It will be observed that the periods of limitation begin to run from the accruing of the cause of such actions or suits; and for this reason, where it is sought to investigate the question when a cause of action has accrued, recourse is very commonly had to the decisions upon the Statutes of Limitation. In the case of Tuckey v. Hawkins (q), the defendant pleaded to an action of debt on a bond that the cause of action did not accrue at any time within twenty *years next before the commencement of the suit, and the issue raised for trial was upon a traverse of this averment. On the bond being produced at the trial, it appeared to be a post obit bond, and it was proved that the party upon whose death the sum secured thereby was made payable died within twenty years. It was held that the verdict ought to be for the plaintiff. In the course of his judgment in that case, Wilde, C. J., says: "What does the Legislature mean by the
(g) 4 C. B. (56 E. C. L. R.) 655.
'cause of action'? The object of the Statute of Limitations was to prevent parties from being harassed by stale demands, brought forward against them at a period when all their witnesses might reasonably be presumed to be dead, and when the circumstance of the plaintiff's having lain by so long without challenging them to make payment, afforded fair ground for presuming that the debt had been paid. The Legislature has thought twenty years a convenient period, beyond which the obligor in a bond ought to be relieved from the necessity of preserving evidence in discharge of his liability. Bearing in mind, therefore, that the sole object of the Legislature was to discharge parties from demands that might and ought to have been enforced at an earlier period, we have plain means of ascertaining the intention with which they used the words cause of action,' that is, a cause of action capable of being enforced. We must read the words 'debt' and 'cause of action' in the plea *in the same sense in which the statute makes such a plea a bar to the action. What then is the meaning of this plea ? That the action might have been brought more than twenty years before it was brought." It followed, therefore, that, as the action could not have been brought till after the death which made the money secured by the bond become payable, the cause of action did not accrue till the happening of that event, and the plea was answered by the replication which traversed or denied it. But if a bond be conditioned to do various things, the first breach of one of those conditions is not, as will readily be supposed, such an accruing; of the cause of action on the bond as will cause the statute to begin to run so as to prevent the obligee from suing for subsequent breaches of the obligation to do other of those things, any more than it would be so in the case of the first breach of a covenant to do such things (r).
The action of covenant is liable to the same observations as the action of debt founded on a deed; the same section of 3 & 4 Will. IV., c. 42, has (as you will observe) applied the limitation of twenty years to it also.
The period of twenty years has, however, as has been already noticed (s), in the case of certain covenants and bonds, been reduced to twelve *years. This change has been effected by the Real Property Limitation Act, 1874 (37 & 38 Vict., ft. 57), s. 8 of which imposes the limitation of twelve years on actions and suits for the recovery of money charged on land.
This provision extends to a covenant in a mortgage deed to pay principal and interest. The remedy therefore upon such a covenant must now be pursued within twelve years (t). And a collateral bond to secure a mortgage debt is equally within that section, so that the remedy upon such a bond must be pursued within twelve years also (u). Similarly an action on a covenant to pay rent would also seem to be an action to recover rent within section 1 of the same Act, which imposes the same limitation of twelve years on such an action.
Now, from these limitations thus introduced by 3 & 4 Will. IV., c. 42, and qualified by the Act of 1874, there are certain excepted cases.
In the first place, by the 4th section of 3 & 4 Will. IV., c. 42, as amended by 19 & 20 Vict., c. 97 (Mercantile Law Amendment Act, 1856), s. 10, if the person entitled to bring an action be an infant, a married woman, or an insane person, the time runs not from the
(r) Sanders v. Coward, 15 M. & W. 56.
(s) Ante, p. *38, n. (x).
(t) Sutton v. Sutton, 22 Ch. Div. 511; 52 L. J. (Ch.) 333.
(u) Fearnside v. Flint, 22 Ch. Div. 579; 52 L. J. (Ch.) 479.
33 513 accrual of the right of action, but from the removal of disability, as it is called.
In the second place, if the defendant be beyond *seas, the time runs from his return; that is also by the Act of 3 & 4 Will. IV. In the case of joint debtors, the fact of one or more being beyond seas at the time of the accrual of the cause of action, is no longer a bar to the period beginning to run as to joint debtors in the kingdom at that time (x). Also, in the case of an action to recover rent within the meaning of 37 & 38 Vict., c. 57, s. 1, no time is to be allowed for absence beyond seas. This is by s. 4 of the last-mentioned Act.
In the third place, if an acknowledgment of the liability be given in writing, signed by the person liable or his agent, the time runs from the date of that acknowledgment. This is by sect. 5 of 3 & 4 Will. IV., c. 42, in respect of specialty contracts unaffected by 37 & 38 Vict., c. 57 (Real Property Limitation Act, 1874). It is important, therefore, to ascertain what is sufficient to constitute such an acknowledgment. It is required by the statute to be made by writing, signed by the party liable by virtue of such indenture, specialty, or recognizance, or by his agent.1 Where the acknowl(x) 19 & 20 Vict., c. 97, s. 11. The effect of this section is more fully considered further on.