For nearly two hundred years—that is, since 1677—there has been on the statute book of England, and the same, in substance, if not precisely in letter, has been re-enacted, and is now in force, in nearly or quite all the States of this Union, a statute, the general object of which is to declare that no action shall be brought to enforce contracts of the more important class, unless they are put in writing, and signed by the parties to be held chargeable upon them.
The principle of the statute, be it observed, is, not merely that written contracts shall be signed, but also that all con-
- I have personally examined the statute books of the following States, viz.: Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Texas, Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Kansas, Nevada, California, and Oregon, and find that in all these States the English statute has been re-enacted, sometimes with modifications, but generally enlarging its operations, and is now in force.
The following are some of the provisions of the Massachusetts statute:
"No action shall be brought in any of the following cases, that is to say: . . . .
"To charge a person upon a special promise to answer for the debt, default, or misdoings of another: . . . .
"Upon a contract for the sale of lands, tenements, hereditaments, or of any interest in, or concerning them; or
"Upon an agreement that is not to be performed within one year from the writing thereof:
"Unless the promise, contract, or agreement, upon which such action is brought, or some memorandum or note thereof, is in writing, and signed by the party to be charged therewith, or by some person thereunto by him lawfully authorized: . . . .
"No contract for the sale of goods, wares, or merchandise, for the price of fifty dollars or more, shall be good or valid, unless the purchaser accepts and receives part of the goods so sold, or gives something in earnest to bind the bargain, or in part payment; or unless some note or memorandum in writing of the bargain is made and signed by the party to be charged thereby, or by some person thereunto by him lawfully authorized."