Con­tra­band: Smug­gling and the Birth of the Amer­i­can Century

  • From the Publisher
May 19, 2015

In the frigid win­ter of 1875, fed­er­al agents tracked Charles L. Lawrence, an inti­mate of Boss Tweed and the most promis­cu­ous smug­gler in Amer­i­can his­to­ry. Lead­ing a net­work span­ning four con­ti­nents and last­ing half a decade, Charley” snuck silk worth $60 mil­lion into the Unit­ed States.

Since the Rev­o­lu­tion itself, smug­gling had test­ed the patri­o­tism of the Amer­i­can peo­ple. Dis­trust­ing for­eign goods, Con­gress insti­tut­ed high tar­iffs, mak­ing the cus­tom­house the nation’s pro­tec­tor. It waged a war on smug­gling,” inspect­ing every trav­el­er for illic­it­ly import­ed silk, opi­um, tobac­co, sug­ar, dia­monds, and art. The Civ­il War’s block­ade of the Con­fed­er­a­cy height­ened the obses­sion with con­tra­band, but smug­gling entered its prime dur­ing the Gild­ed Age, when char­ac­ters like assas­sin Louis Bier­al, econ­o­mist The Parsee Mer­chant,” Con­gress­man Ben But­ler, and actress Rose Eytinge clashed on the nation’s bor­ders. Only as the Unit­ed States became a glob­al pow­er did smug­gling lose its scurvy romance.

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