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on the subject of shipping-concerns, which were referred to the decision of the laws.
These decisions were often grievously expensive. They were, besides, frequently different from what seafaring persons conceived to be just. The latter circumstance was attributed to the ignorance of lawyers in maritime affairs. Much money was therefore often expended, and no one satisfied. Some Quakers in the neighbourhood, in conjunction with others, came forward with a view of obviating these evils. They proposed arbitration as a remedy. They met with some opposition at first, but principally from gentlemen of the law. After having, however, shown the impropriety of many of the legal verdicts that had been given, they had the pleasure of seeing their plan publicly introduced and sanctioned. For in the month of June 1793, a number of gentlemen, respectable for their knowledge in mercantile and maritime affairs, met at the Trinity-hall in Newcastle, and associated themselves for these and other purposes, calling themselves "The Newcastle-upon-Tyne association for general arbitration."
This association was to have four general meetings in the year, one in each quarter, at which they were to receive cases. any urgent matter, however, which might occur, the clerk was to have the power of calling a special meeting.
Each person, on delivering a case, was to pay a small fee. Out of these fees, the clerks' salary and incidental expenses were to be paid. But the surplus was to be given to the poor.
The parties were to enter into arbitrationbonds, as is usual upon such occasions.
Each party was to choose out of this association, or standing committee, one arbitrator for himself, and the association were to choose or to ballot for a third, And here it will be proper to observe, that this standing association appeared to be capable of affording arbitrators equal to the determination of every case. For if the matter in dispute between the two parties were to happen to be a mercantile question, there were merchants in the association. If a question relative to shipping, there were ship-owners in it. If a question of insurance, there were insurance-brokers also.
A man could hardly fail of having his case determined by persons who were competent to the task.
Though this beautiful institution was thus publicly introduced, and introduced with considerable expectations and applause, cases came in but slowly. Custom and prejudice are not to be rooted out in a moment. In process of time, however, several were offered, considered, and decided, and the presumption was, that the institution would have grown with time. Of those cases which were determined, some relating to ships were found to be particularly intricate, and cost the arbitrators considerable time and trouble. The verdicts, however, which were given, were in all of them satisfactory. The institution at length became so popular, that, incredible to relate, its own popularity destroyed it! So many persons were ambitious of the honour of becoming members of the committee, that some of inferior knowledge and judgment, and character, were too hastily admitted into it. The consequence was, that people dared not trust their affairs to the abilities of every member, and the institu
tion expired, after having rendered important services to numerous individuals who had tried it.
When we consider that this institution has been tried, and that the scheme of it has been found practicable, it is a pity that its, benefits should have been confined, and this for so short a period, to a single town, Would it not be desirable, if, in every district, a number of farmers were to give in their names to form a standing committee, for the settlement of disputes between farmer and farmer? or that there should be a similar institution among manufacturers, who should decide between one manufacturer and another? Would it not also be desirable, if, in every parish, a number of gentlemen, or other respectable persons, were to associate for the purpose of accommodating the differences of each other? For this beautiful system is capable of being carried to any extent, and of being adapted to all stations and conditions of life. By these means numerous little funds might be established in numerous districts, from the surplus of which an opportunity would be afforded of adding to the comforts of such of
the poor as were to distinguish themselves by their good behaviour, whether as labourers for farmers, manufacturers, or others. By these means also, many of the quarrels in parishes might be settled to the mutual satisfaction of the parties concerned, and in so short a space of time as to prevent them from contracting a rancorous and a wounding edge. Those, on the other hand, who were to assist in these arbitrations, would be amply repaid; for they would be thus giving an opportunity of growth to the benevolence of their affections, and they would have the pleasing reflection, that the tendency of their labours would be to promote peace and good-will amongst men,