Chapter 2

    Obstructions to the Collection of a Revenue in America, from the extent of the Coast, and the Nature of the Trade and Commerce

    The districts of many of the Ports in America were very extensive, abounding with numbers of Bays, Creeks and Harbours, convenient for the run[n]ing of Goods and some thousand of Vessels were employed in the Coasting and fishing trade, which neither entered or cleared at any Custom house.

    The People had been long accustomed to a great liberty of trade. All along the Coast were scattered [33] settlements. The first object in set[t]ling the Country was to dispose of the Lumber cut down from the Lands that were cleared. They built Vessels to transport it for a market to the West Indies, which returned with Cargoes of Melassas, and other Goods, and they carried on this trade as suited their Convenience, frequently run[n]ing the whole, or great part of their Cargoes, in shore, in some of the Bays or Creeks, in the unset[t]led parts of the Country.

    The neglect of the Coasting Vessels of entering [34] and clearing at the Custom House, when going within the same Province, had been overlooked. They were employed in bringing, concealed under their Wood and Lumber, the Goods that had been smug[g]led (into some of the distant Creeks, and Bays, by the larger Vessels) to the great Towns, where those Commodities must be brought for a Market.23

    These Coasters were decked Vessels, from twenty to ninety tons burthen, and were often used in foreign Voyages.

    From the extent of the Harbours, or Districts, where Custom Houses were [35] established, and there being no legal Wharffs or Quays, great frauds were commited even within the Ports of Entry, and of the Casks which were legally imported, not half the Duties were paid for the quantity which such Casks usually contained.

    Many Vessels were employed in the transport of Fish to the Southern parts of Europe, and if they came to any Custom House on their return, they reported either with Salt, or in Ballast.

    In the Eastern parts of the Massachusetts Bay, the Lumber Trade was so dispersed, as not to be brought [36] to a central Port.24

    In Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina, where there are no large towns, the Planters and Merchants being settled all over the Country, had been long indulged in loading and unloading their Vessels, in different parts, on all the great rivers, many of them remote from the Custom Houses, or any Officer.

    In South Carolina one hundred and thirty or forty Schooners were employed in bringing the Produce of the [37] Country to Charles Town, and pretending to trade only within the Province with Country produce, they came in and out of Port without Entering, or Clearing, without Permit, or Register. And when the Officers seized any of them, they met with so many difficulties, and embarrassments, in the Provincial Law Courts, that they were deterred from prosecuting such Vessels.

    These Schooners frequently made Voyages to the foreign West Indies, [38] smug[g]led Cargoes of goods from thence, and assisted in the clandestine discharge of larger Vessels.

    In Rhode Island, Connecticut, Pensilvania and Maryland, there were no Officers appointed by the Crown, but those of the Customs. The State of Government, and the local situation of the Country, through this wide extended Continent, were great bars to any regulations, and the temper of the People, and timidity of the Officers, prevented the carrying into execution the Laws already [39] in being.25

    Such was the State of the Trade in America, on the Establishment of the Board of Customs. In most of the Colonies there was no drawing the trade to any Center without the greatest inconvenience to the People; and throughout America, the Trade had been so long habituated in indulgences, so well practised in Smug[g]ling, and the Officers so long used to connivance, and neglect, that to establish and inforce regulations for better management, required more authority than the Board possessed, or than Government might chuse to exert. [40]