Crim. law. Forgery at common law has been held to be "the fraudulent making and alteration of a writing to the prejudice
of another man's right." 4 Bl. Com. 247. By a more modern writer, it is defined, as " a false making; a making malo animo
, of any written instrument, for the purpose of fraud and deceit." 2 East, P. C. 852.
2. This offence at common law is of the degree of a misdemeanor. 2 Russel, 1437. There are many kinds of forgery, especially subjected to punishment by statutes enacted by the national and state legislatures.
3. The subject will be considered, with reference, .1. To the making or alteration requisite to constitute
forgery. 2. The written instruments in respect of which forgery may be committed. 3. The fraud and deceit to the prejudice of another man's right. 4. The statory provisions under the laws of the United States, on the subject of forgery.
4. - 1. The making of a whole written instrument in the name of another with a fraudulent intent is undoubtedly a sufficient making but a fraudulent insertion, alteration, or erasure
, even of a letter, in any material part of the instrument, whereby a new operation is given to it, will amount to a forgery; and this, although it be afterwards executed by a person ignorant of the deceit. 2 East, P. C. 855.
5. The fraudulent application of a true signature to a false instrument
for which it was not intended, or vice ve7-sa, will also be a forgery. For example, it is forgery in an individual who is requested to draw a will for a sick person in a particular way, instead of doing so, to insert legacies of his own head, and then procuring the signature of such sick person to be affixed to the paper without revealing to him the legacies thus fraudulently inserted. Noy, 101; Moor, 759, 760; 3 Inst. 170; 1 Hawk. c. 70, s. 2; 2 Russ. on Cr. 318; Bac. Ab. h. t. A.
6. It has even been intimated by Lord Ellenborough, that a party who makes a copy of a receipt
, and adds to such copy material words not in the original, and then offers it in evidence
on the ground that the original has been lost, may be prosecuted for forgery. 5 Esp. R. 100.
7. It is a sufficient making where, in the writing, the party assumes the name and character of a person in existence. 2 Russ. 327. But the adoption of a false description and addition, where a false name is not assumed, and there is no person answering the description, is not a forgery. Russ. & Ry. 405.
8. Making an instrument in a fictitious name
, or the name of a non-existing person, is equally a forgery, as making it in the name of au existing person
; 2 East, P. C. 957; 2 Russ. on Cr. 328; and although a man may make the instrument in his own name, if he represent it as the instrument of another of the same name, when in fact there is no such person, it will be a forgery in the name of a non-existing person.; 2 Leach, 775; 2 East, P. C. 963; but the correctness of this decision has been doubted. Rosc. Cr. Ev. 384.
9. Though, in general, a party cannot be guilty of forgery by a mere non-feasance, yet, if in drawing a will, he should fraudulently omit a legacy, which he had been directed to insert, and by the omission
of such bequest, it would cause a material alteration
in the limitation
of a bequest to another; as, where the omission of a devise of an estate for life
to one, causes a devise of the same lands to another to pass a present estate
which would otherwise have passed a remainder only, it would be a forgery. Moor, 760; Noy, 101; 1 Hawk. c. 70, s. 6; 2 East, P. C. 856; 2 Russ. on Cr. 320.
10. It may be observed, that the offence of forgery may be complete without a publication of the forged instrument. 2 East, P. C. 855; 3 Chit. Cr. L. 1038.
11. - 2. With regard to the thing forged, it may be observed, that it has been holden to be forgery at common law fraudulently to falsify
, or falsely make records and other matters of a public nature; 1 Rolle's Ab. 65, 68; a parish register; 1 Hawk. c. 70; a letter in the name of a magistrate, the governor of a gaol, directing the discharge of prisoner. 6 Car. & P. 129; S. C. 25 Eng. C. L. R. 3 1 5.
12. With regard to private writings, it is forgery fraudulently to falsify or falsely to make a deed or will; 1 Hawk. b. 1, c. 70, s. 10 or any private document, whereby another person may be prejudiced. Greenl. Rep. 365; Addis. R. 33; 2 Binn. R. 322; 2 Russ. on Or. b. 4, c. 32, s. 2; 2 East, P. C. 861; 3 Chit. Cr. Law, 1022 to 1038.
13. - 3. The intent must be to defraud another, but it is not requisite that any one should have been injured it is sufficient that the instrument forged might have proved prejudicial. 3 Gill & John. 220; 4 W. C. C. R. 726. It has been holden that the jury ought to infer an intent to defraud the person who would have to pay the instrument, if it were genuine, although from the manner of executing the forgery, or from the person's ordinary caution, it would not be likely to impose upon him; and although the object was general to defraud whoever might take the instrument, and the intention of the defrauding in par ticular, the person who would have to pay the instrument, if genuine, did not enter into
the contemplation of the prisoner. Russ. & Ry. 291; vide Russ.. on Cr. b. 4, c. 32, s. 3; 2 East, P. C. 853; 1 Leach, 367; 2 Leach, 775; Rosc. Cr. Ev. 400.
14.- 4. Most, and perhaps all the states in the Union, have passed laws making certain acts to be forgery, and the national legislature has also enacted several on this subject, which are here referred to. Act of March 2, 1803, 2 Story's L. U. S. 888; Act of March 3, 1813, 2 Story's L. U. S. 1304 Act of March 1, 1823, 3 Story's L. U. S. 1889; Act of March 3, 1825, 3 Story's L. U. S. 2003; Act of October 12, 1837, 9 Laws U. S. 696.
15. The term forgery, is also applied to the making of false or counterfeit coin
. 2 Virg. Cas. 356. See 10 Pet. 613; 4 Wash
. C. C. 733. For the law respecting the forgery of coin
, see article Money. And for the act of congress punishing forgery in the District of Columbia, see 4 Sharsw. Cont, of Story's Laws U. S. 2234. Vide, generally, Hawk. b. 1, c. 51 and 70; 3 Chit. Cr. Law, 1022 to 1048; 4 Bl. Com. 247 to 250; 2 East, P. C. 840 to 1003; 2 Russ. on Cr. b. 4, c. 32; 13 Vin. Ab. 459; Com. Dig. h. t.; Dane's Ab. h. t. Williams' Just. h. t. Burn
's Just. h. t.; Rose. Cr. Ev. h. t.; Stark. Ev. h. t. Vide article Frank