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Colonial Cases

Keen-Show v. Larken, 1860

[agency, Chinese custom]

Keen-Show v. Larken

Consular Court, Foochow
Source: The North-China Herald, 13 October 1860


WE have been favored with the whole of the papers relating to the case of:

KEEN-SHOW & Ors. v.  T. L. LARKEN, Esq.,

Tried before the Consular Court at Foochow in March last.

The case is one of great interest, and underwent a most elaborate investigation.  Its length prevents us publishing it all at once but it will appear in succeeding Supplements, of which we now publish the first, and we believe its perusal will not be without its use in establishing what are to be, the recognized liabilities, of Chinese Brokers.

Hitherto in China, business has been conducted on principles peculiar to the place and the people.  Most of the guarantees are verbal, brokers pursue their occupation and assume great responsibility, their only bond being "old custom."  Bonds and securities as guarantees of their good faith have been as little asked as cared for, because frequently an advantageous bargain can be obtainbed from these men who not only act as brokers, but deal and peddle in the produce they, nominally, buy and sell for others only, and it is often the case that the broker to save his own credit or suit his own purpose sacrifices the interest of his employer, and as the axiom of "one man's loss being another man's gain" applied equally well here as in tougher parts of the world, the man who gains can hardly be expected to make many enquiries as to the actual integrity of the parties concerned, which under the most favourable circumstances is rather a difficult point to ascertain.

But as we advance and the trade with Chiba becomes yearly greater and greater, the more ports are opened and the more Foreign Merchants settle at then, the more necessary will be the introduction of our civilized institutions for the protection of traders both native and Foreign.

We have not very long since had the fallacy of the verbal "can secure" pidgin brought before us, and it is highly probable that many have benefitted by it in being put on their guard, and have demanded a more material guarantee than a Chinaman's care word as security.

Mr. Bruce's decision in the case of Keen-show will be borne in mind by many both Foreigners and Natives, and looked to as a valuable precedent, and considering the vast trade that is carried on almost entirely through Chinese Brokers it is highly necessary for the safety of both buyers and sellers that their exact position with respect to each other should be distinctly understood.


The North-China Herald, 13 October, 1860.




The North China Herald, 20 October 1860.



The North-China Herald, 27 October 1860.



The North-China Herald, 17 November 1860.

Article & Court Proceedings.


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