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.
In most systems of law, a contract, even of the most formal type, may be terminated by a contract of equally formal type. This was probably true of the early English law, although much of the original material is so inaccessible that no final answer can be given to this problem. Before the introduction of the seal, it is likely that the written contract was regarded as enforceable because of its form; and a release in the form of the original contract seems to have been assumed as sufficient. Subject to some qualifications, to be discussed later,1 the sealed release seems to have been operative from an early period of time, to discharge rights in realty, rights of action in tort, and rights arising out of contract. In the early abridgments.2 the operative effect of the release is assumed, and the questions which are discussed are detailed questions of its scope and effect, such as ordinarily would not arise until long after the sufficiency of the release had become thoroughly settled. The gradual abolition of the private seal has caused a marked change in the law of release. In jurisdictions in which the private seal no longer has any legal effect, it is necessary to demand consideration of some sort for the new contract, which is now necessary, on the one hand, in place of the common-law release; or, on the other hand, to give the same effect to the written unsealed release, either by legislation or by change of judicial decision, that the sealed release had at common law.
5Diehl v. McKinnon. 173 Ia. 32. L. R. A. 1916C. 384. 156 N. W. 259: Bensen v. Reger, - Ia. - , 168 N. W. 881.
6 Diehl v. McKinnon. 173 Ia. 32. L. R. A. 1916C. 384. l55 N. W. 259; Herman v. Schlesinger. 114 Wis. 382. 01 Am. St. Rep. 922. 90 N. W. 460.
1Ayliff v. Scrimeheire, 1 Shaw. 46;
Hastings v. Dickinson, 7 Mass. 153, 5 Am. Deo. 34; Harrison v. Chose. 2 Johns. (N. Y.) 448. 3 Am. Dec. 444.
2See Sec. 2454 to 2456.
1 See Sec. 2454.
2Statham's Abridgment. Title, Re-lese; Fitzherbert's Grand Abridgment, Title. Reless; Rolle's Abridgment, Title. Releas.