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.

But so soon as the Revenue cutter began to loom big, overboard went this string of casks towing merrily below the water-line.  The cutter would run down to her, and order her to heave-to, which she could afford to do quite willingly.  She would be boarded and rummaged, but the officer would to his surprise find nothing at all and be compelled to release her.  Away would go the cruiser to chase some other craft, and as soon as she was out of the range of the commander’s spy-glass, in would come the tubs again and be stowed dripping in the hold.  This trick was played many a time with success, but at last the cruisers got to hear of the device and the smugglers were badly caught.  I shall in due season illustrate this by an actual occurrence.  What I want the reader to bear in mind is, that whilst the age of smuggling by violence and force took a long time to die out, yet it reached its zenith about the middle or the last quarter of the eighteenth century.  Right till the end of the grand period of smuggling violence was certainly used, but the year 1815 inaugurated a period that was characterised less by force and armed resistance than by artfulness, ingenuity, and all the inventiveness which it is possible to employ on a smuggling craft.  “Smugglers,” says Marryat in one of his novels, “do not arm now—­the service is too dangerous; they effect their purpose by cunning, not by force.  Nevertheless, it requires that smugglers should be good seamen, smart, active fellows, and keen-witted, or they can do nothing....  All they ask is a heavy gale or a thick fog, and they trust to themselves for success.”  It was especially after the year 1816, when, as we shall see presently, the Admiralty reorganised the service of cruisers and the Land-guard was tightened up, that the smugglers distinguished themselves by their great skill and resource, their enterprise, and their ability to hoodwink the Revenue men.  The wars with France and Spain had come to an end, and the Government, now that her external troubles allowed, could devote her attention to rectifying this smuggling evil.  This increased watchfulness plus the gradual reduction of duties brought the practice of smuggling to such a low point that it became unprofitable, and the increased risks were not the equivalent of the decreased profits.  This same principle, at least, is pursued in the twentieth century.  No one is ever so foolish as to try and run whole cargoes of goods into the country without paying Customs duty.  But those ingenious persons who smuggle spirits in foot-warmers, saccharine in the lining of hats, tobacco and cigars in false bottoms and other ways carry out their plans not by force but by ingenuity, by skill.



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