I assert here that they are in prison there in violation of the Constitution of the United States." (72) This concern was shared by Secretary Blaine in the State Department, most notably, who suggested twice, in 1881 and 1884, that the United States replace the make-shift consular court system in China with a proper judicial tribunal, complete with a jury and the full panoply of constitutional guarantees.
It is also noteworthy that as early as 1859 the California Supreme Court had observed, in an appeal from a consular court, "It seems that American citizens residing for the purpose of trade in the ports of China are not regarded as subjects of that government, but that, for purposes of government and protection, they constitute a kind of colony, subject to the laws and authority of the United States." (132) The U.S.
See In re Blanchard's Estate, 29 N.Y.S.2d 359 (1941) (holding, in appeal from the Unted States Consular Court at Cairo, Egypt, that "the law governing intestate succession is found in the special acts of Congress providing for intestate succession in the District of Columbia").
In re Ross is, of course, no longer good law; in 1956, the Supreme Court called it "a relic from a different era," and it referred to the notion of a consular court by placing the word "court" in quotation marks.
(90.) Consular Court Regulations for China, General, 1864.
For more than sixty years, the United States followed the model of the European powers and exercised its right of extraterritorial jurisdiction in so-called consular courts: it vested its consular representatives in China with the power to adjudicate legal disputes.
(16) The legislation that formally set up a system of American consular courts in China codified this basic agreement.
Although there were no federal rules of procedure to turn to until 1938, there was a set of regulations governing the procedure of consular courts. (90) These regulations had been enacted in 1864 by the Minister to China, and the China Court Act made them applicable to the U.S.
It is notable that the Supreme Court of California had considered the constitutionality of consular courts in China in 1859 and upheld them.