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.
Many of the earlier English cases use language which seems to indicate that the courts believed that any act done in compliance with a previous request of the adversary party was sufficient consideration for a subsequent promise based thereon.1 No attempt is made to show that the past transaction created a legal liability.2 A prior request to the promisee to become surety for a third person,3 or to marry a female relative of the promisor's,4 or reconciling differences between the promisor and another,5 is sufficient to make such transaction a consideration for a subsequent express promise based thereon. Frequently, however, the previous request, followed by the subsequent act, would create a legal liability at modern law,6 such as riding journeys to endeavor to secure a pardon for a felon.7
While the courts still speak of the "previous request" as the element which makes the past consideration sufficient to support a subsequent promise,8 the function of the previous request is to show that the benefits which were conferred as a result of such request were not conferred as gratuities; and, accordingly, the previous request is operative where such request together with the acts done pursuant thereto, create a legal liability;9 while if such previous request and such performance thereunder create no legal liability, no consideration for a subsequent promise exists.10 If A requests B to examine mining property and report any favorable prospects, and B does so, A's promise to pay to B a commission if on investigation A should purchase any of the properties thus reported, is supported by sufficient consideration.11
84 la. 655, 15 L. R. A. 300, 51 N. W. 145; Hummel's Estate, 55 Minn. 315, 56 N. W. 1064.
Promise by an heir, Holmden v. Janes, 42 Kan. 762, 23 Pac. 92.
As a promise by an heir to pay a debt of his ancestor's which is a Hen on his property, Blakemore v. Blake-more (Ky.), 44 S. W. 96.
The statutory liability of a devisee for the debts of the testator up to the amount of assets received by the devisee is a consideration for a promise to pay such debts. Withers' Administrator v. Withers' Heirs (Ky.), 100 S. W. 253.
31 Flanders v. Blandy, 45 O. S. 108, 12 N. E. 321.
1Riggs v. Bullingham, Cro. Eliz. 715; Bosden v. Thinne, Yelv. 40; Sid-nam v. Worthington, Cro. Eliz. 42 [Sidenham v. Worlington, 2 Leon. 224]. "It was agreed, that a mere voluntary courtesy will not have a consideration to uphold an assumpsit. But if that courtesy were moved by a suit or request of the party that gives the assumpsit, it will bind; for the promise, though it follows, yet it is not naked, but couples itself with the suit before, and the merits of the party procured by that suit, which is the difference." Lampleigh v. Brath-wait, Hol. 105b.
2Riggs v. Bullingham, Cro. Eliz. 715; Bosden v. Thinne, Yelv. 40; Har-dres v. Prowd, Style 465.
3Sidnam v. Worthington, Cro. Eliz. 42 [Sidenham v. Worlington, 2 Leon. 224].
4 Barker v. Halifax, Cro. Eliz. 741; Hunt v. Bate, Dyer 272; Bosden- v. Thinne, Yelv. 40.
5Hardres v. Prowd, Style 465.
6 Lampleigh v. Brathwait, Hob. 105b.
7 Lampleigh v. Brathwait, Hob. 105b.