Offence: Royal Offences > tax offences
104. + Robert Scott , late of Yarmouth, in the county of Norfolk , mariner , were indicted, for that they, together with divers other persons, to the number of ten, after the 24th day of June, in the 19th year of his Majesty's reign, to wit, on the 5th day of December, in the 21st year of his Majesty's reign , at Eastbridge, in the parish
King's Coun. May it please your Lordship and you gentlemen of the Jury, the two Prisoners at the bar are indicted on a late act of parliament, made in the 19th year of his present Majesty, and which the Legislature was forced to make, after having tried a great many ways, in order to put an end to smuggling with an armed force, to the detriment of most persons in the kingdom, and to the terror of those upon the coasts; and because these people would undertake this method, rather than follow their own occupations, the Legislature made it a capital offence for persons, with an armed force, to the number of three or more, to assemble together, in order to carry on this practice of smuggling. The act says, that if any persons, to the number of three or more, armed with fire arms, &c. after the 24th day of June, 1746, shall assemble together , in order to be aiding and assisting in the running of wool or other goods, prohibited to be exported , or to run any goods liable to pay duties , which have not been paid or secured, shall be deemed guilty of felony without benefit of clergy; but I need not trouble you with the other clauses of the act, because they do not come under this indictment , of running and carrying away uncustomed goods , and goods liable to pay duties, this the Prisoners are charged with: But there are two things to be considered, first, whether the Prisoners , with such as make three, assembled with arms ; and, secondly, whether they were assembled to that number and armed, in order to be aiding and assisting in the running of uncustomed goods, and I believe you have no doubt but that this will be proved. Gentlemen , on the fifth of December last, one of the officers of the customs saw a smuggling cutter coming within the bounds of the port of Southwold ; and, Gentlemen , you have had so many of these trials, that I need not tell you that they have little vessels , by which they run tea in oil-skin bags , and brandy in half anchors, and sometimes come to the number of an hundred or two hundred persons , and carry them off by force: On the fifth of December an officer of the customs observed a cutter hovering about the port near Eastbridge , he did very properly, and applied to some of the King's troops belonging to General Husk 's regiment, which were in the town they must go through; they went to a house the smugglers used to frequent, and inquired if there were any smugglers there, but they did not expect to be informed at the house where they used, but at last they got some information that they were in the stable; there the smugglers had concealed themselves , to the number of twelve , and the first salutation the custom house officers and soldiers were to have, was the smugglers firing upon the King's troops, and they did fire upon the King's troops, and the King's troops they returned it into the stable; there was never a man killed, but two horses were wounded, and a ball went through Scott's hat; they consulted whether they should stay there, or force their way out, and they agreed to force their way out , which they did, and one of the Prisoners (Scott) happened to come to some accident by his horse's falling, or probably he had not been taken. Scott had a brace and an half of pistols , all loaden with hall , which they took from him, and Chilvers had a musquetoon; they found that it was not then actually charged, but it had been just discharged, and was black, and had a scurf on it, and it is plain that this was one of the pieces that was discharged at them: the custom-house officer desired to know where they had got their tea and their brandy , but it is not discovered, and that remains in the dark, but the smugglers went down to the coast to take this tea and brandy that was on board this smuggling cutter , but when they came down, they were told it was not for them, but was designed for another gang ; whether they had these goods or not , does not come under this Act of Parliament, and that made me to state to you what the offence under this Act of Parliament is; it is being armed and assembled to such a number, with an intent, or in order to be aiding and assisting in the running and landing uncustomed goods; for the occasion and necessity of making this Act of Parliament arose from such great numbers being assembled and armed, and as to their being assembled there can be no doubt , and that they were armed ; and there were eleven horses left in the stable which they could not carry out. The next thing is as to their intent in being thus assembled and armed ; here is a cutter comes within the limits of the port of Southwold, this cutter could not come
Q. What are you?
Wiggs. I am an officer of the customs at Southwold , in Suffolk.
Q. Now give an account what you know of a cutter's coming on that coast , on the 5th of Dec.
Wiggs. On the 5th of Dec. in the morning, I saw a cutter, and I went to my collector.
Q. Did you know who the cutter belonged to?
Wiggs . No.
Q. Was it within the limits of the port?
Wiggs . Yes.
Q. How far was it off the coast ?
Wiggs . About a mile and an half.
Q. Did you know by the make of her, what she was designed for?
Wiggs . Yes; I know by the sight of her, what she was. My officer went to the officer of the soldiers, and he got his men together, and went to take their goods, and our officer got our men together .
Q. Where was this?
Wiggs. At Eastbridge . We went to a publick house, where the smugglers generally used, and asked whether any smugglers were there; they said, no. I was resolved to search the house, and presently I heard a blunderbuss, or a musquetoon go off; and the lieutenant of the soldiers said, they were fired upon out of the stable, and the soldiers fired upon them through the stable-door: and the smugglers got out and run away; most of them got out at the stable-window.
Q. Did you see the Prisoners?
Wiggs. Not then, I don't know whether they were there, or not.
Q. What was the first time you saw these men?
Wiggs . I went out of the yard into the street, and the soldiers were bringing them along; Mr. Scott had got but a little way, but Mr. Chilvers had got a matter of three hundred yards.
Q. Had you any conversation with them about smuggling ?
Wiggs. Mr . Chilvers said to me that they went down to the vessel, and they were informed there, there were no goods on board of the cutter for them: for they were designed for another gang.
Q. How many smugglers did you see?
Wiggs. They stood pretty thick , I could not see how many there were.
Q. Were there more than two?
Wiggs. Yes, I saw five, six, or seven.
Q. Do you know what became of the goods in the smuggling cutter?
Wiggs. No, Sir.
Q. Did you go into the stable?
Wiggs. Yes, after the fire was over, and I found three carbines and a blunderbuss.
Q. How many horses were there?
Wiggs. Eleven horses, but two of them were wounded.
Q. What is that you have there?
Wiggs. It is a carbine.
Q. Is it usual for them to carry these carbines?
Wiggs. They always carry them.
Q. Are they more commodious than other arms?
Wiggs. They are lighter.
Pris. Scott. Ask him whether he saw me fire out of the stable?
Wiggs. I saw no man fire.
Chilvers. Did you see any tea or brandy along with us?
Wiggs. No, none at all.
Q. How far is Eastbridge from the shore?
Wiggs. About two miles.
Alexander Blair called .
Q. What are you?
Q. Was you, on the fifth of December, with any smugglers ?
Blair. At Eastbridge , Scott fell from his horse and Chilvers was on foot.
Q. How many were there of the smugglers?
Blair. There were ten or more; these two pistols I took from Scott, and there was another taken from him by my comrade .
Q. Shew how they were wore about his person.
Blair . They were in a belt , R. S. is cut upon each of them, they were both loaded and primed, and one of them was loaded with bullets cut to pieces.
Q. What is the consequence of being wounded by them?
Q. Did you see Scott fire?
Blair. No, I saw one of the smugglers fire, but I believe it was not Scott; Scott surrendered to me, I told him I would blow his brains out if he did not surrender; I took two pistols from him, but I did not suspect he had a third, and my comrade took it from him; we had ten men along with us; I told the Prisoners it is a wonder our men did not stand more together, if they had we might have got more of you; I asked Chilvers how many there were of them, he said about ten ; I asked why they did not go down to the coast to take their goods away; and Chilvers told me they did go down, but they were told there were no uncustomed goods on board of that cutter for them, for they were designed for another gang.
Q. Did you see them come out of the stable?
Blair. I saw Chilvers run, and Scott was mounting at the door, and one of my men let fly at him .
Q. Did you see any fire from the stable?
Blair. One piece was discharged from the stable-door next the street , the first was from the other side.
Q. Do you know how many were fired?
Blair. No, because our men fired so many.
Q. What are you?
Capell. I am a custom-house officer ; I was present when the two Prisoners were taken; I know what arms Scott had.
Q. Do you know what arms Chilvers had?
Capell. He had this.
Q. What is that?
Capell. A musquetoon.
Q. Was it charged?
Capell. No, but I believe it had been discharged very lately, because it was black; I put my finger upon it, and the powder was wet and damp with the firing.
Q. Was he endeavouring to escape when you saw him?
Capell . Yes.
Q. Did you see him come out of the stable?
Q. What are you ?
Q. Was you present when the Prisoners were taken?
Q. Where was you?
Thompson . I was at the street-door with Blair .
Q. Did you see them taken ?
Thompson . I followed Chilvers about two or three hundred yards; he had his great coat on, and a blunderbuss hanging at his back, I laid hold of him and took him up to the company.
Q. What arms had Scott?
Thompson. I did not see them.
King's Coun. My Lord, we rest it here.
Scott. I was going down into the country to my wife and children, for I was afraid of being at home, and I was going to work among the Yarmouth men.
King's Coun. He was in the King's proclamation , and could not stay at home upon that account .
Court. Have you any witnesses to your character or behaviour in life;
Q. How long have you known Scott?
Smith. I have known him twenty-four years, and during the time I have known him he had the character of as honest and sober a lad as ever walked the streets , and always behaved well.
Q. What business is he?
Smith. He is a seaman, he served his time to the sea.
Q. He never had the character of being concerned in smuggling, had he?
Smith. He never had.
Q. What business are you?
Smith. A Taylor.
Q. What trade has he been concerned in?
Smith. The coal trade.
Q. What else?
Smith. Sometimes he went to Rotterdam .
Q. Which did he follow most?
Smith. He served his time to the coal trade, but it is customary for him in the winter time to go to Rotterdam .
Q. Did you ever hear of his being concerned in smuggling?
Smith. Never till this time.
Q. How far do you live off him?
Smith. About half a mile.
Q. Has he followed the sea down to this time?
Smith. I never knew that he followed any other employment.
King's Coun . As the Prisoner has entered into his character, I beg leave to call one witness.
Abraham Baily called.
Q. Give my Lord and the Jury an account of what you know as to the character of Scott.
Abra. Baily. I knew him an apprentice to a master of a vessel, one William Peters of Yarmouth, and then he went to Flushing in Holland; and since he came to England the character he bore was as a smuggler.