smuggling, illegal transport across state or national boundaries of goods or persons liable to customs or to prohibition. Smuggling has been carried on in nearly all nations and has occasionally been adopted as an instrument of national policy, as by Great Britain against Spain and France in the 18th and 19th cent. The restrictive economic policies of mercantilism in the 17th and 18th cent. gave rise to smuggling in France, the Spanish colonies, and North America. British attempts to halt the practice by stringent enforcement of the Navigation Acts were a contributory cause of the American Revolution. Napoleon's decrees attempting to seal off the European continent from British commerce gave rise to widespread smuggling in the early 19th cent. Britain, source of free-trade philosophy, has been more liberal in her antismuggling laws than other nations; the practice was condoned in a famous passage by Adam Smith. Smuggling into the United States flourished in the prohibition era and was carried on practically with impunity from overseas and overland from Canada. Illegal entry of immigrants into the United States has also presented a problem during periods of curtailment of immigration, as at the end of World War I and in recent years. Luxury articles, stolen art and other goods, electronic devices and software, and specifically prohibited items such as narcotics are smuggled worldwide. The U.S. Coast Guard has the suppression of smuggling as one of its chief activities. U.S. law declares the article smuggled to be forfeit and the smuggler liable to a fine or imprisonment, or both. Examples of the smuggling of persons are the slave trade to the United States and Latin America following its outlawing by the great powers in the early 19th cent. and the traffic in women for immoral purposes, contrary to international convention.
See J. J. Farjeon, The Compleat Smuggler (1938); N. Williams, Contraband Cargoes (1959); T. Green, The Smugglers (1969); H. Waters, Smugglers of Spirits (1971).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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