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Colonial Cases

Newspaper commentary, Macao

The Singapore Free Press & Mercantile Advertiser, 16 September 1847



Macao, 19th August, 1847.

   Dear Sir,

                   I have the pleasure to advise the termination of the unjust and harassing proceedings instituted against me by the Macao Judges, on the groundless assumption that I was an abettor in the defalcations of the Opium Broker Marcal.  I take the liberty to direct your attention to the subjoined facts and circumstances.

   When the rash and ruinous speculations into which Mr. Marcal had rushed resulted in the discovery of his defalcations, the prevailing, but erroneous opinion entertained was, that he had absconded with a considerable sum of money.  Acting under this impression, the most influential of his creditors, English and Chinese, petitioned the Court of Macao for redress.  They affirmed that other parties residing in Macao, whose names they did not particularise, had aided and abetted Marcal in his Canton transactions.

   Actuated by motives of the most unsophisticated malignity, Judge Carneiro inserted my name in the indictment, and insisted upon the finding of a true bill against me, simply and solely because I had had transactions with Marcal in the purchase or sale of opium, as indeed must have been the case in the instance of every person in Macao connected with the trade.  Upon my protesting against the barefaced injustice of this proceeding, a Court was appointed to hear and determine the merits of the case.  Of this Court Mr. F. J. de Paiva was the Judge, and before him I produced the particulars of the transaction in which I had been concerned with Marcal, as detailed in the China Mail of 3rd September, 1846, and in the Straits times of 27th February, 1847. [See also Singapore Free Press & Merc. Advertiser, 21 Jan 1847.]

   Mr. Paiva decided that no evidence of guilt had been produced against me, but because it appeared that I had had transactions with Marcal, it was directed that I should be indicted "for the satisfaction of all."  Against this decision, which no one can hesitate to deride as illogical and absurd, I appealed to the Supreme Court of Goa.  During the time the case was pending, I was compelled to submit to an obnoxious surveillance, whilst residing at Macao, and to deposit a large sum of money and bail as security for any amount of damages in which I might be mulcted.

   The decision of the Goa Court has at length been received, and, as might have been expected when it is considered that the suffrages of an impartial tribunal were challenged, I am honorably acquitted of the accusations with which I was charged, the conduct of the Macao Court has been severely censured, and my prosecutors are condemned in payment of the costs. The decree also empowers me to recover the deposit extorted from me, which, thank God, I have recovered.

   Although nothing can be more satisfactory and gratifying than the tenor and purport of this decision, I am resolved that the matter shall not rest here.  It is my fixed determination to press the case to a hearing in Portugal, in order that I may have an opportunity of urging the imperative necessity of dismissing Mr. Carneiro from the discharge of function s which he has abused, that he may not be in a condition to shelter himself behind the plea of the possession of office as an excuse for not appearing to a suit which I have already empowered my attorney to commence.

   During the period of the ten years that I have conducted business at Macao, I have had frequent dealings with merchants in Europe, India, China, and the Straits; and not a few of them have assured me that the knowledge they had acquired of my character forbad them to credit the accusations of which I have been the undeserving object.  The Goa Court has confirmed the correctness of the good opinion with which they honoured me; and I hope the sanction of its authority will be sufficient to disabuse the minds of those to whom I am not personally known, of [any] unfavourable impression towards me, which the pertinacity or malignity of my opponents may have excited.

   As it would be inconvenient to crowd within the space of a letter the details of this unpleasant affair, I content myself with referring to the following journals, which contain the history of the case.  China Mail of 3rd September, and 17th December, 1846; 25th January, and 5th August, 1847; Friend of China of 19th September, 1846; 19th June, and 16th August, 1847; Strait's Times of 27th February, 1847.

   As it is my intention to quit China for Europe at the end of the year, I will take the liberty to acquaint you with the result of my appeal to the justice of Her Majesty THE QUEEN of Portugal; and meanwhile remain,

Dear Sir, &c.  A. A. DE MELLO.



Macao, 27th July, 1847.  


        I berg to enclose a copy of the judgment of the Supreme Court of Goa, reversing the sentence against me by the Judge Carneiro, and confirmed by Mr. Paiva. As the other documents connected with this case have appeared in your journal, and you have from time to time remarked upon the proceedings both in the Portuguese and English Courts, I believe you will not object to give insertion to a document which confirms the views you have already expressed.

I am, &c., A. A. DE MELLO.



   The Supreme Court decided:-

   The appellant was prosecuted by the Judge a quo, against whose decision an appeal is sued out; whereas he having admitted that there is no evidence, as in truth there is none, for the crime of being an accomplice, of which the appellant is accused, it became him to carry into effect the 220th Article of the third part of the new judicial code.  The motives adduced in the ratification, and which are detailed in the answer to the appeal, did not authorize such ratification.  These motives, besides being frivolous, are foreign to the Law, and contrary to that Article, as well as to the end of the process of ratification, which is a confirmation of the judgment when there is cause for it, or a rescission when there is none; and in consequence of the determination or end of the criminal proceeding according to the terms of the same Article, in opposition to what the Judge states, whose judgment would involve an absurdity.

   Wherefore the decision appealed against is hereby reversed, the sentence declared informal, and consequently the accusation cannot be proceeded with against the Appellant, who is declared absolved from all crime.  The costs are to be defrayed by the Prosecutors.

New Goa, 20th of April, 1847.

AZVEDO - Outvoted in so far as regards the taking cognizance, because the violation alleged authorizes the infliction of punishment when aggravation appears in the proceedings.



Present, COLACO.

   Such is the termination of a disgraceful abuse of judicial power, which may perhaps have no parallel in the records of the Macao Courts, without having been subjected, as in the present case, to the wholesome influence of public opinion.  The result therefore will probably be salutary as a warning to the instigators of the suit, among whom we are story to say an English firm is named, and to Senhor Carnerio, who seems throughout to have acted more like an interested partisan than an impartial judge.  No one who knows Mr. De Mello's standing in business and in society supposed that he could have been a participator in the frauds charged against Marcal; but he was rich, and therefore perhaps  squeezable - an opposer of official measures, and therefore to be punished.

   The charge, however, and the uncertainty of the issue of a cause between an individual and an absolute Government, cannot have failed, we should think, to operate against him in the minds of strangers; but his reputation is now entirely cleared by the judgment of the Supreme Court.  The heavy pecuniary bail he was made to give, we believe he took care should not pass into the Government treasury, but be entrusted to a private merchant of unexceptionable integrity; so we presume it is safe enough; bur as for the expenses of the suit now decreed to him, - we hope he will get them. - China Mail, August 5.

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