This section is from the book "Elementary Banking", by John Franklin Ebersole. Also available from Amazon: Elementary Banking.
It must in imperative terms direct the drawee to "pay to A" the sum specified. There must be no qualifying statements. A request to pay, or an authority to collect money due, is not an order, though it is often hard to tell from the language used just what is meant. An order implies in its terms a right to command and a duty to obey. Words of politeness, however, will not deprive an order of imperative quality. "Please pay X" is a common phrase, but is held to be an order. The following was held to be a bill of exchange: "Mr. Nelson will oblige Mr. Webb by paying J. Ruff, or order, twenty guineas on his account." The order must be unconditional on its face. If a bill was to be payable only if some specified event should happen it would be of little value in business, since the event might never happen. Even if the event should afterwards take place the instrument would not then become a bill. Suppose A has two accounts with the firm of B and draws a draft on B in the following words: "Please pay C, or order, $500 and charge account No. 1." Is this a negotiable instrument? It has been held to be. There is an unqualified order to B to pay C, or order, the $500 and the words "charge account No. 1" are only an indication to B of the account to which the bill is to be charged after it is paid. The fact that the consideration may be stated does not make the instrument conditional. Suppose the above bill had read: "Please pay C, or order, $500, account five typewriters." This is still an unconditional order to pay C, or order, and the statement of the consideration does not affect it.
There must be certainty as to the time when a bill will be due, or no one would take it from anybody else. An instrument is payable on demand (1) where it is expressed to be payable on demand, or at sight, or on presentation; or (2) where no time of payment is stated. An instrument is payable at a fixed time if it says, for example, "30 days after date." An instrument is payable at a determinable time when the date can be fixed with reference to the happening of an event certain to happen. Death is sure to come, though the time of its coming is uncertain, so an order to pay thirty days after death would be binding. Suppose an order said "pay to X $500 when he becomes twenty-one years of age." This would not be negotiable, since X might never become twenty-one.
If the bill reads "$500 and accrued taxes," then it would not be negotiable, for the amount payable at maturity is uncertain. But stipulations for interest at a given rate, or for the payment of costs of collection and attorney's fees, if not paid at maturity, do not affect the negotiability of a bill. The order to pay must be to pay money. The money must be that of the country where the order is payable. For instance, a note payable in Canada but made in Illinois must be payable in Canadian money. By business customs the following terms mean money: "currency" and "current funds," so a bill containing an order to pay $500 in "currency" or "current funds" will be negotiable. A particular kind of legal tender may be designated, such as gold eagles or pennies. There must not be an order to pay money and (or) something else. An order "pay X $500 and give him my horse Black Star," or "pay X $500 or give him my horse Black Star" will not be negotiable - the payee or anybody to whom the bill is indorsed must be certain of getting money alone if he wishes it. But if X was to have the choice of taking the money or the horse it would be all right. In other words, if the maker of a note has the election of paying money or giving something else, the note is not negotiable. If the holder has the option of requiring something to be done in lieu of the payment of money, the note is negotiable, because the holder can always demand money.