Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER XX.: OF PLEADING - Commentaries on the Laws of England in Four Books, vol. 2
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CHAPTER XX.: OF PLEADING - Sir William Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England in Four Books, vol. 2 
Commentaries on the Laws of England in Four Books. Notes selected from the editions of Archibold, Christian, Coleridge, Chitty, Stewart, Kerr, and others, Barron Field’s Analysis, and Additional Notes, and a Life of the Author by George Sharswood. In Two Volumes. (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott Co., 1893).
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**293]Pleadings are the mutual altercations between the plaintiff and defendant; which at present are set down and delivered into the proper office in writing, though formerly they were usually put in by their counsel ore tenus, or viva voce, in court, and then minuted down by the chief clerks, or prothonotaries; whence in our old law-French the pleadings are frequently denominated the parol.1
The first of these is the declaration, narratio, or count, antiently called the tale;(a) in which the plaintiff sets forth his cause of complaint at length; being, indeed, only an amplification or exposition of the original writ upon which his action is founded, with the additional circumstances of time and place when and where the injury was committed. But we may remember,(b) that in the king’s bench, when the defendant is brought into court by bill of Middlesex, upon a supposed trespass, in order to give the court a jurisdiction, the plaintiff may declare in whatever action, or charge him with whatever injury, he thinks proper; unless he has held him to bail by a special ac etiam, which the plaintiff is then bound to pursue. And so also, in order to have the benefit of a capias to secure the defendant’s person, it was the antient practice, and is therefore still warrantable in the common pleas, to sue out a writ of trespass quare clausum fregit, for breaking the plaintiff’s close: and when the defendant is once brought in upon this **294]writ, the plaintiff declares in whatever action the nature of his true injury may require; as in an action of covenant, or on the case for breach of contract, or other less forcible transgression:(c) unless, by holding the defendant to bail on a special ac etiam, he has bound himself to declare accordingly.2
In local actions, where possession of land is to be recovered, or damages for an actual trespass, or for waste, &c. affecting land, the plaintiff must lay his declaration or declare his injury to have happened in the very county and place that it really did happen;3 but in transitory actions, for injuries that might have happened anywhere, as debt, detinue, slander, and the like, the plaintiff may declare in what county he pleases, and then the trial must be had in that county in which the declaration is laid. Though if the defendant will make affidavit that the cause of action, if any, arose not in that but in another county, the court will direct a change of the venue or visne, (that is, the vicinia or neighbourhood in which the injury is declared to be done,) and will oblige the plaintiff to declare in the other county; unless he will undertake to give material evidence in the first. For the statutes 6 Ric. II. c. 2, and 4 Hen. IV. c. 18, having ordered all writs to be laid in their proper counties, this, as the judges conceived, empowered them to change the venue, if required, and not to insist rigidly on abating the writ: which practice began in the reign of James the First.(d) And this power is discretionally exercised, so as to prevent and not to cause a defect of justice. Therefore the court will not change the venue to any of the four northern counties, previous to the spring circuit; because there the assizes are holden only once a year, at the time of the summer circuit. And it will sometimes remove the venue from the proper jurisdiction, (especially of a narrow and limited kind,) upon a suggestion, duly supported, that a fair and impartial trial cannot be had therein.(e)4
*[*295It is generally usual in actions upon the case to set forth several cases by different counts in the same declaration; so that if the plaintiff fails in the proof of one, he may succeed in another. As, in an action on the case upon an assumpsit for goods sold and delivered, the plaintiff usually counts or declares, first, upon a settled and agreed price between him and the defendant; as that they bargained for twenty pounds: and lest he should fail in the proof of this, he counts likewise upon a quantum valebant; that the defendant bought other goods, and agreed to pay him so much as they were reasonably worth; and then avers that they were worth other twenty pounds; and so on, in three or four different shapes;5 and at last concludes with declaring that the defendant had refused to fulfil any of these agreements, whereby he is endamaged to such a value. And if he proves the case laid in any one of his counts, though he fails in the rest, he shall recover proportionable damages. This declaration always concludes with these words, “and thereupon he brings suit, &c.,” “inde producit sectam, &c.”6 By which words suit or secta (a sequendo) were antiently understood the witnesses or followers of the plaintiff.(f) For in former times the law would not put the defendant to the trouble of answering the charge till the plaintiff had made out at least a probable case.(g) But the actual production of the suit, the secta, or followers, is now antiquated, and hath been totally disused, at least ever since the reign of Edward the Third, though the form of it still continues.
At the end of the declaration are added also the plaintiff’s common pledges of prosecution, John Doe and Richard Roe,7 which as we before observed,(h) are now mere names of form, though formerly they were of use to answer to the king for the amercement of the plaintiff in case he were nonsuited, barred of his action, or had a verdict or judgment against him.(i) For if the plaintiff neglects to deliver a declaration for two terms after the defendant appears, or is guilty of other delays or defaults against the rules of law in any subsequent **296]stage of the action, he is adjudged not to follow or pursue his remedy as he ought to do, and thereupon a nonsuit or non prosequitur is entered, and he is said to be nonpros’d.8 And for thus deserting his complaint, after making a false claim or complaint, (pro falso clamore suo,) he shall not only pay costs to the defendant, but is liable to be amerced to the king. A retraxit differs from a nonsuit in that the one is negative and the other positive; the nonsuit is a mere default and neglect of the plaintiff, and therefore he is allowed to begin his suit again upon payment of costs; but a retraxit is an open and voluntary renunciation of his suit in court, and by this he forever loses his action. A discontinuance is somewhat similar to a nonsuit; for when a plaintiff leaves a chasm in the proceedings of his cause, as by not continuing the process regularly from day to day and time to time, as he ought to do, the suit is discontinued, and the defendant is no longer bound to attend; but the plaintiff must begin again by suing out a new original, usually paying costs to his antagonist Antiently, by the demise of the king, all suits depending in his courts were at once discontinued, and the plaintiff was obliged to renew the process by suing out a fresh writ from the successor, the virtue of the former writ being totally gone, and the defendant no longer bound to attend in consequence thereof; but, to prevent the expense as well as delay attending this rule of law, the statute 1 Edw. VI. c. 7 enacts that by the death of the king no action shall be discontinued, but all proceedings shall stand good as if the same king had been living.
When the plaintiff hath stated his case in the declaration, it is incumbent on the defendant within a reasonable time to make his defence and to put in a plea; else the plaintiff will at once recover judgment by default or nihil dicit of the defendant.
Defence, in its true legal sense, signifies not a justification, protection, or guard, which is now its popular signification, but merely an opposing or bail, (from the French verb defender) of the truth or validity of the complaint. It is the contestatio litis of the civilians, a general assertion that the plaintiff hath no ground of action, which assertion is afterwards extended *[*297and maintained in his plea. For it would be ridiculous to suppose that the defendant comes and defends (or, in the vulgar acceptation, justifies) the force and injury in one line, and pleads that he is not guilty of the trespass complained of, in the next. And therefore, in actions of dower, where the demandant doth not count of any injury done, but merely demands her endowment,(k) and in assizes of land, where also there is no injury alleged, but merely a question of right stated for the determination of the recognitors or jury, the tenant makes no such defence.(l) In writs of entry,(m) where no injury is stated in the count, but merely the right of the demandant and the defective title of the tenant, the tenant comes and defends or denies his right. jus suum; that is, (as I understand it, though with a small grammatical inaccuracy,) the right of the demandant, the only one expressly mentioned in the pleadings, or else denies his own right to be such as is suggested by the count of the demandant. And in writs of right(n) the tenant always comes and defends the right of the demandant and his seisin, jus prædicti S et seisinam ipsius,(o) (or else the seisin of his ancestor upon which he counts, as the case may be,) and the demandant may reply that the tenant unjustly defends his, the demandant’s, right, and the seisin on which he counts.(p) All which is extremely clear if we understand by defence an opposition or denial, but it is otherwise inexplicably difficult.(q)
The courts were formerly very nice and curious with respect to the nature of the defence; so that if no defence was made, though a sufficient plea was pleaded, the plaintiff should recover judgment;(r) and therefore the book entitled novæ narrationes or the new talys,(s) at the end of almost every count, narratio, or tale, subjoins such defence as is proper for the defendant to make. For a general defence or denial was not prudent in every situation, since thereby the propriety of the writ, the competency of the plaintiff, and the cognizance of the court, were allowed. By defending the force and injury, *[*298the defendant waived all pleas of misnomer;(t) by defending the damages, all exceptions to the person of the plaintiff; and by defending either one or the other when and where it should behoove him, he acknowledged the jurisdiction of the court.(u) But of late years these niceties have been very deservedly discountenanced,(w) though they still seem to be law, if insisted on.(x)
Before defence made, if at all, cognizance of the suit must be claimed or demanded; when any person or body corporate hath the franchise, not only of holding pleas within a particular limited jurisdiction, but also of the cognizance of pleas: and that, either without any words exclusive of other courts, which entitles the lord of the franchise, whenever any suit that belongs to his jurisdiction is commenced in the courts at Westminster, to demand the cognizance thereof; or with such exclusive words, which also entitle the defendant to plead to the jurisdiction of the court.(y) Upon this claim of cognizance, if allowed, all proceedings shall cease in the superior court, and the plaintiff is left at liberty to pursue his remedy in the special jurisdiction. As when a scholar, or other privileged person, of the universities of Oxford or Cambridge, is impleaded in the courts at Westminster for any cause of action whatsoever, unless upon a question of freehold.(z)9 . In these cases, by the charter of those learned bodies, confirmed by act of parliament, the chancellor or vice-chancellor may put in a claim of cognizance; which, if made in due time and form and with due proof of the facts alleged, is regularly allowed by the courts.(a) It must be demanded before full defence is made(b) or imparlance prayed; for these are a submission to the jurisdiction of the superior court, and the delay is a laches in the lord of the franchise, and it will not be **299]allowed if it occasions a failure of justice,(c) or if an action be brought against the person himself who claims the franchise, unless he hath also a power in such cases of making another judge.(d)10
After defence made, the defendant must put in his plea. But before he defends, if the suit is commenced by capias or latitat, without any special criginal, he is entitled to demand one imparlance,(e) or licentia loquendi, and may before he pleads have more time granted by consent of the court, to see if he can end the matter amicably without further suit, by talking with the plaintiff; a practice which is(f) supposed to have arisen from a principle of religion in obedience to that precept of the gospel, “Agree with thine adversary quickly, whilst thou art in the way with him.”(g) And it may be observed that this gospel precept has a plain reference to the Roman law of the twelve tables, which expressly directed the plaintiff and defendant to make up the matter while they were in the way, or going to the prætor,—tu via, rem uti pacunt orato. There are also many other previous steps which may be taken by a defendant before he puts in his plea. He may, in real actions, demand a view of the thing in question, in order to ascertain its identity and other circumstances. He may crave oyer(h) of the writ, or of the bond, or other specialty upon which the action is brought; that is, to hear it read to him; the generality of defendants in the times of antient simplicity being supposed incapable to read it themselves, whereupon the whole is entered verbatim upon the record, and the defendant may take advantage of any condition or other part of it, not stated in the plaintiff’s declaration.11 *[*300In real actions also the tenant may pray in aid, or call for assistance of another, to help him to plead, because of the feebleness or imbecility of his own estate. Thus, a tenant for life may pray in aid of him that hath the inheritance in remainder or reversion; and an incumbent may pray in aid of the patron and ordinary; that is, that they shall be joined in the action and help to defend the title. Voucher also is the calling in of some person to answer the action that hath warranted the title to the tenant or defendant. This we still make use of in the form of common recoveries,(i) which are grounded on a writ of entry; a species of action that we may remember relies chiefly on the weakness of the tenant’s title, who therefore vouches another person to warrant it. If the vouchee appears, he is made defendant instead of the voucher; but if he afterwards makes default, recovery shall be had against the original defendant, and he shall recover over an equivalent in value against the deficient vouchee. In assizes, indeed, where the principal question is, whether the demandant or his ancestors were or were not in possession till the ouster happened, and the title of the tenant is little (if at all) discussed, there no voucher is allowed; but the tenant may bring a writ of warrantia chartæ against the warrantor, to compel him to assist him with a good plea or defence, or else to render damages and the value of the land, if recovered against the tenant.(k) In many real actions also,(l) brought by of against an infant under the age of twenty-one years, and also in actions of debt brought against him, as heir to any deceased ancestor, either party may suggest the nonage of the infant, and pray that the proceedings may be deferred till his full age; or (in our legal phrase) that the infant may have his age, and that the parol may demur, that is, that the pleadings may be stayed; and then they shall not proceed till his full age, unless it be apparent that he cannot be prejudiced thereby.(m) But, by the statutes of Westm. 1, 3 Edw. I. c. 46, and of Glocester, 6 Edw. I. c. 2, in writs of entry sur disseisin in some particular cases, and in actions ancestrel brought by *[*301an infant, the parol shall not demur: otherwise he might be deforced of his whole property, and even want a maintenance till he came of age. So likewise in a writ of dower the heir shall not have his age, for it is necessary that the widow’s claim be immediately determined, else she may want a present subsistence.(n) Nor shall an infant patron have it in a quare impedit,(o) since the law holds it necessary and expedient that the church be immediately filled.12
When these proceedings are over, the defendant must then put in his excuse or plea. Pleas are of two sorts; dilatory pleas, and pleas to the action. Dilatory pleas are such as tend merely to delay or put off the suit, by questioning the propriety of the remedy, rather than by denying the injury: pleas to the action are such as dispute the very cause of suit. The former cannot be pleaded after a general imparlance, which is an acknowledgment of the propriety of the action. For imparlances are either general, of which we have before spoken, and which are granted of course; or special, with a saving of all exceptions to the writ or count, which may be granted by the prothonotary; or they may be still more special, with a saving of all exceptions whatsoever which are granted at the discretion of the court.(p)
1. Dilatory pleas are,13 1. To the jurisdiction of the court: alleging, that it ought not to hold plea of this injury, it arising in Wales or beyond sea; or because the land in question is of antient demesne, and ought only to be demanded in the lord’s court, &c. 2. To the disability of the plaintiff, by reason whereof he is incapable to commence or continue the suit; as, that he is an alien enemy, outlawed, excommunicated, attained of treason or felony, under a præmunire, not in rerum natura, (being only a fictitious person,) an infant, a feme-covert, or a monk professed.14 3. In abatement, which abatement is either of the **302]writ or the count, for some defect in one of them; as by misnaming the defendant, which is called a misnomer; giving him a wrong addition, as esquire instead of knight; or other want of form in any material respect.15 Or it may be that the plaintiff is dead; for the death of either party is at once an abatement of the suit.16 And in actions merely personal, arising ex delicto, for wrongs actually done or committed by the defendant, as trespass, battery, and slander, the rule is that actio personalis moritur cum persona;(q) and it never shall be revived either by or against the executors or other representatives. For neither the executors of the plaintiff have received, nor those of the defendant have committed, in their own personal capacity, any manner of wrong or injury.17 But in actions arising ex contractu, by breach of promise, and the like, where the right descends to the representatives of the plaintiff, and those of the defendant have assets to answer the demand, though the suits shall abate by the death of the parties, yet they may be revived against or by the executors:(r) being indeed rather actions against the property than the person, in which the executors have now the same interest that their testator had before.
These pleas to the jurisdiction, to the disability, or in abatement, were formerly very often used as mere dilatory pleas, without any foundation of truth, and calculated only for delay; but now, by statute 4 & 5 Anne, c. 16, no dilatory plea is to be admitted without affidavit made of the truth thereof, or some probable matter shown to the court to induce them to believe it true.18 And with respect to the pleas themselves, it is a rule, that no exception shall be admitted against a declaration or writ, unless the defendant will in the same plea give the plaintiff a better;(s) that is, show him how it might be amended, that there may not be two objections upon the same account. Neither, by statute 8 & 9 W. III. c. 31, shall any plea in abatement be admitted in any suit for partition of lands; nor shall the same be abated by reason of the death of any tenant.
*[*303All pleas to the jurisdiction conclude to the cognizance of the court: praying “judgment, whether the court will have further cognizance of the suit:” pleas to the disability conclude to the person; by praying “judgment, if the said A. the plaintiff ought to be answered:” and pleas in abatement (when the suit is by original) conclude to the writ or declaration; by praying “judgment of the writ, or declaration, and that the same may be quashed,” cassetur, made void, or abated; but, if the action be by bill, the plea must pray “judgment of the bill,” and not of the declaration; the bill being here the original, and the declaration only a copy of the bill.
When these dilatory pleas are allowed, the cause is either dismissed from that jurisdiction; or the plaintiff is stayed till his disability be removed; or he is obliged to sue out a new writ, by leave obtained from the court:(t) or to amend and new-frame his declaration. But when on the other hand they are overruled as frivolous, the defendant has judgment of respondeat ouster, or to answer over in some better manner. It is then incumbent on him to plead.
2. A plea to the action; that is, to answer to the merits of the complaint. This is done by confessing or denying it.
A confession of the whole complaint is not very usual, for then the defendant would probably end the matter sooner, or not plead at all, but suffer judgment to go by default. Yet sometimes, after tender and refusal of a debt, if the creditor harasses his debtor with an action, it then becomes necessary for the defendant to acknowledge the debt, and plead the tender; adding, that he has always been ready, tout temps prist, and still is ready, uncore prist, to discharge it: for a tender by the debtor and refusal by the creditor will in all cases discharge the costs,(u) but not the debt itself; though in some particular cases the creditor will totally lose his money.(v)19 **304]But frequently the defendant confesses one part of the complaint, (by a cognovit actionem in respect thereof,) and traverses or denies the rest: in order to avoid the expense of carrying that part to a formal trial, which he has no ground to litigate. A species of this sort of confession is the payment of money into court:(w) which is for the most part necessary upon pleading a tender, and is itself a kind of tender to the plaintiff;20 by paying into the hands of the proper officer of the court as much as the defendant acknowledges to be due, together with the costs hitherto incurred, in order to prevent the expense of any further proceedings. This may be done upon what is called a motion; which is an occasional application to the court by the parties or their counsel, in order to obtain some rule or order of court, which becomes necessary in the progress of a cause; and it is usually grounded upon an affidavit, (the perfect tense of the verb affido,) being a voluntary oath before some judge or officer of the court, to evince the truth of certain facts, upon which the motion is grounded: though no such affidavit is necessary for payment of money into court.21 If, after the money paid in, the plaintiff proceeds in his suit, it is at his own peril: for, if he does not prove more due than is so paid into court, he shall be non-suited and pay the defendant costs; but he shall still have the money so paid in; for that the defendant has acknowledged to be his due.22 In the French law the rule of practice is grounded upon principles somewhat similar to this; for there, if a person be sued for more than he owes, yet he loses his cause if he doth not tender so much as he really does owe.(w) To this head may also be referred the practice of what is called a set-off: whereby the defendant acknowledges the justice of the plaintiff’s demand on the one hand, but on the other sets up a demand of his own, to counterbalance that of the plaintiff, either in the whole or in part: as, if the plaintiff sues for ten pounds due on a note of hand, the defendant may set off nine pounds due to himself for merchandise sold to the plaintiff, and, in case he pleads such set-off, must pay the remaining balance into court. This answers *[*305very nearly to the compensatio, or stoppage, of the civil law,(x) and depends on the statutes 2 Geo. II. c. 22, and 8 Geo. II. c. 24, which enact, that where there are mutual debts between the plaintiff and defendant, one debt may be set against the other, and either pleaded in bar or given in evidence upon the general issue at the trial; which shall operate as payment, and extinguish so much of the plaintiff’s demand.23
Pleas that totally deny the cause of complaint are either the general issue, or a special plea, in bar.
1. The general issue, or general plea, is what traverses, thwarts, and denies at once the whole declaration; without offering any special matter whereby to evade it. As in trespass either vi et armis, or on the case, non culpabilis, not guilty;(y) in debt upon contract, nihil debet, he owes nothing; in debt on bond, non est factum, it is not his deed; on an assumpsit, non assumpsit, he made no such promise. Or in real actions, nul tort, no wrong done; nul disseisin, no disseisin; and in a writ of right, the mise or issue is, that the tenant has more right to hold than the demandant has to demand. These pleas are called the general issue, because, by importing an absolute and general denial of what is alleged in the declaration, they amount at once to an issue: by which we mean a fact affirmed on one side and denied on the other.
Formerly the general issue was seldom pleaded, except when the party meant wholly to deny the charge alleged against him. But when he meant to distinguish away or palliate the charge, it was always usual to set forth the particular facts in what is called a special plea; which was originally intended to apprize the court and the adverse party of the nature and circumstances of the defence, and to keep the law and the fact distinct. And it is an invariable rule, that every defence which cannot be thus specially pleaded may be given in evidence upon the general issue at the trial. But the science *[*306of special pleading having been frequently perverted to the purposes of chicane and delay, the courts have of late in some instances, and the legislature in many more, permitted the general issue to be pleaded, which leaves every thing open, the fact, the law, and the equity of the case, and have allowed special matter to be given in evidence at the trial. And, though it should seem as if much confusion and uncertainty would follow from so great a relaxation of the strictness antiently observed, yet experience has shown it to be otherwise; especially with the aid of a new trial, in case either party be unfairly surprised by the other.
2. Special pleas, in bar of the plaintiff’s demand, are very various, according to the circumstances of the defendant’s case. As, in real actions, a general release or a fine, both of which may destroy and bar the plaintiff’s title. Or, in personal actions, an accord, arbitration, conditions performed, nonage of the defendant, or some other fact which precludes the plaintiff from his action.(z) A justification is likewise a special plea in bar; as in actions of assault and battery, son assault demesne, that it was the plaintiff’s own original assault; in trespass, that the defendant did the thing complained of in right of some office which warranted him so to do; or, in an action of slander, that the plaintiff is really as bad a man as the defendant said he was.
Also a man may plead the statutes of limitation(a) in bar;24 or the time limited by certain acts of parliament, beyond which no plaintiff can lay his cause of action. This, by the statute of 32 Hen. VIII. c. 2, in a writ of right, is sixty years; in assizes, writs of entry, or other possessory actions real, of the seisin of one’s ancestors, in lands; and either of their seisin, or one’s own, in rents, suits, and services, fifty years: and in actions real for lands grounded upon one’s own seisin or possession, such possession must have been within thirty years. By statute 1 Mar st. 2, c. 5, this limitation does not extend to *[*307any suit for advowsons, upon reasons given in a former chapter.(b) But by the statute 21 Jac. I. c. 2, a time of limitation was extended to the case of the king; viz., sixty years precedent to 19 Feb. 1623;(c) but, this becoming ineffectual by efflux of time, the same date of limitation was fixed by statute 9 Geo. III. c. 16, to commence and be reckoned backwards, from the time of bringing any suit or other process, to recover the thing in question; so that a possession for sixty years is now a bar even against the prerogative, in derogation of the antient maxim “nullum tempus occurrit regi.” By another statute, 21 Jac. I. c. 16, twenty years is the time of limitation in any writ of formedon; and, by a consequence, twenty years is also the limitation in every action of ejectment; for no ejectment can be brought unless where the lessor of the plaintiff is entitled to enter on the lands,(d) and by the statute 21 Jac. I. c. 26, no entry can be made by any man, unless within twenty years after his right shall accrue.25 Also all actions of trespass, (quare clausum fregit, or otherwise,) detinue, trover, replevin, account, and case, (except upon accounts between merchants,) debt on simple contract, or for arrears of rent, are limited by the statute last mentioned to six years after the cause of action commenced and actions of assault, menace, battery, mayhem, and imprisonment, must be brought within four years, and actions for words within two years, after the injury committed.26 And by the statute 31 Eliz. c. 5, all suits, indictments, and informations, upon any penal statutes, where any forfeiture is to the crown alone, shall be sued within two years; and where the forfeiture is to a subject, or to the crown and a subject, within one year, after the offence committed,27 unless where any other time is specially limited by the statute. Lastly, by statute 10 W. III. c. 14, no writ of error, scire facias, or other suit, shall be brought to reverse any judgment, fine, or recovery, for error, unless it be prosecuted within twenty years.28 The use of these statutes of limitation is to preserve the peace of the kingdom, and to prevent those innumerable perjuries which might ensue if a man were allowed to bring an action for any injury committed at any distance of time. *[*308Upon both these accounts the law therefore holds, that “interest reipublicæ ut sit finis litium:” and upon the same principle the Athenian laws in general prohibited all actions where the injury was committed five years before the complaint was made.(e) If therefore in any suit the injury or cause of action happened earlier than the period expressly limited by law, the defendant may plead the statutes of limitations in bar: as upon an assumpsit, or promise to pay money to the plaintiff, the defendant may plead non assumpsit infra sex annos; he made no such promise within six years; which is an effectual bar to the complaint.29
An estoppel is likewise a special plea in bar; which happens where a man hath done some act or executed some deed which estops or precludes him from averring any thing to the contrary. As if tenant for years (who hath no freehold) levies a fine to another person. Though this is void as to strangers, yet it shall work as an estoppel to the cognizor; for if he afterwards brings an action to recover these lands, and his fine is pleaded against him, he shall thereby be estopped from saying that he had no freehold at the time and therefore was incapable of levying it.
The conditions and qualities of a plea (which, as well as the doctrine of estoppels, will also hold equally, mutatis mutandis, with regard to other parts of pleading) are—1. That it be single and containing only one matter; for duplicity begets confusion. But by statute 4 & 5 Anne, c. 16, a man with leave of the court may plead two or more distinct matters or single pleas; as, in an action of assault and battery, these three, not guilty, son assault demesne, and the statute of limitations. 2. That it be direct and positive, and not argumentative. 3. That it have convenient certainty of time, place, and persons. 4. That it answer the plaintiff’s allegations in every material point. 5. That it be so pleaded as to be capable of trial.30
**309]Special pleas are usually in the affirmative, sometimes in the negative; but they always advance some new fact not mentioned in the declaration; and then they must be averred to be true in the common form,—“and this he is ready to verify.” This is not necessary in pleas of the general issue; those always containing a total denial of the facts before advanced by the other party, and therefore putting him upon the proof of them.
It is a rule in pleading that no man be allowed to plead specially such a plea as amounts only to the general issue, or a total denial of the charge; but in such case he shall be driven to plead the general issue in terms, whereby the whole question is referred to a jury. But if the defendant, in an assize or action of trespass, be desirous to refer the validity of his title to the court rather than the jury, he may state his title specially, and at the same time give colour to the plaintiff, or suppose him to have an appearance or colour of title, bad, indeed, in point of law, but of which the jury are not competent judges. As, if his own true title be, that he claims by feoffment, with livery from A., by force of which he entered on the lands in question, he cannot plead this by itself, as it amounts to no more than the general issue, nul tort, nul disseisen, in assize, or not guilty in an action of trespass. But he may allege this specially, provided he goes further, and says, that the plaintiff claiming by colour of a prior deed of feoffment without livery, entered; upon whom he entered; and may then refer himself to the judgment of the court which of these two titles is the best in point of law.(f)31
When the plea of the defendant is thus put in, if it does not amount to an issue or total contradiction of the declaration, but only evades it, the plaintiff may plead again, and reply to the defendant’s plea; either traversing it; that is, totally denying it; as if in an action of debt upon bond the defendant pleads solvit ad diem, that he paid the money when **310]due; here the plaintiff in his replication may totally traverse this plea by denying that the defendant paid it; or he may allege new matter in contradiction to the defendant’s plea; as when the defendant pleads no award made, the plaintiff may reply and set forth an actual award, and assign a breach;(g) or the replication may confess and avoid the plea, by some new matter or distinction consistent with the plaintiff’s former declaration; as, in an action for trespassing upon land whereof the plaintiff is seised, if the defendant shows a title to the land by descent, and that therefore he had a right to enter, and gives colour to the plaintiff, the plaintiff may either traverse and totally deny the fact of the descent; or he may confess and avoid it by replying, that true it is that such descent happened, but that since the descent the defendant himself demised the lands to the plaintiff for a term of life.32 To the replication the defendant may rejoin, or put in an answer, called a rejoinder. The plaintiff may answer the rejoinder by a sur-rejoinder; upon which the defendant may rebut; and the plaintiff answer him by a sur-rebutter. Which pleas, replications, rejoinders, sur-rejoinders, rebutters, and sur-rebutters answer to the exceptio, replicatio, duplicatio, triplicatio, and quadruplicatio of the Roman laws.(h)33
The whole of this process is denominated the pleading; in the several stages of which it must be carefully observed not to depart or vary from the title or defence which the party has once insisted on For this (which is called a departure in pleading) might occasion endless altercation. Therefore the replication must support the declaration, and the rejoinder must support the plea, without departing out of it. As in the case of pleading no award made, in consequence of a bond of arbitration, to which the plaintiff replies, setting forth an actual award; now the defendant cannot rejoin that he hath performed this award, for such rejoinder would be an entire departure from his original plea, which alleged that no such award was made: therefore he has now no other *[*311choice but to traverse the fact of the replication, or else to demur upon the law of it.
Yet in many actions the plaintiff who has alleged in his declaration a general wrong may in his replication, after an evasive plea by the defendant, reduce that general wrong to a more particular certainty, by assigning the injury afresh, with all its specific circumstances, in such manner as clearly to ascertain and identify it, consistently with his general complaint; which is called a new or novel assignment. As, if the plaintiff in trespass declares on a breach of his close in D., and the defendant pleads that the place where the injury is said to have happened is a certain close of pasture in D., which descended to him from B. his father, and so is his own freehold; the plaintiff may reply and assign another close in D., specifying the abuttals and boundaries, as the real place of the injury.(i)
It hath previously been observed(k) that duplicity in pleading must be avoided. Every plea must be simple, entire, connected, and confined to one single point: it must never be entangled with a variety of distinct, independent answers to the same matter; which must require as many different replies, and introduce a multitude of issues upon one and the same dispute. For this would often embarrass a jury, and sometimes the court itself, and at all events would greatly enhance the expense of the parties. Yet it frequently is expedient to plead in such a manner as to avoid any implied admission of a fact which cannot with propriety or safety be positively affirmed or denied. And this may be done by what is called a protestation; whereby the party interposes an oblique allegation or denial of some fact, protesting (by the gerund protestando) that such a matter does or does not exist; and at the same time avoiding a direct affirmation or denial. Sir Edward Coke hath defined(l) a protestation (in the pithy dialect of that age) to be “an exclusion of a conclusion.” **312]For the use of it is, to save the party from being concluded with respect to some fact or circumstance, which cannot be directly affirmed or denied without falling into duplicity of pleading; and which yet, if he did not thus enter his protest, he might be deemed to have tacitly waived or admitted. Thus, while tenure in villenage subsisted, if a villein had brought an action against his lord, and the lord was inclined to try the merits of the demand, and at the same time to prevent any conclusion against himself that he had waived his seignory; he could not in this case both plead affirmatively that the plaintiff was his villein, and also take issue upon the demand; for then his plea would have been double, as the former alone would have been a good bar to the action; but he might have alleged the villenage of the plaintiff, by way of protestation, and then have denied the demand. By this means the future vassalage of the plaintiff was saved to the defendant in case the issue was found in his (the defendant’s) favor;(m) for the protestation prevented that conclusion, which would otherwise have resulted from the rest of his defence, that he had enfranchised the plaintiff,(n) since no villein could maintain a civil action against his lord. So also, if a defendant, by way of inducement to the point of his defence, alleges (among other matters) a particular mode of seisin or tenure, which the plaintiff is unwilling to admit, and yet desires to take issue on the principal point of the defence, he must deny the seisin or tenure by way of protestation, and then traverse the defensive matter. So, lastly, if an award be set forth by the plaintiff, and he can assign a breach in one part of it, (viz., the non-payment of a sum of money,) and yet is afraid to admit the performance of the rest of the award, or to aver in general a non-performance of any part of it, lest something should appear to have been performed; he may save to himself any advantage he might hereafter make of the general non-performance, by alleging that by protestation, and plead only the non-payment of the money.(o)34
**313]In any stage of the pleadings, when either side advances or affirms any new matter, he usually (as we said) avers it to be true; “and this he is ready to verify.” On the other hand, when either side traverses or denies the facts pleaded by his antagonist, he usually tenders an issue, as it is called; the language of which is different according to the party by whom the issue is tendered; for if the traverse or denial comes from the defendant, the issue is tendered in this manner, “and of this he puts himself upon the country,” thereby submitting himself to the judgment of his peers;(p) but if the traverse lies upon the plaintiff he tenders the issue, or prays the judgment of the peers against the defendant in another form; thus: “and this he prays may be inquired of by the country.”
But if either side (as, for instance, the defendant) pleads a special negative plea; not traversing or denying any thing that was before alleged, but disclosing some new negative matter; as, where the suit is on a bond, conditioned to perform an award, and the defendant pleads, negatively, that no award was made, he tenders no issue upon this plea; because it does not appear whether the fact will be disputed, the plaintiff not having yet asserted the existence of any award; but when the plaintiff replies, and sets forth an actual specific award, if then the defendant traverses the replication, and denies the making of any such award, he then, and not before, tenders an issue to the plaintiff. For when in the course of pleading they come to a point which is affirmed on one side, and denied on the other, they are then said to be at issue; all their debates being at last contracted into a single point, which must now be determined either in favour of the plaintiff or of the defendant.
[9 ] By the king’s mandate, 14th Dec. 1811, the king’s attorney and solicitor-general are now to have a place and audience before the king’s premier serjeant.—Chitty.
[1 ] By stat. 3 & 4 W. IV. c. 42, power was given to the judges of the superior courts to make such alterations in the mode of pleading then in use in the said courts as they might deem expedient. By stat. 13 & 14 Vict. c. 16, this power was extended; and by “The Common-Law Procedure Act, 1852,” renewed powers were again given to the judges for this purpose. The rules of pleading framed under the first statute have been repealed under the powers given by the last, but to a great extent also re-enacted, and many alterations have been made in the forms of pleadings.—Stewart.
Pleading is the statement in a logical and legal form of the facts which constitute the plaintiff’s cause of action or the defendant’s ground of defence; it is the formal mode of alleging on the record that which would be the support or the defence of the party in evidence. Per Buller, J., 3 T. R. 159. Dougl. 278. “It is [as also observed by the same learned judge, in Dougl. Rep. 159] one of the first principles of pleading, that there is only occasion to state facts, which must be done for the purpose of informing the court, whose duty it is to declare the law arising upon those facts, and of apprizing the opposite party of what is meant to be proved, in order to give him an opportunity to answer or traverse it.” And see the observations of lord C. J. De Grey, Cowp. 682. From this it will be seen that the science of special pleading may be considered under two heads: 1st. The facts necessary to be stated. 2d. The mode of stating them. In these considerations, the reader must be contented with a general outline of the law upon the subject.
1st. The Facts necessary to be stated.—No more should be stated than is essential to constitute the cause of complaint or the ground of defence. Cowp. 683. 1 Lord Raym. 171. And facts only should be stated, and not arguments or inferences, or matter of law. Cowp. 684. 5 East, 275. The party can only succeed on the facts as they are alleged and proved.
There are various facts which need not be stated, though it may be essential that they should be established in evidence, to entitle the party pleading to succeed.
Thus, there are facts of which the court will, from the nature of its office, take notice without their being stated: as when the king came to the throne, (2 Lord Raym. 794,) his privileges, (id. 980,) proclamations, &c., (1 Lord Raym. 282. 2 Camp. 44. 4 M. & S. 532;) but private orders of council, pardons, and declarations of war, &c. must be stated. 2 Litt. Bac. Reg. 303. 3 M. & S. 67. 11 Ves. 292. 3 Camp. 61, 67. The time and place of holding parliaments, and their course of proceedings, need not be stated, (1 Lord Raym. 343, 210. 1 Saund. 131;) but their journals must. Lord Raym. 15. Cowp. 17. Public statutes, and the facts they ascertain, (1 T. R. 145. Com. Dig. Pleader, c. 76,) the ecclesiastical, civil, and marine laws, (Bro. Quare Impedit, pl. 12. Lord Raym. 338,) need not be stated; but private acts, (Lord Raym. 381. 2 Dougl. 97,) and foreign (2 Carth. 273. Cowp. 174) and plantation and forest (2 Leon. 209) laws, must. Common-law rights, duties, and general customs, customs of gavelkind, and borough-English, (Doug. 150. Lord Raym. 175, 1542. Carth. 83. Co. Latt. 175. Lord Raym. 1025. Cro. Car. 561,) need not be stated; but particular local customs must. 1 Roll. Rep. 509. 9 East, 185. Stra. 187. 1287. Dougl. 387. The almanac is part of the law of the land, and the courts take notice thereof, and the days of the week, and of the movable feasts, and terms. Dougl. 380. Salk. 269. 1 Roll. Abr. 524, c. pl. 4. 6 Mod. 81. Salk. 626. So the division of England into counties will be noticed without pleading, (2 Inst. 557. Marsh, 124,) but not so of a less division (id.) nor of Ireland. 1 Chit. Rep. 28, 32. 3 B. & A. 301, S. C. 2 D. & R. 15. 1 B. & C. 16, S. C. The court will take judicial notice of the incorporated towns, of the extent of ports, and the river Thames. Stra. 469. 1 H. Bla. 356. So it will take notice of the meaning of English words and terms of art, according to their ordinary acceptation, (1 Roll. Abr. 86, 525;) also of the names and quantities of legal weights and measures, (1 Roll. Abr. 525;) also courts will take notice of their own course of proceedings, (1 T. R. 118. 2 Lev. 176,) and of those of the superior courts, (2 Co. Rep. 18. Cro. Jac. 67,) the privileges they confer on their officers, (Lord Raym. 869, 898,) of courts of general jurisdiction, and the course of proceedings therein; as the court of Exchequer in Wales and the counties palatine, (1 Lord Raym. 154. 1 Saund. 73;) but the courts are not bound, ex officio, to take notice who were or are the judges of another court at Westminster, (2 Andr. 74. Stra. 1226;) nor are the superior courts, ex officio, bound to notice the customs, laws, or proceedings of inferior courts of limited jurisdiction, (1 Roll. Rep. 105. Lord Raym. 1334. Cro. Eliz. 502,) unless indeed in courts of error. Cro. Car. 179.
Where the law presumes a fact, as that a person is innocent of a fraud or crime, or that a transaction is illegal, it need not be stated. 4 M. & S. 105. 2 Wils. 147. Co. Litt. 78, b. 1 B. & A. 463.
Matter which should come more properly from the other side, as it is presumed to lie more in the knowledge of the other party, or is an answer to the charge of the party pleading, need not be stated, unless in pleas of estoppel and alien enemy: but this rule must be acted upon with caution; for if the fact in any way constitutes a condition precedent, to enable the party to avail himself of the charge stated in his pleading, such fact should be stated. Com. Dig. Pleader, c. 81. 1 Leon. 18. 2 Saund. 62, b. 4 Camp. 20. 11 East, 638; and see cases, 1 Chit. on Pl. 206. Stephen, 354.
Though the facts of a case must be stated in pleading, it is not necessary to state that which is a mere matter of evidence of such fact. 9 Rep. 9, b. 9 Edw. III. 5, b., 6, a. Willes, 130. Raym. 8.
And though the general rule is that facts only are to be stated, yet there are some instances in which the statement in the pleading is proper, though it does not accord with the real facts, the law allowing a fiction, as in ejectment, trover, detinue, &c. Burr. 667. 1 N. R. 140.
No fact that is not essential to substantiate the pleading should be stated. The statement of immaterial or irrelevant matter is not only censurable on the ground of expense, but frequently affords an advantage to the opposite party, either as the ground of a variance, or as rendering it incumbent on the party pleading to adduce more evidence than would otherwise have been necessary; though, indeed, if the matter unnecessarily stated be wholly foreign and impertinent to the cause, so that no allegation whatever on the subject was necessary, it will be rejected as surplusage, it being a maxim that utile per inutile non vitiatur. See cases, &c. in Chit. on Pl. 208, 209, 210. Besides this, the pleading must not state two or more facts either of which would of itself, independently of the other, constitute a sufficient ground of action or defence. Co. Litt. 304, a. Com. Dig. Pleader, C. 33, E. 2. 1 Chit. on Pl. 208.
2d. The Mode of stating Facts.—The facts should be stated logically, in their natural order; as, on the part of the plaintiff, his right, the injury and consequent damage: and these with certainty, precision, and brevity. The facts, as stated, must not be insensible or repugnant, nor ambiguous or doubtful in meaning, nor argumentative, nor in the alternative, nor by way of recital, but positive, and according to their legal effect and operation. Dougl. 666, 667. 1 Chit. on Pl. 211. Stephen, 378 to 405.
Certainty signifies a clear and distinct statement, so that it may be understood by the opposite party, by the jury, who are to ascertain the truth of such statement, and by the court, who are to give judgment. Cowp. 682. Com. Dig. Pleader, C. 17. Less certainty is requisite when the law presumes that the knowledge of the facts is peculiarly in the opposite party; and so when it is to be presumed that the party pleading is not acquainted with minute circumstances. 13 East, 112. Com. Dig. Pleader, C. 26. 8 East, 85. General statements of facts admitting of almost any proof are objectionable, (1 M. & S. 441. 3 M. & S. 114;) but where a subject comprehends multiplicity of matter, there, in order to avoid prolixity, general pleading is allowed. 2 Saund. 411, n. 4. 8 T. R. 462.
In the construction of facts stated in pleading, it is a general rule that every thing shall be taken most strongly against the party pleading, (1 Saund. 259, n. 8;) or rather, if the meaning of the words be equivocal, they shall be construed most strongly against the party pleading them, (2 H. Bla. 530;) for it is to be intended that every person states his case as favourably to himself as possible, (Co. Litt. 30, 36;) but the language is to have a reasonable intendment and construction, (Com. Dig. Pleader, C. 25;) and if the sense be clear, mere exceptions ought not to be regarded, (5 East, 529;) and where an expression is capable of different meanings, that shall be taken which will support the averment, and not the other which would defeat it. 4 Taunt. 492. 5 East, 257. After verdict, an expression should be construed in such sense as would sustain the verdict. 1 B. & C. 297.—Chitty.
[(a) ] Append. No. II. 2; No. III. 6.
[(b) ] See pages 285, 288.
[(c) ] 2 Ventr. 259.
[2 ] And even then the plaintiff will only lose the benefit of the bail, and the court will not set aside the proceedings. 7 T. R. 80. 8 T. R. 27. 5 Moore, 483. 6 T. R. 363. So in the King’s Bench, where the proceedings are by original, the venue must be laid in the county into which the original was issued; or in bailable cases the defendant will be discharged; but it would be otherwise in Common Pleas, (Imp. C. P. 159;) and this would be the only advantage gained by the defendant.
The declaration should in other respects correspond with the process, as in the names and numbers of the parties, the character or right in which they sue or are sued; but as, according to the present practice of the courts, oyer of the writ cannot be craved, and a variance between the writ and declaration cannot in any case be pleaded in abatement, (1 Saund. 318. 3 B. & P. 395,) and as there are several instances in which the court will not set aside the proceedings on account of a variance between the writ and declaration, (6 T. R. 364,) many of the older decisions are no longer applicable in practice. But if the defect appear on the face of the declaration, the plaintiff may plead in abatement, or demur accordingly. As to these general requisites, see 1 Chit. on Pl. 222 to 229.—Chitty.
[3 ] Actions for every kind of injury to real property are local, as for nuisances, waste, &c. unless there be some contract between the parties, on which to ground the action. 1 Taunt. 379. 11 East, 226. And if the land be out of this kingdom, the plaintiff has no remedy in the English courts, if there be a court of justice to resort to where the land is situate. 4 T. R. 503. 1 Stra. 646. Cowp. 180. 6 East, 598. Where an injury has been caused in one county, to land, &c. in another, or when the action is founded upon two or more material facts which took place in different counties, the venue may be laid in either. 2 Taunt. 252, overruling 2 Camp. 266. 7 Co. 1. 3 Leon. 141. 7 T. R. 583. 1 Chitty on Pl. 242.
In an action upon a lease for the non-payment of rent, or other breach of covenant, when the action is founded on the privity of contract, it is transitory: but not so when the action is founded on the privity of estate. 3 T. R. 394. 3 Co. 23. 1 Saund. 237. Tidd, 431. 1 Chit. 244 to 246.
In some cases the action, though of a transitory nature, must, by act of parliament, be brought in a particular county, as by 31 Eliz. c. 5, s. 2. 21 Jac. I. c. 4, s. 2. In actions or informations on penal statutes, the venue must be laid where the offence was committed. Tidd, 432. 1 Chit. 246. So actions of case or trespass are local when against justices of the peace, mayors, bailiffs of cities or towns corporate, headboroughs, portreves, constables, tithing-men, church-wardens, &c., or other persons acting in their aid and assistance or by their command, for any thing done in their official capacity, (21 Jac. I. c. 12, s. 5,) or against any person or persons for any thing done by an officer of the excise, (23 Geo. III. c. 70, s. 34,) or customs, (24 Geo. III. sess. 2, c. 47, s. 35, 39; and see 28 Geo. III. c. 37, s. 23,) or others acting in his aid, in execution or by reason of his office or for any thing done in pursuance of the act relating to taxes, &c. 43 Geo. III. c. 99, s. 70. And the 42 Geo. III. c. 85, s. 6 extends the above provisions of the 21 Jac. I. to all persons in any public employment, or any office, station, or capacity, anywhere with a proviso that the action may be brought in Westminster, or where the defendant resides. There are also various other provisions in other acts, requiring that the venue shall be local, as in the highway, turnpike, militia acts, &c. Attorneys may lay and retain the venue in Middlesex.—Chitty.
[(d) ] Rastall, tit. Dette, 184, b. Fitz. Abr. tit. Briefe, 18.
[(e) ] Stra. 874, Mylock vs. Saladine. Trin. 4 Geo. III. B. R. Salk. 670. Trye’s Jus. Filiz. 251. Styl. Pract. Reg. (edit. 1657) 331.
[4 ] This power of changing the venue was extended, by stat. 3 & 4 W. IV. c. 42, s. 22, to local actions.—Stewart.
[5 ] The variations should be substantial; for if the different counts be so similar that the same evidence would support each of them, and be of any considerable length, and vexatiously inserted, the court would on application refer it to the master for examination and to strike out the redundant counts, and in gross cases direct the costs to be paid by the attorney. 1 N. R. 289. Rep. T. Hardw. 129. And as to striking out superfluous counts, see Tidd, 8th ed. 667, 648. In 2 Bingh. 412, nine counts were allowed in an action for slander, though the words used were very few. See 1 Chitt. on Pl. 350, 351, 352, as to the insertion of several counts. There must be no misjoinder of different counts; and, in order to prevent the confusion which might ensue if different forms of action, requiring different pleas and different judgments, were allowed to be found in one action, it is a general rule that actions in form ex contractu cannot be joined with those in form ex delicto. Thus, assumpsit and debt, (2 Smith, 618. 3 ib. 114,) or assumpsit and an action on the case, as for a tort, cannot be joined, (1 T. R. 276, 277. 1 Ventr. 366. Carth. 189;) nor assumpsit with trover, (2 Lev. 101. 3 Lev. 99. 1 Salk. 10. 3 Wils. 354. 6 East, 335. 2 Chitty R. 343;) nor trover with detinue. Willes, 118. 1 Chitty on Plead. 182. Debt and detinue may, however, be joined, although the judgments be different. 2 Saund. 117. And see further, as to what is a misjoinder, 1 Chitty on Pl. 199. Unless the subsequent count expressly refers to the preceding, no defect therein will be aided by such preceding count. Bac. Abr. Pleas and Pleader, 16, 1.—Chitty.
[6 ] It does not so conclude in actions against attorneys and other officers of the court, out thus:—“and therefore he prays relief, &c.” Andr. 247. Barnes, 3, 167.
In actions at the suit of an executor or administrator, immediately after the conclusion to the damage, &c., and before the pledges, a profert of the letters testamentary, of letters of administration, should be made. Bac. Abr. Executor, C. Doug. 5, in notes. But omission is added unless defendant demur specially. 4 Anne, c. 16, s. 1.—Chitty.
[(f) ] Seld. on Fortesc. c. 21.
[(g) ] Bract. 400. Flet. l. 2, c. 6.
[7 ] But these pledges need not be stated in proceedings by original, or in the Common Pleas, unless in proceedings against attorneys, &c. Summary on Pl. 42. Barnes, 163. Nor are they necessary in an action at the suit of the king or queen. 8 Co. 61. Cro. Car. 161. And no advantage can be taken of the omission in any case, even on special demurrer. 3 T. R. 157, 158.—Chitty.
[(h) ] See page 274.
[(i) ] 3 Bulsti. 275. 4 Inst. 189.
[8 ] But unless the defendant take advantage of the plaintiff’s neglect, by signing such judgment, the plaintiff may deliver his declaration at any time within a year next after the return of the writ. 3 T. R. 123. 5 id. 35. 7 id. 7; sed vide 2 N. R. 404. As to when the defendant is entitled to, and how he should sign a judgment of, and the costs on, a non pros., see Tidd, 8th ed. Index, tit. Non Pros.—Chitty.
[(k) ] Rastal. Ent. 134.
[(l) ] Booth of Real Actions, 118.
[(m) ] Book II. Append. No. V. 2.
[(n) ] Append. No. I 5.
[(o) ] Co. Entr. 182.
[(p) ]Nov. Nar. 230, edit. 1534.
[(q) ] The true reason of this, says Booth, (on Real Actions, 94, 112,) I could never yet find; so little did he understand of principles!
[(r) ] Co. Litt. 127.
[(s) ] Edit. 1534.
[(t) ] Theloal dig. l. 14, c. 1, pag. 357.
[(u) ]En la defence sont nj choses entendantz; per tant quil defende tort et force, home doyt entendre quil se excuse de tort a luy surmys per counte, et fait se partie al ple; et per tant quil defende les damages, il affirm le parte able destre respondu; et per tant quil defende ou et quant il devera, il accepte la poiar de court de conustre ou trier lour ple. Mod. [Editor: illegible character]enend cur. 408, edit. 1534. See also Co. Litt. 127.
[(w) ] Salk. 217. Lord Raym. 282.
[(x) ] Carth 230. Lord Raym. 217.
[(y) ] 2 Lord Raym. 836. 10 Mod. 126.
[(z) ] See page 83.
[9 ] But only resident members of either university are entitled to this privilege, it being local as well as personal. 2 Wils. 310.—Chitty.
[(a) ] Hardr. 505.
[(b) ] Rast. 128, &c. 1 Chitty on Pl. 364.
[(c) ] 2 Ventr. 363.
[(d) ] Hob. 87. Year-book, M. 8. Hen. VI. 20. In this latter case the chancellor of Oxford claimed cognizance of an action of trespass brought against himself, which was disallowed because he should not be judge in his own cause. The argument used by serjeant Rolfe on behalf of the cognizance is curious and worth transcribing:—Jeo vous dirai un fable. En ascun temps fuit un pape, et avoit fait un grand offence, et le cardinals vindrent a luy et disoyent a luy, “peccasti” et il dit, “judica me;” et ils disoyent, “non possumus, quia caput es ecclesiæ: judica teipsum.” et l’apostol dit, “judico me cremari;” et fuit combustus; et apret juit un sainct. Et in ceo cas il fuit son juge demene, et issint n’est pas inconvenient que un home soit juge demene.
[10 ] But a party may waive and preclude himself from taking any objection to a decision on this account; for if a defendant agree to refer the matter to the plaintiff, he cannot object to the award that the plaintiff was a judge in his own cause. Thus, in Matthew vs. Ollerton, (4 Mod. 226. Comb. 218. Hardr. 44,) which was an action of debt upon an award, and a verdict for the plaintiff; and, upon its being moved in arrest of judgment, the exception taken was that the matter in difference was referred to the plaintiff himself, who made an award. Sed non allocatur. And the case of serjeant Hards was remembered by Dolben, Justice,—viz.:—The serjeant took a horse from my lord of Canterbury’s bailiff for a deodand, and the archbishop brought his action; and, it coming to a trial at the assizes in Kent, the serjeant, by rule of court, referred it to the archbishop, to set the price of the horse, which was done accordingly; and the serjeant afterwards moved the court to set aside the award for the reason now offered; but it was denied by lord Hale and per totam curiam.—Chitty.
[(e) ] Append. No. III. 6.
[(f) ] Gilb. Hist. Com. Pl. 35.
[(g) ] Matt. v. 25.
[(h) ] Append. No. III. 6.
[11 ] But now a defendant is not allowed oyer of the writ. 1 B. & P. 646. 3 B. & P. 395. 7 East, 383. As to the demand and giving of oyer, and the manner of setting out deeds, &c. therein, see 1 Saund. 9, (1,) 289, (2.) 2 Saund. 9, (12,) (13,) 46, (7,) 366, (1,) 405, (1,) 410, (2.) Tidd, 8th ed. 635 to 638, and Index, tit. Oyer. 1 Chitt. on Pl. 369 to 375.—Chitty.
[(i) ] Book II. Append. No. V. 2.
[(k) ] F. N. B. 135.
[(l) ] Dyer, 137.
[(m) ] Finch, L. 360.
[(n) ] 1 Roll. Abr. 137.
[(o) ] Ibid. 138.
[12 ] And now, indeed, by statute 11 Geo. IV. and 1 W. IV. c. 47, s. 10, the parol shall not demur in any action.—Kerr.
[(p) ] 12 Mod. 529.
[13 ] These pleas are not favored by the courts; and they must be filed within four days after the day upon which the declaration is delivered, both days being inclusive. 1 T. R. 277. 5 T. R. 210.—Chitty.
[14 ] As to this plea, see 1 Chit. on Pl. 387, 388. Whenever the subject-matter of the plea or defence is that the plaintiff cannot maintain any action at any time, in respect of the supposed cause of action, it may, and usually should, be pleaded in bar; but matter which merely defeats the present proceeding and does not show that the plaintiff is forever precluded should in general be pleaded in abatement. 4 T. R. 227. Some matters may be pleaded either in abatement or bar; as outlawry for felony, alien enemy, or attainder, &c. Bac. Abr. Abatement, N. Com. Dig. Abatement, K.
The defendant may also plead in abatement his or her own personal disability; as in case of coverture, when the husband ought to have been joined. 3 T. R. 627. Bac. Abr. Abatement, G.—Chitty.
[15 ] Pleas in abatement to the writ are so termed rather from their effects than from their being strictly such pleas: for, as oyer of the writ can no longer be craved, no objection can be taken by plea to matter which is merely contained in the writ. 3 B. & P. 399. 1 B. & P. 645. But if the mistake in the writ be carried also into the declaration, or, rather, if the declaration, which is presumed to correspond with the writ or bill, be incorrect in respect of some extrinsic matter, it is then open to the defendant to plead in abatement to the writ or bill, (1 B. & P. 648;) and as to such pleas, see 1 Chit. on Pl. 390 to 394. Consequently, a misnomer of the defendant, or giving him a wrong addition, or other want of form, in the writ, unless it be contained in the declaration, is not now pleadable in abatement. See 1 Saund. 318, n. 3. 3 B. & P. 395. And the defendant, to take advantage of any defect in the writ, should, in general, before appearance move to set it aside for irregularity. 1 B. & P. 647. 5 Moore, 168.—Chitty.
But now the writ itself may be amended; and further restrictions have, by the Common-Law Procedure Act, 1852, been imposed on pleas in abatement in addition to those previously imposed by statute 3 & 4 W. IV. c. 42. By that statute (s. 8) no plea in abatement for the non-joinder of any person as a co-defendant shall be allowed unless it shall be stated in such plea that such person is resident within the jurisdiction of the court, and unless the place of residence of such person shall be stated with certainty in an affidavit verifying the plea. And, by s. 11, no plea in abatement for a misnomer shall be allowed in any personal action; but, in all cases in which a misnomer would but for that act have been pleadable, the defendant may cause the declaration to be amended at the cost of the plaintiff, by inserting the right name upon a judge’s summons founded on an affidavit of the right name. And, by s. 12, in all actions upon bills of exchange or promissory notes or other written instruments, the parties to which are designated by the initials or some contraction of the Christian or first name, it is sufficient in every affidavit to hold to bail, and in the process or declaration to designate such persons by the same initial letter or contraction of the Christian or first name.—Stewart.
[16 ] But now, by the Common-Law Procedure Act, 1852, an action shall no longer abate by the death of either party, but may be continued by the legal representative of sole plaintiff on his entering (by leave of the court) a suggestion of the plaintiff’s death on the record; or by a surviving plaintiff when the cause of action survives; or against the legal representative of a defendant.—Stewart.
[(q) ] 4 Inst. 315.
[17 ] By statute 3 & 4 W. IV. c. 42, s. 2, an action of trespass, or trespass on the case, may be maintained by the executors or administrators of any deceased person for injury to his real estate in his lifetime, if such injury were committed within six calendar months before death and the action brought within one year after the time of the death; and an action of trespass, or trespass on the case, may also be maintained against executors or administrators for wrongs committed by the deceased to another’s property, real or personal, such injury having been committed within six months of the death and the action brought within six months after administration taken.—Stewart.
[(r) ] March. 14.
[18 ] Sham pleas are not dilatory pleas within the statute, and an affidavit is not necessary in all cases: thus, a plea of privilege as an attorney of the same court, to be sued by bill, it is supposed does not require an affidavit. 3 B. & P. 397. 1 Chit. on Pl. 401. As to the form of the affidavit, see 1 Chit. on Pl. 402. Tidd, 8th ed. 693.—Chitty.
[(s) ] Brownl. 139.
[(t) ] Co. Entr. 271.
[(u) ] 1 Ventr. 21.
[(v) ] Litt. 338. Co. Litt. 209.
[19 ] That is to say, if the only right which A. has to the money arise from the offer which B. makes to him of it, and he once refuse to accept that offer, he thereby loses all right, and of course can bring no action. The case put by lord Coke is, “If A., without any loane, debt, or dutie preceding infeoff B. of land, upon condition for the payment of a hundred pounds to B., in nature of a gratuitie or gift, in that case if he (A.) tender the hundred pounds to him (B.) according to the condition, and he refuseth it, B. hath no remedie therefor.” Here B. had primarily no title to the land or the money: if he does not accept it, therefore, when offered, no debt is due to him, but A. by the offer has discharged his land from that burden which he had voluntarily imposed on it. But supposing the land to have been mortgaged by A. to B. for money lent, which A. is to repay on a certain day, then if the money is duly tendered on the day and refused, A. shall have his land again, because he has performed the condition; but still B. may bring an action for his money.
The plea of tender must always, except in the case above supposed, be accompanied by a bringing of the sum tendered into court, or the plea is a mere nullity; and though the plaintiff denies that the tender was made before he commenced the action, or disputes the sufficiency of the sum tendered, and therefore goes on with the action, still he is entitled to take that sum out of court at once, which the defendant by the tender has admitted to be his due. If, however, he neglects to do so, and a verdict on either point should pass for the defendant, the court will then lay hold of the money as a security for the defendant’s costs. Le Grew vs. Cook, 1 B. & P. 332. See also Birks vs. Trippet, 1 Saund. Rep. 33, a., note.—Coleridge.
As to the form and requisites of this plea in assumpsit, see 3 Chit. on Pl. 4th ed. 992: in debt, id. 955, and Lee, Prac. Dict. tit. “Tender;” and as to the payment of money into court on, see Tidd, 8th ed. Index, tit. “Money;” Lee, Dict. tit. “Payment of Money into Court.” As to the replication, &c., see also 3 Chit. on Pl. 1151 to 1156, and Lee, Dict. tit. “Tender.”
As questions relative to the tender of a debt or money are of so frequent occurrence, we will consider the respective rules and decisions under the following heads: 1st. What is a good tender. 2d. In what cases it may be made. And lastly, the effect and advantages gained by it, and how these may be superseded.
1. What is a Good Tender.—It is a general rule, that, in order to constitute a good legal tender, the party should not only be ready to pay, and make an actual offer of the sum due, but actually produce the same, unless such production be dispensed with by the express declaration of the creditor that he will not accept it, or by some equivalent act. 10 East, 101. 5 Esp. R. 48. 3 T. R. 684. Peake, C. N. P. 88. 1 Cromp. 152. 2 M. & S. 86. 7 Moore, 59. If the plaintiff do not object to receive the money, it is not sufficient for the defendant to prove that he had the money with him and held it in a bag under his arm: he ought to have laid it down for him. Id. ibid. Bull. N. P. 157. 6 Esp. 46. If A. says, “I am not aware of the exact balance, but if any be due I am ready to pay it,” this is no tender. 15 East, 428.
With respect to the nature of the money tendered, it should be in the current coin of the realm, and not in bank-notes; and see the 56 Geo. III. c. 68, s. 11, by which gold coin is declared to be the only legal tender. But a tender in bank-notes is good unless particularly objected to on that account at the time. 3 T. R. 554. 2 B. & P. 526. So is a tender of foreign coin made current here by royal proclamation. 5 Rep. 114, b. So is a tender of provincial bank-notes, or a draft on a banker, unless so objected to. Peake N. P. 3d ed, 239. Tidd, 8th ed. 187, n. f. It seems that as any money coined at the mint upon which there is the king’s stamp is good, and that all such money is good in proportion to its value, without a proclamation, such money would be a good tender. 2 Salk. 446.
With respect to the amount of the sum tendered, it should in general be an offer of the specific sum due, unqualified by any circumstance whatever; and therefore tendering a larger sum, and making cross-demand, is insufficient. 2 D. & R. 305. A tender of 20l. in bank-notes, with a request to pay over the difference of fifteen guineas, is not a good tender as to the fifteen guineas, though it would have been otherwise if the tender had been in guineas. 3 Camp. 70. 1 Camp. 181. 6 Taunt. 336. But a tender of a larger sum generally is good. 5 Rep. 114. 8 T. R. 683; sed vide 2 Esp. 711. And a tender of a larger sum, and asking change, is good, provided the creditor do not object to it on that account, but only demands a larger sum. 6 Taunt. 336. Peake C. N. P. 88. 2 Esp. C. 711. 3 Camp. 70; and see 1 Gow. C. N. P. 121. A tender of a sum to A., including both a debt due to A., B., and C. and also a debt due to C., is a good tender of the debt due to the three, (3 T. R. 683;) and if several creditors, to whom money is due in the same right, assemble for the purpose of demanding payment, a tender of the gross sum, which they all refuse on account of the insufficiency of the amount, is good. Peake C. 88. 2 T. R. 414.
To constitute a good tender, it must be an unconditional one in payment of the debt; and therefore where a tender of payment was made, accompanied with a protestation against the right of the party to receive it, it was held insufficient. 3 Esp. C. 91. So is a tender accompanied with the demand of a receipt in full, (5 Esp. Rep. 48. 2 Camp. 21; sed vide Peake C. 179. Stark. on Evid. part 4, 1392, n. (g),) or upon condition that it shall be received as the whole of the balance due, (4 Camp. 156,) or that a particular document shall be given up to be cancelled. 2 Camp. 21. To constitute a good tender of stock, the buyer must be called on opening the books, (1 Stra. 533,) and the detendant must do all in his power to make it good. 1 Stra. 504.
With respect to the time of the tender, it should be observed that, in order to avoid the defendant’s liability to damages for the non-performance of the contract, it should be made in the very time agreed upon for the performance of such contract: a tender after such time only goes in mitigation of damages for the breach of the contract, and not even then if the tender be not made before the writ sued out. 7 Taunt. 487. See 21 Jac. I. c. 16, s. 5. It is said to have been decided by Buller, J., that a tender on the day the bill is filed is not available, there being no fraction of a day, (Imp. K. B. 324:) consequently, if payment of a bill has been demanded on the day it was due, and the acceptor plead a subsequent tender, it will not avail. 8 East, 168. 5 Taunt. 240. 1 Marsh. Rep. 36. 1 Saund. 33, a., note 2. But that doctrine is not law; and it is no answer to a plea of tender that the plaintiff had, before the tender, instructed his attorney to sue out the writ, and that the attorney had applied before the tender for the writ which was afterwards sued out, (8 T. R. 629;) and if the plaintiff brings his action, and discontinues it and commences another, a tender before the latter action is good. 1 Moore, 200. To constitute a good tender of stock, it should be made on the very day, (1 Stra. 579;) and at the last part of the day it can be accepted. 2 id. 777, 832. Any party, being an agent of the debtor, may tender the money. 2 M. &. S. 86.
With respect to the persons to whom the tender should be made, it will suffice if it be to the creditor or any authorized agent. 1 Camp. 477. Tender to an attorney, authorized to issue out a writ, &c., is good. Dougl. 623. And a tender to an agent has been held good although the principal had previously prohibited the agent from receiving the money if offered, the principal having put his business into the hands of his attorney. 5 Taunt. 307. 1 Marsh. 55, S. C. A bailiff, who makes a distress, cannot delegate his authority: therefore a tender to his agent is insufficient, (6 Esp. 95;) and a tender to one of several creditors is a tender to all. 3 T. R. 683.
2dly. In what Cases a Tender may be made with Effect.—In general, a tender can only be made with effect in cases where the demand is of a liquidated sum, or of a sum capable of liquidation by computation. See 2 Burr. 1120. Therefore a tender cannot be pleaded to an action for general damages upon a contract, (1 Vent. 356. 2 Bla. Rep. 837. 2 B. & P. 234. 3 B. & P. 14;) or in covenant, unless for the payment of money, (7 Taunt. 486. 1 Moore, 200, S. C. 5 Mod. 18. 1 Lord Raym. 566. 12 Mod. 376. 2 H. Bla. 837;) or for a tort, (2 Stra. 787, 906. 7 T. R. 335,) or trespass. 2 Wils. 115. It cannot be pleaded to an action for dilapidations, (8 T. R. 47. Stra. 906;) or for not repairing, (2 Salk. 596;) or against a carrier for goods spoiled, though the tender should be of the invoice-price, (2 B. & P. 234;) or for not delivering goods at a certain price per ton, (3 B. & P. 14;) or in an action for a false return, (7 T. R. 335;) or for mesne profits 2 Wils. 115. But in assumpsit against a carrier for not delivering goods, the defendant having advertised that he would not be answerable for any goods beyond the value of 20l. unless they were entered and paid for accordingly, a tender of the 20l. would, it seems, be available. 1 H. Bla. 299. So a tender may be made with effect to a demand for navigation calls. (7 T. R. 36. 1 Stra. 142,) or in an action for principal and interest due on bonds for payment of moneys by instalments. 3 Burr. 1370. So the penalty of a bond may with effect be tendered. 2 Bla. 1190. So the arrears of a bond for 40l. payable by 5l. per annum. 2 Stra. 814. So a tender may with effect be made in covenant for rent, or for the advanced rent of 5l. per acre for ploughing meadow-grounds. 2 H. Bla. 837. 7 Taunt. 486. 1 Moore, 200, S. C.; and vide 2 Salk. 596. So also on a policy of insurance, (19 Geo. II. c. 37, s. 7. 2 Taunt. 317;) or in debt for penalty for exercising trade contrary to 5 Eliz. c. 4, (1 Burr. 431;) or for penalty on game-laws, being actions popular, and not qui tam. 2 H. Bla. 1052. 2 Stra. 1217. Where a party has wrongfully possessed himself of goods, no tender of freight is necessary in order to enable the party to maintain the action. 2 T. R. 285.
Justices of the peace, and in like manner excise and custom-house officers, and surveyors of highways, are enabled by several statutes to tender amends for any thing done by them in the execution of their offices. See ante, 1 book, 354, n. 37, et seq. Also by the 21 Jac. I. c. 16, s. 5, in case of involuntary trespasses, tender of amends may be made. See ante, 16.
Lastly, As to the Effect of a Tender, and the Advantages acquired by it.—It should in the first place be observed that the debtor is liable for the non-performance of his contract if the money be not paid at the time agreed upon: the mere tendering the money afterwards is not sufficient to discharge him from such liability; it goes only in mitigation of damages; though, indeed, if a jury should find that no damages were sustained by reason of the defendant not tendering the money at the time agreed upon, the defendant would defeat the action by the tender afterwards. See Salk. 622. 8 East, 168. 1 Lord Raym. 254. 7 Taunt. 486. The tender of money due on a promissory note, accompanied with a demand of the note, stops the running of interest. 3 Camp. 296. 8 East, 168, 4 Leon. 209. The tender, if pleaded, admits the contract and facts stated in the declaration. 3 Taunt. 95. Peake, 15. 2 T. R. 275. 4 T. R. 579. If, therefore, the defendant’s liability is to be disputed, a tender should not be pleaded. So if there be a special count, and the defendant mean to deny it, the tender should be pleaded to the other counts only, (and see Tidd, 8th ed. 676;) and if there be any doubt as to the sufficiency of the tender, it is not advisable to plead it, but more expedient to pay the amount into court upon the common rule; for if the defendant should not succeed in proving the tender he will have to pay all the costs of the trial; whereas, if the money be paid into court, and the plaintiff cannot prove more due, he will be liable to pay all costs subsequent to the time of paying the money into court. If the sum tendered be not sufficient, and the plaintiff should succeed on the general issue, the plaintiff would still be entitled to the costs of the issue on the plea of tender. 5 East, 282. 5 Taunt. 660. If the defendant bring money into court on a plea of tender, the plaintiff may take it out, though he deny the tender. 1 B. & P. 332. The plaintiff, it seems, can gain no advantage by not taking the money out of court; and it has been said that if the plaintiff will not take the money, but takes issue on the tender and it is found against him, the defendant shall have it. 1 B. & P. 334, note a. Lord Raym. 642. 2 Stra. 1027. If the plaintiff should succeed on the trial in proving a larger sum to be due than that tendered, though that sum be below 40s., yet the plaintiff will be entitled to costs. Doug. 448. But where the debt originally was under 5l. the defendant is, it seems, entitled to the benefit of the Court of Requests’ Act for London, though he has pleaded a tender (5 M. & S. 196) or paid money into court. 5 East, 194.
A tender not being equivalent to payment itself, and only suspending the plaintiff’s remedy, (2 T. R. 27,) its effect may be superseded by prior or a subsequent demand and refusal to pay the precise sum tendered. 1 Camp. 181. 5 B. & A. 630. A subsequent demand of a larger sum will not suffice, (id.,) nor a subsequent demand accompanied by another demand of another sum not due. 1 Esp. 115. 7 Taunt. 213. Such demand should be made by a person authorized to give the debtor a discharge. 1 Camp. 478, n. 1 Esp. 115. A demand made by the clerk of the plaintiff’s attorney, who was an entire stranger to defendant, is insufficient. 1 Camp. 478. A subsequent application to one of two joint debtors, and a refusal, is sufficient. 1 Stark. 323. 4 Esp. 93. Noy, 135. Vin. Abr. Evid. T. b. 97. Delivering a letter at defendant’s house to a clerk, who returned with an answer that the debt should be settled, is prima facie evidence of a demand. 1 Stark. 323. A prior demand, and refusal, is an answer to the plea of tender. 8 East, 168. 1 Saund. 33, n. 2. Bull. N. P. 156. 1 Camp. 478.—Chitty.
[(w) ] Styl. Pract. Reg (edit. 1657) 201. 2 Keb. 555. Salk. 596.
[20 ] The allowing the defendant to pay money into court was introduced for the purpose of avoiding the hazard of proving a tender; and in all cases where there has been no tender, or the tender cannot be proved, it should not be pleaded, but the defendant should merely pay the admitted claim into court. The cases in which the proceeding is allowed are similar to those in which a tender may be pleaded, and which will be found supra, note (19). One case, however, should be noticed, viz., where the goods have been taken under a mistake without any loss to the owner, the court, upon motion, will stay the proceedings in an action of trespass against a public officer, upon the defendant’s undertaking to restore them or to pay their full value with the costs of the action. 7 T. R. 53.—Chitty.
[21 ] By statute 3 & 4 W. IV. c. 42, s. 21, and now by the Common-Law Procedure Act, 1852, the defendant in all actions (except actions for assault and battery, and false imprisonment, libel, slander, malicious arrest or prosecution, crim. con., or debauching the plaintiff’s daughter or servant) may, by leave of the court or a judge, pay into court a sum of money by way of compensation or amends.—Stewart.
[22 ] The effect of the payment of money into court is nearly similar to that of a tender. See supra, note (19). Lee’s P. Dict. 2d ed. 1013. Tidd, 8th ed. 676. This is the only case where a party is bound by the payment of money, (2 T. R. 645;) and, though paid in by mistake, the court will not order it to be restored to defendant, though perhaps in a case of fraud they would. 2 B. & P. 392.—Chitty.
[(w) ] Sp. L. b. 6, c. 4.
[(x) ]Ff. 16, 2, 1.
[23 ] But in such case notice must be given at the time of pleading the general issue; and as to the mode of setting off, see 1 Chitt. on Pl. 4th ed. 494 to 497.
In some cases this plea or notice is unnecessary, as where the defendant’s demand is more in the nature of a deduction than a set-off. Thus, a defendant is in all cases entitled to retain or claim by way of deduction all just allowances or demands accruing to him, or payments made by him, in respect of the same transaction or account which forms the ground of action: this is not a set-off, but rather a deduction. See 1 Bla. Rep. 651. 4 Burr. 2133, 2221. And where demands originally cross, and not arising out of the same transaction, have by subsequent express agreement been connected and stipulated to be deducted or set off against each other, the balance is the debt, and the only sum recoverable by suit without any special plea of set-off, though it is advisable in most cases, and necessary when the action is on a specialty, to plead it. 5 T. R. 135. 3 T. R. 599. 3 Taunt. 76. 2 Taunt. 170. In actions at the suit of assignees of bankrupts, a set-off need not be pleaded or given notice of, (1 T. R. 115, 116. 6 T. R. 58, 59,) though the practice is so to plead, or give notice of such set-off.
It may be important here also to observe that these acts were passed more for the benefit of the defendants than the plaintiffs, and are not imperative; so that a defendant may have his right to set off and bring a cross-action for the debt due to him from the plaintiff, (2 Camp. 594. 5 Taunt. 148,) though he cannot safely arrest. 3 B. & Cres. 139. And where the defendant is not prepared at the time the plaintiff sues him to prove the set-off, it is best not to avail himself of it, for if the defendant should attempt but not succeed on the trial in proving the set-off, he could not afterwards sue for the amount; and a party cannot bring an action for what he has succeeded in setting off in a former suit against him; though if the set-off were more than sufficient to cover the plaintiff’s demand in the former action, the defendant therein might then maintain an action for the surplus. 3 Esp. Rep. 104. Though the defendant does not avail himself of the set-off, intending to bring a cross-action, the plaintiff may defeat it by taking a verdict for the whole sum he proves to be due to him, subject to be reduced to the sum really due on the balance of accounts, if the defendant will afterwards enter into a rule not to sue for the debt intended to be set off: or he may take a verdict for the smaller sum, with a special endorsement on the postea, as a foundation for the court to order a stay of proceedings, if an action should be brought for the amount of the set-off. 1 Camp. 252.
The demand, as well of the plaintiff as of the defendant, must be a debt. A set-off is not allowed in an action for uncertain damages, whether in assumpsit, covenant, or for a tort, trover, detinue, replevin, or trespass. Bull. N. P. 181. 3 Camp. 329. 4 T. R. 512. 1 Bla. Rep. 394. 2 Bla. Rep. 910.
The only cases in which a set-off is allowed are in assumpsit, debt, and covenant for the non-payment of money, and for which an action of debt or indebitatus might be sustained, (2 Bla. Rep. 911;) or where a bond in a penalty is given for securing the payment of money on an annuity, (2 Burr. 820;) or at least stipulated damages. 2 T. R. 32. The demand to be set off, also, must not be for unliquidated damages, although incurred by a penalty. 1 Bla. Rep. 394. 6 T. R. 488. 1 Taunt. 137. 2 Burr. 1024. 2 Bla. Rep. 910. 1 Taunt. 137. 5 B. & A. 92. 3 Camp. 329. Peake’s Rep. 41. 6 Taunt. 162. 1 Marsh. 514, S. C. 2 Brod. & B. 89. 1 M. & S. 499. 5 M. & S. 539, &c. See cases in 1 Chitt. on Pl. 4th ed. 486, 487. Stark. on Evid. 1312, part 4. The defendant’s bringing an action or obtaining a verdict for a debt is no waiver of the right to set off the debt. 2 Burr. 1229. 3 T. R. 186. And a judgment may be pleaded by way of set-off, though a writ of error be depending upon it, (3 T. R. 188, in notes;) but not so after plaintiff be taken in execution. 5 M. & S. 103. The debt to be set off must be a legal and subsisting demand: an equitable debt will not suffice. See 16 East, 36, 136. 7 East, 173. A demand barred by the statute of limitations cannot be set off. 2 Stra. 1271. Peake’s Rep. 121. Bull. N. P. 180. An attorney cannot set off his bill for business done in court unless he has previously, and in a reasonable time to be taxed, delivered a bill signed. 1 Esp. C. 449. But it is not necessary that a month should intervene between the delivery of the bill and the trial. Id.
The debt sought to be recovered and that to be set off must be mutual and due in the same right: therefore a joint debt cannot be set off against a separate demand, nor a separate debt against a joint one, (2 Taunt. 173. Montague, 23. 5 M. & S. 439,) unless it be so expressly agreed between all the parties, (2 Taunt. 170;) and a debt on a joint and several bond of several persons may be set off to an action brought by only one of the obligors. 2 T. R. 32. A defendant sued for his own debt may set off a debt due to him as surviving partner, (5 T. R. 493. 6 T. R. 582;) and in an action brought by an ostensible and a dormant partner, the defendant may set off a debt due from the ostensible partner alone. 2 Esp. C. 469. 7 T. R. 361, n. c., S. C. See Peake, 197. 12 Ves. 346. 11 Ves. 27. Id. 517. 16 East, 130. A debt due to a man in right of his wife cannot be set off in an action against him on his own bond. Bull. N. P. 179. A debt due from a wife dum sola cannot be set off in an action brought by the husband alone, unless the defendant has made himself individually liable. 2 Esp. C. 594. A debt from an executor in his own right cannot be set off against a debt to the testator, (3 Atk. 691,) though the executor is residuary legatee. Id. So a debt which accrued to the defendant in the life time of the testator cannot be set off against a debt that accrued to the executor even in that character after the testator’s death. Bull. N. P. 180. Willes, 103, 106.
Questions of difficulty frequently arise in cases of set-off, where the agent of a party deals as principal. The rule in these cases is, that if an agent dealing for a principal, but concealing that principal, delivers goods in his own name, the person contracting with him has a right to consider him as the principal; and though the real principal may appear and sue, yet the purchaser may in such case set off any claim he has against the agent. 7 T. R. 360. 1 M. & S. 576. 2 Marsh. 501. Holt, C. N. P. 124. But a debt due from a broker cannot be set off in an action by the principal against the purchaser to recover the price of goods sold by the broker, not disclosing his name. 2 B. & A. 137. And if an agent sells goods as his own, or has a lien upon them, and does not part with the goods unless the purchasor expressly agrees to pay him, the purchasor in an action brought against him by such agent for the price of the goods cannot set off a debt due from the owner to the purchasor. 2 Chitt. R. 387. 7 T. R. 359. But if an agent deliver goods without payment, and thereby parts with his lien, the purchasor may, in an action by the agent, set off a debt due from the principal. 7 Taunt. 243. And where an auctioneer had sold to the defendant the goods of A. as the goods of B., it was held that this was such a fraud that defendant might set off a debt due to him from B. against the price of the goods of A. Id. ibid. 1 J. B. Moore, 178. As to set-off in actions, by or against assignees of bankrupts, see 1 Chitt. on Pl. 492 to 494. Stark. on Evid. part 4, 106, ante, 2 book, 472, k., (n.) And 6 Geo. IV. c. 16, 50.—Chitty.
[(y) ] Appendix, No. II. 4.
[(z) ] Appendix, No. III. 6.
[(a) ] See pages 188, 196.
[24 ] As questions on the statute of limitations (21 Jac. I. c. 16) so frequently occur, we will consider this subject more fully in the following order, viz., First, as to what cases the statute extends, and herein in what cases payment of a debt may be presumed at common law. Secondly, when the statute begins to take effect; and herein of the exceptions contained in the statute. Thirdly, what is a good commencement of an action to take the case out of the statute; and, Lastly, what acts or admissions will revive the claim.
First. To what Cases the Statute extends.—The statute does not extend to actions of account, or of covenant, or debt on specialty, or other matter of a higher nature, but only to actions of debt upon a lending, or contract without specialty, or for arrearages of rent reserved on parol leases. Hut. 109. 1 Saund. 38. 2 Saund. 66. Tidd, Pr. 8th ed. 15. It does not extend to warrants of attorney. 2 Stark. 234. It extends to bills of exchange, (Carth. 3,) attorney’s fees, (3 Lev. 367,) and to a demand for rent on a parol demise. 1 B. & A. 625.
It does not extend to debt on a bond, (Cowp. 109;) but where the bond has been given more than twenty years before the commencement of the action, and no interest has been paid upon it, nor any acknowledgment by the obligor of the existence of the debt during that period, the law will in general presume it to have been satisfied, (6 Mod. 22. 1 Bla. Rep. 532. 1 T. R. 270. 3 P. Wms. 395,) particularly if the debt be large and the obligor has been all along in good circumstances, (1 T. R. 271;) and in some cases, where a bond has been given and interest paid on it within twenty years, the law will presume it to have been satisfied; as where it has been given eighteen or nineteen years, and in the mean time an account has been settled between the parties without taking any notice of the demand, (1 Burr. 434. 1 T. R. 271;) but in such case the presumption must be fortified by evidence of some auxiliary circumstances. Cowp. 214. 1 T. R. 271. 1 Camp. 27. After a considerable length of time, slight evidence is sufficient. 1 T. R. 271; and see Tidd, 8th ed. 17, 18. In assumpsit, though the statute be not pleaded, the jury may presume, from the length of time and other circumstances, that the debt has been satisfied. 2 Stark. C. N. P. 497; and see 5 Esp. 52. 3 Camp. 13. 1 Taunt. 572; sed vide 1 D. & R. 16.
This presumption may be repelled by proof of the recent admission of the debt, or of the payment of interest on the bond within twenty years, (1 T. R. 270;) or that the obligee has resided abroad for the last twenty years, (1 Stark. 101; sed vide 1 D. & R. 16;) or that the obligor was in insolvent circumstances, and had not the means of payment, (19 Ves. 196. Cowp. 109. 1 Stark. 101;) or that the demand was trifling, (Cowp. 214;) or other circumstances, explaining satisfactorily why an earlier demand has not been made. 1 Stark. 101. The fluctuation of credit, together with the circumstance of the security remaining with the obligee, is of great weight to rebut presumption of payment thereof, (19 Ves. 199. 1 Stark. 374;) an endorsement by the obligee, purporting that part of the principal sum has been received, if made after the presumption of payment has arisen, is inadmissible. 2 Stra. 827. 2 Ves. 42; sed vide 1 Barnard, 432. And further, if the defendant produce direct evidence of the payment of the principal sum and interest at a certain time within twenty years, the plaintiff will not be allowed to encounter that evidence by an endorsement in the handwriting of the obligee, purporting that interest was paid at a subsequent time. 2 Camp. 322.
Secondly. When the Statute begins to take Effect.—It does not do so till the cause of action is complete and the party is capable of suing on it. Cro. Car. 139. 1 Lev. 48. Salk. 442. 1 Bla. Rep. 354. No action lies against a consignee of goods for sale, for not accounting and returning the goods undisposed of until demand; and therefore the statute does not begin to run until the time when demand is made. 1 Taunt. 572. The statute begins to operate only from the time when a bill of exchange or promissory note, &c. is due, and not from the date, (1 H. B. 631. 5 B. & A. 212;) and no debt accures on a bill payable at sight until it be presented for payment. 2 Taunt. 323. The statute of limitations begins to run from the date of a note payable on demand. 1 Ves. 344. 2 Selw. 4th ed. 131, 339. Cro. Eliz. 548; and see Chitty on Bills, 6th ed. 373; sed quære, see Hard. 36. 14 East, 500. 1 Taunt. 575, 576. Sir W. Jones, 194. 12 Mod. 444. 15 Ves. 487. Where a payee of a bill of exchange was dead at the time the bill became due, it was held that the statute did not begin to run until letters of administration were taken out, (5 B. & A. 212. Skin. 555;) but where the cause of action is complete in the lifetime of the testator, then the statute begins to run from that time, and not from the granting of the probate. Willes, 27. Where a breach of a contract is attended with special damage, the statute runs from the time of the breach, which is the gist of the action, and not from the time it was discovered (3 B. & A. 628, 288. 4 Moore, 508. 2 Brod. & B. 73, S. C.) or the damage arose. 5 B. & A. 204. If there is mutual credit between two parties, though the items on both sides are above six years old, with the exception of one item on each side, which are just within the period, this is sufficient to take the whole out of the statute; for every new item and credit in an account given by one party to the other is an admission of there being some unsettled account between them. 6 T. R. 189. 2 Saund. 127, a., n. (6). But where all the items are on one side, so that the account is not mutual, as, for instance, in an account between a tradesman and his customer, the last item which happens to be within six years will not draw after it those which are of a longer standing. Bull. N. P. 149.
The exception in the statute respecting merchants’ accounts extends only to those cases where there are mutual and reciprocal accounts and demands between two persons, and where such accounts are current and open, and not to accounts stated between them, (2 Ves. 400. Bull. N. P. 149. Sir W. Jones, 401. 1 Sid. 465. 1 Ventr. 89;) for no other actions are excepted but actions of account. Carth. 226. 1 Show. 341, S. C. 2 Saund. 127, a. 2 Mod. 312, and 1 Mod. 70. 1 Lev. 298. 4 Mod. 105. Peake, 121. 1 Vern. 456. 2 Vern. 276. It has been considered that by the effect of the above exception there can be no limitation to a merchant’s open and unsettled account. This opinion, however, appears erroneous; and if there is no item in the account or acknowledgment of the debt within six years, the statute will take effect; but, as we have before seen, if even the last item of the account is within six years, that preserves all the preceding items of debt and credit from the operation of the statute, (6 Ves. 580. 15 Ves. 198. 18 Ves. 286. 2 Ves. 200, acc.; sed vide opinion of lord Hardwicke mentioned in 19 Ves. 185. 6 T. R. 189, 192, cont.;) and from these decisions it appears that merchants’ accounts stand not upon better grounds in regard to the statute than other parties. The exception extends to all merchants, as well inland as to those trading beyond sea, (Peake, C. N. P. 121. 2 Saund. 127. B. acc. Chanc. Ca. 152, cont.;) and the effect of the exception has also been extended to other tradesmen and persons having mutual dealings. 6 T. R. 189. Peake, N. P. 127, overruling; sed vide 7 Mod. 270, cont. But in all these cases the accounts must be mutual, together with reciprocal demands on each side, and not, as in the case of a tradesman and his customer, where the items of credit are all on one side. Bull. N. P. 149.
The exception in the act respecting infants, &c. only extends to plaintiffs, (Carth. [Editor: illegible character] 226. 6 Show. 99. Salk. 420. 2 Stra. 836;) but, by 4 & 5 Anne, c. 16, s. 19, it is extended to defendants beyond seas at the time of the cause of action accruing. If the plaintiff be in England when the cause of action accrues, though he afterwards go abroad, the time of limitation begins to run from the accruing of the action, (1 Wils. 134;) and so though one of several plaintiffs be abroad when the cause of action accrues. 4 T. R. 516. It extends to persons absent in Scotland, (1 Bla. R. 286. 1 D. & R. 16,) and the plaintiff, though absent there, must sue within the limited time; but it does not extend to persons in Ireland, (1 Show. 91,) the latter being considered as beyond the sea, within the meaning of the above provision. Foreigners living beyond the sea have the same advantage of the proviso as natives residing here. 2 Bla. R. 723. 3 Wils. 145, S. C. Though the demand be on a bill of exchange, the plaintiff’s absence beyond sea saves the statute Strange, 836. Where the cause of action accrues within the jurisdiction of the supreme court at Bengal, whilst the parties are resident there, the statute of limitations, as far as respects a suit in this country, begins to run only from the time of their concurrent presence here. 13 East, 439.
When once the statute has begun to run, nothing stops its course; as where a tenant in tail leaves two sons infants, and the eldest, having attained the age of twenty-one, dies without issue, the statute begins to run against his brother, though a minor. 4 Taunt. 826. And see the cases (1 Wils. 134. 4 T. R. 516) just cited.
Thirdly, What is a Good Commencement of an Action to take the Case out of the Statute. See Tidd, 8th ed. 24, 25, 144, 152, 161.
If the plaintiff, having commenced a suit in due time, die, or, being a feme-sole at the commencement of the action, marry, the representative in the one case, or husband and wife in the other, if they commence a new action within a reasonable time afterwards, it will suffice. See Willes, 259, N. E. 2 Salk. 425. Bull. N. P. 150. A year seems to be a reasonable time within this rule, (1 Lord Raym. 434. 1 Lutw. 256, S. C. 2 Stra. 907. Cro. Car. 294; sed vide 1 Lord Raym. 283. 1 Salk. 393, S. C.:) at all events, half a year would be. Cowp. 738, 740.
Lastly, What Acts or Admissions will revive the Claim.—The object of this statute was to protect individuals against forgotten claims of so obsolete a nature that the evidence relating to the contract might probably be no longer to be found, and thereby might lead to perjury. It proceeds, also, upon the supposition that the debtor has paid but after a lapse of time may have lost his voucher. See 5 M. & S. 76, per Bayley, J. 3 B. & A. 142, per Abbott, J. In cases, therefore, where there is an acknowledgment of the debtor or contractor to prove the existence of the debt or obligation, or an express promise to pay or perform the same, the statute will not operate to protect him notwithstanding the lapse of six years or more since the cause of the action may have accrued. But if a cause of action arising from the breach of a contract to do an act at a specific time be once barred by the statute, a subsequent acknowledgment by the party that he broke the contract will not, it seems, take the case out of the statute, (2 Camp. 160; and see Peake’s Evid. 205. 5 Moore, 105. 2 B. & C. 372, S. C. 5 B. & A. 204. 3 B. & A. 288;) and a subsequent acknowledgment of a trespass will not take the case out of the act. 1 B. & A. 92. 2 Chit. Rep. 249, S. C. The sufficiency of an acknowledgment to take the case out of the statute will be considered, first, where it directly acknowledges the debt; secondly, where it acknowledges the debt having existed, but is accompanied by a declaration of its being discharged; and thirdly, with reference to the party making the admission.
In the first case, the slightest acknowledgment has been held sufficient, (2 Burr. 1099. Bull. N. P. 149. Cowp. 548;) as where the debtor exclaimed to the plaintiff, “What an extravagant bill you have delivered me!” Peake N. P. 93. So, where the defendant met a man in a fair and said that he went there to avoid the plaintiff, to whom he was indebted, this was held to save the statute. Loft. 86. In an action by an administrator, an agreement for a compromise executed between intestate and defendant, wherein the existence of the debt sued for was admitted, was deemed sufficient to take the case out of the statute. 9 Price, 122. It is sufficient to prove that, a demand being made by a seaman on the owner of a ship for wages which had accrued during an embargo, he said, “if others paid, he should do the same.” 4 Camp. 185. A promise, “if there should be any mistake it should be rectified,” referring to payments actually made, is sufficient. 2 B. & C. 149. 3. D. & R. 522, S. C.; sed quære. And it makes no difference whether the acknowledgment be accompanied with a promise or refusal to pay: a bare acknowledgment is sufficient. 16 East, 420. 2 Burr. 1099. 5 M. & S. 75. 2 B. & Cres. 154. The construction of an ambiguous letter or declaration of a defendant on being served with a writ or requested to pay a debt, neither admitting or denying it, is strong intimation that it is an acknowledgment; since if the defendant knew he owed nothing he would have declared so. 2 T. R. 760. 1 Bing. 266. A conditional promise to pay when able, or by instalments, &c., is sufficient, without proof of ability or waiting till instalment become due. 16 East, 420. 2 Stark. 98, 99. 5 M. & S. 75; sed vide 3 D. & R. 267. Where the original agreement is in writing, in order to take the case out of the statute of frauds, a subsequent promise, or admission of the liability to perform such agreement need not be in writing to take the case out of the statute of limitations. 1 B. & A. 690. An acknowledgment after action brought is good. Selw. N. P. tit. Limitations. Burr. 1099. The admission to a third person is sufficient. 3 B. & A. 141. Loft. 86. 2 B. & C. 154.
On the other hand, where the defendant said, “The testator always promised not to distress me,” this was held no evidence of a promise to the testator to take the case out of the statute, (6 Taunt. 210;) so a declaration, “I cannot afford to pay my new debts, much more my old ones,” is insufficient, (4 D. & R. 179;) and so where, in assumpsit by an attorney to recover his charges relative to the grant of an annuity, evidence that the defendant said “he thought it had been settled when the annuity was granted, but that he had been in so much trouble since that he could not recollect any thing about it,” is not a sufficient acknowledgment of the debt to save the statute, notwithstanding proof that plaintiff’s bill was not paid when the annuity was granted. 1 J. B. Moore, 340. 7 Taunt. 608, S. C. The referring plaintiff to the defendant’s attorney, who, he added, was in possession of his determination and ability, is not an admission that any thing is due, (1 New Rep. 20;) and where a defendant, on being applied to by the plaintiff’s attorney for the payment of the debt, wrote in answer “that he would wait on the plaintiff when he should be able to satisfy him respecting the misunderstanding which had occurred between them,” this was holden not sufficient to take the case out of the statute. Holt, C. N. P. 380; and see 4 Esp. 184. 5 Esp. 81. A declaration, “I will see my attorney and tell him to do what is right,” is insufficient. 3 D. & R. 267. Payment of money into court on a special count will not save the operation of the statute. (3 B. & C. 10. 4 D. & R. 632, S. C.:) it only admits the debt to the amount paid in. Id. Bunb. 100.
In the second place, where the defendant makes no express acknowledgment of the debt, but says he is not liable, because it is more than six years since, this will not take the case out of the statute. 3 Taunt. 380. 5 Esp. 81. 4 M. & S. 457. 5 Price, 636. But an acknowledgment that the defendant had been liable, but was not at the time of acknowledgment, because the demand was out of date, and that he would not then pay, as it was not then due, takes the case out of the act. 16 East, 420. 2 Stark. 98, 99.
If a debtor admit that he was once liable, but that he was discharged by a particular mode of performance, to which he with precision referred himself, and where he has designated that time and mode of performance so strictly that he can say it is impossible it had been discharged in any other mode, there the courts have said, that if the plaintiff can disprove that mode, he lets himself in to recover, by striking from under the defendant the only ground on which he professes to rely. 7 Taunt. 608. 4 B. & A. 568. 1 Salk. 29. Cowp. 548. Peake, N. P. C. 93. So where a party acknowledges but refuses to pay the debt, relying on the deficiency of his legal liability to pay, this will take the case out of the statute, upon proof of liability. 5 M. & S. 75. 6 Rep. 66. But a qualified admission by a party who relies on an objection which would at any time have been a good defence to the action does not take the case out of the statute, as if the defendant had said, “If you had presented the protest the same as the rest, it would have been paid: I had then funds in the acceptor’s hands,” (1 Stark. 7; see 3 Esp. N. P. C. 155. 2 Camp. 161. 2 B. & A. 759. 4 B. & A. 568. 4 East, 599, and cases there cited:) this was held no sufficient acknowledgment. Where the defendant,—an executor,—who was sued for money had and received from his testator, was proved to have said, “I acknowledge the receipt of the money, but the testatrix gave it me,” it was held insufficient, (Bull. N. P. 148;) and so where the defendant, on being applied to for payment of a debt, said, “You owe me more money: I have a set-off against it.” 2 B. & A. 759. Where a party, on being asked for the payment of his attorney’s bill, admitted that there had been such a bill, but stated that it had been paid to the deceased partner of the attorney, who had retained the amount out of the floating balance in his hands, it seems that, in order to take the case out of the statute, evidence is inadmissible to show that the bill had never, in fact, been paid in this manner. 4 B. & A. 568. In all cases, unless the defendant actually acknowledge that the debt or obligation did originally exist, the statute will not be avoided. 4 Maule & S. 457. 2 Camp. 160.
In the third case, with respect to the party from whom the acknowledgment should come to render it sufficient, an acknowledgment by an agent or servant intrusted by the defendant to transact his business for him will suffice, (5 Esp. 145;) and so will the admission of the wife who was accustomed to conduct her husband’s business. Holt’s Ca. Ni. Pri. 591. In an action against a husband for goods supplied to his wife for her accommodation while he occasionally visited her, a letter written by the wife, acknowledging the debt within six years, is admissible evidence to take the case out of the statute. 1 Camp. 394; and see 2 Esp. N. P. C. 511. 5 Esp. N. P. C. 145. If a demand is owing from two parties, an acknowledgment by one will avoid the statute. 4 T. R. 516. So an acknowledgment by one of several makers of a joint and several promissory-note will take the case out of the statute, as against any one of the other makers, in a separate action on the note against him, (Doug. 652:) and this though against a surety, (2 Bingh 306;) and in an action against A. on the joint and several promissory-note of himself and B. to take case out of the statute, it is enough to give in evidence a letter written by A. to B. within six years, desiring him to settle the debt. 3 Camp. 32; and see 11 East, 585. 1 Stark. 81. But the acknowledgment of one partner to bind the other must in such case be clear and explicit; and therefore it is not sufficient in order to take a case out of the statute, in an action on a promissory-note, to show a payment by a joint maker of a note to the payee within six years, so as to throw it upon the defendant, to show that the payment was not made on account of the note. 1 Stark. 488. It has been held that when, one of two drawers of a joint and several promissory-note having become bankrupt, the payee received a dividend under the commission on account of the note, this will prevent the other drawer from availing himself of the statute in an action brought against him for the remainder of the money due on the note, the dividend having been received within six years before the action brought. 2 H. Bla. 340. But in a more recent case, where one of two joint drawers of a bill of exchange became bankrupt, and under his commission the endorsees proved a debt (beyond the amount of the bill) for goods sold, &c., and they exhibited the bill as a security, they then held for their debt, and afterwards received a dividend: it was held that in an action by the endorsees of the bill against the solvent partner, the statute of limitations was a good defence, although the dividend had been paid by the assignees of the bankrupt partner within six years. 1 B. & A. 463; and see 1 B. & C. 248. 2 D. & R. 363, S. C. So where A. & B. made a joint and several promissory-note, and A. died, and ten years after his death B. paid interest on the note, it was holden, in an action thereon against the executors of A., that the payment of interest by B. did not take the case out of the statute, so as to make the executors liable. 2 B. & C. 23. 3 D. & R. 200, S. C. An acknowledgment by an accommodation acceptor, within six years, of his liability to the payee, is not sufficient to take the case out of the statute for the drawer. 3 Stark. 186.
It is enacted, by 9 Geo. IV. c. 14, that in actions of debt or upon the case, grounded upon any simple contract, no acknowledgments or promise by words only should be deemed sufficient evidence of a new or continuing contract, whereby to take any case out of the operation of the enactments of the statutes of limitations, or to deprive any party of the benefit thereof, unless such acknowledgment or promise shall be made or contained by or in some writing to be signed by the party chargeable thereby. And that where there shall be two or more joint contractors, or executors or administrators of any contractor, no such joint contractor, executor, or administrator shall lose the benefit of the said enactments, or either of them, so as to be chargeable in respect or by reason only of any written acknowledgment or promise made and signed by any other or others of them. The act not to alter the effect of any payment of any principal or interest made by any person whatsoever. And in actions to be commenced against two or more such joint contractors, or executors or administrators, if it shall appear at the trial, or otherwise, that the plaintiff, though barred by either of the said recited acts, or this act, as to one or more of such joint contractors, or executors or administrators, shall nevertheless be entitled to recover against any other or others of the defendants by virtue of a new acknowledgment or promise, or otherwise, judgment may be given and costs allowed for the plaintiff as to such defendant or defendants against whom he shall recover, and for the other defendant or defendants against the plaintiff.
By sect. 2, that if defendant in action on simple contract shall plead in abatement to the effect that any other person ought to be jointly sued, and issue be joined on such plea, and it should appear at the trial that the action could not, by reason of the said recited acts, or the present act, be maintained against the other person named in such plea, the issue joined on such plea should be found against the party pleading the same.
By sect. 3, no endorsement or memorandum of payment made after the 1st of January, 1829, upon any promissory-note, bill of exchange, or other writing, by or on behalf of the party to whom such payment shall be made, shall be deemed sufficient proof of such payment, so as to take the case out of the operation of either of the said statutes.
By sect. 4, said recited acts and the present act shall apply to the case of any debt on simple contracts by way of set-off on the part of any defendant, either by plea, notice, or otherwise.
By sect. 8, no memorandum or other writing made necessary by the act shall be deemed to be an agreement within the meaning of the Stamp Acts.—Chitty.
[(b) ] See page 250.
[(c) ] Inst. 189.
[(d) ] See page 206.
[25 ] Some important alterations have been made by two recent statutes as to the limitation of actions and suits. By one of these statutes, (3 & 4 W. IV. c. 27, s. 2,) one period of limitation is established for bringing suits and actions relating to lands and rents, it being enacted that after the 31st day of December, 1833, no person shall bring an action to recover any land or rent but within twenty years next after the time at which the right to bring such action shall have first accrued, except in cases of disability, when ten years longer is allowed, (s. 16;) but no action or suit shall be brought beyond forty years after the right of action accrued. S. 17. By s. 41, no arrears of dower shall be recovered for more than six years; and (s. 42) no arrears of rent or interest are to be recovered for more than six years. By the other of these statutes, (3 & 4 W. IV. c. 42, s. 3,) an action of debt for rent upon an indenture, actions of covenant or debt upon bond or other specialty, action of debt or scire facias upon recognizance, action of debt upon awards, where the submission is not by specialty or for fines in respect of copyhold estates, or for an escape, or for money levied on fieri facias, and actions for penalties, damages, or sums of money given to the party grieved by any statute, shall be commenced within the following times:—Actions of debt for rent or covenant, or debt upon bond or other specialty, actions of debt or scire facias upon recognizance, within twenty years after the cause of action; actions by the party grieved, two years after the cause of such actions; and other actions within six years after the cause of action. But it is provided that nothing herein enacted shall extend to any action by statute specially limited.—Stewart.
[26 ] The statute makes an exception for all persons who shall be under age, feme-coverts, non compos mentis, in prison, or abroad, when the cause of action accrues; and the limitations of the statute shall only commence from the time when their respective impediments or disabilities are removed, (s. 7;) and the 4 Anne, c. 16, s. 19 extends this provision to defendants beyond seas at the time the cause of action accrues.—Chitty.
By the statute 9 Geo. IV. c. 14, usually called Lord Tenterden’s Act, in actions upon any simple contract, no acknowledgment or promise by words only shall be sufficient evidence of a new or continuing contract, whereby to take the case out of the operation of the statute 21 Jac. I. c. 16; but any such acknowledgment or promise must be in writing, signed by the party chargeable thereby. That statute also enacts that, when there are several joint contractors or executors or administrators of a contractor, one of them shall not lose the benefit of the statute by reason of a written acknowledgment or promise made by another; and the statute 19 & 20 Vict. c. 97 contains an enactment to the same effect with respect to a payment by any joint contractor or joint debtor, or the executor or administrator of any contractor.—Kerr.
[27 ] Where the forfeiture is to the crown and a subject, a common informer must sue within one year, and the crown may prosecute for the whole penalty at any time within two years after that year ended.—Chitty.
[28 ] But now, by the Common-Law Procedure Act, 1852, s. 146, error must be brought within six years.—Stewart.
[(e) ] Pott Ant. b. i. c. 21.
[29 ] Besides these statutes of limitations pointed out by the learned commentator, there are various others, as the 4 Anne, c. 16, s. 17, relating to seamen’s wages; and the 24 Geo. II. c. 44, s. 8, ante, 1 book, 354, n. (37), as to actions against justices, constables, &c.; and the 28 Geo. III. c. 37, s. 23, as to actions against persons in the customs and excise and the 43 Geo. III. c. 99, s. 70, as to actions against tax-collectors, &c. &c.—Chitty.
[30 ] In addition to these qualities, it should be observed that every plea in bar must be adapted to the nature of the action and conformable to the count, (Co. Litt. 303, a., 285, b. Bac. Abr. Pleas, I. per tot. 1 Roll. Rep. 216;) must answer the whole declaration or count, or rather all that it assumes in the introductory part to answer, and no more, (Co. Litt. 303, b. Com. Dig. Pleader, E. 1, 36. 1 Saund. 28. 2 B. & P. 427. 3 B. & P. 174;) must admit or confess the fact it justifies, (3 T. R. 298. 1 Salk. 394. Carth. 380 1 Saund. 28;) must be certain, (Com. Dig. tit. Pleader. E. 5, &c.;) and must be true, and not too large. Hob. 295. Bac. Abr. tit. Pleas, G. 4. For more particular information as to these qualities, see 1 Chitt. on Pl. 451 to 463; as to their forms and particular parts, see id. 467 to 477.
The same rules which prevail in the construction and allowance of a declaration do so in the case of pleas in bar. See ante, 289, notes 1, 2, 3. If the plea be bad in part, it is so for the whole. Com. Dig. Pleader, E. 36. 3 T. R. 376. 3 B. & P. 174. 1 Saund. 337. The rules as to surplusage in a declaration here also prevail. Ante, 293, notes 1, 2, 3.—Chitty.
[(f) ] Dr. & Stud. 2, c. 53.
[31 ] But this form of pleading is now abolished, and other facilities for referring questions of title directly to the court are given by the Common-Law Procedure Act, 1852.—Stewart.
[(g) ] Append. No. III. 6.
[32 ] As to the several replications in general, see 1 Chitt. on Pl. 4th ed. 500 to 518; and as to their forms and parts in particular, id. 518 to 555. The general qualities of a replication are that it must answer the plea, and answer so much of it as it professes to answer, or it will be a discontinuance, (Com. Dig. tit. Pleader, F. 4, W. 2. 1 Saund. 338;) and it must answer the plea directly, not argumentatively, (10 East, 205;) it must not depart from the declaration. 2 Saund. 84, a., n. 1. Co. Litt. 304, a. 2 Wils. 98. See 1 Chitt. on Pl. 556 to 560. It must be certain; and it is said that more certainty is requisite in a replication than a declaration, though certainty to a common intent is in general sufficient, (Com. Dig. Pleader, F. 17. 12 East, 263;) and, lastly, it must not be double, or, in other words, contain two answers to the same plea, (10 East, 73. 2 Camp. 176, 177. Com. Dig. Pleader, F. 16;) and the plaintiff cannot reply double, under the 4 Anne, c. 16, (Fortes. 335,) unless in replevin, (2 B. & P. 368, 376;) and more particularly as to these qualities, see 1 Chitt. on Pl. 556 to 562. An entire replication bad in part is bad for the whole. Com. Dig. Pleader, F. 25. 3 T. R. 376. 1 Saund. 28, n. 3.—Chitty.
[(h) ] Inst. 4, 14. Bract. l. 5, tr. 5. c. 1.
[33 ] Formerly but one replication and but one rejoinder were allowed; but the rule has been altered by the Common-Law Procedure Act, 1852. A party, however, can only have several replications, rejoinders, &c. by leave of the court or a judge.—Stewart.
[(i) ] Bro. Abr. tit. trespass, 205, 248.
[(k) ] P. 308.
[(l) ] 1 Inst. 124.
[(m) ] Co. Litt. 126.
[(n) ] See book ii. ch. 6, p, 94.
[(o) ] Append No. III. 6.
[34 ] No protestation is now required—or allowed, indeed—in any pleading; but either party is entitled to the same advantage as if protestation had been made.—Kerr.
[(p) ] Ibid. No. II. 4.