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3. A repeal of these laws would have a tendency to abolish brokerage commissions upon illegal negotiations. It is well known that, under the existing order of things, very few negotiations, for the loan of money at illegal interest, are made without the agency of a broker. The broker, of course, receives a regular compensation for effecting the transaction, which is generally one quarter of one per cent. upon the gross amount of the loan, and this commission is always paid by the borrower. A is in want of a loan of eight thousand dollars for two months; he employs B, a broker, to procure him the money, which he accordingly does, from C, a capitalist. C's charge for interest is one and a half per cent a month, amounting in all to $240-B's charge for commissions is one quarter per cent. upon the whole sum, amounting to $20. Thus we see, that A is obliged to pay $260 for the use of $8000 for two months. It is self evident, if the object of the parties to a contract of this nature, in employing the broker, be the evasion of the penalty attached to a breach of the usury laws, that the repeal of those laws would altogether abolish such an agency for such a purpose, and the borrower and lender would then negotiate with each other in propriis personis ; so that, in the case we have supposed, A would have only $240 to pay for his loan, instead of $260.
We know it is adversely asserted, that the repeal of the law would not remove the necessity of a broker's agency; and this is strenuously insisted upon, on the ground that brokers are continually employed in the purchase and sale of real estate, and the stocks of incorporated companies. But the circumstances, under which the different agencies are conducted, destroy the analogy. In the first place, there is no regular place of resort, where buyers and sellers of real estate can meet for the purpose of conducting their negotiations. If a man wishes to buy a house, he never thinks of going to the Exchange to effect his object, (unless in pursuance of a sheriff's advertisement,) because it is not customary for holders thus to offer their property at private sale. A broker's office takes the place of an Exchange, and a register is there kept of much of the real estate in the market. This is the usual way in which holders advertise for sale. Purchasers, however, in addition to these, are actuated by other motives. Houses are not sold at a regu lar market rate, as money is,--their prices do not so much
1 So in the case of loans upon real security, -agents are in general employed to effect them. Such transactions require much investigation, both as respects the value of the property and the validity of the title. Formal papers are also essential. Securities of this description are very different from commercial papers, and may well demand for their negotiation an intermediate person.
depend upon the demand and supply, but are influenced more by the character of the seller, and the fancy of the buyer. A great deal of bargaining, therefore, is sometimes required in making a purchase; and thus a broker is employed by the purchaser, in consequence of his superior knowledge of the value of real estate, and skill in conducting such a negotiation.
So also in the purchase of bank and other stocks, a skilful broker, by a species of finesse, may often operate several per cent. more advantageously at the stock and exchange board, than the actual purchaser could do for himself in the street. The commissions paid to the agents in both these cases, are therefore well applied, and are perhaps often the means of saving a hundred times the amount to the principals.
Now, the lending and borrowing of money upon a promissory note is so simple a transaction, that no skill whatever is necessary to effect it. The first thing to be ascertained, is the current value of money in the market; than which, as we have said, nothing is more easy, for it is a matter of notoriety to every one who resorts to the Exchange; this being ascertained, the borrower walks up to one of the numerous capitalists who throng the place “where merchants most do congregate," hands him the business or accommodation paper (as the case may be) which he wants discounted, gets the money at the rate agreed on between the parties, and the affair is settled. It is no argument on the other side, to say, that brokerage is so trifling as not to be worthy of consideration in this discussion. Reflect, for a moment, upon the vast sums that are loaned in this market by private capitalists,—they annually amount to millions of dollars, and the broker pockets his quarter per cent. commission upon every dollar of it. It matters not whether the loan be long or short-for a month or for a year—the commission is still the same.
We assert, then, that the act of 1723 is not only totally inefficacious, but actually promotes that which it is intended to prevent-upon this ground alone it should be immediately repealed. We believe that we have already demonstrated this to be the effect of the law, and it will not be necessary to pursue this point further. But it is argued by the advocates of limited rates, that the inefficiency of a law, provided that law be aimed at the prevention of crime, is not a good reason for its repeal. We have already shown that, according to the Bible itself, usury is not a crime; but, independently of that, we take leave to enquire, why should our statute book be lumbered with an accumulation of laws which never have effected any useful purpose? “If the law does no good,” we are answered, “neither does it do any harm, and therefore we would have it remain. Even upon this supposition we would advocate a repeal; but
we say that the act of 1723 does work an infinite deal of harm, and we trust we have made this apparent.
If the law attaching the penalty of death to the crime of murder were inoperative to such an extent as in no degree to prevent the commission of murder, we would rescind it; because we think that an inoperative law is worse than no law at all. This, however, is a matter concerning which different opinions may be entertained,—but if this law against murder were not only ineffectual in preventing, but actually tended to produce murders, we are unable to see how a difference of opinion could exist on the subject.
It is sufficiently obvious, from what we have seen, that the present law against usury is worse than inefficient. It is equally clear that the ingenuity of man could not devise a law which would be an efficient substitute. In a community which is in its character so essentially commercial, if it were possible to frame an effective law, it would not for a moment be tolerated; and we do believe that it is nothing but the total incompetency of the act of 1723, which prevents the people from raising an united voice against it.
There is one thing which cannot but strike every reflecting person in regard to this act; we mean, the corrupting influence which it exercises upon the morals of the people. The second section runs thus :-
“If any person or persons whatsoever do or shall receive or take more than six pounds per cent. per annum, on any such bond or contract as aforesaid, upon conviction thereof, the person or persons so offending shall forfeit the money and other things lent, one half thereof to the governor, for the support of the government, and the other half to the person who shall sue for the same, by action of debt, bill, plaint or information, in any court of record within this province, wherein no essoin, protection or wager of law, or any more than one imparlance, shall be allowed."
Now can any man read this most iniquitous statute and fail to see that it holds out a reward to the blackest treachery and ingratitude? We have no reference now to those common informers, who, for the sake of pecuniary gain, make it a business to prosecute for every breach of law to which a money penalty is attached. Such characters, we all agree, are despicable enough. But when a party to a solemn contract, entered into for the purposes of mutual benefit, is enabled, nay, encouraged, by the law to avoid that contract by the deliberate violation of his manly honour, we earnestly protest against the longer continuance of such a blot upon the pages of our statute book.
The common informer may seek to justify his business by the benefit resulting to society from the punishment of crime.
The borrower at unlawful interest can have no such justification, for he knows full well that society could derive no advantage from the punishment of usury. It is the lender alone who would be affected by his treachery.
We here conclude our remarks upon this subject; as an apology for them, we have placed at the head of this paper, the title of Mr. Bentham's treatise. We perceive that the committee of the legislature of New York, appointed to enquire into the expediency of repealing the usury laws of that state, have adopted this treatise as their report. Hence its republication. The work is pregnant with striking facts and irresistible reasoning, and we would be well pleased if the legislature of Pennsylvania would profit by the example.
Art. VIII.--La Esmeralda, opera en quatre actes, musique
de Mademoiselle Louise Bertin, paroles de M. Victor Hugo: représenté pour la première fois sur le Théatre de L'Academie Royale de Musique. Le 14 Novembre, 1836.
The grand opera of Paris, technically termed the Royal Academy of Music, is the most finished and accomplished institution, of its kind, that the world has known. A magnificent salle, a stage of unusual dimensions, an orchestra composed of eighty chosen graduates of the Royal Conservatory, an array of vocal and dramatic talent of a high order, a numerous troupe of well drilled choristers, an unrivalled corps de ballet, led by the elite of all European dancers--to which is added every possible contribution, of architecture, of scenery, of decorations and of appropriate costume, towards enhancing the brilliancy of the spectacle—all these elements of beauty and of splendour render it a barometer of the musical taste of the Parisians. Hear the same walls, which near seventy years ago rung with enthusiastic admiration of Glück's Iphigenia, now re-echoing the thousand continued plaudits elicited by the admirable productions of Meyer Beer!
The influence of this institution seemed to have attained its maximum in 1832--a year stamped indelibly as an era in the annals of music. Rossini had retired upon his laurels--the great Italian had become indolent, satiate of fame--mayhap his resources somewhat impaired, and he himself too prudent to destroy, as many others have done, with his own hands, living fame and a bright prospect of immortality. Some years previous he had contracted to deliver a partition every two years to the Grand Opera. Moïse and the Siege of Corinth (lately
reproduced with little success) are generally known to our musical readers ; not so the Comte Ory, an exquisite two act musical comedy, which succeeded them. Its hero, the count, is a French, in the same degree as il dissoluto punito of Mozart was a cosmopolite, Don Giovanni. He has not even existed long enough to know the value of a “catalogue” of his bonnes fortunes, but lives rovingly on, the creature of impulse and of caprice. In the opening act he is disguised as a hermit—his cell without the walls of a castle—the fair châtelaine of which “hath caught his eye.” Nothing can be more seducing than
“Que le destin prospère.” in which he gives his benediction to the troupe of pretty peasants who deposite, before his door, their offerings of fruits and flowers. It entices from the castle its dame and her attendants ---see how confidingly they enter the net of assumed sanctity! The count is in ecstasy--she invites him to shrive her within her domicile--nay more, she takes him by the hand--when lo ! as they approach the drawbridge, enter the count's tutor, who proclaims a name which fills with terror, yet with curiosity, every female bosom:
“ C'est le Comte Ory." In an instant the cowl is withdrawn, the stole cast off, and, the beard once removed, behold in lieu of anchorite a gay young knight. A moment before we were melted by the touching pathos of his benediction--now listen to his audacious defiance! The curtain drops.
At the opening of the second act we are within the castle--a tempest peals through its battlements--in the interval between two fortissimi crescendos of thunder, we hear that unrivalled quartett of female voices supplicating refuge from the storm,
Voyez notre peine ;" and the seneschal admits a band of pilgrim nuns, fleeing before the blasts of heaven, and the impious persecution of ce méchant Comte Ory! a supper of fruits and milk is served up to these sanct maidens who, strange to say, seem not to relish such frugal fare. The Lady Isabelle retires and leaves the holy sisters to their devotions. But, oh surprise! the cloak and hood fall off-for nuns, read reckless knights—their leader the Comte Ory! One of the party enters with two jars of wine, and the walls resound with the revelry of
"A la bonne folie
A ce joyeux festin."