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Page:Harvard Law Review Volume 1.djvu/384

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after the making of the contract falls upon the vendee, thus holding in effect that the performance of a contract enforced in equity relates back to the time of making the contract. Such a doctrine appears sufficiently extraordinary without adverting to its consequences. When an act done at one time relates to a different time, the relation is, of course, a legal fiction; and the only justification for the adoption of a legal fiction is that thereby more perfect justice can be done. In regard to the performance of a contract, the perfection of justice consists in its being performed at the time fixed in the contract for its performance; and therefore the reason is obvious why a performance enforced in equity should relate to that time; but what possible reason can exist for making such a performance relate to the time of making the contract, i. e., to a time when neither party was bound either to perform or to accept performance? Such a relation is, in its consequences, much worse than no relation at all; for the worst consequence of the latter would be that the law would not succeed in doing perfect justice, while the consequence of the former may be that the law will inflict the greatest injustice. For example, what greater injustice could be inflicted than by shifting the consequences of an act of God from A, upon whom it has fallen, to B, upon whom it did not fall,—who was confessedly in no way responsible for the act, and who has done no wrong whatever to A, whether by committing a tort or by breaking an obligation? Moreover, the English courts do not carry out their doctrine to all its legitimate consequences. For example, to be consistent, they ought to require a vendor to account to the vendee for the rents and profits of the land from the time of making the contract, and they ought to require the vendee to pay interest on the purchase-money from the same time; and yet the time from which they actually require both is


v. Macpherson was of a kind not often found except in agreements for leases, namely, the repairing of the existing buildings and the erection of a new building; but that introduced no new element into the case. Had there not been such a condition, there would have been another, namely, that of leasing the property in the condition that it was in at the date of the agreement; and the effect of damage by fire upon each of these conditions is the same, namely, that of making it impossible for the owner to perform the condition without repairing the damage caused by the fire.

Upon the whole, there appears to have been but one material distinction (though that was a decisive one) between Counter v. Macpherson and Paine v. Meller; namely, that in the latter the plaintiff had apparently performed upon his part, and the defendant was in default, while in the former the plaintiff had not fully performed on his part, and so, of course, the defendant was not in default.

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