Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Would You Break the Law? - Smuggling #2

            I love this comment on the character of smugglers:
            "…a person who…would have been in every respect, an excellent citizen had not the laws of his country made that a crime which nature never meant to be so."
            Adam Smith. An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations 1776.

Smuggling - the art of concealment?
            In the 13th century custom houses were concerned with collecting export duties on the wool that made England wealthy. It was the 18th century that saw heavy taxation placed on the import of goods - leaving meagre number of officers to enforce collection - hopelessly outnumbered by spirited Englishmen determined to defraud the crown of revenue.
            In the 18th century smugglers saw themselves not so much as law breakers but 'free traders.' Indeed, such was the sympathy for cheating the crown of tax that whole communities mobilised themselves to unload illegal landings of tobacco, brandy and tea

            So who were these smugglers?
            This quote about Niton, Isle of Wight, sheds some light on the answer.
            "The whole population are smugglers. Everyone has an ostensible occupation, but nobody gets money from it….here are fishermen who never fish…and farmers who farming consists of …standing like herons on look out posts."
            Sidney Dobell, 1860

            Daniel Defoe (author of Robinson Crusoe) wrote of Lymingtion in 1724;
            "I do not find they have any commerce, except smuggling and roguing, which… is the reigning commerce of all this part of the English coast."

Celebrated author, Daniel Defoe.
It seems everyone was either involved with the illegal importing of foreign goods, or the purchasing of them, as John Wesley recounts of St. Ives.
            "well-nigh one and all bought and sold uncustomed goods."

John Wesley had plenty of opportunity for observing those around him.
Those involved in the illegal trade were not just shady characters or poor fishermen, but stretched to doctors, clerics and even rich aristocrats in search of excitement. The Rev. Forbes Phillips in his book "The Romance of Smuggling" tells a story of one of his predecessors at the vicarage. Apparently one visitor to the parish spotted illegal activity on the shore and cried out,
            "Smuggling! Oh, the shame of it! Is there no magistrate to hand, no justice of the peace? Is there no clergyman, no minister?"
            The naïve visitor's protests were silenced when the locals pointed out it was the vicar holding the lantern.
Smugglers on-shore, awaiting the arrival of their load.
Of course the incentive for taking part in, or turning a blind eye to, smuggling was financial. At a time when everything from salt to silk, and tea to tobacco was taxed, cutting out the governments share meant people might be able to afford a little comfort in their lives. Such was the way of the world back then, that a little casual handling of illegal goods was looked on as common place, as in this diary entry by Parson Woodforde.
            "Andrews the smuggler brought me this night about 11 o'clock a bag of Hyson Tea, 6 lb weight. He frightened us a little by whistling under the parlour window just as we were going to bed. I gave him some Geneva (gin) and paid for the tea at 10/6 a lb."
Smuggled goods being transported ashore.

In Hope's Betrayal, our heroine Hope Tyler, turns to smuggling as a means of supporting her ailing father. So the question is, would you break the law if all around you were doing the same, and is it acceptable to defraud the government? Do share you thoughts and leave a comment.

How do you smuggle a cat into a football stadium?


  1. Smuggling was also a way of outsmarting the various trade embargoes that France imposed on British goods. It was a thorough-going black market, particularly during the Napoleonic wars when Napoleon tried to block all English trade and goods from the Continent.

    Britain being the greatest shipping nation, the Continent, therefore, was deprived of just about every kind of commodity you can think of--chocolate, tea, coffee, cotton...The shortages were so dire that even one of Napoleon's brothers, as King of Westphalia, turned a blind eye to smuggling or encouraged it in order to avoid civil unrest and rioting.

    1. Couldnt have put it better myself!
      thanks for visiting, much appreciated and I love your work.
      Grace x

  2. I'd like to think I wouldn't break the law and would stand up for what I believed was right BUT pressure from those around you can be hard to resist. I think it might depend on the consequences for all parties as to whether I would or not.
    Of course, if a policeman is reading - I definitely wouldn't break the law!!!

    1. Wise proviso, Barbara!
      It's interesting isnt it, how whether something is socially acceptable or not - makes it easier to break the law. A bit like Jimmy Carr and his tax return (currently in the UK news0 - he thought it was OK until he got found out and people said he was morally wrong.

  3. I am not able to answer that honestly, because I have I have never been in place deprived of essentials and so poor the only way to support my family would be breathing the law.

    Yes, there is a certain romantism around smuggling, as there is around pirating.... but to be able to say yeah or nay..... I don't think those questions can be truly honestly answered until you are there, as Hope was..... she never saw herself as a smuggler either, until her father got so sick and the fishing was so bad.

    Hope that answers your question. :-)

    1. At the end of the day if it's a matter of survival or morals, keeping your conscience clean wont feed your family.
      Thanks for commenting, Mel.
      G x

  4. Fabulous post. There is a romnticism about smuggling and, as a child visiting Cornwall, I explored the caves there hoping some cache of treasure might have been left forgotten and undiscovered by the gazillions of tourists who'd already been there, done that.
    As - for what would make be deliberately break the law....? I am a very boring, honest, law abiding individual. I never lie (though I sometimes simply don't tell) and I even always park legally!!!! But the circumstances under which I'd break the law - and I would if driven hard enough - desperation.

    1. I think you've summed things up nicely, Gilli - desperation! If by not breaking the law your circumstances are intolerable, then the penalty is less of a deterrant. The other side of the argument is whether the taxes are moral in themselves - if they are paying for wars and armies, whilst those at home are starving.
      Thanks for commenting,
      G x

    2. Good point Grace,

      The amount of taxes we pay in this country, cetainly don't appear to get fed back into the coffers of the nation,or I am certain that we wouldn't be in the mess that we appear to be in now!

      I was reading an article just a few weeks ago, which claimed to have irrefutable figures, which proves that we spend more on weapons and arms procurement in this country than anything else!

      Definitley immoral in my mind.


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