1888 - 1888

Veiga Beirão Commercial Code

In 1888, the new Commercial Code was approved by a Letter of Law dated 28th June, after a long period of discussion in the Chamber sessions.
Since the reform of Ferreira Borges’ Commercial Code has long been considered essential in order to accompany the evolution and development of commercial practices and to try to reconcile the provisions of the Civil Code, which has since been published, with those of the existing Commercial Code, Veiga Beirão was responsible for the organization of this new Code.
He asked a number of personalities to draw up certain parts of the future Code, basing himself beforehand on the fact that the reforms to be introduced would be in line with the most recent foreign trade codes, without forgetting, however, national customs and traditions.
This legal document sought to give a new framework to the insurance activity, dedicating entirely to insurance Title XV, of Book Two “Dos Contratos Especiais de Comércio”.
Chapter I “Disposições Gerais” begins by defining as commercial all insurance with the exception of mutual insurance (thus distinguishing insurance from acts of mutual assistance), and there is no effective definition of an insurance contract, but only establishing its commercial nature and characterizing it as one of the special commercial contracts. Also, in the general provisions, the elements that must be included in the insurance policy are indicated, as well as the cases in which the insurance is void.
In the insurance categories two major groups were distinguished – risk insurance and life insurance.
As concerns insurance against risks, its object is defined and the concept of damage that can be compensated for, it establishes the consequences of the non-concurrence between the insured capital and the value of the thing, lays down certain obligations of the insurer and the insured, lays down the bases for calculating compensation in the event of a claim, determines the consequences of non-payment of the premium and recognises the technical specificity of the various branches, laying down rules for each speciality: fire insurance, crop insurance and insurance of transport by land, canals or rivers.
For life assurance, its object is also defined, the elements to be included in the policy, the intended use of the insured capital is established, and a distinction is made between life assurance and insurance in the event of death.
A specific framework has been established for maritime insurance, dealt with under a separate title – Title II ‘Insurance against the risks of the sea’, inserted in the Third Book ‘Maritime Trade’ – the issues of insurance against the risks of the sea, abandonment and the risk contract.
However, there is still some disorder, as the last article of the section governing ‘things’ insurance refers to the provisions on maritime insurance.
About regard to breakdowns, forced maneuvers, collision, rescue, and assistance, this Code presents provisions common to those adopted by other maritime nations, being free of the gaps and deficiencies that the Code of 1833 presented.
The minimum capital paid up by the incorporation of public limited companies is 10%, to be deposited in the Caixa Geral de Depósitos. For insurance companies and all those whose capital served only as subsidiary collateral for corporate transactions, this deposit could be only 5% of the subscribed capital.


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“PORTUGAL. Leis, decretos, etc. Código Comercial Português, 1888”
Portuguese Commercial Code: official publication ordered by decree of 23 August 1888 – Lisbon: Imprensa Nacional, 1888 – 159 p.; 22 cm