§ 1390. In the next place, as to the force and effect of a Release. A release may be made either by the express agreement of the parties, or may take effect by mere operation of law. A parol contract may be released by a parol release before breach thereof.1 But a contract under seal can generally be released only by an instrument under seal.2 Yet if a parol release be founded upon a sufficient executed consideration, it will be a good defence to an action on a debt by specialty or record.3 And a judgment may always be discharged by a release under seal.4
§ 1391. No particular form of words is necessary to constitute a release. An acknowledgment of satisfaction, or a covenant never to sue, or not to sue without limitation of time, or any form indicating a manifest intention on the part of the debtor to release the creditor is sufficient5 in equity as well as at law.1 A covenant not to sue for a limited time will not operate to suspend an action during such time, the debtor's remedy being on the covenant in case it is broken,2 or by an injunction in equity against the prosecutor of the suit.
1 See Com. Dig. Assumpsit, G.; Keating v. Price, 1 Johns. Cas. 22; Frost v. Everett, 5 Cow. 497; Franklin v. Long, 7 Gill & Johns. 407; Goss v. Lord Nugent, 5 B. & Ad. 66.
2 Brooks v. Stuart. 1 P. & D. 615; Bond v. Jackson, Cooke, 500; Littler v. Holland, 3 T. R. 590; Peytoe's Case, 9 Co. 77 6; 1 Phil. Evid. 4th Am. ed. 563, 564; and Co wen & Hill's notes, pt. 2, p. 1479-1483.
3 Whitehill v. Wilson, 3 Penn. 405; Wentz v. Dehaven, 1 S. & R. 312; Farley v. Thompson, 15 Mass. 18; Dearborn v. Cross, 7 Cow. 48; Munroe v. Perkins, 9 Pick. 298; Fleming v. Gilbert, 3 Johns. 528; Lattimore v. Harsen, 14 Johns. 330; Le Fevre v. Le Fevre, 4 S. & R. 241; Merrill v. Ithaca & Owego Railroad, 16 Wend. 586.
4 Barker v. St. Quintin, 12 M. & W. 441.
5 Bacon, Abr. Release, A.; Com. Dig. Release, A. 1; Jackson d. Rose-velt v. Stackhouse, 1 Cow. 122; Cuyler v. Cuyler, 2 Johns. 186; White v. Dingley, 4 Mass. 433; Shed v. Pierce, 17 Mass. 623; Deland v. Amesbury W. & C. Manuf. Co., 7 Pick. 244; Clark v. Russel, 3 Watts, 213; Hastings v. Dickenson, 7 Mass. 153; Phelps v. Johnson, 8 Johns. 54; Jackson v.
§ 1392. A release may be given of part of a debt.3 Generally a release of the principal of a debt will also be a release of the interest thereupon, unless the interest be due under a collateral agreement.4 So a release may be given of a right now existing and established, although it may not come into effect and operation until a future day; but a bare possibility of a right or claim is said not to be the subject of a release.5 A release, however, will be construed, like all other instruments, according to the intent of the parties, as it can be gathered from the circumstances of the transaction, and the terms of the release.6 And general words will be limited and
Stackhouse, 1 Cow. 122; Stebbins v. Niles, 25 Miss. 269; Millett v. Hay-ford, 1 Wis. 401; Guard v. Whiteside, 13 I11. 7; Foster v. Purdy, 5 Met. 442. In a suit on a bond in the name of joint obligees, a paper under seal, signed by one of the plaintiffs, denying any authority for the use of his name in the suit, and forbidding its further prosecution, but containing no words showing an intention to discharge the cause of action, will not operate as a release. South wick v. Hopkins, 47 Me. 362 (1860).
1 Jones v. Quinnispiack Bank, 29 Conn. 26.
2 Thimbleby v. Barron, 3 M. & W. 210; Perkins v. Oilman, 8 Pick. 229; Ford v. Beech, 11 Q. B. 852; Webb v. Spicer, 13 Q. B. 886; Mosa v. Hall, 5 Exch. 46; Fullam v. Valentine, 11 Pick. 159; Winans v. Huston, 6 Wend. 471; Foster v. Purdy, 5 Met. 442; Berry v. Bates, 2 Blackf. 118; Guard v. Whiteside, 13 I11. 7.
3 2 Roll. Abr. 413, tit. Release, H. pt. 1; Carr v. Mason, 44 Me. 77.
4 Harding v. Ambler, 3 M. & W. 279; Veazie v. Williams, 3 Story, 54, 612.
5 Pierce v. Parker, 4 Met. 80. An heir apparent, who releases all his present and future claim and interest in his father's estate, with a covenant that neither he nor any one through him shall ever claim any right to the same, which release is made with the knowledge and consent of his father, and there is no fraud on the part of the grantee, is precluded from setting up afterward title to any part of the estate, either as heir or devisee. Curtis v. Curtis, 40 Me. 24 (1855).
6 Morley v. Frear, 4 M. & P. 315; 8. c. 6 Bing. 547; Solly v. Forbes, 4 Moore, 448; 2 B. & B. 38. As to the construction of a lease, see ante, § 643, and see Rich v. Lord, 18 Pick. 325. In this case Mr. Chief Justice Shaw said: "It is now a general rule in construing releases, especially qualified by particular recitals and specifications of claims released,1 although extrinsic evidence is not competent to show where the same instrument is to be executed by various persons standing in various relations, and having various kinds of claims and demands against the releasee, that general words, though the most broad and comprehensive, are to be limited to particular demands, where it manifestly appears by the consideration, by the recital, by the nature and circumstances of the several demands, to one or more of which it is proposed to apply the release, that it was so intended to be limited by the parties. And for the purpose of ascertaining that intent, every part of the instrument is to be considered.
"As where general words of release are immediately connected with a proviso restraining their operation. Solly v. Forbes, 2 B. & B. 38. So a release of all demands then existing, or which should thereafter arise, was held not to extend to a particular bond, which was considered not to be within the recital and consideration of the assignment and not within the intent of the parties. Payler v. Homersham, 4 M. & S. 423. So where it is recited that various controversies are subsisting between the parties and actions pending, and that it had been agreed that one should pay the other a certain sum of money, and that they should mutually release all actions and causes of action, and thereupon such releases were executed, it was held that though general in terms, the releases were qualified by the recital and limited to actions pending. Simons v. Johnson, 3 B. & Ad. 175; Jackson v. Stackhouse, 1 Cow. 126. So it has been held in Massachusetts that where upon the receipt of a proportionate share of a legacy given to another, the person executed a release of all demands under the will, it would not apply to another and distinct legacy to the person himself. Lyman v. Clark, 9 Mass. 235."