SMUGGLING (O. Eng. smeogan, smugan, to creep, with the idea of secrecy), a breach of the revenue laws either by the importation or the exportation of prohibited goods or by the evasion of customs duties on goods liable to duty. Legislation on the subject in England has been very active from the 14th century downwards. In the reign of Edward III. the illicit [introduction of base coin from abroad led to the provision of the Statute of Treasons 1351, making it treason to import counterfeit money as the money called " Lushburgh." Such importation is still an offence, though no longer treason. After the Statute of Treasons a vast number of acts dealing with smuggling were passed, most of which will be found recited in the repealing act of 1825. In the 18th and the early years of the 1oth century, smuggling (chiefly of wine, spirits, tobacco and bullion) was so generally practised in Great Britain as to become a kind of national failing. The prevalence of the offence may be judged f rom the report of Sir J. Cope's committee in 1732 upon the frauds on the revenue. The smuggler of the 18th century finds an apologist in Adam Smith, who writes of him as " a person who, though no doubt highly blamable for violating the laws of his country, is frequently incapable of violating those of natural justice, and 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." The gradual reduction of duties brought the offence in the United Kingdom into comparative insignificance, and it is now almost confined to tobacco, though the sugar duty has led to smuggling of saccharin. Most of the existing legislation on the subject of smuggling is contained in the Customs Consolidation Act 1876.
The main provisions are as follows. Vessels engaged in smuggling are liable to forfeiture and their owners and masters to a penalty not exceeding 500. Smuggled and prohibited goods are liable to forfeiture. Officers of customs have a right of search of vessels and persons. Fraudulent evasion or attempted evasion of customs duties renders the offender subject to forfeit either treble the value of the goods or 100 at the election of the commissioners of customs. Heavy penalties are incurred by resistance to officers of customs, rescue of persons or goods, assembling to run goods, signalling smuggling vessels, shooting at vessels, boats, or officers of the naval or revenue service, cutting adrift customs vessels, offering goods for sale under pretence of being smuggled, etc. Penalties may be recovered either by action or information in the superior courts or by summary proceedings. In criminal proceedings the defendant is competent and compellable to give evidence. The Merchant Shipping Act 1894 makes any seaman or apprentice, after conviction for smuggling whereby loss or damage is caused to the master or owner of a ship, liable to pay to such master or owner such a sum as is sufficient to reimburse the master or owner for such loss or damage, and the whole or a proportional part of his wages may be retained in satisfaction of this liability. Additional provisions as to smuggling are also contained in the Customs and Inland Revenue Act 1879, and the Customs and Inland Revenue Act 1881. A smuggling contract is generally illegal. But it may be valid, and the vendor may recover the price of goods, even though he knew the buyer intended them to be smuggled, unless he actually aids in the smuggling so as to become particeps criminis. Contracts to defraud the revenue of a foreign state are, according to English decisions, not illegal. There is a German decision, more consonant with international morality, to the opposite effect.
The penalties for smuggling in the United States will be found mainly in tit. xxxiv. ch. 10 of the Revised Statutes. The seaman guilty of smuggling is liable to the same penalty as in England, and in addition to imprisonment for twelve months, s. 4596.
See Stephen Dowell's History of Taxation (2nd ed., 1888), and Luke Owen Pike's History of Crime in England (1873-1876) ; and for general accounts of smuggling see W. D. Chester, Chronicles of the Customs Department (1885) ; H. N. Shore, Smuggling Days and Smuggling Ways (1892) ; Alton and Holland, The King's Customs (1908); C. G. Harper, The Smugglers: Picturesque Chapters in the Story of an Ancient Craft (1909).
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Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)