FORGERY, from the French forger, ' to heat metal and hammer it,' which is from the Latin fingere. From this sense of forger came the meaning "to make" generally, to invent. Legal forgery is the false making, counterfeiting, altering, or uttering any instrument or writing with a fraudulent intent, whereby another may be defrauded. The offence is com plete by the making the forged instru ment with a fraudulent intent, though it be not published or uttered; and the pub lishing or uttering of the instrument, knowing it to be forged, is punished in the same manner as the making or coun terfeiting.
It is by no means necessary to bring the offence within the legal meaning of the term forgery, that the name of any person should be counterfeited, though this is the most common mode in which the crime is committed ; thus a man is guilty of forgery who antedates a deed for the purpose of defrauding other par ties, though he signs his own name to the instrument ; and the offence is equally complete, if a man being instructed to make the will of another, inserts provi sions of his own authority. In truth the offence consists in the fraud and deceit.
At common law the crime of forgery was only a misdemeanour, but as the com merce of the country increased and paper credit became proportionally extended, many severe laws were enacted, which in most cases made the offence a capital felony.
The extreme severity of these laws tended to defeat their object, and the par ties very frequently chose rather quietly to sustain the loss inflicted upon them by the commission of the offence, than by a prosecution to subject the offender to the loss of life. This feeling, and the diffu sion of the truth, that the object of all laws is to prevent crime and not merely to punish, has caused successive mitigations in the laws relating to forgery ; and now by the statute 11 Geo. IV. and 1 Wm. IV. c. 66; 2 & 3 Wm. IV, c. 59, and I Vict. c. 84, the punishm"nt of death is abolished in cases of forw,,-y, and a punishment varying between transportation for life and imprisonment for two years, is sub stituted. (1 Hawkins, P. C. ' • Russell On Crime; Deacon's Criminal Law.) The statute law on forgery in general applies to Scotland as well as to England.