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upon the books from which it is acquired, and upon the manner of using those books.
Considerations of this kind led me to the belief, that it was possible to make a book, which should place within the apprehension of every intelligent trader, and of every young man who proposes to engage in any department of business and this now means almost every man in the community), at the cost of no more time than every one can conveniently give to it, a useful knowledge of all the elements, or general rules and principles, of the Laws of Business.
In other words, I thought it an undeserved reproach of our Laws of Business, to say that they were not intelligible by all, if stated with simplicity and accuracy; and an equally undeserved reproach of our Men of Business, to say that they could not comprehend laws, which were made for them, and were intelligible in themselves, and plainly stated. It seemed to me, therefore, that the time had come, in this country, for a book which no one has ever attempted to make anywhere heretofore. This book should contain all the principles of all the branches of the laws which regulate the common transactions of life, stated with all the accuracy that care and labor could insure in any book, and so stated that any man of good capacity, with reasonable effort, might understand all of them; and might, with the help of the Index, find in the volume a true and intelligible answer to the questions which every day arise; and might, if he were willing to make a regular study of the whole book in course, become acquainted with the rules, and the reasons of the rules, by which all business may be safely conducted. And this book I have endeavored to make. I have compiled it, mainly from the lawbooks I have already made for the profession. If they are accurate and trustworthy, this is so; and I may be permitted to say, that whatever earnest endeavors could do to make those books trustworthy was done; and that accumulated testimony, which I have no right to disregard, encourages me to hope that I have not labored in this respect in vain.
I have made changes which seemed to be required by the intended adaptation of this book to all men and not to lawyers only. These are, first, the omission of citations and references
to reports and authorities; next, the addition of some element ary rules and principles and definitions, which would not be necessary in a book for lawyers only; and lastly, the use of common or non-professional language, the general omission of merely technical words, and the full explanation of such words when they are used.
If there are those who are preparing for a life of business, or are now engaged in it, who will study this volume, in course, dwelling on what seems most important, and examining with care what seems obscure,-I venture to hope that they will find the work so arranged, and the meaning so expressed, that what comes before explains what follows, and every part of it will be intelligible. At the same time, I have labored to make everything plain by itself, as far as that was possible, that it might not disappoint those who, without reading it in course, look into it for an answer to questions as they arise. And for such per. sons I have endeavored to have the Index of Subjects (at the end of the book) exceedingly full and minute.
I have added a great variety of Forms. Of course no cob lection of Forms could be made large enough to meet the exact facts of every case that can arise. But it is possible to give accurate Forms of all sorts; and any person can select the Form nearest to his particular need, and easily make the altera: tions which the facts of his case require.
BUSINESS LAW IN GENERAL. All law is divided into what it called, in law books, common law and statute law. We have legislatures, and our fathers had them; and a very large proportion of the laws now binding upon us were made by those legislatures in a formal and regular way. All these are Statutes; and taken altogether, they compose the Statute Law. Besides this, however, there is another very large portion of our law which was not enacted by our
If it was,
legislatures; and it is called the Common Law. In fewer words, all law was regularly enacted, or it was not. it is statute law; if it was not so enacted, it is common law.
The common law of the several States of this country consists, in the first place, of all the law of England—whether statute or common there—which was in force in that State at the time of our independence, and recognized by our courts, and which has not since been repealed or disused. And next, of all those universal usages, and all those inferences from, or applications of, established law, which courts in this country have recognized as having among us the force of law. For this common law there is no authority excepting the decisions of the courts; and we have no certain means of knowing what is or is Hot a part of the common law, excepting by looking for it in those decisions. Hence the value and importance of the reported decisions, which are published by official reporters in most of our States.
A very important part of the common law, especially to all men in business, is what is called, by an ancient phrase, the Law-Merchant. By this is meant the law of merchants; or, more accurately, the law of mercantile transactions; and by this again is meant all that branch of the law, and all those principles and rules, which govern mercantile transactions of any kind. This great department of the law derives its force in part from statutory enactments, but in far greater part from che well-established usages of merchants, which have been adopted, sanctioned, and confirmed by the courts. For example, a large proportion of the law of factors and brokers, most of that of shipping and of insurance, and nearly all the peculiar rules applicable to negotiable paper (or promissory notes and bills of exchange payable to order), belong distinctly to the Law-Merchant.
The courts of this country have always acknowledged that a custom of merchants, if it were proved to be so nearly universal and so long established that it must be considered that all merchants know it and make their bargains with reference to it, constitutes a part of the law-merchant. And the law. merchant is itself a part of the common law, and therefore has
the whole obligatory force of law. This would not be true, if the custom was one which violated statute law, or the obvious principles of public policy or common honesty. But we may suppose that no custom of this kind would ever be so generally adopted and established as to come before the courts with any claim for recognition as law.
A great deal of the language of every art or science or profession is technical (indeed, technical means belonging to some art), and is peculiar to it, and may not be understood by those who do not pursue the business to which it belongs. This is as true of law as of everything else. In this work, however, I have avoided as far as possible mere law-words; and when I have used them have explained them at the time. There are some, however, which cannot be dropped: they express exactly what is meant, and we cannot express it without them, unless by long and awkward sentences. A good instance of this is in those words which end in er (or or) and in ee. As for example, promisor and promisee, vendor and vendee, indorser and indorsee. These terminations are derived from the Norman-French, which was, for a long time, the language of the courts and of the law in England. And it might seem that we had just as good terminations in English, in er and ed, which mean the same thing. But it is not so. Originally they meant the same thing, but they do not now; for both er and ee are applied in law to persons, and ed to things; so that we want all three termina tions. For example, indorser means the man who indorses : indorsee means the man to whom the indorsement is made ; but the note itself we say is indorsed. So vendor means the man who sells, vendee means the man to whom something is sold, and the thing sold is vended. And the promisor makes the promise, the promisee receives it, and the thing to be done is promised. We have retained not only this phraseology, but some other words or phrases, of which similar things might be said.
INYANTS, OR MINORS.
SECTION I. GENERALLY, all persons may bind themselves by contracts, But some are incapacitated. The incapacity may arise from many causes; as from insanity; or from being under guardianship; or from alienage in time of war; or from infancy; or from marriage.
All persons are infants, in law, until the age of twenty-one. But in
many of the States, women are considered of full age at eighteen, for some purposes.
The rule of law is, that a person becomes of age at the beginning of the day before his twenty-first birthday. This rule opposes the common notion, and it rests on no very good reason, but on ancient authority and constant repetition. The reason assigned is, that the law takes no notice of parts of a day. The effect of the rule is, that a person born on the 9th of May in the year 1888, becomes of age at the beginning of the 8th of May, 1909, and may sign a note, or do any thing, with the full power of a person of age, on any hour of that day.
The contract of an infant (if not for necessaries) is voidable, but not void. That is, he may disavow it, and so annul it, either before his majority, or within a reasonable time after it. As he may avoid it, so he may ratify and confirm it. He may do this by word only. But mere acknowledgment that the debt exists is not enough. It must be substantially, if not in form, a new promise. In England, and a few of our States, it is pro vided by statute, that this confirmation can only be by a new promise in writing, signed by the promisor. The rule seems to be useful, and we think it will be more widely adopted.
It must be a promise by the party, after full age, to pay the debt; or such a recognition of the debt as may fairly be under