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Colonial Cases

Municipal Council v. Oppert and Co., 1865



Municipal Council v. Oppert and Co.

Prussian Consular Court, Shanghai
Source: The North-China Herald, 23 December 1865




December [??]th 1865.



In the name of the King!


  1. Messrs. Oppert & Co. have declared before this Court their willingness to pay to the plaintiffs the sum of Tls. 39.86, the account of Wharfage Dues, and 1 ½ per cent on the rent only calculated from [Jany] 1st to December 31st, 1865, as house tax remaining unsettled.
  2. The claim in excess of the above amount is not justified, and is therefore rejected with costs.


Plaintiffs claim from defendants remaining Wharfage Dues and House Tax, as follows:

Wharfage Dues, Jan. 1st to March 31st, 1865                             Tls. 39.80

                          July 1st to Sept 30th, 1865                                    13.80

House Tax, Special rate                                                                  13.80

                         July 1st to Dec. 31st, 1865                                       55.00

                                                                                             Tls.   168.60

And they assert that the Land Regulations dated 1854, and the resolutions passed in accordance with the provisions of these regulations, entitle them to bring the defendants before this Court.

Defendants are willing to pay Tls. 39.86 wharfage dues, and plaintiffs withdraw the remaining claim under this head.  Defendants are further willing to pay 1 ½ per cent house tax for the above named period, but refuse to pay any more, inasmuch as they were not invited to attend any meeting authorizing such taxes, nor had they any voice in raising the taxes which, however, had formerly been readily paid.

Article X of The Land Regulations is as follows:

It being expedient and necessary that some provision be made for the making of roads, cleaning, lighting and draining the settlement generally, and establishing a watch or police force, the foreign Consuls shall at the beginning of each year convene a meeting of the Renters of Land within the said limits, to devise means of raising the requisite funds for these purposes; and at each meeting it shall be competent to the said renters to declare an assessment in the form of a rate to be made on the said land or buildings, and in the form of wharfage dues on all goods landed at any place within the said limits; and to appoint a committee of three or more persons to levy the said rates and dues, and apply the funds so realised to the purposes aforesaid, or in such manner as may be agreed and determined upon at the said meeting, and to that end the said committee shall be empowered to sue all defaulters in the Consular Courts under whose jurisdiction these may be.


The resolution passed by a majority at any such public meeting on all such matters aforesaid, shall be valid and binding upon the whole of The Renters of Land within the said limits, if not less than one third of them are present.

These rules do not mention or allude to the tenants of houses.  They, on the contrary, expressly imply that all resolutions are binding upon the Land-renters only; and even setting aside these clear rules themselves, it seems to be a matter of course that no Land-renters have the power to impose taxes upon mere tenants without the consent of the latter.  Supposing therefore that the Land Regulations are binding on German subjects, supposing also that the meetings were duly convened and the resolutions duly passed (questions which I now have to decide), all such resolutions would be binding on Land-renters only.  On them rests the responsibility of paying the taxes, which they had no right to levy on tenants of houses, who are in no other connection and under no other obligation as regards their landlords, than are contained in their lease and mutual agreements.


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