Dalhousie Law Journal


inducement, common law, promise, motive, consideration, obligation, law, estoppel, jurisprudence, courts


In his book, The History of the Common Law of Contract, A.W.B. Simpson demonstrates that consideration originally seems to have meant the "matter of inducement" - the "why" of entering a promise.' He writes: "The essence of the doctrine of consideration, then, is the adoption by the common law of the idea that the legal effect of a promise should depend upon the factor or factors which motivated the promise. To decide whether a promise to do X is binding, you need to know why the promise was made."2 In modem terms, according to Simpson, a promise which lacks any adequate motive cannot have been serious and therefore ought not to be taken seriously. There could have been other reasons for enforcing a promise, such as induced reliance and detriment, but these reasons were subsumed into one test for the actionability of all promises: the requirement of good consideration. Consideration was simply a reason to enforce an obligation or a promise. It was a moral justification or legitimisation for enforcing an obligation: Why it was right that it should be enforced.