Beyond these I have mentioned, the literary records are very meagre, but the whole county, and especially the western part, abounds with legends. The smuggling was so universal, that every cove and fishing village on the coast has its own stories, and everywhere the curious visitor is still shown the place where the smugglers landed their cargoes, the secret caves where they stored them, and sometimes, but not often, the places where the `officers' found them. Prussia Cove, beyond all others, has the richest store of such history. Here are little harbours cut out of the solid rock, which are now occupied by innocent fishing boats. The visitor can see a roadway, partly cut and partly worn, crossing the rocks below high water mark, and caves of which the mouths have been built up, and which are reputed to be connected with the house on the cliff above by secret passages.
In the legends of the Cove the personality of John Carter looms so large that his associates are almost if not entirely forgotten, and everything centres around him alone. It was he who cut the harbours and the road, it was he who adapted the caves, and he is the hero of most of the tales which are told of the good old days. One of these stories is worth recording. On one occasion, during his absence from home, the excise officers from Penzance came around in their boats and took a cargo, which had lately arrived from France, to Penzance, where it was secured in the Custom House store. In due course John Carter returned to the Cove and learned the news. What was he to do? He explained to his comrades that he had agreed to deliver that cargo to the customers by a certain day, and his reputation as an honest man was at stake. He must keep his word. That night a number of armed men broke open the stores at Penzance, and the `King of Prussia' took his own again, returning to the Cove without being discovered. In the morning the officers found that the place had been broken open during the night.
They examined the contents, and when they noted what particular things were gone, they said to one another that John Carter had been there, and they knew it, because he was an honest man who would not take anything that did not belong to him. And John Carter kept his word to his customers. The story that he once opened fire on a revenue cutter from a small battery which he had made at the Cove is well known along the coast.
It is characteristic of the history of the smugglers everywhere that they enjoyed the support of popular sympathy. This was certainly the case in West Cornwall, where the farmers, the merchants, and, it is rumoured, the local magistrates, used to find the money with which the business was carried on, investing small sums in each voyage. Harry Carter finding shelter at Marazion when the Government were offering a reward for his capture, and the action of the unnamed `great man of the neighbourhood' on his return from America, are perhaps the reverse of the picture which George Borlase drew for General Onslow Lanisley Letters: ` the countenance given to the smugglers by those whose business it is to restrain these pernicious practices, hath bro't 'em so bold and daring that nobody can venture to come near them with safety whilst they are at their work.' It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that there must have been some powerful influence exerted in his favour to obtain his exchange from prison in France in 1778, and what else can we make of the commission to go privateering against the Americans.