Persons. The situation in civil society which creates certain relations between the individual to whom it is applied and one or more others, from which mutual rights and obligations arise. Thus the situation arising from marriage gives rise to the conditions of husband and wife that of paternity to the conditions of father and child.
In contracts every one is presume to know the condition of the person with whom he deals. A man making a contract with an infant cannot recover against him for a breach of the contract on the ground that he was not aware of his condition unless such lack of knowledge was due to fraud by the other party.
In its most extended meaning, a condition is a clause in a contract or agreement which has for its object to suspend, rescind or modify the principal obligation; or in case of a will, to suspend, revoke, or modify the devise or bequest. In many cases it is by itself an agreement. In pleading, according to the course of the common law, the bond and its condition are to some intents and purposes regarded as distinct things.
A condition is any portion of an agreement which regulates what the parties have a mind should be done if a case they foresee should come to pass.
Conditions sometimes suspend the obligation when it is to have no effect until they are fulfilled. E.g., if I bind myself to pay you one thousand dollars on condition that the ship Thomas Jefferson shall arrive in the United States from Havre, the contract is suspended until the arrival of the ship.
The condition sometimes rescinds the contract. E.g., when I sell you my horse on condition that he shall be alive on the first day of January, and he dies before that time.
A condition may modify the contract. E.g., if I sell you two thousand bushels of corn, upon condition that my crop shall produce that much, and it produces only fifteen hundred bushels.
In a less extended acceptation, but in a true sense, a condition is a future and uncertain event, on the existence or non-existence of which is made to depend either the accomplishment, the modification or the rescission of an obligation or testamentary disposition.
There is a marked difference between a condition and a limitation. When a gift may defeated upon the happening of an uncertain event, it is called a condition, but when it is given to be enjoyed until the event arrives, it is a limitation. It is not easy to say when a condition will be considered a covenant and when not, or when it will be held to be both.
Events foreseen by conditions are of three kinds. Some depend on the acts of the persons who deal together, as if the agreement should provide that a partner should not join another partnership. Others are independent of the will of the parties. E.g., if I sell you one thousand bushels of corn on condition that my crop shall not be destroyed by a fortuitous event or act of God. Some depend in part on the contracting parties and partly on the act of God. E.g., if it be provided that such merchandise shall arrive by a certain day.
A condition may be created by inserting the very word 'condition,' or 'on condition,' in the deed or agreement. There are, however, other words that will do so as effectually, as 'proviso,' 'if,' etc.
Conditions are of various kinds; 1. as to their form, they are express or implied. This division is of feudal origin. 2. As to their object, they are lawful or unlawful; 3. as to the time when they are to take effect, they are precedent or subsequent; 4. as to their nature, they are possible or impossible 5. as to their operation, they are positive or negative; 6. as to their divisibility, they are copulative or disjunctive; 7. as to their agreement with the contract, they are consistent or repugnant; 8. as to their effect, they are resolutory or suspensive.
An express condition is one created by express words. For instance, a condition in a lease that if the tenant shall not pay the rent at the day, the lessor may reenter.
An implied condition is one created by law and not by express words. For example, at common law the tenant for life holds upon the implied condition not to commit waste.
A lawful or legal condition is one made in consonance with the law. This must be understood of the law as existing at the time of making the condition, for no change of the law can change the force of the condition. For example, a conveyance was made to the grantee on condition that he should not aliens until he reached the age of twenty-five years. Before he acquired this age he aliened, and made a second conveyance after he obtained it; the first deed was declared void, and the last valid. When the condition was imposed twenty-five was the age of majority in the state; it was afterwards changed to twenty-one. Under these circumstances the condition was held to be binding.
An unlawful or illegal condition is one forbidden by law. Unlawful conditions have for their object; l. to do something malum in se, or malum prohibitum; 2. to omit the performance of some duty required by law; 3. to encourage such act or omission. When the law prohibits, in express terms, the transaction in respect to which the condition is made and declares it void, such condition is then void, but when it is prohibited without being declared void, although unlawful, it is not void. Conditions in restraint of marriage are odious and are therefore held to the utmost rigor and strictness. They are contrary to sound policy and by the Roman law were all void.
A condition precedent is one which must be performed before the estate will vest, or before the obligation is to be performed. Whether a condition shall be considered as precedent or subsequent depends not on the form or arrangement of the words, but on the manifest intention of the parties and on the fair construction of the contract.
A subsequent condition is one which enlarges or defeats an estate or right already created. A conveyance in fee, reserving a life estate in a part of the land, and made upon condition that the grantee shall pay certain sums of money at divers times to several persons, passes the fee upon condition subsequent. Sometimes it becomes of great importance to ascertain whether the condition is precedent or subsequent. When a precedent condition becomes impossible by the act of God, no estate or right vests, but if the condition is subsequent, the estate or right becomes absolute.
A possible condition is one which may be performed and there is nothing in the laws of nature to prevent its performance.
An impossible condition is one which cannot be accomplished according to the laws of nature; as to go from the United States to Europe in one hour. Such a condition is void. When a condition becomes impossible by the act of God, it either vests the estate or does not, as it is precedent or subsequent: When it is the former, no estate vests when the latter, it becomes absolute. When the performance of the condition becomes impossible by the act of the party who imposed it the estate is rendered absolute.
A positive condition requires that the event contemplated shall happen. E.g., 'If I marry.' A negative condition requires that the event contemplated shall not happen. E.g., 'If I do not marry.'
A copulative condition is one of several distinct matters, the whole of which are made precedent to the vesting of an estate or right. In this case the entire condition must be performed or the estate or right can never arise or take place. Such a condition differs from a disjunctive condition, which gives to the party the right to perform the one or the other; for in this case, if one becomes impossible by the act of God, the whole will, in general, be excused. However, this rule is not without exception.
A disjunctive condition is one which gives the party to be affected by it the right to perform one of two alternatives.
A consistent condition is one which agrees with other parts of the contract.
A repugnant condition is one which is contrary to the contract; as if I grant to you a house and lot in fee, upon condition that you shall not aliene, the condition is repugnant and void, as being inconsistent with the estate granted.
A resolutory condition in the civil law is one which has for its object, when accomplished, the revocation of the principal obligation. This condition does not suspend either the existence or the execution of the obligation, it merely obliges the creditor to return what he has received.
A suspensive condition is one which susends the fulfilment of the obligation until it has been performed. E.g., if a man bind himself to pay one hundred dollars upon condition that the ship Thomas Jefferson shall arrive from Europe. The obligation in this case, is suspended until the arrival of the ship, when the condition having been performed, the obligation becomes absolute and is no longer conditional. A suspensive condition is in fact a condition precedent.
Some further divide conditions into potestative, casual and mixed.
A potestative condition is that which is in the power of the person in whose favor it is contracted. E.g., if I engage to give my neighbor a sum of money, in case he cuts down a tree which obstructs my prospect.
A casual condition is one which depends altogether upon chance, and not in the power of the creditor. E.g., if I have children; if I have no children; if such a vessel arrives in the United States, etc.
A mixed condition is one which depends on the will of the creditor and of a third person. E.g., if you marry my cousin.
This entry contains material from Bouvier's Legal Dictionary, a work published in the 1850's.
Courtesy of the 'Lectric Law Library