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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 30

Accommodation Bills

Accommodation Bills.

There is another kind of credit which is just as pernicious as, or even more so than what is considered the legitimate credit in trade. I refer to the use of Accommodation Bills. It may be that no one will plead guilty to having created this kind of credit, but we all know that hundreds of traders find temporary shelter from the storm of trouble in the haven which the Accommodation Bill provides. Herbert Spencer calls the manufacturer of an Accommodation Bill a forger, and indeed, when his action is examined it is impossible to shield him from that accusation. Practically, an Accommodation Bill is a forgery. It is an error to suppose that forgery is limited to the production of documents that are physically false—that contain signatures or other symbols which are not what they appear to be; forgery, properly understood, equally includes the production of documents that are morally false. "What constitutes the crime committed in forging a banknote? Not the mere mechanical imitation. This is but a means to the end; and taken alone, is no crime at all. The crime consists in deluding others into the acceptance of what seems to be a representative of so much money, but which actually represents nothing. It matters not whether the delusion is effected by copying the forms of the letters and figures, as in a forged bank note, or by copying the form of expression, as in an Accommodation Bill. In either case a semblance of value is given to that which actually has no value; and it is in giving false appearance of value that crime consists. When A and B page 11 agree, the one to draw, and the other to accept a bill of £1,000, for "value received;" while in truth there has been no sale of goods between them, or no value received; the transaction is not simply an embodied lie, but it becomes a living and active lie. Whoever discounts the bill does so in the belief that B, having become possessed of £1000 worth of goods, will, when the bills falls due, have either the £1000 worth of goods, or some equivalent with which to meet it. Did he know that there were no such goods in the hands of either A or B, and no other property available for liquidating the bill; he would not discount it—he would not lend money to a man of straw without security.