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Colonial Cases

Merryman v. Flood, 1876

[ship's deserter]

Merryman v. Flood

United States Consular Court, Shanghai
Bradford, 1876
Source: The North China Herald, 9 March 1876



Before O. B. BRADFORD, Esq.

Captain JOHN G. MERRYMAN, Master and part owner of the American barque Free Trade, of San Francisco, appeared and made an affidavit that his first officer, Mr. Flood, had left his ship last Wednesday, and that he was in debt to the ship, in the sum of about $45.  He added that he had told Mr. Flood he could go on shore, and now he came to the Consulate to report him as a deserter, with the object of having a certificate of such desertion given to him upon his clearance.

   Mr. FLOOD was sent for, and upon appearing, had the charge of desertion read to him.  He said he confirmed a statement made under oath by him on the 2nd March, made before the Vice-Consul-General. - On the 2nd instant, it was reported at the consulate that the first officer of the Free Trade had been discharged from his vessel by Capt. Berryman, and was on shore.  He was sent for and deposed that he had been paid off with $126.390, as wages due, and $45 as a month's extra pay to leave the ship.

   Capt. MERRYMAN admitted the truth of the statement made by Mr. Flood, and pleaded a custom, which obtained in many ports, of paying men their whole wages due and letting them go on shore, and then reporting them at the consulate as deserters.  He said he had done so at Melbourne in the case of a cook or steward, who wanted to get married, and that he had also done the same thing in Hongkong and Singapore.

   The unjustness and illegality of the practice were pointed out to Captain Merryman.  There did not seem to be any malicious intent shown by him, as the man discharged was in perfect health, and not disabled, and had an abundance of money.  The law was very clear upon the point, and provided penalties of both fine and imprisonment for kindred practices on the part of shipmasters towards their crews.  The nominal fine of $25 would therefore be imposed, and he would also pay three months' extra wages, at $45 per month, into the Consulate for Mr. Flood, together with the costs of the case.

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