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.
It is frequently said that in order to amount to an agreement the parties must intend to effect legal relations. For this reason social engagements are excluded from the class of agreements. Under our law the obligation is lacking. At common law the lack of obligation might be explained on the theory that the entire transaction is really gratuitous. It is not so clear, however, that there is not an agreement. It is said that the agreement must be entered into with the intention of effecting the legal relations of the parties between themselves. This qualification is added to exclude such things as the verdict of a jury from the realm of agreement. In the United States, however, the general rule is that a third party, for whose benefit a contract is made, may enforce it. The same rule was recognized at the later Roman law. The true distinction seems to be between agreements which confer rights upon persons who in turn enter into such agreements, or seek to take advantage of such promises and such a community of intention as a jury must possess which fixes the rights of other persons without regard to their assent thereto. Furthermore, the verdict of the jury is a finding of fact. The judgment of the court is an order. Neither of them involve any promise to the person upon whom liability is to be imposed and neither of them depend in any way upon his assent. In agreement as in obligation, it is ordinarily said that there must be two parties, each of which may consist of one or more persons. It is clear that a man can not agree with himself in this sense of the term. No reason, however, appears why three or more different parties may not enter into an agreement by which they promise to do something for each of the other parties to such agreement. The defect in the machinery of the common law in enforcing agreements of this sort is no reason for denying that they are agreements.