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CONSORT—CONSPIRACY

a fixed rate of interest, usually 3 or 3½ %, and as the market required to give the lenders an advantage in the principal funded. Thus subscribers of £100 would sometimes receive £150 of 3 % stock. In 1815, at the close of the French wars, a large loan was raised at as much as £174 3 % stock for £100. The low rate of interest was thus purely nominal, while the principal of the debt was increased beyond all due proportion. This practice began in the reign of George II., when some portions of the debt on which the interest had been successfully reduced were consolidated into 3 % annuities, and consols, as the annuities were called, and other stocks of nominally low interest, rapidly increased under the same practice during the great wars. In times of peace, when the rate of money has enabled portions of the debt at a higher interest to be commuted into stock of lower interest, it has usually been into consols that the conversion has been effected. Temporary deficits of the revenue have been covered by an issue of consols; exchequer bills when funded have taken the same form, though not constantly or exclusively; and some government loans for special purposes, such as the relief of the Irish famine and the expenditure in the Crimean and Boer Wars have been wholly or partly raised in consols. The consequence has been to give this stock a pre-eminence in the amount of the funded debt. See further under National Debt: United Kingdom.

CONSORT (Lat. consors, a companion), in general, a partner or associate, but more particularly a husband or wife. The word is also used in conjunction with some titles, as “queen consort,” “prince consort.” Under the law of the United Kingdom, the queen consort is a subject, but has certain privileges. By the Treason Act 1351, the compassing and imagining her death is high treason, as is also the commission of adultery with her. With regard to the acquisition and disposal of property, the incurring of rights and liabilities under contract, suing and being sued, a queen consort is regarded as a feme sole (32 Henry VIII. c. 51, 1540; Private Property of the Sovereign Act 1800). The queen consort has her own ceremonial officers and appears in the courts by her attorney- and solicitor-general. At one time she had a revenue out of the demesne lands of the crown and a portion of any sum paid by a subject to the king in return for a grant of any office or franchise; this was termed aurum reginae or queen-gold. Provision is now made for the queen consort by statute. When the husband of a queen consort dies she becomes a queen dowager. A queen dowager is not under the protection of the law of treason. It is said (Blackstone, Commentaries) that she cannot marry without the king’s licence, but this is doubtful. A queen regnant, holding the crown in her own right, has all the prerogatives of a sovereign. In the four cases of queens regnant in English history, the husbands’ positions have each been different. When Queen Mary I. married Philip of Spain it was provided by every safeguard that words could suggest that the queen alone should exercise all the powers of the crown; official documents, however, were to issue in their joint names. William III. occupied the throne jointly with his wife, Mary II. The husband of Queen Anne, George of Denmark, who was naturalized by act of parliament in 1689, occupied no definite position, and differed only from other subjects of the queen in the conditions of his naturalization. The position of Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, the husband of Queen Victoria, was somewhat like that of Prince George of Denmark. A few days before his marriage he had been naturalized as a British subject, and immediately after his marriage letters patent were issued, giving him precedence next to the queen. He had, however, no distinctive title, and the privileges and precedence he received were only by courtesy. As the patent which gave him precedence was inoperative outside the United Kingdom, certain difficulties occurred at foreign courts, and in order to settle these, the formal title of “Prince Consort” was conferred upon him by letters patent in 1857.


CONSPIRACY (from Lat. conspirare, literally to breathe together, to agree, combine, and especially to form a secret plot), in English law, an agreement between two or more persons to do certain wrongful acts, which may not, however, be punishable when committed by a single person, not acting in concert with others. The following are enumerated in text-books as the things, an agreement to do which, made between several persons, constitutes the offence of conspiracy:—(1) Falsely to charge another with a crime punishable by law, either from a malicious or vindictive motive or feeling towards the party, or for the purpose of extorting money from him; (2) wrongfully to injure or prejudice a third person or any body of men in any other manner; (3) to commit any offence punishable by law; (4) to do any act with intent to pervert the course of justice; (5) to effect a legal purpose with a corrupt intent or by improper means; to which are added (6) conspiracies or combinations among workmen to raise wages.

The division is not a perfect one, but a few examples under each of the heads will indicate the nature of the offence in English law. First, a conspiracy to charge a man falsely with any felony or misdemeanour is criminal; but an agreement to prosecute a man who is guilty, or against whom there are reasonable grounds for suspicion, is not. Under the second head the textbooks give a great variety of examples,—e.g. mock auctions, where sham bidders cause the goods to go off at prices grossly above their worth; a conspiracy to raise the price of goods by spreading false rumours; a conspiracy by persons to cause themselves to be reputed men of property, in order to deceive tradesmen. These examples show how wide the law stretches its conception of criminal agreement. The third head requires no explanation. A conspiracy to murder is expressly made punishable by penal servitude and imprisonment (The Offences against the Person Act 1861). A curious example of conspiracy under the fourth head is the case in which several persons were convicted of conspiracy to procure another to rob one of them, so that by convicting the robber they might obtain the reward given in such cases. The combination to effect a lawful purpose with corrupt intent or by improper means is exemplified by agreements to procure seduction, &c.

The most important question in the law of conspiracy, apart from the statute law affecting labourers, is how far things which may be lawfully done by individuals can become criminal when done by individuals acting in concert, and some light may be thrown on it by a short statement of the history of the law. In the early period of the law down to the 17th century, conspiracy was defined by the Ordinance of Conspirators of 1305:—“Conspirators be they that do confedr or bind themselves by oath, covenant, or other alliance, that every of them shall aid the other falsely and maliciously to indite, or cause to indite, or falsely to move or maintain pleas, and also such as cause children within age to appeal men of felony, whereby they are imprisoned and sore grieved, and such as retain men in the country with liveries or fees to maintain their malicious enterprizes, and this extendeth as well to the takers as to the givers.” The offence aimed at here is conspiracy to indict or to maintain suits falsely; and it was held that a conspiracy under the act was not complete, unless some suit had been maintained or some person had been falsely indicted and acquitted. A doctrine, however, grew up that the agreement was in itself criminal, although the conspiracy was not actually completed (Poulterer’s case, 1611). This developed into the rule that any agreement to commit a crime might be prosecuted as a conspiracy. A still further development of this doctrine is that a combination might be criminal, although the object apart from combination would not be criminal. The cases bearing on this question will be found arranged under the following heads, and in chronological order, in the Law of Criminal Conspiracies and Agreements, by R. S. Wright (London, 1873):—Combinations against government; combinations to defeat or pervert justice; combinations against public morals or decency; combination to defraud; combination to injure otherwise than by fraud; trade combinations. “It is conceived,” says the author, “that on a review of all the decisions, there is a great preponderance of authority in favour of the proposition that, as a rule, an agreement or combination is not criminal unless it be for acts or omissions (whether as ends or means) which would be criminal apart from agreement.” A dictum of