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Colonial Cases

United States v. Riley, Green and Harris [1890]

[shipping, arson]

United States v. Riley, Green and Harris

United States Consular Court, Kobe

Source: San Francisco Call, 10 July 1890


An Attempt to Burn the John Currier in China Seas.

The Hiogo News of June 13th has the following interesting account of the attempt of incendiaries to destroy the American ship John Currier:

There are now in the Municipal Jail two men and a boy charged with the commission of the crime, and they will be brought up for preliminary examination before Mr. E. J. Smithers, in the American Consular Court, this morning, at 10 o'clock. Their names are James Riley, Henry Green and Henry Harris.  Green has confessed, and has implicated Riley, who admits that he assisted at the business.  Against the boy Harris there is at present no direct evidence, we believe.

The fire was discovered ion the fore hatch at about midnight on Tuesday.  The ship's bell at once rang an alarm, and assistance came from all parts of the harbor, the deck soon being crowded with helpers.  It was found that a bundle of pitch tow used for calking, and which had been previously soaked in petroleum, had been dropped down the hatch, the Custom house seal having been broken.  The burning stuff fell upon a mass of dunnage under which were 100 barrels of resin, and but a short distance away 10,000 cases of kerosene.

The dunnage immediately blazed up, and before the flames had been got under the top barrels of the resin underneath had caught and their contents began to run out.  Ten minutes more, we are told, would have seen the John Currier a burning mass, and had the flames not been got under just when they were, orders were upon the point of being issued to scuttle the vessel.  In either case it is doubtful whether all on board could have escaped in safety had the resin once fairly caught.

To make matters worse, the captain had his wife and child on board.  What the motive of the men was it is impossible to say.  They one and all speak highly of the captain, and declare he is one of the right sort, while there has been absolutely no trouble on board, so far as we can hear, either on the voyage or in port.  The John Currier is a $110,000 ship, and was named after her builder, who, although he had built many vessels, deemed her to be better than any which had gone before.


Source: Los Angeles Herald, 20 July 1890

In the United States consular court at Kobe, Japan, John Riley and Henry Green  were sentenced June 25th, to five years' imprisonment for setting fire to the American ship; John Currier, June 10th, which fire was extinguished in time to save the lives of twenty-four persons.

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