JOINT STOCK COMPANIES. About the time of the famous Mississippi scheme in France, and the South Sea scheme in Eng land, there arose a sort of epidemic fever of speculation, and every one was anxious to join in some partnership, for carrying on speculations in foreign commerce or domestic trade, by companies of persons uniting several individual stocks of small amount into one common fund. At the best it has been observed, that trade, so carried on by large companies, is not very beneficial to the individuals who engage in it, or if it were so, would be greatly prejudicial to the public in general, and to other individuals trading on their own capitals. At the period above mention ed, about 1718 and 1724, many serious consequences ensued from this spirit of speculation, many frauds were committed by adventurers taking advantage of it, and the whole nation was in a manner convul sed by the injuries which the people at large suffered from it, many families hav ing been reduced to utter ruin by it. To prevent these evils occurring in future, the following enactments were passed :— stat. 16 George I. c. 18, s. 18, 19, 20, 21: by which, after reciting, that whereas it is notorious, that several undertakings or projects of different kinds have, at some time or times,since the four-and-twentieth day of June, one thousand seven hundred and eighteen, been publickly contrived and practised, or attempted to be practis ed within the city of London, and other parts of this kingdom, as also in Ireland, and other his majesty's dominions, which manifestly tend to the common grievances, prejudice, and inconvenience of great numbers of your Majesty's subjects, in their trade or commerce, and other their affairs ; and the persons who contrive or attempt such dangerous and mischievous undertakings or projects, under false pre tences of public good, do presume, ac cording to their own devices and schemes, to open books, for public subscriptions, and draw in many unwary persons to sub scribe therein, towards raising great sums of money, whereupon the subscribers, or claimants under them, do pay small pro portions thereof, and such proportions, in the whole, do amount to very large sums ; which dangerous and mischievous under takings, or projects, do relate to several fisheries, and other affairs, wherein the trade, commerce, and welfare ofyour Ma. j esty's subjects,or great numbers of them, are concerned or interested : and where as, in many cases, the said undertakers or subscribers have, since the said four-and twentieth day ofJune, one thousand seven hundred and eighteen, presumed to act as if they were corporate bodies, and have pretended to make their shares in stocks transferrable or assignable, without any legal authority, either by act of Parlia ment, or by any charter from the crown, for so doing &c. it is enacted, by autho
rity of this present Parliament, that from and after the four-and-twentieth day of June, one thousand seven hundred and twenty, all and every the undertakings and attempts described as aforesaid, aad all other public and at tempts,tending to the common grievance, prejudicei and inconvenience of his Ma jesty's subjects,or great numbers of them, in their trade, commerce, or other lawful affairs, and all public subscriptions, re ceipts, payments, assignments, transfers, pretended assignments and transfers, and all other matters and things whatsoever, for furthering, countenancing, or pro. ceeding, in any such undertaking or at tempt, and more particularly, the acting, or presuming to act, as a corporate body or bodies ; the raising, or pretending to raise, transferable stock or stocks ; the transferring, or pretending to transfer, or assign, any share or shares in such stock or stocks, without legal authority, either by act of Parliament, or by any charter from the crown, to warrant such acting as a body corporate, or to raise such trans ferrable stock or stocks, or to transfer shares therein, and all acting, or pretend ing to act, under any charter, formerly granted from the crown, for particular or special purposes therein expressed, by persons who do or shall use, or endeavour to use the same charters, for raising a capital stock, or for making transfers or assignments, or pretended transfers or assignments of such stock, not intended or designed by such charter to be raised or transferred, and all acting, or pretend ing to act, under any obsolete charter, be come or voidable by non-user or abuser, or for want of making lawful elections, which were necessary to continue the corporation thereby intended, shall (as to all or any such acts, matters and things, as shall be acted, done, attempted, or en deavoured, or proceeded upon, after the said four-and-twentieth day of June, one thousand seven hundred and twenty) for ever, be deemed to be illegal and void, and shall not be practised, or, in anywise, put in execution. And further, the par ties offending, by committing any of the acts above enumerated,and,more particu larly, the presuming or pretending to act as a corporate body, or to raise a transfer rable stock or stocks, or to make transfers or assignments of any share or shares therein, without such legal authority as aforesaid, &c. shall be deemed to be a public nuisance and nuisances : and all offenders therein, being thereof lawfully convicted, shall be liable to such fines and penalties as persons convicted for public nuisances are ; and, moreover, shall incur any further pains, penalties, and forfei tures provided by the statute of provi sions and pr2emuntre, made in the six teenth year of the reign King Richard the second.