When speaking of false coinage we do not refer to coins issued by the rebels, who continually devastated the provinces, as these coins circulated in small quantities along with those issued by Royal authority. Many of the coins made by rebels were of so fragile a nature, that in the course of time they have entirely disappeared.
It seems rather improbable that, considering the very small value of Annamese cash, any one should be able to forge them and still make a profit on the operation. But, as in other parts of the world, makers of base coir prospered like some other flourishing industries in Annam, the manufacture being in the hands of Chinese.
Book 3rd, Part 6th, Section 5th of the 皇越律例 Hoang-viet-luat-le, or Penal Code of the Annamese Kingdom, prescribes the penalties to be inflicted upon persons forging the coins of the realm. Any one concerned in the making of false coins is liable to the punishment of death by strangulation. Those who knowingly buy false coins are liable to perpetual banishment to a distance of three thousand le from their residence, and to one hundred blows. The informer receives a reward of fifty taels of silver. A mandarin who permits the manufacture of false coins is liable to a penalty of one hundred blows. Any one reducing the size of the current cash for the sake of the metal, receives one hundred blows. Those who attempt to make foreign gold or silver coins out of copper, lead, or quicksilver are punished by being kept three years in irons and receiving one hundred blows; and any person dealing in such coins is liable to a punishment of two years and a half in irons and ninety blows.
Besides these laws, there are two supplementary statutes, which lay down the penalties for new forms of forgery. By the first statute the punishment of three years in irons and one hundred blows is prescribed for the following offences: (1) making holes in silver coins and filling up with copper or lead; (2) making shoes of sycee of which the interior consists of copper or lead; (3) employing copper or lead mixed with silver in the proportion of not more than two, three, four or five tenths of silver in the whole coin.
The second statute imposes the same punishment upon those who make coins with the name and title of deceased kings.
Notwithstanding these severe penalties, false coinage is practised on a very large scale, not only in Annam, but also in China and Hongkong. Not long ago a considerable quantity of false cash was discovered in the colony of Hongkong, the makers of which were brought before the Courts. They were allowed to go free on their shewing that the cash were intended for Annam; and it was fortunate for the credit of the Annamese officials that the investigations were not pushed any further, as the very cash in question were taken to Annam by the "Bouranne," one of King 嗣德 Tu-duc's gunboats then in Hongkong for the purpose of being repaired.