1892: Alexander Pritchard, trader in Samoa, defrauds wine merchants Fallon of Albury, NSW, Australia.

Alexander Pritchard – son of George Prichard and the brother of William Prichard – was a European trader living in Samoa. Alexander Pritchard defrauded the wine wholesaler Edward Patrick Fallon of Albury, NSW, Australia, reported Professor Dirk HR Spennemann of Charles Sturt University, Albury NSW

Wine imports from Australia to Samoa: The wine trade in Southern New South Wales was pioneered in the mid 1860s by James T Fallon (–1886), who could draw on his own production from the Murray Valley Vineyard, but also the wine production from a large number of small land holders, many of them Germans, as well as larger vineyards. By 1873 the wine and spirits business was sold to his younger brother Patrick, who further expanded the business. Both brothers Fallon had been very active in developing a wine export industry

In early January 1892: Alexander Pritchard, European resident on Samoa, ordered ‘one or two cases of port, claret and sherry in quarts and two cases of sherry in pints and other wines you think would suit this market.’ Pritchard gave clear instructions on how to ship the wine. In his letter he claimed that Fallon had been recommended to him by J. Despeissis, then the NSW Government’s agricultural expert on viticulture. Fallon obliged on trust alone, delivering goods worth £14 5s (incl. shipping). But, to his unpleasant surprise, no payment followed.

Elegant letters: In early June 1892 Pritchard tried again, now under the name ‘Jas. Jackson of Lata Plantation, Savaii, Samoa.’ This time round he used flattery as his modus operandi: ‘Through the introduction of The Samoa Trading and Plantain Company of the next island, Upolu, who are taking great pains in getting your wines thoroughly tested by the general public, I write to please send me …1 case dry wine each quarts and pints, claret, 1 case do. do. port; 1 case do. do. sherry… Your wines are certainly the best that have ever come to this market. Fallon, however, was not to be fooled again.

Member of the Queensland Legislative Assembly; He was the son of the missionary and former British Consul to Samoa, George Pritchard (1796-1883). In 1888 Alexander came to Samoa from Queensland, where had been an elected member of the Legislative Assembly. He was certainly a quite well educated person. It is unclear why he left Queensland, but it had been suggested by his Apia contemporaries that he had left to avoid his creditors. By early 1892 Pritchard had a major swindle operation going. He requested, and frequently received, from unsuspecting Sydney and Melbourne companies goods by using the names: ‘Pritchard & Co.,’ ‘The Pritchard Trading Co.,’ ‘The Samoa Trading and Plantation Co.,’ ‘Jas. Jackson & Co,’ and ‘Jas Jackson of Lata Plantation, Savaii, Samoa. Thus, on 1 March 1893 Fallon wrote to the Apia solicitor William Cooper to act as a debt collector on his behalf, in the hope of recovering the payment or the merchandise. In the light of Pritchard’s track record, however, Cooper had to inform Fallon that he had little chance of recovering any of the outstanding account. Nonetheless, Fallon decided to pursue the matter and had Pritchard hauled before the British High Commissioner’s court.

Ruled by the Samoan chiefs: At the time, Samoa was de jure an independent country, ruled by the Samoan chiefs. The Samoan government did not, however, have any authority over British subjects. Traders residing outside the municipality, such as Alexander Pritchard, were subject to the jurisdiction of the consuls of their own nationality, under the terms of the 1879 Treaty of Friendship.

Fallon never got his money back: In Pritchard’s case, the British consul of the day was Sir Thomas Berry-Smith, a man regarded as a largely ineffective consul, who was for most of the time most certainly preoccupied with matters of teaching polo to the Samoans, pomp and circumstance, and British cultural imperialism. Fallon never got his money back, and, moreover, had to pay Cooper for his time and efforts.

AN EXAMPLE OF MAIL FRAUD IN 19TH CENTURY SAMOA Professor Dirk HR Spennemann Johnstone Centre, Charles Sturt University, Albury NSW. http://www.paclii.org Accessed October 2007.


Professor Dirk HR Spennemann

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