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'[T]he mutual assent essential to the formation of a contract ... must be gathered from the outward objective manifestations of the parties and not by the subjective undisclosed intent of one of the parties.' Miller v. Walter, 165 Mont. 221, 527 P.2d 240, 243 (1974); Wyoming Farm Bureau Mut. Ins. Co. v. Smith, 259 F.Supp. 870, 873 & n. 3 (D.Mont.1966), aff'd, 377 F.2d 918 (9th Cir.1967). 


This was not always the case. As Professor Farnsworth has observed, whether a court's determination of a party's assent to an agreement should turn on the party's actual or apparent intent 'provoked one of the most significant doctrinal struggles in the development of contract law, that between the subjective and objective theories.' E.A. Farnsworth, Contracts Sec. 3.6 at 113 (1982). The dispute was resolved in favor of the objective theory of assent, id. at 114, which, as Professor Randy Barnett has pointed out, promotes greater 'reliability of contractual commitments': Permitting a subjective inquiry into the promisor's intent could ... enable a promisor to fraudulently undermine otherwise perfectly clear agreements by generating and preserving extrinsic evidence of ambiguous or conflicting intentions. Such a strategy might create a de facto option ...

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