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Insolvency Law

Expert guidance on all aspects of corporate and personal insolvency

10 MAR 2009

Some memorable quotes from the deep mine of insolvency history

During the course of my labours in the mine of insolvency history I have often been tickled by the odd memorable quote here and there. Where possible I have attempted to introduce these memorable turns of phrase into my various writings on the history of the subject. This has been possible in the main, but in some cases it has not so I have decided to share them here. I will add to the list as time elapses and more sources are combed and notable quotes extracted from the rich vein of the documentary history of our subject.

  • 'Finally, a few words must be said about the uninteresting but important subject of bankruptcy jurisdiction……..', from: Jenks, E. A Short History of English Law: From the Earliest Times to the End of the Year 1911. Metheun & Co. Ltd. 1912.
  • “It has been said that insolvency and bankruptcy laws are the poor-laws of the middle classes…that unless the insolvency laws be reformed, the vices of idleness, extravagance, and dishonesty encouraged by them, will destroy the middle classes”, per: Houston Browne, J & Ogbourne, WW. The Bankrupt Law Consolidation Act 1849 [12 & 13 Vic. c.106]; with a popular explanation of the Powers, Duties , Obligations, and Responsibilities of Debtors and Creditors; the facilities for avoiding Bankruptcy, and the Provisions for punishing Fraud. London. 1849.
  • “Mr William Hawes laid down some excellent doctrines before the Committee of the House of Lords last year, and he maintained his ground, though sorely pressed by Lord Brougham, who is unrivalled in logomachy.” from: Editorial. volume 52 Westminster Review, Review of the Law of Bankruptcy, 1849, page 431.
  • “…like most of the interferences with the law of debtor and creditor, oratory and sentiment then took the place of reason and evidence…” from: Editorial. Bankruptcy and Insolvency. Westminster Review, 1846, vol.46, pp.500-516, at page 506.
  • “In a nation of shopkeepers, as Bonaparte called us, it might be expected that, if there was any one branch of our jurisprudence more efficacious and satisfactory than another, it would be that by which the affairs of bankrupts are administered. Yet this is the foulest blot in our whole judicial system.” from: Editorial. Anomalies of the Bankruptcy System. The Bankers’ Magazine and Journal of the Money Market. Vol.13, September, 1853, pp.609-615, at page 609.
  • “our commercial code, so far as bankruptcy administration is concerned, is a national disgrace, and we are compelled to exclaim, with Hamlet, “Reform it altogether”, from: Editorial. Anomalies of the Bankruptcy System. The Bankers’ Magazine and Journal of the Money Market. Vol.13, September, 1853, pp.609-615, at page 615.
  • Bankruptcy 'The state of things which exists when, a man being unable to pay his debts, his solicitor and an accountant divide all his property between them'", from: Blake Odgers, W & Poland, H (Eds). A Century of Law Reform. Macmillan and Co Ltd, London. 1901, at page 14.
  • 'Insolvency is not a very thrilling or amusing subject' per: Lord Mischon, Hansard , 15 January 1985. 
  • 'One must have some sort of occupation nowadays. If I hadn't my debts I shouldn't have anything to think about', from: Oscar Wilde, A Woman of No Importance. 1893.
  • 'Our professional duties consist, not merely in activity and in publication upon some practical part of professional knowledge, which repay themselves; but in availing ourselves of every opportunity to visit and strengthen the route and foundation of the science itself', per: Montagu, B. Some Observations upon the Bill for the Improvement of the Bankrupt Laws. Butterworths, London, 1822, at page 73.
  • 'Commercial morality, and respect for the rule of law, may be said to constitute the very bedrock upon which the law of bankruptcy is founded', from: Fletcher, IF. The Law of Insolvency. 3rd Edition. Sweet & Maxwell Ltd, London, 2003, at paragraph 6-031.
  • 'I like not lawes written in bloud', per: Sir Edward Coke in the House of Commons on May 24, 1621, in response to a suggestion that bankrupts should be whipped to death.
  • 'Know, there are found, on whose dilated breasts The heav'n-descended dove of pity rests, Souls that delight with fostering smiles to cheer The broken heart, and dry affliction's tear; Pluck the wan debtor from his noisome den, And launch him on the cheerful walks of men', from: CUMB, Epilogue.
  • 'The statement in paragraph 35 of the Cork Report that the Act was passed in 1542 (and repeated elsewhere) must now be regarded as erroneous' per: Professor David Graham Q.C. in Graham, D. The formative years of English Insolvency Law - 1543 to 1603 (1995) Phoenix, December 1995, Issue 21, pages 23 to 25.
  • 'Bankrupt [banqueroute, Fr. Bancorotto, Ital] In debt beyond the power of payment', from: Johnson, S. A Dictionary of the English Language; in which the words are deduced from their originals; and illustrated in their different significations, by examples from the best writers; together with a history of language, and English grammar. 2nd Edition. Volume I. Longman, London, 1827.
  • 'Sir, if you spend word for word with me, I shall make your wit bankrupt', per: Shakespeare.
  • 'The King's grown bankrupt like a broken man', per: Shakespeare.
  • 'I do not think I am being unfair to Mr. Blair and his colleagues if I surmise that this is the only government in the world that could entitle bankruptcy legislation as an Enterprise Act', from: Jack Maurice in 'Hurrah for Insolvency' Practical Audit and Accounting, 15 PAA 9, 103-104.
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