A promise so general or indefinite that it does not enable the courts to determine the nature and extent of the obligation assumed must be regarded as no promise at all. Such has been the fate of a promise to pay good wages;2 a promise to convey a hundred acres of land, the land not being described;3 a promise to divide profits, no rate of division being indicated.4 Instances might be multiplied.5 A benefit conferred in the honest, though mistaken, belief that such a promise is binding ought in justice to be restored. Restitution is accordingly enforced:
Sherman v. Kitsmiller, 1827, 17 Serg. & R. (Pa.) 45: - Action on a promise by defendant's intestate that in consideration that the plaintiff would live with him until her marriage he would give her one hundred acres of land. Duncan, J. (p. 49): "This vague and void promise, incapable of specific execution, because it has nothing specific in it, would not prevent the plaintiffs from recovering on a quantum meruit for the value of this young woman's services, until her marriage. If this promise had been, that, in consideration of one hundred pounds, the defendant's testator promised to convey her one hundred acres of land, chancery would not decree a specific performance, or decree a conveyance of any particular land; yet the party could recover back the money he had paid in an action." 1
1 Dorsey v. Jackman, 1814, 1 Serg. & R. (Pa.) 42; 7 Am. Dec. 611; Rawle, "Covenants for Title," Sec. 321 and cases there cited. But see Earle v. Bickford, 1863, 6 Allen (Mass.) 549; 83 Am. Dec. 65, where it was held that one who has undertaken to sell a part of the estate of an insolvent debtor, as assignee thereof, but who by reason of a want of jurisdiction in the judge who assumed to act in the case, had no authority to do so, is liable to the purchaser in assumpsit for the money received as the price thereof.
2 Fairplay School Tp. v. O'Neal, 1890, 12.7 Ind. 95; 26 N. E. 686.
3 Sherman v. Kitsmiller, 1827, 17 Serg. & R. (Pa.) 45.
4 Young v. Farwell, 1893, 146 111. 466; 34 N. E. 373; Butler v. Kemmerer, 1907, 218 Pa. St. 242; 67 Atl. 332.
5 See Harriman, "Contracts," Sec. Sec. 29-31; Am. Dig. tit. Contracts, Cent. Ed. Vol. 11, Sec. Sec. 10-20; Dec. Ed. Vol. 5, Sec. 9.