Case (For the Opinion of Mr. Punch)
Railways, Transport, Commerce, Crime, Charlatanry, Government
This article addresses the failure of the London, Chatham, and Dover Railway Company to redeem its debentures. The bankruptcy of the company was in turn caused by the failure of its contractors, Peto, Brassey and Betts, who had suspended payments to railway companies owing to the catastrophic effects of the financial panic of 1866. The article reports a legal case (from a solicitor representing a debenture holder 'Sap Green' crippled by the company's collapse) and the opinions of Mr Punch on the case. The legal case begins by listing the requirements of a railway bill before it can be sanctioned by legislature and then explains how the 'The London, Cheatem, and Clover Railway' company and the 'eminent firm of Contractors Sleekowe, Getts, & Vampem' entered into an agreement to construct the 'Metropolitan Extension (Eastern Section)' of the railway (a reference to the attempt by the railway company to build a terminus in the City of London). The case then states the failure of company to pay debentures to 'Sap Green', and notes that following the insolvency of the company the receipts exchanged between it and its contractors (for thousands of pounds) were found to be 'illusory'. Reviewing the case Mr Punch has no doubt that criminal charges can be brought against the company and its contractors for 'conspiracy to obtain money on false pretences'. He also warns of the difficulty of convincing a jury of this case where so much money and such 'eminently respectable persons' are involved, pointing out that it is easier to convict a 'petty offender who cheats for pence or pounds' than 'the fraudulent operator who works for millions'.
© Science in the Nineteenth-Century Periodical Project, Universities of Leeds and Sheffield, 2005 - 2020
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