It is obvious, that, if the whole of the agreement is to be considered, the place where it was made (o), the time when, the objects of the parties, and the department of science and art, trade or commerce, to which the subject-matter of it belongs, must be regarded; for, otherwise, the meaning of words which have peculiar acceptations at different times and places, and in relation to different subject-matters, cannot be accurately understood. But bearing in mind these observations as to the peculiar meaning which words sometimes bear, and to the context of the whole contract, the usual and proper mode of understanding words is according to their ordinary sense and meaning (p). Of this mode the case of Barton v. Fitzgerald (q), is a strong instance In this case the defendant, by deed reciting a lease for the term of ten years, which by *several assignments had come to him, and that the plaintiff had contracted for the absolute purchase of the premises, assigned them to the plaintiff' for the residue of the term in as ample a manner as he held the same, and covenanted that it was a good and subsisting lease, valid in law, and not forfeited or otherwise determined or become void or voidable. The fault was, that the original lease was for ten years determinable on a life which fell before the ten years expired, but after this assignment to the plaintiff. And the Court held, that the plain and absolute terms of the covenant must have their full meaning, and that consequently it had been broken by the defendant; although there was another covenant against incumbrances confined to such as were created by the defendant, and those who might claim under him, and a covenant for quiet enjoyment restrained in the same manner (r). Another instructive instance of the rule of giving to each word its ordinary and popular meaning as evidently affected by the con(p) See per Lord Wensleydale in Grey v. Pearson, 6 H. L. C. 61. 106; per Vessel, M. R., in Ex parte Walton, in re Levy, 17 Ch. Div. 746, 750; 50 L. J. (Ch.) 657, 659.
(m) Cull en v. Butler, supra.
(n) Nesbitt v. Lushington, 4 T. E. 783; Glaholm v. Hays, 2 M. & Gr. (40 E C. L.R.) 257. (o) See Pust v. Dowie, 33 L. J. (Q. B.) 172.
(q) 15 East, 530.
(r) See Worthington v. Warrington, 5 C. B. (57 E. C. L. E.) 635.
Text or circumstances before mentioned, is furnished by the case of Lord Dormer v. Knight (s), in which a deed had been executed by the defendant, granting an annuity for the use of his wife; provided that, if she should associate, continue to keep company with, or cohabit, or criminally correspond with a person named, the annuity should cease. It *was held that all intercourse, however innocent, was prohibited. "The words of the deed," said the Court, "are as general as can be, and go much further than the exclusion of criminal cohabitation. The intention was to put a stop to all intercourse whatever between these two persons. The receiving a person's visits whenever he chooses to call, is associating with him. The parties have chosen to express themselves in these terms, and the words must receive their common meaning and acceptation." In like manner, where a warrant of attorney had been given to the plaintiff by the defendant, but it was agreed not to enter up judgment upon it unless the defendant should dispose of his business or become bankrupt or insolvent, it was held that the latter words meant a general inability to pay his debts, and not merely his having recourse to the protection of the Insolvent Courts (t).
But a very little consideration will show that the rule of understanding the words and sentences in their ordinary meaning, when it is not restrained by the context, is perfectly consistent with the rule that the whole context is to be considered; which is, indeed, the just rule of interpretation, and is very conveniently couched in the ancient maxim of the law, Ex antecedentibus et con," sequentibus fit optima interpretatio (u)
(s) 1 Taunt. 417.
(t) Biddlecombe v. Bond, 4 Ad. & E. (31 E. C, L. R.) 332.
(u) 1 Shep. Touch. 87; Coles v. Hulme, 8 B. & C. (15 E. C. L. R.) 568.
*These are the principal rules for the construction of contracts. There are others, less general, which are sometimes referred to. They will be found very clearly treated of in Broom's Maxims, last edition; and both these and the more general rules which it has been attempted to illustrate in this volume, are explained at large in Sheppard's Touchstone; in which book, indeed, many of the topics treated of in these Lectures will be found explained in the most scientific and masterly manner.