ID: 25359
An answer to an address from Charles Brooke, wool-broker,

GUY, Henry, An answer to an address from Charles Brooke, wool-broker, to the electors of the Borough of Chippenham, by Henry Guy, clothier. Chippenham: printed and sold by J.M. Coombs. 1802.

8vo., 40pp., in a particularly good 20th century panelled calf binding. An excellent copy.

This Answer> evidently followed closely on the civil action for a libel heard and determined at the Court of King's Bench on April 28th, 1802, before Mr. Justice Grose. Charles Brooke (1760-1833), 'an eminent wool-broker' in London, had maintained 'an irreproachable reputation', according to Thomas Erskine, his defence counsel, until Henry Guy's alleged libel. In the event, the jury found in favour of the defendant. The case seems to be still of some interest, not only as an example of alleged commercial libel, but also as a portrait of the international wool trade at the turn of the 19th century, in particular with Spain. The case and its ramifications are well analysed by Taylor & Thorne in The History of Parliament: House of Commons, 1790-1820>, III, p.262. 'The basis of Brooke's business was imported Spanish wool which he bought for clothiers on commission from Manuel de Torre, Spanish agent in London. It would seem, however, that - not alone in this - he also engaged in mercantile business on his own account under cover of partnership. His father's firm H.F. Brooke & Company of St. John's Bridge, Bristol, certainly shipped Spanish wool and Brooke did business with west of England clothiers, which connected him with Chippenham. In 1801 he canvassed the borough with corporation support on the 'independent' interest, which brought him into collision with the established clothiers' interest of the Fludyer family: by combining with the other leading interest in the borough, that of the Dawkins family, Brooke drove George Fludyer out of the field, but was opposed by the latter's business associate John Maitland. In October 1801 Brooke quarrelled with Maitland's leading supporter in the borough, Henry Guy, who on 12 Dec. 1801 circularized charges against Brooke of fraudulent dealings in Spanish wool and of conspiring to raise the price, the gist of his arguments being that Brooke had violated his broker's oath by transacting business on his own account. Brooke disparaged this as an election manoeuvre, but lost an action for libel against Guy, 28 Apr. 1802, in which he was defended by Thomas Erskine: while he was able to refute some of the allegations of fraud, the charge of professional malpractice stuck. In consequence Brooke, who was fined 500 by the City, gave up his brokerage, though in pamphlet warfare with Guy up to the eve of the election he argued, with legal advice from William Adam and William Draper Best, that even if fraud were proved, it did not constitute a perjury of his broker's oath, but merely forfeited his broker's bond. The affair did Brooke no great harm: it enabled him to engage in Business on his own account and to expand prodigiously.' Guy's final Answer> was evidently designed to rub Charles Brooke's nose in it.