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   Chapter 48 THE PARTIES TO A CONTRACT (Continued)

Up To Date Business By Various Characters: 4331

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03

In the former article we told our readers that there were some persons who could not make contracts, and among these were infants or minors. In most of the States a person, male or female, is a minor until he or she is twenty-one years old. In some of the States, among them Illinois, a female ceases to be a minor at eighteen years of age.

By the Roman law a minor did not reach his majority until the end of his twenty-fourth year, and this rule has been adopted in France, Spain, Holland, and some parts of Germany. The French law, though, has been changed, with one noteworthy exception. A woman cannot make a contract relating to her marriage without the consent of her parents until she is twenty-five. Among the Greeks and early Romans women never passed beyond the period of minority, but were always subject to the guardianship of their parents until they were married.

Married women are another class of persons who cannot make every kind of a contract like a man. Once a married woman had but very little power to make contracts. However great might have been her wealth before marriage, as soon as she entered into this blissful state the law kindly relieved her of all except her real estate, giving it to her husband. On the other hand, he was obliged to pay her bills, which was one of his great pleasures, especially if she was a constant traveller to the silk and diamond stores. She could still keep her real estate in her own name, but that was about all. Her husband took everything else; he could claim her pocket-book, if he pleased, and was obliged to support her in sickness or health, in sweetness or in any other "ness."

The law has been greatly changed in all civilised countries in this regard, and to-day in most States she can make almost any kind of a contract. In some States, however, it is even now said that she cannot agree to pay the debt of another, but this is, perhaps, the only limit on her power to contract. She can engage in business, buy and sell, transfer notes, make contracts relating to the sale and leasing of her real estate, insure it, build houses, and do a thousand other things quite as freely as if th

ere were no husband around. The most of these changes widening her authority to make contracts have come within the last fifty years. Of course, unmarried women can make contracts like men, and many of them know it.

Another class who cannot make contracts are drunken persons. Once the law regarded a drunken man as fully responsible for his acts, and if he made a contract he was obliged to execute or fulfil it. He could not shield himself by saying he did not know what he was doing at the time. The court sternly frowned on him and said: "No matter what was your condition at the time of making it, you must carry it out." This was the penalty for his misdeed. It may be the courts thought that by requiring him to fulfil his contracts he would be more careful and restrain his appetite. Whatever the courts may have thought, they have changed their opinions regarding his liability for his contracts made under such conditions. Now they hold that he need not carry them out if he desires to escape from them. There is, however, one exception to this rule. If he has given a note in the ordinary form, and this has been taken by a third person in good faith who did not know of the maker's condition at the time of making it, he must pay. But, we repeat, the third person must act in good faith in taking it, for if he knew that the maker was drunk at that time he cannot require him to pay any more than the person to whom it was first given.

One other class may be briefly mentioned-the insane. They are regarded in the law quite the same as minors. For their own protection the law does not hold them liable on any contracts except those for necessaries. These are binding for the same reasons as the contracts of minors, in order that they may be able to get such things as they need for their health and comfort. For if the law were otherwise, then, of course, merchants would be afraid to sell to them. But as merchants can now safely sell to them whatever they truly need in the way of clothing, food, etc., to make themselves comfortable, so, on the other hand, the insane, like minors, must pay for these things, and it is right that they should.

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