Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

the Directors had furnished to the proposers the pecuniary means of carrying their ideas into effect. We have likewise sought and obtained information as to the state of paper currency in other countries; but this has proved of very little importance, with reference to the object of our present inquiry. From America, which affords the closest parallel to the state of England in this particular, no official return has yet been received; but we have reason to think, that in several parts of the United States, the crime of forgery is prevalent, and that great efforts are now making to give to the notes such a character as may baffle the skill of the American forger. Specimens of these improved notes have been communicated to us by the agent of the American patentee, and have received our particular attention with regard to the practicability of adopting the invention, in whole or in part, so as to present a barrier to the art and skill of the forger in this country.

Upon the general subject of the extent of forgery, we do not think it necessary to recapitulate statements which are already before Parliament and the public. It appear ed to us, however, proper to obtain more particular information as to the course which has been hitherto pursued by the Bank, both with respect to the prevention, and with respect to the detection and punishment of the crime. Upon the former of these points, we have received from the Directors, in addition to the account before alluded to, clear and circumstantial details; and it is but common justice to those gentlemen to state, that in every instance our inquiries have been met by them in the most prompt and satisfactory manner, and every sort of useful information readily furnished. We

feel it also proper to add our opinion, formed after an examination of all the projects which have been. formerly submitted to the Bank for a change in the form of their notes, that no one of these could have been adopted with such a prospect of solid advantage to the public, as would compensate the evils necessarily attendant upon a change.

The invention to which we refer in the latter part of this report, and on which our attention is now principally engaged, was laid before the Directors a short time previous to the issuing of his Majesty's commission, and so far entertained by them, that they advanced a large sum of money to the author. The chief merit of this invention consisting in the extreme accuracy of the machinery requisite, time and application are necessary to bring it to such a state of perfection as appears likely to answer the purpose desired.

Upon the latter of the two points above referred to, we have received from the chief inspector and chief investigator at the Bank, and also from the solicitor, accounts of the course pursued in their respective departments. For which purpose, we requested the personal attendance of each of those officers, and entered into such an examination of them as appeared to us to be calculated to produce the necessary information. We have also been furnished by the Bank with the means of judging of the actual state of forgery, and of the degree of skill which appears sufficient to deceive the public, by the examination of forged notes of various kinds; and even of the tools and instruments used by one forger, which were taken upon him.

Whilst it is painful to observe the degree of talent thus perverted, it is at the same time to be remarked, that in many instances the public

suffer themselves to be deceived by very miserable imitations; and it is to be feared that a similar carelessness would very much lessen the good effects to be derived from the employment of superior skill and workmanship in the formation of a new note. Another fact appears proper to be noticed here, as forming an important ingredient in the consideration of any proposed plan. The issue of small notes by the Bank is necessarily very uncertain and irregular in its amount. We find, that to keep up the usual supply, not less than fifty plates are requisite; and it is considered proper to have a much larger number in a state of preparation. And as it is obviously necessary to preserve, as much as possible, identity in the notes, this circumstance alone precludes the application, for this purpose, of many ingenious plans, even if there did not exist other insuperable objections to them.

Resulting from the above statements and examinations, some general observations have occurred to us, which appear proper to be introduced in this stage of the report.

It has been very commonly imagined, that, in consequence of the simplicity of execution in the present Bank-notes, the actual forgery of them was very generally and extensively practised, and that often by persons without money or talent; and this idea has formed the basis of much of the reasoning used by many of the projectors, whose plans have been under our view. The reverse of this we believe to be the fact: and from the information before us, we feel ourselves warranted in stating our opinion, that the great quantity of forged small notes which have lately been found in circulation, have all issued from a very few plates only; and that the fabrication of them

is chiefly confined to one particular part of the country, and carried on by men of skill and experience, and possessed of a very considerable command of capital. Upon a cursory observation, it appeared remarkable, that while so many utterers are constantly brought to justice, the actual forger should very rarely, indeed, be detected. But further investigation has led us to think, that this fact may be accounted for; and without entering into details, which upon this point it is better to avoid, we think that it results naturally from the lamentable perfection of system to which this fraudulent traffic has been brought; and we have seen no reason to doubt that the Directors of the Bank, and their officers, have used every exertion in their power to bring the actual forgers to justice, though unfortunately without success, except in very few instances. We cannot refrain, however, from adding to this statement our opinion, that there must be some culpable remissness in the local police of those districts within which the actual fabricators of Bank-notes are more than suspected to reside, and to carry on their trade with impunity. And before we quit this part of the subject, we wish to suggest, for the consideration of those by whose judgment such a question may be properly decided, whether it might not be expedient to offer a very large reward for the apprehension and conviction of a person actually engaged in forging Bank-notes. We are aware of the objections which exist against the system of pecuniary rewards, and are fully impressed with a sense of the evils that may arise from a too general adoption of it; but the circumstances under which the crime of forgery exists in this country are peculiar; and it ap

pears to us hardly possible that those evils, which might be anticipated from the offer of a reward in the case of some other crimes, could follow from such an offer in this case; and knowing how many individuals must be saved from punish ment by the conviction of one actual forger, we venture to recommend the adoption of this measure, to be concurrent with such an improve ment in the form of the note as we hope to see effected.

Having been furnished with such information as was within our reach, relative to the subject of our inquiry, we, in the next place, proceeded to examine more in detail the several projects submitted to us. In pursuing this examination, we have not indulged the vain expectation of finding any plan for a bank note which shall not be imitable by the skill of English artists; and we have considered that it would be utterly unsafe to rely for security against forgery upon the employment of any process, the chief merit of which was to consist in its being kept secret; of which several have been communicated to us. Our object has been to select some plan, of which the process, when the principles of it are understood, and the machinery and implements provided, should be simple enough to be applied without interruption to the extended operations of the Bank; and should, at the same time, comprise so much of superior art, as may oppose the greatest possible difficulties to the attempts of the forger, and may present such points of accuracy and excellence in workmanship to the eye of any individual using ordinary caution, as shall enable him to detect a fraud by observing the absence of those points in a fabricated note. In the mass of the schemes before us, there are of course very various de

grees of merit; and we endeavoured to class them as well as circumstances would permit. From a very large portion of them it was obvious, upon a first inspection, that no beneficial result could be expected. Of the whole number we find about twelve of superior skill and ingenuity, but anticipated by others of higher merit; or merely ingenious, but inapplicable in practice. And we consider nine others to be either of such originality or ingenious combination of existing means, as to have required our more particular attention; and with respect to these much consideration has been had, and, in some instances, improvements and experiments suggested and tried.

We have not considered, as decisive against the merit of any particular plan, the single fact, that it may be imitated by superior art and expensive means: but when we have found, in the case of specimens submitted to us, apparently of great excellence, and the result of a combination of talent or machinery, that a very good imitation has been produced in a very short time, without any peculiar expense, and by the application of means only which are within the reach of very many artists and engravers in England; and when we reflect, to how very few hands the business of forgery appears to be at present confined, we cannot doubt that in the event of bank notes being formed from any of such specimens, an equal number at least of persons would very soon indeed be found capable of fabricating those notes to a considerable extent, and with a degree of skill quite sufficient to deceive the public. Another consideration has also had weight in inducing us to hesitate much, before we venture to recommend any specific plan. The adoption of any

new form of note presenting peculiar and characteristic marks, but the imitation of which we could not confidently feel to be extremely difficult, would not only not do good, but would produce much evil; and would induce a false security, by accustoming the public to rely upon the appearance of such marks and peculiar character, rather than upon a cautious and general observation of the whole note.

Our remarks, however, as to imitation, do not apply to all the specimens which have been offered to us. There are a few of singular and superior merit produced by means which it is very improbable should ever come within the reach of any single forger, and the imitation of which, except by those means, appears in a high degree difficult.

Safety, or rather comparative safety, is to be sought, to a certain extent, in a combination of excellence in various particulars; but chiefly, as we conceive, in the application of a principle beyond the reach of the art of the copperplate engraver, which in its different processes is possessed of the most formidable power of imitation. One plan, before alluded to as apparently affording this advantage, has been, with the most liberal assistance from the Bank, for some time past in a course of trial for its greater perfection, and with a view to combination with other improvements, satisfactory experiments of which have already been effected. The result, if our expectations be not disappointed, will afford a specimen of great ingenuity in the fabric

of the paper, of great excellence in the workmanship, and of a very peculiar invention, and difficult machinery in the art of printing. We confidently hope, that no long time will elapse before we are enabled to lay before your Royal Highness that result: and we have every reason to know, that the Bank Directors are sincerely anxious to adopt any plan, which shall be found, after patient examination, to be worthy of adop tion. In the mean time, we have thought it right not to delay inform ing your Royal Highness of the course of our proceedings. The investigation in which we have been engaged, has strengthened, rather than removed, our feeling of the dif ficulties with which the whole subject is surrounded. We do not wish to represent those difficulties as precluding the propriety of an attempt to remove the existing evils, by a change in the form of the notes is sued by the Bank of England; but we do feel them to be such, as make it imperative upon those with whom the responsibility rests, to be fully satisfied that they shall produce an improvement, before they venture to effect a change.

All which is humbly submitted to your Royal Highness's consideration and judgment.

Jos. BANKS,
WM. CONGREVE,
WM. COURTENAY,
DAVIES GILBERT,
JER. HARMAN,
WM. H. WOLLASTON,
CHARLES HATCHETT

REPORT

OF THE COMMITTEE ON THE POOR LAWS FOR 1819.

The Report, after stating what had been already done on the recommendation of the Committee in the last session, thus proceeds :

Other enactments of minor importance will be found in the act of this session, which it is unnecessary here to detail: but in addition to these, there are some expedients which your Committee are enabled to recommend, and which either do not absolutely require, or do not perhaps admit of any legislative injunction: such as establishing a prescribed form for keeping parochial accounts, and giving to them periodical publicity; by which the amount of expenditure will be seen under its proper head, and any illegal or unnecessary disbursements will be brought to light and corrected. Printing and distributing still more frequently lists, which the vestry is now bound by law to make out, of the names of those who at any time receive relief, and on what account, is a practice which has prevailed lately in many populous parishes, and with the best effect; and your Committee, therefore, have added to this Report, an eligible form in which these accounts and lists may be exhibited, in the hope that this practice may be very generally adopted, even without a compulsory enactment, to which, however, it may yet be wise to resort; and further, to direct that the clerk of each subdivision meeting of Magistrates should form an abstract of the total

expense incurred in each year for the support of the poor within such subdivision, and return the same to the clerk of the peace of the county at the next ensuing Quarter Sessions, who should be required to publish such abstracts from all the subdivisions of the county annually, together with the amount of charge of each subdivision in the preceding year, so as to afford a comparative view of the diminution or increase of each respectively; and should make an annual return of the aggregate expense of each county to the Secretary of State for the Home Department, for the purpose of bringing the same under the view of Parliament.

In order to prevent litigation in ease of removal, a practice has been in some instances adopted by Magistrates of causing a communication to be made personally, or by letter (which it would be extremely difficult to regulate by law,) to the parish to which the removal is proposed to be made, of the day in which the adjudication of the settlement will take place; a fair hearing of both parties commonly ensues, and the expense of an appeal is frequently prevented.

By such provisions, and more especially by the establishment of select vestries and assistant overseers, your Committee are sanguine in their hopes, that the mischief resulting from the reliance on parish support may be in some degree palliated, and

« AnteriorContinuar »