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Colonial Cases

The Abbey, 1899

[smuggling arms]

The Abbey

United States Consular Court
Source: Los Angeles Herald, 7 August 1899



If Prevented From Obtaining Arms and Ammunition


Expected To Prove More Efficacious in Quelling Rebellion

Than a Whole Lot of Wet Weather Campaigning.

More Consuls Should be Sent.

Washington, Aug 6. - Hon. John Goodnow, consul-general for the United States at Shanghai, has rendered a decision as referee in the consular court, which will be of far-reaching importance during the continuance of the war in the Philippines.  The case was in relation to the steamer Abbey, charged with taking arms from Canton to Luzon.  It has been in contention for some time.  The owners of the vessel gave bond that the ship should land the arms purchased at Singapore, but she did not do so.  The bond was demanded by the Chinese authorities and Mr. Goodnow holds that it must be paid.

The importance of the decision is pointed out by the Shanghai Mercury, which says: -

The effect of the decision of Mr. Goodnow reaches much beyond the mere fact of being judgment for the plaintiff with the penalty following and the costs of suit.  Hitherto the American forces at Manila have had to fight against Filipinos well armed with modern rifles and guns, and it is not secret that the majority of these arms have been landed in the Philippines from Chinese ports.  When United States consular officials have received that cargoes of weapons were about to be shipped from China their urgent protests to the Chinese have been the means of stopping shipments.  But when the United States officials, through want of knowledge, have been ignorant of such contraband guns, the Chinese officials have likewise been blind to such shipments, though no doubt aware of such.  It is in this respect that Mr. Goodnow has scored such an important point.  On the strength of that judgment the officers of the imperial maritime customs office of China must necessarily do all in their power to stop shipments of arms to suspicious destinations. 

It has been decided on the motion of the customs that China is liable for any shipments of arms which get to the Philippines through lack of diligence or honesty on the part of the customs or the Chinese officials.

Therefore the judgment in the Drew v. Sylvester case will be the means of checking the chief source of supply of arms and warlike material that the Filipinos have possessed."

The North China Daily News published the decision of Consul Goodnow in full and comments editorially upon its importance, and says that it will be far reaching in its effect in s topping the sending of arms to the Filipinos.

Published by Centre for Comparative Law, History and Governance at Macquarie Law School