« PreviousContinue »
JAMES WALTER SMITH, ESQ., LL.D.,
AUTHOR OF HANDY BOOKS ON "BILLS, CHEQUES, NOTES, &c.," "PARTNERSHIP,"
"Were the state of the law known to all, no one, unless on the ground of knowingly
THIS work was originally compiled by Mr. William John Lawson, the author of the History of Banking,' much of whose matter still remains; but the present edition has undergone considerable alterations, and has in fact, in a legal sense, been almost rewritten by me.
It has been my endeavour to lay before the public the rules which guide bankers and their customers in the transaction of business, together with those principles of law which imperceptibly regulate this as well as other commercial operations.
On this subject there are expensive and voluminous treatises for the use of the legal practitioner. Such works, though written with accuracy, and, as far as the subject admits, with simplicity, are still uninviting to the public. They are so because they are necessarily concerned with technicalities and distinctions, having no place in the substantive law itself, but arising from that cumbrous system of procedure by which alone that law can, at present, have effect given to it. It is this mode of procedure, inextricably involved with the substantive law itself, which swells the text-books of law, distracts the attention of the practitioner, and puzzles and disgusts the public.
With such books this work is not intended to compete. All that is aimed at is to give, coupled with explanations, a popular code of banking practice and law, as concise and intelligible as the present state of the law will allow.
JAMES WALTER SMITH.
: 3, KING'S BENCH WALK; Sept., 1859.
11, ROYAL EXCHANGE, September, 1859.
Cause of the suppression of the first issue of "THE HANDY BOOK OF THE LAW OF BANKING.'
Some time since I commenced publishing a series of cheap Legal Handy Books.' Mr. William John Lawson (author of the well-known 'History of Banking') having had thirty years' practical experience in banking, I proposed to him to undertake the compilation of a 'Handy Book of the Customs, Practice, and Law of Banking.' The customs and practice were as familiar to him as his alphabet, and he undertook to study and condense such law as existed upon the subject. The book was compiled, and duly published, I being entirely ignorant as to how the compilation had been made.
The book had not long appeared when, to my surprise, I one morning received-without any previous notice, or letter, or communication of any kind whatever-two printed copies of a bill in Chancery, filed against myself and Mr. Lawson, for the infringement of the copyright of a work entitled 'A TREATISE ON THE LAW RELATING TO BANKERS AND BANKING.' I was the more surprised, since it is not usual to do all that the law empowers one to do because one is so empowered; and I had ever considered it, and, during an experience of half a century, had ever found it, the custom amongst gentlemen, should any cause of difference arise, not at once to assume an intended wrong, but to hold communication with the special purpose, if possible, of preventing needless litigation. I had always supposed that the cases in which proceedings are resorted to, without regard to circumstances or persons, were those only in which the desire was not justice, but costs. I had even imagined it impossible, when the client is a person of character, and the legal adviser a practitioner in our superior courts, that such unusual, and, to say the least of it questionable proceedings, should have been descended to. I was mistaken.
The plaintiff in this suit was Mr. James Grant, of 2, Plowden Buildings, Temple, a Barrister; and the attorney, Mr. John Mortimer, of 17, Clifford's Inn.
Immediately on receipt of the bil, requested my solicitor to see Mr. Mortimer, and to say, that I was entirely unconscious that any portion of my compilation had been taken from the work by Mr. Grant; that during fifty years as a publisher I had never once infringed or pirated a copyright, and that nothing would or could induce me knowingly to be a party to any such wrong doing; that I much regretted any unintentional injury (although I did not, under the circumstances, believe that injury
there could be) that might have been done; and, that I was both desirous and prepared to do anything that could in justice and honour be either required or demanded.
My solicitor was informed by Mr. Mortimer, all feeling in the matter being pooh-poohed and ignored, that the costs had already reached £26, and that the proceedings would certainly be continued. After some difficulty I succeeded, however, in staying proceedings, by paying nearly £28 in costs, and £15 in compensation. It cost me, altogether, (putting entirely out of consider ation the costs of my own solicitor), between £42 and £43, and the value of 1500 copies, which number I had to surrender for destruction.
Mr. Lawson had, beyond dispute or question, made a few extracts from Mr. Grant's book, and it is necessary that I should say a word in his justification. He had copied from Mr. Grant, chiefly, the results of cases tried in public courts of justice without knowing that he was, by so doing, guilty of the infringement of any private right. Mr. Lawson might well imagine that he could not, legally, be doing any possible wrong, since he found that Mr. Grant, a barrister by profession, had himself, without any authority from him, extracted freely from Mr. Lawson's History of Banking,' as appears by Mr. Grant's own acknowledgments. Mr. Lawson naturally and logically concluded that it could not be wrong for Lawson to do by Grant as he, Grant, had already done by Lawson. Whatever wrong Lawson, unknowingly, not being a lawyer, did to Grant, that wrong, Grant, knowingly, being a lawyer, did to Lawson. One position, therefore, is clear, that, in just the same degree in which I was liable to Grant, in exactly that same degree is Grant liable to Lawson. The plea of injury on Grant's part was really absurd, since Grant's book is published at 18s., and Lawson's 'Handy Book' at ls.; whereas Lawson's History' was published at about the same price as Mr. Grant's own work.
I have thought it right to myself (on the occasion of issuing this greatly altered, and, in a legal sense, rewritten edition), owing to many inquiries on the part of the public and the trade, to make this statement. It speaks for itself; it needs little or no comment. During a long life and after a great experience, I can only say that it has never once been my bad fortune to be subjected before to such a manner of legal proceeding. May it never occur again.
I.-Of Chartered Banks
As all future banks of more than ten partners, not