by making certain specified payments therefor, the fact that the vendee makes some of the payments, is not such acceptance as turns the offer into a contract. In case of subsequent default, the offer lapses.16
Oklahoma Ry., 5 Ind. Terr. 537, 82 S. W. 899].
3 Misprinted "promiser."
4 In re Converse's Estate, 240 Pa. St. 458, 87 Atl. 849 [citing Addison on Contracts, 26; Hare on Contracts, 304, 309, 310; Pollock on Contracts, 12, note m].
5 Underwood Typewriter Co. v. Realty Co., 220 Mo. 522, 119 S. W. 400 [see dissenting opinion, however].
6 See Sec. 188.
7 Los Angeles Traction Co. v. Wil-shire, 135 Cal. 654, 67 Ac. 1086; Plumb v. Campbell, 129 111. 101, 18 N. E. 790; Martin v. Meles, 179 Mass. 114, 60 N. E. 397; American Publishing Engraving Co. v. Walker, 87 Mo. App. 503.
8 Los Angeles Traction Co. v. Wil-shire, 135 Cal. 654, 67 Ac. 1086.
9 Plumb v. Campbell, 129 111. 101, 18 N. E. 790.
10 Plumb v. Campbell, 129 111. 101, 18 N. E. 790.
11 Plumb v. Campbell, 129 III. 101, 18 N. E. 790.
12 Martin v. Melee, 179 Mass. 114, 60 N. E. 397.
13 Biggers v. Owen, 79 Ga. 658, 5 S. E. 193.
14 Bronnenberg v. Coburn, 110 Ind. 169, 11 N. E. 29.
15 See Sec. 140.
16 Verstine v. Yeaney, 210 Pa. St. 109, 59 Atl. 689.
"While there was a promise to pay, the court construed this as an option to pay or to give up rights in the land.17
Nor do these principles apply where the offer called for an acceptance by a counter-promise; and the offeree has tried to substitute performance by acts done without the knowledge of the offeror.18