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negotiable by custom, so as to pass with a good title, and free from all equities to a bonâ fide purchaser. The Court then say (p. 356), “ While we quite agree that the greater or less time during which a custom has existed may be material in determining how far it has generally prevailed, we cannot think that if a usage is once shown to be universal it is the less entitled to prevail, because it may not have formed part of the law merchant as previously recognised and adopted by the Courts.” The House of Lords approved the decision in 1876.
The results of this formation of the law by custom are instructive. A reference to Marius' treatise on Bills of Exchange, written about 1670, or Beawes' Lex Mercatoria, written about 1720, will show that the law, or perhaps rather the practice, as to Bills of Exchange, was even then pretty well defined. Comparing the usage of that time with the law as it now stands, it will be seen that it has been modified in some important respects. Comparing English law with French, it will be seen that, for the most part, where they differ, French law is in strict accordance with the rules laid down by Beawes. The fact is, that when Beawes wrote, the law or practice of both nations on this subject was uniform. The French law, however, was embodied in a Code by the Ordonnance de 1673,' which is amplified but substantially adopted by the Code de Commerce of 1818. Its development was thus arrested, and it remains in substance what it was 200 years ago. English law has been developed piecemeal by judicial decision founded on custom. The result has been to work out a theory of bills widely different from the original. The English theory may be called the Banking or Currency theory, as opposed to the French or Mercantile theory. A Bill of Exchange in its origin was an instrument by which a trade debt, due in one place, was transferred in another. It merely avoided the necessity of transmitting cash from place to place. This theory the French law steadily keeps in view. In England bills have developed into a perfectly flexible paper currency. In France a bill represents a trade transaction ; in England it is merely an instrument of credit. English law gives full play to the system of accommodation paper; French law endeavours to stamp it out.
A comparison of some of the main points of divergence between English and French law will show how the two theories are worked out. In England it is no longer necessary to express on a bill that value has been given, for the law raises a presumption to that effect. In France the nature of the value must be expressed, and a false statement of value avoids the bill in the hands of all parties with notice. In England a bill may now be drawn and payable in the same place (formerly, it was otherwise, see the definition of bill in Comyn's Digest). In France the place where a bill is drawn must be so far distant from the place where it is payable, that there may be a possible rate of exchange between the two. A false statement of places, so as to evade this rule, avoids the bill in the hands of a holder with notice. As French lawyers put it, a Bill of Exchange necessarily presupposes a contract of exchange. In England (since 1765) a bill may be drawn payable to bearer. In France it must be payable to order; if it were not so, it is clear that the rule requiring the consideration to be expressed would be an absurdity. In England a bill originally payable to order becomes payable to bearer when indorsed in blank. In France an indorsement in blank merely operates as a procuration. . An indorsement, to operate as a negotiation, must be an indorsement to order, and must state the consideration; in short, it must conform to the conditions of an original draft. In England if a hill be refused acceptance, a right of action at once accrues to the holder. This is a logical consequence of the currency theory. In France no cause of action arises unless the bill is again
dishonoured at maturity; the holder in the meantime is only entitled to demand security from the drawer and indorsers. In England a sharp distinction is drawn between current and overdue bills. In France no such distinction is drawn. In England no protest is required in the case of an inland bill, notice of dishonour alone being sufficient.
In France every dishonoured bill must be protested. Grave doubts may exist as to whether the English or the French system is the soundest and most beneficial to the mercantile community, but this is a problem wbich it is beyond the province of a lawyer to attempt to solve.
M. D. C.
TABLE OF CASES CITED.
Armstrong v. Christiani, 150
v. Gibson, 80 Abbott v. Hendricks, 15, 16 Arnold v. Cheque Bank, 42, 65, 66, A bel v. Sutton, 64
163 Abrey v. Crux, 15, 41, 45, 46, 180, Ashpitle v. Bryan, 112 190
Asprey v. Levy, 176 Ackerman v. Ehrensperger, 170 Astley v. Johnson, 74, 78 Adamsonia Co., Re, 56, 57
Atkinson v. Hawdon, 199
Attenborough v. Clarke, 71
v. Mackenzie, 105, v. Leighton, 79, 113
184 Alderson v. Langdale, 198, 199 Att.-Gen. v. Pratt, 162 Aldous v. Cornwall, 17, 196
Attwood v. Griffin, 196 Alexander v. Burchfield, 207, 208,
v. Munnings, 59, 60 209
v. Rattenbury, 114 v. Sizer, 33, 61
Atwood v. Crowdie, 70 v. Thomas, 19
Aulton v. Atkins, 87 Allen v. Davis, 68
Awde v. Dixon, 24, 111
Bagnall v. Andrews, 177
v. Bodenbam, 143, 147, 209 Ancona v. Marks, 43, 115
v. Porter, 129, 150 Anderson v. Weston, 17, 64, 106 Bain v. Gregory, 150, 151 Anderton v. Beck, 135
Baker, Ex parte, 144, 148 Anglo-Greek Navigation Co., Re, v. Birch, 131 113
v. Dening, 39 Angrove v. Tippett, 203
Baldwin v. Richardson, 157 Anon. (12 Mod. 447), 4
Balfour v. Ernest, 60 Ansell v. Baker, 180
v. Sea. Ass. Co., 67 Archer v. Bamford, 79
Bambridge v. Hemingway, 78 Armani v. Castrique, 26
Bank of Bengal v. Fagan, 64 Armistead, Ex parte, 85
Bank of England v. Anderson, 39