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

In re Meredith [1840] NSWSupC 54

imprisonment for debt, insolvency, theatre, publican

Supreme Court of New South Wales

Stephen J., 25 September 1840

Source: Sydney Herald, 28 September 1840

JOHN MEREDITH, who had been incarcerated at the suit of Mr. John Kettle, for a debt of £12, for spirits, wines and ales, also applied for his discharge, on the ground that he had not the means of liquidating the debt and costs at present; besides, his whole debts amounted to about £300; he was willing to pay £1 per week so long as he kept his engagement of £3 10s. per week at the Theatre.  He also attributed all his present difficulties, to the delay which took place between his disposing of his business as a publican, for £300, and the time that had elapsed before change could be obtained for a £500 Bank of England note.  This insolvent also deposed, that his benefit at the Theatre amounted, according to Mr. Knight's return, to £110 10s. which had been disposed of as follows:

                        Expenses of the house ....................£55  0  0

                        Printing and advertising ..................   8  0  0

                        Incidental expences  .......................   4  0  0

                        Payment of an old debt to Mr.

                                    Knight .............................. 30  0  0

                        Received in cash  £5 and £3 4s ...........  8   4  0

                        Outstanding, unpaid tickets given

                        over to Mr. Board to collect for the

                        purpose of paying an old debt which

                        he had also threatened to sue for .........  15  0  0

            The Insolvent, also deposed that, had it not been for the manner in which his creditors harrassed him after disposing of his business, (by which the £300 for which he had sold it, had been swallowed up) that he would have paid every man twenty shillings in the pound.  He also informed the judge, that when he commenced business as a publican it was extremely profitable, but it grew gradually and rapidly worse and worse, and before he closed it, he could stand at his own door and count twenty-five houses.  His Honor inquired if the theatre was no supposed to be conducted on the temperance principles; to which the insolvent replied, that, it certainly was, but then all who went there might not be temperate folks at least when there was a good night the heat in doors made them thirsty, and of course they were inclined to spend a little to get the thirst allayed; - he however, could not inform His Honor whether people drank most to keep the heat out in warm weather, or to raise heat in the cold time of year.  His Honor observed, that he had uniformly been led to believe that the trade of a publican was one of the most lucrative in the colony, but he had some doubts on what had been said on that side of the question, as he found that the majority of insolvent cases which came before him, were either those of publicans or lodging-house keepers; he also expressed a hope that the losses which Mr. Meredith had experienced here, and elsewhere, as a publican would be a lesson to him in future, not to embark any more in such an unprofitable calling, and told the insolvent that he must surrender his private estate consisting of plays, dresses, &c., valued at £5 to his opposing creditors, who agreed to receive the balance by instalments of £1 per week.  The surrender being agreed to, the insolvent was discharged.

Published by the Division of Law, Macquarie University