King's Cutters and Smugglers 1700-1855 eBook

Edward Keble Chatterton
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 301 pages of information about King's Cutters and Smugglers 1700-1855.
or indirectly.  Even if the party never ventured on the sea, he might be a very active aider and abettor in meeting the boat as it brought the casks ashore, or keeping a look out for the Preventive men, giving the latter false information, thus throwing them on the wrong scent.  Or again, even if he did not act the part of signaller by showing warning lights from the cliff, he could loan his cellars, his horses, or his financial support.  In fact there were many apparently respectable citizens who, by keeping in the background, were never suspected of having any interest in these nefarious practices, whereas they were in fact the instigators and the capitalists of many a successful run.  And as such they were without doubt morally responsible for the deaths by murder which occurred in those incidents, when violence was used after the Revenue men had come on to the scene.

But as to morality, was there ever a period when the national character was so slack and corrupt as in the eighteenth century?


[1] “Smuggling in Sussex,” by William Durrant Cooper, F.S.A., in vol. x. of the Sussex Archaeological Collection, to which I am indebted.

[2] Fore and Aft:  The Story of the Fore-and-Aft Rig. London, 1911.

[3] “Southampton Letters,” November 6, 1730.  But in 1719, the Customs Commissioners had, inter alia, agreed to provide Captain Mears with “a suit of colours” for the Calshot.  This provision was, therefore, now cancelled in the year 1730.

[4] A half-anker held 3-1/4 gallons.



About the middle of the eighteenth century the smuggling of tea into the country had reached such extensive limits that the revenue which ought to have been expected from this source was sinking instead of rising.  In fact it came to this, that of all the tea that was consumed in this country not one half had paid duty and the rest was smuggled.  The bands of smugglers were well financed, were themselves hardy sailors and skilful pilots.  They had some of the best designed and best built cutters and luggers of that time.  They were able to purchase from an almost inexhaustible market, and to make a quick passage to the English shores.  Arrived there they could rely on both moral and physical support; for their friends were well mounted, well armed, and exceedingly numerous, so that ordinarily the cargo could be rapidly unshipped, and either hidden or run into the country with despatch.  Not once, but times without number the smuggling cutters had evaded the Revenue cruisers at sea, showing them a clean pair of heels.  With equal frequency had the Preventive men on land been outwitted, bribed, or overpowered.  And inasmuch as the duties on the smuggled articles were high, had they passed through the Customs, so, when smuggled,

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