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Colonial Cases

Crocker v. Taylor, 1883


Crocker v. Taylor

United States Consular Court, Shanghai

Denny, 13 July 1883

Source: North China Herald, 20 July 1883


Shanghai, 13th July 1833

Before O. N. Denny, Esq., Consul-General, Acting Judicially.


  William Taylor, second mate of the American ship Syren, was summoned to answer a complaint of insubordination, preferred against him by Captain Z. H. Crocker, master of the Syren.

  Captain Crocker, in his affidavit, made three specific complaints against the accused,

On the 4th April Taylor struck the cabin-boy.  The Captain rebuked him and forbade him to strike the boy again. Taylor cursed and swore, said that he would strike the boy or anybody else he thought fit, and that if the Captain did not leave him alone to do as he liked he would continue the reminder of the voyage before the mast. The Captain had need of Taylor's services as second mate and said when he was ready for Taylor to go into the forecastle Taylor would go, but not before.

On the 14th May the Captain ordered Taylor to take in the main top gallant sail. Taylor went to do so, and Capt. Crocker then ordered him to send a man to pull with him (the Captain) at the weather brace.  Taylor roared out, "Let me alone, or you will wish you had done so."  He then went away and remained out of sight and hearing for four hours.  The Captain then spoke to Taylor and asked him what he meant by such conduct.  Taylor used foul language and said he would not do another day's work as officer.  He cursed the Captain and the ship and everybody in it, and remained for nearly an hour at the break of the poop cursing and swearing like a madman.  The weather was very rough, and the Captain needed the services of a second mate; but he told Taylor that he could not be allowed to come into the cabin unless he apologised for his conduct.  Taylor did apologise, and things went on as they were.

On the 16th July, when they were making the ship fast at Tun-ka-doo, he saw Taylor sulking against the rail and asked him what he was doing.  Taylor refused duty and asked to be paid off.  The Captain said he would not pay him off, but would send him into the forecastle.  Taylor refused to go into the forecastle and said he would go and see the American Consul.

      Captain Crocker gave evidence in support of the statements in the affidavit.  He said the cabin boy, James Washington, came to him on the 4th April with his face bleeding and swollen, and said that the second mate had struck him.  Witness rebuked the accused, and Taylor said he would strike the boy or anybody else who gave him insolence.  He spoke to Taylor kindly, but Taylor cursed and swore, and said he would not be interfered with. On the second occasion specified when he refused to obey the Captain's orders, Taylor used foul language which he (complainant) would be glad if he might be excused repeating.

  His Honour said the complainant had better repeat the words.

  Captain Cro0cker stated that Taylor said he would be d----- if he would be second mate and be interfered with; he would be d----- of any Captain should come interfering with him.  The accused kept out of the way for four hours after that, and, when remonstrated with, used language so foul that complainant would rather lose his case than repeat it.  He stood by the poop cursing the ship and the captain, beating the hatch with his fist and behaving like a madman.  Complainant afterwards told the accused that he could not come into the cabin again unless he apologized for his conduct and accused did make a sort of apology, though by no means an abject apology.  Complainant then detailed the facts of the third occasion when the accused was alleged to have been insubordinate.  He said Taylor had behaved in a similar manner on several other occasions, but as he could not specify the exact dates and facts he did not mention them in his affidavit; in fact the man was an insolent, insubordinate coward; that was what he was.

  His Honour said the complainant need not call the defendant names.

  Cross-examined by the defendant, Capt. Crocker said it was not true that Taylor was obeying the pilot's orders on the occasion of the alleged insubordination at Tunkadoo.  The accused was continually using profane language.  It was not true that he (complainant) called the accused a dirty, mean hound; he never called the accused such a thing since he was borne.

  James Edward Washington, cabin boy, said on the 4th April the accused struck him and threw a belaying pin at him. It was his first trip at sea, and, not knowing any better, he hung up some clothes on a rope on the main sheet.  The second mate told him to take them off and he did so; but Taylor accused him of being saucy and struck him and threw the belaying pin at him. The witness corroborated much of the captain's evidence as to the accused being insubordinate and using foul language.

  Cross-examined by Taylor.  Witness admitted that Taylor spoke to him civilly about the clothes at first.  He admitted that he said to Taylor, "D----- you, I will fix you," but that was after Taylor had cursed him.

  Peter Pemberton, ordinary sailor, of the Syren, said Taylor had struck him half a dozen times.  Once Taylor kicked him in the side, and made him black and blue, once he struck him in the face and cut his lip, and once he struck him with a bucket. He gave evidence as to defendant having been insubordinate and insolent to the captain.

  The Accused, when asked if he had any questions to put to the witness, said - He is not a seaman, Sir; he is very stupid.  If I send him to one place he is sure to go to the opposite place.  The captain said he wanted discipline kept, and I was trying to keep discipline.

  Capt. Crocker (to witness) - Why did you not report these occurrences to me, so that I could stop them? You know that I do not allow the officers to curse the sailors or to strike them?

  Witness - The men said it would only make him worse.

  Capt. Crocker - Well, perhaps it would.

  Witness - And partly what made me so stupid that I was frightened.

  Frank Edwards, A.B. Seaman, of the Syren, gave corroborative evidence.

  William Taylor, the defendant, was then sworn.  In answer to the first complaint he said the cabin bot was very insolent to him, and he told the captain that if a boy was to be allowed to be insolent to him and go unpunished, he would rather go into the forecastle than continue second mate.  He denied that he had ever cursed the captain or been insubordinate.  At Tunkadoo he told the Captain that as they could not get on together the Captain had better pay him off.

  Cross-Examined by Capt. Crocker, Witness swore that he never said to the Captain "Leave me alone," or "Take in the sail yourself."  He did not remember cursing the ship and everybody on it; he did not curse Capt. Crocker; he was not in the habit of using profane language.  He admitted that Capt. Crocker forbade him to strike Pemberton because the boy was in weak health and consumptive, and he remembered the captain asking him as a personal favour not to use profane language to the men. But Capt. Crocker told him he wanted discipline, and strict discipline; and he (defendant) tried to keep strict discipline.

  John Evans, A.B. Seaman, was called as a witness for the defence.  He gave a slightly different version of the incident at Tunkadoo from that of the Captain.  He said he did not hear Taylor curse the Captain, but he heard the Captain confounding Taylor.  He had heard Taylor cursing and swearing on some occasions, but he did not know who Taylor was cursing at,

 His Honour said he would make an order in the case next morning (Saturday) at 10 o'clock.


North China Herald, 20 July 1883


Shanghai, 13th July 1883

Before O. N. Denny, Esq., Consul-General, Acting Judicially.

14th July.


William Taylor, second mate of the American ship Syren, appeared to receive the order of the Court in the matter of the charge of insubordination preferred against him by Captain Crocker, Master of the Syren.

  The order of the Court was that the defendant should be discharged from the ship at his own cost.


  John Evans, A.B. Seaman, of the American ship Syren, was charge with bring drunk and incapable in Broadway.

  His Honour asked if the defendant was making a disturbance.

  Police Constable 17, who took the man in custody, said no. The defendant was too drunk to make a disturbance; he was "blind drunk."

  This being the defendant's first offence he was warned not to get drunk any more, and ordered to return to his ship.

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