<i>The Beauty of Obscurity</i>: Raffles <i>v</i>. Wichelhaus and Busch (<i>1864</i>)

A. W. Brian Simpson

in Leading Cases in the Common Law

Published in print September 1996 | ISBN: 9780198262992
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191682438 | DOI:
The Beauty of Obscurity: Raffles v. Wichelhaus and Busch (1864)

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This chapter discusses the case of Raffles v. Wiehelhaus and Busch. The fame of Raffles v. Wiehelhaus largely rested upon the utter obscurity as to what the litigation and its decision was about. The action was for damages. It was brought by William Winter Raffles for failure by the defendants, Daniel Wiehelhaus and Gustav Busch, to accept and pay for 125 bales of Surat cotton. The cotton was ‘to arrive ‘ex Peerless’ from Bombay. This was a Liverpool contract, and it was there that delivery was to be made. Peerless was, of course, the name of a ship, and the type of cotton involved was that grown in the Achmedabad district of Bombay. Raffles said that the cotton had indeed arrived at Liverpool on the Peerless, but the defendants refused to accept and pay for the cotton. The defendants replied that in the contract, which was a written one, the defendants intended to refer to a ship called Peerless which had left Bombay in October. The cotton which the plaintiff had offered to deliver had arrived at Liverpool on an entirely different ship, which had sailed from Bombay in December. But this ship was, unfortunately, also called Peerless. The pleadings do not speculate as to which ship Raffles had in mind, and neither the pleadings nor the law reports reveal the year in which the sailings from Bombay took place, nor the order in which the ships arrived. But they do imply that the October ship, as well as the December ship, had safely reached Liverpool. Absolutely no indication was given about how the misunderstanding, if indeed there was a misunderstanding, had come about.

Keywords: common law; damages; payment; litigation

Chapter.  14763 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of Law

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