« PreviousContinue »
DEW people--even those who occasionally enT gage in the pastime of smuggling-realize to what a tremendous extent smuggling has been, and still is, carried on. We are accustomed to think of smugglers as beings of a past age; rather romantic, swaggering, picturesque seamen a little akin to pirates, and as much personages of a bygone era as the pirates and buccaneers,-always excepting of course the rum-runners, who are neither romantic, picturesque nor swaggering, albeit many are far more like the old corsairs than any smugglers of fiction. But these gentry are in a class by themselves, or a profession as you please, and do not come under the broad category of smugglers as a whole. And just as our mental picture of the smuggler is that of the most famous and fascinating type, so in our minds, we think of certain articles as contraband. Tobacco, liquor, jewels, silks, laces, gowns, fur coats, perfumes—these and a few
other articles liable to high import duties always come to mind when we think of smuggling. To be sure, such objects are and always have been smuggled to a great extent, not only because the duties upon them are high, but because they are compact or can be easily concealed.
But there are innumerable other articles that are smuggled and which we would never dream of as contraband. Human beings for example; live animals, even camels. Or again, elephants, monuments, buildings, ships, slaves, brides, and indeed anything and everything one can think of or name. Nothing is too large or cumbersome, nothing too small and valueless for the smuggler, as long as there is a profit to be made or a reward to win. And when I speak of smugglers and of contraband I refer to those who smuggle goods out of a country as well as into a land, and objects whose exportation is prohibited or taxed as well as those which are forbidden entry or are dutiable as imports. Indeed, of the two, contraband exports have been more widely and profitably smuggled than contraband imports, while, in many cases, the smugglers win literally going and coming. It is a case of heads I win, tails you lose, for both export and import duties are avoided, if the smuggler is successfuland thus double profits are assured. And what is or was smuggled also depends much upon the location, the possibilities, the resources, the supply and demand and a thousand and one other considerations that face the would-be smuggler. One object might be easy to smuggle and yet the duties might be so low or the article so little in demand in the country into which it was smuggled that the game wasn't worth the candle, so to speak. Thus, if two adjacent countries both produced winesas Germany and France for example there would be little profit in smuggling French wines into Germany or vice-versa, even though there might be heavy duties levied by each country upon the wines of its neighbor. And yet, if French brandy was in demand in Germany and German beer in France, a smuggler might reap a tidy fortune by smuggling the one in and the other out. Again, if transportation facilities were bad and the smugglers were limited as to what they could carry, they would of necessity confine themselves to light and valuable articles, whereas, if provided with ample means of transportation, they would be more ambitious and would carry large cargoes and bulky goods if such were remunerative. Even if the exportation or importation of some object is declared contraband it does not necessarily mean that to evade the law and export or import such things would bring financial returns. The inhabitants of the Channel Islands, between France and England, are very jealous of their famous cattle and, in order to maintain their breeds pure, the various islands passed laws prohibiting the importation of cattle from another island. But that did not induce the smugglers,—who from time immemorial have infested the islands,-to smuggle Guernsey cattle into Jersey or Alderney, or the reverse. Why? Because no Guernseyman would look twice at an Alderney bull or cow or vice-versa. But when the exportation of cattle was prohibited it was a totally different matter. The island cattle were in demand in France and England; the fact that they were export contraband induced high prices, and luggers filled with cattle slipped from the shores of the islands and landed their cargoes safely to the great profit of the smugglers. In Spain in early days it was illegal to transport any Merino sheep from the country, for the Dons felt that Merino should be a monopoly of their land and had no mind to let other nations put their fingers in the profitable pie. So valuable were these Spanish sheep that they were deemed worthy of forming a royal gift from the King of Spain to our ambassador who brought the first Merinos into the United States. Some of these were sold for thousands of dollars each and, could the Spanish smugglers have succeeded in smuggling Merinos out of Spain, they would have made tidy fortunes. Unfortunately for them, the rough and wild defiles of the Pyrrenees proved greater obstacles to the sheep than to the guardias who patrolled the boundary, and live stock is not a class of contraband that may be easily carried aboard ship secreted in one's luggage or disguised as valueless merchandise. Nevertheless the resourceful contrabandistas must have managed it somehow, for Merino sheep were soon in the possession of sheep raisers in nearly every country of Europe.
Indeed, it is and always has been next to impossible to prevent smuggling, either in or out of a country. From time immemorial white elephants have been considered sacred in Siam and a monopoly of the Siamese emperor. Quite naturally neighboring potentates longed to possess the beasts and were willing to pay highly for them. Nothing is sacred to a smuggler,—when there are good profits to be made,-and despite the difficulties in the way of smuggling pachyderms, and more especially white ones, many an albino elephant found its way to the royal stables of Indian princes and Burmese potentates. Painted, stained, plastered with mud and filth, with their sacred backs piled high with burdens, the beasts were driven like ordinary cargo-carrying elephants across the borders under the very noses of the royal guards.
During our Civil War, certain ill-advised officials decided that camels would be invaluable adjuncts to our army transport system, especially on the deserts of the Southwest, and we went to enormous expense and trouble to secure the humped