With smuggling already rife by the end of the seventeenth century, an Act of 1719 decreed that gangs of eight or more smugglers would be liable to transportation, but this had little or no effect. By the mid-eighteenth century, smugglers were openly running goods ashore on the entire seaboard of the United Kingdom but predominantly on the Channel coast. In 1751, a scheme for a properly organised and funded anti-smuggling force received little support due to the inherent cost involved, however the Revenue department was at least given more and better equipment, most notably the fast and well-armed revenue cutters which soon became the trademark of the service. Unfortunately, the calibre of the men employed was generally poor with corruption a major obstacle to the extent that smuggling actually increased as the century wore on. In 1779, with England once again at war with most of continental Europe, it was estimated that the greater part of the 3,867,000 gallons of gin distilled annually at Schiedam, in Holland, was earmarked for the English black market.
Despite the dashing elegance of the revenue cutters, smuggling continued to thrive and only after the peace of 1815 was the government finally able to tackle the problem with any chance of success.