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Colonial Cases

United States v. Ross, 1881

United States v. Ross

United States Consular Court, Yokohama

Source: North China Herald, 6 May 1881


  John Martin Ross, who was tried in Yokohama for the murder of Jacob Kelly, on board the American ship Bullion, and was convicted, sued out a writ of habeas corpus on the 28th March in the United States Circuit Court.  He was tried before the American Consul at Yokohama and four jurymen, on the 20th of May last, and was convicted and sentenced to be hanged.  His sentence was afterwards commuted to imprisonment for life.


United States Consular Court, Yokohama


Source: Sacramento Daily Union, 7 December 1881

The indictment, trial and conviction in the Consular Court at Yokohama of John Ross, a merchant seaman on board an American vessel, have made it necessary for the Government to institute a careful examination into the nature and methods of this jurisdiction.  It appears that Ross was regularly shipped under the flag of the United States, but was by birth a British subject. My predecessor felt it his duty to maintain the position that during his service as a regularly shipped seaman on board an American merchant vessel, Ross was subject to the laws of that service, and to the jurisdiction of the United States Consulate authorities.



This case ultimately went up to the United States Supreme Court.

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