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WITH COMMENTS AND CRITICISMS
[Reprinted from the Harvard Law Review, the Yale Law Journal, and the American
JAMES BARR AMES
DEAN OF THE HARVARD LAW SCHOOL
JUDGE LYMAN D. BREWSTER
FORMERLY PRESIDENT OF THE STATE BOARDS OF COMMISSIONERS FOR
PROMOTING UNIFORMITY OF LEGISLATION
CHARLES L. MCKEEHAN, ESQ.
FORMERLY LECTURER ON THE LAW OF BILLS AND NOTES
IN THE UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA
ANNOTATED WITH REFERENCES TO THE ENGLISH BILLS OF
NEGOTIABLE INSTRUMENTS LAW AND THE
BILLS OF EXCHANGE ACT
JOSEPH DODDRIDGE BRANNAN
OCT 1! 1908
THE UNIVERSITY PRESS, CAMBRIDGE, U. S. A.
The Negotiable Instruments Law is based upon and largely copied from the English Bills of Exchange Act, a codification of the law of England as to bills of exchange, promissory notes and checks, which was drawn by Judge Chalmers and enacted by Parliament in 1882.1
At a meeting of the National Conference of State Boards of Commissioners for Promoting Uniformity of Legislation in the United States, held in August, 1895, a committee was appointed, who caused a draft of a bill codifying the law of negotiable instruments to be prepared and submitted to the Conference at its annual meeting in August, 1896. This draft, entitled “The Negotiable Instruments Law," was discussed by the Conference and was agreed upon for recommendation to the legislatures of the states. The Law has been adopted in the District of Columbia and in thirty-four states and territories, 3 in a few cases
1 Chalmers, Bills of Exchange, Introduction to Third Edition. See also infra, p. 99. 2 See a more extended history of the Law, infra, page 100. 8 Alabama. — Laws of 1907, page 660. In effect January 1, 1908. Arizona. — R. S. 1901, Title XLIX. In effect September 1, 1901. Colorado. — Laws of 1897, ch. 64. Approved April 20, 1897. Connecticut. - Laws of 1897, ch. 74. Approved April 5, 1897. District of Columbia. - Laws of 1899 (U. S. Stats.) Ch. 47. In effect April 3, 1899. Florida. – Laws of 1897, ch. 4524. Approved June 1, 1897. Hawaii. Laws of 1907, Act 89. In effect April 20, 1907. Idaho. — Laws of 1903, page 380. In effect March 10, 1903. Illinois. Laws of 1907, page 403. Approved June 5, 1907.* Iowa. — Laws of 1902, ch. 130. Approved April 12, 1902. Kansas. — Laws of 1905, ch. 310. In effect June 8, 1905. Kentucky. — Acts 1904, ch. 102. Approved March 24, 1904. Louisiana. — Laws of 1904, Act 64. Approved June 29, 1904. Maryland. — Laws of 1898, ch. 119. Approved March 29, 1898. Massachusetts. — Laws of 1898, ch. 533. In effect January 1, 1899. Massachusetts. — Laws of 1899, ch. 130. In effect March 6, 1899. Michigan. — Public Acts 1905, page 389. Approved June 16, 1905. Missouri. — Laws of 1905, page 243. Approved April 10, 1905. * The amendments suggested by Professor Ames, in the following articles, to sections 9, 29, 34, 37, 40, 49, 64, 66, 68, 70, 119, 120, 137, and 186 of the Law, as recominended by the Commissioners, were adopted in whole or in part in the Illinois Act.
with some modifications, but generally in the identical form recommended.
The Negotiable Instruments Law, taken as the standard and herein given, is in the form recommended by the National Conference of State Boards of Commissioners. The sectional numbering of the Law, as adopted in several of the states, differs from that adopted in the Law as recommended by the Commissioners, but, as the headings of the titles and articles are the same, except in two or three states, which omit the headings altogether, there will be little difficulty in finding in the Law, as herein printed, the section corresponding to any given section of the Law as adopted in any particular state. Speedy reference may, however, be facilitated in any state, in which the sectional numbering has been changed, by writing opposite the sections as herein given the numbers of the sections of the Law as enacted in such state. In December, 1900, after the Law had been adopted in several states, Professor James Barr Ames, Dean of the Harvard Law School, published in the Harvard Law Review an article commending some features of the Law and criticising others. An answer to these criticisms, written by Judge Lyman D. Brewster, President of the National Conference of State Boards of Commissioners, was soon after published in the Yale Law Journal. This was followed by other articles by Professor Ames in defence of his position. Finally Mr. Charles L. McKeehan, Lecturer on Bills and Notes in the Law Department of the University of Pennsylvania, pub
Montana. — Laws of 1903, ch. 121. In effect March 7, 1903.
lished in the American Law Register . (now U. of P. Law Review) a Review of the Ames-Brewster Controversy.” In 1902 a compilation consisting of the Negotiable Instruments Law and of the articles by Professor Ames and Judge Brewster was published by the Harvard Law Review Publishing Association for use as an aid to teacher and pupil in the course on Bills and Notes in the Harvard Law School. This compilation has not only been found useful in that course, but has proved of service to the legal profession and to law students generally. Mr. McKeehan's “ Review of the Ames-Brewster Controversy,” which appeared too late to be included in the former compilation, is so interesting and instructive that it seems highly desirable that it should be made more conveniently accessible by including it within the same covers as the articles reviewed. It seemed also that it would be advisable to set opposite each other in parallel columns the corresponding provisions of the Bills of Exchange Act and of the Negotiable Instruments Law. But this has been found impracticable because of the difference in the structure of the two statutes, a difference which must be borne in mind in comparing the two statutes and in searching them for equivalent provisions.
Part I of the Bills of Exchange Act is devoted to definitions of terms used in the Act. Part II deals with bills of exchange and enacts rules as to Form and Interpretation, Capacity and Authority of Parties, Consideration, Negotiation, General Duties of the Holder, Liabilities of Parties, Discharges, etc. Part III, after providing that in general the provisions applicable to bills of exchange payable on demand shall apply to a check, enacts certain rules specially applicable to checks. Part IV makes certain special provisions as to promissory notes, and then provides that, subject to certain exceptions, the provisions of the Act relating to bills of exchange shall, with the necessary modifications, apply to promissory notes. Part V contains certain supplementary provisions, some of which are not applicable to this country.
Title I of the Negotiable Instruments Law, while dealing with the same subjects as Part II of the Bills of Exchange Act, groups bills of exchange and promissory notes under the designation of “instruments,” and states the rules applicable to both kinds of negotiable instruments. Title II provides rules relating only to bills of exchange. Title III gives a definition of promissory notes and adds a few provisions peculiar to checks.