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Colonial Cases

Mooney v. American Trading Company, 1897

[shipping, crew]


Mooney v. American Trading Company

United States Consular Court, Shanghai
Source: North China Herald, 12 November, 1897



Shanghai, 10th November

Before John Goodnow, Esq., Consul-General.


   This was a case in which the plaintiff, Lawrence Mooney, claimed to have been put on board the American barque St. Katherine at Victoria, B.C. and taken to sea in the ship without his consent and without his having signed articles or having such signature attested in the manner provided by law, and further that an improperly low rate of wages had been credited to his account. Plaintiff therefore prayed that his service on board the said vessel should cease, and that he should have such further relief as provided by law.

   Mr. H. P. Wilkinson appeared for the defendants, and the plaintiff was not represented by counsel.

   Lawrence Mooney, the plaintiff, said that on the night of the 12th or the morning of the 13th of July last he was taken on board the St. Katherine in Victoria, B.C. Witness was very drunk at the time and knew nothing about it until he woke up next morning in the carpenter's room on board. He asked where he was and when told went and saw the captain, who was just going ashore. He told the captain he had never been at sea and wished to go ashore but the captain pushed him away, saying he had no time to talk to him. The mate told witness to go forward about his business. 

   On the 14th when the tug came off to tow the vessel to sea the captain ordered witness to go to the wheel, but he (witness) said he could not steer, as he had never been to sea before.  Witness was put on board by a man named Voss, whose business it was to supply men to ships, but he (witness) had not stayed in Voss's house, nor did he owe him any money. When they got to sea the captain told him if he did not sign articles he would get no pay, so witness signed.

   By Mr. Wilkinson - Witness had no papers of any description. Had not the slightest intention of going to sea, as he was a labourer, not a sailor. Could not remember how he became acquainted with Voss. The ship was lying about a mile from the shore in Victoria, and there were no boats alongside. Did not ask the captain of the tug to take him ashore. Witness was not taken before the U.S. Consul in Victoria.

   Mr. Wilkinson said that his case was that the plaintiff signed articles before the captain after the ship had sailed, and that the master was in the position of a shipping commissioner under the U.S. statute, sec. 4,504. The learned counsel also pointed out to the Court the great disadvantage the defendants were under in not being able to produce their ordinary witness, the captain, who had unfortunately died since the ship arrived in Shanghai.

   James Fettis, mate of the St. Katherine, said that he joined the ship in Victoria and signed articles before the U.S. Consul. He did not see plaintiff come on board. On Tuesday morning the watchman told him there was another sailor on board, who had been brought off by Mr. Voss. Voss was a hotel proprietor in Victoria. He also supplied crews for ships. First saw plaintiff at 9 or 10 on Tuesday morning. Had never seen him on shore. The U.S. Consul did not come on board on Tuesday to witness' knowledge. Plaintiff told the captain he was no sailor and wanted to go ashore, but the captain was going ashore and said he had no time to talk to him, and witness advised him to sleep the whisky out of him. Did not know anything of plaintiff's signing on, but heard Voss tell plaintiff he had signed the previous night. On the following day (Wednesday) witness gave him some soap, and other things and he did not say anything about wanting to go ashore.

   George Watton, a seaman belonging to the St. Katherine, said that he shipped in Victoria and signed articles at the U.S. Consulate on the 13th of July. He first saw plaintiff in the street in company with Voss. He was then drunk. Witness knew nothing of the plaintiff's signing articles. Had heard the plaintiff say on several occasions that he had been brought on board and taken to sea against his will. 

   The mate was then recalled and asked if her knew where the official log-book was, but replied in the negative.

   His Honour, in giving judgment, said that it was quite clear in his mind that the plaintiff had been illegally shipped, and ordered that his service should cease,  that he should be paid wages for 3 ½ months at the rate of $25 gold per month, that the advance received by him in Victoria should not be charged to his account, that defendants should pay his fare in a sailing vessel to a port on the Pacific Coast in the United States, or to Victoria, and should maintain him either on board or in some equivalent institution to the Sailors' Home until such time as a passage should be engaged for him in some suitable vessel.

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