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Causa and Consideration in the Law of Contracts, 28 Yale Law Journal 621 (1919)


Although the common law is the general basis of the law of this country and of the law of the British Empire, and has therefore a claim to the principal interest and attention of the Anglo-American lawyer, he cannot afford wholly to neglect the study of the civil law. Not only are the commercial relations with foreign countries increasing from year to year, but a considerable portion of the territory of the United States and its possessions and of the British Empire are governed wholly or in part by the doctrines of the civil law. One of the most fundamental differences between the common law and the civil law which is of special importance from the standpoint of business is presented by the question of causa and consideration in the law of contracts.

In Louisiana in the Canal Zone in Porto Rico, in the Philippine Islands and in certain part:; of the British Empire a contract is valid if it has a sufficient causa. The meaning of the term causa and its relation to the Anglo-American doctrine of consideration has thus been mooted a great deal in the courts-particularly in those of South Africa. Through the influence of Chief Justice de Villiers of the Supreme Court of the colony of the Cape of Good Hope the doctrine became finally established in that colony that the two requirements were in effect the same, except as regards donations. The Supreme Court of Transvaal and the courts sitting in the other British possessions whose jurisprudence is based upon the Roman Dutch law have reached the conclusion, on the other hand, that the doctrine of causa in their law of contracts is different from the English doctrine of consideration; and this latter view was recently approved by the Privy Council8 in a case which came up from the Supreme Court of Ceylon.

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