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.
An important difference between contracts of public agents and contracts of private agents is in the construction of liability intended to be assumed. We have seen that in contracts of private agents the mere addition of the official capacity to the signature does not prevent personal liability from being imposed on the agent; and it does not prevent the contract from being treated as his personally.1 In contracts of public agents, there is, unfortunately, a lack of harmony on this question, as there is in contracts of private agents. There may be said, however, to be a strong tendency in contracts of public agents, to hold that the public corporation is bound and the agent is not in many cases where the opposite result would be reached in contracts of private agents. Thus a lease made to a city, signed by the mayor individually and sealed with his seal is the contract of the city and not of the mayor personally.2 So an appeal bond purporting to be the obligation of the city, but signed by the mayor and the clerk with their official titles added to their names is valid as the obligation of the city.3 An order directed to a township clerk, directing him to make a specified payment out of township funds and signed "A, B, C, Trustees," does not impose personal liability on A, B and C.4 So a contract beginning "We, trustees," and promising to repay "money borrowed to build" a certain school house, signed individually, imposes no personal liability.5 A reward offered by "A, B, C, Selectment of Milton," imposes personal liability on such signers.6 A contract signed by the individual names of public officers, and not showing on its face any intention to make a contract on behalf of the public is the individual contract of such officers.7
Powers v. Briggs, 79 111. 493; 22 Am. Rep. 175.
2 McKensey v. Edwards, 88 Ky. 272; 21 Am. St. Rep. 339; 3 L. R. A. 397; 10 S. W. 815. (However in such a case it is said that the question of the nature of liability imposed must be determined on answer and not on demurrer. McKensey v. Edwards, 88 Ky. 272; 21 Am. St. Rep. 339; 3 L. R. A. 397; 10 S. W. 815; citing Pack v. White, 78 Ky. 243.)
3 Bradlee v. Glass Manufactory, 16 Pick. (Mass.) 347.
4 General Electric Co. v. Gill, 127 Fed. 241.
5 Railway Speed Recorder Co. v. Tool Co., 126 Fed. 223.
6 Armstrong v. Kirkpatrick, 79 Ind. 527.
7 Simpson v. Garland, 72 Me. 40; 39 Am. Rep. 297.
8 Towers v. Cattle Co., 83 Minn. 243; 86 N. W. 88.
1 See Sec. 1148 et seq.
2 Chicago v. Peck, 196 111. 260; 63 N: E. 711; affirming 98 111. App. 434.
3 (City of) Fon du Lac v. Atto, 113 Wis. 39; 90 Am. St. Rep. 830; 88 N. W. 917.
4 Willett v. Young, 82 Ia. 292; 11 L. R. A. 115; 47 N. W. 990.
5 War ford v. Temple (Ky.), 73 S. W. 1023.
6 Brown v. Bradlee, 156 Mass. 28; 32 Am. St. Rep. 430; 15 L. R. A. 509; 30 N. E. 85.
7 Western Publishing House v.. Murdick, 4 S. D. 207; 21 L. R. A. 671; 56 N. W. 120.