William Holmes PEAT, MARWICK, MITCHELL & CO.
CENTURY AUDIT CASE
e author uses records from 13th Century English archives to demon-strate the role of auditors to settle disputes between merchants before the Courts.
Once a week, during my lunch hour, I like to walk up Beacon Street in Boston to the Atheneum and spend half an hour on the top floors gleaning the histories stored there for undiscovered frag-ments of early American accounting. During the fall of 1976, the top floors were being renovated so I decided to investigate the base-ment. There I stumbled almost by accident on the publications of the Seldon Society, founded in 1887 "To Encourage the Study and Advance the Knowledge of the History of English Law." The Society publishes annually a volume dealing with a particular aspect of legal history derived from early English archives. The volume published in 1930 was entitled "Select Cases Concerning the Law Merchant A.D. 1239-1633, Volume II, Central Courts," which seemed to offer possibilities to an accounting researcher. I borrowed the volume and spent several interesting evenings back in the middle-ages.
The cases discussed included several involving accounts and au-diting but the prize must belong to the case of Honesti vs. Chartres in the year A.D. 1291, involving as it does, international finance and accounting, with diplomatic overtones, and a fascinating glimpse of early auditors at work in the commercial area. Of particular interest was the use of other merchants — who most likely understood ac-counts — to audit the accounts of merchants involved in a dispute, following closely the practice found in force in Massachusetts in the middle of the 17th century. The legal archives at the State House contain a number of similar examples, although played out on a smaller stage and before less prestigious judges.
The Case of Honesti vs. Chartres
In the year 1291 A.D., Gettus Honesti, a merchant of Lucca, ap-pealed to King Edward of England for redress against Pelegrin, son of Gerardin of Chartres. Gettus claimed Pelegrin had been his duly appointed agent in England for 12 years and had refused to render