1851 .



In the course of the Summer of 1850, certain “ Statements

and Suggestions regarding Hong Kong," dated Hong Kong,

April 23rd, reached England, and were published before the

vote was taken for that Colony,-Government having carried


the vote by a small majority. The amount has been reduced this

year. The following observations do not appear inopportune :

The Estimates for the Civil Establishment and expenses of Hong Kong

will shortly be voted in Parliament. Fifteen -sixteenths of the inhabitants

are Chinese . The remainder do not exceed 1,300, whereof only 460 are of

European or American extraction .

The revenue amounts to about £21,000 per annum ; the expenditure to

about £39,000 ; leaving a balance of about £ 15,500 , to be supplied by

Parliament, provided the Commons are content to saddle this country with

such a burden.

It is not surprising that the too frequent occurrence of lavish expenditure

in the Colonies and Government by the Colonial Office, should have induced

persons to associate economy at home with local self-government in the

Colonies. The latter is more interesting to the Colonists — the former is

more important to ourselves.

Considerable reductions have been made of late years in the charge for

Hong Kong, but the Government have little cause to boast of the reduced

cost. The reduction is owing to the completion of some works, and the

abandonment of others ; the boast is merely the vaunt that a bill already paid

is not still chargeable .

The establishment remains the same, or nearly so.

In an Island smaller than Guernsey or Jersey, without a convict estab

lishment, or large military force, the charge for a few departments of

government exceeds £30,700, viz. :

Department of Governor and Aide -de-Camp ... £6,527

Colonial Secretary and Treasury 5,955

Surveyor. 1,231

Harbour Master 1,116

Justice and Police 15,953


To which we must add £8,000 for Public Works, and other expenses,

making in all £38,986 for that small colony, of which £ 15,500 is asked

from Great Britain .


Besides this, £4,599 is asked for the Consular Establishment, making

£ 20,099 , the total charge for Hong Kong, to be paid by this country.




HONG KONG, APRIL 23, 1851 .


The “ statements and suggestions regarding

Hong Kong ” addressed to you last year, were calculated

to afford you, and other Members of Parliament, a fair

estimate of the opinions of intelligent and impartial

residents in the Colony : and had they been read and

appreciated by all, as they were by a few, of the members

to whom copies were sent, it might perhaps have been

unnecessary again to trouble you or them on the subject.

But unfortunately, as regards everything connected with

China, there is so great an aptitude to misapprehend and

misapply facts among all classes at home- Members of

Parliament, the Press, and the public in general — that it

seems almost impossible to make them understand the

true position - even topographically - of the settlement,


and the wide difference between it and the consular

ports of China.

Hong Kong is an island at the mouth of the Canton

river, about twenty miles in circumference, and with

about as many acres of productive soil. For the rest, it is

“ barren, barren all, " without trees or vegetation of any

sort, except dry bent and stunted brushwood . The popu

lation is principally congregated in the town (or city, now


that it has a Bishop and what is called aa Cathedral), and,

according to the latest official estimate, is made up of

465 Europeans and Americans, men, women, and chil

dren ; Portuguese, natives of Macao and Goa, 415 ;

Indians and Malays, 276 ; other aliens and temporary

residents, such as seamen, 149 ; Chinese, 31,987. Total,

33,292, exclusive of military.

Upon what data the census is taken, or whether it is

made up to serve a purpose, I cannot say ; but if correct,

the population is now greater than at any former period.

In a recent correspondence between the Governor and the

Justices of the Peace, the increase of population is pointed

to by the former as a proof of growing prosperity. It is

nevertheless true that the better classes of residents are

decreasing year by year, to which melancholy truth there

is the unbiassed testimony of the Directories for 1849 and

1850. A friend who has gone over these records states,

that of English connected with trade and paying taxes, or

living in taxed premises, there were 294 in 1849, and only

159 in 1850. There is no Directory for 1851 (a proof of

the decrease of purchasers) ; but that defect is supplied

from another source equally authentic . In 1848 the Jury

List comprised 186 common, and 47 special jurors, while

this year it contains only 69 common, and 26 special.

Both lists include foreigners , Americans, Germans, Portu

guese, &c., with a competent knowledge of the English

language. And an important fact ought not to be over


looked, namely, that in 1819 the qualification of a common

juror, which had previously been 1000 dollars of income,

was reduced to 500 dollars .

This fact is pointed out by the Justices in the cor

respondence above referred to, and but that it is tacitly

admitted by the Governor, I should have supposed that

the Sheriff had committed great oversights in making out

his lists ; for if there be, as the census states, 321 adult

male Europeans in the Colony, as the numbers in both

Jury Lists are under 100, and Government employees may

be estimated at about 60, it is difficult to say of what the

other moiety is composed ; for except natives, and not

many of these, there is no permanent pauper, nor even

menial class here, the great majority of the English resi

dents (meaning thereby all.Europeans and Americans who

speak the English language) consisting of such persons as

elsewhere would elect or be elected to municipal councils.

They are as impatient of misgovernment, and as capable

of governing themselves here in Hong Kong, as their

brethren at home ; while the Chinese, who comprise

fifteen - sixteenths of the entire population, take precedence

in date of all other nations in municipal institutions, and

are not excelled by many in working them so as to secure

" peace, order, and good government ;" the end the

charter of the Colony proposed in clothing the Governor

with legislative powers .

In the exercise of these, he is nominally advised by his


council; but the members are appointed by the Crown ,

and have no power to control the Governor in enacting

what laws he chooses. A year ago two unofficial members

were added to the council (a close body consisting of the

General, the Judge, and the Attorney-General), and it

has pleased the Colonial Office folks to speak of them as

the representatives of the community,—the fact being,

that the Justices of the Peace, a small body selected by

the Governor, were permitted to recommend two of their

own body for the approval of Earl Grey, who, after a long

interval did approve of them, but without investing them

with any other powers than the official members, or giving

the public any means of watching their proceedings, or of

judging of them, until a new ordinance is promulgated by

the conclave and declared to be law.

But this has always been the way with the Colonial

Office - to give nominal, but withhold all real advantages

from the Colonists, who are treated like children in

leading strings by a step -father; the recent tender to the

Justices, to take over the Police, its heads excepted, with

the maintaining of roads, streets, and bridges, and find

the means of paying for them from the rest of the com

munity, who were otherwise not considered, is another

instance . If the intention be that they should merge all

shades of home politics in one combined discontent, it is

certainly eminently successful. This is the more strange,

since, so far as Hong Kong is concerned, with all its well


paid officers, I can testify that from the time the first

ridiculous and extensive staff was sent out, the vacancies

have not been jobbed from home, every appointment,

except that of the Governor and one or two inferior

clerkships, having been filled up , on the recommendation

of the Governor, by officials on the spot being promoted

to higher offices ; or where new men have been adopted,

this also has been done by the Governor, whose appoint

ments have never, I think, been set aside by the Colonial

minister. * * *

The Colonial Office cannot govern Hong Kong so well

or so cheaply for the mother country, as the Colonists

could govern themselves ; and while in the one case our

prospects become every day more gloomy, in the other, if

the Colony did not prosper, there would be none to blame

but ourselves. The Colonial Office has not succeeded

it is at least worth while to try what the Colonists could

do. In this event they would ask for no grant from Parlia

ment, the revenues of the Colony being amply sufficient

for its government, for the maintenance of a better

Police, and for the repairs of public ways, and the

adoption of other improvements, the former becoming

more inefficient, and the latter being suffered to fall into

decay or to stop,* since Parliament began to grumble

* Public works used to form the largest item in the expenditure of the

Colony, but being now stopped and left to fall to decay, the boasted reduc

tion of expenditure is unsatisfactorily accounted for.


about the grant. We don't want it at all, and the

Government require it; not to devote to benefitting the

Colony, but to make up the salaries of officials, the whole

revenue of the Colony being insufficient for the purpose.

The use of the establishment is chiefly to draw salaries ;

and to provide these, the income of the Colony and the

parliamentary gratuity are swallowed up. Yet, as I have

formerly explained to you , the objection is not to the

salaries, but to the existence of officials who are really of

less than no use, and make employment for each other ;

yet, having been engaged without consulting the Colonists,

they cannot fairly be turned adrift by their employers.

My proposal would be that the annual parliamentary

grant should be applied to pensioning off the government

staff, unless other employment could be found for them

a measure that would probably be satisfactory to most of

them .

Of course, except a governor, the offices would be

abolished ; and with regard to him , he would be required

only to exercise imperial functions, for which he would be

paid by the Crown. This indeed ought always to have

been the case, for he combines the offices of Plenipo

tentiary to China, and superintendent of the trade of

British subjects in China, with the Governorship of Hong

Kong ; the former two being in the department of the

Foreign Office, and by much the most important. The

administration of these has nothing to do with the Colony,


only the holder of them being also Governor, resides here,

and has a diplomatic establishment, the existence of

which, and the mixing up of that item and of consular

expenses in the estimates, bring a fruitful source of mis

takes on the part of M.P.'s, and is perhaps intended to be

so , in order that clever under -secretaries may thus catch

them tripping. The present Governor is reported to have

sent in his resignation, and may probably return home

within a year. That would be the proper occasion to

effect the change ; and if the Colonists are made aware

that it is to take place, other reforms might be carried

out at the same time.

Were these suggestions favourably received, a constitu

tion for the Colony could be very easily framed , giving

the Colonists the management of their own funds, with

municipal and legislative councils, and the fixing of the

qualifications for electing and being elected for each .

Much less expensive and far more efficient Courts of

Justice might be established, with suitable laws and well

defined jurisdiction, as was recommended by the Parlia

mentary Committee of 1847, but never attempted.

The whole judicial system, including Police, too often

operates in encouraging roguish Chinese, and deterring

the better classes from settling here, or even frequenting

the place for trade. These things have often been pointed

out in the local papers, of which the most recent instances

are enclosed. Surely provision could be made elsewhere

for the Judge and the Attorney -General, as well as for the


Registrar, whose functions are multiform , but oftener

hurtful than beneficial to the Colony. If they are to be

continued under the present system of government, the

Registrar should be paid a fixed salary for all, and account

to the Treasury for all fees that might not be done away

with, as many of them ought to be. And it might not be

amiss to get a return of all the estates administered to,

their assets, debts, and charges, and when wound up , as

well as of the property thrown into the Vice -Admiralty

Court, too often to its utter sacrifice and the ruin of its

owners . As for the droits of the Admiralty, they seldom

suffice to pay the fees ; but a return of them would also

shew how the account stands.

I am unwilling to extend this letter, as that could only

be done by lessening the chances of its being read. All

I shall at present add will be in the words of another and

most competent witness, an old resident, a J.P., and the

managing partner of a leading mercantile firm . The

following extracts are from jottings made by him a short

time ago. I omit his remarks on consular establishments

in China, and have myself avoided the subject, in order

thatmy readers, whoever they may be, should not, through

me, confound them with Colonial matters. If I treat the

others at all, it must be separately.

Believe me, very truly yours,

The Hon . FRANCIS Scott, M.P.


Extracts referred to.

* *

I have hopes Colonial matters will now command some atten

tion at home , and the great regret is that the interest which has

been awakened in England on the subject did not take place

long ago, nor did our Local Government, so far as Hong Kong

is concerned , add its mite by way of throwing any light on a

subject which may most justly be said to be very little under

stood at home ; on the contrary, the English home authorities

have not the means of arriving at a just or sound opinion on

Colonial policy as followed up in China.

Take for example Mr. Hawes, who in his place in the House

of Commons stated that the Hong Kong Governor had spoken

of the increasing prosperity of the Colony, by pointing to the

large amount of shipping which arrive and depart therefrom .

I admit that ships arrive at Hong Kong from England ; for what

purpose ? To receive instructions from agents, land some house

stores for the different shopkeepers, and to discharge a portion

of their cargo which may not be immediately required in Canton,

ultimately to find its way to the Port of Shanghae. Vessels

from India arrive at Hong Kong for instructions only, and pro

ceed up the river at once, or to an opium station some forty

miles from Hong Kong. Vessels from the coast deliver their

letters at Hong Kong, and soon find their way to the opium

station or Whampoa .

To us on the spot how silly it seems to hear it stated that an

increase in such tonnage at Hong Kong augurs its commercial

prosperity ; and how unfortunate it is such reports gain credit

at home from the fact that no one on the spot seems to have in

clination or power to challenge the proofofthis boasted prosperity !

Positively the Colony of Hong Kong, month by month , is be

coming of less use to the few merchants that still abide there.

Our authorities at home will not look on matters as they

really are. They take a passing glance at their official commu

nications, and it seems they consider that a great point is gained


if, by their estimates, the last year has not shown an increase

on the previous twelve months' expenditure.

Hong Kong has really no redeeming point at this moment.

The little trade that existed from 1843 up to 1847 has gradually

become dissolved. There is no inducement for Chinese to bring

produce there, or to settle for the purposes of trade - I mean men

who have means and some influence, and who could do business

with foreigners.

Nor can this be wondered at . We have a Court ill- suited to

Englishmen ; need I say how much worse it is fitted for Chinese,

and for Chinese wants ? It inconveniences aa merchant to bring

a case into Court; in aa pecuniary view it almost ruins a China

man .

Ground -rent is high, and a Chinaman wishing to rent a

house must pay dearly for it. A shopkeeper in Macao pays

from 26 to 36 dollars a year as rent. In Hong Kong for a

similar house he would have to pay 10 to 16 dollars a MONTH .

Police taxes are excessive, whilst the police force is not efficient.


A Land Committee last year was named on the suggestion of

the Hong Kong Governor, and sanctioned by Earl Grey. Have

the reports of this Committee ever been received ? If received,

have the suggestions been attempted to be carried out, or their

feasibility canvassed ? Nay, have they even received consi

deration ? The Committee consisted of three Government

Officers and two Merchants. Surely their opinions are at least

worthy of being made public, if not worthy of being confirmed

by Government ? How is it these papers have not been asked

for in the House of Commons ? It is but mocking us, our

Government volunteering an appearance of a desire to meet our

wants and wishes fairly.

In one word Hong Kong yields nothing ; it is barren, rocky,

and mountainous ; our supplies come from the mainland. The

Taxes and Ground - rents levied are extreme, say . £24,000

And to this you must add an annual grant from Home of £20,000

£ 44,000


To do what ? To pay salaries only of officials and police

officers ! Nothing can be more absurd.

A partial change in the management of affairs would, I think,

have but little beneficial effect on the Colony. I have looked at

the matter from every side . I am in a position to see some of

the points which bear on its prosperity or otherwise, and I do

not hesitate now to express my conviction that nothing short of

an entire overthrow of the present system of Government the

present taxes and impositions on the people on the markets

in the bazaars, can be of any avail to render Hong Kong other

than what it now is-a naval and military depôt, or rather a

military grave- yard and a depôt for the destruction of naval

stores .

As sure as the present system of Government is persevered in,

equally sure too will you see house by house withdraw from the

Colony. Already what is the state of the case ? Only some

five of the leading houses in China have establishments in Hong

Kong, where their books and treasure are kept. If the steamers

carrying the English mail would arrive at and depart from

Whampoa monthly, instead of making Hong Kong the pivoting

point, I am satisfied in my own mind the members of those few

remaining houses would leave for Canton and Shanghae, pre

ferring to abandon property in the shape of houses, rather than

to submit longer to the rule of a Government having a desire to

do nothing, save extracting every penny it can from the resi

dents, in order to make the receipts as nearly as possible square

with the expenditure.

If our Government has a real desire to see what can be made

of Hong Kong in a mercantile point of view, why not entrust

the management of its affairs to the residents, and then give it a

trial for five years, unencumbered by taxes of any kind beyond

what they found necessary ? If trade does not follow such a

course, though I think it would, then leave the buildings to

crumble to the dust, and let the place be left as a naval station



14 1

After all, this is not so great a boon to ask at the hands of the

English Government. During the Honourable East India Com

pany's time, when we did not send so much tea to England as

we now do, a larger sum was paid by far to maintain the Com

pany's Officers and Establishment than the whole of the present

unnecessary outlay at Hong Kong, Consulates and all included.

Of this I am convinced, before many more summers go over

our heads, if some radical change does not take place, the

Government will be left to look for tenants for houses, and they

will not find them ; and then only we shall have the poor satis

faction of pointing out to those in authority that they had so

long lent a deaf ear to complaints, substantially fair in them

selves, though they may have appeared to those in office as

simply pointing to the lopping off individual salaries, while the

end and aim of those preferring such complaints had been the

welfare of the Colony, and a desire to remedy, in time, an evil

which candid men saw becoming so great that it could not long 1

be borne.

As regards our CONSULAR ESTABLISHMENTS it seems to me

they are not suited for the trade carried on in China, &c. , &c.

* *

I am sick and tired of palmy excuses to keep up establish

ments like Hong Kong, Consuls and their staffs. I am weary

and have given up complaining, expecting no redress. I think

I speak the feeling of many of my neighbours in this. There

is no use in again and again petitioning the Home Government.

We have all too much to attend to in business to be able to

afford time to discuss these questions, because we have found

no wish on the part of the Local Government to meet them fairly.

Sooner or later my predictions will be found correct or other

wise ; and I am almost content to stand aloof and see the result

of management which, I consider, not alone injurious, but leading

to the total ruin of the Colony. Had the management been

otherwise, Hong Kong might ere this have been a place of

trade, and probably one yielding Revenue to the English.


Justice as administered in the Supreme Court of Hong Kong.

From the “ China Mail ” Newspaper, March 6th , 1851 .

The proceedings of the Supreme Criminal Court continue to

evince the inadequacy of our forms and the inefficiency of our

staff to secure the ends of justice ; but are on the present occa

sion chiefly noticeable for the introduction of a new mode of

obtaining convictions, and of rendering juries ridiculous. We

refer to the Ordinance passed two months ago, and then reviewed

by us at some length, entitled, “ An Ordinance for the improve

ment of the Law of evidence at the trial of criminal cases before

the Supreme Court,"-a palpable misnomer. Under this law

depositions taken before a Magistrate are to be received as evi

dence on the trial, in the absence of the witnesses ; a frequent

occurrence no doubt, but the evils of which the present measure

is calculated not to remedy but to aggravate.

Having witnessed the law in operation, we are even less recon

ciled to it than when it was promulgated. Indeed it seems to us

to have nothing to recommend it but the facilities it affords the

worst class of Chinese to squeeze, and wreak their vengeance

against one another, and the saving of labour and brains it will

effect in the event of the conduct of criminal prosecutions, and

the summoning of witnesses, ever being entrusted to indolent or

incompetent hands — a contingency to which we may be exposed,

but that we are not so at present must have been felt by every

one who witnessed the unusually active zeal displayed by the

Attorney -General in smoothing and defending the measure to the

jury last week.. Some of them seemed not quite prepared to

convict a man of a serious crime on the sole production of the

depositions of witnesses whom they never saw ; but the Judge

having stated that, according to the Ordinance (of which he at

least must have disapproved in the Legislative Conclave ), the


depositions before the Magistrate must be received , the Attorney

General took for granted they were also to be believed ; and it

would appear that some of the jury adopted the same view, for

after being locked up for several hours they were discharged

without agreeing upon a verdict, which however was next day

obtained from a more pliable lot, -- some of the first probably,

and very properly we think, holding that it was contrary to the

law of nature, and to the instincts of humanity, to condemn a

man without seeing him and his accusers face to face . We refer

to our report of the trial, the only one at which we were present,

though there was another of the same sort. Convictions were

obtained in both instances, in some measure it may be, because

foreigners ( juries here are made up of every nation except

Chinese) may be more easily satisfied with evidence against

natives than against Europeans, but also in a great measure from

a misapprehension that, because they must listen to such notes

as the Magistrate may have made of the depositions of absent

witnesses, they are therefore bound to accept them as equivalent

to parol testimony emitted in their presence.

In England depositions are in certain extreme cases received

in evidence ; but always with great caution, and in no case

would a capital conviction be obtained there on depositions only,

without corroborative oral testimony. The cases in which depo

sitions would be permitted to be read on a trial before the Judges

of England are—when the witness is dead, or insane, or unable

to move, or kept away by the practices of the prisoner ; but in

all such cases the allegations must be substantiated to the satis

faction of the judge and jury, who would not be satisfied with

the mere ipse dixit of any Court official, be he either Attorney

General or Sheriff. The principle is thus stated in Roscoe's

Digest of the Law of Evidence :

“ So it has been said that if due diligence has been used, and it is made

manifest that the witness has been sought for and cannot be found, or if it be

proved that he was subpened ană fell sick by the way, his deposition may be

read, for that in such case he is in the same circumstances as to the party

that is to use him as if he were dead. It has, however, been obscrved by Mr.


Starkie, that it seems to be very doubtful whether the mere casual and

temporary inability of the witness to attend in aa criminal case, be a sufficient

ground for admitting his deposition, which affords evidence of a nature much

less satisfactory than the testimony of a witness examined, viva voce, in court,

and which might be procured at another time, if the trial were to be


If such be the law and practice in England where men are

tried by their own countrymen, and where depositions are taken

by educated lawyers and experienced magistrates, how much

more chary ought we to be in a place like this, where Chinese

are (illegally and unjustly we conceive) tried by a jury exclusively

of foreigners, and where our Magistrates, however conscientious

they may be, know no more of the forms and administration of

justice than they have acquired since they received their present

appointments , one of them so recently , that without unjust dis

paragement, it may be safely asserted that depositions taken by

him are not now entitled to the same weight as those of his

senior , who, besides his laboriousness , integrity and experience ,

is an excellent Chinese scholar . But whatever may be their

qualifications, we should object on trials to the substitution of

depositions taken by either or both of them, for evidence vivå.

voce, not only because it makes the empanneling of a jury a far

cical form , but because the depositions are taken privately ; the

public not being entitled to be present , and would almost cer

tainly be excluded , during such preliminary investigations in

serious cases, while to promulgate their import would be a con

tempt of Court . It is so laid down in text-books, and the prac

tice of the Hong Kong Magistrates is in accordance thereto . To

this we do not object, but do most emphatically protest against

the notes of any private inquiry whatever , unsubstantiated , except

by those engaged in making it, being thrust upon juries as suf

ficient evidence to secure a conviction . The evils with which

such a system , if established , is fraught, are many and manifest ;

as we shall endeavour to show when we return to the subject,

which we shall shortly do.


Law and Law -making in Hong Kong.

From the “ China Mail” Newspaper, April 10th & 17th.

We direct attention to a very brief but comprehensive ordi

nance promulgated, for restraining our courts from entertaining

suits between subjects of China, where the cause of action has

arisen out of the Colony. To those, not Chinese, who have

never visited it, it may seem strange that such an ordinance was

necessary ; for we do not imagine any court in England would

entertain an action, much less issue a writ, at the suit of one

Frenchman who in London chanced to encounter another against

whom he chose to swear a debt contracted in Paris, where both

had their domicile. But here the Judge of the Supreme Court

has held that any one, of whatever country , who comes, or is

brought to his tribunal, is to enjoy the privilege (or submit to

the yoke, as the case may be) of being adjudged by English law .

The evils that have thence arisen, especially as respects Chinese,

we believe are not exaggerated in the Preamble to the Ordinance,

which sets forth that

“ Whereas from the vicinity of the Colony of Hong Kong to the dominions

of the Emperor of China, it is of frequent occurrence that Chinese subjects

visiting the said Colony for a limited time, and for the purposes of trade,

emplead and cause each other to be arrested for causes of action arising

within the said Dominions ; and whereas such proceedings are not only

inconvenient from the difficulty of procuring proper evidence, and for other

reasons, but are frequently resorted to for the purposes of extortion, and

likewise tend to the injury of traffic within the said Colony."

We have little doubt, therefore, that while the measure willprove

a heavy blow and great discouragement to the harpies who have

acquired sufficient knowledge of the process of our Courts to

use it for the purpose of extorting money and obtaining judg

ments for false claims, it will, after becoming generally known,

have some effect in encouraging Chinese traders to visit Hong


Kong ; although many more impediments, both in the adminis

tration of justice and in the government of the Colony, require

to be removed, before the strong, general, and too well- founded

prejudice - dread , would perhaps be the more appropriate word

with which Hong Kong is viewed by respectable Chinese of all

classes, is dispelled.

Four years ago a Parliamentary Committee recorded its opinion

of the unsuitableness of our laws for the great majority of the

population of the Colony, and further experience has only con

firmed the opinion, without however anything being done to

remove the stigma, or rry out the recommendation of the

Committee, beyond the present small instalment, which we be

lieve is more the result of the urgent representations of an indi

vidual member of the community, than of the combined wisdom

of the Legislative Council. But while its attention is turned in

this direction, we trust it will probe and attempt to cure other

and even greater sores in the dispensation of justice, or its

forms, towards Chinese more especially. The jurisdiction of

the Supreme Court over Chinese criminals we believe to be


mere usurpation ; ” that it is used for purposes of oppression

in civil causes is now acknowledged by the Legislative Council.*

But great as have been the abuses and the frustration of the

ends of justice in these departments, we believe they have been

greater, if not so numerons, within the Vice-Admiralty and

Ecclesiastical jurisdictions of the Court ; where the large fees

payable to its officers certainly do not tend to mitigate the evils.

Chinese are so fully persuaded that scarcely even the shell of

the oyster will be returned to them, that they shun the Vice

Admiralty Court as they would a pestilence, and will submit in

silence to extortion from one another rather than seek such

* We have before us a return made up from ex - Sheriff Holdforth’s Books,

of a score of writs, giving the amounts of the debts and of the costs, the

latter in some cases exceeding the former . The Court Writ Book would

however show more clearly how grossly the office has been abused, without

any one , from the Judge downwards, attempting to check it.


redress as the Court affords. We know of an instance in which

a trading junk captured by pirates in the neighbourhood was

ransomed for half its value paid to the agent of the pirates in

the Colony, this being considered a cheaper, safer, and more

expeditious course than denouncing the guilty parties, and

bringing the junk within the tender mercies of the Vice- Admi

ralty Court . With regard to the Ecclesiastical department in

the administration of estates , the whole system of the Govern

ment, executive, fiscal, and judicial, has been such, that few

among the Chinese community have any property to leave .

an exception recently occurred -- a Chinese having died and left

some property, under a will executed according to the custom

of his country. The particulars of the case we hope shortly

to obtain : but are assured they are substantially as follows. The

heir, having occasion to borrow money to pay certain debts or

legacies of the testator, mortgaged the real property to another

Chinese, and on proceeding to register the mortgage, it was

found that neither it nor the will had been made out according

to the forms required by English law. The Registrar of the

Court thereupon pounced upon the property, repudiated the

mortgage, and for some cause or other, no doubt according to

the forms in such cases made and provided, the unlucky heir was

sent to jail, where he has since died, and his family are left in

destitution until the property is divisible according to law.

Reform in all departments of the Court is greatly needed, for

as at present conducted it is as likely to be a means of oppression

as of justice, to the largest class of suitors, and is one great

cause of the deterioration of that class within this Colony. But

by reform we do not mean, as desired, it is reported, in some

quarters, the abolition of the Court, in order to make way for a

substitute controlled by the Governor, whoever he may be. This

would render matters even worse than before. Therefore so long

as the present system of Government continues, it is indispens

able *hat we have trial by jury and an upright and independent

supreme judge , who, if he cannot, or will not, adapt the machinery


of his Court to the peculiar circumstances and requirements of

the inhabitants, the Legislative Council must do that for him.

The present measure, we trust, is to be looked upon as an earnest

of more and greater reforms; and as such we are willing to

overlook certain apparent defects.

No means are ever adopted by the Government to make laws

known to the Chinese, but as the present Ordinance is very short,

perhaps some philanthropic individual will get it translated and

circulated in Chinese , for the information of those who are most

concerned with its provisions.

To the Editor of the “ China Mail,”

THE CLUB , 10th April, 1851 .

SIR ,—Travellers are said to see and hear strange things. I came to

Hong Kong last Monday, and the first number of your paper published since

that day attests the truth of the saying . On reading the Government notice

[ ? Ordinance No. 2 of 1851] in that issue, I was at first rather puzzled to

make out what it meant ; but your observations on it inducemeto fancy that

this Colony must have some systein of law-giving peculiar to itself. What

power an English Judge in England, or in a Colony, can have to adjudicate

between foreigners on a subject matter which has occurred abroad, I cannot

imagine ; unless as far as regards Hong Kong , the Emperor of China has, by

some of the treaties I have heard of, delegated some such power to the

English Judge here. Is such the case ?

But stranger still,-you state that the Government here adopts no means

to make its laws known to the Chinese : Why this is surely both unjust and

impolitic , for the expense of printing cannot be very great. Hong Kong does

not seem to be a very large place, and I suppose that the Government

employs some person who understands Chinese ; if so, why not make a

translation of this and of all Notifications by which the Chinese population

can be in any way affected, and have a dozen copies or so of each notice

posted up in places where the Chinese are wont to assemble or pass.

We hear at home that this Colony costs the country too much, and does

not prosper. I am not surprised at such being the case, after the experience

one week has given me of the laws which are administered, and the little

regard paid to the interests of the Chinese who have located themselves here.

I am , Sir , intending soon to wait upon you , -Your obedient servant,


Our Correspondent is, we understand, an intelligent specimen

of his class, but in Colonial - that is Hong Kong - affairs, is

evidently rather green . If he will only set up his staff amongst


us for a few months he will discover that not only in making

laws, but in administering them , “ the Colony has a system

peculiar to itself,” where neither “ the law of England is in full

force,” nor are the novelties in legislation “ applicable to the

local circumstances of the said Colony, or of its inhabitants, ” as

Her Majesty commanded, and her nominees have in Ordnance

preambles repeatedly engaged, they should be.

With regard to the particular measure which has called forth

the animadversions of our Correspondent, as we last week ex

pressed our sentiments pretty fully upon the subject, we shall

here only add that the right hitherto exercised by our courts in

actions brought by one subject of China against another for debt,

or pretended debt, contracted out of the Colony, has no sanction

whatever, either in the ordinary usage of nations, or in the

special provisions of the Treaties between Great Britain and


Moreover, we have no doubt that, like some other assumptions,

the right of the Chief Justice, or of any authority whatever

within the Colony, to adjudicate in such matters, would have

been disallowed upon an appeal to England, or even a representa

tion to the Colonial Minister through the Governor ; and the

adoption of this latter course we would suggest in the case of

the subject of China now in jail by judgment of the Supreme

Court of Hong Kong, in an action for an alleged debt contracted

to a fellow countryman out of the Colony. This, it seems to us,

would have been a preferable mode of settling the question to

passing a special Ordinance denuding the Court of a power which

it never justly possessed.

Our Correspondent also expresses surprise at the fact inci

dentally alluded to by us last week, that while our Courts

make all the inhabitants of the Colony, of whatever origin,

amenable to their authority, neither they nor the Govern

ment adopt any means to make the laws known to the

Chinese, who comprise nineteen -twentieths of the entire po

pulation. Such, however, is the fact ; and it is one of a


numerous class to which is to be attributed the chariness

of respectable Chinese about residing in or frequenting the set

tlement. They neither know what the law requires of them ,

nor the privileges it affords, nor is the slightest pains taken to

interpret and make known the nature or reasons of any order,

judgment, or sentence ; while the heavy fees of court, and to

attorneys, to be paid beforehand, are looked upon as demands

made for the purchase of justice, and very naturally so , as the

case cannot be even heard without such preliminary bleeding of

the suitor.

Our Correspondent presumes there is someone who under

stands Chinese attached to the Government, and that he might

properly be called upon to make translations for the information

of the Chinese population. There is indeed a person with a

high salary and a high reputation as a Chinese scholar attached

to the Government ; but whether or not it is his duty to make

the law known to the Chinese, we doubt much the advantage of

his so doing. For in the first place he is a foreigner, imperfectly

acquainted with the English language, and still more so with the

principles of English law ; next, his imaginative powers are at

least equal to his attainments either in Chinese or English ; and

lastly, upwards of two years ago the community had a sample of

the sort of translations he would be likely to make of Govern

ment Regulations, showing that it were better junkmen and

others frequenting the harbour should remain in ignorance , than

be misled by paraphrastic fancies, for which the most charitable

excuse was that the original had not been understood by the

translator himself. For further information on this subject we

refer recent comers to the China Mail, No. 192, second edition,

October 19, 1848, and subsequent issues.

The Bagman expresses surprise that the Colony should cost

so much and yet not prosper. Could he contrive to penetrate

the causes and make folks at home understand them , it might

not be difficult to suggest a scheme of government not only

economical, but calculated to redeem the Colony from its present

abject condition.

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