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Colonial Cases

Andrews v. Bellwood, 1863

[criminal conversation]

Andrews v. Bellwood

Consular Court, Shanghai
Source: The North-China Herald, 21 November 1863



We have alluded to the Divorce case in another column.  The circumstances as elicited on the trial were as follows.  In the month of June the Marquis of Argyle, a passenger ship, under the command of a Captain Bellwood, sailed from London for this port. She brought five passengers: - three ladies, viz: Mrs. Andrews, Mrs. Friedelburgh and Miss Davis, first class, and two men second class.  It would seem that all the passengers dined at the same table, but the second class "gentlemen" found so congenial a spirit in the Captain, that the presence of the three ladies had no effect in preventing them from keeping up a running fire of filthy conversation with him.  So much for the purity and gentlemanly feeling of the Captain.  Another important actor in the scenes destined to follow, must not be forgotten.  This worthy was the black steward, conspicuous at once by his colour, his married state, his inquisitive disposition, his knowledge of Masonic mysteries, and his strong religious principles.

Mr. Matthews, for this is the name in which he rejoices, began soon after the ship had got out to sea, to suspect that the Captain and Mrs. Andrews were on terms of unwarrantable familiarity.  It is needless to follow out the thread of reasoning by which he arrived at this conclusion.  Suffice it to say that he did arrive at it, and gave his reasons in the fullest and grossest terms. 

I am a married man, said he, and know all about these things.  I am a freemason also, although you would not think it.  I'm black certainly, but then I'm a gentleman; but what I especially pride myself on is my excessive curiosity and my extraordinary piety.

These latter peculiarities incited him to watch behind doors, to peep in at keyholes and half-open windows - in a word to act systematically that part of an eavesdropper.  The amount of information he amassed in this way was enormous.  Nothing escaped him.  Indeed he delivered his statement before the Court with so much volubility that any mere listener to the proceedings might have imagined that the witness was, for the delectation of his auditory, reading aloud the spiciest passages in an extremely so-so novel.  In the black's testimony, we must confess we could only see the results of a prurient curiosity directed to the investigation of very promising facts.

But the Counsel for the prosecution wisely brought in as another witness, a lady whose spotless reputation was an earnest of her impartiality.  This lady, we regret to say, has a very low opinion of her own sex.  Hitherto we have always been of opinion with Herder that "amongst the characteristics of Woman is that motherly love with which Nature hath gifted her, independent of cold Reason, and wholly removed from all selfish hope of reward."  We owe to the lady witness brought forward by Mr. Cooper, the information that she treated her erring sister with as much kindness as woman generally shew to one another - that kindness consisting in refusing to sit with her, talk with her, or appear in any way to acknowledge her existence, except indeed by taking accurate note of all her shortcomings.  It was such conduct as this that Shakespeare bitterly stigmatized:-

 Who might be your mother,

That you insult, exult, and all at once,

Over the wretched?  What though you have more Beauty,

(As b y my faith, I see no more in you

Than without candle may go dark to bed)

Must you be therefore proud and pitiless?

Miss Davis did not appear against the defendants.  It was unnecessary that she should do so, as the evidence was overwhelming.  We are not, however, favourably struck by any of the party who made the voyage in the Marquis of Argyle.  The much abused P. & O. Co. may again hold up its head, and boast of the superior morality of Steam Navigation.

We may now dismiss the crim-con case, merely stating that the plaintiff claimed damages to the amount of £3,000.  The Court however has reserved its judgment.


The passengers who came to China in the barque Marquis of Argyle will not look back with much satisfaction on their journey, not will Captain Bellwood readily forget his first voyage as master.  Three actions have already arisen out of circumstances which occurred during the passage, and a fourth is still possible, if Mrs. Friedelburgh should feel called on to emulate the public spirit of Miss Davis, and bring an action for the recovery of the whole of her passage money, because she was obliged to live on salt provisions for a few weeks and received a curtailed allowance of wine and spirits. Perhaps, however, as we do not hear of this lady having fainted from want of the "common necessaries of life," as Miss Davis was in the habit of doing, Captain Bellwood may be spared a fourth appearance in the witness box and escape the payment of another $150.

Although theoretically responsible for the provisions issued to his passengers, he was not the really guilty in this instance.  The owners of the vessel assured him that ample supplies had been put on boated, and he naturally accepted their statement.  Unfortunately it proved incorrect, and when Miss Davis undertook, as a public duty, to punish them by exposure in the Consular Court, Captain Bellwood, as their representative, had to bear the obloquy.  We are glad to learn that Miss Davis intends to devote the $150 awarded her to purposes of public charity, after deducting from its lawyer's fees and other trifling expenses incidental to its recovery.  Captain Bellwood has also been mulcted in $200 for shaking his fist at this lady; making a total of $400, - some £10 more than she paid for her passage - which he had had to disgorge since his arrival in Shanghai.

These, however, were ordinary cases; but it is seldom an action of the nature of BELLWOOD versus ANDREWS comes before a Consul.  Somehow, such scandals do not often crop up in foreign ports; but are generally reserved for the more legitimate precincts of the Divorce Court.  The plaintiff has preferred in the present instance that the matter should be made public in Shanghai, through the medium of an action for damages, and be pursued farther before Baron Wilde, on the basis of the evidence taken during the trial.  Publicity, either here or in England, was unavoidable.  It was a matter of choice whether it should take place in the Consular Court at Shanghai or in the Divorce Court at London.  We do not design to recapitulate the evidence, which was of the usual Divorce Court class, though perhaps slightly exaggerated in its tenour; and only allude to it for the purpose of making a few remarks regarding the witnesses.

From the evidence of the ladies, for instance, it would appear that the steward was an injured individual, and that the placing him in irons was an act of gratuitous cruelty.  But from the details he gave, it is evident that Captain Bellwood must have been subject to constant espionage; that his every movement was watched, and his footsteps dogged, in a manner that would have enraged a man of much more placid temperament than he is represented to be. However blamable Captain Bellwood's conduct may have been, it was certainly not the province of the steward to interfere, and so far from meriting the charge of cruelty which has been implied by the lady passengers Captain Bellwood, by putting him in irons, punished him infinitely less severely than he deserved. The punishment may have been disproportioned to the alleged offence of wasting stores, but had been richly earned by a continued system of spying on every possible occasion and on any or no pretext. It is not surprising that he expressed a desire not to go home in the Marquis of Argyle.

We must of course accept without question Mr. Cooper's assurance, that it was exceedingly painful to Mrs. Friedelburgh to give the evidence which she did; and this being so, it is greatly to be regretted that she should have been called at all.  From a statement made by her, in the course of her evidence, it is clear that Mr. Allan, the second officer of the vessel, could have given at least as strong testimony as herself on one point, and this would have been sufficient for all legal purposes, without the multiplicity of details which were elicited from Mrs. Friedelburgh.  It must have been sufficiently painful for that lady to witness the several occurrences, without being called upon to recapitulate then in an open Court.  As Mr. Lawrance said, in his able speech for the defence, feelings of unkindness are apt to be developed when one woman tarnishes the reputation of another, even under the compulsion of a summons - and, of course, against her inclination.  It must have been especially painful to Mrs. Friedelburgh, for instance, to recall the conduct she had felt herself constrained to adopt towards Mrs. Andrews after she discovered that the latter had fallen from her high estate.  It may have been necessary to preserve her own reputation unsullied, that she should avoid walking on the same side of the deck with that lady; and refuse to allow her to ascend to the poop in her company, to receive her friends.  But such conduct is liable to the interpretation of unkindness, which the counsel for the defence put upon it, and its recapitulation in court might leave a doubt in the minds of those present whether the same kindnesses were really shown towards that unfortunate lady with which women might naturally suppose to treat each other.

Captain Bellwood's plea of guilty at an early stage on the proceedings prevented any evidence on this point being tendered by impartial witnesses; so Mrs. Friedelburgh's own statement that such kindness was shown remains unsupported - and uncontradicted.  It is impossible therefore to judge how far the absence of sympathy on the part of those from  whom it might naturally be expected, may have been influential in  d riving Mrs. Andrews to seek it elsewhere when lonely and ill, and this have paved the way to the unhappy consequence.  Captain Bellwood's own conduct was of course inexcusable, the utmost his advocate could to was to palliate it.  It is the duty of a master to maintain order and propriety in his ship; when he is the first to break them, he becomes unfit for the responsibility of his situation.  The offence of the individual is aggravated in the person of the officer.  The temptation may have been great, but c an only be held to palliate not excuse the crime.

Source: The North-China Herald, 24 November 1863


A trial which excited a little interest, came off at the British Consulate during the past week.  It arose from a plaint against the Captain of the Marquis of Argyle, by a Miss Davis, for using threatening and abusive language towards her.  A second count in the plaint charged the Captain with not having provided sufficient accommodation, and not being sufficiently attentive during the voyage from London to Shanghai.  The evidence, which was rather of the Divorce Court class, clearly convicted the Captain of gross misconduct, and he was accordingly sentenced to pay a fine of $250 to the crown, and a further sum of $150 as compensation to Miss Davis.

Source: The North-China Herald, 12 December 1863


Two important decisions have been pronounced by H.B.M. Consul.  Damages to the amount of £1,500 have been adjudged to the Plaintiff in the case of ANDREWSv. BELLWOOD (Vide North-China Herald 21st Nov).

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