Glimpses Of Our Ancestors In Sussex - online book

With Sketches Of Sussex Characters, Remarkable Incidents &c

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The Sussex Smugglers.                    81
deterred by this example, for the next seven years vessels coming up Channel were exposed to the piratical attacks of a gang known as " Ruxley's crew," most of the members of which lived at Hastings, and who did not hesitate, when resisted, to add murder to piracy. Thus, the master of a Dutch hoy, called "The Three Sisters," was "chopped down " with an axe, and the perpetrators betrayed themselves by boasting " how the Dutchman wriggled when they cut him on the back-bone!" To put down this gang it was thought necessary to send a detachment of the Inniskilling Dragoons, 200 strong, to Hastings, and a man-of-war and a cutter were stationed off the town to co-operate with the military! If the town had been in the hands of the French and about to be besieged, more warlike measures could scarcely have been taken. Nay, so fearful were the authorities of their unscrupulous fellow-townsmen who favoured "Fair Trade" and piracy that the soldiers had strict orders to conceal the object for which they had been sent down; and because the Mayor of Hastings would not divulge this he was attacked, and ran considerable danger of being murdered. Then it was considered time to act. Several men were arrested, brought to trial for piracy, and four of them hung.
This was in 1769, and yet ten years afterwards we have the strongest proof that smuggling was carried on as actively as ever along the Sussex coast. A new Act had been passed against it, and, In a pamphlet issued by the authorities to enforce the law (called "Advice to the Unwary," 1780), it is stated that the practice of smuggling had made such rapid strides from the sea coast into the very heart of the country, pervading every city, town, and village, that universal distress had been brought on the fair dealer. The quantity of spirit distilled at Schiedam, to be smuggled into England, was estimated at 3,867,500 gallons, and five or six millions of pounds of tea were yearly imported in the same way from France. For the management of the transactions connected with the " trade," the Sussex smugglers had regular resident
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