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.
The time of performance may be fixed with reference to the doing of some specified act.1 This is usually held to be a provision inserted to fix the time of performance, but not to make the doing of such other act a condition precedent. Hence if such other act is never done, the act contracted for must be done in at least a reasonable time. This principle has been applied to a promise to pay when the maker has finished a church then building,2 or "as soon as the crop can be sold or the money raised from any other source,"3 or when the promisor shall sell the place he lives in,4 or to pay in twelve months "or as soon as I can sell the above amount of Allen's Vegetable Tonic,"5 or to credit the amount of the debtor's cigars sold by the creditor, upon the debt and thus extinguish it,6 or when other specified property is sold at a specified price ;7 or to pay in four months or as soon as the promisor shall collect a certain note ;8 or to pay by a certain date "on the condition that the banks of Tennessee have resumed specie payment at that time; if not, as soon thereafter as they do resume specie payment " ;9 or to pay by a certain clay "or as soon thereafter as said railroad company" shall make certain payments to the promisor;10 and to a contract to deliver lumber at a certain time "or as soon thereafter as vessel can be got ready.11 A note, payable ninety days after the return of a specified ship, is payable in case such ship is lost, ninety days after the time usually required for such a trip.12 Thus if a promise is made to pay a certain sum when it is realized from the sale of the products of certain lands, such sum is due at once as soon as the promisor has made literal performance impossible by selling such land.13 An agreement to pay the consideration for a conveyance to the grantor's grandson when he reaches the age of twenty-one is not discharged by his death before reaching such age, but his legal representatives may recover the amount when such grandson would have been twenty-one had he lived.14 An express provision that payment shall not be made until a certain event occurs, leaves no room for construction, and is given full force and effect. Thus if a provision is inserted in a contract that a party who saws logs into lumber is not to be paid until the adversary party has sold the lumber, payment is not due until such sale.15 A promise to pay when able is held in some jurisdictions to imply a promise to pay in at least a reasonable time. This principle has been applied to contracts to pay "when I can make it convenient,"16 "as fast as I can spare the same from my salary,"17 as fast as the promisor was financially able without sacrificing his interests in a given corporation, for stock in which the contract in question was made,18 or "when payor and payee mutually agree."19 In other jurisdictions a promise to pay as the debtor "might feel able to pay," is held to leave the time of payment in the bona fide and honest judgment of the debtor, though a legal liability is created by such contract.20 If the debtor is in fact financially able to pay, he is bound to make the payment stipulated under such contract.21
4 Luckhart v. Ogden, 30 Cal. 547; Attwood v. Clark, 2 Me. 249; Echols v. Railroad Co., 52 Miss. 610.
5 Cotton v. Cotton, 75 Ala. 345; Hill v. Hobart, 16 Me. 164; Hedges v. R. R., 49 N. Y. 223.
1 Remy v. Olds, 88 Cal. 537; 26 Pac. 355; Collins v. Park, 93 Ky. 6; 18 S. W. 1013; McKinnon Mfg. Co. v. Fish Co., 102 Mich. 221; 60 N. W. 472.
2 Eaton v. Yarborough, 19 Ga. 82.
3 Nunez v. Dautel, 19 Wall. (U. S.) 560.
4 Crooker v. Holmes, 65 Me. 195; 20 Am. Rep. 687. (Hence judgment and levy on such property does not relieve the promisor from liability to pay in a reasonable time.)
5 Harlow v. Boswell, 15 111. 56.
6 Jacoby v. Jacoby, 103 Fed. 473.
7 Noland v. Bull, 24 Or. 479; 33 Pac. 983. As to pay a commission by conveying realty when other realty is exchanged. Alvord v. Cook, 174 Mass. 120; 75 Am. St. Rep. 288; 54 N. E. 499.
8 McCarty v. Howell, 24 111. 341.
9 Walters v. McBee, 1 Lea(Tenn.) S64.
10 Crass v. Scruggs, 115 Ala. 258; 22 So. 81.
11 Whiting v. Gray, 27 Fla. 482; 11 L. R. A. 526; 8 So. 726.
12 Randall v. Johnson, 59 Miss. 317; 42 Am. Rep. 365.
13 Poirier v. Gravel, 88 Cal. 79; 25 Pac. 962.
14 Haines v. Weirick, 155 Ind. 548; 58 N. E. 712.
15 Gardner v. Edwards. 119 N. C. 566; 26 S. E. 155.
16 Lewis v. Tipton, 10 O. S. 88; 75 Am. Dec. 498.
17 Culver v. Caldwell, 137 Ala. 125; 34 So. 13.
18 Chadwick v. Hopkins, 4 Wyom. 379; 62 Am. St. Rep. 38; 34 Pac. 899. (A delay of four years was held more than a reasonable time.)
19 Page v. Cook, 164 Mass. 116; 49 Am. St. Rep. 449; 28 L. R. A. 759; 41 N. E. 115.