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Colonial Cases

Court of Consuls Rules 1882

Court of Consuls 


 Peter Bullock has supplied the following introduction to this little known court.

The Court of Consuls was established by the Land Regulations to deal with matters relating to the Municipal Council only, and although there is some suggestion that it was 'Supervisory' I don't think that is correct.  Its jurisdiction over Municipality matters was limited; it could only hear such matters by petition or at the request of a certain number of Ratepayers or inhabitants. To my mind it's a sort of International Mixed Court of limited jurisdiction, almost an Administrative Tribunal, although there was no such concept in those days.
The Rules of Procedure were agreed and signed by all the Treaty Consuls, although how France got in I am not certain.  Probably because of their habit of not wanting to be left out.

It was truly international and the work was constantly rotated among all nationalities; it was working right up to the 1941 Japanese take-over.  Lots of scraps are tucked away under Municipal, but there were about 20 large cases, some interesting.  Cases range from traffic accidents with police, tax on foreshore, sewage, land for roads, &c/.

The Court seems to have been a presence in the corporate mind even though it wasn't used until 1882.

Foundation of the Court

North China Herald, 4 August 1866


General No. 424


Shanghai, 26th July 1866

  SIR, I have the honour to forward herewith for the consideration of the Board of Foreign Consuls, a Memorandum setting forth the views of the Municipal Council in respect of the Matter of their being sued.,  I have, &c.

  The memorandum embodies the views of all the members of the council, with the exception of myself.  I prefer the plan proposed by Mr. Seward at the meeting of Consuls. A. A. Hayes, Jr.  .  .  .  


The members of the Municipal Council have carefully considered the proposed Regulation drawn up by the Board of consuls, providing for the suing of the Municipal Council, and hey egret that they cannot quite approve if it.  The members of Council recognize the difficulties which beset a question involving so many national interests, and understand how the plan suggested would meet some of them, but it appears to the council that, in the general interests of the Foreign Settlement, It would be well to have one Court, so as to avoid decisions on almost identical questions being given at variance one with the other.  

  The Council would suggest the creation of a Court of Consuls for the hearing of causes, the Senior Consul to be President, and to sit with three Consuls as Assessors, and from the decision of his Court, an appeal should exist to the Ministers of the Treaty powers at Peking.

  The Council conceive there would be no waiving of any right by the respective Governments adopting such a plan, inasmuch as the plaintiff at present has to appear in the Court of the Defendant and seeing that the council is of no nationality and is simply a cosmopolitan body, its members are of opinion that it might be cited most justly before such a tribunal. .  .  .  


North China Herald, 29 April 1871



.  .  .  

Rules of Procedure for the Court of Consuls.


North China Herald, 12 May 1871


.  .  .  

  Mr. Donaldson rose to speak again to the point, but

  The Chairman said Mr. Donaldson's question had been put and answered; and he thought the meeting would agree that as much time had been given to it as was necessary,  The action, in writing off Mr. Donaldson's vote, had been taken by the council.  If he were aggrieved by their action, they were amenable before the Court of Consuls, under the terms of the Land Regulations.   .  .  .  

North China Herald, 16 October 1871



  .  .  .   The meeting then proceeded to elect Judges for the Court of Consuls, and on the motion of Comte Mejan, seconded by Senor Emperanza, Messrs. Wentzel and Davenport were requested to act in the places made vacant by the absence of Messrs. Annecke and Medhurst.


North China Herald, 25 January 1872


.  .  .   Messrs. Seward, Davenport and Wentzel were chosen to act as judges for the Court of Consuls during the year.


North China Herald, 7 September 1872



.  .  .  It was determined that THE Rules of Procedure holding in the United State Consular courts in China as abridged by the Court of Consuls, should be provisionally adopted for the conduct of the suit now pending between A, Anderson and the Municipal Council.


North China Herald, 5 December 1872


.  .  .   It was determined that Messrs. Medhurst and Schlick should be nominated Members of the Court of Consuls in the place of Messrs. Wentzel deceased and Alabaster resigned.


North China Herald, 25 February 1875


.  .  .   The Senior Consul was asked to request the Consuls to send in to him, in sealed envelopes, nominations for the Court of Consuls for the year 1875. [List of members of consular body.]


North China Herald, 24 April 1875


.  .  .   Messrs. Annecke, Medhurst and Seward have been elected to form the Court of Consuls for the current year,


North China Herald, 24 April 1875


Formal announcement of those elected for 1875 (see above.)

North China Herald, 8 March 1881



  The Municipal Council may sue and be sued in the name of their Secretary.  Suits against the Municipal Council shall be heard and determined by a Court of three of the Treaty Consuls who shall be chosen annually by the body of such Consuls.  The Court is hereinafter referred to as "The Court of Consuls."

North China Herald, 24 January 1882


.  .  .   AND THE Consular Representatives of Great Britain, Germany and the United States, to act as Judges in the Court of Consuls during the present year.


North China Herald, 2 June 1882


  The Court of Consuls has granted a temporary order, to be in force until the 6th inst., retraining the Municipal Council from advertising for tenders for altering the jinricksha license-fees during the current year.


Court of Consuls Rules, Shanghai

Source: North China Herald, 28 July 1882



In the Court of Consuls, Shanghai, 6th July 1882

  The Court of Consuls have the honour to circulate for the approval of their Colleagues, the accompanying Rules of Procedure, which have been agreed upon. If approved, they will be published in pamphlet form as the Rules of the Court.

To the Members of the Consular Body, Shanghai.



Rule 1. - Every petition and other pleading filed in the Court and all notices and other documents issuing from the Court shall be entitled "In the Court of Consuls."

Rule 2, - The Court will appoint a Secretary whose name and address will be made public and who shall hold the office until the Court otherwise directs.  The Secretary shall have charge of all records and under the direction of the Court issue and serve or cause to be served all notices and other documents.  He shall also be the medium of all correspondence.

Rule 3. - Suits shall be commenced and proceeded with in person or by attorney and suitors may be heard with or without Counsel.

Rule 4. - The language of the Court will be English.

Rule 5. - All proceedings shall be commenced by a petition to the Court, to be filed in quadruplicate and to state all facts material to the issue in distinct paragraphs.

Rule 6. The petition will be served upon defendant with notice to file an answer in quadruplicate within fourteen days from the date of service.  A copy of the answer will be served on the plaintiff or his Counsel under the direction of the Court.

Rule 7. - Amendments and other proper pleadings will be admitted upon such terms as the Court may impose and such interim orders may be made prior to the hearing of the cause as the Court may consider necessary.

Rule 8. - When it appears to the Court that a cause is ready to be heard such cause will be set down for hearing and notice of the date and place of hearing will be given to the parties.

Rule 9. - Sittings of the Court will be public and its proceedings recorded by the Secretary.

Rule 10. - The onus of procuring witnesses shall be with the parties but the Court will as far as practicable aid in procuring the attendance of witnesses.  Evidence will be taken on oath or otherwise as the witnesses may consider binding.  The examination of witnesses will be conducted as the Court may direct.

Rule 11. - A failure to respond to any order or notice issued by the Court will entitle the adverse party to judgment by default and the Court shall be empowered to give judgment accordingly.

Rule 12. - In any case upon application within sixty days after judgment the Court may order a re-hearing upon such terms as seem just.

Rule 13. - Special cases where the facts are admitted may be submitted in writing to the Court for decision without appearance of the parties.

Rule 14.  A minute of all orders  shall be drawn up and shall be signed by the Consuls forming the Court or a majority of them and all orders shall be expressed to be made "By the Court" and shall be signed by the Secretary.

Rule 15. - Judgments will be given in writing by the Judges of the Court and either read in Court after notice or served upon the parties.

Rule 16. - The fee shall be for hearing $10 - for each notice issued and served $5 - and such fees for recording the proceedings shall be allowed as the Court may direct. A deposit in such sum as the Court may think sufficient to secure payment of fees will be required of each petitioner.  The costs including those of Counsel in the discretion of the Court shall be paid as the Court directs.

Rule 17.- All fees shall be at the disposal of the Court for the remuneration of the Secretary.

  The foregoing rules are subject to amendment or alteration by the Court from time to time.

O. N. DENNY, United States Consul-General;

P. J. HUGHES, H.B.M.'s Consul;

VON KRENCKI, His German Majesty's Acting Consul-General.

Approved: J.  E. REDING, Consul for Russia;

Approved: H. DE C. FORBES, Acting Consul-General for Sweden and Norway.

Approved: CARL JANTZEN, Acting Consul for Belgium;

Approved: M. G. FLESCH, Consul Charge du Consulate-General de France.

Approved: JOSEPH HAAS, Acting Consul for Austria-Hungary, Italy and Netherlands.

Approved: W. PATERSON, Acting Consul for Denmark.

Approved: E. SHINAGAWA, Consul-General for Japan.

In the Court of Consuls.

Shanghai, 10th July, 1882.

 The foregoing Rules having been approved by the Consular Body are published by order of the Court of Consuls.

F. D. CHESHIRE, Secretary.

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