Smuggling & Smugglers in Sussex - online book

An Account of a notorious Smuggling gang in the early 18th Century

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In the preamble to the Act of 1739 * it is expressly avowed that, notwithstanding the penalties imposed for eighty years, the exportation of wool, unmanufactured, was " notoriously continued." The stringent law of 169(S had failed in its object, and when, in 1787 (in opposition to the demands of the Lincolnshire wool-growers for power to export their produce), the manufacturers brought in a bill to prevent the illicit exportation, because of the then increasing practice of smuggling British wool into France, and the inefficiency of the laws to prevent it; and when, as a remedy, it was proposed to extend the restrictions imposed upon Kent and Sussex to the entire kingdom, the opponents of the bill shrewdly asked :—" How it was the manu­facturers could act so absurdly, to demand an extension of laws relating to those two counties, when it was supposed that the greatest quantities of wool were smuggled from those parts ?"f
The habit of export smuggling, then, has been, for some hundreds of years at least, part of the system under which the middle and lower classes in Sussex have been trained. Large fortunes were made by it in East Sussex, and it came to an end only during the last war with France.
IMPORT SMUGGLING. The wars with France, in the time of King William and Queen Anne, revived and increased greatly the custom of import smuggling, for which the existing export system, already well organised, gave every con­venience.
* 12 George II., c. 21.
f In 1770 only thirty-two pounds of wool were seized ; in 1780 there were 12,383 lbs. ; and in 1782 there were 13,916 lbs. seized.
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