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Colonial Cases

Shin-Kwan v. Thomson, 1852

[malicious damage]

Shin-Kwan v. Thomson

Consular Court, Shanghai
Source: The North China Herald, Shanghai, 12 June 1852



June 12th, 1852.


This was an action brought to recover compensation for wilful and malicious damage inflicted upon the property of the Plaintiff, the Guardian of the Roman Catholic Chapel at Woosung, by the Defendant, Master of the Receiving vessel Swallow at Woosung, the damages were laid at the sum of 520 dollars.

It appeared by the statement of the Plaintiff, that he is in charge of the Roman Catholic Chapel at Woosung, and also carries on business as a Storekeeper, and provides Lodgings and Liquors, for the use and entertainment of Foreign Seaman, the Chapel and the Shop being on the same premises.  On the 31st of May last, a Canton man came to his house to search for two Manila-men, who had deserted from the vessel Swallow, an altercation endued, and the Canton man having left, presently returned with a number of others, and beat the Plaintiff.  Shortly afterwards the Defendant Thomson appeared with several other Foreigners and entering his Shop broke and destroyed the bottles and jars of Spirits and Liquors.  Plaintiff made off and ran away, his house was sacked and plundered, and all his property stolen, together with some fittings belonging to the Chapel.  This was the case for the prosecution.

On being cross-examined Plaintiff admitted that he lodged and boarded Seamen, but that it was conducted under the sanction of the Priest, and no drunkenness permitted.  That some of his Lodgers kept Fighting Cocks, but they were not fought in the premises, that at the time of the disturbance there were six Manila men living in his house, but he was not aware that any of them were deserters.  He had seen a proclamation of the Chinese Authorities respecting Grogshops, but on being shown a copy declared he did not think it was the same, as the one that he saw did not forbid their being opened.

Vicente Spiritu, being called and sworn stated that, he was in the Plaintiff's house, on the morning of the 31st May last, and witnessed the altercation between the Chinese, and the smashing of the bottles by Captain Thomson, that the Plaintiff's house was a boarding house for Seamen and place of entertainment.  He belonged to the vessel Science, and had been two weeks in the house.

Guillermo Barosan, being called and sworn stated that, he belonged to the vessel Agnes, he was present at the previous altercation with the Canton  men, and saw Captain Thomson  break the things, did not see any wounds inflicted or blood drawn.

Yang-kwei-yun, a Christian convert, being called and sworn states that, after Captain Thomson left, he saw several; boxes and other things removed from the house by Canton men.

For the Defence it was alleged that, on the morning in question, the Chief Officer of the Swallow reported to the Defendant that two of the crew had deserted, that Defendant thereupon directed his Steward Le-chung, a native of Canton, to go on shore and trace the men.  That shortly afterward Le-chung returned, and reported that he had traced them to Plaintiff's Shop, but had been refused admittance there, and had been ill-used and beaten.

Le-chung, being called and warned to speak the truth stated that, having received Captain Thomson's orders to endeavour to find the Deserters, he went on shore at Woosung, and from a man he knew discovered they were at Plaintiff's Grogshop, he proceeded there and saw one of the men, Assan, and was going in when the door was shut against him, and as he persisted in endeavoring to enter, Plaintiff's father came out and beat him with a stick.  Knows Plaintiff's Shop well, has seen Prostitutes there and fights and rows, knows there was a Deserter from the Schooner Iona, lodging there, he saw him on Sunday last.

Yu-shing, a native of Woosung, being called and warned to speak the truth states, he is a fruit seller, remembers the last witness enquiring for two Deserters, and he went with him to Plaintiff's house and saw the old Father strike him with a stick, without reason.  Confirms the last witness's account of the character of the house.  On the 10th month of last year, the sixteen houses opened as Grogshops at Woosung, were pulled down by the magistrate.  The Plaintiff's house was opened subsequently namely in the 3rd month of the present year.

Tsan-yu, a native of Woosung, being called and warned to state the truth stated that, he supplies provisions to the shipping, knows Plaintiff's house where Foreign liquors are sold at a dollar a bottle or 140 cash a glass, has frequently seen men drunk there, and rows and fighting.

Edward D'Busche, master of the brig Clown, being called and sworn stated, at Captain Thomson's request, he went to inspect the damages, saw Plaintiff at the house and understood him to say that the damage done amounted to 100 dollars.

George Chape, master of the Vessel Masden, being called and sworn stated that, he accompanied Captain Thomson, on the morning of the 31st, and saw several dozens of bottles broken, nothing else was touched.  He knows Plaintiff's house as a Grogshop, and has seen Cock fig thing in front of it, and women of bad fame near it.

Defendant requested to put in a letter from Captain Roundy, master of the American Vessel Science, who was unable to attend, to the effect that he himself saw seven fighting Cocks in stalls on the Plaintiff's premises, and that he had good reason to know that after service in the Chapel the Cock fighting commenced.

In his Defence the defendant admitted the fact that he did go to the Plaintiff's house and break the bottles, and jars containing Liquor.  That the provocation was great, his Steward had been beaten by the Plaintiff whose house he was in a position to prove was a grogshop, a place for gambling, and a brothel; was not aware there was a Chapel in the house and saw no appearance of one.

The proceedings having closed the court after a short consultation decided that it had been clearly proved that the Plaintiff Shin-kwan, kept a Grogshop at Woosung contrary to the provisions of the Port regulations, and in contravention of the law.  An act highly injurious to both Chinese and Foreigners and tending to frequent breaches of the peace.  The Court therefore declined to award any damages or compensation to the Plaintiff, for any loss he may have received by the acts of the Defendant.

M. Le Maitre, one of the Catholic Priests, who attended on behalf of the Plaintiff, addressed some observations explanatory of the connection between the Shop and the Chapel, and stated that they permitted the Plaintiff to sell stores and give refuge to sick Christians, but the Court declined to enter any further into the case, after a decision had been given.

Source: The North China Herald, Shanghai, 15 June 1852

... A. Thomson, master of the Swallow, appeared on summons before H. M. Consul and was fined 100 dollars, to the Queen, for breach of the peace committed at Woosung, on the 31st ultimo.

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