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Colonial Cases

R v. Clark, 1867


R. v. Clark

Consular Court, Shanghai [?]
Source: The North-China Herald, 14 December 1867



A man named Clark has been convicted of creek piracy, and sentenced to three years penal servitude.  One of his companions, Nissen, was found guilty a few days ago, in the Danish Consular Court.  A third, Hennis, awaits trial by the Prussian Consul.


Source: The North-China Herald, 14 December 1867


THE trials for piracy which occur, from time to time, in the Shanghai Law Courts, resemble each other in most respects so closely that, having commented on one, we have commented on all.  Two or three rowdies get into a boat, go for a cruise through the creeks, and plunder whenever opportunity offers.  They are unlucky, at last, in lighting on some more than usually intelligent victim, through whose information they are detected and punished.  This is the history of Clark, and is the history of too many others of a class which has, now, for years been earning a precarious but easy livelihood by creek piracy.  When in Shanghai, they haunt favourite taverns, whose landlord acts as their banker.  So long as they have money in his hands, he keeps them.  When their stock is exhausted, he hints to them that it is time to start on a fresh cruise, and they start obediently.  Occasionally they catch a Tartar, and one of the gang is suddenly missed from his usual haunts; occasionally they indulge in a drunken quarrel among themselves, with the same result.  In either case, a by-creek conceals the deed, - and the body.  But as a rule they are successful; the Chinese are afraid to resist, and too ignorant or too timid to follow up and give them in custody, on their return to Shanghai.

The present case, however, introduces us to a new phase of rowdy life, which deserves more prominence that it could obtain in the course of the trial.  It introduces us to a class of Chinese jackals, who purvey for the Foreign lion.  The "Buffalo" alluded to by the native witnesses, is only the most noted among several individuals who rejoice in the same cognomen, and whose business it is to direct the energies of their rowdy friends.  The Buffalo in the present case was "Buffalo" par excellence - the Buffalo, who has been concerned in more rowdy enterprises, and enjoys a higher reputation, than any of his tribe.  He, it was, who planned the robbery of Messrs. Waller & Co.'s silk boat, some eighteen months ago; he was in the boat when the quarrel occurred in the course of which one Carval was killed. And the German who was afterwards found wounded and stripped by a shooting party, was so roughly handled.  In short, he has become do famous that he dares not, now, set foot in Shanghai; but passes the greater part of his existence roaming the country in his boat.  If he detects a good thing, he warns his "lions," who troop out, obedient to his call.

In the present case, the evidence tells us, he went on shore in the evening to prowl; and returned shortly, with the news that a suitable prey lay not far distant.  The three foreigners concerned - Clark, Nissen and Hennis, accordingly followed him, entered a boat belonging to the Che-hsien of Kahding, helped themselves to a certain quantity of money, clothes and other property, and proceeded on their cruise, while it was still dark.  Rumour says that they effected another robbery during the remainder of their cruise; but the one in question, with which the police were fortunately able to connect them, sufficed for their conviction.  Clark was tried yesterday, and sentenced to three years penal servitude in Hongkong; Nissen was convicted, a few days ago, before the Danish Consular Tribunal, and sentenced to confinement until an opportunity shall occur of sending him to Denmark for punishment; and Hennis, a Prussian, lies in the English gaol, awaiting the action of his national authorities. ....

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