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See: dispatch, inscribe, message, transmittal

LETTER, com. law, Crim. law. An epistle; a despatch; a written message, usually on paper, which is folded up and sealed, sent by one person to another.
     2. A letter is always presumed to be sealed, unless the presumption be rebutted. 1 Caines, R. 682. 1
     3. This subject will be considered by 1st. Taking a view of the law relating to the transmission of letters through the post office; and, 2. The effect of letters in making contracts. 3. The ownership of letters sent and received.
     4.-1. Letters are, commonly sent through the post office, and the law has carefully provided for their conveyance through the country, and their delivery to the persons to whom they are addressed. The act to reduce into one the several acts establishing and regulating the post office department, section 21, 3 Story's Laws United States, 1991, enacts, that if any person employed in any of the departments of the post office establishment, shall unlawfully detain, delay, or open, any letter, packet, bag, or mail of letters, with which he shall be entrusted, or which shall have come to his possession, and which are intended to be conveyed by post or, if any such person shall secrete, embezzle, or destroy, any letter or packet entrusted to such person as aforesaid, and which shall not contain any security for, or assurance relating to money, as hereinafter described, every such offender, being thereof duly convicted, shall, for every such offence, be fined, not exceeding three hundred dollars, or imprisoned, not exceeding six months, or both, according to the circumstances and aggravations of the offence. And if any person, employed as aforesaid, shall secrete, embezzle, or destroy any letter, packet, bag, or mail of letters, with which he or she shall be entrusted, or which shall have come to his or her possession, and are intended to be conveyed by post, containing any bank notes, or bank post bill, bill of exchange, warrant of the treasury of the United States, note of assignment of stock in the funds, letters of attorney for receiving annuities or dividends, or for, selling stock in the funds, or for receiving the interest thereof, or any letter of credit, or note for, or relating to, payment of moneys or any bond, or warrant, draft, bill, or promissory note, covenant, contract, or agreement whatsoever, for, or relating to, the payment of money, or the delivery of any article of value, or the performance of any act, matter, or thing, or any receipt, release, acquittance, or discharge of, or from, any debt; covenant, or demand, or any part thereof, or any copy of any record of any judgment or decree, in any court of law or chancery, or any execution which way may have issued thereon; or any copy of any other record, or any other article of value, or any writing representing the same or if any such person, employed as aforesaid, shall steal, or take, any of the same out of any letter, packet, bag, or mail of letters, that shall come to his or her possession, such person shall, on conviction for any such offence, be imprisoned not less than ten years, nor exceeding twenty-one years; and if any person who shall have taken charge of the mails of the United States, shall quit or desert the same before such person delivers it into the post office kept at the termination of the route, or some known mail carrier, or agent of the general post office, authorized to receive the same, every such person, so offending, shall forfeit and pay a sum not exceeding five hundred dollars, for every such offence; and if any person concerned in carrying the mail of the United States, shall collect, receive, or carry any letter, or packet, or shall cause or procure the same to be done, contrary, to this act, every such offender shall forfeit and pay for every such offence a sum, not exceeding fifty dollars.
     5.-2. Most contracts may be formed by correspondence; and cases not unfrequently arise where it is difficult to say whether the concurrence of the will of the contracting parties took place or not. In order to form a contract both parties must concur at the same time, or there is no agreement. Suppose, for example, that Paul of Philadelphia, is desirous of purchasing a thousand bales of cotton, and offers by letter to Peter of New Orleans, to buy them from him at a certain price; but on the next day he changes his mind, and then he writes to Peter that he withdraws his offer; or on the next day he dies; in either case, there is no contract, because Paul did not continue in the same disposition to buy the cotton, at the time that his offer was accepted. The precise moment when the consent of both parties is perfect, is, in strictness, when the person who made the offer becomes acquainted with the fact that it has been accepted. But this may be presumed from circumstances. The acceptance must be of the same precise terms without any variance whatever. 4 Wheat. 225; see 1 Pick. 278; 10 Pick. 326; 6 Wend. 103.
     6.-3. A letter received by the person to whom it is directed, is the qualified property of such person: but where it is of a private nature, the receiver has no right to publish it without the consent of the writer, unless under very extraordinary circumstances; as, for example, when it is requisite to the defence of the character of the party who received it. 2 Ves. & B. 19; 2 Atk. 542; Amb. 737; 1 Ball. & B. 207; 1 Mart. (Lo.) R. 297; Denisart, verbo Lettres Missives. Vide Dead Letter; Jeopardy; Mail; Newspaper; Postage; Post Master General.

LETTER, contracts. In the civil law, locator, and in the French law, locateur, loueur, or bailleur, is he who, being the owner of a thing, lets it out to another for hire or compensation. See Hire; Locator; Conductor; Story on Bailm. Sec. 369.
     2. According to the French and civil law, in virtue of the contract, the letter of a thing to hire impliedly engages that the hirer shall have the full use and enjoyment of the thing hired, and that he will fulfill his own engagements and trusts in respect to it, according to the original intention of the parties. This implies an obligation to deliver the thing to the hirer; to refrain from every obstruction to the use of it by the hirer during the period of the bailment; to do no act which shall deprive the hirer of the thing; to warrant the title and possession to the hirer, to enable him to use the thing or to perform the service; to keep the thing in suitable order and repair for the purpose of the bailment; and finally to warrant the thing from from any fault inconsistent with the use of it. These are the main obligations deduced from the nature of the contract, and they seem generally founded on unexceptionable reasoning. Pothier, Louage, n. 53; Id. n. 217; Domat, B. 1, tit. 4, Sec. 3 Code Civ. of L. tit. 9, c. 2, s. 2. It is difficult to say how far (reasonable as they are in a general sense) these obligations are recognized in the common law. In some respects the common law certainly differs. See Repairs; Dougl. 744, 748; 1 Saund. 321, 32e, and ibid. note 7; 4 T. R. 318; 1 Bouv. Inst. n. 980 et seq.

LETTER, civil law. The answer which the prince gave to questions of law which had been submitted to him by magistrates, was called letters or epistles. See Rescripts.

References in classic literature ?
With an alphabet on the hearth at my feet for reference, I contrived in an hour or two to print and smear this epistle:
While he was living in London his most absorbing enthusiasm was the instruction of a class of deaf-mutes, who could be trained to talk, he believed, by means of the "Visible Speech" alphabet.
Camilla laughed at her maid's alphabet, and perceived her to be more experienced in love affairs than she said, which she admitted, confessing to Camilla that she had love passages with a young man of good birth of the same city.
When the colonel showed her the lump of sugar, holding it between the thumb and forefinger of his right hand, she again uttered her little wild cry, and sprang toward him; then she stopped, struggling against the instinctive fear he caused her; she looked at the sugar and turned away her head alternately, precisely like a dog whose master forbids him to touch his food until he has said a letter of the alphabet which he slowly repeats.
Consequently, Nature herself supplies us with an ascending scale or Alphabet of angles for half a degree up to 60 degrees, Specimens of which are placed in every Elementary School throughout the land.
I taught him the rudiments of English; gave him ideas of counting; even made the thing read the alphabet.
She then recited all the letters of the alphabet from A down to N.
Some learned how by pleasant dreams to cheer and comfort mortal hearts, by whispered words bf love to save from evil deeds those who had gone astray, to fill young hearts with gentle thoughts and pure affections, that no sin might mar the beauty of the human flower; while others, like mortal children, learned the Fairy alphabet.
For in sciences which use demonstration there is that which is prior and that which is posterior in order; in geometry, the elements are prior to the propositions; in reading and writing, the letters of the alphabet are prior to the syllables.
This old gentleman came from London in 1637, and had been teaching school ever since; so that there were now aged men, grandfathers like myself, to whom Master Cheever had taught their alphabet.
That is a long and hard lesson, and Adam had at present only learned the alphabet of it in his father's sudden death, which, by annihilating in an instant all that had stimulated his indignation, had sent a sudden rush of thought and memory over what had claimed his pity and tenderness.
The appeal was evidently addressed to the Lord Chancellor, who instantly replied, in a shrill monotone, like a little boy repeating the alphabet, "As I was remarking, your Sub-Excellency, this portentous movement--"