West Briton, 5 August 1842
This was an action brought by Messrs. Tweedy and Co., bankers, at Redruth, against Capt. Joseph Cocking, on a promissory note for GBP185, which the defendant denied having accepted. Mr. ERLE and Mr. M. SMITH, for the plaintiffs; Messrs. PAUL, SMITH and ROBERTS, attornies. Mr. CROWDER for defendant: Messrs. SIMMONS, PASSINGHAM, and SIMMONS, attornies.
Mr. Erle stated that the handwriting having been put in issue, he believed there was no doubt about that. He would call parties to prove it, and they were aware that the acceptor of a bill was liable for the payment of it, if it was in his own hand writing.
Benjamin COOKE examined by Mr. Smith. I am a miner and mine-agent; have lived in Calstock, and have known the defendant, from a child. I have had access to the same mine for a year and a half, and have seen him write. I see the words "Joseph Cocking" on this Bill, and believe them to be his writing.
Cross-examined. Noah COWARD was the master of the mine; don't know the office that he filled - whether proprietor or superintendent, I don't know. Had never had any correspondence with Cocking, but had seen him write frequently.
Mr. Noah Coward examined. I am the drawer of that note. I saw the defendant sign that acceptance. Cross-examined. I was an owner and adventurer in this mine, Gunnis Lake mine. The defendant was a Captain there; he was there from 1833, - not employed till 1834. There was a matter of account between us, but I never considered myself his debtor; no accounts were settled with Cocking. He had claimed a sum of money for some time past - a couple of years. He did not get me to pay him a hundred pounds last year; I say that unequivocally. I have never paid him anything on his own account; he might have had GBP5, GBP10, or GBP20, for the use of the mine. He has asked me for payment of the debt; I believe he has done that within the last 12 months, and I would not pay him, because I considered that he owed me money instead of I owing him money. This note I see bears date the 25th(?) of November, 1841; I believe it was drawn two or three days after that date. I saw him accept it in my counting-house; no one was present; I drew upon him for a hundred pounds and for that bill he got the money at Gill and Rundle's bank, at Tavistock. I believe they discounted it. I understood him to say that he had bought a place in our neighbourhood, and that he wanted to raise GBP100 to pay the balance money. He frequently wanted something on account of his demand. When that bill was accepted, it was agreed that if he did not pay the GBP100, I was to use the blank bill for GBP185. I wanted the money and I issued the bill; I had never asked him for that hundred pounds. I have not got that bill; I believe it is in the bank at the present time unpaid. I asked him to accept this bill before in the presence of no person; I put in GBP85 - for I considered that about the balance that was due to me. I believe that he said at that time that the balance owing to him was upwards of GBP100. There has been no settled account between Mr. Cocking and myself since I first saw him, which was in 1833, and the accounts have run over about GBP25,000. He before accepted a bill for me about two years ago - I believe three years since. There was no sum at all put to it; it was a blank acceptance, that I was to fill up if I required it. That is the identical bill that I filled up; I filled that up to save the expense of another stamp; the bill was drawn by me, and accepted by him in blank; everything was completed but the amount. It was then to have been filled up for GBP200, but it was not done so. It was made payable six months after date. I think the GBP185 was filled in in November or December; I kept it all that time because I did not want it. He took the bill to my banker's instead of the Devon and Cornwall Bank. I don't recollect his ever asking for that blank acceptance at all; he gave me that to cover a bill that I had accepted for him for GBP100. I don't recollect his ever asking for that blank acceptance at all; he gave me that to cover a bill that I had accepted for him for GBP100. I don't know whether that bill has ever been paid or not. I have not, as acceptor, been called upon to pay it. He was present in November when I filled up this; he demurred to it and said that as the account was in his favour it ought not to be done.
By Mr. Erle - Mr. Cocking is Captain of the mines where I have been managing. I married his daughter-in-law; I have known him for a long time.
Jonas BENNETTS examined - I have lived in Calstock upwards of 30 years, and knew the defendant has been engaged in mining; had known him 33 or 34 years, and had seen him write. I believe the acceptance is in Cocking's hand writing.
James SECCOMBE, examined - Have seen Cocking write many times, and have known him many years. I believe the name of "Joseph Cocking" to be in the hand writing of the defendant.
This being the case, Mr. Crowder addressed the court on behalf of the defendant, stating that he was instructed most distinctly to affirm that he never put his hand to that paper at all, and it would be for the jury to decide whether or not they believed that Mr. Cocking was the acceptor of that bill. The Learned Gentleman, on behalf of the defence, then called Mr. John Cocking, who in his examination said, I am a nephew of the defendant, and am an overseer of Redruth; I have seen defendant write; this acceptance appears to be an imitation; when I first saw it, I remarked that I thought it an imitation. About the 8th of June, I went to Mr. Robert TWEEDY with some letters of my uncle's, and showed them to him. I compared them before him, and Mr. Tweedy said he thought there was a discrepancy between the signatures in the letters and the signature on this bill. My attention was drawn more particularly to the latter end of the word Cocking. The witness then described the particular marks by which the signature of the defendant was distinguishable. The impression on his mind was that the name of his uncle had been traced on the note.
Mr. Wm. SNELL, examined. I am a clerk to Mr. George Snell, attorney, at Callington. I know the hand writing of the defendant, and have seen the signature on the note; it was an excellent imitation certainly. There appears to be a discrepancy in the hand writing, and more particularly in the latter end of the word Cocking. Mr. Erle replied, dwelling upon the importance of the case, particularly to Mr. Noah COWARD, who would be liable, should a verdict be given for the defendant, to be sent into the other court to be tried for forgery and perjury. The Learned Judge summed up. This was an action on a bill of exchange said to have been accepted by Mr. Joseph Cocking. The issue was, whether the signature was the defendant's hand-writing or not; undoubtedly a very serious question in this case because it involved the question whether one of the witnesses had been guilty of forgery and perjury. It appeared that the bill was drawn by Noah Coward, and Noah Coward proved that he saw it actually signed, and therefore, if Noah Coward spoke falsely as to that, there would be every reason to suppose that he was perjured. There could be no mistake about it; and then it followed that he must have procured the bill to be forged if he did not forge it himself. If the jury believed his testimony, there was an end to the case; but if they disbelieved him, and believed that he had perjured himself, then there would be strong ground for not believing this to be a genuine instrument. The Learned Judge then went through the evidence, and the jury found a Verdict for the Plaintiff for the amount claimed.