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Colonial Cases

United States v. Crew of the Antelope, 1887

[shipping, desertion]

United States v. Crew of the  Antelope

United States Consular Court, Shanghai
Kennedy, 1 March 1887
Source: North China Herald, 2 March 1887

U.S. CONSULAR COURT.
Before General Kennedy, U.S. Consul-General, Acting Judicially.
Shanghai, 1st March 1887
A TALE OF THE SEA.
  Captain Peabody, master of the American ship Antelope, appeared to prosecute a number of his crew for aiding and abetting in the desertion of a seaman named Reid, alias Phillips, who as it appeared, being dissatisfied with his life on the ship, slipped over the side one night in January last in longitude 145.54E latitude 18.5N, taking with him a small plank for a raft, and two or three scraps of canvas for sails, with which frail craft he intended to make one of the islands of the Ladrones group.
.  .  .  
General Kennedy delivered judgment in the case at 2 o'clock.  He told Nelson, Limbec, Colhoun, Jonson, and another who were in the Chief Officer's watch and down below at the time of the occurrence, that they were discharged, as he considered that they had nothing to do with the escape or desertion of Phillips.
  Addressing the remaining men Simpson, Grant, Swensen, Stenken and Strauss who were in the second mate's watch, he said there was no legal proof enough to convict them, and so he must dismiss them also, although he was morally sure they must have heard the man leave the ship, and connived at his desertion.  
  The law required that in a case where prisoners were not found guilty he must "honourably" acquit them.  He could not do that, they would simply be allowed to go.
  The Captain was quite right in calling for the investigation.  If it could be found that the man who deserted was drowned, the sailors would be liable to be tried for manslaughter, but he left that matter to their consciences.  He could not honourably acquit them, but simply dismissed the case for lack of legal proof.

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