SIGN, contracts, evidence. A token of anything; a note or token given without words.
2. Contracts are express or implied. The express are manifested viva voce, or by writing; the implied are shown by silence, by acts, or by signs.
3. Among all nations find and at all times, certain signs have been considered as proof of assent or dissent; for example, the nodding of the head, and the shaking of hands; 2 Bl. Com. 448; 6 Toull. D. 33; Heinnec., Antiq. lib. 3, t. 23, n. 19; silence and inaction, facts and signs are sometimes very strong evidence of cool reflection, when following a question. I ask you to lend me one hundred dollars, without saying a word you put your hand in your pocket, and deliver me the money. I go into a hotel and I ask the landlord if he can accommodate me and take care of my trunk; without speaking he takes it out of my hands and sends it into his chamber. By this act he doubtless becomes responsible to me as a bailee. At the expiration of a lease, the tenant remains in possession, without any objection from the landlord; this may be fairly interpreted as a sign of a consent that the lease shall be renewed. 13 Serg. & Rawle, 60.
4, The learned author of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, in his 44th chapter, remarks, "Among savage nations, the want of letters is imperfectly supplied by the use of visible signs, which awaken attention, and perpetuate the remembrance of any public or private transaction. The jurisprudence of the first Romans exhibited the scenes of a pantomime; the words were adapted to the gestures, and the slightest error or neglect in the forms of proceeding was sufficient to annul the substance of the fairest claim. The communion of the marriage-life was denoted by the necessary elements of fire and water: and the divorced wife resigned, the bunch of keys, by the delivery of which she had been invested with the government of the family. The manumission of a son, or a slave, was performed by turning him round with a gentle blow on the cheek: a work was prohibited by the casting of a stone; prescription was interrupted by the breaking of a branch; the clenched fist was the symbol of a pledge or deposits; the right hand was the gift of faith and confidence. The indenture of covenants was a broken straw; weights and, scales were introduced into every payment, and the heir who accepted a testament, was sometimes obliged to snap his fingers, to cast away his garments, and to leap and dance with real or affected transport. If a citizen pursued any stolen goods into a neighbor's house, he concealed his nakedness with a linen towel, and hid his. face with a mask or basin, lest he should encounter the eyes of a virgin or a matron. In a civil action, the plaintiff touched the ear of his witness seized his reluctant adversary by the neck and implored, in solemn lamentation, the aid of his fellow-citizens. The two competitors grasped each other's hand, as if they stood prepared for combat before the tribunal of the praetor: he commanded them to produce the object of the dispute; they went, they returned with measured steps, and a clod of earth was cast at his feet to represent the field for which they contended. This occult science of the words and actions of law, was the inheritance of the pontiffs and patricians. Like the Chaldean astrologers, they announced to their clients the days of business and repose; these important trifles wore interwoven with the religion of Numa; and, after the publication of the Twelve Tables, the Roman people were still enslaved by the ignorance of judicial proceedings. The treachery of some plebeian officers at length revealed the profitable mystery: in a more enlightened age, the legal actions were derided and observed; and the same antiquity which sanctified the practice, obliterated the use and meaning, of this primitive language."
SIGN, measures. In angular measures, a sign is equal to thirty degrees. Vide Measure.
SIGN, mer. law. A board, tin or other substance, on which is painted the name and business of a merchant or tradesman.
2. Every man has a right to adopt such a sign as he may please to select, but he has no right to use another's name, without his consent. See Dall. Dict. mot Propriete Industrielle, and the article Trade marks.