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Colonial Cases

Mills v. Mills, 1876


Mills v. Mills

United States Consular Court, Shanghai
Myers, 2 October 1876
Source: The North China Herald, 5 October 1876



Shanghai, Oct. 2nd.

Before J. C. MYERS, Esq., Consul-General, and M. W. MURPHY, Associate.


Divorce Case.

   This was a wife's petition for a dissolution of marriage on the ground of her husband's cruelty and misconduct.

   The COURT, in opening the proceedings, explained that the respondent was a prisoner in the Consular Gaol, having been committed by that Court.  The Marshal of the Court would be directed to tell him that he had perfect liberty to appear before the Court on this occasion.  The prison doors would be opened, and he (the respondent) would be allowed to appear without restraint of any kind.

   The MARSHAL of the Court was then directed to inform the respondent that he was at liberty to appear before the Court.  When the Marshal returned, he stated that the respondent declined to appear.

   The COURT then read the following:-


To the Honourable JOHN C. MYERS, Consul-General, acting Judicially.

   The petition of Annie M. Mills, of Shanghai, China, by her next friend Alexander Malcolm, respectfully sheweth:-

   That your petitioner was, on the 19th day of September, in the year one thousand eight hundred and fifty-eight, ,awfully joined in marriage with Charles Mills, a citizen of Harwich, Massachusetts, U.S., her present husband, and from that time lived and cohabited with him and conducted herself as a dutiful and affectionate wife; and, although by the laws of God, as well as the mutual vows pledged to each other, they were bound to that mutual uniform constancy and regard which of right should be inseparable from the marriage relation, yet so it is, that the said Charles Mills, in violation of his marriage vow, had for the last past five years, since our residence in China, at divers times and frequently, committed acts of cruelty upon my person, and inhumanly threatening and placing my life I jeopardy, as I shall proceed to show.

   The said Charles Mills repeatedly compelled me to leave my dwelling and place of business, the "Shanghai Hotel," in the city of Shanghai, China, at inclement hours of the night, wilfully and maliciously exposing me to bodily suffering and danger.

   The said home and place of business was purchased with my own separate money, was solely vested in me and so continues to be, and towards the acquisition of which my husband did not contribute in money or service to the value of anything.

   He has committed indignities and cruelties upon my person at divers times, blackening my eyes, cutting my hands with deadly weapons, and otherwise cruelly inflicting injuries upon me, so that at one time I was confined to my bed and room for fourteen days.

   These assaults, injuries, and cruel treatments, rendered my marriage relations with the said Mills, miserable and burdensome, but I patiently endured all my sufferings without giving him provocation in any way or manner for their infliction, relying in the fervent hope that my forbearance, kindness, and fidelity towards him, would cause change in his behaviour, and that I would thus induce him to become a kind and faithful husband.  He continued in these barbarous practices for the last five years, whether acting under the influence of intoxicating liquors, or in his moments of sobriety.  At the same time, he recklessly and improvidently squandered my hard earnings of large sums of money, in dissipation and immorality, having no regard for his own reputation, and none whatever for our common interests, or for mine.

   I have always treated him tenderly, for a period of eighteen years, in all our married relations, and can now only account for his conduct towards me as instigated by incompatibility of temper on his part, and malice, super induced by depraved practices and improper associations with corrupt characters, and for the removal of which, all efforts in his behalf have utterly, and as your petitioner reluctantly is compelled to believe, irretrievably failed, and I would further remind your Honourable Court that it is of record, that for years In have patiently borne and forborne great bodily injuries at the hands of my husband, the said Charles Mills, and, that on one occasion I felt it my duty for the preservation of my life, from his ungovernable violence, to lodge formal complaint against him; and that on July 7th, 1873, the case was heard in your Honourable Consular-general Court, and the complaint then heard and disposed of was in words as follows, to wit:-

   "That at about 11 o'clock last night, I was shutting up the house known as the "Hongkew Hotel," and after I finished, Mills asked me for some chow-chow.  I went to get it for him.  Mills came down stairs and said he wanted his  food, and began to curse me, and said he would have it down stairs, and then he struck me a blow on my chest.  I was cutting the bread, and he picked up a knife off the table and threatened to cut my throat. The light went out somehow, and he again said that he would cut my throat.  Before the second threat he made a blow at my neck, which I caught on my hand; it is badly cut.  I ran out on the street, and he ran after me saying I could never come into his house again.  I am in fear of my life.  He locked me out and I stayed at the Police Station all night."

   To this complaint, as your Honour will see on examination of the record, my husband Charles Mills, entered the pleas of "guilty of cutting my wife" and he was thereupon sentenced to undergo three months' imprisonment with hard labour, and at the end of the sentence to give bonds to keep the peace towards his wife.  I would also further beg to call your attention to the assault committed upon me on the night of the 4th September, last past, and for which assault he was held in the sum of $2,000, to keep the peace towards me for the period of one year.  I would respectfully ask this Honourable Court to refer to the evidence taken at the trial, and that it may form a part of this, my bill of libel and complaint.  His assurances of amendment and reform of his conduct, at the time of the termination of his sentence referred to above, were so earnest and seemingly sincere that your petitioner freely forgave him, and he was fully and gladly restored to his former relations in my household.  But he did not long maintain his solemn promises voluntarily given, but soon returnee to his former vicious and cruel propensities, and has continued so to do, up to the present time.

   And I further say and declare that my said husband, Charles Mills, has, in addition to all this heretofore related and complained of to your Honourable Court, frequently and at divers time reproached me with harsh and cruel words, without cause or provocation on the part of your complainant, and that in the presence of company, guests and strangers  to your complainant unknown, thus depriving your complainant of all happiness in the society of respectable persons, and causing anguish and inhumanity ton her more poignant and cruel than the blows and cuts inflicted upon her person.  Wherefore your petitioner, showing that she is an inhabitant of Shanghai, China, and hath resided therein for more than five years previous to the filing of her petition, prays your Humour that a summons may issue in due form of law, directed to the said Charles Mills, commanding him to appear in this Honourable Court, at Shanghai, at the United States Consulate-General, on Monday, the 2nd day of October, 1876, at ten o'clock in the forenoon of said day, to answer the complaint aforesaid, and, also, that a decree of your Honourable Court may be made for the divorcing of her, the said Annie M. Mills, from the bond of matrimony, as if she had never been married, and she will ever pray, etc.

(Signed) ANNIE M. MILLS, by her next friend, (Signed) ALEXANDER MALCOLM.

   The above-named Annie M. Mills, being duly sworn according to law, doth depose and say that the facts contained in the above petition are true to the best of her knowledge and belief; and that the said complaint is not made out of levity or by collusion between her, the said Annie M. Mills, and the said Charles Mills her husband, and for the mere purpose of being freed and separated from each other, but in sincerity and truth, and for the causes mentioned in the said petition or libel.

(Signed) ANNIE M. MILLS.

Sworn and subscribed to before me, this 14th day of September, 1876.

(Signed) O. B. BRADFORD, Clerk of Court.

   When the reading of the petition was concluded

   The COURT said - The respondent has failed to appear on due notice given, and we now proceed to consider the case.

   After a short pause

   The COURT said - This Court is of opinion that the prayer of the petitioner ought to be granted.  The married relations which have hitherto existed between the petitioner and the respondent are now dissolved.

   The ASSOCIATES assented to the decision.

   The Court then adjourned.

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