From the PROEM.
We make no apology for engaging in the business set forth on our title-page, but wish briefly to outline the policy pursued and to be pursued. But for the abuse by adventurers and swindlers of a business in itself as legitimate as that of the lawyer, the banker, or the broker, we would not consider even this explanation necessary. We may never be able to rid the business of its present odium, but we do pledge ourselves to do all in our power to that end, and shall never shrink from the task of publicly exposing frauds by which over-sanguine claimants are swindled out of their money, whenever such cases are brought to our notice. We shall endeavor to raise no false hopes, but when convinced that a claim is hopeless, will, as far as possible, prevent such claimant from expending money on it. We have, and can always have, plenty of legitimate business, and want nothing to do with imagined estates or visionary claimants. So much has been said and done respecting large estates supposed to exist in the old country, that it becomes our duty, right in the outset to say that which may have the effect of dispelling many a blissful dream; but the dreamer may have his reward, if he will, by the saving of his money. We do not dispute the fact that large sums of money do exist in almost every European country awaiting rightful claimants, many of whom are residents of America; but, although in the aggregate they amount to millions, yet they consist for the most part of a multitude of small estates. Those amounting to millions, or hundreds of millions, are very "few and far between." There is a tradition in a vast number, we might say in most of the old families, that they are entitled to a large estate in England, France, Germany, or some other European country; and as such traditions descend from father to son, the expected value always increases till it often reaches a sum too large for a common mind to grasp. Numerous associations have at different times been formed for the purpose of prosecuting these fictitious claims. One or two ingenious persons proceed to set the ball rolling by sensational articles in the newspapers, or by circulars, calling all persons of a certain name to apply to them respecting a large derelict estate in the Old World. The statements are made with" circumstantial details, having every appearance of truth, and, although seemingly harmless, are often the cause of great disappointment, trouble and expense. A list of names of the expectant heirs is prepared, a liberal estimate of expenses is formed for a trip to the old country, and the amount required is divided pro rata amongst all the claimants, who are then called upon to contribute their respective shares. It is understood in such case that they will be entitled to participate in the estate in proportion to the money subscribed, and so we get a joint-stock company. The scrip of such an adventure has been known to sell as high as two per cent of the supposed value of the estate. It requires but one or two to lead the way, and, like a flock of sheep, they all follow bHndly, regardless of the most patent facts. Many cannot trace their pedigrees a generation back. They do not even know who has left the fortune sought to be recovered. A simple and vague statement that one "Hyde," "Lawrence," "Jennings," or others died in England a century ago suffices. Such trifles as a Will or the Statute of Limitations do not trouble them. The supposition that a person of their surname was at one time possessed of wealth is sufficient to create all these subscribers to fortune "heirs to vast estates." They are unaware how little the mere similarity of name is worth in genealogical researches. Once possessed of the idea, it becomes their pet child, and their fancies range over a vast domain of possibilities which may place them in affluence. The demon of speculation becomes as strong in them as in any dealer in "options" on the Chicago Board of Trade....show more