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Colonial Cases

Registration of British Subjects, 1867

[registration of British subjects]

 

Registration of British Subjects

Civil Court, Shanghai
6 April 1867
Source: The North-China Herald, 8 April 1867

 

CIVIL COURT.

April 6th.

Before C. W. GOODWIN, Esq.

Messrs. J. J. Kellie, R. B. Williams, M. Hawtrey, F. E. Gwyn, R. E. Bennett, R. B. Baker, John Fraser, D. Petrie, W. Jaffray, H. Beveridge, James Innes, D. Gilmour, W. H. Gracie, W. Lent, A. J. Little, W. Cance, R. W. Williams, G. R. Corner, James Davison, A. Cohen, C. Ryley, J. C. Abell, W. Brand, and J. Tod were summoned for not having registered themselves as British subjects.

At the opening of the Court this morning:-

Mr. MYBURGH said summonses had been issued against some five and twenty British subjects for non-compliance with the sections of the Order in Council directing them to register and pay five dollars for such registration, in the month of January each year.  Her Britannic Majesty's Consul had shewn the greatest consideration in the matter, as a couple of months had been allowed to pass without any proceedings having been taken.  Unless however the order was to become a dead letter, it was necessary to move now in the matter.  Mr. Jameson would, in the event of any disputed case, be put into the box.

No one, however, of those summoned could state that he had paid.  Various defences, somewhat amusing in their nature, were, though, set up.  One gentleman considered $5 too much for a clerk to pay but he could not regard himself as a sailor, and the assistant Judge declined to consider him as an artisan or labourer within the meaning of the order.  He was therefore fined $10 and costs one dollar and a half.  Another did not contest the payment, but he had not paid the fee this year, as he found men who had not paid it last year, when he had done so, got off with impunity.  He was not prepared to say that H.B.M. Consul would consider this a sufficient reason for his non-compliance with the order.  Fined $10 and costs.  Another did not like paying $5 for nothing.  He opposed the claim on principle.  Fined $10 and costs.

THE CHIEF JUDGE. - You see gentlemen how the cases are going.  This is very good fun (it certainly was so, for every one was laughing, even the Consul at whose instance the proceedings were taken), but I would suggest it is hardly worth paying $10 for in these times.  If you like to come forward and pay the fee with costs, the fines will not be inflicted.  One gentleman, however, "strongly objecting to pay" amidst considerable laughter, the prosecutions went on.

Mr. MYBURGH said a note had just been put into his hand enclosing $5 and stating that the writer was detained by pressing business.  The learned Counsel urged that no business was sufficiently pressing to excuse attendance at Court when summoned.  The Court decided, however, to accept the excuse, especially as it was accompanied by the amount of the fee.  Fined costs.

Another gentleman had not registered himself this year because he would have gone away in January, had he not been detainer by a subpoena issued in the case Tchung-puou-tso v. Jardine, Matheson & Co.  He could only consider the Crown Counsel was to blame for the unpleasant position in which he now was.  He was notwithstanding perfectly willing to pay the fee.  Fined costs.  Another gentleman considered registration fair enough, but objected to the cost of it.  One dollar, he would suggest was quite sufficient.  He was fined costs, and ordered to settle the amount he should pay for registration with the Consul.  Another would certainly undertake to register himself, because it was the wiser course to choose the lesser of two evils.  Another, to the surprise if every one, had been refused registration.  Mr. Jameson said he had not refused him.  Amid great laughter he told Mr. Jamieson that his memory must be singularly oblivious as not an hour had gone by since the refusal.  Fined costs.

Another opposed the whole proceeding.  It was utterly unconstitutional.  Who decided they were to pay the fee?  Would a memorial be forwarded to the proper quarter?  This would certainly be done.  Meanwhile he was fined $10 and costs.  Two or three gentlemen did not consider themselves resident here.  They were simply staying here.  They had though been here in January and continuously since then.  Fined costs.  Another was registered in Yokohama last year.  If he registered here, would he enjoy the same privileges on his return to Japan as if registered there.  It was a matter of importance, as here, a well behaved man was perfectly safe.  There, he might require Consular protection.  He was assured his registration here would afford him the same privileges as his doing so in Japan, and fined costs. Another preferred an execution in his house to paying so odious a tax.  He would be gratified, unless the fee with the fine and costs were paid within eight days.  One gentleman was up country in January and never troubled himself about the matter on his return.  Indeed it never occurred to him, he was willing to register.  Fined costs.  Another gentleman preferred paying the fine. His wish was complied with.  Some would register, but protested.  The protests were not entered, and they were fined costs.  In once case the summons was dismissed.  It appeared the gentleman against whom it had been issued had not been here quite a month.  One gentlemen against whom a summons had been made out in the wrong name accepted the notice.  Another's name had been spelt wrongly.  He had, however, accepted the summons, though he believed it should really have gone to a citizen, now dead, of the United States.  On two gentlemen, Messrs. Cohen and Ryley, summons had not been effected as they had left for Yokohama.

We learned later in the course of the afternoon, that all the fines had been remitted.

[See also Editorial, 'Registration,' same issue.]

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