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.
would run in and out as it did before the alteration.  The jury also took this view, and the cutter, which thought herself a sloop, was condemned.  The Revenue officers and commanders of Admiralty sloops were accordingly warned to make a note of this.  For a number of years the matter was evidently left at that.  But in 1822 the Attorney and Solicitor-General, after a difficult case had been raised, gave the legal distinction as follows, the matter having arisen in connection with the licensing of a craft:  “A cutter may have a standing bowsprit of a certain length without a licence, but the distinction between a sloop and a cutter should not be looked for in the rigging but in the build and form of the hull, and, therefore, when a carvel-built vessel corresponds as to her hull with the usual form of a sloop, she will not merely, by having a running bowsprit, become a cutter within the meaning of the Act of the 24 Geo. III. cap. 47, and consequently will not be liable to forfeiture for want of a licence.”  From this it will be seen that whereas Falconer and other nautical authorities relied on the fixing of the bowsprit to determine the difference, the legal authorities relied on a difference in hull.  The point is one of great interest, and I believe the matter has never been raised before by any modern nautical writer.[10]

As to what a Revenue cutter looked like, the illustrations which have been here reproduced will afford the reader a very good idea.  And these can be supplemented by the following description which Marryat gives in The Three Cutters.  It should be mentioned that the period of which he is speaking is that which we have been contemplating, the end of the eighteenth century.

“She is a cutter,” he writes, “and you may know that she belongs to the Preventive Service by the number of gigs and galleys which she has hoisted up all round her.  She looks like a vessel that was about to sail with a cargo of boats:  two on deck, one astern, one on each side of her.  You observe that she is painted black, and all her boats are white.  She is not such an elegant vessel as the yacht, and she is much more lumbered up....  Let us go on board.  You observe the guns are iron, and painted black, and her bulwarks are painted red; it is not a very becoming colour, but then it lasts a long while, and the dockyard is not very generous on the score of paint—­or lieutenants of the navy troubled with much spare cash.  She has plenty of men, and fine men they are; all dressed in red flannel shirts and blue trousers; some of them have not taken off their canvas or tarpaulin petticoats, which are very useful to them, as they are in the boats night and day, and in all weathers.  But we will at once go down into the cabin, where we shall find the lieutenant who commands her, a master’s mate, and a midshipman.  They have each their tumbler before them, and are drinking gin-toddy, hot, with sugar—­capital gin, too, ’bove proof; it is from that small anker standing under the table.  It was one that they forgot to return to the Custom House when they made their last seizure.”

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