Meaning: General words are restrained according to the nature of the thing or of the person.
In considering the meaning to be given to general words in an instrument, the general scope of the document, in person, thing and intent, is to be borne in mind, and the general words are to be restrained so as to give effect to the particular and positive language, meaning and intent of the instrument.
Where a railway company bound themselves to work their railway efficiently and indemnify the covenantees from any damage or forfeiture that would result from a failure so to work the line under the Act of Parliament constituting the company, it was held that they satisfied that obligation by working it in a reasonable manner and so as to indemnify, and that they were not bound to work passenger trains.
Where A purchased an estate charged with an annuity to B, and as part of the bargain covenanted to pay the annuity and indemnify the vendor, a declaration on the covenant alleging for breach nonpayment of the annuity without adding that the vendor had been damnified was held sufficient, and it was there said that in construing the covenant the court were to look at the subject of the contract, and consider all the terms of the deed ; that a positive covenant might sometimes be controlled or qualified by other clauses in the deed ; but that when there is a positive general covenant, that covenant is not controlled by subsequent clauses unless the inference is irresistible that the parties did not intend to make a general covenant, and that it could not be inferred from the indemnity in that deed that it was the intent of the parties thereby to restrain or qualify the positive covenant to pay.
Where in a declaration on a policy of assurance whereby a ship was insured “ at and from New York to Quebec, during her stay there, thence to the United Kingdom ; the said ship being warranted to sail from Quebec on or before the 1st of November, 1853 ” it was held that there was no limitation of time as to the voyage between New York and Quebec, but that as to the voyage from Quebec to the United Kingdom the underwriters were not responsible, unless the vessel sailed from Quebec on or before the 1st of November, 1853 ; and it was there stated that the words, “the ship being warranted to sail from Quebec on or before the 1st of November, 1853,” could not be understood in their literal sense, because they would then amount to a warranty that the vessel should arrive at Quebec and sail thence on or before the 1st of November, 1863, so that the vessel being lost on the intermediate voyage from New York to Quebec the underwriters would be liable, which could not be the intention of the parties. Therefore, that construction must be rejected, and the natural construction seemed to be that it was a warranty to sail from Quebec on or before the 1st of November, 1853, if the vessel arrived there by that time.
A bond upon condition, is a forcible illustration of the maxim, the bond itself being absolute, controlled, however, by the condition. As, where a bond was given to an employer conditioned for the due accounting by a clerk, with a recital that he was engaged at a salary of 100£ a year : the salary being subsequently changed to a payment by commission ; it was held that the recital controlled the condition, and that the obligor was discharged by the change of mode of remuneration. a year : the salary being subsequently changed to a payment by commission ; it was held that the recital controlled the condition, and that the obligor was discharged by the change of mode of remuneration.