“The whipping of servants or laborers is not justifiable under the laws of this Kingdom.”
“Where the hurt of injury inflicted is of a severe or dangerous character, and the efficient cause of death, although there be a predisposing condition of the body, without which it would not have been fatal, it is, nevertheless, a killing by means of such hurt or injury.”
The King vs HN Greenwell, Indicted For Murder in the Second Degree (Hawaiʻi Reports; Supreme Court, 1853)
“This case was called on for trial and parties answering they were ready, accused was arraigned and plead not guilty and … jurors were drawn from the list sent in by the British Consul General, accused being a British subject.”
“(A) Chinaman (Salai) had run away … and the Chinaman was down and Mr Greenwell was beating him with his fists … he knocked the Chinaman down, … and he then kicked him, and the Chinaman got up and sat down, and Mr. Greenwell reached a piece of iron that was lying on the top of a barrel and struck the Chinaman between the shoulders…”
“(T)he day the Chinaman died he brought him back into his own room, the first day he tied him up, the second day he beat him, and the third day he died, they gave him nothing to eat or drink not even a drink of water”. (Polynesian, January 8, 1853)
Henry Nicholas Greenwell arrived in Hawaiʻi on January 20, 1850. He worked as an agent for HJH Holdsworth in his importing and retail business, and opened a branch of the business at Kailua (Kona) in September of 1850. (Kona Echo, April 1, 1950; Melrose, Kinue)
Later, Greenwell store was built around 1851 at Kalukalu (Kealakekua, near Konawaena High School) and originally served as a store and post office. (Greenwell also served as the area’s postmaster as well as the area’s general merchandiser.)
Greenwell started to buy land, gradually acquired extensive land holdings, and got into the cattle, sheep, coffee and orange business on a large scale. (In 1879, he acquired the lease on Keauhou from Dr Georges Trousseau.)
“It is said by the learned counsel for the defense, that there has not been a killing, because though Salai was severely whipped, yet he did not die from this or any other inflicted injury, but in the due course of nature, from long sickness and from his own voluntary exposure for several nights, without food or raiment, to the rain, cold and hunger in the forest.”
“Or at the most, the whipping would not have proved fatal, had it not been for the previous sickness, and exposure; and that where the death is occasioned partly by injuries and partly by predisposing circumstances, it is impossible to apportion the operations of the several causes…”
“… and to say with certainty that the death was occasioned by any of them in particular, and consequently you cannot find a killing from the whipping or other bruises, and the prisoner is entitled to an acquittal.”
“However feeble the condition of Salai may have been, and however short, the tenure of his life, if you find that the whipping, or any other injury inflicted by the accused, was the means of accelerating the death of deceased, then the killing is made out, and Greenwell must answer for it, unless he can show a legal justification for inflicting the punishment.”
“If you should find that the whipping or other injuries did not hasten or accelerate the death, then there is no killing, and your verdict should be not guilty.”
“But if you should find that there was a killing, the next question to determine will be, whether the accused is justified in inflicting the punishment complained of.”
“The whipping of servants or laborers is a custom not tolerated by the laws of this country, and the plea of necessity, which is urged in its behalf, when applied to coolies and natives, is without foundation in law, and totally opposed to freedom and humanity.”
“The next inquiry, should you find the killing, is, was it committed with malice aforethought? … Whoever kills another without malice aforethought, under the sudden impulse of passion, excited by provocation or other adequate cause, by the party killed, of a nature tending to disturb the judgment and mental faculties, and weaken the possession of self-control of the killing party, is not guilty of murder, but manslaughter.”
“The whipping was clearly an unlawful act, and if you shall be of the opinion that it was the efficient cause of the death or accelerated it, then, even though there was no malice, it is manslaughter.” (Hawaiʻi Reports; Supreme Court, 1853)
Several witnesses were called.
Cummings, the Deputy Sheriff for Hawaiʻi, noted, “I was present when the body of Salai was examined at the inquest … we examined the body very closely, there was a small space on the left breast and down the middle of the back not much bruised …”
“… but on his right thigh and side was a large bruise, and below that was a smaller one, on the left thigh was another dark place across the hip; below the small of the back, were several marks as though he might have been struck by a whip …”
“… the left arm was considerably bruised near the wrist a discoloration, the left hand was swollen and two marks across the back, and in a small place the skin was off probably the size of a rial. I saw the deceased before he was buried and saw nothing unnatural.”
Shultz noted, “(Salai) was sick at the time, and Mr Greenwell did not allow him to do heavy work; he was given work close by the house, so as to escape rain. His health improved … on Friday the same day he ran away again, he stole some of the Coolies clothes…”
Choo stated, “the day the Chinaman died he brought him back into his own room, the first day he tied him up, the second day he beat him, and the third day he died, they gave him nothing to eat or drink not even a drink of water”. (Polynesian, January 8, 1853)
The matter was handed over to the jury.
“The jury after an absence of half an hour returned a unanimous verdict of not guilty.” (Hawaiʻi Reports; Supreme Court, 1853)
The image shows Henry Nicholas Greenwell.
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Sign of the Times! Auwe, I will never look at Palani Road and Henry street the same!