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Colonial Cases

Sassoon v. Wong Gan-Ying, 1884

[balance of account]

Sassoon v. Wong Gan-Ying

Supreme Court for China and Japan

Rennie CJ, 14 November 1884

Source: North China Herald, 19 November 1884

Shanghai, 14th November 1884
Before Sir Richard Temple Rennie, Chief Justice.
Messrs. DAVID SASSOON, SONS & Co., Defendants and Appellants.
WONG GAN-YING, Manager of the Tung-Chang Gold Shop, Plaintiff and Respondent.
  Mr. Wainwright appeared for the Appellants, and Mr. Wilkinson for the Respondent.
 This was an appeal from Tientsin against an opinion given by A. Davenport, Esq., H.B.M.'s Consul, on the 12th April last. The defendants, who have a branch at Tientsin, were sued by the respondent, who is a native gold-dealer in Tientsin, to recover the balance of an account on sales of gold alleged to have been made to them.  Messrs. David Sassoon, Sons & Co. whose hong in Tientsin is in the foreign Settlement, and their compradore has an establishment in the native city, at which all the sales and purchases between the firm and Chinese are made; and in this case the gold in question was delivered to the compradore in the City, over whose establishment was a sign-board, in Chinese, of Messrs. David Sassoon and Co.'s firm. Receipts were given by the compradore for the gold, and these receipts were alleged to be in the name of the appellants.  
  The defence to the action was that the gold had been sold to the compradore on his own account, and not on account of Messrs. D. Sassoon, Sons and Co., who maintained that the compradorre was solely liable for the amount claimed.  Mr. Consul Davenport decided in favour of the gold-dealer, and Messrs. Sassoon appealed against this decision on the following grounds:-
- That the judgment is contrary to the evidence.
- That the judgment is based on evidence insufficient in Law.
- That certain evidence on behalf of the plaintiff was improperly received or admitted.
- That no evidence was before the Court, or called for, or produced, in support of the said judgment with regard to the custom of the port in regard to the matters the subject of the suit, or any of them.
- That the plaintiff failed to prove that he had delivered the goods claimed for to the defendants, or that the defendants were liable for the same.
- That no proper vouchers were produced by the plaintiff to substantiate his claim.
  Mr. Wainewright, in opening the case for the defendants and appellants, said the plaintiff, in order to succeed, would have to prove that the defendants' course of dealing was such, and the surrounding circumstances were such, as to entitle him to believe that the purchase or purchases in respect of which he was suing were made for the defendants, and that he did actually give credit to the defendants and not to the compradore.  He took it that there could be no dispute between his learned friend and himself as to what the law was.  If he (Mr. Wainewright) could show that the plaintiff had no right to assume that Messrs. David Sassoon, Sons and Co. were the purchasers and that in giving credit he gave credit to the compradore and not to the defendants, he should succeed; but if the plaintiff could prove that he was only entitled to presume that he was selling gold to the defendants, and, furthermore, that he did sell it to the defendants in the sense of giving them credit for it and debiting them with the price, then the plaintiff would succeed.
  He (Mr. Wainewright) hoped to show, from an analysis of the evidence, and from some further evidence on certain points which he had obtained leave to bring forward, that the plaintiff had no right to presume that he was dealing with the compradore as the agent of Messrs. D. Sassoon, Sons and Co. and he hoped to show further that as a matter of fact he did not look upon the compradore as the agent of the defendants, but looked to the compradore for payment and trusted him in the transaction, and him alone.
  Simeon Abraham Nathan, examined by Mr. Wainewright, said he was a partner in the firm of D. Sassoon and Co. - not the defendant Company.  He was an agent for Messrs. David Sassoon, Sons and Co., the defendant Company, in Tientsin for nearly two years - during the years 1875, -6, and -7.  Their hong was in the foreign settlement; but the Compradore's place of business was in the city, about three miles from the settlement, and it was there that the business between the Compradore and Chinese was transacted. Sometimes the same Compradore acted for more than one firm.  The appellant firm principally dealt in opium.  The principal dealers in opium in Tientsin were Messrs. David Sassoon, Sons and Co. and Messrs. E. D. Sassoon and Co., but Mr. Forbes sometimes received consignments.  In dealing with imports, merchants generally gave instructions to the Compradore to transact the business; in dealing with opium they certainly did not deal direct with the purchasers; the bargains were made by the compradores in the city. The foreign merchants sometimes went into the City to the Compradore's offices; but in no cases did they deal directly with the buyers, at least in dealing with opium.  
  With regard to exports, Sassoon generally bought bills and gold and sycee; they did not deal in export at all, except gold and silver as remittances.  The compradore bought the gold, brought it to the office, and packed it and shipped it from there. Compradores generally did business on their own accounts as well as for the foreign firms by whom they were employed.  He knew of his own knowledge that Messrs. David Sassoon's compradore used to ship gold to Shanghai on his own account, and it was sold in the market here by his agent.  That was last year.  He did not know whether the compradore did business on his own account at the time witness was in Tientsin.
  Cross-examined -
  During witness's agency, all the gold that was bought by the firm was bought by the compradore under his instructions.  He did not know who gave receipts for it; but he did not give receipts himself, and there was no foreigner to give them.  If any receipts were given, they must have been given by the compradore.  Witness had an assistant with him who kept the books if the firm. He made entries when gold was bought, crediting the compradore with the value of the gold.  He had no entries of the native merchants who purchased it, because they did not buy direct from the merchants; and they did not enter their names.  Their names might have been entered of late years, but not during witness's agency.  The native merchants were paid with the proceeds of the opium and for the firm.  A man called Ching-foong was compradore during witness's agency, and the present compradore, Ho Mei-ping, was then Ching-foong's manager, and did the business for him.  Ching-foong was then sometimes in Shanghai, and sometimes in Tientsin; he was now dead.  The compradore always accounted for the opium to the firm, and credited them with it.  Witness heard of no cases of default on the part of the native merchants.  When the gold was purchased by the compradore it was supposed to be in three weeks' credit, and the opium was sold on three weeks' credit.  They did not know what credit the compradore gave to the native merchants; but he was bound to account to the firm within three weeks when opium was taken delivery of from the godowns.  The buyer brought a godown order in Chinese from the Compradore.  He could not read Chinese; but the Chinese godown told them that it was all right, and they delivered the opium.  He used to know something of the men they bought the opium from, from seeing them or their agents come for delivery; but he did not know anything about their reputation for solvency, except what he heard from the compradores.  They had a guarantee from the compradore.
  Re-examined -
  The compradore was responsible to Sassoon and Co. for the price of the opium sold.  Gold was reported to them by the compradore as having been bought on three weeks' credit.
  Silas Aaron Hardoon, merchant, of Shanghai, said he was in Tientsin from December 1880 to July 1882 as agent for David Sassoon and Co., and had the management of their business there.  The firm had nothing to do with the native buyers directly.  The compradore came to witness every morning and took instructions as to the quantity and price of the opium to be sold; and witness heard no more of the sales until the compradore sent a delivery order.  Witness used to tell the compradore to buy gold, and he used to buy it and put it in a box and nail it up and bring it to the hong, and afterwards ship it himself; and witness would then credit the compradore with the price of the gold.  Witness never saw any of the gold-dealers himself. The compradore used to tell witness that he bought old at three weeks' credit.
  Witness went into the city sometimes to the compradore's house, but never did any business with native merchants himself. The compradore had a sign-board, but witness could not read Chinese, and did not know what was on it.  He believed the majority of the compradores did business on their own account, and he believed that it was known by both foreigners and natives in Tientsin.  At the time witness was agent for the appellant Company their compradore was doing business on his own account.
  Cross-examined by Mr. Wilkinson:
  There was no difficulty about payment by native sellers of gold when he was agent in Tientsin; - he would not know of any difficulty because he dealt with the compradore, and not with the sellers direct.  There was no difficulty with the opium buyers either.  He did not know the names of those who bought opium of those who sold gold.  He knew nothing about them, unless, perhaps, the compradore might say "this is a big dealer" or "this is a small dealer."  The compradore gave delivery orders for the opium; he could get any amount of opium by his order.  Witness had never heard of a time when foreigners lived in the city of Tientsin.
  Re-examined -
  The Compradore's delivery-orders were always brought to witness before the opium was delivered.
  By his Lordship - Witness used to buy only two chops of gold - "Ek-fung" and "Ting-fung," and he did not know of any other chop being bought by foreigners.  The only two firms that he know of buying gold were Messrs. E. D. Sassoon & Co. and Messrs. David Sassoon, Sons and Co.
  Moses Meyer Sassoon Moses, examined by Mr. Wainewright, said he was a partner in the firm of David Sassoon, Sons and Co. He had not been to Tientsin except for a trip.  He only knew of two firms buying gold in Tientsin, viz., E. D. Sassoon and David Sassoon & Co., and the only chops they bought were "Ek-fung" and "Ting-fung," They bought the gold for export to India, and these were the only chops known in India.  If another man from outside wanted to get one of those chops put on his gold he could take it to the "Ek-fung" or "Ting-fung" hong and get it tested and stamped.
  Mr. Wainewright said that was all the witnesses he had to call.  He then proceeded to read the evidence taken before Mr. Consul Davenport at Tientsin.  Before he had finished reading the evidence the Court adjourned till next morning, the 15th inst., at 10 o'clock.
15th November.
  The hearing of this appeal was resumed this morning.
  Mr. Wainewright resumed his reading of the record from the Court below,  concluding with the following judgment given by Mr. Davenport, with the opinions of the two Assessors:-
 In this case the evidence given by the plaintiff Wong Gan-ying is of a decidedly unsatisfactory character, his statements being for the most part made with a view to his own supposed advantage rather than to meet the requirements of truth.  On one important point, however, his evidence is trustworthy, viz., that the witness Hoo Mei-pin owes him a balance of Tls. 2,000.
  The next question is, who is Hoo Mei-pin?  It appears from the evidence that up to 7 or 8 years ago, he as a man of straw; when, on the death of the then compradore Wang, he (Hoo Mei-ping), became first compradore to the firm of the defendants, David Sassoon, Sons and Co., at this port. The defendants appear to have allowed him to trade on his own account, under the Chinese name of "Lau Sha-shun" in an establishment of his own in the city, to use stamps having the characters "Lau Sha-shun" engraved thereon, and to expose to public view at his above-mentioned house of business, a signboard containing the characters "Ting Shang Sha-shun Yang hang;" which, being interpreted, means, "the foreign hong of the British merchants Sa-soon." Hoo Mei-pin stated in his evidence that this was done for the purpose of frightening the Chinese opium purchasers, and thereby facilitating the recovery of money; but it is obvious that if he represented his firm as being British in order to mislead one set of native dealers, such misrepresentation would equally affect all other native dealers.
  Further the defendants appear to have furnished him with transit passes to cover his consignments to his house in Mongolia, so that, in short, there can be no reasonable doubt that the defendants were well aware that the said Hoo Mei-pin was trading on his own account under their name of "Lau Sha-soon," but that they actually assisted him in doing so.
  This was either an act of reckless irrationality for which it would seem just that they should pay some penalty; or it was done to gain certain advantages, which they could not otherwise have obtained. I incline to the latter supposition, and think that this case falls under the principle expressed by the time honoured maxim, Qui sentit commodum, sentit debet et onus, - he who shares the profit should share also the burden.
  With regard to the contention of the defendants that the plaintiff knew perfectly well that he was only dealing with their Chinese compradore and not with themselves, they certainly brought forward some strong evidence in support of their position, but I cannot for a moment believe that the plaintiff would have trusted Hoo Mei-pin, or any other man of straw, unconnected with a well known business firm and I feel sure that he (plaintiff), at any rate originally gave him (Hoo Mei-pin) credit relying on the wealth, character and credit of the well-known British firm of Lau Sha-shun.
  Under these circumstances I decree that the defendants do pay the sum of Tls. 2,[690], the amount allowed to be still unpaid by Hoo Mei-pin, and the costs of this suit.
  In order to avoid misunderstandings in future, I must explain that had the compradore Hoo Mei-pin, traded in the name if "Lau Sha-shun," without the assent or knowledge of the defendants, I should have dismissed this suit without any hesitation.  My present decision I have arrived at only after much hesitation, and I probably should have hesitated still more before coming to a conclusion, had not the representatives of the defendants already informed me that they intended to appeal in case the judgment was adverse.  Under these circumstances, should I have made an error in judgment, it will not be of a permanent nature, but will be speedily rectified by H.M.s Supreme Court for China and Japan.
Opinon of Mr. J. Graham, Assessor.
  Although agreeing in many points with the text of the judgment I must differ with the finding on the following grounds.
  Hoo Mei-pin traded under several other names and was compradore or buyer to another foreign firm whose sign, in Chinese characters representing their name, was exhibited at his place in the city alongside of that representing the Chinese name of David Sassoon, Sons & Co.
  No evidence has been given of any transaction between David Sassoon, Sons and Co. and the plaintiff, nor has he put in any document bearing their signature or showing that they were responsible for any or all acts of their compradore, who was not a partner in the firm nor interested in the profit or loss on any operation.
  Hoo Mei-pin, by nature of his appointment, was quite justified in using a signboard for that firm or for any other for whom he might be acting in that capacity, much in the same wat as "purveyors to the Queen" entitles a trader to use the Royal arms in his advertisement or over his shop, or the vendors of any commodity not of their own manufacture to exhibit a sign bearing the proprietor's name.
  Hoo Mei-pin only occupied the position of compradore to the firm of David Sassoon, Sons and Co. as the compradores of any other firm in the place, and was a necessary appendage under the existing system and difficulties of native trades and language.  His position must have been perfectly well understood by the plaintiff, as it is by all other native merchants, who know that only the signature of the representative is binding on them, and they cannot negotiate opium or any other orders of a foreign firm unless so signed.
  Defendants, as British merchants, too, were perfectly justified by treaty in furnishing Hoo Mei-pin with transit passes to facilitate the passage of goods into the interior and so avoiding delay or exaction on the part of the native officials, which were the certain advantages gained.
  The plaintiff treated directly with Hoo Mei-pin for the settlement of accounts, and accepted 10 cases of needles in part liquidation of the same, and delivery was taken from the house of a neighbouring native merchant and not from David Sassoon, Sons and Co, which was in part carrying out of a compromise offered by the bankrupt Hoo Mei-pin of 1/3 liabilities down, balance in 5 or 10 years.  Having obtained all available assets from bankrupt, plaintiff declines the last part of the arrangement and tries to fix liability on the foreign firm with whom he has not given any clear evidence of ever having any direct dealings, or shown any authority in writing or otherwise that the bankrupt was a partner in that firm or could render the firm liable for the debt.
  With all due deference I am of opinion that the judgment should be for the defendants.
Opinion of Mr. J. Henderson, Assessor.
 I have carefully read a copy of the judgment of Mr. Davenport, H.B.M.'s Consul, in the case of Wong Gan-yin v. David Sassoon, Sons and Co. As an assessor in the case I took in Court full notes of the evidence, and having carefully considered the whole judgment and evidence, I regret to stat that I am unable to agree with the decision of H.B.M.'s Consul in the case.  My reasons for dissenting from the judgment of H.B.M.'s Consul are as follows:
  [Note - As this judgment of Mr. Davenport would materially affects the business arrangements between Natives and Foreigners, as at present conducted here, I trust I will be excused if I enter somewhat fully into the business customs of this port.  Without this knowledge one not residing here could hardly understand the relative positions of the compradores and their foreign employers.   And when, as seen by the judgment, the defendants' agent has intimated his intention of appealing from the Consul's decisions if it is adverse to him, there is the greater reason why the customs of trade here should be fully explained and made known.]
- I consider the judgment of H.B.M.'s Consul in this case runs contrary to the customs of the place.  As the oldest foreign resident here, dating from 1860, and bringing with me at that time a native compradore, I am well acquainted with the conduct of the general business, foreign and native, of the place, being the first arrival, and the only one at the time.  I found on applying to H.E. Chun How that there were neither standard weights nor a scale of relative weights with Shanghai and Canton, nor with the Haiquan weights; all these, with the aid of my compradore, I had to settle for myself.  Two other foreign merchants coming shortly afterwards with their compradores, my scale of weights was approved of by them and by our respective compradores, and I received through the compradores the assent of H.E. Chung How and still retains the same relative value.
  There was no Consul, no Custom House, no Customs' bank on my arrival. And Chung How, Superintendent of Trade, who was quite ignorant of everything connected with foreign trade, in 1861 appointed three (3) of the compradores of the foreign hongs to manage the Customs' Bank in regard to duties on goods belonging to foreigners.  Thus the first movement of the compradores from their legitimate duties of compradore to their respective firms was made by the Chinese authorities with the consent of the foreign employers.
  These compradores were also large traders on their own account from the very first opening of the port, in most, if not all cases, with the consent of their foreign employers.  I was for some time the only agent for Marine Insurance at this port, and several of the compradores, and specially "Apung," compradore for Dent & Co., regularly insured, and on a large scale, with me, in his own name and on his own account.  I may here mention that one of the oldest compradores who was in foreign employ here is now the Chief Customs' Banker in the city; he still trades largely on his own account, in straw braid, and was formerly, if not now, interested in opium hongs, and in a bank or cash shop in this place.
  On our first arrival here, and for some years afterwards, the foreign merchants all lived in the suburbs of the Chinese city.  Foreigners, with their compradores and staff of Chinese, all lived on the same premises.  All being strangers alike to the native traders here, signboards with the name of the hong in Chinese, and sometimes also the name of the firm in English, were exhibited for the benefit of natives and foreigners alike.  (We had he foreign troops here in those days.) When we got the length of having our residence on the foreign settlement the compradores were still left in the city premises, with the original signboards, and to this day most of the foreign hongs have their compradores residing in the city; a good many foreigners also have their offices there.
  It is well known to all natives and foreigners that the compradores have traded largely on their own account, i.e., not in connection with their foreign employers.  Some of them even went in for coal mining, and owning coal mines at Kai-ping, nearly twenty years ago; but from want of knowledge of this branch of business, and having to deal with negroes (?) at Kaiping, coal mining at Kai-ping was not then a success in compradore hands.
  The compradores used the seals of the foreign hongs for their private business chits; each hong generally had several seals and stamps, all bearing the hong name; but with different characters added to it; and no doubt they used the hong seals for business receipts and agreements, as was, and still is, customary among the Chines, both for foreign business and native business. I have never known or heard of a compradore in foreign employ using a separate stamp or seal from that of his foreign employer, even for his own business.
  Several of the compradores failed in business through these mercantile transactions, amongst others the compradore of J. Livingston and Co., who left Tientsin and went to Shanghai.  On looking over his books it was found he had a claim on his late employer for about Tls. 1,500, and he was sent back here by his creditors to ask this sum from his late employers, failing payment by them to apply for it through the Consular Court.  Mr. H. M. Lay was Consul, and I was one of the Assessors in the case; the Consul and his two Assessors were unanimous in thinking that the Compradore had a right to the money claimed; they decreed accordingly; the foreigners applied to the Supreme Court at Shanghai; there, also, the case as given against them and in favour of the Compradore.  Although the Compradore and his creditors were thus able to get the debt due to the Compradore from the foreign employers, the creditors never thought of applying to the foreign employer, or to the Consular Court, to ask that the employer should pay the debts contracted by the Compradore, and I do not recollect any cases were the foreign employer was sued by a Chinese dealer, until we come to the case of Hatch and Co.  Here the foreign form was sued in the Consular Court for a debt by the Chinese dealers from whom goods were purchased by Hatch and Co.'s compradore.  Messrs. Hatch and Co. I believe acknowledged having received the goods in question from their compradore, and paid the compradore for them, knowing nothing of the native principal in the case, who sold the goods to the compradore. Mr. N. J. Forrest, H.B.M.'s Consul, ruled in that case that the foreign firm was liable for the debt of their compradore.
  The brother of the native plaintiff in Hatch's case, himself also a trader, said to me he was surprised that the Consul had given the case in favour of his brother; that the Chinese would not have done so, but held the compradore to whom the goods were sold alone responsible for the payment; and of my own knowledge he acted up to this in two different cases, when he had sold goods to native brokers for foreigners, and in both cases the brokers were short in paying him.  In one case it was said that the foreigner had not paid - this was untrue, - but the plaintiff's brother held to Chinese mode and custom, holding his brother alone responsible, and no so much as making enquiry of the foreigner, who knew nothing of these circumstances until long afterwards.
  Compradores are recognized as independent traders, although connected with a foreign firm whose signboard, with Chinese name of hong, and business relations, he hangs out.  Forbes's compradore sued Hatch and Co. in the British Consular Court, on account of straw braid sold him, and he was even allowed by the Court the services of an assistant in the firm of the foreign hong to act for him in the Consular Court.  In this case the goods were not according to sample and the case was given against the compradore.
  The case in which D. Sassoon, Sons and Co. are defendants is unlike the other cases I have mentioned.  D. Sassoon have a compradore, a broker, who does all their business; he receives no direct pay; he is paid merely as a broker by the firm for the business he does for them, receiving Tls. 2.60 per cent per chest on the opium sold, and 1 per cent on the sales of their shirtings; he uses the seal of the hong in his business relations with the firm of Sassoon, and no doubt also for his own business transactions, as did his predecessor in office and like situation. The compradore Ho-Mei-pin was also compradore or broker for Collins & C., and also did business with the hongs, using the seals of their hongs.  In this case the foreign firm or defendants deny having received any gold from plaintiff or in any way having transactions with him; this getting of gold from plaintiffs for defendants is also denied by the compradore, by his accountant and other, and the account book is placed in Court as evidence of those transactions, while the plaintiffs can produce no evidence that the defendants purchased gold from him, or that the compradore purchased gold from him for the firm of David Sassoon, Sons and Co.
  The compradore Hoo Mei-pin acknowledged the debt due to Wong Gan-ying, but as a debt of his own, and not tat of David Sassoon, Sons & Co.
  The compradore Hoo Mei-pin having been in Tientsin for 10 years in Sassoon's employ, and for 7 or 8 years of that time as chief compradore to Sassoon,, and doing a large business on his own account, having hongs in Mongolia and shops in Peking, Tientsin and Tzuchulin, and in Shanghai Bank as well as shops, it is not possible for the plaintiff or a man in his position as a public banker or seller of gold not to have known that the compradore bought and sold on his own account.  He fact that he never took the trouble to ask the foreigners at their own hong for payment of his balance until long after the usual time of settlement, which is at the end of the Chinse Year, shows that he did not look to the foreign hong for payment, and that his doing so at all is evidently an afterthought when he found he could get no money from the compradore.
  The plaintiff went two or three times a week to

the compradore after his failure, the 19th day of the 10th moon, or 18th November, but he does not apply to the foreigners until the 29th of February, or nearly 3 ½ months after the compradore's failure.  The plaintiff saying that he could not call upon the foreigner to ask for payment of his claim because of the difficulty he had of getting any one to interpret for him is manifestly untrue, as interpreters, native and foreign, could have been had in numbers.  Again the plaintiff gave Hoo Mei-pin long credits when he purchased gold of him - credits of from 1 month to forty days - charging high rates in consequence; yet he never went and made any enquiry of the foreigner to know whether he was dealing in the usual way with the foreign hong or with the compradore Hoo Mei-pin.
  The compradore Hoo Mei-pin having been chief conpradore of Sassoon for 7 or 8 years previous to is failure, and the bank or gold shop of Wan-gan-ying, the plaintiff, having only been established for 5 years, the business character of the compradore Hoo Mei-pin had been well established before the opening of Wan-gan-ying's bank or gold shop.  The plaintiff further stated that previous to the present bank or gold shop having been established, he was in Iti's old shop, and that Sassoon's compradore was a purchaser of gold at that shop previous to and after the establishment of Wan Gan-ying's present business.  Wan Gan-ying could therefore have had no difficulty in knowing wat business Hoo Mei-pin was doing.  Add to this the constant command of money Hoo Mei-pin had of Sassoon's, amounting to Tls. 30,000 to Tls. 40,000 of a floating debt due Sassoon for opium sold and unpaid according to the statement of defendant's agent.  This floating debt was collected when due by the compradore Ho Mei-pin and his  command of money alone must have made Hoo Mei-pin a man of no small consequence in the eyes of the natives; and that he was so is abundantly proved by the large business he was doing on his own account and not on account of David Sassoon, Sons and Co.; and if we look at the facilities the native banks give to their people - witness Shanghai and its innumerable failures of merchants and bankers last year,, - we need not be surprised if the plaintiff Wan Gan-ying considered the compradore Ho Mei-pin, with his  business relations, a good customer for the gold he had for sale, independent of the foreign hong with which he as connected.
  2nd. - In the matter of the signboards they may be seen to this day in the city and the settlement; at the city I believe every foreign hong has a signboard with the name of the hong in Chinese, and on some of them the name of the firm is also given in English, but the name of the principal of the firm is not given in Chinese. The custom with the Chinese I believe is only to give the name of the hong on the sign board.  The foreign merchants here who are connected with houses of business in Shanghai, adopted the same name as the Shanghai firm for the name of their hong.  Some new hands of business - Meadows for instance took as his hong name "Meadowses."  Sassoon seem also to have adopted characters similar in sound to their name.  In Hongkong it is called "Sason;" in Shanghai "Sosing;" the characters are different at Tientsin; in the Hong List for 1881 to 1884 they are called "Sha-shun;" at neither places are they called in the dictionary of 1880 "Lou Sasson" the name taken by the compradore as his business title.
  3rd. - With regard to transit passes, as I was the first to sell and to purchase goods here, so I was the first I believe to apply for transit passes.  Consul Mr. Lay applied to Gung How for a pass for me to bring down wool from the south-east of Mongolia.  Chung How on granting it said my man might pay in the interior one half the amount of Export duty, as inland duties, but no more; my instructions to my Shroff were not to allow the Chinese to detain him, and if they would not accept a small sum, to pay what was asked, but to bring the receipts for all he paid.  My shroff paid four times the amount he was authorised by Chung How to pay; receipts were brought me for all payments, and after the usual delay on the part of h Chinese, I was refunded the overcharge by Chung How.  On another occasion when I was sending to south-west Mongolia for wool, my Shroff was provided with a special transit pass by Chung How, given to avoid paying the squeeze formerly made by the officials at the South-east. When at Zude Who Chan his pass was shown to the officials there, and when ready to leave, his camels, 40 I number, being hired, he asked the customs officials to look at his cargo.  On account of his having a special transit pass they did not dare to squeeze openly, so they tried delay.  Day after day the cry was "tomorrow, tomorrow."  This continued so long that the camel hirer wanted extra pay.  And so, the shroff's patience being exhausted, he left money with the inn-keeper to pay all the duties they could possibly claim, and came away without a customs inspection of his gods.  The customs people did not follow him. All went well until he got near Peking, when his papers were asked for, and shown to the official in charge of the station; he said he had never seen anything of the kind before, and he would keep it and send it on to Peking; then he found out his mistake, and, to exonerate himself, said my shroff, who was unarmed, had attacked and beaten his staff of soldiers at the station, and that in consequence he had taken away his papers from him.  The Tsung-li Yamen wrote to H.B.M.'s Minster about this high-handed proceeding on the part of my unarmed Chinese Shroff; the Minister wrote to the consul here, and the shroff had to go before the Yamen at Peking and give his account of the transaction; he was held blameless, but as he brought me back no receipts for his payments, I had to bear all the loss caused by the Chinese cupidity and ignorance, notwithstanding we were provided with a special transit pass by H.E. Chung How, Superintendent of Trade, to clear me of all payments by the way.  Transit passes here have since then become common.  They are not given to natives, and goods coming to foreigners without passes were often delayed and subjected to many squeezes by the way.  Foreigners have applied for them not only for their own goods, but to oblige their Chinese friends who were bringing goofs for sale to this market, the merchant supplying the passes generally having he first offer of the goods brought down under his pass.  In the Consular Court he could claim the goods as his own, under the pass; at the same time he would have been held liable for any transgressions of the rules by those holding he passes in his name.  
  The shipping offices have provided passes, it is said, to intending shippers, and by some, it is said, they have been obtained for the purpose of making money by the sale of them.  As was the case with boat passes in former days, Chinese have frequently asked foreigners - or the servants of foreigners - for passes, offering several times the prices paid the consulate for them.  To foreigners they are very useful when honestly used, and, as the compradore said in regard to his using the name of the foreign hong on his signboard, and the unwillingness of the natives to delay payments unduly in consequence of its being a foreign hong they were dealing with, I can say that in my own experience, being a foreigner with boat or ravel passes has given me a position which natives do not possess - not because the officials love the foreigners more, but they fear to interfere with his boats or goods when so provided, as a general rule; but my boats and goods have nevertheless been often delayed, even with passes.  Defendants' agent said the compradore had only been supplied with transit passes for shirtings purchased from the firm, so far as he knew.  The compradore said he had been getting transit passes from several foreign firms whom he named.  Whether the statement of defendants' agent in regard to supplying the compradore with transit passes is correct or not does not matter much, when the custom in regard to their use and abuse has been so very general here.  The benefit resulting to D. Sassoon by supplying transit passes to cover shirtings bought from them would be so very small that I think I may be considered no benefit at all in a pecuniary sense.
  I cannot help thinking that to hold David Sassoon, Sons and Co., liable to pay for their compradore's short-comings because he traded under the Chinese name of "Lau Sha-sun" in his own account, even with the knowledge and consent of D. Sassoon, his employers, and even helped thereto by the getting of transit passes, would be to lay the sins and shortcomings of the whole community of Tientsin for the last 24 years on the head of D. Sassoon, Sons and Co., who were not sinners alone,  but all others in Tientsin in this respect.
  The compradore Hoo Mei-pin stated several times that his hong name was "Low Sasun," and that his masters' hong name was D. Sassoon. The latter statement is borne out by the Chinese directory, where at Hongkong, Shanghai, Hankow and Tientsin, four of the principal ports in China, D. Sassoon, Sons and Co. are called by the name of "Sa-sun" in its various spelling, but not as "Low Sa-sun."
  As an assessor in this case and an old resident here I have no personal interest to serve whether the case is given in favour or against the firm of defendants, and I have always strongly condemned the present system of working with compradores. I discharged he first compradore I had because of his trading propensities and neglect of his own immediate duties.  Seals are no doubt useful, and the Chinese look for them; but, in regard to my own business, no transaction was valid without my signature.  As to the signboards, I never had one either in the city or settlement.  As regards transit passes, I have passes, and my servants have been requested to offer ten times the amount they could be got from the consulate.  I never sold a pass or gave one except for my own goods.  If he Chinese officials acted honestly, transit passes would soon cease to be applied for by foreigners except to cover their own business transactions.
  I am in hopes the Consular judgment in this case and the appeal from it will be productive of much good, and prove to be the means of putting business relations between foreign employers and their compradores, foreigners and brokers, compradores and native principals owning goods, seals, signboards and transit passes, upon a proper footing. At present the whole thing is in a very unsatisfactory state.
  To conclude this long story, I regret to state that I am unable to agree with the decision of H.B.M.'s Consul in this case, as after careful attention given to the whole evidence and the Consular Judgment, I am of opinion that it is a matter solely between the Chinese, and that Messrs. D. Sassoon, Sons and Co. have no interest in it.
.  .  .  
  After the reading of these documents the hearing of the case as adjourned till Monday morning.
17th November.
  The hearing of this case was resumed at 10 a.m.
  Mr. Wainewright proceeded to argue at great length that the transaction to which the suit referred was one solely between the compradore and the plaintiff, that the compradore was not acting as the agent of the defendants, and that the plaintiff was perfectly aware that he was dealing with the compradore personally, and not as agent f Messrs. Sassoon, Sons and Co.  He exhaustively reviewed the evidence taken in the Court below,  and then commented at length on Mr. Consul Davenport's judgment and the opinions of the Assessors, pointing out that the opinions of the Assessors were in perfect accord with his argument and that Mr. Consul Davenport himself stated in his judgment, that he had only arrived at his decision after much hesitation, and that he would have hesitated still more if he had not been informed that the defendants intended to appeal if his opinion were adverse, and that consequently if he had made an error of judgment, it would be speedily rectified by this Court.
  This concluded he case for the appellants, and the Court adjourned till next morning at ten o'clock.
18th November.
  Mr. Wilkinson, in opening the case for the respondent, said his learned friend had narrowed the issue to such a small point that it was unnecessary for him to call any evidence, or to detain the Court long.  There were two issues - first, Was credit given by the plaintiff to the defendants? and, secondly, Was the plaintiff justified in considering that he was giving credit to the defendants?  He argued at great length that the compradore was the general agent of the defendants, having a general authority to purchase gold for them; and he analysed the evidence taken in the Court below for the purpose of showing that he plaintiff had sold the gold to the compradore as agent for the defendants, and that in the transaction he was giving the defendants credit, and not the compradore personally.  He admitted that as a matter of act the gold had never come into the hands of Messrs. Davis Sassoon, Sons and Co., but he contended that the firm was nevertheless responsible for the act of their agent.  It was true that the compradore had sworn that he had told the plaintiffs at the time of making the purchase that he was acting on his own behalf, and not in behalf of the firm; but Mr. Wilkinson submitted that the compradore's testimony on this point as untrustworthy, as there were two influences which would probably have weight upon his mind; first a desire to save his masters from being responsible for the price of this gold, and secondly a desire to save his security-man. They had it in evidence that the defendants were secured for the liabilities of the Compradore. Mr. Wilkinson laid particular stress on a receipt given by the compradore to the plaintiff, which receipt was stamped with a seal bearing the Chinese characters "Lau Sha-sun," the Chinese name for the firm of David Sassoon, So and Co. He then referred to the Tientsin case of Hatch and Co., which related to goods alleged to have been sold to a compradore personally, and in which case, nevertheless, the firm were held responsible.  He pointed out, too, that in that case, as in the present case, the reason for appeal was that no evidence as to custom had been taken.
  His Lordship remarked that evidence as to custom in China was always very unsatisfactory.  He did not remember a single case in which custom, either at this or any other port in China, had been satisfactorily established.
Mr. Wilkinson cited a case to show that the use of a stamp was as binding as a signature in handwriting.
  His Lordship thought there was no doubt that if he principals authorized the use of this chop by the compradore it was just as good as a signature.
  Mr. Wilkinson remarked that the defendants denied having authorized the use of the chop.
  Mr. Wilkinson then proceeded to argue that it was impossible that the defendants could have been ignorant of the use of this chop by the compradore, as it appeared on all the delivery orders which were brought to the defendants' godowns and office.  He quoted from "Russell on Mercantile Agency," to show that the compradore was the general age of the defendants, and that by his action in making the purchase of gold, and in using the chop of the firm upon the receipt for it, he had made the firm responsible for the payment.  He contended that the stamped receipt showed conclusively that credit was given to David Sassoon, Sons and Co.  A written document was always very valuable evidence of a contract, and required very strong evidence to upset t.  As he had said, the defendants must have known of the use of the chop by their compradore; the inference was that they authorised him to use it, and if by its use he induced vendors to believe that they were giving credit to D. Sassoon, Sons and Co., then the defendants were responsible.  The compradore's office was, he contended, a branch office of Messrs. Sassoon; and the compradore was placed in the ostensible position of doing all their business with natives, the purchasing of gold being a part of that business.  In conclusion, he submitted that the contract was entered into with David Sassoon, Sons and Co, and that, through a very long course of dealing with the compradore, the plaintiff was justified in thinking he was dealing with the defendants in this instance - on account of his fifteen years' business with the compradore, and on account of the signboard which led him to believe that, whatever his relation with the firm might be, the compradore was acting on behalf of David Sassoon, Sons and Co.
  Mr. Wainewright then very briefly replied, contending that the Chinese chop on the receipt ought not to be taken as the signature of the firm, that the firm had never authorised the compradore to use that chop, and that they were quite unaware of his using it, at an rate for his own personal transactions.  He also contended that the purchase of gold was not part of the compradore's duties as agent of the defendants; the compradore having no general authority to purchase gold, but only occasionally purchasing it when receiving special instructions to do so.
  His Lordship reserved judgment.


Source: North China Herald, 26 November 1884

Shanghai, 24th November,
Before Sir. R. Temple Rennie, Knight, Chief Justice.
Messrs. DAVID SASSOON, SONS & Co., Defendants and Appellants,
WONG GAN-YING, Manager of the Tung-chang Gold Shop, Plaintiff and Respondents.
  Mr. Wainewright appeared for the Appellants, and Mr. Wilkinson for the Respondent.
  His Lordship delivered judgment as follows:-
  The main facts admitted in tis appeal are:-
- That plaintiff sold to defendants' compradore a certain quantity of gold in respect of which there is still a balance of purchase-money due to him.
- That the gold in question was not, as a matter of fact, purchased for the defendants, and never came into their possession.
- That the compradore gave plaintiff receipts for the gold in the name of the defendant firm.
- That the compradore was a person employed by the defendants to transact business on their behalf with natives at Tientsin, whist he was employed by another foreign firm, and likewise traded on his own account.
The points in issue are:-
- Whether the plaintiff in the particular transaction to which this suit has relation, dealt with the compradore as the defendants' agent or as a principal on his own account.
- Whether the compradore in such a transaction as this had authority to pledge he defendants' credit or not.
Or, as put by Mr. Wilkinson;-
- Was credit given to the defendants by plaintiff?
- Was plaintiff justified in giving credit to the defendants?
Now I do not find that there is any difficulty or indeed any disputed question of law involved in them.
  The facts are by no means complicated; but there is some conflict in the evidence of the plaintiff and defendants.  The Judge of the Court below, however, although holding that the evidence given by the plaintiff was of a decidedly unsatisfactory  character, and that there was strong evidence to show that the plaintiff knew perfectly well that he was only dealing with the defendants' Chinese compradore, and not with themselves, states that he could not for a moment believe that the plaintiff could have treated the compradore or any other nan of straw unconnected with a well known business firm, and that he felt sure that the plaintiff, at any rate originally, gave him (the compradore) credit relying on the wealth, character and credit of the well known British firm of Lai Sha-shun.  He also found that the defendants appeared to have allowed him (the compradore) to trade on his own account under the name of Lao Sha-shun, in an establishment of his own in the City to use stamps, having the characters "Lao Sha-shun" engraved thereon, and to expose to public view at his above-mentioned place of business a signboard containing the characters "Ying Shang Lao Sha-shun Yang Hong," which, being interpreted, means "The foreign hong of the British merchants, Sassoon."
  These findings appear to ne to be warranted by the evidence, and it is to be observed that the Assessors, although differing from the judge in his legal conclusions, do not appear to have differed from him as to these facts.  The learned Counsel for the appellants strenuously denies, it is true, that there is any evidence to show that the appellants really were aware that the compradore was using the stamps in question; but I incline strongly to the opinion that they must have been so aware.  He further contends that there was no evidence that the compradore was the general agent of the appellants for the purchase of gold, or to bind them in general business transactions; but on that point I am so clearly against the Appellant that I do not consider it necessary to discuss the question.
  I take it, then, that practically the only question which I have to decide is whether or not the plaintiff did give credit to the Appellants; and if there was nothing further in the case than what I have already alluded to, I might have felt some doubt; but the Respondent produces two documents in the shape of receipts for the gold in question, given to him by the Compradore and bearing the cop of "Lau Sha-shun," which to my mind completely turns the scale in his favour.  I do not consider it at all necessary to go to the length that the learned Counsel for the Respondent went when he argued, and cited many cases in support of his argument, that the documents were conclusive as being the only written evidence of the contract, and therefore not to be contradicted.  I must question whether in such a case as this such documents as these could properly be held to be conclusive; but it does appear to me that they are very strong corroborative evidence in support of the plaintiff's case.
  I therefore uphold the judgment of the Court below, and the appeal will be dismissed with costs.


Source: North China Herald, 3 December 1884


THE Appeal in the case of Womg Gan-ying against D. Sassoon, Sons and Co., is of great importance to merchants and bankers.  There are very few foreigners at any of the ports who are not obliged to place trust in their compradores, in the ordinary course of business.  There are probably no foreigners who can feel absolutely certain that they know the transactions in which their compradore is involved.  Instances have frequently happened when the first knowledge the employer has had of his compradore being engaged in business or speculation has been the announcement of his failure.  In some of these cases is has turned out that the compradore had been using the name and credit of the foreign house for his own purposes, or it has been alleged by his creditors that he had done so, but we think this is the first case in which the Chinese creditors of a compradore have claimed on his employers.  Nothing, in fact, could be easier to an unscrupulous man than to purchase whatever his masters dealt in, and to give out among his countrymen hat he was merely a comprardore or agent in the transactions, and that the foreign house or bank were the principals. While the majority of foreign merchants are utterly ignorant of Chinese, such deception could go on until accident or misfortune revealed it. This being the cease the decision of the Chief Justice increases the risk which foreigners have to run in the conduct of their business, to an extent that may well make merchants and bankers uneasy.  His Lordship set aside the opinion of the assessors, although these gentlemen, from their acquaintance with the mode of doing business in Tientsin, might have been accepted by him as trustworthy witnesses in a case where the evidence was very conflicting.  One assessor states that it is perfectly well understood by native merchants that only the signature of a firm, or the representative of a firm, is binding on it, and that they cannot negotiate opium or other orders on a foreign firm, unless so signed.  This, in itself, is a proof of a custom or a practice in Tientsin which is recognized by the foreign and native merchants; and is a sensible rule of business.  The other assessor gives it as his opinion that the matter in dispute as solely between the Chinese, and that Messrs. Sassoon had no interest in it.
  In the evidence taken before the Court in Tientsin is was shown that a Chinese named Hoo had been for fifteen years in the employment of Messrs. Sassoon, the last eight years as compradore in Tientsin.  He resided in the City, where he had a house or hong, in which he displayed two signboards.  On one was inscribed Chinese characters, that the representative of Messrs. Sassoon's says he could not read, but which were correctly translated by the Consul as "the foreign house of the British merchant Sassoon," and in the other were Chinese characters signifying that the hong was the foreign house of Collins and Co.  Hoo also used engraved seals or chops unknown to Messrs. Sassoon's representatives, and bearing the name of the house, this being, he says, a Chinese custom.  Hoo paid the rent of the house himself, and under the instructions of his employers sold here the opium and shirtings of the firm.  He also bought gold there, occasionally for Messrs. Sassoon for the purpose of remittance, but more often on his own account; took delivery of it there, and afterwards sent it into the office in the foreign settlement, but only when it had been purchased for Messrs. Sassoon.  At that hong he also carried on a large trade, including the buying of gold on his own account, as well as acting as city agent for Messrs. Sassoon and Messrs. Collins; and it is impossible to believe that Wang Gan-ying was not aware that Hoo was an extensive merchant.  The different terms on which the plaintiff dealt in gold with Hoo show that he was aware that Hoo was trading on his own account.  Three weeks' credit were customary terms with Messrs. Sassoon, but Hoo was more favourably treated; and got a longer credit.  In both cases he paid, apparently, in anything he had in hand - such as Peking bills; bank drafts, cash, shop notes, bills drawn by himself or others, or orders in payment of opium of goods sold, etc. -  sufficiently miscellaneous a way of liquidating his debts. In November last there was a balance due to the Ting Chang Ho gold shop, the manager of which was plaintiff in the action, against Messrs. Sassoon, and he pressed Hoo for a settlement.  But Hoo was then in difficulties, and these compelled him to suspend payment on the 29th December, and on the 6th January he sent ten cases of needles to the gold shop in part liquidation of his debt.  The nature of this payment is, itself, about sufficient to prove that the plaintiff knew of Hoo's trading on his own account, though he says that he did not, for needles are a most unlikely mode of payment by dealers in opium and shirtings.  It should have awakened suspicion in the plaintiff; but I did not do so, as it was not until March that he made any claim on Messrs. Sassoon for the balance of h account.  This delay no doubt arose from its not having earlier occurred to the plaintiff that he could make a claim on the employers of Hoo; and it would not surprise us to learn that the suggestion that he could make such a claim at law came from some official friends, and was supported by an esurient lawyer.
  Such is a statement of the facts of the case.  The evidence given by the plaintiff before the Court in Tientsin was mildly characterized by the Consul as of a "decidedly unsatisfactory" character.  It is a mass of statements, which resolve themselves into gross and contradictory untruths under the pressure of such examination as the Court and the Assessors subjected Wong Gan-ying to. He contradicts himself over and over again.  Although it must have been known to him, as it was a matter of notoriety among the native merchants in Tientsin, that Hoo had been for years trading largely on his own account, he affirms that he was unaware of this.  His evidence, particularly where he denied knowledge of Hoo's having failed when he accepted the case of needles, is contradicted in the flattest terms by Hoo, about whose manner of giving his testimony there is an air of honesty.  He expressly says that the debt was his own and not a debt of Messrs. Sassoon's, that in 1883 he bought 40 bars of gold from the Ting Chang Ho shop, that the plaintiff knew he was dealing with Hoo and not with Sassoons, because he, Hoo, had told him so, that he had told the plaintiff over and over again that he was buying the gold for himself.  In fact Hoo's evidence utterly demolished the evidence which Wong Gan-ying had given.  The Consul at Tientsin described Hoo as a man of straw, but there was nothing brought out at the trial to support this view of him.  He had been a chief compradore for some eight years, and for seven years before had been in Messrs. Sassoon's employment as second compradore.  He had trading establishments in Tientsin, Peking, and Mongolia, in which he had embarked considerable capital.  A Chinese, capable of being compradore to a large firm and who had been over fifteen years in business, might fairly be assumed, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, to be possessed of means. The truth, we are afraid, is that the Consul at Tientsin was too intent on writing smartly, to be careful about the justness of his description, either of Hoo or of Messrs. Sassoon's relations to their servants; and that to this desire he not only sacrificed some of his usual accuracy but much of the acumen which we are glad to acknowledge has distinguished his honourable career.
  The Chef Justice sustained the judgment of the Consul at Tientsin, and agreed with him as to the trustworthiness of the evidence given by the plaintiff.  He was of opinion that the compradore Hoo would not have received credit from the plaintiff but for his connection with a foreign firm of standing, and he adopted the Consul's view that the compradore was a man of straw, although the evidence given by the man shows that he had possessed capital.  He inclined strongly to the opinion that Messrs. Sassoon must have known that Hoo was using stamps on which their name was engraved, although the representative of that firm had testified that he knew nothing of them, and there was, at any rate, nothing to show that the firm had any idea that the compradore was using such stamps for his own business.  And the Chief Justice further held that the compradore was the general agent of the appellant for the purchase of gold, and to bind them in general business transactions.  But notwithstanding these conclusions favourable to the plaintiff His Lordship remained in some doubt, which was solved by the production of receipts for gold bearing the stamps alluded to.  These completely turned he scales in the plaintiff's favour.  The representative of the appellants positively swore that the firm knew nothing of these chops and had never authorised them.  This is much more likely to be rue than that the firm had given to a compradore the power of committing them to any transactions or any liabilities with the Chinese in Tientsin.  That would be what the Consul called "reckless irrationality," and to an extent that no sane merchant who had anything to lose would go.  But this view of the matter does not appear to have suggested itself either to Mr. Davenport or the Chief Justice.  Nor do we think that sufficient weight was given to the strong evidence which, as the Chief Justice says, showed that the plaintiff knew perfectly well that he was only dealing with the defendants' compradore and not with themselves.  The assumption that Hoo was a man of straw seems to have prevented the full force of that point being recognized.  In our opinion this was a case in which the judges should have looked to the probability of the conduct of both sides, as we believe a jury would have done; and as the assessors did in this action.  Both these gentlemen strongly differed from the judgment of the Consul, and the evidence produced before the Court has strengthened the evidence as to the course of dealing pursued by Messrs. Sassoon and other firms in Tientsin.  It was essentially a case in which the course of dealing or the trade custom of Tientsin should have had weight.  If this case remains as a precedent it will be necessary for all English merchants to use the greatest care in giving authority to their compradores to act for them.


Source: North China Herald, 3 February 1886

12th December.
(Present - Lord Monkswell, Lord Hobhouse, and Sir Richard Coach.)
  This was an important appeal from a judgment of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court for China and Japan (Sir. R. T. Rennie) of November 24, 1884, affirming a decision of Mr. Davenport, Judge of the Consular and Provincial Court of Tientsin.  The circumstances will appear from the judgment of their Lordships.
  Mr. Myburgh, Q.C., and Mr. William Latham were counsel for the appellants.
  Lord Monkswell, in delivering the judgment of their Lordships, said the facts of the case were not very numerous or complicated.  The appellants, Messrs. David Sassoon, Sons and Company, were a well-known form of merchants trading with various places in the East, and having a branch in Tientsin in China, and they, together with a number of other European or foreign firms there - for the purpose of enabling them to deal with the natives, whose language they did not understand, - employed native compradores to assist them in their transactions.  The compradore employed by Messrs. Sassoon was one Hoo Mei-pin, who had a shop in Tientsin, and who exposed outside it two sign boards, one with the name "Lao Sha-sun" -that being the Chinese name for Sassoon - and the other with the Chinese designation of Messrs. Collins and Company, a second firm for whom he acted. It appeared that Hoo Mei-pin had also carried on an extensive business on his own account, and that, as was the custom with these native compradores, he to a great extent used the names of his foreign principals and their forms and receipts in even his own transactions.  
  The particular matter about which the suit arose was a sale of 300 ounces of gold on the 18th November, 1883, by the respondent, who was a native dealer in gold at Tientsin, to the compradore Hoo Mei-pin, and the question was whether the gold was sold to him on his own account or on behalf of Messrs. Sassoon.  
  The evidence of the respondent showed that, though the transaction was with Hoo Mei-pin, he (the respondent) treated it as being with the Sassoons, and he produced their forms and receipts.  The case on the other side was that this was a sale to the compradore and to him only.  Hoo Mei-pin was called as a witness, and he swore that again and again he had told the respondent that the transaction was his, and his alone, and that Messrs. Sassoon had nothing to do with it.
  It was admitted throughout the case that Messrs. Sassoon had in fact had nothing to do with it and had no knowledge of the transaction.  There was further evidence in the case that the respondent subsequently took from the compradore, who had had to make a composition with his creditors, certain boxes of needles, with which admittedly Messrs. Sassoon had nothing to do, and that, whereas the usual credit given to the compradore was three weeks, three months elapsed before any application was made in the matter by the respondent to Messrs. Sassoon.  
  The suit came in the first instance before the Consular Judge at Tientsin, who was assisted by two assessors.  He found in favour of the respondent, but the assessors, as they were empowered to do by the Act, expressed their dissent from his judgment, and stated their views on the transaction itself and the genera custom of dealing with compradores. The case went by appeal to Her Britannic Majesty's Supreme Court for China and Japan, and the Chief Justice affirmed the judgment of the Consul. Their Lordships had considered the difficulties which might have been suggested if the respondent had been represented, in their dealing with a question of fact on which it might be urged there were concurrent decisions of two Courts blow.  On reading those decisions it did not appear that this was so. If the evidence on both sides had been thoroughly considered by the leaned Judge and acted upon, their Lordships would have felt great difficulty in interfering with their decisions; but there had been no finding by either Judge as to the credibility or incredibility of the witnesses in the main elements of the case.
  The Consular Judge began his judgment by saying "In this case the evidence given by the plaintiff is of a decidedly unsatisfactory character, his statements being, for the most part, made with a view to his own supposed advantage rather than to meet the requirements of truth." He also said "They (the Sassoons) certainly brought forward some strong evidence in support of their position, but I cannot for a moment believe that the plaintiff would have trusted Hoo Mei-pin or any other man of straw unconnected with a well-known business firm." Therefore, so far from disbelieving the comprador's own evidence, the Consular Judge simply disregarded it, on the ground of its apparent improbability.  Hoo Mei-pin had, it was proved, carried on an extensive business, and had a number of establishments in a great many places, facts which were well known to the traders at Tientsin; and though he subsequently failed, their Lordships could not subscribe to the view of the consular judge that it was improbable that he would have been personally trusted.  They regarded the consul's judgment as dealing with the case in an unsatisfactory manner in not pronouncing a definite opinion as to the evidence before him.  
  The Chief Justice's judgment, their Lordships regretted to say, was not at all satisfactory.  He recited the judgment of the court below and approved of it, which their Lordships could not do; and he, too, rejected the principal evidence on the ground of improbability, going on, however, to say "If there was nothing further in the case than I have alluded to, I might have felt some doubt; but the respondent produces two documents in the shape of receipts for the gold in question given to him by the compradore and bearing the chop of "Lao Sha-sun," which to my mind completely turned the  case in his favour."
  That was to say the only case on the part of the respondent; without it he had none.  But he assessors stated the compradores very commonly gave such receipts, though the transactions were their own.   The learned Judge did not say he disbelieved the compradore about the transaction being his own, about giving the needles in composition of payment, or about the long interval between the transaction and the application to Messrs. Sassoon. The evidence had not been satisfactorily dealt with in the Courts below; indeed, on the main points it had not been dealt with at all.  On the evidence it appeared that the case for the appellants much preponderated over that for the respondent, and their Lordships would, in these circumstances, humbly advised Her Majesty to reverse the judgments appealed from and dismiss the suit.  The respondent must pay the costs.
  The appeal of Messrs. Sassoon was consequently allowed.

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