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number of deeds of arrangement for 1913 show a considerable drop from 2,770 to 2,411. The total estimated liabilities of debtors were slightly higher, £5,231,227, as against estimated assets of £1,868,044, creditors thus suffering to the extent of £3,343,183, rather more than in 1912, but well under the average loss during the last
We have already referred to the decline in the business of the County Courts. This decline, which became apparent in 1910, still continues. The proceedings commenced in 1913 have again fallen, from 1,267,507 to 1,257,011, the smallest recorded since 1901. When compared with an increasing population, this decline is the more marked. In plaints entered for amounts not exceeding £20 the number fell from 1,214,320 to 1,207,005. In those between £20 and £50 the number increased from 13,412 to 13,715, and in those between £50 and £100 from 2,558 to 2,744. Plaints, however, in which more than £100 was involved fell from 515 to 460. Remitted actions from the High Court declined from 1,556 to 1,469. Of the total number of actions disposed of, 389,581 were determined without a hearing, 31,087 were heard before a judge alone, and 776 only before a judge and jury, whilst 381,771 were determined before a registrar. The number of actions struck out or otherwise disposed of was 426,743, thus exceeding the number of actions determined on hearing. Actions pending at the end of the year have decreased rather more than in 1912, being 93,611 as against 98,180. This again indicates that, in spite of the general decrease in the business of the Courts, the judges are overworked.
The endeavour made by Sir John Macdonell, in his Introduction last year, to ascertain the causes of the general decrease in the business of the County Courts, has been repeated in the present Introduction. The three chief in 1913
causes suggested last year were (1) Decline in the credit system ; (2) Fewer committal orders; and (3) State of trade. The views of some registrars upon the changes in the volume of litigation are no doubt illuminating, but are too conflicting to build any general propositions upon them. The increase of plaints in certain towns or districts, all are agreed, were due to the coal strike of 1912, which led to many debts being incurred by the work-people affected. It produced a crop of debts which tradesmen sought to recover
On the other hand, the decrease in the number of plaints in Walsall is said to have been attributable to the prolonged strike in the iron trade in 1913. But, on the analogy of the coal, the decrease in 1913 will be followed by a corresponding increase in 1914. Sir John seems to have missed this point. Prosperity in trade is given as a cause both for increase and decrease. The Registrar of Glossop writes that “when the people are all working and in receipt of regular wages, creditors see a better chance of getting their money, and enter more cases in Court," whilst the Registrar of Southport explains that the chief reason for a decrease "was undoubtedly the commercial prosperity of the district. There was very little unemployment, and the wages were generally good.” The considerable decrease in Rochester and Frome is ascribed to the depression of the principal trade in the district. Thus, in some districts a good state of trade is said to increase plaints and in others to diminish them. The continued disinclination of judges to make committal orders tends, in the opinion of most people, to reduce the number of plaints. “Creditors,” writes one registrar,
naturally decline to enter plaints against the class of debtors who will not pay until they are made to, knowing that in very many cases they would only get a barren judgment.”
One of the reasons assigned for the decrease is curious and worth noting. “The custom of purchasing goods on the
hire system only," writes the Registrar of Colne, “is greatly on the increase amongst the working-class population of this district, which is largely an industrial one. Here the plaintiff, in the absence of any system of compulsory registration of such agreements, comes into Court in the full belief that the well-furnished cottage of the defendant will, under execution levied, be available to satisfy the judgment presently obtained ; but great is his surprise and disappointing his experience to find that, unless all instalments under the hiring agreements are discharged, the property in such furniture is still the hirer's, who thus remains largely the master of the situation." There appears to be something wrong with the last paragraph. We do not understand why, if all the instalments are not paid, the property in the goods is still in the hirer. Hiring agreements usually provide that, until the last instalment is paid, the property remains in the owner.
On the whole, we are inclined to think that the chief cause of the decline is the increase of the cash system followed in the great emporia of limited companies and in the stores of co-operative societies.
Accounts for the receipts and expenditure of the Courts are made up to March 31, 1914. Receipts have slightly increased and expenditure has considerably fallen. The net loss is £163,534, compared with £208,877 in 1913, and with the annual average of £190,415 during the last five years. We ventured to criticise adversely last year the large item of £96,31h for rent, travelling, scrivenery, stationery, &c., suggesting that probably waste in stationery was responsible. This item is now reduced to £68,595, a very considerable saving.
In the Introduction Sir John Macdonell has included several statements showing the effect of the war during the Long Vacation of 1914, and Comparative Tables giving the figures for the years 1913 and 1914. Naturally there was an enormous drop in every department. The number of writs issued on November 5 was 519, compared with 142 in the preceding year, showing the immediate result of the expiration of the Moratorium on November 4th. These figures, however interesting, have no bearing on the Statistics for 1913, and we are rather surprised to find them thrown in with such apparent irrelevancy.
VII.-CURRENT NOTES ON INTERNATIONAL
Non-combatants at Sea. THE
HE position of the non-combatant at sea has never
been made clear by convention. That fact is perhaps hardly to be regretted, for we have lately had more than sufficient evidence to show the extremely inefficacious nature of the Hague agreements, qualified as they are at every turn by considerations of military “necessity.” Long before the conclusion of the Hague agreements, the indiscriminate slaughter of non-combatants on land had been forbidden by the universal consensus of nations, just like the killing of prisoners. The Conventions only affirmed and affected to extend this rule of modern humanity. But we cannot doubt that it applies to warfare at sea; and that the killing of non-combatant traders is as illegal as it is atrocious. No example of its occurrence can be pointed to, prior to the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-5; and although many instances exist of enemy merchantmen (as distinct from neutral merchantmen) being burnt or sunk, we never find the exigencies of naval warfare being invoked-at any rate, since the days when every ship was a fighter—to justify the burning or sinking of them with their crews on board. Neither a Semmes nor a Grau, who were chivalrous sailors, did or dreamt of it-difficult as their situation was. That the maximum of damage cannot be done by a submarine without recourse to such brutality may be a defect in the submarine, but it does not absolve it from observing the laws of war. The test of the admissibility of a warlike act is: Does it conform to recent precedent ? Judged by this test, the German violence stands condemned.
Retaliation in Trade.
What can hardly be regarded as anything but an unfortunate crescendo of retaliation has seemingly ended in a claim to put the world back into the fifteenth century, and to deny all nations liberty to trade with an enemy. It may be of interest to trace the successive steps in the process. The Declaration of Paris, 1856, proclaiming the inviolability of enemy goods on board of neutral vessels, went further than the age was prepared to go. Availing themselves of the exception from the Declaration of contraband, belligerents have endeavoured, since 1903, to evade the Declaration by treating almost every subject of traffic as contraband. Neutrals are thus put in a far worse position ; for they are no longer paid their freight for the carriage of enemy goods, as in the ante-1856 days—they are actually threatened with confiscation, as being engaged in an illegal traffic. The doctrine of "intention” is brought in, however unmilitary the cargo, and however neutral their port, to condemn them, or at best to subject them to a dilatory and expensive law suit.
This step, adumbrated in 1865 in the American decisions, was supplemented by another of a totally different nature. In 1904-5, automatic contact mines were widely used on the high seas. In this way, the claim of neutrals to continue their trade as in peace time was impaired. It became possible to warn them off a given area by the threat of explosion. The highway of nations became the preserve of the combatant. When this possibility had once been