IGNORANCE. The want of knowledge.
2. Ignorance is distinguishable from error. Ignorance is want of
knowledge; error is the non-conformity or opposition of our ideas to the
truth. Considered as a motive of our actions, ignorance differs but little
from error. They are generally found together, and what is said of one is
said of both.
3. Ignorance and error, are of several kinds. 1. When considered as to
their object, they are of law and of fact. 2. When examined as to their
origin, they are voluntary or involuntary, 3. When viewed with regard to
their influence on the affairs of men, they are essential or non-essential.
4.-1. Ignorance of law and fact. 1. Ignorance of law, consists in the
want of knowledge of those laws which it is our duty to understand, and
which every man is presumed to know. The law forbids any one to marry a
woman whose husband is living. If any man, then, imagined he could marry
such a woman, he would be ignorant of the law; and, if he married her, he
would commit an error as to a matter of law. How far a party is bound to
fulfill a promise to pay, upon a supposed liability, and in ignorance of the
law, see 12 East, R. 38; 2 Jac. & Walk. 263; 5 Taunt. R. 143; 3 B. & Cresw.
R. 280; 1 John. Ch. R. 512, 516; 6 John. Ch. R. 166; 9 Cowen's R. 674; 4
Mass. R. 342; 7 Mass. R. 452; 7 Mass. R. 488; 9 Pick. R. 112; 1 Binn. R. 27.
And whether he can be relieved from a contract entered into in ignorance or
mistake of the law. 1 Atk. 591; 1 Ves. & Bea. 23, 30; 1 Chan. Cas. 84; 2
Vern. 243; 1 John. Ch. R. 512; 2 John. Ch. R. 51; 1 Pet. S. C. R. 1; 6 John.
Ch. R. 169, 170; 8 Wheat. R. 174; 2 Mason, R. 244, 342.
5.-2. Ignorance of fact, is the want of knowledge as to the fact in
question. It would be an error resulting from ignorance of a fact, if a man
believed a certain woman to be unmarried and free, when in fact, she was a
married woman; and were he to marry her under that belief, he would not be
criminally responsible. Ignorance of the laws of a foreign government, or of
another state; is ignorance of a fact. 9 Pick. 112. Vide, for the difference
between ignorance of law and ignorance of fact, 9 Pick. R. 112; Clef. des
Lois Rom. mot Fait; Dig. 22, 6, 7.
6.-2. Ignorance is either voluntary or involuntary. 1. It is
voluntary when a party might, by taking reasonable pains, have acquired the
necessary knowledge. For example, every man might acquire a knowledge of the
laws which have been promulgated, a neglect to become acquainted with them
is therefore voluntary ignorance. Doct. & St. 1, 46; Plowd. 343.
7.-2. Involuntary ignorance is that which does not proceed from
choice, and which cannot be overcome by the use of any means of knowledge
known to him and within his power; as, the ignorance of a law which has not
yet been promulgated.
8.-3. Ignorance is either essential or non-essential. 1. By essential
ignorance is understood that which has for its object some essential
circumstance so intimately connected with the: matter in question, and which
so influences the parties that it induces them to act in the business. For
example, if A should sell his horse to B, and at the time of the sale the
horse was dead, unknown to the parties, the fact of the death would render
the sale void. Poth. Vente, n. 3 and 4; 2 Kent, Com. 367.
9.-2. Non-essential or accidental ignorance is that which has not of
itself any necessary connexion with the business in question, and which is
not the true consideration for entering into the contract; as, if a man
should marry a woman whom he believed to be rich, and she proved to be poor,
this fact would not be essential, and the marriage would therefore be good.
Vide, generally, Ed. Inj. 7; 1 Johns. h. R. 512; 2 Johns. Ch. R. 41; S. C.
14 Johns. R 501; Dougl. 467; 2 East, R. 469; 1 Campb. 134: 5 Taunt. 379; 3
M. & S. 378; 12 East, R. 38; 1 Vern. 243; 3 P. Wms. 127, n.; 1 Bro. C. C.
92; 10 Ves. 406; 2 Madd. R. 163; 1 V. & B. 80; 2 Atk. 112, 591; 3 P. Wms.
315; Mos. 364; Doct. & Stud. Dial. 1, c. 26, p. 92; Id. Dial. 2, ch. 46, p.
303; 2 East, R. 469; 12 East, R. 38; 1 Fonb. Eq. B. 1, ch. 2, Sec. 7, note
v; 8 Wheat. R. 174; S. C. 1 Pet. S. C. R. 1; 1 Chan. Cas. 84; 1 Story, Eq.
Jur. Sec. 137, note 1; Dig. 22, 6; Code, 1, 16; Clef des Lois Rom. h.t.;
Merl. Repert. h.t.; 3 Sav. Dr. Rom. Appendice viii., pp. 337 to 444.
, low IQ
, mental weakness
, newness to
, primal stupidity