Breach of promise to marry is a common law action which is imbedded in the conception of marriage in the Anglo-Saxon society. Marriage was seen in that society as a sacred duty and therefore a failure to honour a promise of marriage was a serious matter.
Against this background, marriage was under the jurisdiction of the ecclesiastical court. The ecclesiastical court would therefore compel a man who had made such a promise to go through with it.
Jurisdiction passed on to the Common Law Courts when the ecclesiastical courts were abolished. However the Common Law Court could only award damages but could not order specific performance.
Even though there are two schools of thought on the subject of whether breach of promise to marry is a contract or tort, in our society today, it is grounded in both aspects of the law.
As the law developed, the basis for the action of breach or promise to marry was seen as:
a. Marriage has both physical and spiritual bond.
b. Virginity is the most priced possession of a woman
c. Women who are seduced needed to be compensated and similarly men who are tricked into parting with their monies must also be compensated.
The law looks at promise to marry as a decision between two consenting adults; the one who promises (promisor) and the one who accepts the promise (promisee). The promise can be verbal when the parties exchange the promise and accept orally. It is constructive when by the action of the promisor, he or she makes the whole world to believe that there will be a future marriage between the two. This could show itself in the two ways that is, being introduced as man and wife at a party or the promisor taking charge and paying for the education or apprenticeship of the promisee.
The promise may be conditional, in which case there must be evidence of fulfilment of the condition before an action for the breach would lie. Where there is a general promise of marriage, an intention to perform within a reasonable time would be imputed.

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