Usury, which originally meant simply interest for the use of money, but which now has come to mean excessive interest, is forbidden by law in many jurisdictions. All interest was deemed contrary to the law in early times;95 though the Jews, and subsequently the Lombards, seem to have been permitted to take it.96 In the time of the Tudors interest at the rate of 10 per cent was legalized by statute, but the recitals of these statutes indicate that it was still regarded as opposed to morality and Christianity.97 The rate of legal interest was gradually reduced, and by statute in the reign of Queen Anne, was made 5 per cent.98 Excessive interest remained illegal in England subject to some statutory exceptions until 1854. If more than the legal rate was contracted for a loan the transaction was void even though in the form of a negotiable instrument which had come into the hands of a holder in due course.99 In consequence of the theories of political economy propounded by Hume, Adam Smith, Bentham, and their successors, the hostility to contracts reserving any rate of interest for which the parties might bargain, abated. In 1830 innocent holders of securities given on usurious consideration were allowed to recover,1 and in 1854 2 all usury laws were repealed. Subsequent experience has shown in England, as well as elsewhere, that it is not safe to leave all classes of the community free to make such bargains for loans as they may see fit, or as their necessities may compel them to make, and in England, as in many jurisdictions of the United States, limitations have been put on certain classes of loans by pawnbrokers, and other money lenders.3
93 Smith v. Western Union Tel. Co., 84 Ky. 664, 2 S. W. 483. A fortiori if there is no contract the public duty of a telegraph company does not compel it to furnish quotations to such a person. Western Union Tel. Co. v. State, 165 Ind. 402, 76 N. £. 100, 3 L. R. A. (N. S.) 153. See also Bryant v. Western Union Tel. Co., 17 Fed. 825.
94 Britt v. Davis, 118 La. 597, 43 So. 248, 118 Am. St. 390.
95 14 Encyc. of the Laws of England (2d ed.), 408. In 8 Bacon's Abr. 312, citing Hawkins' Pleas of the Crown, c. 82, Sec. 4, it is said: "Anciently it was holden to be absolutely unlawful for a Christian to take any kind of usury, and that whosoever was guilty of it was liable to be punished by the censures of the church in his lifetime; and that if after death any one was found to have been a usurer while living, all his chattels were forfeited to the king, and his lands escheated to the lord of the fee."
9614 Encyc. of the LawB of England (2d ed.) 408.
97 "The Statute 13 Eli*, c. 8, which allows 10 per cent, interest, recites, 'that all usury being forbidden by the law of God is sin, and detestable;' and the 21 Jac. 1, reducing the rate to 8 per cent, provides that 'nothing in the law shall be construed to allow the practice of usury in point of religion or conscience;' Rolle says, that this clause was introduced to satisfy the bishops, who would not pass the bill without it. Oliver v. Oliver, Roll. R." 8 Bacon's Abr. 313.
98 12 Anne, Stat. 2, c. 16.