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WHEN the subject of Contract was first introduced into the School of Jurisprudence at Oxford, in the year 1877, teachers of Law had to consider the books which their pupils might best be directed to read. Some works on the subject of acknowledged value to the practising lawyer were hardly suitable for beginners, and the choice seemed to lie between the works of Mr. Leake, Sir Frederick Pollock, and the late Mr. Smith. Of these, Mr. Smith alone wrote expressly for students, and I had, as a student, read his book with interest and advantage. But I thought that it left room for an elementary treatise worked out upon different lines.

Neither Sir Frederick Pollock nor Mr. Leake wrote for beginners, and I feared lest the mass of statement and illustration which their books contain, ordered and luminous though it be, might tend to oppress and dishearten the student entering upon a course of reading for the School of Law. Being at that time the only public teacher of English Law in the University, I had some practical acquaintance with the sort of difficulties which beset the learner, and I endeavoured to supply the want which I have described.

In working out the plan of my book I necessarily studied the modes of treatment adopted by these two writers, and I became aware that they are based on two totally different principles. Mr. Leake treats the con

tract as a subject of litigation, from the point of view of the pleader's chambers. He seems to ask, What are the kinds of contract of which this may be one? Then What have I got to prove? By what defences may I be met? Sir Frederick Pollock regards the subject ab extra; he inquires what is the nature of that legal relation which we term contract, and how it is brought about. He watches the parties coming to terms, tells us how the contract may be made, and by what flaws in its structure it may be invalidated. Mr. Leake treats the subject from every point of view in which it can interest a litigant. Sir Frederick Pollock wrote a treatise on the Formation of Contract: only in later editions has he introduced a chapter on Performance.

To both these writers I must own myself to be under great obligations. If I try to apportion my gratitude, I should say that perhaps I obtained the most complete information on the subject from Mr. Leake, but that Sir Frederick Pollock started me on my way.

The object which I set before me was to trace the principles which govern the contractual obligation from its beginning to its end; to show how a contract is made, what is needed to make it binding, whom it may affect, how it is interpreted, and how it may be discharged. I wished to do this in outline, and in such a way as might best induce the student to refer to cases, and to acquire the habit of going to original authorities instead of taking rules upon

trust. So I have cited few cases: not desiring to present to the reader all the modes in which principles have been applied to facts, and perhaps imperceptibly qualified in their application, but rather to illustrate general rules by the most recent or most striking decisions.

In successive editions I have made some changes of arrangement, and have tried to keep the book up to date. Since it first appeared, in 1879, the Legislature has been busy with the law of Contract. The law relating to Married Women's Property, to Bankruptcy, to Bills of Exchange, to Partnership, to Mercantile Agency, has either been recast or thrown for the first time into statutory form: the effects of the Judicature Act in the general application of equitable rules and remedies have become gradually apparent in judicial decisions. Thus it has been necessary to alter parts of my book from time to time, but in this, the sixth, edition I have made many changes for the sake of greater clearness and better arrangement. The whole of the chapters on Offer and Acceptance, on the Effects of Illegality, on the Discharge of Contract by Breach, and a great part of the chapters on Mistake and Fraud, Infants and Married Women, have been re-written, and the rest of the book has undergone many minor alterations as the result of a general revision.

I should add one word as to the place assigned to Agency. It is a difficult subject to put precisely where the reader would expect to find it. It is a mode of forming the contractual relation : it is also a form of the Contract of Employment. From the first of these points of view it might form part of a chapter on Offer and Acceptance, regarding the agent as a mode of communication ; or it might form part of a chapter on the Capacity of Parties, regarding Representation as an extension of contractual capacity; or, again, it might form part of a chapter on the Operation of Contract, regarding Agency as a means whereby two persons may make a contract binding on a third.

But upon the whole I think it is best to try and make the student understand that the agent represents his principal in virtue of a special contract existing between them, the Contract of Employment. There is a disadvantage, no doubt, in introducing into a treatise on the general principles of contract a chapter dealing with one of the special sorts of contract, but I believe that the student will find


less difficulty in this part of the law if he is required to understand that the agent acquires rights and incurs liabilities for his principal, not in virtue of any occult theory of representation, but because he is employed for the purpose, by a contract which the law recognizes.

I should not close this Preface without an expression of thanks to the friends who from time to time in the last ten years have helped me with suggestions or corrections of this book. To his Honour Judge Chalmers, to Sir Frederick Pollock, and in especial to the Vinerian Professor, Mr. Dicey, I owe much in the way of friendly communication on points of novelty or difficulty. Nor should a teacher of law be unmindful of his debt to the student. The process of explaining a proposition of law to a mind unfamiliar with legal ideas, necessitates a self-scrutiny which is apt to lead to a sad self-conviction of ignorance or confusion of thought; and the difficulties of the learner will often present in a new light what had become a commonplace to the teacher. Therefore I would not seem ungrateful to the law students of Trinity College, past and present, whom I have tried, and sometimes not in vain, to interest in the law of Contract.

I hope that the present edition of this book may be a little shorter than the previous one. I strongly desire to keep it within such limits as is proper to a statement of elementary principles, with illustrations enough to explain the rules laid down, and, as I hope, to induce the student to consult authorities for himself.

W. R. A. All Souls COLLEGE,

January, 1891.



In this, the seventh edition, I have tried to improve my book in various ways, and have made such changes as are rendered necessary by legislation and judicial decisions. These last have been numerous and important during the

last year.

I must record the thanks which I owe to my friend Mr. F. F. Liddell, of All Souls College and of the Inner Temple, for his assistance in revising the proof sheets, and for many suggestions and corrections which may, I hope, make this edition more clear and useful than its prede


W. R. A.


May, 1893.


THERE have not been many decisions of importance or interest since the last edition of this book was published, but the Married Women's Property Act of 1893, and the Sale of Goods Act have necessitated some changes in the text.

The latter Act is of especial interest, for it gives statutory force, in respect of the Contract of Sale, to principles and a terminology which are of general application.

W. R. A.


September, 1895.

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