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When arrested and held to bail, and after being served with a declaration, you may plead a general issue, which brings you to trial the sooner of any plea that you can put in; but if you want to vex your plaintiff, put in a special plea; and if in custody, get your attorney to plead in your name, which will cost you 1l. 1s., your plaintiff 311. as expenses. If you do not mean to try the cause, you have no occasion to do so till your plaintiff gets judgment against you; he must in the Term after you put in a special plea, send in what is termed the paper-book, which you must return with 7s. 6d, otherwise you will not put him to half the expenses. When he proceeds, and has received a final judgment against you, get your attorney to search the office appointed for that purpose in the Temple, and when he finds that judgment is actually signed, he must give notice to the plaintiff's attornies to attend the master to tax his costs, at which time your attorney must have a writ of error ready and give it to the plaintiff's attorney before the master, which puts him to a very great expense, as he will have the same charges to go over again. The writ of error will cost you 4l. 4s.: if you want to be further troublesome to your plaintiff, make your writ of error returnable in Parliament, which costs you 8l. 8s., and your plaintiff 100l.; should he have the courage to follow you through all your proceedings, then file a bill in the exchequer, which will cost about five or six pounds, and if he answers it, it will cost him 80l. more; after this you may file a bill in chancery, which will cost about 10l, and if he does not answer this bill, you will get an injunction, and at the same time an attachment from the court against him, and may take his body for contempt of court in not answering your last bill; you may file your bill in the court of chancery instead of the exchequer, only the latter costs you the least. If you are at any time served with a copy of a writ, take no further notice of it than by keeping it: when you are declared against, do not fail to put in a special plea immediately, and most likely you will hear no more of the business, as your plaintiff will probably not like to incur any further expense, after having been at so much.

Defendant's Cost.

Common Plea.......£0 3 6
Special ditto...................................1 1 0
Paper book.....................................0 7 6
Writ of error...................................4 4 0
Ditto returnable
  in Parliament................................8 8 0
Filing bill in exchequer....................6 6 0
Ditto in Chancery..........................10 0 0
                                               £30 0  0

Plaintiff's Cost.

Answer to special plea..............£30 0 0
Answer to writ of error.............100 0 0
Answer to bill in exchequer.........84 0 0
Ditto ditto in chancery..............100 0 0
                                           £314 0 0

Thus have debtors the legal means of harassing creditors, without putting themselves to a tenth-part of the expenses to which they subject the opposite party, whose money or property they had previously run through or squandered!

Further returns of the operation of this court have already been ordered to be presented to parliament, as the law constituting expires this session ; but they are so voluminous that they have not even yet been prepared. The preceding returns only apply to 7,509 petitioners; but down to the present time they amount to near nineteen thousand!

The commissioner is Mr. Serjeant Runnington. He sits about four days in every fortnight; and is attended by barristers, and agents, who have no occasion to be regularly admitted attorneys. The commissioner's salary is 1,000l.; and by his perseverance and decision, he has greatly improved the court. He sits in the guildhall of Westminster.—The Insolvent Debtors' acts must come under the consideration of parliament during the present session, as it is to be determined whether this court is to be continued or not. We fear it will be found necessary to extend these acts so injurious to the honest and fair tradesman, for three to five years longer; such are the necessities of the times.

The salaries of the judges, it ought always to be remembered, are exclusive of fees; and the fees receivable by the lord chancellor and the chief justices in particular are enormous.

Related pages:


Lord Chancellor's Court

Vice-Chancellor's Court



King's Bench

Common Pleas

Exchequer Chamber

Courts of Requests

Court of Admiralty

Doctors' Common

Insolvent Debtors' Court

Mode of making a Judge

Old Bailey Sessions

Inns of Court

The Temple, Inner, Middle

Lincoln's Inn

Gray's Inn

The Inns of Chancery

Source: Leigh's New Picture of London. Printed for Samuel Leigh, 18, Strand;
by W. Clowes, Northumberland Court. 1819