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COMMERCIAL COURT—COMMERCIAL TREATIES

all the others, or, supposing each has started with three “lives,” taking one life from the lowest. The hands, in order of merit, are: (i.) Tricon—three similar cards, three aces ranking above three kings, and so on. (ii.) Sequence—three cards of the same suit in consecutive order; the highest sequence is the best. (iii.) Flush—three cards of the same suit, the highest “point” wins, i.e. the highest number of pips, ace counting eleven and court-cards ten. (iv.) Pair—two similar cards, the highest pair winning. (v.) Point—the largest number of pips winning, as in “flush,” but there is no restriction as to suit. Sometimes “pair” and “point” are not recognized. A popular variation of Commerce is Pounce Commerce. In this, if a player has already three similar cards, e.g. three nines, and the fourth nine comes into the pool, he says “Pounce!” and takes it, thus obtaining a hand of four, which is higher than any hand of three: whenever a pounce occurs, a new card is turned up from the pack.


COMMERCIAL COURT, in England, a court presided over by a single judge of the king’s bench division, for the trial, as expeditiously as may be, of commercial cases. By the Rules of the Supreme Court, Order xviii. a (made in November 1893), a plaintiff was allowed to dispense with pleadings altogether, provided that the indorsement of his writ of summons contained a statement sufficient to give notice of his claim, or of the relief or remedy required in the action, and stating that the plaintiff intended to proceed to trial without pleadings. The judge might, on the application of the defendant, order a statement of claim to be delivered, or the action to proceed to trial without pleadings, and if necessary particulars of the claim or defence to be delivered. Out of this order grew the commercial court. It is not a distinct court or division or branch of the High Court, and is not regulated by any special rules of court made by the rule committee. It originated in a notice issued by the judges of the queen’s bench division, in February 1895 (see W.N., 2nd of March 1895), the provisions contained in which represent only “a practice agreed on by the judges, who have the right to deal by convention among themselves with this mode of disposing of the business in their courts” (per Lord Esher in Barry v. Peruvian Corporation, 1896, 1 Q. B. p. 209). A separate list of causes of a commercial character is made and assigned to a particular judge, charged with commercial business, to whom all applications before the trial are made. The 8th paragraph is as follows:—

Such judge may at any time after appearance and without pleadings make such order as he thinks fit for the speedy determination, in accordance with existing rules, of the questions really in controversy between the parties.

Practitioners before Sir George Jessel, at the rolls, in the years 1873 to 1880, will be reminded of his mode of ascertaining the point in controversy and bringing it to a speedy determination. Obviously the scheme is only applicable to cases in which there is some single issue of law or fact, or the case depends on the construction of some contract or other instrument or section of an act of parliament, and such issue or question is either agreed upon by the parties or at once ascertainable by the judge. The success of the scheme also depends largely on the personal qualities of the judge to whom the list is assigned. Under the able guidance of Mr (afterwards Lord) Justice Mathew (d. 1908), the commercial court became very successful in bringing cases to a speedy and satisfactory determination without any technicality or unnecessary expense.


COMMERCIAL LAW, a term used rather indefinitely to include those main rules and principles which, with more or less minor differences, characterize the commercial transactions and customs of most European countries. It includes within its compass such titles as principal and agent; carriage by land and sea; merchant shipping; guarantee; marine, fire, life and accident insurance; bills of exchange, partnership, &c.


COMMERCIAL TREATIES. A commercial treaty is a contract between states relative to trade. It is a bilateral act whereby definite arrangements are entered into by each contracting party towards the other—not mere concessions. As regards technical distinctions, an “agreement,” an “exchange of notes,” or a “convention” properly applies to one specific subject; whereas a “treaty” usually comprises several matters, whether commercial or political.

In ancient times foreign intercourse, trade and navigation were in many instances regulated by international arrangements. The text is extant of treaties of commerce and navigation concluded between Carthage and Rome in 509 and 348 B.C. Aristotle mentions that nations were connected by commercial treaties; and other classical writers advert to these engagements. Under the Roman empire the matters thus dealt with became regulated by law, or by usages sometimes styled laws. When the territories of the empire were contracted, and the imperial authority was weakened, some kind of international agreements again became necessary. At Constantinople in the 10th century treaties cited by Gibbon protected “the person, effects and privileges of the Russian merchant”; and, in western Europe, intercourse, trade and navigation were carried on, at first tacitly by usage derived from Roman times, or under verbal permission given to merchants by the ruler to whose court they resorted. Afterwards, security in these transactions was afforded by means of formal documents, such as royal letters, charters, laws and other instruments possessing the force of government measures. Instances affecting English commercial relations are the letter of Charlemagne in 796, the Brabant Charter of 1305, and the Russian ukase of 1569. Medieval treaties of truce or peace often contained a clause permitting in general terms the renewal of personal and commercial communication as it subsisted before the war. This custom is still followed. But these medieval arrangements were precarious: they were often of temporary duration, and were usually only effective during the lifetime of the contracting sovereigns.

Passing over trade agreements affecting the Eastern empire, the modern commercial treaty system came into existence in the 12th century. Genoa, Pisa and Venice were then well-organized communities, and were in keen rivalry. Whenever their position in a foreign country was strong, a trading centre was established, and few or no specific engagements were made on their part. But in serious competition or difficulty another course was adopted: a formal agreement was concluded for the better security of their commerce and navigation. The arrangements of 1140 between Venice and Sicily; the Genoese conventions of 1149 with Valencia, of 1161 with Morocco, and of 1181 with the Balearic Islands; the Pisan conventions of 1173 with Sultan Saladin, and of 1184 with the Balearic Islands, were the earliest Western commercial treaties. Such definite arrangements, although still of a personal character, were soon perceived to be preferable to general provisions in a treaty of truce or peace. They afforded also greater security than privileges enjoyed under usage; or under grants of various kinds, whether local or royal. The policy thus inaugurated was adopted gradually throughout Europe. The first treaties relative to the trade of the Netherlands were between Brabant and Holland in 1203, Holland and Utrecht in 1204, and Brabant and Cologne in 1251. Early northern commercial treaties are those between Riga and Smolensk 1229, and between Lübeck and Sweden 1269. The first commercial relations between the Hanse Towns and foreign countries were arrangements made by gilds of merchants, not by public authorities as a governing body. For a long period the treaty system did not entirely supersede conditions of intercourse between nations dependent on permission.

The earliest English commercial treaty is that with Norway in 1217. It provides “ut mercatores et homines qui sunt de potestate vestra liberè et sine impedimento terram nostram adire possint, et homines et mercatores nostri similiter vestram.” These stipulations are in due treaty form. The next early English treaties are:—with Flanders, 1274 and 1314; Portugal, 1308, 1352 and 1386; Baltic Cities, 1319 and 1388; Biscay and Castile, 1351; Burgundy, 1417 and 1496; France, 1471, 1497 and 1510; Florence, 1490. The commercial treaty policy in England was carried out systematically under Henry IV. and Henry VII. It was continued under James I. to extend to Scotland English trading privileges. The results attained in the 17th century were—regularity in treaty arrangements; their