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Colonial Cases

Grealy v. Smith, 1856


Grealy v. Smith

United States Consular Court, Shanghai
Source: The North-China Herald, 23 August 1856


WE give below a decision in the United States Consular Court, that will be of interest to our readers.  It maintains the authority of the Municipal Body, and places the police constable when on duty, in the position he holds, and should always hold, in all civilized communities.  The decision seems in every respect a proper one, though some may think the fine too trifling.

It is not however the amount of the penalty that should be considered, but the principle that is established.

We hope it will be long before a second case of like nature appears on the records of our courts.



Shanghae, August 14th 1856.

MICHL. GREALY v.s. E.  M. SMITH, Assault and Battery.

Before Robert C. Murphy, Consul U.S.A. Acting Judicially.


This case is an action brought by Plaintiff, a policeman, for assault by defendant upon him while in the discharge of his duty.

The defendant admits the general allegations, but urges in defence that the Plaintiff had shot a dog, and that he the Defendant under privileges granted him by the consuls of the U.S. of North America, and Great Britain for the erection of a bazaar, was held responsible for the good order of his premises, and therefore the police had no jurisdiction over said premises.

The Municipal Authority of Shanghai is a special delegation of power from then Treaty Consuls for the convenience and interests of the Residents in general.

The Municipal police is a branch of that body.  Their Authority, for police purposes, extends over every foreign Resident, as well as native, within the limits of the foreign settlement.

In the grant given Messrs. Smith and Head to build a bazaar, it was not intended to erect that establishment into a separate sovereignty.  The Bazaar is as much under the general surveillance of the police force as any other private property open to public uses.

The Authority delegated to the Municipal Council, and consequently to its police force, should be respected, and if they are guilty of any tort, either to person or property, the remedy is before the magistrate having jurisdiction, and does not lie in the hands of any one who may feel himself aggrieved.

The forcible seizing of a policeman while on duty, and his forcible detention, by any one un-authorized by law to do so, is not only an illegal act, submitting the offending party to severe penalties under all Municipal law, but in this case it was calculated to diminish in the eyes of the Chinese that respect for Police Authority, which it is for the best interest of this Community to preserve inviolate.

The Court fine the Defendant twenty-five dollars with costs.

Fine ...... $20.00

Costs ....... $ 5.00


(Signed) R. C. MURPHY, Consul, U.S.A.

[See also North-China Herald, 30 August 1856: letter from E. M. Smith.]

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