Acceptance, an agreement to pay a bill when due according to the tenor of the obligation assumed. A bill of exchange or draft is a written instrument by which A requests B to pay C a sum of money at a certain time, unconditionally. A is the drawer, C the payee, and B the drawee; and if B assents to the request, or in other words accepts the bill, he is the acceptor, and his agreement is the accept1 ance. The bill is usually drawn on the drawee B because he has funds of A in his hands, or is indebted to him to the amount covered by the bill. But the bill does not ordinarily of itself work an assignment of the fund or the debt so that C can claim that specifically of B. An order drawn on B for the payment to C of any particular fund amounts to an assignment of that fund, and B is bound by mere notice of the order to make the payment, and his acceptance or assent to the arrangement is not essential. But a bill of exchange is not an assignment of nor an order on any special fund, but is intended to raise a contract by the drawee which he may satisfy out of any money which he has. This contract, however, does not arise, and the drawee owes no duty to the payee of the bill, until he accepts it. It is therefore the duty of the holder to present the bill for acceptance.
This is fairly implied from the form of the instrument; and if the acceptor is not called upon, as the bill directs that he shall be, and then fails, the drawer will be discharged. In some countries, as for example in France, acceptance must be demanded within limits defined by positive laws. But by our law, though there is no fixed time prescribed within which the presentation for acceptance must be made, it ought obviously to be within a reasonable time, considering all the circumstances. What is or is not such a reasonable time is a question of law, and depends, for example, upon the character of the bill, whether payable a certain time after sight, or at a precise date, or whether domestic or foreign; upon the place where it is drawn regarded in connection with the place on which it is drawn; or upon the legitimate commercial negotiation or use which may be made of the bill. If the bill is payable at sight, or so many days or months after sight or after demand, the presentation is necessary in order to fix the time of payment, and it ought to be made with diligence; though if it is payable at a fixed period after its date, or at a day certain, the holder need not offer it for acceptance until its maturity.
Again, what is reasonable time for presentation in the case of a bill drawn in Boston on New York would not be reasonable time in case of one drawn in New York on Calcutta. So delay to present the bill may be excused when an inevitable accident prevents the holder from doing it, such as his illness, or the outbreak of a war which forbids commercial intercourse. The usual course of negotiation of the bill may also justifiably delay its presentation for acceptance, so that what would be reasonable time in the case of a negotiated bill would be unreasonable in the case of one which had never been yet transferred. The principle of the rules respecting presentation for acceptance being that the drawer and other parties may be injured by delaying it, an entire, omission to present the bill to the acceptor may be excused when it appears that the drawer had no funds in his hands and had no right to suppose that he had, or when for any other reason it is certain that the omission was not prejudicial to the drawer or other parties.
In certain cases no acceptance and therefore no presentation is necessary to charge the drawee; as where a bill is drawn by a person upon himself, or by a partner upon his firm, or by one officer of a corporation on another officer of it or on the corporation itself. - When the bill is addressed to the drawee at a particular place, the demand for acceptance should be made at that place; and if the drawee, though not at the very place named, is within the same town, and perhaps within the same state, he should be sought out. But if he never lived in the place named, or has removed to a distant place, especially if it is out of the state, or his house is shut up and no one is there to answer for him, presentation is excused and the bill may be treated as dishonored. When the bill is drawn on a firm, it is enough to present it to one of the partners. If the presentation is required by the bill to be made at a bank, it must be made within the usual bank hours; or if at the drawee's place of business, then within the usual hours of business; but if it is to be made at his home, it may be made within any reasonable hours of the day; and in all cases the drawee is entitled to have possession of the bill for a day if he require it, in order to decide, on examining his accounts with the drawer, whether to accept or not. - The acceptance may be absolute or qualified or conditional, though the holder is not bound to receive anything but an absolute acceptance.
It may be written, or, if no statute interferes, it may be oral. It may be before the drawing of the bill or after it is drawn, or even after its maturity; and it may be by the drawee, or by some one else, for honor of the drawer or other parties to the paper. But the acceptance is usually absolute, in writing, and on the bill itself; and any form is sufficient which indicates the purpose of the drawee to honor the draft. The usual forms are, "Accepted" or "Honored," or the mere signature of the acceptor written across the face of the bill. In New York, by special statute, the holder may require that the acceptance be written on the bill, and a refusal to comply with such request may be regarded as a refusal to accept, and i the bill may be protested for non-acceptance. ! By the same statute, if the drawee receives the bill and then destroys it, or refuses to re- turn it within 24 hours, accepted or not ac- cepted, he is deemed to have accepted it. This is only a positive enactment of a rule, the principle at least of which is pretty firmly established in the general commercial law.