Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

charitable and the needy, the deserving and the undeserving, the philosopher and the foundling, all alike draw at sight, and find their drafts promptly honored. The man of science solicits his judgment as to the practicability of his forthcoming invention; the artist craves his favor for his works; and the author looks to him for patronage. His time and his money are thought to be alike at the service of every adventurer, his advice and counsel are freely demanded, and in fine he is made the confident, and frequently the servant, of the public. In view of all this, he surely merits the highest place which society can grant.

Occupying, then, this desirable position, does it not become the young merchant to fit himself to adorn it? If so much power for good or evil is given to his position, should he not be fitted to discharge the trust which society reposes in him? “Whatever is worth doing is worth doing well,is a trueism which cannot be too often repeated. As much preparation is necessary in assuming the occupation of the merchant as in embracing any of the learned professions, though this preparation is of a different sort. An idea commonly prevails, among certain people, that nothing is requisite for success in trade but industry and attention. With these qualities a man may succeed, though they form but a small part of the essential qualifications of a merchant. There is scarcely any branch of knowledge which may not be advantageously used in the counting-house, and a liberal education tells as well on the merchant's cash-book as in the lawyer's briefs.

A want of proper preparation for this occupation is the cause of much difficulty, especially in the West and South. À worthy farmer has among his progeny a boy ioo lazy or too proud to work in the fields, whose ambition is directed to what he considers the luxurious ease of the store-keeper. The boy is forth with sent to school for a quarter, where he gets a smattering of the elemental rules of arithmetic, and comes home prepared to invest a thousand dollars or so of his father's money in the purchase of a stock in trade. For this purpose he comes to the city, where he is laughed at by the clerks who accept his tempting cash, and give him in return, in some cases, whatever is least saleable in their stock. The young man returns home and commences the life of a merchant. He has some shrewdness, and the necessities of his location favor him, so that he makes a little money. His father and himself consider this pitiful success a proof of his capacity; and his growing ambition and increased confidence induce him to remove to the nearest city, where he will have a wider field in which to display his powers. To the city then he comes, and opens his market. Practice, judgment, and foresight, none of which he possesses, are all arrayed against him.Competition, of which he has not dreamed, contributes to feiter him. He struggles for a little while with his own inefficiency, and then sinks, carrying with him in his fall the hard-earned gains of those who had favored him. Of how many, in every reader's experience, is this a faithful history?

Our nation is a commercial one, its merchants are its magnates; they really rule, whoever may seem to hold the reins of power. How important is it, then, that they should be competent to their position, and how absurd it is to suppose that so responsible an office is to be assumed without careful preparation. The various avocations of business are not to be undertaken with any hope of success, either by men devoid of fitness or by mere machines. The first of these classes never succeed; the last sometimes do; but their success is unworthy. They are harnessed to their business, and it conducts them, not they it. They pursue a beaten track, without knowledge or judgment, and may plod on to fortune; though it is far more likely, in the present age, that their bolder compeers will outstrip them in the race, and leave their sorry ox-cart stalled in the mud of their own dullness.

Too many persons, ignorant of the duties of the counting-house, look upon it as a tread-mill, where the same ceaseless round of unvarying duties is daily performed. There are even those young men who enter its portals with this belief fixed in their minds. Such men never beome liberal, enlightened, and intelligent merchants; it is not these who build libraries like Astor, or add to a nation's treasures like Smithson, or brighten the luster of its greatness like GRINNELL. Success in trade, as in everything else, depends on a correct conception of what is to be done, a sagacity to discover the means of doing it, and an energy to accomplish the result. Very great talent, in the ordinary sense of that term, is not recessary to successful business, but the cultivation of certain qualities of mind, always improves the chances for prosperity. Judgment of expediency, insight into character, tact, quickness of comprehension, and acquaintence with the present history of the world, are perhaps the main essentials of a business education. It is surely not necessary to attempt to prove the proposition that mental cultivation, of whatever sort, tends to brighten and develop all these qualities. It has been already urged, by some, that a liberal education has a tendency to unfit a man for the daily avocations of trade. This is only true in so much as he rejects the practical lessons of the counting-house. It is here that the faculties are best developed, that precision, regularity, and order is best taught, that the mental habit of generalization is best enforced, and that practicality most wisely teaches how to apply the information already gained. There was a time, in England, and even in some parts of the continent, where the merchant was esteemed as the most accomplished of all men, not merely in his own little circle of trade, but also in a comprehensive knowledge of the world and its history, and in all the graces of society. That time should return in the United States. Our merchants hold the peace of the world in their hands, and they would be little competent to the noble position assigned them, if they all esteemed plodding dullness and wilful ignorance as the proper requisites of their occupation. There is no class of men, whether at the bar, the forum, the pulpit, the library, or the workshop, who would not be benefited by the practical experience and intelligent observation required in the counting-house. And the counting-house should be conscious of its nobility, and while it should sufier no one to trench upon its dignity, it should zealously labor, by thought and attention, to compel all the world to acknowledge the virtue and value of its lessons.

Art. VII.-THE LAW MERCHANT.

NUMBER VI.

THE PROPER CONTENTS OF A RECEIPT.

The following is a full and complete receipt, adapted to a fictitious case:

The case is, that Mr. A B has dealt with his grocer, Mr. C I, a long time, without making any payments; and now when the bill, amounting to seventy-five dollars, comes in at the end of the year, he thinks it is too large. Some articles are charged that he is very sure he never ordered, and two or three he thinks are charged too high. He persuades the grocer to deduct five dollars from the amount; and, this agreement having been made, promises to give him in payment a note made by his fellow-townsman, X Y Z, for seventy dollars, which he received a few weeks ago, for work done, and which will soon fall due.

The next day A B sends his son, E B, to the creditor's store with the note. The grocer himself is out; his brother, F D, is there, however, in charge of the store, and he, having been told by his brother how the affair has been settled, takes the note, and gives the following receipt :

Received, Jannary 10, 1856, from A B, by hand of E B, the note of X Y Z for $70 (seventy dollars) to be, when paid, in full of all accounts to date, for groceries sold.

OD, .

by F D. Thus, a full and complete receipt states : That a payment has been received. The date of the payment. Its amount.

From whom it was received, and on whose behalf; if on behalf of another he paid it.

By whom it was received, and on whose behalf; if on behalf of another he received it.

To what debt or purpose it is to be applied.
In what currency or medium it was made.

1. The effect and operation of the admission that payment has been received, have already been discussed.

2. The date of the payment is usually inserted. The date of the receipt itself will be understood to be the date of the payment, where nothing appears to the contrary, inasmuch as receipts are by usage given at the time of the payment. Should the date be misstated by mistake, the error might be explained by satisfactory evidence.

3. The amount of the payment is almost invariably inserted. The exception is, that sometimes when persons who have had numerous dealings have paid and received the balance due, leaving the formal seitlement of the accounts to a more convenient time, they sometimes come together to put in writing that there is nothing due to either party. In such a case there is not, at the time of settlement, any payment to be made-a simple written admission that all moneys due have been received is a proper receipt. But such cases are comparatively rare.

4. It is desirable that the receipt should show who made the payment. If the debtor pays the money himself, his name is usually mentioned ; if he sends it by an agent or messenger, it is proper so to state.

5. It is, of course, necessary that a receipt should show to whom the payment was made, else it would be impossible to know who was bound by it, and it would be useless. Where the receipt is signed by the very person to whom the payment is ultimately to go, his signature at the foot is sufficient. Where the receipt is made out and signed by an agent of the real payee, there are two ways of drawing it up, suitable for the two different classes of agents.

The first way is for the agent to write the receipt throughout, as if the payee himself were to sign it, then to write the payee's name at the foot, as if he had signed it, and then underneath to sign his own name, with the prefix"per" or "by," to signify the agency. This form is suitable to be given by an agent who acts as a mere messenger to take the money, and is not authorized to assume any responsibility or exercise discretion in respect to the case.

The other mode is, for the agent to draw up the receipt for himself, and sign it in his own name, mentioning in the body of it, however, that he receives the money "for" or " on account of” his principal. This form is suitable to be employed by an agent of more extensive powers-one who acts according to his own judgment and discretion on behalf of his employer.

If a customer were to call at a store to pay his bill, and the clerk in the store should receive the money, the first of these forms would be a proper one for him to use. If the bill should be sent to a lawyer to collect, and the customer should pay it to him, he would most naturally give a receipt drawn in the second form.

6. The most important of all the special clauses of the receipt is that which defines the debt or purpose to which the payment is to be applied.

In a former article on the application of payments, we explained the importance of preserving evidence of the application directed by the payer, which may very easily be done, by mentioning it in the receipt. The directions usually inserted are of several kinds.

Payments upon account. When, by reason of haste or other circumstances, a payment is made with intention to leave the application of it to future adjustment, it is common to state that the money is “received upon account."

* Payments upon a specified debt. Where the party paying is desirous to limit the application of the fund to one particular debt, he will be wise to take a receipt mentioning this application. Where this is done, and the debt intended to be paid is clearly distinguished, the receipt, as evidence of the application, can only be set aside by proof of fraud or serious mistake.

Payments in full. There is one admission which is often inserted in a receipt, and has a very important influence in modifying its operation and effect, rendering it far more conclusive and binding than it otherwise would have been. This is, the admission that payment has been received “in full."

Where there has been a difference of opinion as to the amount of a debt, and the question has been compromised, and a less amount than was claimed has been paid and accepted in satisfaction of the whole, it is de

sirable the receipt should state that the sum has been received "in full” of the claim. Such a compromise having been made, and being proved by the receipt, the creditor will not afterwards be allowed to recover the balance of his claim. A receipt for a sum“ in full ” of a debt mentioned, is evidence of something more than the mere payment of that sum. The law infers from it an adjustment of the amount due, after consideration of the rights of both parties; and payment of the amount specified, as final satisfaction of those rights. It is true, that if the receipt was obtained by fraud, it can be set aside; or if for any reason the compromise itself which is recorded is not binding upon the parties, then, when that is made to appear, the receipt will fall with the compromise. But, as a general rule, where there is any doubt as to the rights of a creditor, or any honest controversy upon them, and, without being imposed upon, he gives a receipt in full for a less sum than he is entitled to, he is bound forever brit.

This principle is often extended to whole classes of claims. It is often the case that when parties have settled accounts together, and one of them has paid the balance ascertained to be due from him, that he takes a receipt for his payment “in full of all accounts." This settles up all matters of account, so that, except in extraordinary circumstances, the other party cannot afterwards claim any more, or re-open the settlement thus recorded. Such a receipt, however, does not affect claims which are not properly matters of account.

Upon a still more extensive and thorough settlement, parties give and take receipts “in full of all demands." These receipts prevent any future claim for any demand whatever, existing and known, or which ought to have been known, to the parties at the time-unless, indeed, one of them can show that he was under some serious and excusable mistake. To show the unwillingness to set aside receipts in full which prevails among courts, we may refer to a case lately decided in Maine.*

A man named Cash brought an action against one Freeman upon a note for twelve dollars. The note was dated January 11, 1851, and was made payable in “ July next.”

In defense, Freeman simply offered a receipt, in the following words, signed by Mr. Cash :

Bridgeton, May 30, 1851. Received of Nathaniel D. Freeman, one dollar fifty cents, in full of all demands to this date.

The reader will notice that at the date of this receipt the note was not due, so that it is very likely that Cash received the money for some other c'aim, and supposed that the words “in full of all demands” would not include the note; or it might be that he did not think he could collect the note from Freeman, and chose to accept a dollar-and-a-half rather than lose the whole, and that the receipt was really intended to cover the note.

The judge before whom the case was laid decided that Cash was bound by his receipt, and could not claim payment of the note.

" The case," said he, “is presented for decision without any explanation of the occasion of inaking the receipt. The only proof of any transactions or dealings between the parties is found in the making of the note and

• Cash ds. Freeman, 35 Maine Reports, 483.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »