King's Cutters and Smugglers 1700-1855 eBook

Edward Keble Chatterton
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 351 pages of information about King's Cutters and Smugglers 1700-1855.

After the vessel was at length hove-to, she was seized and ultimately taken into Rochester, and information was duly laid against the persons who had been engaged in this smuggling adventure.  But it is here that Sir William Courtenay comes into the story.  This gentleman, who had his seat at Powderham Castle, Devon, came forward and swore positively that the tubs, which the Lively was supposed to have picked up, had been seen floating off the coast.  He himself was staying on a visit to Canterbury, and on that Sunday afternoon happened to be sailing about off the Kentish coast, and sighted the Lively about two o’clock.  He kept her in sight, he said, until four o’clock.  He also saw the Admiral Hood, and witnessed her being chased by the Lively, but he had seen the tubs for most of the day, as they had come up with the tide from the westward.  With his own eyes, and not through a spy-glass, he witnessed the Admiral Hood being captured by the cruiser, and followed up this evidence by remarking that “the tubs I saw picked up did not come out of the Lord Hood.  I say so sterling and plump.”

This was exactly the reverse of the testimony as given by the crew of the Lively, so it was evident that some one was lying.  But to make a long story short, it was afterwards found that Sir William was not only not afloat that afternoon, did not see the tubs, did not see the two crafts, but was miles away from the scene, and at the time of the chase was in church.  He was accordingly brought for trial, found guilty, and sentenced to be imprisoned for three calendar months, and after the expiration of this, he was to be “transported to such a place beyond the seas as his Majesty may direct, for the term of seven years.”

He was convicted on unmistakable testimony of having committed perjury; in fact, Mr. Justice Parke, in giving judgment at the time, remarked that it was the clearest evidence in a perjury case that had ever fallen to his lot to try.  As to the motive, it was thought that it was done solely with a desire to obtain a certain amount of popularity among the smugglers.  Sir William saw that the case would go against the latter unless some one could give evidence for their side.  Therefore, abusing his own position and standing, he came forward and perjured himself.  It is a curious case, but in the history of crime there is more than one instance of personal pride and vanity being at the root of wrong-doing.


[23] How slow she was may be guessed by the fact that she took seven hours to go from Dover to the Downs even under the expert handling of MacTavish’s crew.

[24] She was officially described as a dogger.



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King's Cutters and Smugglers 1700-1855 from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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