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Court of wards and its revenues

Court of wards and its revenues

Merchants said: there exist four similar institutions: court of wards, consistory, Commissariat and hell. ("Moscow olden times", iss.Pravda, 1989) - Muscovites described so unflattering the civil institute noted on the Russian revenue stamps. We are talking about Court of wards; it was the institute that we can't call the real court at this moment, no doubt.

But it was the court, anyway. Court with their own paperwork, needed to be paid-up. The court of wards revenues we know are the typical chancellery stamps. It seems there were 3 cities only that issued such a kind of revenue stamps: Moscow, Nizhniy Novgorod, and Odessa. These cities were selected as follows: the biggest merchant's cities, cities of a big trade capital. The focus of courts of wards has been concentrated on this civil class. By the way, at that time there existed the Noble custody and Chamber of Civil Court (dominating institute over Noble custody), and Court of wards.

So, we are talking about Court of wards yet. What was the essence of this institute and why the merchants hated it so much? Court of wards obliged the wealthy citizens to take care of the property and small children who have lost parents. Why they should be wealthy? Because they were responsible before the law to its status. If an orphan lost his property it was necessary to compensate it. It's clear that this duty would afford the nobles and merchants only. That is why merchants were chosen for the court of ward. Let's turn to their mentions...

"Due to some unknown laws the Court of wards imposed the merchant class parties custody of minor property of orphans even they weren't linked with orphans. It is absurd assignment of responsibility for other people's property on a completely innocent people. It makes sense if orphans were misery people. It looks like some sort of charity and it was safe because it does not entail no major liability. The problem reduces to the issuance of a poor family and a small monthly subsidy to the filing of annual reports to the Court of wards. But merchants have not afraid that sort of custody.

There existed custody on a large valuable property attracting attention and expenses. The imposition of such custody for Court of wards clerks were the secret source of great revenue. It was impossible to avoid such custody without prosecution.

Officials deliberately tried to foist a responsible care to some rich merchant of the Old Testament. The merchant was horrified, because nothing is so frightening then an honest man, as the prospect of litigatory Affairs. He prayed, can they leave him alone. The answer was: "You can not, under the law!" - "Upon my word, I have no such cases do not know where I keep track of other people's affairs, when many of their" etc. "But you do not you worry: everything will become without you, all met, save it in the best possible way, do not miss the deadline, you just have to sign the annual report in the end". "How much?" "This sum". "Why so much!?" "Does not take fewer sums. You know, it's a great, great responsibility: if casually refer to the case, and then you can cater to Siberia"." "In Siberia? Lord, have mercy! Take, take, just really. Do not fail me!" "No reason to fail you." Naturally those were prayers and light candles for Mother of God, when they could safely finish the custody." ("Moscow olden times", iss.Pravda, 1989)

As is often the case, and in our state, the good idea in the hands of the bureaucracy turned into a source of enrichment of Russian "nettle seed." Of cause, the chancellery fees of Court of wards were very little in compare to other expenses of merchants.

Some words about why we use the word "Court". Point is that the natives of orphan or his neighbors sometimes started the legal battle about orphan's property (possible neglect or smth. else). Court of wards was the court where this legal battle and debates took place. Besides, Court of wards determined by the degree of responsibility (and prosecution) of persons.

Courts of wards were widely known in the cities of the Russian Empire. It seems that especial activity of it took place in the cities where merchants and trade flourished. The number of lawsuits, as it should be assumed in these cities was relatively high. It justified the issue of Courts of wards fiscal stamps there.

Moscow revealed four issues of Courts of wards stamps: values 20, 40, 60, 80 kop., and 1 rub. () With the same design but several different cliches (difference in engraved crown at the top of the picture and the inscription SBOR in the button). Additional question is the issue of stamps without dents. Probably, that was negligence of typography workers.

Stamp issues of Nizhniy Novgorod () and Odessa () are very similar to Moscow one by design (difference in engraved crown at the top). Number of known values slightly differs: N.Novgorod's issue has 20, 40, and 60 kop., Odessa's issue has 20, 60, and 80 kop. The last unclear question is following: did the other cities which had their own Courts of wards issued some stamps, labels or receipts for Court of wards revenues? We need an investigation here.

PS: Author gives his acknowledgments to Michael Petukhov for the scans of rare issues of Nizhniy Novgorod and Odessa Court of wards stamps.

©  Yuri Kochetkov, 2003 г. Optimized for IEЩ version 5.0 and abovr Design  ©   V.Antropov 2003 г.