This section is from the book "The Law Of Contracts", by William Herbert Page. Also available from Amazon: Commercial Contracts: A Practical Guide to Deals, Contracts, Agreements and Promises.
Neither common law nor equity, as such, had bankruptcy jurisdiction, and neither of them had any general principles of bankrupt law. The contest for jurisdiction among the king's courts and the determination to outbid each other in granting efficient remedies, led to arrest of the defendant as an incident to the ordinary action; and his imprisonment for debt if he was unable to satisfy a judgment rendered against him. At the same time, and partly because of the severity of the law against the person of the debtor, the machinery for attacking conveyances in defraud of creditors was very limited. Legislation finally came to the rescue, in part to give more efficient remedies to the creditors in case of conveyance of property by the debtor in order to defraud his creditors; and in part to give to a debtor who had complied with the provisions of the bankrupt act an opportunity to escape the extreme consequences of imprisonment for debt. The early statutes fell far short of accomplishing either of these purposes, and they were confined to merchants and traders. The later statutes have carried these underlying principles out in considerable detail.1
1 1I Blacks tone's Commentaries, 285.
2 See Sec. 3156.