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.
Acceptance, on the other hand, by the great weight of modern authority, is regarded as operative, if made by mail or telegraph, from the moment that its transmission begins, provided that such transmission is made in due form, that the terms of the offer or the circumstances under which the offer is made, show fairly that the offeror contemplated acceptance by mail or telegraph; that the offer does not itself fix the time at which acceptance by mail or telegraph is to take effect; and that the offer is one which does not fix the time for which it is to remain open, and therefore by implication of law such offer must be accepted in a reasonable time.1 This rule was first laid down in a case in which
25 Baird Bros. v. Pratt, 6 Ind. Ter. 38, 89 S. W. 648; Burroughs Adding Mach. Co. v. Proprietors of Mt. Auburn Cemetery, 217 Mass. 378, 104 N. E. 744.
26 Burroughs Adding Machine Co. v. Proprietors of Mt. Auburn Cemetery, 217 Mass. 378, !04 N. E. 744.
1 See Sec. 150 et seq.; and ch. LXIII.
2 Tinn v. Hoffman, 29 L. T. (N.S.) 271; Sherwin v. National Cash Register Co., 5 Colo. App. 162, 38 Ac. 392.
3 Tinn v. Hoffman, 29 L. T. (N.S.) 271.
4 See Sec. 109.
1 England. Adams v. Lindsell, 1 Barn. & Aid. 681; Potter v. Sanders, 6 Hare 1: In re Imperial Land Co. 7 L. R. Ch. App. 587; Household Fire ft Carriage Accident Ins. Co. v. Grant, L. R. 4 Exch. Div. 216; Henthorn v. Eraser (1892), 2 Ch. 27.
United States. Minnesota Linseed Oil Co. v. White Lead Co., 4 Dill. 431; Tay-loe v. Ins. Co., 50 U. S. (9 How.) 390,13 L. ed. 187; Patrick v. Bowman, 149 U. S. 411, 37 L. ed. 790; Garettson v. Bank, 47 Fed. 867; Phenix Insurance Co. v. Schultz, 80 Fed. 337, 25 O. O. A. 453
A had made an offer to B to sell certain property and A had subsequently sold such property to X without notifying B of such sale. B's letter of acceptance was mailed to A before A made such sale to X, and it was received by A after A had made such sale. Under the present theory that a revocation is inoperative until it is com-
[citing Adams v. Lindsell, 1 Barn. & Ald. 681; Tayloe v. Ins. Co., 50 U. S. (9 How.) 390, 13 L. ed. 187; Trevor v. Wood, 30 N. Y. 307]; Andrews v. Schreiber, 93 Fed. 367; Weld v. Victory Mfg. Co., 205 Fed. 770.
Alabama. Linn v. McLean, 80 Ala. 360.
Arkansas. Kempner v. Cohn, 47 Ark. 519, 58 Am. Rep. 775, 1 S. W. 869; Porter v. Gossell, 112 Ark. 380, 166 S. W. 533.
Connecticut. Mercer Electric Mfg. Co. v. Connecticut Electric Mfg. Co., 87 Conn. 691, 89 Atl. 909.
Georgia. Levy v. Cohen, 4 Ga. 1. iowa. Ferrier v. Storer, 63 la. 484, 50 Am. Rep. 752, 19 N. W. 288; Hunt T. Higman, 70 la. 406, 30 N. W. 769.
Kentucky. Chiles v. Nelson, 37 Ky. (7 Dana) 281; Postal Telegraph-Cable Co. v. Louisville Cotton Seed Oil Co., 140 Ky. 506, 131 S. W. 277; Shaw v. Ingram-Day Lumber Co., 152 Ky. 329, 153 S. W. 431.
Maryland. Wheat v. Cross. 31 Md. 99, 1 Am. Rep. 28.
Mississippi. Couret v. Conner, 118 Miss. 374, 79 So. 230.
Missouri. Lungstrass v. Ins. Co., 48 Mo. 201, 8 Am. Rep. 100.
Hew Hampshire. Busher v. New York Life Ins. Ca, 72 N. H. 551, 58 Atl. 41.
Hew Jersey. Northampton, etc., Co. v. Tuttle, 40 N. J. L. 476.
Hew York. Mactier v. Frith, 6 Wend. 103, 21 Am. Dec. 262; Vassar v. Camp, 11 N. Y. 441; Trevor v. Wood, 36 N. Y. 307, 93 Am. Dec. 511; Sanders v. Fruit Co., 144 N. Y. 209, 43 Am. St. Rep. 757, 29 L. R. A. 431, 39 N. E. 75; Watson v. Russell, 149 N. Y. 388, 44 N. E. 161.
North Dakota. Reeves v. Bruening, 13 N. D. 157, 100 N. W. 241.
Oklahoma. Farmers' Produce Company v. Schreiner, 48 Okla. 488, L. R. A. 1916A, 1297 [sub nomine: Farmers' Produce Co. v. McAlester Storage & Commission Co., 150 Ac. 483].
Oregon. Williams v. Burdick, 63 Or. 41, 125 Ac. 844 [rehearing denied, 63 Or. 41 at 49, 126 Ac. 6031.
Rhode Island. Perry v. Iron Co., 15 R. I. 380, 2 Am. St. Rep. 902, 5 Atl. 632.
Texas. Blake v. Ins. Co., 67 Tex. 160, 60 Am. Rep. 15, 2 S. W. 368; Scottish-American Mortgage Co. v. Davis (Tex. Civ. App.), 72 S. W. 217; Kenedy Mercantile Co. v. Western Union Telegraph Co. (Tex. Civ. App.), 167 S. W. 1094.
Vermont. Hartford, etc., Co. v. Lasher, etc., Co., 66 Vt. 439, 44 Am. St. Rep. 859, 29 Atl. 629.
Washington. Malloy v. Drumheller, 68 Wash. 106, 122 Ac. 1005.
West Virginia. Campbell v. Beard, 57 W. Va. 501, 50 S. E. 747; Cobb v. Dunlevie, 63 W. Va. 398, 60 S. E. 384.
Wisconsin. Washburn v. Fletcher, 42 Wis. 152.
On the question of correspondence contracts including the telegraph and the telephone, see On Contracts by Correspondence in Private International Law, by A. Hindenburg, 9 Judicial Review, 161, 291; Contracts by Letter, by L. C. Innes, 9 Law Quarterly Review, 316; Formation of Contract Inter Absentes, by Clarence D. Ashley, 2 Columbia Law Review, 1; Contracts by Letter, In re Imperial Land Co. of Marseilles, Harris's Case, L. R. 7 Ch. 587 (1872), 7 American Law Review, municated to the offeree,2 it would make no practical difference whether such contract were completed when the letter was mailed or when it was received; since the letter of acceptance was not delayed in transmission, and since no notice of revocation was given. The court, however, seemed to assume that notice of revocation need not be given; and accordingly in order to find that a contract had been made it seemed necessary to decide whether the contract was made when the letter of acceptance was mailed or when it was received. Under these circumstances the court upheld the contract by referring the date of the contract to the time of mailing the letter of acceptance.3 In some of the earlier cases it has been held that the contract was not made until the letter or telegram of acceptance was received.4 As a result, an offer was held to be revoked by a letter of revocation which was received by the offeree after he had mailed his acceptance, but before the offeror had received it.5 However, the English law has been settled in accordance with the rule in Adams v. Lindsell,6 and the later Massachusetts cases have ignored the earlier Massachusetts rule and have come into harmony with the great weight of authority.7
433; Correspondence, Contracts by Letter, 8 American Law Review, 182; Contracts Concluded by Correspondence, by M. A. Hindenburg, 32 American Law Review, 339; The Law and the Telephone, by William A. Hough, 50 American Law Review, 425; The Law Applicable to Contracts by Telegraph, 14 American Law Register (N.S.) 401; Telegraphs and Telegrams, 4 American Law Register (N.S.) 193.
2 See Sec. 133.
3 Adams v. Lindsell, 1 Barn. & Ald. 681.
4 Beaubien, etc., Co. v. Robertson, 18 Queb. L. R. (Sup.) 429; McCullough v. Ins. Co., 18 Mass. (1 Pick.) 278; Thayer v. Ins. Co., 27 Mass. (10 Pick.) 326.
5 McCulloch v. Eagle Ins. Co., 18 Mass. (1 Pick.) 278. "It is contended by the plaintiff that the bargain was complete at the moment he wrote and put into the mail his letter signifying his acceptance of the terms offered; by the defendants, that the treaty was open until they should have received that letter, and that in the meantime they had a right to withdraw that offer. We adopt the latter opinion as the most reasonable": McCulloch v. Eagle Ins. Co., 18 Mass. (1 Pick.) 278, 281.
6 Dunlop v. Higgins, 1 H. L. Cas. 381; Household Fire and Carriage Accident Insurance Co. v. Grant, L. R. 4 Exch. Div. 216; Henthorn v. Fraser (1892), 2 Ch. 27; Bruner v. Moore (1904), 1 Ch. 305.
7 Bishop v. Eaton, 161 Mass. 496, 42 Am. St. Rep. 437, 37 N. E. 665; Brauer v. Shaw, 168 Mass. 198, 60 Am. St. Rep. 387, 46 N. E. 617. "The offer must be made before the acceptance, and it does not matter whether it is made a longer or a shorter time before, if by its express or implied terms it is outstanding at the time of its acceptance. Whether much or little time has intervened, it reaches forward to the moment of the acceptance, and speaks then. It would be monstrous to allow an inconsistent act of the
Whether we regard this rule as a wise one or not, it must now be regarded as firmly settled, subject to the limitation set forth in this section. If a loss occurs after the policy is mailed to the insured and before it is received, the insurer is liable upon the policy since it took effect when it was mailed.8