View Full Version : Bills, Bad Debts and Petitions

28-11-2005, 10:29 AM
I have just found a petition for mercy in the National Archives regarding a possible ancestor of mine.

He had got into debt in 1808, and explains how it happened.

"I was induced to lend him my acceptance for 15 for two months, in a few days he again called upon me and stated that he could not get Cash for the Bill, and had destroyed it, and begged I would accept another ... added to which his solemn assurance of having destroyed all the former Bills, I continued to accept other Bills, til the first Bill ... was put into my hands for payment, and when, however incredible it may appear to your Lordship, I discovered I had acceptances against me to the amount of 597 in the short space of two months"

He was granted 6 months off work to sort it all out, and five years later ended up in prison.

Please can someone explain what this system of bills was? Were they IOUs to which he acted as surety? Why would he do that? He pointed out he was only paid 80 a year, 75 after property tax :)

I'd be grateful for any ideas.

29-11-2005, 8:38 AM
What you describe sounds to me like a form of surety. The chap has probably been offered some large amount of money in return for a letter of attorney, authorising someone to draw a certain amount of money. He's been conned into providing backing. This letter of attorney could be presented to a loan shark and money drawn against it; and it could be done again, and again, and again. He would then have to repay the amount given out by the loan shark and this could build up very quickly. It sounds like the person conducting the fraud has gone back and obtained more than one bill. That may not be exactly what has happened here, but it sounds similar.

To use a modern analogy......I'm sure that you've seen one of those e-mails from Nigeria, South Africa, South America, etc, saying that if you provide your bank details they will use your account for holding money and provide you with a handsome return. It's much the same thing, anyone who replies would be giving someone else all they need to continually draw money from your account.

29-11-2005, 9:38 AM
Thank you very much for that. The modern analogy really helped. I suppose people always want something for nothing, and the man he acted as surety for was a Lieutenant in the RN, so I suppose he trusted him.

This possible ancestor was sent to Fleet Prison for his debts. Luckily, the creditors agreed to accept 10 shillings in the , in quarterly instalments of 10. I was then surprised to see that the Navy Office took him back as a clerk in the Ticket Office.

Anyway, it all ended badly five years later, when he was convicted of fraud, sent to Newgate and pilloried in front of the Admiralty...