The man is in too much trouble not to want counsel, so he thanks him, and he goes on:- "Send a summons to your creditors, and offer them what you can propose in the pound (always reserving a good stock to begin the world again), which if they will take, you are a free man, and better than you were before; if they won't take it, you know the worst of it, you are on the better side of the hedge with them: if they will not take it, but will proceed to a statute, you have nothing to do but to oppose force with force; for the laws of nature tell you, you must not starve; and a statute is so barbarous, so unjust, so malicious a way of proceeding against a man, that I do not think any debtor obliged to consider anything but his own preservation, when once they go on with that." "For why," says the old studied wretch, "should the creditors spend your estate in the commission, and then demand the debt of you too? Do you owe anything to the commission of the statute?" "No," says he. "Why, then," says he, "I warrant their charges will come to 200 pounds out of your estate, and they must have 10s. a day for starving you and your family. I cannot see why any man should think I am bound in conscience to pay the extravagance of other men. If my creditors spend 500 pounds in getting in my estate by a statute, which I offered to surrender without it, I'll reckon that 500 pounds paid them, let them take it among them, for equity is due to a bankrupt as well as to any man, and if the laws do not give it us, we must take it."
This is too rational discourse not to please him, and he proceeds by this advice; the creditors cannot agree, but take out a statute; and the man that offered at first it may be 10s. in the pound, is kept in that cursed place till he has spent it all and can offer nothing, and then gets away beyond sea, or after a long consumption gets off by an act of relief to poor debtors, and all the charges of the statute fall among the creditors. Thus I knew a statute taken out against a shopkeeper in the country, and a considerable parcel of goods too seized, and yet the creditors, what with charges and two or three suits at law, lost their whole debts and 8s. per pound contribution money for charges, and the poor debtor, like a man under the surgeon's hand, died in the operation.
2. Another evil that time and experience has brought to light from this act is, when the debtor himself shall confederate with some particular creditor to take out a statute, and this is a masterpiece of plot and intrigue. For perhaps some creditor honestly received in the way of trade a large sum of money of the debtor for goods sold him when he was sui juris, and he by consent shall own himself a bankrupt before that time, and the statute shall reach back to bring in an honest man's estate, to help pay a rogue's debt. Or a man shall go and borrow a sum of money upon a parcel of goods, and lay them to pledge; he keeps the money, and the statute shall fetch away the goods to help forward the composition. These are tricks I can give too good an account of, having more than once suffered by the experiment. I could give a scheme, of more ways, but I think it is needless to prove the necessity of laying aside that law, which is pernicious to both debtor and creditor, and chiefly hurtful to the honest man whom it was made to preserve.
The next inquiry is, whether the extremities of this law are not often carried on beyond the true intent and meaning of the act itself, for malicious and private ends to gratify passion and revenge?
I remember the answer a person gave me, who had taken out statutes against several persons, and some his near relations, who had failed in his debt; and when I was one time dissuading him from prosecuting a man who owed me money as well as him, I used this argument with him:- "You know the man has nothing left to pay." "That's true," says he; "I know that well enough." "To what purpose, then," said I, "will you prosecute him?" "Why, revenge is sweet," said he.