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.
At one stage of the development of the law of contract the king's courts required an express promise as a basis of the action of assumpsit. No recovery could be had on a genuine implied contract, even if performed by the adversary party so that benefits were conferred upon the party against whom relief was sought. The injustice of the results thus produced led to a steady pressure against the rule, which first relaxed and then broke down. The earliest stage of relaxation was the rule that, while an express promise was necessary, it made no difference whether the promise preceded performance or followed it. A past consideration was thus sufficient to support an express promise made under such circumstances, although no recovery could have been had upon such performance but for such subsequent promise.1 Since a past consideration was sufficient in cases of this sort, although no legal liability arose out of the performance, the courts tended to assume for a while that a past consideration was sufficient in all cases.2 The distinction that the courts drew was not between the transaction which created a liability and one which did not, but between the so-called continuing consideration and the purely executed consideration. A continuing consideration,3 such as a conveyance of an advowson,4 marriage to the promisor's female relative at promisor's request,5 or reconciling differences between the promisor and another,6 was sufficient for a subsequent promise based thereon. A consideration which was not continuing and which was entirely executed,7 such as the delivery of goods to the promisor,8 "many benefits conferred,"9 or payment of the promisor's debt,10 would not support a subsequent promise. In some cases a past transaction which would seem to create some legal liability,11 such as a loan of money,12 or work and labor,13 was held not to amount to a valuable consideration, so as to support a subsequent promise. As the doc-
Ohio. Seeds, Grain & Hay Co. v. Conger, 83 0. S. 169, 32 L. R. A. (N.S.) 380, 93 N. E. 892.
Vermont. G. R. Bianchi Granite Co. v. Terre Haute Monument Co., 91 Vt. 177, 99 Atl. 875. In some jurisdictions sending a check "in full" is not an offer of a compromise. Dimmick v. Banning, 256 Pa. St. 295, 100 Atl. 871.
39Barham v. Bank, 94 Ark. 158, 126 S. W. 394; Sparks v. Spaulding Mfg. Co., 158 la. 491, 139 N. W. 1083; Chapin v. Little Blue School, 110 Me. 415, 86 Atl. 838; Nassoiy v. Tomlin-son, 148 N. Y. 326, 51 Am. St. Rep. 695, 42 N. E. 715.
40 Canton Union Coal Co. v. Parlin & Orendorff Co., 215 111. 244, 106 Am. St. Rep. 162, 74 N. E. 143.
41 O'Brien v. American Agricultural Chemical Co., 229 Fed. 387, 143 C. C. A. 507; Scheffenacker v. Hoopes, 113 Md. Ill, 77 Atl. 130; Drewry-Hughes Co. v. Davis, 151 N. Car. 295, 66 S. E. 139.
1 Pacific Mut. Life Ins. Co. v. Coley, - Okla. - , 162 Pac. 719; Silliman v.
International Life Ins. Co., 135 Tenn. 646, 188 S. W. 273; Cary v. Harris, 120 Va. 252, 91 S. E. 166; Nath v. Oregon Railroad & Navigation Co., 72 Wash. 664, 131 Pac. 251.
2 See Sec. 617.
3 England. Hoghton v. Hoghton, 15 Beav. 278; Williams v. Williams, L. R. 2, Ch. App. 294.
Colorado. Dawley v. Dawley's Estate, 60 Colo. 73, 152 Pac. 1171.
Georgia. Belt v. Lazenby, 126 Ga. 767, 56 S. E. 81.
Michigan. Layer v. Layer, 184 Mich. 663, 151 N. W. 759.
Pennsylvania. Walworth v. Abel, 52 Pa. St. 370; Burkholder's Appeal, 105 Pa. St. 31; Appeal of Wilen, 105 Pa. St. 121.
Rhode Island. Supreme Assembly v. Campbell, 17 R. I. 402, 13 L. R. A. 601, 22 Atl. 307.
Tennessee. Trigg v. Read, 24 Tenn. (5 Humph.) 529, 42 Am. Dec. 447; Farnsworth v. Dinsmore, 32 Tenn. (2 Swan) 38.
1 See Sec. 27 et seq.
2 Hunt v. Bate, Dyer 272.
3Rigg8 v. Bullingham, Cro. Eliz.
715; Barker v. Halifax, Cro. Eliz. 741;
Hunt v. Bate, Dyer 272; Bosden v.
Thinne, Yelv. 40; Hardres v. Prowd,
Style 465. 4Riggs v. Bullingham, Cro. Eliz. 715. 5 Barker v. Halifax, Cro. Eliz. 741;
Hunt v. Bate, Dyer 272; Bosden v.
Thinne, Yelv. 40. "An assumpsit in consideration that you had married my daughter to give unto you 40 lb, was good: for the love and affection; always continue." Barker v. Halifax,
Cro. Eliz. 741.
6 Hardres v. Prowd, Style 465.
7 Jeremy v. Goochman, Cro. Eliz. 442; Cluffe v. Moor, Sid. 413; Barker v. Halifax, Cro. Eliz. 741.
8 Jeremy v. .Goochman, Cro. Eliz. 442.
9 Cluffe v. Moor, Sid. 413.
10 Barker v. Halifax, Cro. Eliz. 741.
11 Harford v. Gardiner, 2 Leon. 30; Dogget v. Dowell, Owen 144. See, however, Russell v. Collins, Sid. 425.
12 Dogget v. Dowell, Owen 144.
13 Harford v. Gardiner, 2 Leon. 30.
Contra, Russell v, Collins, Sid. 425.
trine of consideration received more attention from the courts, and as the rule requiring an express promise died out, the courts distinguished between the past transactions which resulted in legal liability and those which did not, holding that the former were sufficient considerations and the latter were not.14 In some jurisdictions there is still a strong tendency to follow the early English doctrine,15 but in most jurisdictions the later English view is adopted, and the distinctions there made are recognized and enforced.16