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.
Whether promissory notes were negotiable at common law is a difficult question. The English merchants undoubtedly treated them as negotiable, but Lord Holt held that they were not, and denounced the theory that they were negotiable as due to the "obstinacy and opinionativeness of merchants who were endeavoring to set the law of Lombard Street above the law of Westminster Hall."3 Parliament settled the question by statute4 in favor of their negotiability. Was this statute declaratory or remedialt We have authorities either way, some holding that Lord Holt was wrong, that promissory notes were negotiable at common law and that the Statute of Anne was declaratory,5 while others agree with Lord Holt.8 The question is of practical importance in jurisdictions in the United States, in which the Statute of Anne is not in force and no similar statute has been adopted. Between statutes and judicial decisions it is now thoroughly settled in the United States that promissory notes are negotiable,7 if all of the requisite elements are present.8
5 Smith v. Crawford County State Bank, 99 la. 282, 61 N. W. 378, 68 N. W. 690.
1 Jarvis v. Wilson, 46 Conn. 90, 33 Am. Rep. 18; Chenowith v. Chamberlain, 45 Ky. (6 B. Mon.) 60, 43 Am. Dec. 145; Carter v. Bank, 26 Tenn. (7 Humph.) 548, 46 Am. Dec. 89.
2 Henry v. Allen, 151 N. Y. 1, 36 L. R. A. 658, 45 N. E. 355; Drinkall v, Bank, 11 N. D. 10, 95 Am. St. Rep. 693, 57 L. R. A. 341, 88 N. W. 724.
Such a check differs from an ordinary bank check in that it cannot be countermanded at will. Drinkall v. Bank, 11 N. D. 10, 95 Am. St. Rep. 693, 57 L. R. A. 341, 88 N. W. 724. 3 Clerke v. Martin, 2 Ld. Raym. 757, 1 Salk. 129, 363. 4 3 and 4 Anne, c. 9.
5 Goodwin v. Robarts, L. R. 10. Exch. 337; Dunn v. Adams, 1 Ala. 527, 35 Am. Dec. 42; Irvin v. Maury, 1 Mo. 194.
6 First National Bank v. Hunt, 25 Mo. App. 172; Davis v. Miller, 55 Va. (14 Gratt.) 1. "Promissory notes are quasi-mercantile, but are not in this country, as they are in England since the Statute of Anne, negotiable precisely as bills of exchange." Taylor v. Craig, 25 Ky. (2 J. J. Mar.) 449, 460 [quoted in Smith v. Moberly, 49 Ky. (10 B. Mon.) 266, 52 Am. Dec. 543].