FORMAN, JAMES, merchant and banker who was accused of embezzlement; b. in May 1795 at Halifax, N.S., eldest son of James Forman (1763–1854) and Mary Gardner; d. early 1871 in London, Eng.
James Forman was probably educated at the Halifax grammar school. His father was a successful merchant in partnership with George Grassie, and it is likely that James was trained in the family business and worked with the Grassie family after his father’s retirement in 1820. On 5 March 1821 Forman married Margaret Ann Richardson at St Matthew’s Church, Halifax; they had two, perhaps three, sons.
James Forman was one of the men who petitioned the Nova Scotia assembly on 31 Jan. 1832 requesting incorporation of the Bank of Nova Scotia. The incorporation was granted on 30 March, and William Lawson* became the bank’s first president; on 24 May the bank appointed James Forman its first cashier – a position equivalent to general manager. After a period at the Bank of New Brunswick in Saint John, where he studied its accounting system, Forman took up his new duties. When Forman’s friend, Mather Byles Almon, succeeded Lawson in March 1837, the cashier was placed in a position of great trust which he maintained throughout Almon’s 30-year presidency. During these years Forman was active in the community as a member of the Nova Scotia Literary and Scientific Society, treasurer of the Halifax Mechanics’ Institute, a trustee for the Provincial Building Society, a member of the council of the Horticultural Association and International Show Society, and president of the North British Society of Halifax.
Although the Bank of Nova Scotia opened several new branches during Almon’s presidency and Forman’s tenure as cashier, its annual statements showed little progress. A partial explanation for this lack of success came to light in 1870 with the discovery by the accountant, J. C. Mackintosh, that over a period of many years James Forman had embezzled about half the bank’s capital of £140,000 – a theft of $314,967.68. After his actions came to light, Forman transferred property worth $179,296.45 to the bank as partial coverage for the theft. Because of Forman’s social position and the collapse of his health, the bank did not prosecute, despite an uproar in the local press. A rumour at the time said that Forman had taken the money to help his son who was in financial difficulty, and this supposedly brought public opinion to Forman’s side. He quickly left Halifax and went to London where he died a few months later, probably early in 1871.
PANS, Nova Scotia House of Assembly petitions, Trade and Commerce, 31 Jan. 1832. St Matthew’s Church (Halifax, N.S.), records, 1795, 1821, 1854, 1858. Acadian Recorder (Halifax), 14 Jan. 1878, 27 April 1925. British Colonist (Halifax), 6, 11 Aug. 1870. Morning Journal (Halifax), 9 April 1860. Novascotian (Halifax), 6 Nov. 1854. Belcher’s farmer’s almanack, 1864. McAlpine’s Nova Scotia directory, 1868–69. Annals of the North British Society of Halifax, Nova Scotia, for one hundred and twenty-five years . . . , comp. J. S. Macdonald (Halifax, 1894), 378, 388, 395, 396. History of the Bank of Nova Scotia, 1832–1900; together with copies of annual statements ([Toronto, 1900]), 43, 44, 46, 48, 50–51.