Skip to Content

Decisions of the Superior Courts of New South Wales, 1788-1899

In re Blackman and others [1831] NSWSupC 84

insolvency - imprisonment for debt, escape

Supreme Court of New South Wales

Dowling J., 19 July 1833

Source: Sydney Gazette, 23 July 1831[1 ]



Mr. Justice Dowling and two Assessors sat this day to try cases of alleged insolvency, under the provisions of the Act of Council, where the amount of debts exceeds £250.

William Blackman was declared insolvent, having satisfied the Court, on examination, that his losses had accrued on account of an unfortunate speculation in an hotel at Windsor.  The insolvent's schedule stated his debts to be £664; to meet which there were available assets to the amount of £230.

Wm. Panton was also declared insolvent.  Amount of debts, as per schedule, £419 15s. 11d.the available assets consisting of cattle and agricultural implements.  The insolvent attributed his losses to the very great depreciation in the value of stock, in which he had speculated largely.

Henry Douglas was next put into the box to claim a declaration of insolvency, but we did not happen to catch the precise amount of his schedule.  The insolvent and several witnesses underwent very lengthy examinations, in the course of which the following facts were elicited: - It appeared that during the last three years, he had carried on the business of an auctioneer and general agent in Sydney.  Amongst others with whom he had dealings, was a Mr. Major Rhode, for whom, it seems he had endorsed bills to the amount of £800, taking, as a collateral security, a warrant of attorney on Rhode's property.  He had also become possessed of another warrant of attorney for £4,300, executed by Rhode to a Mr. Stubbs, the insolvent's former partner, to save his (Rhode's) effects from being sold, under an execution, by the Sheriff.  Under this warrant of attorney, Douglass entered up judgment, took out an execution, and sold off Rhode, becoming himself the purchaser of a great part of the property.  It also appeared that he had received various goods from several parties, for sale, the proceeds of which he had not handed over.  Amongst this property, was some placed in his hands by a Captain Sutherland, now absent from the Colony, and which property, he (Douglass) shipped on board the brig Celia, for Van Dieman's Land, and had himself attempted to make his escape in the same vessel, but was subsequently captured, owing to her being obliged to put back through stress of weather.  It also appeared that, while he was in gaol, and pending the enquiry into his alledged insolvency, he had sued for and recovered various sums, in the Court of Requests, and appropriated the money to his own house.

The learned Judge, in the course of the examination expressed his surprise that the insolvent had not been tried for fraud; and in summing up the evidence to the assessors, regretted his want of power to remand him to prison for three years, as he certainly would be, if the case came before a Court in England.  Under the local Act, however, the only question the Assessors had to try, was, solvent or insolvent; but, even, if they should be of opinion, upon the whole of the case, that he was not able to pay twenty shillings in the pound, the Court would take care that he should not be liberated, until the consent of two-thirds of the creditors had been obtained.

The Assessors found a verdict, that Henry Douglass was insolvent, and he was remanded into custody.

Emanuel Solomon, an alleged insolvent, was next called up, and handed in his schedule, setting forth the amount of debts at £3284; credits, £2500, made up of available assets, losses in trade, &c.  The applicant stated that he had been in partnership with his brother, as general dealers, in George-street; but that, some time back, he withdrew from the firm, receiving a bonus of £1250 for his share in the concern, with which he set up in business, but had been unsuccessful in his ordinary calling, as well as in a speculative trip to Van Diemen's Land.

The disclosure of the applicant's affairs, not only on the face of his books, but from his own statements, elicited in the course of a sifting cross-examination of several hours, was so mystical and unsatisfactory, that the Assessors declared Emanuel Solomon a solvent person.

Upon leaving the Court, he was arrested by a Sheriff's Officer, from whom, after a scuffle, he managed to get loose; and ran down Castlereagh-street, pursued, in full chase, by the bailiffs, from whom, however, he finally escaped.



[1 ] See also Australian, 22 July 1831; Sydney Herald, 25 July 1831.

Published by the Division of Law, Macquarie University