THE BAILEE AT COMMON LAW.
So far the discussion has been confined to the general principles of liability, and to the mode of ascertaining the point at which a man begins to act at his own peril. But it does not matter to a man whether he acts at his own peril or not, unless harm comes of it, and there must always be some one within reach of the consequences of the act before any harm can be done. Furthermore, and more to the point, there are certain forms of harm which are not likely to be suffered, and which can never be complained of by any one except a person who stands in a particular relation to the actor or to some other person or thing. Thus it is neither a harm nor a wrong to take fish from a pond unless the pond is possessed or owned by some one, and then only to the possessor or owner. It is neither a harm nor a wrong to abstain from delivering a bale of wool at a certain time and place, unless a binding promise has been made so to deliver it, and then it is a wrong only to the promisee.
The next thing to be done is to analyze those special relations out of which special rights and duties arise. The chief of them -- and I mean by the word "relations" relations of fact simply -- are possession and contract, and I shall take up those subjects successively.
The test of the theory of possession which prevails in any system of law is to be found in its mode of dealing