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 of the cases the act which makes performance impossible on the part of the party who performs such act, affects all the covenants on his part to be performed, and operates as a total breach.1 It is not necessary, however, that the creation of an impossibility should affect all the covenants of the contract to be performed by the party who has made his own performance impossible; but as in the case of breach in general,2 breach may exist where performance of a part only of the contract is made impossible if this is a vital term of the contract.3 If a party is disabled from performing a minor covenant,4 or an independent covenant,5 such conduct is a breach of such covenant, but it does not operate as a discharge of the entire contract. If A has agreed to sell certain realty to B, and before the time fixed for performance an agent of A, acting under authority which was given before such contract, sells an inconsiderable part of such realty to X, such conduct operates as a breach, but the breach is of so minor a character as not to operate as a discharge of the entire contract.6 If A has agreed to float B's logs and to sort them from logs belonging to other owners, B's conduct in buying all of the logs with which his own were confused does not operate as a breach of the entire contract, although it discharges A from his duty to sort out B's logs;7 and in such case B can not insist on a reduction of the purchase price because it has cost A loss to perform than would have been the case if B had not bought such logs.8 If A agrees to saw timber on tract 1, which belongs to B, and subsequently by a supplementary agreement such contract is made to include timber on tract 2, which B has purchased after the original contract was made, B's conduct in delivering timber from tract 2 to C to be sawed is a breach of the covenant of the supplementary contract; but as this is an independent covenant, the original contract is not discharged thereby.9
1 United States. Reynolds v. Manhattan Trust Co, 83 Fed. 503, 27 C. C. A. 620.
Georgia. Brooks v. Miller, 103 Ga, 712, 30 S. E. 630.
Michigan, Weaver v. Aitcheson, 65 Mich. 285, 32 N. W. 436
Hew York. Genet v. Delaware & Hudson Canal Co, 136 N Y. 593, 19 L. R. A. 127. 32 N. E 1078.
Sonth Dakota. Hudson v. Archer, 0 8. D. 240, 68 N. W. 541.
2 See Sec. 2981.
3 Krebs Hop Co v. Livesley, 51 Or.
527, 92 Pac. 1084 [citing, Weintz v. Hafner, 78 111. 27].
4 Heard v. Bowers, 40 Mass. (23 Pick.) 455; McGuire v. J. Neils Lumber Co., 07 Minn. 293, 107 N. W. 130. 5 Barker & Stewart Lumber Co. v. Edward nines Lumber Co., 137 Fed. 300.
6 Heard v. Bowers, 40 Mass. (23 Pick.) 455.
7 McGuire v. J. Neils Lumber Co., 97 Minn. 203, 107 N. W. 130.
8 McGuire V. J. Neils Lumber Co., 97 Minn. 203, 107 N. W. 130.