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Colonial Cases

Cohen v. Morocco Exchange and Publishing Co, 1892

[breach of contract]

Cohen v. Morocco Exchange and Publishing Co. Ltd

Consular Court, Tangier
Source:  The Leeds Mercury, 14 April 1892



The "Times of Morocco," of the 2nd inst., reports an extraordinary action brought before the Consular Court at Tangier, by a Mr. Cohen, a native-born Jew, who claimed to be an English subject, against the Morocco Exchange and Publishing Company Limited, for breach of a contract to publish and print a newspaper entitled "Safnat Paneah."  The damages were laid at £100, plus 700 dols, for loss sustained.

The plaintiff, on being examined, stated that about the beginning of November last he went to the printing-office of the company to buy an Arabic Vocabulary, and there saw a book of specimen types, including some Hebrew characters, when the idea suddenly struck him that it would be a good thing for him to establish a Hebrew newspaper, if the company would print and publish it for him.  He was not possessed of any capital, but he had a claim of about 700 dols. on his late brother's estate, for which he had been waiting for more than a year or two, and had consequently run into debt, as he had no regular employment, but he thought there ought to be about 360 dols. left after his debts were paid. He considered that was ample capital for his purpose, as he should get the subscriptions to his newspaper in advance.  In fact, when he sent word to his friends on the coast that he was going to start a Hebrew newspaper printed at the English Press, he got promises of 54 subscribers, and he felt sure that he could have made "a very good thing odf it" had it commenced with the beginning of the year.  Since the idea had taken possession of his mind, he could think of nothing else, and he could not sleep at night, and during that timer his expenses and losses amounted to fully 650 dols.  He had suffered greatly in health by reason of the disappointment.

The plaintiff continued - He knew that the company did not possess Hebrew types suitable, but he selected the types he wanted from the specimen book, and expected that the company would supply themselves with what was required.  That was no business of his; they had plenty of money, which he had not.  He had been duly informed that the company promptly declined to entertain hjis proposal, and acknowledged that Mr. Eland had written to him to remind him that he (Mr. Eland) had only entered into the arrangement subject to the approval of his employers, but that made no difference - he had got Eland's signature, and that was enough for him.  He had written an order for a heading block with trees, animals, and words intermixed, and asked for a design; but when he found what the cost would be he did not order it.  He did not know the meaning of the English words "counterman" and "rescind."  He never intended to pay any money down, he expected that it would be charged to his account.  The agreement was drawn up by his counsel, Mr. Morasse.  He left everything to him.  It was of no consequence to him whether the company's printer held a power of attorney or not, or whether the agreement required to be stamped according to English law, or under the seal of the company.  It was of no consequence to him whether the company made or lost money by the transaction.  He claimed 660 dols., besides the L. 100 mentioned in the writ.  He had never prepared any "copy;" he had never written a line for the "Safnat Paneah."  He had never taken any steps in the matter further than giving the order for blocks and types.  He was born at Mogador; his father was a native of Morocco, but a British protégé.

The managing director respectfully informed the Court that all that he or the company knew of the matter was that about the middle of December last, a letter from Mr. Eland, the company's head printer in Tangier, was received in London, stating that the plaintiff proposed to start a Hebrew newspaper, and desired to have it printed at the company's press, to which a reply was posted in London on the same day declining the proposal.

L. W. Eland, subpoenaed by the plaintiff, stated, I have been in the company's service about two and a half years, and have had charge of the printing department only.  I was engaged by, and received my instructions from the managing director and the deputy-manager.  I never held any power of attorney, or other authority, to pledge the credit of the company.  I did not know that signing '' meant 'per procuration' under a power of attorney.  I have a stamp with the words 'For the Morocco Exchange and Publishing Company Limited,' under which I sign receipts for money on the company's forms.  I have used it for the signature of letters, &c.  I considered that if I could take an order for visiting cards and the like, I ought to have power to take any printing job I liked.  I considered the agreement binding on the company.  I did not know that an agreement pledging the credit of the company required to be under the seal of the company.  I wrote to the plaintiff as soon as I got my reply from the London office, to the effect that the company declined his business.  But I told him that I was prepared to take it over myself.  I was leaving the company's service, and have now left it.

After some further proceedings the managing director referred the Court to the articles of association, and respectfully pointed out to the Court, that the company's had printer was a subordinate servant of the company, without any power, or implied power, or authority, to act even as an agent for the company.  His duties were defined and limited by the most stringent and explicit rules and instructions.  Mr. Cohen knew full well that he was not treating with an authorized officer of the company, and he took advantage, doubtless, of the young man's inexperience.

The Court then retired to consider the evidence, and, after a long time, gave the following decision: - Damages for the plaintiff, £40 and costs.  The effect of this extraordinary decision is said to have had a remarkably beneficial effect upon Mr. Cohen's health.

Published by Centre for Comparative Law, History and Governance at Macquarie Law School