Control, Contraband, and the Lure of the Devil's Weed:
Two Centuries of Tobacco Regulation and its Circumvention, 1600s - 1700s

By Charlotte A. Cosner

One of the first New World agricultural products seen by explorer Christopher Columbus during his 1492 voyage, tobacco quickly grew in popularity following its introduction to Europe. Despite opposition from various individuals and institutions including the Catholic Church and England's King James I, tobacco consumption rose dramatically. The profitability of the plant however encouraged even the staunchest opponents to reconsider their views. As European nations saw its growing demand and economic potential for the product, they turned to monopolies to administer and control the plant's production and sale. Yet, such potential for profit also prompted privateers, pirates, and other individuals to enter the tobacco market. Government officials responded in various ways from placing tighter controls on growers to increasing protection for ships carrying the plant back to Europe. These measures were insufficient however, and contraband trade in tobacco in both the New and Old Worlds continued to plague virtually every European nation engaged in its production.

Although contraband is difficult to prove or quantify, due in large part to the surreptitious nature of such trade, the official responses to illegal activity can be gauged.(1) For example, documents found in Seville's Archivo General de Indias contain numerous reports between Havana and the interior from 1766 to 1784 that address contraband in tobacco and suggest ways to prevent such activity. Analysis of the AGI documents for Cuba, combined with secondary sources for other Spanish colonies, and England, France and the United States allows for placement of the Cuban response within a comparative perspective.

How did European governments respond to the threat posed to official financial and state control both overseas and at home by the contraband tobacco trade? What was the result? The existing historiography on this subject for Cuba, for instance, does not paint an encouraging picture for Spanish officials. Renowned historian Louis A. Pérez, Jr. argues that measures such as the tobacco monopoly and establishment of the guarda costas helped to lower illegal trade. Nevertheless, "perhaps as much as 75 percent of Cuba's total tobacco production entered the world market by way of illicit transactions," he notes.(2) Despite concerted efforts, official Spanish policies were not effective in ending contraband just as they did for other European nations. As was the case in Cuba, European monopolies and the military ultimately failed to stop the contraband trade in tobacco.

Tobacco's Introduction to Europe and its Increasing Popularity

Although there are conflicting dates for the plant's introduction to the continent, both French friar André Thevet, and Spaniard Francisco Hern‡ndez wrote about tobacco's presence in Europe during the late 1550s. In his seminal work, Cuban Counterpoint, Fernando Ortiz however argues that port city Europeans were familiar with tobacco before this time. Its popularity quickly spread throughout Europe, particularly after the 1590s. Unlike other products such as chocolate, coffee, sugar, and tea, tobacco use "did not appear to have entered at the top and percolated downwards."(3) Instead, tobacco permeated all social classes and settings.

Not all members of European society found its use acceptable however. In 1624, Pope Urban VIII issued a papal bull threatening anyone using tobacco with excommunication, thus making the Catholic Church among the first to oppose tobacco consumption. Its continued use forced Popes Innocent X and Innocent XI to reissue this pronouncement in 1650 and 1684 respectively. Still tobacco use continued, and in 1692, five friars paid the ultimate price for their habit. Found smoking while in the choir during service, they were sentenced to death, and entombed behind the walls of a Santiago de Compostela, Spain church. England's King James I also opposed the use of tobacco and issued a sharp criticism in his 1604 Counterblaste. Smoking, the British king wrote, was "`a custome lothsome to the eye, hateful to the nose, harmfull to the braine, daungerous to the Lungs, and in the black stinking fume thereof, neerest resembling the horrible Stigian smoke of the pit that is bottomlesse.'"(4)

Yet, increasing demand and rising profit margins encouraged many opponents of tobacco to approve of its use and participate in its production and manufacture. To that end, England undertook the colonization and settlement of Virginia, Barbados, Bermuda, and St. Kitts under the premise that they would serve as tobacco colonies. British imports of tobacco in 1700 from Spanish America rose by an astonishing 152,000 percent over 1603 rates. These figures are in addition to imports from its own colonies, which by at least 1740 was "equal to the combined volume of all the Spanish, Portuguese, Turkish, Russian, Dutch, and German tobacco that passed in international trade."(5) The Catholic Church likewise abandoned its earlier condemnation of tobacco. Pope Benedict XIII reversed the edicts of previous Holy Sees and allowed the use of snuff in St. Peter's Basilica. In 1779, the Papacy actively started its participation in tobacco manufacture when it opened its own factory.(6) Former opponents were not the only ones who realized tobacco's economic potential. Privateers, pirates, and other like-minded individuals were similarly poised to take advantage of this increasing demand.

Regulation and Contraband, 1600s - 1800s

The history of European regulation and contraband of tobacco in the Atlantic world is closely interrelated.(7) As governments saw the potential for profit in tobacco, they sought not only to participate, but dominate the industry. Throughout Europe, governments followed similar strategies first implementing restrictions and later placing monopolies on all aspects of the tobacco industry. Prevention of contraband was simply one element of this approach. Yet, as regulations increased, so did contraband, as farmers and contrabanders alike strove to circumvent the system that brought profits not to the producers, but to the royal monopolies and ultimately, the Crown. This illegal activity contributed to harsher regulations and controls, which only added to the ire of those who bypassed official channels of production and sale. Thus, the vicious cycle of regulation, contraband, strict regulation, and increasing levels of contraband continued unabated.

This study focuses on two important and interrelated components of the European approach to preventing contraband trade in tobacco. Among the first measures enacted were limitations on the amount of tobacco that could be planted and the imposition of taxes on imports of tobacco. These measures were aimed at tobacco production in the Americas, but also sought to control domestic production.(8) European nations including Spain, England, France, and their New World colonies attempted to regulate tobacco in order secure the trade's profits and to prevent the production of surpluses that could be sold outside of official channels. Yet, even from the beginning, contraband clearly was a serious threat to European attempts to controls the tobacco industry. Increased security for this valuable cargo, in the form of escorts for ships carrying tobacco back to Europe, or tighter customs procedures for example was the second element of European strategy. These two approaches ultimately failed as contraband occurred at all phases of tobacco production and shipment. Not even arrival on the European continent ensured the safety of tobacco shipments, as pilfering often occurred in the ports themselves while customs officials either turned a blind eye, or actively participated in the theft.

Early Restrictions: 1600s

As early as the seventeenth century, Spanish officials realized that their earlier apathy toward tobacco had contributed to its success as a contraband product. Therefore, royal officials in 1606 prohibited all cultivation of tobacco for ten years in Santo Domingo, Cuba, Margarita, Puerto Rico, Cuman‡, and Nueva Andaluc’a.(9) The Spanish hoped that such action would place tobacco under tight official control and thereby prevent smuggling. Instead, it only encouraged more smuggling. In 1607, just one year after the prohibition on tobacco cultivation, the governor of Cuman‡ wrote to the Crown, "`Tobacco has been one of the chief factors causing these coasts to be so much frequented by pirates, by reason of the great demand there has always been for it; and in truck for it they give merchandise that comes cheaper than if it were bought in Spain.'"(10)

By the 1630s, officials determined that more stringent measures were needed. Consequently, Spain was among the first European nations to enact a tobacco monopoly, beginning first in Castile in 1632, and later extended to additional areas in 1636. Devised to add much-needed funds to royal coffers, the monopoly was an unexpected choice, at least from a juridical point of view. "Contemporary jurists viewed royal monopolies as an illicit way for sovereigns to raise revenues, since they were consumption taxes in disguise (which required the consent of the Cortes) and unfairly raised prices on basic necessities."(11) Thus, preventing contraband was not the aim of many of the early measures, but instead Spain sought inclusion in the economic windfall created by increasing tobacco consumption.

Although England did not engage in tobacco production until at least the last part of the sixteenth century, it enacted many of the measures employed by Spain to regulate the crop. King Charles I placed a royal monopoly on tobacco on May 13, 1625. Britain's The American colonies also faced controls on tobacco. As early as 1629, Virginia passed statutes that prevented new settlers from planting tobacco during their first year of residence. Virginia's settlers grew so much tobacco that they neglected food crops, it was argued, and consequently, farmers were allowed to plant only 2,000 tobacco plants per family member. The English government enacted similar controls at home as well. On April 1, 1652, Parliament passed an act prohibiting all planting of tobacco in Britain. Similar measures were extended to the American colonies where all tobacco planting and cultivation was prohibited in Virginia and Carolina from February 1, 1666 to February 1, 1667. Anyone who violated these orders was to have their crop destroyed. Additional measures in the early 1680s designed to ensure a stable, and high price for tobacco angered farmers some of who responded by destroying tobacco plants in May 1682. Starting in Gloucester County, Virginia and later spreading to New Kent, Middlesex, and York Counties, farmers first destroyed their own crops then moved to neighboring farms. By the end of the month, an estimated ten thousand hogsheads of tobacco had been destroyed in Gloucester and New Kent Counties alone.(12) Restrictions on tobacco cultivation were in place, but as can be seen by the events of 1682, the government's control on the tobacco industry was shaky.

An examination of other measures passed throughout the seventeenth century indicates that contraband was a problem for the British Crown, just as it was for Spain. During the 1620s, the elimination of contraband trade in tobacco was the primary focus of much of the orders issued. Continued smuggling of tobacco led the British Crown to create a tobacco monopoly in 1624, which also required that all tobacco brought to the country was required to enter through London. To enforce these orders, Sir John Pennington was dispatched to protect the English Channel with a man-of-war, stopping any ship carrying tobacco and ordering it directly to London. These types of measures continued throughout the remainder of the seventeenth century.(13)

Despite these increased actions, the Dutch remained particularly troublesome for the British tobacco industry. The 1660s were disastrous for British tobacco as Dutch activity in the Atlantic Ocean and Chesapeake Bay, exposed to attack because of the Anglo-Dutch wars, threatened tobacco interests. Twice, the Dutch entered the Bay and captured or destroyed large portions of the tobacco ship fleet. Between 1665 and 1667, "Bristol alone lost fifteen ships together with cargoes amounting to nine thousand three hundred hogsheads of tobacco."(14)

The French, like the English, also wanted to reap the benefits of increased tobacco consumption. Beginning first in 1621 the government placed export duties on tobacco entering or leaving the nation's so-called Five Great Farms. By 1625, Louis XIII's chief minister, Cardinal Richelieu added tobacco to the growing list of taxed items. France, like Spain before it, decided to implement a tobacco monopoly in 1674 as a revenue raising measure. Protection of the monopoly's sole rights to the tobacco industry was also important for France, just as it was for Spain and England. Anyone selling tobacco outside of the official monopoly was subject to penalties. By July 1681, these sentences included three years' banishment and a fine for a second offense, while a third offense sent the guilty party to the pillory followed by permanent banishment. Yet, as Spain found earlier, few consequences prevented individuals from circumventing official regulations.(15)

The Age of Monopoly: 1700s

Spain also extended its monopoly on tobacco to the New World. Cuba's tobacco monopoly begun in 1717 was one of the first, but by the mid-to-late eighteenth century, the tobacco industries of virtually every Spanish colony in the Americas was under official control.(16) Yet, Spain realized the continued dangers from contraband, and therefore before the state established the monopoly in Cuba, Spanish officials traveled to different regions of the island inquiring about the prices paid to vegueros by contrabanders, pirates and others. Although paid at fixed prices that closely matched earlier ones, farmers resented state control of their industry, and opposed Spain's plan to purchase Cuban tobacco at low prices and sell it on the European market at inflated levels. As in Virginia in 1682, farmers revolted, even destroying their own crops and those of surrounding farms. In all, the vegueros launched three separate revolts between 1717 and 1723, including one in late 1717 that prompted the resignation of Governor Vicente Raja, marking the "first violent expulsion of a Captain General" in Cuban colonial history.(17)

The organization and administration of the Real Factor’a followed similar patterns in other Spanish-controlled areas of the New World. In Mexico as in Cuba, the Factor’a monitored all aspects of the tobacco industry, including designating the areas permitted to cultivate tobacco. In an attempt to ensure that farmers delivered their entire crop to the monopoly, officials compared data from tazmias, accounting documents that indicated the number of plants each farmer could grow, to the final amount of tobacco delivered.(18) Tobacco farmers, or vegueros, presented their crop for sale at government-sanctioned fairs where they received official, set prices based on its quality. In Cuba, the lack of standardized prices for the entire island resulted in the vegueros' complaints that that similar quality tobacco did not bring the same price in all areas.(19)

Yet, Cuba was not the only location where government policies attempted to control every aspect of tobacco production. Just north of the island in the American colonies, particularly the Chesapeake, officials took similar measures to regulate the industry. A 1723 act limited cultivation of tobacco in the Chesapeake to 6,000 plants per tithable, while single tithables were allowed to cultivate 10,000 plants themselves plus 3,000 additional plants for each boy between the ages of 10 and 16 on the holding.(20) Officials closely regulated tobacco here as in Cuba, but instead emphasis was placed on the quality of the product. In 1730 and 1747 respectively, Virginia and Maryland legislatures passed inspection laws that gave salaried inspectors the right to examine tobacco for quality before it was exported. They removed any inferior grades of tobacco for burning before repacking the remaining tobacco into hogsheads for export.(21)

Although both Spain and England had emphasized the production of tobacco in their overseas colonies during the previous century or two, the French were uncertain about tobacco's viability in Louisiana as a successful agricultural commodity. Its cultivation was possible, but there were other significant players in the tobacco market, namely Cuba and Virginia, for whom tobacco had greater economic potentials. By September 5, 1730, Louisiana's tobacco prospects seemed doomed, as the monopoly was required to buy Louisiana tobacco at the same price paid for Virginia tobacco. "In practice such terms would have meant the total extinction of tobacco cultivation for export along the Mississippi: transportation costs were so much higher from Louisiana than from Virginia that little would have been left for the planters."(22) By 1763, Louisiana's tobacco industry still produced only enough tobacco to fill one ship per year, no more than it had in 1731. With the cession of the territory to Spain and Great Britain in 1762 and 1763 respectively, France's hopes for Louisiana ended. Instead, France shifted its plan for overseas tobacco cultivation in the New World to its Caribbean island holdings, Martinique and Guadeloupe, but they too were soon abandoned as it proved impractical.(23)

As eighteenth century documents found in the Archivo General de Indias demonstrate for Cuba, despite governmental attempts, including the use of investigadores who were employed to protect against illegal planting, smuggling and other fraud, illegal contraband remained an area of concern for Spanish officials. This contraband in tobacco represented both a financial threat and a potential challenge to state control in eighteenth century Cuba. The prevalence of this extralegal behavior as noted in the AGI documents demonstrates the ineffectiveness of Spain's tobacco monopoly, which was particularly difficult to enforce after the unprecedented openness enjoyed during the ten month British occupation (1762-1763). On the island, the decision to turn to contraband as a viable option may have stemmed from the vegueros' belief that the Crown's official monopoly did not adequately compensate them for their efforts. This decision to engage in contraband for some farmers therefore may have stemmed from an inability to support their family through otherwise legal means. Others however may have simply tried to maximize the profit for their tobacco crop. Although the vegueros' motivation for engaging in contraband may be impossible to determine, AGI documents clearly demonstrate that despite the royal tobacco monopoly's apparent rigidity, at least on paper and in traditional studies, the tobacco farmers exercised significant personal agency in their economic activities.

Notwithstanding the strong governmental presence and monitoring of the tobacco industry, by 1766 Spanish authorities acknowledged that the vegueros did not deliver all of the tobacco grown to the government monopoly. Theft of tobacco occurred at all points along the process from planting to manufactured product including transport to the royal monopoly houses where muleteers were the prime suspects, government documents noted. Even the island's Captain General, Antonio Maria Bucarely, noted the persistence of contraband. Much of the tobacco carried along the route from the interior to Havana was sold before it even reached the city's walls, he complained.(24) Governmental correspondence also clearly demonstrates that contraband was not limited to one region, but instead occurred in all areas where tobacco was produced. A local official in Matanzas in 1773, for example, informed the Captain General that tobacco was removed from a ship, ostensibly after it was loaded and destined for the royal tobacco houses, and hidden in a church.(25) As demonstrated elsewhere in this paper, tighter restrictions and controls only fueled the contraband trade in tobacco.

However, residents of the island were not the only ones engaging in this illegal activity. In 1767, a local official in Bayamo wrote to Bucarely informing him of contraband activity in the area. Noting that he had done his best to prevent such action, the local official admitted that contraband remained a problem in his jurisdiction. Particularly troubling was the presence of English smugglers who engaged in contraband tobacco trade and the illegal cutting of wood. Yet, contraband activities in this area were not uncommon as "Bayamo was renowned for its contraband trade."(26) As early as 1728, the town's cabildo attempted to explain to the Crown why its people engaged in illegal activities such as contraband, arguing that it was not a lack of loyalty to royal laws, but necessity that prompted them to violate regulations.(27)

With Spanish officials' vigilance in their continued attempts to eliminate contraband, why would vegueros for example risk fines, confiscation of their crop, or other punishment? While the exact motivations are difficult to establish concretely, the AGI's Papeles de Cuba offer several possible explanations. Monetary factors may have played a role in the farmers' decision to operate outside of the official sanctioned monopoly. The monopoly's success in encouraging compliance relied heavily on the economic incentive that the Factor’a provided a viable and profitable (or at least adequate) alternative to contraband. Two essential elements necessary to the monopoly's success as an alternative to contraband included the official prices set for the tobacco harvest, and prompt payment of the farmers. The AGI documents indicate however that royal officials realized that the Crown was not adequately responding to the financial needs of the vegueros, and thereby encouraging contraband.

Required to present their tobacco to the Real Factor’a in a timely manner, the vegueros often were not paid promptly. Letters from local officials in 1766 and 1774, for example, noted that the farmers complained about their lack of payment for their crop. A lack of money, another official suggested, drove the vegueros to sell their product illegally.(28) Combined with insufficient resources to support their family from their production of tobacco, royal officials often believed that financial reasons constituted a chief motivation in the continuation of the contraband trade. "Estos moviemientos hacen extraviar los escasos tavacos [sic] que se han cogido, y que los que se empleaban en su labor dexen [sic] las vegas, vendiendolos oculatmente por manojos a los que les dan el dinero de contado, para remediarse..." complained a local official in Trinidad in 1776.(29) Financial need was so great that some local authorities, particularly in the Pinar del Rio area, in 1768 and 1780-1781 requested that surplus meat be given to the vegueros to help sustain their families.(30) Poverty, the officials seem to allude, contributed to the continuing problem of contraband. Therefore, if financial incentives for turning to contraband were removed, through prompt payment and sufficient food for their families, enforcement of the order to deliver all tobacco to the royal houses might be easier.

Yet, economic need alone is not be sufficient to explain the persistence of contraband. An examination of tazmias from all over the island during this period indicates that vegueros were not restricted one particular socioeconomic group or background, and instead were much more heterogeneous. Small, independent farmers, sharecroppers, slaves, free blacks, military officers, priests, and gentlemen all participated in the growing of tobacco.(31) While the majority of tazmias indicate that vegueros worked alone or with just several assistants, some tobacco farmers controlled sizable operations. In 1776, for example, Don Bernabe Hern‡ndez had nine people working on his vega near the Partido de Xiaxaco.(32) The presence of gentlemen ("don"), priests, and military officers as vegueros indicates that tobacco was more than just a means of subsistence for small, impoverished farmers, and that men in other professions supplemented their incomes through tobacco farming. Clearly, significant profit was to be garnered through the production of tobacco and its sale, either to official channels or via the contraband market.

Cognizant that contraband in tobacco was occurring, Spanish officials sought new measures to prevent further activity, but were met with limited success. Although official orders prohibited unauthorized persons from negotiating with tobacco farmers either within or outside of the island, contraband was difficult to prevent, one official noted. Perhaps a "faithful man" could escort ships carrying tobacco to a distance of twelve leagues away from the Cuban coast, he suggested.(33) By the 1770s however, Spanish authorities moved away from mere emphasis on compliance with official orders and became more pro-active in their approach to contraband. The Crown began to impose fines of fifty ducados on those caught selling or buying contraband tobacco. To encourage reporting of illicit trade in tobacco, the Factor’a rewarded informants with one-third of the value of tobacco confiscated.(34)

Increased reporting and confiscation of contraband rose dramatically in the area around Havana during the summer and fall of 1779, due in large part to the efforts of the Guardas de Rentas Generales, and Resguardo Montado. Between August and November of 1779, eighteen confiscations resulted in the seizure of more than 156 tercios of tobacco that was returned to the Real Factoria. During this period, two Resguardo members, Juan Morel and Manuel Sorrivas, and made the most seizures, four and five respectively.(35) While their success in apprehending contrabanders may indicate vigilance to their duties, luck, or perhaps both, the lure of a reward may have led them to report activities to which they otherwise may have turned a blind eye.

Despite the restrictions on tobacco's cultivation, sale, and production, government officials were unable to eliminate the contraband trade. Indeed, as the example found in many countries indicates, contraband not only continued in spite of regulations, it increased. While this may seem illogical, the new dangers facing the privateer, pirate, or contrabander because of tighter policies reflected tobacco's importance to the Crown. Tobacco was a valuable commodity, both economically and symbolically. The government's ability to control and regulate economic activities within its colonies and domestic borders was a sign of the Crown's strength and stability. Threats to the state order such as those posed by traffickers in contraband tobacco tested the very essence of state control. Such illegal actions potently demonstrated that individuals operating outside of official, legal channels could not only challenge the state, but also defy it.

Nevertheless, individuals engaging in contraband risked severe penalties and even death. The fate of ten pirates, seven of whom were English, captured on Cuba's Isle of Pines in 1612 demonstrates the seriousness with which European officials viewed contraband of any kind. Although "in Spain at this time (1611) it was considered best policy to placate the English," Spanish officials on the island executed nine of the ten pirates.(36) Government representatives in Spain however insisted that the British monarch's vessels be spared, as a conciliatory measure. By 1778, convicted tobacco smugglers could expect a five-year prison sentence for their first offense, and between eight and ten years for subsequent offenses.(37)

Despite the risks and potential penalties, contraband enjoyed a long history throughout much of the Americas and Europe, impacting not only Spain, but Britain's North American colonies as well. Between 1716 and 1718 alone, 1,800 to 2,400 Anglo-Americans operated as pirates. The colonial American legal system however responded with the "full force of penalties for crimes against property."(38) To that end, pirates were prohibited access to clergy, "`called Hostis Humani Generis, with whom neither Faith nor Oath' were to be kept, and were regarded as `Brutes, and Beasts of Prey.'"(39) One scholar argues that even such well-known events in American history can been viewed as part of the long history of smuggling. "The Boston Tea Party . . .was the culmination of sixty years of outright dissatisfaction with Britain's commercial policy, in which Americans had smuggled on principle," he claims.(40)

Following earlier colonial traditions, United States law dealt harshly with pirates during the nineteenth century. Piracy cases including United States v. Palmer (1818) and United States v. Klintock (1820) reached as high as the U.S. Supreme Court. There the Justices ruled that robbery on the high seas constituted piracy, and "as such, it could be punished in the federal courts without regard to the nationality of the offender or the ship. This was because general piracy was an offense `against all nations.'"(41) Thus, despite its long-standing presence in commercial activities in the Americas and Europe, contraband never gained respectability. Instead of being viewed as clever entrepreneurs who were interested in participating in a profitable economic activity, pirates, privateers, and smugglers continued to be viewed as extralegal actors who deserved neither the spoils of their labor nor protection under the law. Yet, not everyone received the same penalties for their illegal activities, as studies of smuggling in England show.

Between the letter of the law and its administration there was a great gulf. The law ranked smuggling and concealment of customs as major crimes against the State; these offenses, along with high treason, murder and rape, were always excluded from general pardons. Yet time and again hardened smugglers got off with some small fines or mere cautions, while officials like Thomas Sydney of Lynn, up to their necks in fraud, were allowed to continue in office.(42)


Faced with these possible consequences combined with increased measures to inhibit contraband, why was this illegal activity still prevalent during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries? Unfortunately for European officials, tobacco was in great demand, and therefore garnered a high price on the domestic and international markets. European nations tightened their regulations on tobacco hoping to secure tobacco profits for the state, and attempting to eliminate any competition from contrabanders. Not even the implementation of royal monoplies as early as the 1630s, contraband activity did not end. Instead, it continued, adapting itself to the new conditions and maintaining the checkered history of earlier privateers, privates, and other like-minded individuals. As nations placed restrictions on tobacco's production and sale, they hoped to secure tobacco's profits for the state, as well as eliminate any competition from contrabanders. Yet, these increased measures only served to fuel illegal activities. Governments countered with tighter restrictions, and thus, the vicious cycle of restrictions and contraband spun out of control.

As an economic enterprise that provided a sufficient level of return on its investment, any attempts to regulate and control it were difficult, if not impossible. Even today, governments continue to struggle with issues of contraband. "The illegal landing of drugs at airports today is the latest scene in a drama that began with the merchants who smuggled wool out of the country in the closing years of the thirteenth century."(43) During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, as now, possible repercussions for participation in illegal trafficking of restricted goods did not serve to deter those who are willing to risk it all, including their freedom or lives, in order to turn a fast profit. A historical study of contraband such as this one does not provide an encouraging picture for those governments engaged in similar activities today. However, it does offer a historic look into one of the state's most enduring problems.



Archival Sources

Archivo General de Indias, Papeles Procedentes de Cuba.

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1 For example, in her study of prostitution, both legal and illicit, in Buenos Aires, historian Donna J. Guy uses city ordinances, police records, and other official sources to gain insight into the illegal practices [See Donna J. Guy, Sex and Danger in Buenos Aires: Prostitution, Family, and Nation in Argentina, (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1992.].
2 Louis A. Pérez, Jr., Cuba: Between Reform and Revolution, 2nd ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995) 53, 55.
3 Fernando Ortiz, Cuban Counterpoint: Tobacco and Sugar, trans. Harriet de On’s (New York: Vintage Books, 1970) 22; Marcy Norton, "The Business of Tobacco in the Spanish Empire, 1590-1636," Working Paper No. 99-20, International Seminar on the History of the Atlantic World, 1500-1800, Harvard University, 3; Jordan Goodman, Tobacco in History: The Cultures of Dependence (London and New York: Routledge, 1993) 47.
4 Ortiz 224, 234-236; Goodman 45, 52.
5 Goodman 59; Jacob M. Price, "The Economic Growth of the Chesapeake and the European Market, 1697-1775," Journal of Economic History 24 (1964): 500. In 1603, England imported 25,000 pounds of tobacco from Spanish America compared to almost 38 million by by 1700 [Goodman 59].
6 Goodman 78.
7 By Atlantic world, I am referring to both sides of the Atlantic, namely the Americas and Europe.
8 The controls on tobacco production included the destruction of poorer quality leaf, which helped to ensure a quality product. Another aspect of the government's attempts to control production was to maintain stable prices for tobacco, a measure which was often requested by New World planters themselves. [See Theodore Saloutos, "Efforts at Crop Control in Seventeenth Century America," Journal of Southern History 12:1 (February 1946): 45-66.]
9 José Pérez Vidal, Espa¯a en la historia del tabaco (Madrid: Imprenta Samarán, 1959) 184.
10 Willem Wubbo Klooster, "Illicit Riches: The Dutch Trade in the Caribbean, 1648-1795," diss., Rijksuniversiteit te Leiden, 1995, 26.
11 Norton 14-15.
12 C.M. MacInnes, The Early English Tobacco Trade (London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner and Co., 1926) 97, 159; Saloutos, 51, 61-65. Although intended to be a party to this agreement, Maryland's governor refused. [Saloutos 61-62].
13 MacInnes 53; Alfred Rive, "A Brief History of Regulation and Taxation of Tobacco in England, Second installment" William and Mary Quarterly 2nd ser. 9:2 (April 1929): 79-82.
14 Arthur Pierce Middleton, "The Chesapeake Convoy System, 1662-1763" William and Mary Quarterly 3rd ser. 3:2 (April 1946): 183-185. These attacks on the Chesapeake Bay occurred in 1664 and in 1673.
15 Jacob M. Price, France and the Chesapeake: A History of the French Tobacco Monopoly, 1674-1791, and of Its Relationship to the British and American Tobacco Trades, vol. 1 (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1973) 11-12, 17-19, 124-126.
16 Tobacco monopolies were instituted in Peru (1745), Chile and La Plata (1753), Santo Domingo (1763), Mexico (1764), Guatemala (1766), Colombia (1778), Venezuela (1779), and Puerto Rico (1785). See David Lorne McWatters, "The Royal Tobacco Monopoly in Bourbon Mexico, 1764-1810," Ph.D. diss., University of Florida, 1979, 1, 11, 13, 24.
17 José Rivero Mu¯iz, Tabaco: Su historia en Cuba, t. 1 (Havana: Insituto de Historia, 1964) 90; Jaime Suchlicki, From Columbus to Castro and Beyond, 4th ed. (Washington and London: Brasseys, 1997) 27; José Rivero Mu¯iz, Las tres sediciones de los vegueros en el siglo XVIII (Havana: Academia de la Historia de Cuba, 1951) 38.
18 For Mexico, see David Lorne McWaters, "The Royal Tobacco Monopoly in Bourbon Mexico, 1764-1810," diss., University of Florida, 1979, 1, 32, 60. For Cuba, see Archivo General de Indias (hereafter cited as AGI), Papeles Procedentes de Cuba (hereafter PC), Legajo 1088, Letter from Andres Joseph Carrillo, San Juan de Remedios, to Bucarely, 27 julio 1768; AGI, PC, Legajo 1096, Carta circular de la Habana, 19 junio 1771; AGI, PC, 1143, Letter to Juan Antonio Ayanz de Ureta, Havana, 20 mayo 1772; AGI, PC, Legajo 1168, Letter from Lieutenant Governor of Puerto Principe to Marquis de la Torre, 6 junio 1772; AGI, PC, Legajo 1143, Letter to Juan Antonio Ayanz de Ureta, Havana, 5 agosto 1772; AGI, PC, Legajo 1193, Letter from Ambrosio Perez Baes, Macuriges, to Marquis de la Torre, 8 diciembre 1772; AGI, PC, Legajo 1192, Letter from Vicente del Castillo, El Cano, to Captain General, 5 febrero 1773 among others.
19 AGI, PC, Legajo 1317, Notice, Filipinas, 10 noviembre 1782; AGI, PC, Legajo 1077, Letter to Sr. Bentura Doral, Puerto Principe, from Bucarely, Havana, 31 marzo 1766. The first document contains a list of individuals who had not turned in the tobacco that was credited to them on a previous tazmia.
20 Price, "Merchants and Planters "Merchants and Planters: The Market Structure of the Colonial Chesapeake Reconsidered," Tobacco in Atlantic Trade: The Chesapeake, London and Glasgow 1675-1775, Jacob M. Price, (Aldershot, England: Variorum, 1995.) 16-17.
21 Mary McKinney Schweitzer, "Economic Regulation and the Coloial Economy: The Maryland Tobacco Inspection act of 1747," Journal of Economic History 40:3 (September 1980): 555.
22 Price, France and the Chesapeake, 303, 328.
23 Price, France and the Chesapeake, 357-359.
24 AGI, PC, Legajo 1167, Letter from Esteban Rodriguez del Pino to Marquis de la Torre, 17 enero 1772; AGI, PC, Legajo 1193, Letter from Ambrosio Perez Baes, Macuriges, to Marquis de la Torre, 8 diciembre 1772; AGI, PC, Legajo 1090, Letter from Bucarely, 20 octubre 1768.
25 AGI, PC, Legajo 1181, Letter from Lorenzo del Escobál, Matanzas, to Captain General, 3 noviembre 1773.
26 AGI, PC, Legajo 1080, Letter from Juan Gommin y Lleonarto, Bayamo, to Bucarely, 18 marzo 1767; Klooster 72.
27 Klooster 72.
28 AGI, PC, Legajo 1087, Letter from Felipe Bellos, Sancti Spiritus, to Bucarely, 24 agosto 1766; AGI, PC, Legajo 1144, Letter from Marquis de la Torre, Havana, 11 agosto 1774; AGI, PC, Legajo 1174, Letter from Martin de Assanza to Marquis de la Torre, 15 agosto 1774; AGI, PC, Legajo 1088, Gutierrez to Bucarely, 31 julio 1768.
29 AGI, PC, Legajo 1176, Letter to Marquis de la Torre from Joseph de Alvarado, Trinidad, 14 septiembre 1776.
30 AGI, PC, Legajo 1093, Letter from Thomas de la Luz, Pinar del Rio, 25 mayo 1768; AGI, PC, Legajo 1261, Letter from vegueros and Ramon Lloret, Filipina, to Captain General, 31 mayo 1780; AGI, PC, Legajo 1261, Letter to Captain General, 4 diciembre 1780; AGI, PC, Legajo 1317, Letter from Gabriel del Mier, Filipina, to Lieutenant Governor, 9 marzo 1781.
31 AGI, PC, Legajo 1096, Tazmia, Partido del Cano y San Pedro, 6 mayo 1771; AGI, PC, Legajo 1174, Tazmia of Tobacco, Partido de Bayamo et. al, 28 febrero 1773; AGI, PC, Legajo 1174, Letter from Martin de Assanza, Bayamo, to Marquis de la Torre and Tazmia,
32 AGI, PC, Legajo 1193, Tazmia, Partido de Xiaxaco, 7 julio 1776.
33 AGI, PC, Legajo 1088, Letter from Juan Gutierrez, Sancti Spiritus, to Bucarely, 31 julio 1768.
34 AGI, PC, Legajo 1154, Letter from Marquis de la Torre, Havana, to Don Nicolas Josef Rapun, 16 febrero 1774; AGI, PC, Legajo 1154, Letter from Marquis de la Torre, Havana, to Don Nicolas Josef Rapun, 6 abril 1774. This procedure of rewarding informants was also practiced in Mexico [McWaters, 37].
35 AGI, PC, Legajo 1238, Letter from Sr. Navarro, Havana, to Urriza, 6 agosto 1779; AGI, PC, Legajo 1238, Letter from Urriza, Havana, to Navarro, 18 septiembre 1779; AGI, PC, Legajo 1238, Letter from Urriza, Havana, to Navarro, 22 septiembre 1779; AGI, PC, Legajo 1238, Letter from Urriza, Havana, to Navarro, 26 octubre 1779; AGI, PC, Legajo 1238, Letter from Urriza, Havana, to Navarro, 8 noviembre 1779; AGI, PC, Legajo 1238, Letter from Urriza, Havana, to Navarro, 9 noviembre 1779; AGI, PC, Legajo 1238, Letter from Urriza, Havana, to Navarro, 13 noviembre 1779.
36 I.A. Wright, "The Dutch and Cuba, 1609-1643," Hispanic American Historical Review 4: 4 (November 1921): 600;
37 Wright 600; Klooster 137.
38 Marcus Rediker, "`Under the Banner of King Death': The Social World of Anglo-American Pirates, 1716 to 1726," William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd ser. 38:2 (April 1981): 205, 218.
39 Rediker 218. Italics in original.
40 Neville Williams, Contraband Cargoes: Seven Centuries of Smuggling, (Hamden, CN: Shoe String Press, 1961) 145.
41 G. Edward White, "The Marshall Court and International Law: The Piracy Cases," American Journal of International Law 83:4 (October 1989): 732.
42 Williams 62.
43 Williams xii