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Colonial Cases

United States v. Bradford, 1878

[new trial]

United States v. Bradford

United States Consular Court, Shanghai
Staehl, 5 April 1878
Source: The North China Herald, 11 April 1878



Shanghai, 5th April.

Before JULIUS STAHEL, Esq., Vice-Consul-General of Judge in Court.


Application for a new Trial.

   No counsel were engaged, and petitioner conducted his own case.  There were a number of persons in Court, and upon the petitioner's appearance, he was received with some applause, which he acknowledged by bowing, and then took his seat in front of the table usually occupied by counsel.

   The PETITIONER read his petition, as follows:

1st. - That your petitioner was declared guilty, by this honorable Court, G. Wiley Wells Esq., presiding, on the 22nd day of October, 1877, for having taken from the mail a letter addressed by D. J. Macgowan, of Shanghai, to General Myers, of San Francisco, and mailed on or about the first of January, 1877.

2nd. - That your petitioner is able to prove that the said General Myers has publicly stated that he duly received the said letter, and has retained possession of it.

3rd. - That a copy of the said letter, in the handwriting of F. J. Macgowan, was in your petitioner's possession on the 26th day of March, 1877.

4th. - That the said copy fell into your petitioner's hands accidentally, as stated by him at the trial, and that the said D. J. Macgowan now admits the truth of petitioner's statement in this connection.

   Your petitioner therefore prays for a new trial of this matter, in order that he may present the evidence thus declared, or, if this cannot be done, that he be allowed an opportunity to appear in Court to show that the proceedings of October, 1877, were irregular, and should be dickered void and of no effect.

   And your Petitioner will ever pray.

   The PETITIONER then proceeded to give the reasons upon which he presented his petition for a new trial, first asking the court to hear him for a few moments on the grounds upon which his application was based.  He said the provision of law which related to the granting of new trials may be found in the 13th section of the Act of congress approved June 22nd, 1860, and in Rules 42 and 42 of the Court regulations.  The wording of the Act is

The Minister may prescribe the rules upon which new trials may be granted wither by the Consuls or by himself, if asked for upon justifiable grounds, (p. 86.)

The Rules made under this authority are as follows: - Under the caption, "New Trial," Rule 42.-

Because of Perjury.  On proof of the perjury of any important witness of the prevailing party upon a material point affecting the decision of a suit, the Consul who tried it may, within a year after final judgment, grant a new trial on such terms as he may deem just.

Rule 43. - Generally.  Within one year after final judgment in any suit not involving more than five hundred dollars, the consul who tried it, or his successor, may upon sufficient security grant a new trial when justice manifestly requires it; it exceeding five hundred dollars, with the concurrence of the Minister.

   The provisions of these rules are not so clear as they might be, more particularly as they seem to refer to civil rather than to criminal actions.  Their effect, however, is, as I believe, and as I submit to the court, to give authority to the Consular officer or to his successor to grant a new trial of any caser where justice manifestly requires it, as I will try to show it does in this case.  An earlier decree, that of Mr. Davis, dated January 2nd, 1849, based upon an earlier act of Congress, identical in terms, provides,

That new trials may be granted in criminal cases, upon the accused filing his affidavit, therein setting forth to the satisfaction of the court such material facts as he believes he would be able to prove on a rehearing of his case. (p. 117.)

It would appear, therefore, that the very broadest authority is given to Consular officers in these matters; and since the evidence which I am now able to offer affords conclusive proof that I was erroneously condemned on the trial of this cause, there will, I trust, be no difficulty in granting me the opportunity to place all the facts before the Court upon such new trial.

   The COURT. - Will you hand in the papers you have read?  Do you wish to do so?

   PETITIONER. - I would like to give you copies, these are merely notes.

   The COURT. - They will do for the Court to consider the application upon.

   PETITIONER. - You will allow me to copy them afterwards, for my own guidance.

   The COURT. - Yes.

   The papers were then handed in, and the proceedings were adjourned for half-an-hour.  Upon returning,

   The COURT said - Having heard the motion of the defendant for a new trial in the case of "The people of the Unsuited States v. O. B. Bradford," on a charge of the violation of the Postal Laws of the united States of America, on which the defendant was tried, convicted and  sentenced, on the 22nd October last, by this Court; the Court, after a careful consideration of the matters contained in defendant's petition, is of the opinion  that the prayer contained therein must be denied for want of jurisdiction, as it is a well-settled principle of law than an application for a new trial in criminal cases must be made before judgment, and that no new trial can be granted in  a criminal case after judgment is satisfied.  The petition of defendant is therefore dismissed.

   PETITIONER. - Do I understand that the second prayer of my petition is also disallowed - if a new trial cannot be granted, that I may be allowed an opportunity to appear in Court to show that the proceedings at my conviction in October, 1877, were irregular and ought to be declared null and void of no effect?  Is that covered by the dismissal?

   The COURT. - It is covered by the dismissal.

   PETITIONER was proceeding with his remarks, when

   The COURT said - I cannot go in to the question now, the decision is given.

Application for Bill of Particulars.

   The PETITIONER then went on to read his petition for a bill of particulars in the next charge brought against him, as follows:-

  1. - That your petitioner was, on the 12th say of November, 1877, arraigned before this honourable Court, an an indictment containing g 25 counts, and, for reasons which need not be recited here, whole innocent of the charges preferred against him, asked that all questions involved should be referred to the Government.
  2. - That, at the rime, your petitioner was, and still is, in ignorance to a great extent, of the grounds on which the said charges were based; but was informed that he would be provided with a bill of particulars.
  3. - That your petitioner has never received such bill of particulars, and he now asks that it be prepared and given to him.

PETITION ER went on to say that he thought all that he need say in the way of supplementing the petition for a bill of particulars was that he asked for the bill of particulars only because he was still without information, as he was at the time of his arraignment, as to how the charges were made out against him, and was still not placed in a position to enable him to make a report to Government on his own behalf.

   The COURT said, in considering the petition of defendant in the case, "The people of the United States v. O. B. Bradford," wherein the defendant was arraigned on the 12th day of November, 1877, before this Court, on an indictment of 25 counts, the Court recognises the justice of the petitioner's prayer, and orders that the petitioner be furnished with such evidence as the Court is possessed of.


   In connection with the application for a new trial, Dr. Macgowan handed to the reporters the following letter:-

Shanghai, 4th April, 1878


   SIR, - I have just received information, which I cannot but accept, that your statement of the way in which a copy of my letter to General Myers came into your possession, is true.

   Minister Seward informs me that on the 26th March, last year, he saw in my handwriting that letter in your hands and read it.

   Now although I have not the faintest recollection of having made a copy of the letter, still, as I speak from memory, and Mr. Seward's assertion is positive, I feel bound to express my regret for the error that I thus appear top have committed.  While you have suffered grievously from the charge, you must allow me to remind you that it was in your power to have prevented the mistake.  You knowingly suffered me unconsciously to commit a grave error.

   The circumstances of my action in the matter were briefly these.  I was summoned to the consulate to meet Consul-General Wells and Dr. McCartee, Consular Interpreter, who had discovered a copy of my letter to General Myers in your handwriting, which, as it seemed, could be accounted for in no other way than by the supposition that it had been taken out of the mail and copied.  Moreover, I was informed that other charges of the kind would be preferred against you, and as it was inferable that your recent removal from the postal department had been made ion that ground, I felt, therefore, that a duty was incumbent on me which I could not shirk.

Very truly yours, D. J. Macgowan.


Source: The North China Herald, 20 April 1878


We understand that orders were received Thursday by the American mail, that Mr. Bradford should report to the State department at Washington, in reference to the charges upon which he has been lately detained in custody.  He was accordingly released yesterday from personal custody.

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