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Encyclopedia Britannica (1911)

NEGOTIABLE INSTRUMENT, in law, a document or other instrument purporting to represent so much money, and the property in which passes, like money, by mere delivery. Negotiable instruments arise in either of two ways: (1) by statute, (2) by custom of merchants. The most commonly recognized negotiable instruments are bills of exchange, promissory notes, bills of lading, foreign bonds and debentures payable to bearer. Negotiable instruments constitute an exception to the general rule that a man cannot give a better title than he has himself (see Bill Of Exchange).