This article traces how nineteenth century American courts of law and equity, imbued with republican natural law ideals, expanded upon the early common law roots of justifiable reliance and moral obligation, the only grounds for enforcement of promises in the absence of a bargain to this day. The author submits that growth in justifiable reliance developed at law and in equity in the context of both charitable and commercial promises, and that the moral obligation principle emerged from Lord Mansfield's extensions of earlier narrow exceptions to bind promises made for past benefits received and beyond.
Kevin M. Teeven,
A Legal History of Binding Gratuitous Promises at Common Law: Justifiable Reliance and Moral Obligation,
Duq. L. Rev.
Available at: https://dsc.duq.edu/dlr/vol43/iss1/4