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West Indies and South America. The winnings to be made by disregarding these rules and smuggling cargoes into Spanish American ports were immense, and the penalties paid when caught were dire. As a result, the Dons and the British, along with the French, became bitter enemies; the erstwhile smugglers turned freebooters or filibusters or buccaneers or pirates or privateers, whichever one prefers, and the original cause of it all was quite forgotten.
Even in more modern times pirates have become smugglers and smugglers pirates. Our twentieth century rum runners are both or either as occasion or temptation offers, and as there is apparently no honor among smugglers,-even if there is among thieves,our friends of the rum fleet practice their piracies upon one another, which is something that even the most nefarious sea rovers of the past were seldom guilty of.
SMUGGLERS OF OUR COAST
A L.THOUGH the Lafittes, with their Baratar11 ians, were the most famous smugglers who plied their trade on our coasts, yet they were by no means the only ones. From Maine to Florida and hence to the Mexican border, smugglers were ao thorn in the government's side in early days, and until about the time of the Civil War, smuggling was almost as much a recognized industry on the Atlantic coast as fishing, lobstering or any other maritime business.
The early colonial smugglers along our coasts, though no doubt partly actuated by purely selfish motives and through inherited instincts from their English ancestors, had far better and more valid reasons for turning to the smuggling trade than the majority of their kind. American smuggling very largely owed its origin and its prevalence to actual necessity and laws passed by England in restraint of trade. Under an edict of Charles II, passed in 1660,* it was provided that, “On and after the First Day of April 1661, no Sugars, Tobacco, Cotton, Wool, Indicoes, Ginger, Fusticks or other dying Woods of the Growth, Production or Manufacture of any English Plantations in America, Asia or Africa shall be carried, shipped, conveyed or imported from any of the English Plantations in America to any Land, Island, Territory Dominion, Port or Place whatsoever, other than to such other English Plantations as do belong to His Majesty, His Heirs and Successors or to the Kingdom of England and Ireland or the Principality of Wales or the Town of Berwick upon the Tweed; there to be laid on shore under Penalty of the Forfeiture of the Said Goods, or the full value thereof, as also of the Ship with all her Guns, Tackle, etc.”
Three years later, in 1663, another edict** was issued providing that: “No goods of the Growing, Production or Manufacture of Europe" should be imported into the colonies of America except from English ports.
As a reason for justifying these laws there was a long preamble which set forth, among other things, that the laws were promulgated "For the Maintaining of a greater Correspondence and Kindness between them and keeping them in a Dependence upon it, and rendering them yet more Beneficial and Advantageous unto it-rendering Navigation to and from the same more safe and cheap," etc.
*First Navigation Act, 12, Chas. II, c 18, 1660. **Law 15, Chas. II, c 17, Sec. VI.
If such were the intentions of the British, then they most dismally failed, for laws that thus restrained trade and practically forced the colonists to turn smugglers, if they were to survive and build up commerce, were bound to lead, not to “Maintaining a greater Kindness” but to hatred, ill-feeling, and, eventually, open rebellion.
Mainly owing to these laws the American colonists carried on an extensive smuggling business in the West Indies, especially when war broke out between France and England. Making the Dutch islands, especially St. Eustatius and the Spanish island of Santo Domingo their clearing houses, the colonials found it both easy and profitable to smuggle goods from America to the French islands and vice versa. On February 5th, 1759, the British naval officers reported that twenty-eight out of the twenty-nine vessels in the harbor of Monte Cristi (Santo Domingo) were from the New England colonies. In May, 1761, there were fifty ships in that port of which thirtysix were American, and it was not uncommon to see from one hundred to one hundred and twenty colonial vessels in the port at one time. Although the British were quite aware of this condition, yet they dared not take any action that would embroil them with Spain. But so inimical to British interests did the contraband trade in the Dutch islands become, that, despite possible consequences, the English naval vessels seized all the ships and goods in St. Eustatius and St. Martins thus effectually putting an end to their smuggling activities and incidentally enriching the British government to the extent of about eight millions.
The only trade that could be carried on without violation of the laws, was with the British West Indies, and then, on top of all the others, came the infamous "Molasses Act,” which levied a prohibitive import tax upon molasses, sugar and rum,-the three staple articles of West Indian trade,-and was the greatest incentive to colonial smuggling ever enacted. To be sure, it was supposed to remain in force for only five years, but it was five times renewed, and by the Sugar Act of 1764, was made perpetual. As a result, practically every merchant, ship owner, sea captain and official of the colonies was legally a smuggler. The reports of Quincy, Mass., stated that, "of the 15,000 hogsheads of molasses imported into Massachusetts, in 1763, all except less than 500 came from ports which are now 'Foreign'," and Governor Bernard of Massachusetts, declared in 1764,* that "If conniving at importing foreign
*Quincy, Mass., Reports, p. 423 F, and Bernard's "Silent Letters on Trade and Government of America, 1763-68.