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of ten knots, it made seizures only by accident. Another ship, the U.S. Grant, began service on Puget Sound in the 1890s. The Grant, however, was even older and slower than the Wolcott. Such revenue cutters carried a full complement of less than thirty men. The ships' commanders were under orders to maintain surveillance over the waters of Puget Sound and to visit all ports within the district every sixty days. Adding to the problems of distance, faulty communications between the cutters and the customhouse further reduced the effectiveness of the revenue marine. 12

Land-based procedures were no better. Usually fewer than twenty inspectors were

stationed in Port Townsend, which because of its status as port of entry in the district experienced a very large volume of sea traffic. In the 1880s only the San Francisco customhouse issued more Chinese labor certificates than the Port Townsend facility. Lack of funds hampered supervision of subports and border posts. Successive collectors complained to the secretary of the treasury that the harbors of Port Angeles and Dungeness witnessed open smuggling after staff cuts left them without inspectors. One man was stationed at the Blaine border crossing, but the department refused an appropriation for a mounted inspector to patrol the surrounding woods. The one inspector was expected to guard the American border from the Gulf of Georgia to Mount Bakera distance of about one hundred milesand another stationed at Fort Colville kept watch theoretically over hundreds of miles of inland border. In addition, the Customs Bureau experimented with female inspectors who were placed aboard passenger steamers to catch small-scale smugglers and

12 M. W. Drew to George W. Bailey, Sept. 12, 1872, and D. F. Frazier to Andrew Wasson, Nov. 20, 1891, Subject File of Letters Received, 1871-1913, vol. 8, RG 36, FRC Seattle; Port Townsend Northwest, Dec.

1860; Port Townsend Message, Sept. 8, 1869; Port Townsend Argus, Feb. 6, 1875; Capron, Coast Guard, pp. 15, 17-19; U.S., Department of the Treasury, Bureau of Navigation, List of Merchant Vessels of the United States (Washington, D. C., 1889), p. 395.


Port Townsend Customs House in the late 1890s. (This photograph and those following are from Pacific Monthly, 1910).

also supported a few Canadian informers by sharing cash derived from the sale of seized articles. 13

Heavy traffic in opium failed to stir public opinion or force more concerted federal action against smuggling. This is not surprising, since social disquietude about opium developed later in the United States, at least fifteen years after the routes and pattern of massive drug smuggling had become fastened habits. As late as the 1890s most observers assumed that smoking-opium was used almost exclusively by resident Chinese and posed no great threat to the health or morals of most Americans. Well into the twentieth century opium smuggling remained no greater a crime in the eyes of the public than any other form of illicit trading. Importation of opium had been legal since 1840; its smuggling was the result, not of an attempt to avoid social wrath, but of the urge to evade high import duties. Prior to passage of the Harrison Act of 1914, federal concern with opium had a primarily economic cast. The Internal Revenue Act of 1890, for example, levied a tax of ten dollars per pound on smoking-opium

manufactured in the United States; the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 merely required proper labeling for interstate opium shipments. In the meantime, customs inspectors were confronted with a drug traffic that included both highly organized rings and small freelance operations and that supplied a population of addicts estimated by 1908 to include 52,000 Chinese and 100,000 to 150,000 non-Chinese in this country. Public apathy was reflected in jury verdicts, for the rate of conviction was very low and sentences light.14

Similarly, efforts of the Bureau of Customs to stop the flow of Chinese laborers into the United States were hamstrung by legal and financial difficulties. Enactment of an immigration policy explicitly barring Chinese in 1882 was not accompanied by appropriations that might have made effective enforcement by government officers possible. The Puget Sound collector, notified early in August 1882 that henceforth ·most Chinese laborers were to be denied entry, directed his deputies to refuse Chinese merchant seamen the right to come

13 Quincy Brooks to Secretary of the Treasury, Aug. 24, Sept. 13, 26, 1888, Addressee Files of Letters Sent, 1878-1910, vol. 6, RG 36, FRC Seattle; Port Townsend Argus, Dec. 29, 1870, Aug. 23, 1883; Port Townsend Leader, Nov. 14, 1889. Evidence of the activities of informers in Canada can be found in Telegrams Received, 1881-88, vol. 2, RG 36, FRC Seattle.

14 Arnold H. Taylor, American Diplomacy and the Narcotics Traffic, 1900-1939: A Study in International Humanitarian Reform (Durham, 1969), pp. 3-4, 25-27, 30, 54-60, 126; Foster Rhea Dulles, The Old China Trade (New York, 1970), pp. 147151; Ernest S. Bishop, The Narcotic Drug Problem (New York, 1920), pp. 95-113; Reports of Seizures to the United States District Attorney, 1889-97, Outgoing Subject Correspondence, vol. 8, RG 36, FRC Seattle.

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ashore for any purpose.15 It was soon apparent, however, that no thought had been given to the problem of what to do with the hundreds of penniless Chinese who had been arrested by customs inspectors. When the president ordered Collector A. W. Bash to return captured Chinese to Victoria, the collector found himself required to submit detailed expense vouchers to the Treasury Department, and final payment was uncertain and slow at best. Bash sought to stem the tide of illegal entrants by recruiting private citizens willing to hunt down the Chinese and their white smugglers and at one point even asked the territorial governor for militia. These expedients failed. The collector's claim that one hundred Chinese entered the district illegally every two weeks went unheeded, as did his insistence that "a larger protective force was absolutely necessary to enforce the restriction act.” 16

Lacking clear guidelines and adequate funds, the Customs Bureau also carried on its responsibilities without any real cooperation from the Canadian government. This was a major problem for the Puget Sound District. Most of the opium smuggled into the sound and surrounding region was processed in Victoria and Vancouver where its open manufacture was permitted in over twenty factories. Victoria was already one of the major ports north of San Francisco, and virtually all large steamers and most small trading vessels stopped there. Puget Sound steamers-such as the Eliza Anderson, Idaho, and George E. Starr-carried large quantities of processed opium stashed aboard by crewmen and passengers from Victoria and later from Vancouver and New Westminster to American ports. The

principal ports of British Columbia also served as Chinese labor pools, for despite scattered objections from white Canadians, entry into Canada remained almost unrestricted. The Canadian Pacific Railroad, like its American counterparts, imported thousands of Chinese to help with construction. At the close of 1883, completion of that railroad was followed by the release of an estimated nine thousand Chinese workers. Joined by newly arriving Chinese, the unemployed coolies gathered in Victoria, Vancouver, Port Moody, and New Westminster awaiting an opportunity to cross into the United States. American officials complained that unscrupulous agents of the Canadian Pacific Steamship Company lured thousands more Chinese to Canada by issuing through-tickets from China to the United States. It was charged, also, that an efficient underground railroad helped Asians cross the border with the knowledge and connivance of Canadian authorities.17

American complaints about the refusal of British Columbia to accept returned Chinese without payment of a fifty dollar per capita tax were made against a backdrop of continuing disagreement over tariff policies between the United States and Canada. By October 1890 the issue of illegal entry from Canada had become a major one. The matter was referred to London by the Canadian government, and the British reply in the fall 1892 was an official denial that through-tickets had been issued or that Chinese were congregating in Canadian ports in hope of emigrating to the United States.18 Yet there is impressive conflicting

17 Taylor, American Diplomacy and Narcotics, pp. 58-59; William D. Welsh, A Brief Historical Sketch of Port Townsend, Washington, 10th ed. (Port Townsend, 1965), p. 10; Port Townsend Leader, Oct. 30, Dec. 3, 1889; Port Townsend Argus, June 30, 1876, Apr. 26, Sept. 27, Nov. 8, 22, 1883; British Colonist, quoted in Port Townsend Argus, Sept. 27, 1883; Bash to Thomas Stratton, July 7, 1883, Telegrams Rec'd., vol. I, RG 36, FRC Seattle.

18 James Morton Callahan, American Foreign Policy in Canadian Relations (New York, 1937), pp. 358-359, 394-395, 414, 429.

15 W. French to Bash, Aug. 8, 1882, and Bash to William Harned, Aug. 10, 1882, Telegrams Rec'd., vol. 1, RG 36, FRC Seattle.

16 French to Bash, July 12, 1883, Bash to Secretary of the Treasury, Aug. 7, 1883, Bash to A. L. Blake, Dec. 1883, Outgoing Subject Correspondence, vol. 5, RG 36, FRC Seattle.

evidence. O. L. Spaulding, a special agent of the Treasury Department, found in 1885 that the Puget Sound District was the scene of large-scale violations of immigration laws. "At Port Townsend," he reported, “the Chinese business till lately . . . apparently ‘ran' itself, or, to speak more accurately, everybody seems to have ‘run' it." 19 The certificates that were supposed to prove prior residency were easily obtained; some were mailed on request to Chinese in Victoria.20 Later, after hearings throughout the district, a congressional committee concluded that about 300 Chinese

entered illegally from British Columbia each year, but other estimates placed the figure much higher. One inspector reported monthly averages of 172 Chinese and 1,400 pounds of opium by sea routes alone.21 There are no reliable statistics for the number of Asians refused entry, but opium seizures, which represented only a fraction of the amount smuggled, totaled 16,282 pounds for the years 1883 to 1903.22

Customs Bureau field agents were grimly aware of the fact that they could never wholly stop illicit commerce. They could

21 Chinese Immigration, House Report 4048, 51 Cong., 2 sess., Serial 2890; C. E. Munn, Chinese inspector, to Charles Bradshaw, July 3, 1890, Leiters Rec'd. from Subports and Inspectors, vol. 74, RG 36, FRC Seattle.

22 Registers of Seizures, Fines, Penalties, and Forfeitures, 1869-1903, passim, RG 36, FRC Seattle.

P. I,

19 Letter from the Secretary of the Treasury, Transmitting ... Reports of Special Agent Spaulding Relative to the Charge of Fraudulent Importation of Chinese, Senate Ex. Doc. 103, pp. 7-8, 49 Cong., 1 sess., Serial 2340.

20 Ibid.

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and did make smuggling difficult and risky. Aided by informers' tips, small teams of land-based officers and support vessels of the revenue marine managed to track down and arrest dozens of smugglers. Sometimes both smuggler and contraband would be seized, as was the notorious Larry Kelly with his sloop laden to the gunwales with opium. More often, the culprits escaped, deserting their cargoes only if hard pressed. According to legend smugglers who learned of an imminent raid might deposit opium tins or dazed Chinese on one of the hundreds of tiny islands in the sound to be recovered later or might bind up their cargo, be it narcotics or human beings, attach some heavy ballast, and cast it overboard. Such grisly events might have taken place, although documentary evidence exists

only for the less colorful confrontations in which frightened lawbreakers jumped overboard themselves to avoid arrest.23

Nonetheless, sensation-seeking newspapers found useful material in reports of smuggling and federal countermeasures. In midMay 1891, for example, the Port Townsend Leader reported that the Halcyon, a “notorious smuggling vessel," had been sighted in Burrard Inlet. The sixty-three-ton schooner, formerly owned by John D. Spreckels, was now the property of John Whalley of San Francisco. Whalley, so went the story, used the ship to smuggle Chinese and drugs into the United States in great quantities; at least one millon dollars worth of opium was brought in each time. 24 When the revenue cutter Wolcott was unable to locate its prey, customs officials suggested that since the Halcyon had been reported earlier in Hawaii, where opium prices ranged from thirty to seventy dollars per pound instead of the eighteen dollars paid in the Pacific Northwest, any contraband probably had been sold there. An enterprising newspaperman, however, located the mystery vessel anchored in Victoria Harbor, interviewed one of Whalley's partners, and claimed that not only had the Halcyon delivered opium to Hawaii, but it had delivered 3,000 pounds to Barclay Sound, where local smugglers had rendezvoused in small boats before sailing for American ports. Neither the reading public nor customs men received further news of the Halcyon.25 On another occasion early in 1889, the Tacoma Morning Globe announced the discovery by federal officers of two large barrels of opium in the Spokane Falls railroad depot. The 450 pounds of opium, marked as sauerkraut, had been shipped from Victoria and was destined for San Francisco. “Influential


23 E. E. Penn to Frank H. Winslow, Oct. 3, 1887, W. D. Roath to J. C. Saunders, Feb. 23, 1894, Outgoing Subject Correspondence, vols. 6, 8, ibid.; Port Townsend Leader, Oct. 19, 20, 1889.

24 Port Townsend Leader, May 16, 17, 1891. 25 Ibid., May 28, 1891.

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