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in any Fund of any Body Corporate, Company, or Society, shall be entrusted to any Banker, Merchant, Broker, Attorney, or other Agent, for safe Custody, or for any special Purpose, without any Authority to sell, negotiate, transfer, or pledge, and he shall, in violation of good Faith and contrary to the Object or Purpose for which such Chattel, Security, or Power of Attorney shall have been entrusted to him, sell, negotiate, transfer, pledge, or in any Manner convert to his own Use or Benefit such Chattel or Security, or the Proceeds of the same, or any Part thereof, or the Share or Interest in the Stock or Fund to which such Power of Attorney shall relate, or any Part thereof, every such Offender shall be guilty of a Misdemeanour, and, being convicted thereof, shall be liable, at the Discretion of the Court, to any of the Punishments which the Court may award, as hereinbefore last mentioned.”
But it was said that the parties could escape punishment if they complied with the 52nd Section of the Act.
“Provided always, and be it enacted, That nothing in this Act contained, nor any Proceeding, Conviction, or Judgment to be had or taken thereupon, against any Banker, Merchant, Broker, Factor, Attorney, or other Agent as aforesaid, shall prevent, lessen, or impeach any Remedy at Law or in Equity which any Party aggrieved by any such Offence might or would have had if this Act had not been passed; but nevertheless the Conviction of any such Offender shall not be received in Evidence in any action at Law or Suit in Equity against him; and no Banker, Merchant, Broker, Factor, Attorney, or other Agent as aforesaid, shall be liable to be convicted by any Evidence whatever as an offender against this Act, in respect of any Act done by him, if he shall at any Time previously to his being indicted for such Offence have disclosed such Act, on Oath, in consequence of any compulsory Process of any Court of Law or Equity in any Action, Suit, or Proceeding which
shall have been bonâ fide instituted by any Party aggrieved, or if he shall have disclosed the same in any Examination or Deposition before any Commissioners of Bankruptcy.”
Messrs. Strahan, Paul, and Bates stopped payment the 11th June, 1855. They were made bankrupts, and on the 25th June they voluntarily declared, in the Court of Bankruptcy, that securities amounting to £113,000, lodged with them by their customers for safe custody, had been sold or otherwise parted with, and the proceeds applied to their own use. They were committed for trial, and it was presumed they intended to plead the above clause in the Act, in the hope that it would save them from punishment.
Strahan, Paul, and Bates were tried at the October, 1855, session of the Central Criminal Court. They pleaded not guilty, and Sir F. Thesiger applied, on their behalf, to plead in addition 52nd sect. of 7 & 8 Geo. IV. c. 29. They were not allowed to plead it in addition; but the point, among others, was raised by Serjeant Byles in his address to the jury for Paul. It appeared that the statement made by the prisoners in the Bankruptcy Court (coupled with the account to which it referred) merely disclosed a dealing in April, 1855, with certain Danish Bonds which had been purchased by the prisoners in substitution for certain other similar bonds deposited with them by the prosecutor, and which they had previously converted, for which conversion of the original (not the substituted) bonds they were indicted, but that the statement also referred the assignees to certain of the firm's books, in which the conversion of the original bonds appeared. The presiding judge (Alderson), in summing up, ruled that the statement was an insufficient disclosure, in not relating to the original bonds, which were the subject matter of the indictment; and then continued :-“ It never could have been intended that a person by voluntarily disclosing any act could evade the penalties of the misdemeanour to which such act had rendered him liable. People cannot thus be allowed to play fast and loose with the criminal law; now rendering themselves liable to be transported for fourteen years, and then, by a mere process got up for the purpose, voluntarily absolving themselves from the consequence of their acts."
Baron Martin and Justice Willes concurred.
LONDON JOINT-STOCK BANKS.
S an introduction to the joint-stock banks of London,
we avail ourselves of the following sketch of the history of joint-stock banking which we find in Mr. H. D. Macleod's elaborate and accurate work. We do this with the greater satisfaction on account of the testimony it bears, by implication, to the merits of the late Mr. Gilbart, and the “ enormous difficulties” talent and energy such as his alone could have surmounted :
“ An attempt in 1823 to gain the consent of the Bank of England to give up the privileges of their Charter, so far as to permit joint-stock banks to be formed in the country, having failed, even though a bribe was offered, nothing further took place till 1826, when the disasters of the preceding year being very generally attributed to the improper management of the country banks, the Ministry were powerful enough to compel the Bank to give up its unjustifiable monopoly, and at length agreed to permit joint-stock banks to be formed beyond sixty-five miles from the metropolis. The Statute 1826, c. 46, was passed for this purpose.
“ This Act made no provisions regarding the constitution or capital of these companies. Each one was allowed to devise a constitution for itself, to name its own capital, and to make any public announcement regarding it that it pleased. The formation of joint-stock banks under this Act proceeded very slowly at first, not more than four or
five being formed in as many years. In fact, such banks could only be successfully formed by influential persons, and, of course, each of these had already his own bank, which he would naturally be unwilling to injure by the formation of so powerful a rival. The first joint-stock bank was formed at Lancaster, the next at Bradford, and another at Norwich, before any one was formed at one of the great manufacturing towns. It was not till the prosperous years of 1833-34-35-36, that any very remarkable increase took place in their numbers. In these years, however, they multiplied rapidly, more especially in 1836, when upwards of forty were established in the spring.
“ On the renewal of the Bank Charter in 1833, it was determined to take off the vexatious restriction of preventing banking companies making their bills and notes for less than £50, payable on demand by their agents in London. And they were required to keep weekly accounts, to be verified on oath, of the amount of their notes in circulation, and make a return to the Commissioners of Stamps of the average amount in circulation every quarter.
“It was at this time that the discovery made in 1822 by Mr. Joplin, that the Bank Charter did not prohibit jointstock banks being formed in London, and carrying on their business on the method then adopted by the London bankers, attracted attention, and, on the case being submitted to the law officers of the Crown, they confirmed this view. The flank of the monopoly of the Bank of England, as we may say, being turned in this extraordinary and unexpected manner, excited much consternation and alarm in that body, and they requested to have this omission rectified, but Lord Althorp decidedly refused anything of the sort, and told them that the bargain was that their privileges should remain as they were, and he would not
consent to any extension of them. To remove all possible doubts on the subject, a declaratory clause was inserted in the Bank Charter Act, expressly permitting joint-stock banks to be formed, provided they did not borrow, or take up in England, any sum or sums of money, on their bills or notes payable on demand, or at any less time than six months from the borrowing thereof. This declaratory clause was not long in being acted upon; and soon after the Act was passed, measures were taken to constitute a joint-stock bank in London. This was the London and Westminster Bank, which has since been managed with such distinguished success.
“ The enormous difficulties which must have attended the successful organization of this great establishment may be conceived when we remember that it was not formed under the Joint-Stock Banking Act at all, which had no force within sixty-five miles of London, but that it was nothing but an ordinary partnership at common law. One of the least of the inconveniences of this was that it could not maintain an action at law for the most trivial debt, without enumerating all and each of the partners, and the slightest mistake in the spelling of a single name would at that time have vitiated any proceeding. This bank was the largest common law partnership which has existed in England ; and all the London joint-stock banks which were formed before the Act, Statute 1844, c. 113, are nothing but common law partnerships. The excessive inconvenience attending this state of things led to a bill being brought into Parliament to enable the London and Westminster Bank to sue and be sued in the name of its chairman. This was warmly opposed by the Bank of England, and by Lord Althorp. Nothing could be more paltry than the reasons alleged by him in opposition to it, but he was beaten by a majority of 141 to 35. The