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Colonial Cases

Enquiry into the Itasca, 1872



Enquiry into the Itasca

United States Consular Court, Kanagawa
Mitchell, 21 March 1872
Source: Japan Weekly Mail, 23 March 1872 [300]



Thursday, 21st March.

Before Geo. N. Mitchell, U.S. Vice-Consul.


   R. Alexander. I shipped at Cardiff. I was not half on hour on board when I was subjected to violent treatment by the first and third mate and it has continued during the whole passage; the Mates struck me. The Captain has seen me struck. I was struck on the head when aloft by the third mate, he likewise struck me on the fore yard and caused my head to bleed. They have promised to kill some of us.

   W. Crane. I shipped at New York. I have been struck four times during the passage by the mates. I am afraid to go on board the ship again as I am sure murder will be committed.

   C. Brown. I have been at sea 20 years. The first and second mates have both struck me. I have not seen any of the officers drunk.  The first mate has sworn to kill me; the officers have never called me my proper name., they have always used some bad epithet to me.

   Carpenter, A. Glyn. I have been struck by the Chief Mate directly we left Newport, with a rope, because he said I got him into trouble before the captain. The second mate has not struck me. I have made a club by the chief officer's order to hit the sailors with; it contains a pound of lead. I swear he told me to make it for him to beat the sailors with. He has not used it.

   Mr. Adams gave his testimony, as also did H. Schmidt, J. Holden, C. Homas, P. Grise, F. Nitche.

   J. Leimter, steward - I have been at sea 23 years. I have seen the sailors struck. I have never been struck myself. The crew is a middling one; it might have been a better one had they been treated well. I do not consider the officers have treated the sailors well. I consider my life would be in danger to go on board again. I have heard the chief mate threaten to kill some sailors and I have not the least doubt that he will carry out the threat. I knew the club was made but I have not seen it in use. The old crew deserted when they arrived at Newport.

   Mrs. Leimter. I went on board with my husband. I have to complain of bad language, and my child being threatened. I have heard the chief mate tell the third mate to push one of the witnesses overboard as he was no good. I have seen the mates strike witnesses. The crew are quiet. I have been at sea 12 years and I have not seen a quiteter. The Captain has treated me well; he left everything to the chief mate.

   E. A. Cotton, the chief mate, said he would admit slapping one of the witnesses. Told the carpenter to make the club but never had any real intentions of using it. He never gave any instructions to push witness overboard. It was a very bad crew; the men had been used well, and prior to arrival here seemed happy; he might have sworn sometimes but it was a natural thing for a seaman to do.

   J. Frist, second mate, denied using violence towards the crew, but admitted slapping the men occasionally because they were slow, with his open hand.

   J. D. Robinson, third mate, likewise denied using violence and considered the complaint of the crew a got-up thing.

   The witnesses were then severally asked if they would go on board, but they all declined on the ground that they were afraid of their lives.

   Sailmaker, A. Larsen, stated - I have been at sea ten years and six months; we have not been treated well. I have been struck by the mates once or twice when doing my work; also once when I was at the wheel and at sundry other times. I have seen the other men struck. I knew the man who fell from aloft. I was in my room at the time when he fell. The mate asked me to seduce the stewardess's daughter. He came in my room and asked me to see if I could not get a chance to do so. I did not know why he wanted me to do this. I refused. He only asked me this once. I do not know his reason for doing this. Never sailed under the American flag before.

   Mr. Cotton, chief mate, stated - He never had done as witness stated or ever had such an idea, the girl being nothing more than a child.

    A Swedish man said he had been struck many times and had been threatened to be thrown overboard.

   Captain Bush, duly sworn - The men accuse me of intercepting a letter. I have not done this. The men have not been abused and none of them have ever come to me with any complaint. The mate has told me that the carpenter had tried to annoy him. I never heard of any man being kicked by the third mate when aloft; it would be a difficult job for him to do so as the officer would have to get out on the yard and so would endanger himself more than the man. The first complaint was made to me on Thursday. Harry is the only man that has ever been reported to me for refusal of duty. No man has ever come to me with any complaint; many of the men have different names to what they give when shipped. Sailors often go by many names. The man who fell from aloft I knew as F. Whiskey.

   The Carpenter swore that the first and third officers had both struck him.

   Turner stated that they had first written a letter to the Consulate about their complaint and hearing nothing had then applied for leave to go on shore, which was granted them by the Captain.

   His Honour made an order that all persons on the ship with the exception of the officers be discharged and the wages due them be paid into the Consulate.

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