The Editor of the "Bankers' Magazine" observes: - "It is hoped that this decision will have the effect of preventing the practice, which has become too common, of taking stolen notes, which cannot be passed in England, to the chief cities of Europe, and there obtaining the amount through money-changers, who afterwards claim the value from the Bank, on the ground that the notes have been taken in due course of business, although, in fact, no sufficient inquiry has been made as to the bona fides of the transaction, or the respectability of the parties presenting them."1
But in a similar action brought by Messrs. Raphael and Co. on the part of Messrs. St. Paul and Co., of Paris, against the Bank of England, for the amount of another of these stolen notes, the verdict was for the plaintiff. The following were the points on which the jury were directed to decide: -
"1. Was the money paid? 2. Were the notices served on St. Paul and Co.? 3. Did they know of, and had they the means of knowledge of the robbery at the time they discounted the note? The jury, after retiring for three-quarters of an hour, found, in answer to these questions: - 1. That Messrs. St. Paul gave full value for the note. 2. That the notices were served. 3. That the notices were not taken proper care of, and that St. Paul had the means of knowledge if he had taken proper care of the notices, but that he did not know of the loss at the time; and, lastly, that the plaintiff took the note bond fide.
"Verdict for the plaintiff - £534. Execution to be stayed, but no points reserved."
Any material alteration of a bill of exchange vitiates the bill, and it cannot be legally enforced against any of the parties, unless the alteration be made before the bill be accepted, and also before it has passed out of the hands of the drawer.
Thus, if a bill be left for acceptance by the drawer, and the drawee alter the date, time, or the amount of bill, and then accept it, the alteration does not affect the validity of the bill: but if the bill be left for acceptance by a third party, and the drawee then alters and accepts the bill, the bill is vitiated. Any alteration in the date, sum, time, name of drawer or payee, or appointing a new place of payment, is a material alteration, and requires a new stamp. But any alteration made only with a view of correcting a mistake does not vitiate a bill, provided it be made with the concurrence of all the parties. If a drawee accepts a bill, and before he gives the bill out of his possession cancels his acceptance, he cannot be compelled to pay it.
1 "Bankers Magazine," March, 1855.
A bill must be presented in reasonable time. But what is a reasonable time is a question of consideration for the jury, and the decision has varied according to circumstances. If a bill be presented at a banker's after the hour of business, the presentment is not in reasonable time. Nevertheless such a presentment is a legal presentment, if the banker or any person on his behalf should be there to give an answer to the party presenting it.
Cheques, and notes payable on demand, should also be presented for payment within a reasonable time after they are received. It has been held that a person who receives a cheque is not bound to present it at the banker's till the next morning; and if the bank was at a distance, he was not bound to put the cheque into the post-office until the next day. But, perhaps, it would not be safe to rely upon these decisions. No general rule can be given; for the time which may be reasonable in one case may be unreasonable in another.
If a banker receives a bill or note by post, he is not required to present it until the next day.
"A man taking a bill or note payable on demand, or a cheque, is not bound, laying aside all other business, to present or transmit it for payment the very first opportunity. It has long since been decided, in numerous cases, that, though the party by whom the bill or note is to be paid live in the same place, it is not necessary to present the instrument for payment till the morning next after the day on which it was received. And later cases have established, that the holder of a cheque has the whole of the banking hours of the next day within which to present it for payment." 1
In the following case it was decided that the presentment of a bill of exchange at the Clearing-house is a legal presentment.
"On the 11th September, between one and two o clock, the defendants gave the plaintiffs a cheque upon Bloxam and Co., the bankers, in payment for goods. The plaintiffs lodged the cheque with Messrs. Harrison, the bankers, a few minutes after four; and they presented it between five and six to Bloxam and Co., who marked it as good. It was proved to be the usage among London bankers not to pay any cheque presented by or on behalf of another banker after four o'clock, but merely to mark it if good, and pay it next day at the clearing-house. On the 12th at noon Harrison's clerk took this cheque to the clearinghouse, but no person attended for Bloxam and Co., who stopped payment at nine on that morning, and the cheque was therefore treated as dishonoured. The plaintiffs, in going with the cheque to Harrison's, passed Bloxam's house. On a case stating these facts, the court held that there had been no laches in the plaintiffs, in not presenting the cheque to Bloxam and Co. on the 11th for payment, or in his bankers in not presenting it at the banking house, but merely at the clearing-house, and therefore gave judgment for the plaintiff." 2
1 Byles's Law of Bills of Exchange, 15th ed., p. 280.
2 Bayley on Bills of Exchange.
Bills may be negotiated after they are due, but the party receiving an over-due bill cannot acquire a claim which the party holding the bill did not possess. For instance, one party may draw an accommodation bill upon another. As in this case no value had been given, the drawer could not sue the accepter for the amount. But if the drawer had passed this bill for value to a third party before it became due, that party could sue the accepter. But if the drawer passed it to a third party even for value after it became due, the third party could not sue the accepter, but would stand in the same situation as the drawer.