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Colonial Cases

United States v. Graham, 1889


United States v. Graham

United States Consular Court

Leonard, 12 December 1889

Source: North China Herald, 13 December 1889




   At the United States Consulate General yesterday, before Consul-General Leonard, Charles Comitt Graham, 36, described as unemployed and of no fixed abode, was charged with obtaining by means of false pretences from Messrs. Mackenzie & Co., No. 4, Foochow Road, goods and money, viz. 1 microscope, 1 set of instruments, 1 razor and 23 magnifying glasses, value $81.50 and $68.50 Mex., total $150, on the 10th instant.

   At the commencement of the proceedings the sworn information of the prosecutor, Mr. Mackenzie, was read over.  In reply prisoner said that he admitted having issued a cheque, but without any fraudulent intent.  He then entered into a long statement, the effect of which was that some months ago, when in Hongkong, he had obtained permission to overdraw to the extent of $200, his account then being already overdrawn $12; and therefore he had given a cheque for these articles in good faith, believing it would be met.  The prisoner then went on to say that he had been a "bank man for over 20 years in some of the biggest institutions in Australia," where he had overdrawn sometimes to the extent of 150 Pounds.  There he had always been notified of an overdraft, but he had received no notification in this case.  About six months ago he had been in the habit of issuing cheques, and one man who had received one of them had come to the consulate and seen general Kennedy, who had sent for him (prisoner). He explained the matter away, and the General dismissed the charge as not being any crime.

   The Consul General -Do you want anybody here to testify for you?

   Prisoner - No.  I can't see that it's necessary; it will only be wasting time.  I am willing to abide by your decision.

   The Chief Superintendent of the Police here handed in three cheques on the same account, one of them bearing date 10th Dec. at which time, he said prisoner must have known he had no money at the Bank.

   The evidence was then taken.

   Charles H. Purcell said - I am an employee in the store of Messrs. Mackenzie & Co. On Tuesday the prisoner came into the shop and asked to see some mathematical instruments.  He selected a set and also a microscope, a razor, and 23 magnifying glasses.  He said he knew Mr. Mackenzie and Mr. Mustard.  I asked him if the goods should be charged to him, and he replied "Yes." He took the goods away.  In the case of small packages, such as the one in question it is not unusual for the purchaser to take goods away with them.  He asked me for a memo of the articles, which I gave him.

   By the accused - You did not say anything about leaving Shanghai.  You did not say that Mr. Mackenzie and Mr. Mustard were known to you by reputation; you simply said you knew them.

   John H. Osborne said - The prisoner came into the office on Monday afternoon, presented me with an account for $81.50, and proposed to pay it.  He said something to the effect that he had no cash, but that he would withdraw a cheque on an account he had in Hongkong; and I understood him, to say that he had seen the Shanghai manager of the Hongkong and Shanghai Bank, who had promised to pay the cheques. He asked me to take a cheque for $150 and give him the change.  I agreed to do so, as I had occasionally done with customers.  I gave him a blank form and he drew the cheque produced.  I told him I had no dollars at hand, and asked him to wait.  He waited about twenty minutes and was then given the balance by one of the Chinese.  I asked him if it was all right, and he said it was and went away.  Next day I sent the cheque to the Bank, and it was returned with memo attached, "Refer to drawer."

   By the accused - I sent your cheque to the Bank the same day but as it was a holiday there was no one there to receive it.  You waited while I sent it to the Bank. You led me to suppose you had just seen the manager of the Bank, or had seen him within an hour or two.

   The accused was proceeding to ask witness how it was that he could only recollect facts favourable to the prosecution, when he was stopped by the Consul-General, who said he could not allow the prisoner to argue the case with the witness.

   Witness, continuing - The accused said he was going to Hongkong by the Yangtse the following night.  In the course of our conversation the accused said he was known to the Surveyor General's department at Hongkong, and that he had formerly been in the shipping business.

   By the prisoner - I am positive you never told me that you were about to enter the Surveyor-General's department, or that your "boss" was in that department and had promised you employment.

   Prisoner - Was I drunk or sober?

   Witness - If you had not been sober I should not have cashed your cheque.

   Prisoner went on to ask the witness further questions, and was told by the witness that he was willing to have his memory refreshed.

   Prisoner - That I am not allowed to do by the Court.

   The Consul-General - You understood perfectly well what I said to you before.  There is no reason why you should not refresh the witness's memory by referring him to any conversation; but you must do it in a proper manner.

   Gordon T. How said - I am an assistant in the Hongkong and Shanghai Bank.  Yesterday morning Mr. Mackenzie came to the Bank to see Mr. Bevis, the sub-manager, who was out, and Mr. Mackenzie showed me the cheque, which had been previously returned by the Bank.  I told him that as there were no effects we could not pay the cheque.  We had previously received from Hongkong two cheques in the same name, one for $100 and the other $78 which had been cashed and charged to the debit of the Shanghai account under the impression that the accused had an account here. (The witness then stated that the accused had in his possession a document from the Hongkong office to the Shanghai Branch, stating that they, Hongkong, had cashed the two cheques and now forwarded them to the debit of the Shanghai account.  He could not account for the accused having the document in his possession.) I telegraphed to Hongkong at Mr. Mackenzie's request, and yesterday morning we received the reply, "Cash no cheques."

   By the Court - I suppose the accused must have had an account at the Bank at some time, on account of his possessing a cheque book.

   Prisoner - How long have you been in the banking business?

   Witness - Eleven years.

   Prisoner - Do you consider that long enough to acquire a knowledge of the banking business?

   The Consul-General - That is irrelevant, and I do not intend to have the witness bullied or badgered.

   Prisoner - Well, would it be customary to send my account to Hongkong to let them know how I stand in your branch here?

   Witness - No. At the end of every month there is a statement sent to the directors at Hongkong showing the accounts that are overdrawn, and they might see it from that.  I cannot say whether a statement of your account has been sent to Hongkong.

   Prisoner - Would I be possible for me to go into the Hongkong Bank at Hongkong and demand money, when they knew I had overdrawn?

   Witness - Thy perhaps would not know at the time that your account was over-drawn.  The two offices are run independently, and any money you might get at Hongkong would be on the faith of what they know about you there.

   By the Court - I know of no arrangement for an overdraft here, and we should not cash any of the prisoner's cheques.  When arrangements are made to allow an overdraft the accountant is generally informed, but this was not done in this instance.

   M. Mackenzie, who was not sworn, here stated that he had seen Mr. Walter, who had told him that no arrangement had been made for an overdraft.  With reference to what had been said about the accused having a cheque book, he (the prosecutor) pointed out that the cheque form which the accused filled up was supplied to him at the prosecutor's store.

   The prisoner, when asked if he desired to call any witnesses, claimed the attendance of Mr. Walter, and the proceedings were adjourned to obtain the witness's attendance.

   On resuming, Mr. Walter was sworn.  He said - I have no recollection of having seen the accused on Monday.  I see so many people in the course of a day that I could not say I had no conversation with him; but I have no hesitation in saying I made no arrangement with the prisoner for an overdraft.

   Prisoner - Then you cannot be the person I mean.  I came about a quarter past ten.  I had a gripsack with me.

   Witness - Had you a white bag?

   Accused - Yes.

   Witness - Now I recollect something about it.  You said you had some money at Hongkong and that you wanted to draw against it.  I told you that you could not have any money unless your statements were confirmed from Hongkong.  You also said you were in the employ of the China Merchants, and I told you that I could not advance money without the guarantee of Mr.  Weir, the superintendent of the company, and you went away saying you would obtain the guarantee; and I saw no more of you.  That was as far as the conversation went.

   Prisoner - I think there is a mistake about the conversation, and that is how I have been misled about this cheque.

   The Consul-General - Did he want to obtain money at the time or to make arrangements to draw upon you here?

   Witness - He wanted money at the time.

   This was the whole of the evidence, and the proceedings were then adjourned till Monday.


Source: North China Herald, 20 December 1889


   At the American Consulate General on Monday, before Consul-General Leonard, Charles Comitt Graham was charged on remand with obtaining gods and money to the extent of $150 by false pretences from Messrs. Mackenzie & Co.

   Capt. McEuen appeared to conduct the case on behalf of the police.

   Frederick George Keeling, detective sergeant, said: "I found the paper produced in the prisoner's box, and also counterfoils of cheque books (produced). (The paper is a memorandum from the Bank here to the effect that the prisoner's account was overdrawn $12.40).

   A shroff in the employ of the prosecutor testified:- I saw the accused at the store on the 10th  inst. Mr. Osborne handed me a cheque for $150 and told me to take it to the Bank to cash it, but as there was no one at the Bank it could not be cashed there.  I obtained $68.50 and paid that amount in notes and silver to the accused.

   During his cross-examination of this witness, prisoner objected to the witness being prompted by the prosecutor, who had just said something to him.

   Prosecutor - I said it to myself.

   Prisoner - Upon my word of honour, your honour, I had to interrupt you the other day when I heard two gentlemen prompting a witness.

   The Consul-General - I have not observed any prompting, but of course it will be understood by all in this Court that such a proceeding is most improper.

   At the conclusion of the evidence the accused complained that having been kept under lock and key he had no opportunity of making his defence or seeing his papers, of which he had a great many of different descriptions.

   The Consul-General said he had tried to give the prisoner a fair trial, and had allowed him more latitude in the way of talking than was customary.  Had he anything further to say why sentence should not be passed upon him?

   Prisoner - I have, sir, most decidedly.

   The Consul-General went on to say that in order to give the accused an opportunity of consulting his papers the case would be adjourned until two o'clock.

Prisoner observed that to save time he would state the nature of the documents.  They were receipted bills showing that he had paid some $100 since he had been here, and certificates of character showing that he had employment and was not a man going about the country, as the police would endeavour to show, swindling people.  He would put these documents in if the Court thought necessary.

   The consul-General said he would receive any papers that might be presented.

   Prosecutor - May I be allowed to bring forward others to probe that he had other unpaid bills here?

   The Consul-General - I do not consider it necessary.

   The Court was then adjourned till two o'clock.

   On resuming,

   The Consul-General said he had examined the papers submitted to him, and it was the opinion of the Court that the accused was guilty.

   Prisoner, interposing, said he wished to address the court in his own defence.  He urged that from the time he left Hongkong he had acted straightforwardly, and that at the time he drew the cheque he expected money to be paid in to his account.  The evidence had been given in a very straight-forward manner, with the exception of what he would call a little equivocating and absence of memory, some of the witnesses not recollecting some things which would have been of great benefit to himself, particularly Mr. Walker, the Bank manager.  Mistakes had been made and no doubt he was the party who had made them, but they were not intentional.

   The Consul-General said that in the mind of the Court there was no doubt of the prisoner's guilt' and it was not necessary to say anything further on that point.  Prisoner was a man of sufficient age and experience to understand the transaction in which he was engaged, and there was no necessity for him (the speaker) to deliver any lecture to the prisoner in connection with the matter.  The sentence was that he be fined $300, and in default be imprisoned in the Consular gaol for the term of 30 days from that date.

   Prisoner - If I find security for the amount will that do?

   The Consul-General - No. Security will not be sufficient.

   The prisoner was then removed in custody.

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