2. - 1 Error of fact. The law has wisely provide that a person shall be excused, if, intending to do a lawful act, and pursuing lawful means to accomplish his object, he commit an act which would be criminal or unlawful, if it were done with a criminal design or in an unlawful manner; for example, thieves break into my house, in the night time, to commit a burglary; I rise out of my bed, and seeing a person with a drawn sword running towards my wife, I take him for one of the burglars, and shoot him down, and afterwards find he was one of my friends, whom, owing to the dimness of the light, I could not recognize, who had lodged with me, rose on the first alarm, and was in fact running towards my wife, to rescue her from the hands of an assassin; still I am innocent, because I committed an error as to a fact, which I could not know, and had, no time to inquire about.
3. Again, a contract made under a clear error is not binding; as, if the seller and purchaser of a house situated in Now York, happen to be in Philadelphia, and, at the time of the sale, it was unknown to both parties that the house was burned down, there will be no valid contract; or if I sell you my horse Napoleon, which we both suppose to be in my stable, and at the time of the contract he is dead, the sale is void. 7 How. Miss. R. 371 3 Shepl. 45; 20 Wend. 174; 9 Shepl. 363 2 Brown, 27; 5 Conn. 71; 6 Mass. 84; 12 Mass. 36. See Sale.
5. - 2. Error in law. As the law is, or which is the same thing, is presumed to be certain and definite, every man is bound to understand it, and an error of law will not, in general, excuse a man, for its violation.
6. A contract made under an error in law, is in general binding, for were it not so, error would be urged in almost every case. 2 East, 469; see 6 John. Ch. R. 166 8 Cowen, 195; 2 Jac. & Walk. 249; 1 Story, Eq. Jur. 156; 1 Younge & Coll. 232; 6 B. & C. 671 Bowy. Com. 135; 3 Sav. Dr. Rom. App. viii. But a foreign law will for this purpose be considered as a fact. 3 Shepl. 45; 9 Pick. 112; 2 Ev. Pothier, 369, &c. See, also, Ignorance; Marriage; Mistake.