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 proposition that an infant's contracts in general are voidable implies that they may be ratified. This cannot be done by an infant before reaching majority as his ratification would have no greater effect than his original contract.1 In case the infant dies before reaching majority his personal representative may affirm,2 even before the infant would have reached majority had he lived.3 Like other agreements, a valid ratification must be made by one who is competent to contract and free from restraint.4 Hence a ratification is ineffectual if made after majority by one who has been put under guardianship as a spendthrift, the statute making void his contracts after the appointment of a guardian.5 A threat of a civil action does not prevent a ratification from being binding.6 By the better reasoning it has been held that a ratification after majority is valid though the former infant did not know that by law infancy was a defense.7 The amount of legal knowledge possessed by
16 Pemberton, etc., Association v. Adams, 53 N. J. Eq. 258; 31 Atl. 280. See obiter in Petty v. Roberts. 7 Bush. (Ky.) 410.
1 Sanger v. Hibbard, 104 Fed. 455; 43 C. C. A. 635; Dana v. Coombs, 6 Greenleaf (Me.) 89; 19 Am. Dee. 194; Chandler v. Simmons, 97 Mass. 508; 93 Am. Dec. 117; Corey v. Burton, 32 Mich. 30; Ridgeway v. Herbert, 150 Mo. 606; 73 Am. St. Rep. 464; 51 S. W. 1040; Cheshire v. Barrett, 4 McCord. (S. C.) 241; 17 Am. Dec. 735; O'Dell v. Rogers, 44 Wis. 136.
2 Bozeman v. Browning, 31 Ark. 364.
3 Shropshire v. Burns, 46 Ala. 108.
4 Sims v. Everhardt, 102 U. S.
300; McCarty v. Carter, 4? JU. 53; 95 Am. Dec. 572.
5 Chandler v. Simmons, 97 Mass. 508; 93 Am. Dec. 117.
6 Bestor v. Hickey, 71 Conn. 181: 41 Atl. 555.
7 American, etc., Co. v. Wright. 101 Ala. 658; 14 So. 399; Bestor v. Hickey, 71 Conn. 18; 41 Atl. 555; Clark v. Van Court. 100 Ind. 113; 50 Am. Rep. 774; Morse v. Wheeler, 4 All. (Mass.) 570; Anderson v. Soward, 40 O. S. 325; 48 Am. Rep. 687. "The contract of a minor, including the power, on coming of age, without any new consideration, to make the contract binding on him, is a transaction sui generis, and is not strictly analogous to any other known to the law. The nature and any one at a given time in the past is a question almost impossible to determine from evidence, as the person himself is usually the only one who knows how much he knew; and the rule just given is a wise and safe one; yet it must be admitted that a considerable number of cases, mostly however, in mere dicta, hold that a ratification is invalid unless made with knowledge that infancy was a defense.8