Imágenes de páginas
[ocr errors]

for interest detained after it is due, becomes, to all intents and purposes, part of the sum lent.

It is a question which sometimes occur , how money borrowed in one country ought to be paid in another, where the relative value of the precious metals is not the same. For example, suppose I borrow a hundred guineas in London, where each guinea is worth one and twenty shillings, and meet my creditor in the East Indies, where a guinea is worth no more perhaps than nineteen, is it a facisfaction of the debt to return a hundred guineas ? or must I make up so many times one and twenty shillings? I should think the latter : for it must be presumed, that my creditor, had he not lent me his guineas, would have disposed of them in such a manner, as to have now had, in the place of them, so many one and twenty shillings; and the question supposes, that he neither intended, nor ought to be a sufferer, by parting with the possession of his money to me,

When the relative value of coin is altered by an act of the state, if the alteration would have extended to the identical pieces which were lent, it is enough to return an equal number of pieces of the same denomination, or their present value in any other. As if guineas were reduced by act of parliament to twenty shillings, so many twenty shillings, as I borrowed guineas, would be a just repayment. It would be otherwise, if the reduction was owing to a debasement of the coin ; for then respect ought to be had to the comparative value of the old guinea and the new.

Whoever borrows money is bound in conscience to repay it. This every man can see ; but every man cannot see, or does not however reflect, that he is, in consequence, also bound to use the means necessary to enable himself to repay it. “ If he pay “ the money when he has it, or has it to spare, he “ does all that an honest man can do,” and all, he imagines, that is required of him ; whilst the previ.

[ocr errors]

ous measures, which are necessary to furnish him with the money, he makes no part of his care, cor observes to be as much bis duty as the other; such as selling a family seat, or a family estate, contract. iug his plan of expence, laying down his equipase, reducing the number of his fervants, or any of the lo humiliating facrifices, which justice requires of a man in debt, the moment he perceives that he has no reafonable prospect of paying his debts without them. An expectation, which depends upon the continuarce of his own life, will not satisfy an honest man, if a better provision be in his power: for it is a breach of faith to subject a creditor, when we can help it, to the risk of our life, be the event what it will; that not being the security to which credit was given.

I know few subjects which have been more mira understood than the law which authorizes the imprifonment of insolvent debiors. It has been reprefented as a gratuitous cruelty, which contributed nothing to the reparation of the creditor's lors, or to the advastage of the community. This prejudice ariles principally from cousidering the sending of a debtor to jail, as an act of private fatisfaction to the credi. for, instead of a public punithment. As an act of fatisfaction or revenge, it is always wrong in the molive, and often intemperate and undistingurhirg in the exercise. Conlider it as a public punishment, founded upon the same reason, and subject to the same rules, as other punishments; and the juitice of ii, together with the degree to which it should be extended, and the objects upon whom it may be inflicted, will be apparent. There are frauds relating to insolvency, against which it is as receffary to provide puuviihmeni, as for any public crimes whatever : as where a man gets your money into his poieiiion, and forthui:h ruris away with it ; or, what is hetic better, tqua.lders it in vicious expences ; or flikes it at the gong table; in the alley; or upon wild alon to ano


hacy of

for, to favor in a jail

ventures in trade; or is conscious at the time he bor. rows it, that he can never repay it; or wilfully puts it out of his power by profuse living; or conceals his effects, or transfers them by collusion to another : not to mention the obstinacy of fome debtors, who had rather rot in a jail, than deliver up their eltates; for, to say the truth, the first absurdity is in the law itself, which leaves it in a debtor's power to withhold any part of his property from the claim of his creditors. The only question is, whether the punishment be properly placed in the hands of an exasperated creditor ;. for which it may be said, that these frauds are so subtile and versatile, that nothing but a discretionary power can overtake them; and that no discretion is likely to be so well informed, so vigilant, or so active, as that of the creditor.

It must be remembered, however, that the confinement of a debtor in jail is a punishment, and that every punishment supposes a crime. To pursue therefore, with the extremity of legal rigour, a sufferer, whom the fraud or failure of others, his own want of capacity, or the disappointments and miscarriages to which all human affairs are subject, have reduced to ruin, merely because we are provoked by our loss, and seek to relieve the pain we feel by that which we inflict, is repugriant not only to humanity, but to justice ; for it is to pervert a provision of law, designed for a different and a salutary purpose, to the gratification of private spleen and resentment. Any alteration in these laws, which could distinguish the degrees of guilt, or convert the service of the in. solvent debtor to some public profit, might be an improvement; but any considerable mitigation of their rigour, under colour of relieving the poor, would increase their hardships. For whatever deprives the creditor of his power of coera cion, deprives him of his security; and as this must add greatly to the difficulty of obtaining credit, the poor, especially the lower sort of tradesmen, are the first who would suffer by such a regulation. As tradesmen must buy before they fell, you would exclude from trade two thirds of those who now carry it on, if none were enabled to enter into it without a capital sufficient for prompt payments. An advocate therefore for the interests of this important class of the community will deem it more eligible, than one out of a thousand should be fent to jail by his creditor, than that the nine hundred and ninety-nine should be straitened and embarrassed, and many of them · lie idle, by the want of credit.

[ocr errors]
[blocks in formation]

CERVIÇ E in this country is, as it ought to be,

voluntary, and by contract; and the master's authority extends no farther than the terms or equitable construction of the contract will justify.

The treatment of servants, as to diet, discipline, · and accommodation, the kind and quantity of work

to be required of them, the intermission, liberty, and indulgence to be allowed them, must be determined in a great measure by custom ; for where the contract involves so many particulars, the contracting parties express a few perhaps of the principal, and by mutual understanding refer the rest to the known custom of the country in like cases.

A servant is not bound to obey the unlawful commands of his master; to minister, for instance, to his unlawful pleasures ; or to aflist him in unlaw. ful practices in his profession; as in smuggling or adulterating the articles in which he deals. For the servant is bound by nothing but his own promise ; and the obligation of a promise extends not to things unlawful.

For the same reason, the master's authority is no justification of the servant in doing wrong ; for the servant's own promise, upon which that authority is founded, would be none.

Clerks and apprentices ought to be employed entirely in the profession, or trade which they are intended to learn. Instruction is their hire, and to deprive them of the opportunities of instruction, by

« AnteriorContinuar »