The defendant in error, who was also the defendant in the Justice's Court, excepted, both to the charge as given and to the refusal to charge as requested; the verdict and judgment being against him, he embodied the charge as given, as well as that refused, in separate bills of exceptions, and brought the cause to the Court of Common Pleas on error, where the judgment of the justice of the peace was affirmed; he thereupon brought error to the Circuit Court, where the judgment of the Court of Common Pleas and that of the justice were both reversed, and it is to reverse this judgment of the Circuit Court and reinstate and affirm those of the Court of Common Pleas and justice of the peace that this proceeding is pending.
Counsel for plaintiff in error contends that the record contains nothing to show that the trees which were the subject of the contract were standing or growing, and that, therefore, it does not appear that the defendant was injured by the instructions given and refused. The record does not support this contention. During the trial three separate bills of exceptions were taken, and when all of them are considered together, it clearly appears that evidence was given tending to prove that the trees, the subject of the contract, were growing on the land at the time it was made, and that the contract was not evidenced by any note or memorandum in writing. The instruction refused was, therefore, pertinent, and if it contained a sound legal proposition the refusal to give it in charge to the jury was prejudicial to the defendant. The court, however, not only refused to give the instructions requested by the defendant, but told the jury in substance, that no written memorandum was necessary. * * *
Whether a sale of growing trees is the sale of an interest in or concerning land has long been a much controverted subject in the courts of England as well as in the courts of the several States of the Union. The question has been differently decided in different jurisdictions and by different courts, or at different times by the same court within the same jurisdiction. The courts of England, particularly, have varied widely in their holdings on the subject.
Lord Mansfield held that the sale of a crop of growing turnips was within this clause of the statute. Emmerson v. Heelis, 2 Taunt. 38, following the case of Waddington et al. v. Bristow et al., etc., 2 Bos. & Pul. 452, where the sale of a crop of growing hops was adjudged not to have been a sale of goods and chattels merely. And in Crosby v. Wadsworth, 6 East, 601, the sale of growing grass was held to be a contract for the sale of an interest in or concerning land, Lord Ellenborough saying: 'Upon the first of these questions " (whether this purchase of the growing crop be a contract or sale of lands, tenements or hereditaments, or any interest in or concerning them), "I think that the agreement stated, conferring, as it professes to do, an exclusive right to the vestures of the land during a limited time and for given purposes, is a contract or sale of an interest in, or, at least, an interest concerning lands. Id. 610.
Afterwards, in Teal v. Auty, 2 B. & B. 99, the Court of Common Pleas held a contract for the sale of growing poles was a sale of an interest in or concerning lands. Many decisions have been announced by the English courts since the cases above noted were decided, the tendency of which have been to greatly narrow the application of the fourth section of the Statute of Frauds to crops, or timber, growing upon land. Crops planted and raised annually by the hand of man are practically withdrawn from its operation, while the sale of other crops, and in some instances growing timber, also, are withdrawn from the statute, where, in the contemplation of the contracting parties, the subject of the contract is to be treated as a chattel. The latest declaration of the English courts upon this question is that of the common pleas division of the high court of justice, in Marshall v. Green, 1 C. P. Div. 35, decided in 1875. The syllabus reads: "A sale of growing timber to be taken away as soon as possible by the purchaser is not a contract or sale of land, or any interest therein, within the fourth section of the Statute of Frauds." This decision was rendered by the three justices who constituted the common pleas division of the high court of justice, Coleridge, C. J., Brett and Grove, JJ., whose characters and attainments entitle it to great weight; yet, in view of the prior long period of unsettled professional and judicial opinion in England upon the question, that the court was not one of final resort, and that the decision has encountered adverse criticism from high authority (Benjamin on Sales, sec. 126, ed. of 1892), it cannot be considered as finally settling the law of England on this subject.
The conflict among the American cases on the subject cannot be wholly reconciled. In Massachusetts, Maine, Maryland, Kentucky and Connecticut, sales of growing trees, to be presently cut and removed by the vendee, arc held not to be within the operation of the fourth section of the Statute of Frauds. Claflin et al. v. Carpenter, 4 Mete. (Mass.) 580; Nettleton v. Sikes, 8 Metc. (Mass.) 34; Bostwick v. Leach, 3 Day, (Conn.) 476; Erskine v. Plummer, 7 Me. 447; Cutler v. Pope, 13 Me. 377; Cain v. McGuire, etc., 13 B. Mon. 340; Byassee v. Reese, 4 Metc. (Ky.) 372; Smith v. Bryan, 5 Md. 141. In none of these cases except 4 Met. (Ky.) 373, and in 13 B. Mon. 340, had the vendor attempted to repudiate the contract, before the vendee had entered upon its execution, and the statement of facts in those two cases do not speak clearly upon this point. In the leading English case before cited, Marshall v. Green, 1 C. P. Div. 35, the vendee had also entered upon the work of felling the trees and had sold some of their tops before the vendor countermanded the sale. These cases, therefore, cannot be regarded as directly holding that a vendee, by parol, of growing timber to be presently felled and removed, may not repudiate the contract before anything is done under it; and this was the situation in which the parties to the case now under consideration stood when the contract was repudiated. Indeed, a late case in Massachusetts, Giles v. Simonds, 15 Gray, 441, holds that, "The owner of land, who has made a verbal contract for the sale of standing wood to be cut and severed from the freehold by the purchaser may at any time revoke the license which he thereby gives to the purchaser to enter on his land to cut and carry away the wood, so far as it relates to any wood not cut at the time of the revocation."