« ForrigeFortsett »
that the embarrassment and contradiction which accompany the English and American cases on this subject cannot be relieved, by the establishment of some clear and definite rule, like that declared in France, which shall be of controlling influence and universal reception.*
*477 *(3.) The price is an essential ingredient in the contract of sale ; and it must be real and not merely nominal, and fixed, or be susceptible of being ascertained in the mode prescribed by the contract, without further negotiation between the parties. Pretium constitui oportet, nam nulla emptio sine pretio esse ])otest.*
the parties supposed, the court of chancery refused to interfere for the relief of the purchaser, the transaction being fair and honest.. and the deficiency small. Marvin v. Bennett, 8 Paige's Rep. 312.
• The rule in chancery, upon the principle of equitable conversion, is to consider that which was agreed to be done, as done, if the execution of the agreement would he lawful and just. In pursuance of this doctrine, the purchase money of lands, contracted to be sold during the life of the testator, is treated as personal estate. Baden v. Countess of Pembroke, 2 Vera. Rep. 212. Lawos v. Bennett, 1 Cox's Cas. 1G7. Vide supra, p. 230. n. a.
» Inst. 3. 24. Dig. 18.1. 2. Pothier, du Cont. de Vente, part 1. art. 2. n. 18. Brown v. Bellows, 4 Pick. 189. Bell on the Contract of Sale, Edin. 1844, p. 18. But if the price be not fixed, yet after delivery of the goods the contract of sale is deemed valid, and the purchaser must pay for their reasonable value. Acebal v. Levy, 10 Bingham, 382. Hoadly v. McLaine, lb. 482. Bell ub. supra, 20. Inadequacy of price, independent of other circumstances, is no ground for relief in equity, against a bargain, unless it be so gross or excessive as to afford a necessary presumption of fraud, imposition, undue influence, or want of a reasonable judgment. Osgood v. Franklin, 2 Johns. Ch. Rep. 23, 24. The opinions of Sir Thomas Clarke, Lord Thurlow, Lord Ch. B. Eyre, Lord Eldon, and Sir William Grant, were all referred to in the case cited in support of that position. See, also, to the same effect, Copis v. Middleton, 2 Madd. Ch. Rep. 410. Butler v. Haskell, 4 Dess. S. C. Eq. Rep. 651. Glenn v. Clapp, 11 GilI dJ- Johnson, 1. By the civil law, a sale for one half the value, might be set aside for inadequacy; and Lord Nottingham, in Nott v. Hill, 2 Ch. Cas. 120, observed, that he wished it were so in England. If the price of the purchase was less than one half the value, the inequality was deemed in "the civil law enormis lasio, and relief was afforded. This is the rule also in Louisiana. Copley v. Flint, 1 Rob. Louis. Rep. 125. At law the ruk
(4.) Mutual consent is requisite to the creation of the contract and it becomes binding when a proposition is made on one side and accepted on the other; and on the other hand it is no contract. if there be an error or mistake of a fact or in circumstances going to the essence of it. This is a clear principle of universal justice. Non »identur qui errant consentirc1 In creating the contract the negotiation may be conducted by letter, as is very common in mercantile transactions; and the contract is complete when the answer containing the acceptance of a distinct proposition is despatched by mail or otherwise, provided it be done with due diligence after the receipt of the letter containing the proposal, and before any intimation is received that the offer is withdrawn. Putting the answer by letter in the mail containing the acceptance and thus placing it beyond the control of the party is valid as a constructive notice of acceptance. An offer by letter or by a special agent is an authority revocable in itself, but not to be revoked without notice to the party receiving it, and never after it has been executed by an acceptance. There would be no certainty in making contracts through the medium of the mail, if the rule was otherwise.1" On the other hand, it has been held, that
is more stern, and a promise or obligation cannot be defeated in whole or in part on the ground of the inadequacy of the consideration. The slightest consideration is sufficient to support the most onerous obligation. The consideration may be impeached only by showing fraud, mistake or illegality in its concoction, or non-performance of the stipulations on the part of the promisee. Oakley v. Boorman, 21 Wendell, 588. Sec, also. Story's Comm. on Eq. Jurisprudence, 248—254.
Pothier on Oblig. p. 1. c. l.sec. 17, 18. Thornton v. Kempster, 5 Taunton, 786. Hammond v. Allen, 2 Sumner, 395. 399.
v Adams v. Lindsell, 1 Bamw. •$• Aid. B81. Chiles v. Nelson, 7 Dana, 281. The distinctions on this subject are refined and subtle. In Mactier v. Frith, 6 Wendell's Rep. 103, an offer to sell made by letter was standing and held open for acceptance at the time it was accepted and the contract was then consummated, though the knowledge of the concurrence of wills when the acceptance was made, was not known to the party who wrote the letter, and though he died before notice of the acceptance, by
Vol. n. 47
if A. make an offer to B., and gives him a specified time for an answer, A. may retract before the offer is accepted, on the ground that until both parties are agreed, it is no contract, and either of them has a right to recede and one party cannot be bound without the other.*
3a.v„- 5 i;i. answer to the letter, was received, but after the time of acceptance. The offer may be deemed to stand open for acceptance, until it is expressly, or by presumption, withdrawn. So, also, in Brisban v. Boyd, 4 Paige's Rep. 17, where A. wrote to his factor, proposing to ship to him cotton on joint account; the agent, on receipt of the letter, gives notice of his assent, and it was held that as soon as the agent so replied and the letter was transmitted, the contract was complete, and mutually binding. Merlin states this case in the French courts. A writes to B. and offers to buy articles on certain conditions. B. writes an answer in the morning, and accepts the offer. He writes a second letter in tho evening of that day, that he cannot accede to the offer exactly, according to all the conditions. Both answers are received by A. at the same instant, and it was held that A. was not bound by the offer, as the second letter did away the force of the first. Repertoire, tit. Vente, sec. I. art. 3. not* II. But in the case of M'Culloch v. The Eagle Insurance Co., 1 Pick. Rep. 278, A. wrote by mail to B. to inquire on what terms he would insure a vessel; B. wrote an answer on 1st January, that he would insure at a certain rate; on 2d January, he wrote another letter, retracting; A., before he received the last letter, wrote by mail an answer to B.'s first letter, acceding to the terms, and it was held there was no contract, and that the treaty was open until B had received the letter of A. If A-, who makes the proposal, should die or become non compos before his letter is received and assented to, the assent is void, because there is no concurrence of wills at the time. Pothier, Traiti du Cont. de Vente, No. 32. Vide infra, p. 646. The better opinion of the French jurists seems to be, thai as soon as an offer by letter is accepted, the consent is given and the contract complete, although the acceptance had not been communicated to the party by whom the offer was made, provided the party making the offer was alive when the offer was accepted. Pothier, Tr. de Vente, n. 32. Dueergier, Tr. de la Vente, 6. 1. 60, and though Merlin 4> Toulller are of a contrary opinion, yet against them may be cited Wolf, part 3, sec. 715, and the decisions supra. The case of M'Culloch v. The Eagle Ins. Co., 1 Pick. 283, has been questioned as a valid authority by Mr. Duer, the learned author on Marine Insurance, vol. i. p. 67. 116—131. His criticisms appear to be just and his reasoning conclusive. He vindicates the decision of the K. B. in Adams v. Lindsell with great force, and it has received a very strong support in the able opinion of Mr. Justice Marcy in Mactier v. Frith. in the New-York court of errors, in 6 Wendell, 104. » Paine v. Cave, 3 Term Rep. 148. Cooko v. Oxley, Ibid. 653. Rut
*V. Of implied warranty of the articles sold.
In every sale of a chattel, if the possession be at the time in another, and there be no covenant or warranty of title, the rule of caveat emptor applies, and the party buys at his peril.11 But if the seller has possession of the article, and he sells it as his own, and not as agent for another, and for a fair price, he is understood to warrant the title.b A fair price implies a warranty of title; and
ledge v. Grant, 4 Bing. Rep. 653. Gravier v. Gravier, 5 Martin's Louis Rep. 206. But see supra, p. 236, and infra, p. 510, for exceptions to the general rule that both parties must be bound, or neither can be. The good faith and justice of the case would lead to the conclusion, that if A. who makes the offer gives B. a specified time to accept, and he accepts within • the time, it becomes a valid contract, and A. is bound by his offer, which left it optional in B. to accept or reject the offer within the time. The criticisms which have been made upon the case of Cooke v. Oxley, are sufficient to destroy its authority.
The Roman law gave an action to one who did any thing proper and beneficial to the estate of another, who was absent and ignorant of it; and it went on the ground of a positive benefit conferred, and of the equity of not permitting oue mau to profit by the labour of another without compensation. Dig. 3. 5. 2. The supreme court in Louisiana has followed this principle. Police Jury v. Hampton, 17 Martin's Louis. Rep. 398. But there is no principle in the English law which would support such an action for compensation, on the footing of a contract. See infra ad finem, as to the effect of death on the validity of a contract not already consummated.
« Tanfield, Ch. Baron, Cro. Jac. 197. Holt, Ch. J., Medina v. Stoughton, 1 Salk. Rep. 210. If, however, the seller affirms the chattel, not in his possession to be his, Mr. Justice Buller thinks he is bound to answer for the title, for the vendee has nothing else to rely upon, if the property was out of possession. Buller, J., in Pasley v. Freeman, 3 Term Rep. 57. 58. There is good sense and equity in the observation.
•, Medina v. Stoughton, 1 Ld. Raym. 523. 1 Salk. Rep. 210. Adamson v. Jarvis, 12 B. Moore, 241. Cross v. Gardner, Carth. Rep. 90. An affirmation by the vendor at the time of the sale amounts to a warranty, if so intended. Medina v. Stoughton, sup. Buller, J., 3 Term, 57. Swett v. Colgate, 20 Johns. 196. On a sale of goods with warranty, the seller must make good to the letter of the warranty, but on a simple representation, if he had no reason to suspect his representation to bo untrue he is not responsible. The Scienter is the gut of the action. Ormrod v. Heath, 14 Mees. d> Welsby, 651.
the purchaser may have a satisfaction from the seller, if he sells the goods as his own, and the title proves deficient. This was also the rule of the civil law in all cases, whether the title wholly or partially failed.* With regard to the quality or goodness of the article sold, the seller is not bound to answer, except under special circumstances, unless he expressly warranted the goods to be sound and good, or unless he hath made a fraudulent representation or used some fraudulent concealment concerning them. and which amounts to a warranty in law. The common law very reasonably requires the purchaser to attend, when he makes his contract, to those qualities of the article he buys, which are supposed to be within the reach of his observation and judgment, and which it is equally his interest and his duty to exert. This distinction between the responsibility of the seller as to the title. and as to the quality of goods sold, is well established in the English and American law.b In Seixas v.
» Dig. 21. 2. I. By the civil law there was an implied warranty that the article sold was sound, and if not, and was unfit for the purpose intended, the vendee might return it and rescind the sale and recover back the price, though the vendor might exempt himself from liabihty by stipulation in cases free from fraud. Pothier, Cant. de Vente, No. 184.
b Co. Litt. 12. a. 2 Blacks. Comm. 452. Bacon's Abr. lit. Action on the Case, E. Comyn on Contracts, vol. ii. p. 263. Doug. Rep. 20. Parkinson v. Lee, 2 East's Rep. 314. Defreeze v. Tremper, 1 Johns. Rep. 274. Johnston v. Cope, 3 Harr. <$- Johns. 89. Wilson v. Shackelford, 4 Randolph's Rep. 5. Dean v. Mason, 4 Conn. Rep. 428. Boyd v. Bopst, 2 Dull. Rep. 91. Emerson v. Brigham, 10 Mass. Rep. 197. Swett v. Colgate, 20 Johns. Rep. 196. Kimmel v. Litchley, 3 Yeates' Rep. 262. Ritchie v. Summers, Ibid. 534. Willing v. Consequa, 1 Peter's Rep. 317. 12 Serg. $ Rawle, 181, Tilghman, Ch. J. Chism v. Woods, 1 Hard. Ken. Rep. 531. Lanier v. Auld, 1 Murphy's Rep. 138. Erwin v. Maxwell, 2 Ibid. 245. Westmoreland v. Dixon, 4 Haywood's Tenn. Rep. 227. Barrett v. Hall, 1 Aikens' Rep. 269. McFarland v. Newman, Superior Court Penn., September, 1839. Law Reporter, vol. ii. No. 10. Towell v. Gaterwood, 2 Scammon's Rep. 22. Maney v. Porter, 3 Hump. Tenn. R. 347. If one buys, says Heineccius, (Elem. Juris. Nat. et Gentinm, b. 1. ch. 13. sec. 352. note,) any thing at a certain price, which he hath not seen nor sufficiently examined, his error ought to fall on himself, if the seller used no guile to deceive him.