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General's veteran soldiers,' according to Clarendon, confessed that they had never met with the like desperate service during the war.' That their descendants have not degenerated is attested by the glorious annals of the Fiftieth, or Queen's Own' Regiment, which hails from West Kent. Of the honours of the cricket-field, which no less an authority than the Duke' held to be the best preparation for the battle-field, the county elevens have had their full share.
One or two of the relics of ancient use and wont' must be briefly noticed. Among the most curious is the custom in some of the Weald parishes of strewing the path of a newly wedded couple, as they leave the church, with tokens of the husband's occupation. A blacksmith, for example, finds the ground covered with bits of iron; a carpenter with shavings of wood. Hasted records another practice (which, however, had somewhat degenerated in his time), among the Folkestone fishermen, of holding a festival called a "Rumbold' on Christmas Eve. The expenses were formerly defrayed by setting apart eight of the largest whitings taken in each boat and selling them separately as “Rumbold Whitings.' St. Rumbold, in whose honour the ceremony was doubtless instituted, attracted many votaries in the South of England.
The singular excavations in the chalk found in different parts of the county admit of more than one explanation. Those which occur near the Thames at East Tilbury, at Crayford and Dartford, and near the Medway at Aylesford, are entered by narrow circular openings that widen into chambers and galleries as you descend. At the firstnamed place they are called “Danes' Holes,' and traditionally believed to have been constructed as places of refuge from the Northern invaders. If used and enlarged for that purpose, it is probable that they were originally intended as chalk-pits. Elsewhere, when occurring in the neighbourhood of cromlechs, they are probably sepulchral in their origin. In other situations, a few miles distant from the Thames, they are presumably smugglers' hiding-places ; secret receptacles made with the same apparent design being found in old houses thereabouts.
Many besides the present writer, who are not natives of the county, must be conscious of the strong fascination which it exerts over them after having once lived in it; a spell, like that attributed to the Fountain of Trevi at Rome which lures those who drink of it to return, indisposing them to quit it for any other abode. The reader must judge whether this impression upon the fancy and affections be not sufficiently accounted for by the idiosyncrasy which it has been the object of this sketch to pourtray.
HENRY G. HEWLETT.
WHAT SHALL WE DO WITH
OUR BANKRUPTS ?
A GREAT deal of time, of trouble, of expense, and of misery would have been saved to mankind if legislators could have been induced to consider more narrowly not only what they are legislating about, but for whom they are legislating, and what good society is likely to derive from their work. Laws are not made for lawyers; they are not made to preserve symmetry and consistency in every part of the judicial edifice. They are not good because they are ancient, nor bad because they are new. They are to be approved or condemned simply and solely according to the degree in which they promote or impede the interests of the whole community for which they are designed. A fruitful cause of evil in laws is that when they are discovered to be bad the matter is not probed to the bottom, but feeble remedies are often applied, which scarcely touch the surface of existing evils, and lay the foundation of new troubles for the future. The subject which I have chosen for the illustration of these opinions is one which would have occupied a large share of the attention of Parliament had the single great measure of the session left room for anything else, and which is doubtless destined to hold a prominent place in the legislation of next year. The subject, and the criticism it invites, appear to me full of instruction, and seem to me to lead to conclusions very different from those towards which we are at present tending
The subject to which I desire to draw attention is the Bankruptcy Law, a code of venerable antiquity, which has exercised the brains of mankind for some two thousand years, and which is yet so entirely either in its infancy or its dotage-I will not pause to examine which -that it is about to undergo at the hands of Parliament anotber thorough revision and reconstruction, being the third effort at perfection within the present reign. Before we embark on this heroic enterprise it may not be a waste of time to retrace the history of the bankruptcy laws, and to mark the steps by which a code which has existed in one shape or another for so long a period now comes, in the fulness of time and the exhaustion of every conceivable remedy, to be re-created, or at any rate redressed.
The legendary origin of bankruptcy is mixed up with the fabulous period of Roman history, and is said to have been derived from the law which permitted the creditors of an insolvent debtor to cut him in pieces, and take that somewhat barren and bloody satisfaction for their loss. Doubts have been entertained of the reality of this somewhat brisk and, at any rate, old method to pay old debts, but there is, I apprehend, no question that the debtor was treated as a sort of chattel real, and, together with his wife and children, could be sold into slavery in payment of his debt. Thus the law remained till the times of the Christian emperors, when it was decreed that if a man gave up all that he had he should not be sold as a slave-a law which may fairly be regarded as the first and by no means the worst statute of bankruptcy.
The law of bankruptcy in England, though it received the hearty commendation of that most indiscriminating of optimists, Blackstone, was founded on a singularly unsound and narrow basis. It assumed that traders are the only persons who have any right to run into debt at all, and that if other persons run into debt they must take the consequence of their own indiscretion--that is, remain in perpetual imprisonment; 'for the law holds it to be an unjustifiable practice for any person but a trader to encumber himself with debts of any considerable value. If a gentleman, or one in a liberal profession, has a sufficient sum to pay them, the neglect to pay is a species of dishonesty, and a temporary injustice to his creditor; and if at that time he has no sufficient funds the dishonesty and injustice is the greater. Such was the logic which satisfied our forefathers until the beginning of the present reign : it never seems to have occurred to any one that there could be no lenders without borrowers, and no borrowers without lenders; and that, although not a trader, a man might without any fault of his own be unable to meet his obligations.
There is no necessity for wasting time in refuting these arguments. The beginning of the present reign has seen the establishment of courts for the relief of insolvent debtors, and its middle has witnessed the abolition of all distinction between those who are and those who are not engaged in trade and commerce; so fragile and unsound were the principles on which the original fabric of the bankrupt laws was built, and so utterly unable have they proved to bear the test of experience or the demands of a reasonable and enlightened humanity.
But the change which deprived bankruptcy of its leading characteristic as a city of refuge for traders, although great, was by no means the only change which has taken place. The Bankruptcy Court was thrown open to all insolvents, whether traders or not; but a fresh and domestic mischief was eating into the very heart of the system. Much care had been taken of the debtors, but very serious complaints arose on the part of the creditors. Somehow or other, the dividends on insolvent estates began to fall fearfully short. The Court of Bankruptcy was a sink into which money was continually poured, but from which, with the true instinct of gravity, it never rose again. Even Blackstone himself could not have been content with such a state of things. The system worked with what Lord Byron somewhere calls ruinous perfection. The army of bankruptcy was complete in all its parts, and the very model of a perfect and well-ordered department. It were a waste of time to enumerate all the officers who ministered in this great temple of ruin and failure. Never was the goddess of waste and destruction worshipped with such elaborate and such costly ceremonies. All went merry as a marriage bell, until a fault, which in no degree injured the symmetry but somewhat diminished the popularity of this splendid system, began to make itself manifest. It was at length discovered, to the horror of all concerned, that the official assignees were, as the Greek poet says of the infernal gods, better to hold than to let go. Vast sums were poured into the capacious lap of the Court of Bankruptcy, but comparatively little ever came out of it. The official assignees somehow or other gathered to themselves an evil repute. Just as poor Peter Peebles boasted that it was a very fine thing to have his name thundered out in the Outer House, but admitted that he whiles missed the comforts which he used to enjoy before he reached that forensic elevation, even so the creditors discovered that the Bankruptcy Court had one fault_like Saturn, it ate its own children; a great deal of money went into it, and a very little ever came out. This objection became so serious in the eyes of creditors that I grieve to relate that the patience of the public utterly gave way, and the creditors came to the conclusion that it was as well, or perhaps better, to be robbed first as last, and that their money might, as it was not to go into their pockets, just as well remain in the pockets of their debtors as in the pockets of the assignees. Thus, in the full glare of publicity, and in the very face of a philanthropic and progressive age, was the whole machinery of bankruptcy brought to a standstill, and a clear demonstration once more offered that a plan conceived with the best intentions and the amplest knowledge had proved quite inadequate to deal with this subject, wbich a hundred years before Blackstone had imagined to have reached the acme of perfection.
Parliament went to work again, and another Bankruptcy Bill was the result. The plan of trusting the property of bankrupts to officials had, I blush to say, turned out a complete failure, and something else was to be tried. One might have thought that such a series of miscarriages would have been accepted as proving that there was something radically wrong in the idea of bankruptcy altogether, and that if the thing was to work at all, it must be by the agency of some simpler and less delicate machinery.
It was felt on all bands that the state of the Bankruptcy Court had been allowed to become a public scandal. The time was come when an heroic effort must be made to put an end to a system of plunder by Government officials which, like Trinculo's bottle, was not only a scandal and disgrace, but an infinite loss. The Government of that day were struck, as well they might be, with the gross and scandalous spectacle which was revealed to them. They thought, and with some reason, that there was nothing in the nature of things which should render a bankrupt's estate more peculiarly an object of plunder and peculation than any other trust fund, and they proceeded under the best advice to seek a remedy for so crying a mischief. The evil which they had to remedy was, to speak plainly, the unpleasant fact that after having bestowed enormous pains to get together the relics of a bankrupt estate, it was intrusted to hands from which it was found impossible to extract it. I will not stop to inquire by what abuse of patronage it came to pass that persons chosen by high authorities from a learned and honourable profession should have been found unequal to withstand this not very trying temptation. It puts one in mind of the king of England who said, 'I know not which of my lawyers to appoint, for on my soul they be all rogues.' The course which the Government of the day took was a very natural one, and deserved better success than it achieved. They said: • We have been disappointed by those from whom we looked for aid and honesty; the temptation has been too strong for them. Let us try those who have a direct interest in obtaining the very largest dividends possible--the creditors themselves. Nothing could seem fairer than such a proposition. Where were they to look for care in keeping and diligence in augmenting the estate of the bankrupt, if it was not in the creditor himself, who would be paid precisely in proportion to his own diligence ? This idea was elaborately worked out in a Bill drawn with infinite care and skill, containing no less than one hundred and thirty-six clauses. In another Bill were contained some highly penal and, as it seems to me, unjust clauses based on a revival in modified form of that very imprisonment for debt from which the bankrupt laws took their origin. With the terror of a renewal of imprisonment for debt on the one side and the control by the creditors themselves on the other, it seemed as if the riddle had been at last read, and the working of a bankrupt estate was about to take its place among the exact sciences. It was clearly the interest of the creditor to obtain as large a dividend as possible, and as clearly he was invested with the power : what more could be desired ? I cannot say that there was any fault in this reasoning as far as it went. Its error was that it did not take into consideration certain other feelings which ultimately proved too strong even for the very powerful motives which in this case seem at first sight to make the private identical with the public interest. In the first place, the creditor dislikes the whole subject. He has been done, and this lowers