[From Atholl Papers - AP X73-12]

The memorial of the merchants and owners of ships in the Port of Whitehaven humbly addressed to the Right Honble the Lord Commissrs of His Majsty Treasury

We the merchants and proprietors of ships of the port of Whitehaven in the county of Cumberland beg leave to represent to your Lordsps the great damage which the nation in general (and more especially the ports of this county) sustain from the clandestine trade carried on from the Isle of Man to the several parts of Great Britain and Ireland & humbly to submit to your Lordships judgment the means we apprehend to be the most conducive to remove the same.

It is well known that this Island is the great storehouse wherein the French and other nations deposit prodigious quantities of wine brandy, coffee, tea, silks and other India goods which are there admitted upon only low duties and afterwards smuggled upon the coasts of Great Britain and Ireland in small boats or wherries built for that purpose. Besides the frauds committed in the article of tobacco which being first entered in the several ports of Great Britain for foreign parts, after receiving the drawback of, is frequently landed in this Island and afterwards run back again in this Kingdom and Ireland.

For the carrying on which clandestine trade the scituation of the Isle of Man is extreamely commodious being within seven hours sail of the several coats of England, Scotland Wales & Ireland

The loss by this illicit trade to his Matys Revenues in the Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland hath by competent judges been computed at no less than 200,000 annually besides the damages to the fair traders in general & to the honble East India Company in particular, which may reasonably be computed at no less sum. And if the duties alone upon those foreign commodities thus fraudulently imported amount to so excessive a sum, we may judge in part, what an immense treasure in specie is annually drained from this kingdom and principally from the circumadjacent sea coasts for the purchase thereof : which in the same proportion tends to the impoverishing his Matys dominions, and the enriching a neighbouring state, the formidable rivals of our power as well as of our commerce. But the greatest loss which the publick sustains by this detestable trade proceeds from the alienation of such numbers of his Matys subjects from the honest arts of life, from agriculture, from manufactures or from lawfull commerce to an employment which tends both to the destruction of their lives & the debauching their morals by the excessive importation of spirituous liquors.

These evils tho' extending in some degree to all parts of Great Britain & Ireland are yet most senibly felt by the port of Whitehaven & other neighbouring ports of this county by reason of their vicinity to the Isle of Man. We beg leave therefore to represent to your Lordships the peculiar hardships which the trade of this port labours under from the clandestine practices above mentioned which of late have been carried out to a most exorbitant pitch.

A considerable trade hath formerly been carried on from the port of Whitehaven by the exportation of British manufactures to Virginia and Maryland & other of his Matys plantations in America and the importation of tobacco and other products of these colonies and also by the exportation of coals to Dublin & other ports of the kingdom of Ireland by means whereof the commerce of these kingdoms hath been enlarged his Matys revenues encreased and great numbers of able bodied sea men have been raised, ready upon any emergency to be applied to the defence of this kingdom and country. Both which trades are at present in a very declining state occasioned chiefly by the exorbitant growth of the smuggling trade from the Isle of Man.

For whereas formerly a profitable branch of the trade of this port consisted in supplying the Irish Markets with tobacco, this hath been greatly diminished by the manufactories of this commodity which have been set up, and greatly increased of late in the said Island, by means whereof those markets are chiefly supplied with manufactur'd tobacco in a clandestine way to the great prejudice of the trade of this place and of the fair trader in general.

We beg leave likewise to represent to your Lordsps the difficulties which the coal trade labours under as it is no carried on from Whitehaven and the neighbouring ports to Dublin & other ports of the kingdom of Ireland arising from the same cause. For whereas in the course of this commerce, ships are necessitated to pass near the coasts of the Isle of Man where boats are continually plying to supply passing ships with foreign comodities : and whereas by an act made in the 12th year of the reign of his late Maty King George, no goods or commodities whatsoever, other than such as are of the growth product or manufacture of the Isle of Man are allowed to be brought from the same Island into the Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland on any pretence wtsoever under the penalty of the forfeiture of ship & goods which makes it necessary that the owners of ships employed in this trade for the safety of their property should use the greatest caution & circumspection in appoinnting the most faithfull masters & sailors to navigate them, that are to be met with, yet it frequently happens that small quantities of prohibited goods are taken on board on the coast of the said Island by reason whereof ships of great value are forfeited & sold to the greatwest prejudice of their innocent proprietor who are often without redress, in as much as the nature of the trade will allow only such low wages to the masters of coal vessels that few persons who are possessed of any considerable propery will accept of that office. By this means this once flourishing trade is now reduced to a very declining state; few people being willing to venture their substance upon so precarious a foundation. For the removal of these obstacles to lawfull commerce, by which the nation in general (and more especially the port of Whitehaven & other neighbouring seaports) are greatly affected, we humbly beg leave to mention to your Lordsps, the expedient, which by the order of the legislature hath been judged most conducive to this ; and vizt by purchasing the sovereignty of the said Island of the Rt Honourable proprietor and annexing it to his Matys governmt for the carrying of which useful design into execution your Lordps have been vested by parliament with a proper authority.

But if this cannot be effected, we humbly desire your Lordps woud vouchsafe to take under your consideration the present state of the smugling trade from this Island and apply such further remedies as in your wisdom shall seem most expedient. Since it is evident from experience that the laws now in being are not sufficient to restrain the illicit practices complained of, which are grown to so exorbitant a pitch, that the smuggling boats go publickly in large fleets & at a common risque, so that when any of this Matys cruizers falls in which them it is scarce possible to take more than one at a time, & then the law hath provided no other punishment but the loss of the boat & goods, which loss is abundantly compounded by the success of their confederates. But this seldom happens : for the cruizers employed in the channel are but slow sailors & easily seen at a distance & as easily avoided ; so that scarce one in a hundred of the smugling vessels ever fall into their hands. It seems necessary therefore that a greater umber of small boats well mann'd should be employed in apprehending these smugling vessels and that some further provision ought to be made by law for the punishment of those who are employed in navigating them either by transportation unto the British colonies in America or by sending them for a limitted time on board his Matys navy or by some other way which may be judged expedient

Henry Littledale
John Wilkinson
Jno Fisher
Richd Robinson
Jas Spedding
Wm Palmer
Carlisle Spedding
Daniel Benn

Peter How
Waltr Lutwidge
Wm Gale
Jno Gale
Thos Robinson
Thom Lutwidge
John Ponsonby
Robert Watters

John Younger
Thos Hartley
Tim Nicholson
John Dixon
Robt Wilinson
Jno Kelsick
Thos Atkinson
John Nixon
Stephen Beck

Wm Batty
Jame Spedding
John Savage
John Greene
Edwd Blate
Will Annerley
Will Colley
Jams Grayson

 


 

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