bill of exchange

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Bill of Exchange

A three-party negotiable instrument in which the first party, the drawer, presents an order for the payment of a sum certain on a second party, the drawee, for payment to a third party, the payee, on demand or at a fixed future date.

A bill of exchange is distinguishable from a promissory note, since it does not contain a promise and the drawer does not expressly pledge to pay it. It is similar to a note, however, since it is payable either on demand or at a specific time.

The terms bill of exchange and draft are synonymous; however, the former is generally used in International Law, whereas the latter is used in the Uniform Commercial Code.

bill of exchange

n. a writing by a party (maker or drawer) ordering another (payor) to pay a certain amount to a third party (payee). It is the same as a draft. A bill of exchange drawn on a bank account is a "check."

See: check, draft, instrument, security, stock

bill of exchange

a form of documentary credit that requires one person to pay money to another. It is a negotiable instrument. It is an unconditional order in writing, addressed by one person to another, signed by the person giving it, requiring the person to whom it is addressed to pay, on demand or at a fixed or determinable future time, a sum certain in money to, or to the order of, a specified person or to bearer.

BILL OF EXCHANGE, contracts. A bill of exchange is defined to be an open letter of request from, and order by, one person on another, to pay a sum of money therein mentioned to a third person, on demand, or at a future time therein specified. 2 Bl. Com. 466; Bayl. on Bills, 1; Chit. Bills, 1; 1 H. Bl. 586; 1 B. & P. 291, 654; Selw. N. P. 285. Leigh's N. P. 335; Byles on Bills, 1; 1 Bouv. Inst. n. 895.
     2. The subject will be considered with reference, 1 . to the parties to a bill; 2. the form; 3. their different kinds 4. the indorsement and transfer; 5. the acceptance 6. the protest.
     3. - 1. The parties to a bill of exchange are the drawer, (q. v.) or he who makes the order; the drawee, (q. v.) or the person to whom it is addressed; the acceptor, (q. v.) or he who accepts -the bill; the payee, (q. v.) or the party to whom, or in whose favor the bill is made. The indorser, (q. v.) is he who writes his name on the back of a bill; the indorsee, (q. v.) is one to whom a bill is transferred by indorsement; and the holder, (q. v.) is in general any one of the parties who is in possession of the bill, and entitled to receive the money therein mentioned.
     4. Some of the parties are sometimes fictitious persons. When a bill is made payable to a fictitious person, and indorsed in the name of the fictitious payee, it is in effect a bill to bearer, and a bona fide holder, ignorant of that fact, may recover on it, against all prior parties, who were privy to the transaction. 2 H. Bl. 178, 288; 3 T. R. 174, 182, 481; 1 Camp. 130; 19 Ves. 311. In a case where the drawer and payee were fictitious persons, the acceptor was held liable to a bona fide holder. 10 B. & C. 468; S. C. 11 E. C. L. R. 116. Vide, as to parties to a bill, Chit. Bills, 15 to 76, (ed. of 1836.)
     5. - 2. The form of the bill. 1. The general requisites of a bill of exchange, are, 1st. that it be in writing. R. T. Hardw. 2; 2 Stra. 955; 1 Pardess. 344-5.
     6.- 2d. That it be for the payment of money, and not for the payment of merchandise. 5 T. R. 485; 3 Wils. 213; 2 Bla. Rep. 782; 1 Burr. 325; 1 Dowl. & Ry. N. P. C. 33; 1 Bibb's R. 502; 3 Marsh. (Kty.) R. 184; 6 Cowen, 108; 1 Caines, R. 381; 4 Mass. 245; 10 S. & R. 64; 14 Pet. R. 293; 1, M'Cord, 115; 2 Nott & M'Cord, 519; 9 Watts, R. 102. But see 9 John. R. 120; and 19 John. R. 144, where it was held that a note payable in bank bills was a good negotiable note.
     7. - 3d. That the money be payable at all events, not depending on any contingency, either with regard to the fund out of which payment is to be made, or the parties by or to whom payment is to be made. 8 Mod. 363; 4 Vin. Ab. 240, pl. 16; 1 Burr. 323; 4 Dougl. 9; 4 Ves. 372; Russ. & Ry. C. C. 193; 4 Wend. R. 576; 2 Barn. & Ald. 417.
     8. - 2. The particular requisites of a bill of exchange. It is proper here to remark that no particular form or set of words is necessary to be adopted. An order " to deliver money," or a promise that " A B shall receive money," or a promise " to be accountable" or " responsible" for it, have been severally held to be sufficient for a bill or note. 2 Ld. Raym. 1396; 8 Mod, 364.
     9. The several parts of a bill of exchange are, 1st. that it be properly dated as to place
    10.- 2d. That it be properly dated as to the time of making. As the time a bill, becomes due is generally regulated by the time when it was made, the date of the instrument ought to be clearly expressed. Beawes, pl. 3 1 B . & C. 398; 2 Pardess. n. 333.
    11. - 3d. The superscription of the sum for which the bill is payable is not indispensable, but if it be not mentioned in the bill, the superscription will aid. the omission. 2 East, P. C. 951.
    12. - 4th. The time of payment ought to be expressed in the bill; if no time be mentioned, it is considered as payable on demand. 7 T. R. 427; 2 Barn. & C. 157.
    13. - 5th. Although it is proper for the drawer to name the place of payment, either in the body or subscription of the bill, it is not essential; and it is the common practice for the drawer merely to write the address of the drawee, without pointing out any, place of payment; in such case the bill is considered payable, and to be presented at the residence of the drawee, where the bill was made, or to him personally any where. 2 Pardess. n. 337 10 B. & C. 4; Moody & M. 381; 4 Car. & Paine, 35. It is at the option of the drawer whether or not to prescribe a particular place of payment, and make the payment there part of the contract. Beawes, pl. 8. The drawee, unless restricted by the drawer, may also fix a place of payment by his acceptance. Chit. Bills, 172.
    14. - 6th. There must be an order or request to pay and that must be a matter of right, and not of favor. Mood. & M. 171. But it seems that civility in the terms of request cannot alter the legal effect of the instrument. "il vous plair a de payer," is, in France, the proper language of a bill. Pailliet, Manuel de Droit Francais, 841. The word pay is not indispensable, for the word deliver is equally operative. Ld. Raym. 1397.
    15. - 7th. Foreign bills of exchange consist, generally, of several parts; a party who has engaged to deliver a foreign bill, is bound to deliver as many parts as may be requested. 2 Pardess. n. 342. The several parts of a bill of exchange are called a set; each part should contain a condition that it shall be paid, provided the others remain unpaid. Id. The whole set make but one bill.
    16. - 8th. The bill ought to specify to whom it is to be paid. 2 Pardess. n. 338; 1 H. Bl. 608; Russ. & Ry. C. C. 195. When the name of the payee is in blank, and the bill has been negotiated by indorsement, the holder may fill the blank with his own name. 2 M. & S. 90; 4 Camp. 97. It may, however, be drawn payable to bearer, and then it is assignable by delivery. 3 Burr. 1526.
    17. - 9th. To make a bill negotiable, it must be made payable to order, or bearer, or there must be other operative and equivalent words of transfer. Beawes, pl. 3; Selw. N. P. 303, n. 16; Salk. 133. if, however, it is not intended to make the bill negotiable, these words need not be inserted, and the instrument will, nevertheless, be valid as a bill of exchange. 6 T. R. 123; 6 Taunt. 328; Russ. & Ry. C. C. 300; 3 Caines' R. 137; 9 John. It. 217. In France, a bill must be made payable to order. Code de Com. art. 110; 2 Pardess. n. 339.
    18. - 10th. The sum for which the bill is drawn, must be clearly expressed in the body of it, in writing at length. The sum must be fixed and certain, and not contingent. 2 Stark. R. 375. And it may be in the money of any country. Payment of part of the bill, the residue being unpaid, cannot be indorsed. The, contract is indivisible, and the acceptor would thereby be compelled to make two payments instead of one. But when part of a bill has been paid the residue may be assigned, since then it becomes a contract for the residue only. 12 Mod. 213; 1 Salk. 65; Ld. Ray. 360.
    19. - 11th. It is usual to insert the words, value received, but it is. implied that every bill and indorsement has been made for value received, as much as if it had been expressed in totidem verbis. 3 M. & S. 352; Bayl. 40, n. 83.
    20. - 12th. It is usual, when the drawer of the bill is debtor to the drawee, to insert in the bill these words: " and put it to my account but when the drawee, or the person to whom it is directed, is debtor to the drawer, then he inserts these words : "and put it to your account;" and, sometimes, where a third person is debtor to the drawee, it may be expressed thus: "and put it to the account of A B;" Marius, 27;. C, om. Dig. Merchant, F 5; R. T. Hardw. 1, 2, 3; but it is altogether unnecessary to insert any of these words. 1 B. & C. 398; S. C. 8 E. C. L. R. 108.
    21. - 13th. When the drawer is desirous to inform the drawee that he has drawn a bill, he inserts in it the words, "as per advice;" but when he wishes the bill paid without any advice from him, he writes, "without further advice." In the former case the drawee is not authorized to pay the bill till he has received the advice; in the latter he may pay before he has received advice.
    22. - 14th. The drawee must either subscribe the bill, or, it seems, his name may be simply inserted in the body of the instrument. Beawes, pl. 3; Ld. Raym. 1376 1 Stra. 609.
    23. - 15th. The bill being a letter of request from the maker to a third person, should be addressed to that person by the Christian name and surname, or by the full style of their firm. 2 Pardess. n. 335 Beawes, pl. 3; Chit. Bills, 186, 7.
    24. - 16th. The place of payment should be stated in the bill.
    25. - 17th. As a matter of precaution, the drawer of a foreign bin may, in order to prevent expenses, require the holder to apply to a third person, named in the bill for that purpose, when the drawee refuses to accept the bill. This requisition is usually in these words, placed in a corner, under the drawee's address: " Au besoin chez Messrs. - at -," in other words, ((In case of need apply to Messrs. at -. "
    26. - 18th. The drawer may also add a request or direction, that in case the bill should not be honored by the drawee, it shall be returned without protest or without expense, by subscribing the words, " retour sans protet," or " sans frais;" in. this case the omission of the holder to protest, having been induced by the drawer, he, and perhaps the indorsers, cannot resist the payment on that account, and thus the expense is avoided. Chit. Bills, 188.
    27. - 19th. The drawer may also limit the amount of damages, by making a memorandum on the bill, that they shall be a definite sum; as, for example: "In case of non-acceptance or non-payment, re-exchange and expenses not to, exceed dollars." Id.
    28. - 3. Bills of, exchange are either foreign or inland. Foreign, when drawn by a person out of, on another in, the United States, or vice versa; or by a person in a foreign country, on another person in another foreign country; or by a person in one state, on another in another of the United States. , 2 Pet. R. 589 .; 10 Pet. R. 572; 12 Pick. 483 15 Wend. 527; 3 Marsh. (Kty.) R. 488 1. Rep. Const.; Ct. 100 4 Leigh's R. 37 4 Wash. C. C. Rep. 148; 1 Whart. Dig. tit. Bills of Exchange, pl. 78. But see 5 John. R. 384, where it is said by Van Ness, Justice, that a bill drawn in the United States, upon any place within the United States, is an inland bill.
    29. An inland bill is one drawn by a person in a state, on another in the same state. The principal difference between foreign and inland bills is, that the former must be protested, and the latter need not. 6 Mod. 29; 2 B. & A. 656; Chit Bills, (ed. of 1836,) p. 14. The English rule requiring protest and notice of non-acceptance of foreign bills, has been adopted and followed as the true rule of mercantile law, in the states of Massachusetts, Connecticut) New York, Maryland, and South Carolina. 3 Mass. Rep. 557; 1 Day's R. 11; 3 John. Rep. 202; 4 John. R. 144; 1 Bay's Rep. 468; 1 Harr. & John. 187. But the supreme court of the United States, in Brown v. Berry, 3 Dall. R. 365, and in Clark v. Russell, cited in 6 Serg. & Rawle, 358, held, that in an action on a foreign bill of exchange, after a protest for non- payment, protest for non-acceptance, or notice of non-acceptance need not be shown, inasmuch as they were not required by the custom of merchants in this country; and those decisions have been followed in Pennsylvania. 6 Serg. & Rawle, 356. It becomes a little difficult, therefore, to know what is the true rule of the law-merchant in the United States, on this point, after such contrary decisions." 3 Kent's Com. 95. As to what will be considered a foreign or an inland bill, when part of the bill is made in one place and part in another, see 1 M. & S. 87; Gow. R. 56; S. c. 5 E. C. L. R. 460; 8 Taunt., 679; 4 E. C. L. R. 245; 5 Taunt. 529; 1 E. C. L. R. 179.
    30. - 4. The indorsement. Vide articles Indorsement; Indorser; Indorsee.
    31. - 5. The acceptance. Vide article, Acceptance.
    32. - 6. The protest. Vide article, Protest. Vide, generally, Chitty on Bills; Bayley on Bills; Byles on Bills; Marius on Bills; Kyd on Bills; Cunningham on Bills; Pothier, h. t.; Pardess. Index, Lettre de Change; 4 Vin. Ab. 238; Bac. Ab. Merchant and Merchandise, M.; Com. Digest, Merchant; Dane's Ab. Index, h. t.; 1 Sup: to Ves. Jr. 86, 514; Smith on Mer. Law, Book 3, c. 1; Bouv. Inst. Index,.h. t.