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.
It seems to us axiomatic that payment should operate as a discharge; but the common law had great difficulty in reaching this conclusion in cases involving payment of formal obligations.
Since a judgment was a so-called obligation of record,1 its existence could be proved only by the record, and the record was conclusive as to all matters existing at the date of the rendition of the judgment.2 According to the original common-law theory of the nature of the judgment and of the effect of the record, payment of a judgment could be shown only by satisfaction entered on the record itself; and if satisfaction were not entered on the record, payment could not be shown by the judgment debtor.3 Upon showing the fact of payment to the court which had rendered the judgment, a warrant would issue to any attorney to enter satisfaction on the record.
Because of the peculiar nature of the judgment, the courts of equity at first hesitated to give relief to a judgment debtor who had paid a judgment without securing the entry of satisfaction on the record.4 Such an inequitable abuse of a legal right was so unethical that equity finally gave relief in cases of this sort.5
The equitable theory of the effect of the payment of a judgment has been adopted in many jurisdictions by the courts of law, and in a proceeding upon a judgment, such as an action thereon, payment may be shown although it has not been entered on the record.6
National Bank, - Tenn. - , 217 S. W. 077.
14 Traders' National Bank v. First National Bank, - Tenn. - , 217 S. W. 977.
I5 Ex parte Cote, L. R. 9 Ch. App. 27.
16 For discussion of the effect of such a regulation upon acceptance by mail, see Sec. 208.
1 See ch. XXXVIII.
2 See Sec. 1136 et seq.
3Y. B., 22 Ed. 4, 6 pl. 18. (On request of the chancellor for the opinion of the justices on a question of law.)
Briley v. Sugg, 21 N. Car. (1 Dev. & Battles. Eq.) 366, 30 Am. Dec. 172 (obiter).
4 Y. B. 22 Ed, 4,6 pL 18.
5 Clethero v. Beckingham, Toth. 152 (p. 178). (A statute merchant or a statute staple.)
See also, Humphreys v. Leggett, 60 U. S. (9 How.) 297, 13 L. ed. 145; Florat v. Handy, 35 La. Ann. 816.
6 Harding v. Hawkins, 141 111. 572, 33 Am. St. Rep. 347, 31 N. E. 307; Maddox v. Summerlin, 92 Tex. 483, 48 S. W. 1033, 50 S. W. 567.
Whether the adoption of the equitable rale by the courts of common law has ousted the jurisdiction of equity in cases of this sort, or whether equity may continue to enjoin the enforcement of a judgment which has been paid, in spite of the fact that payment may now be shown at common law, is a question upon which there is some conflict of authority. In some jurisdictions a judgment creditor will be enjoined from collecting a judgment which has once been paid,7 especially if such judgment has not been paid in full.8 In other jurisdictions the fact that a full, adequate and complete remedy can be had at law is regarded as using the jurisdiction of equity to give relief in cases of this sort.9