The Government had then recently passed a measure (17 Geo. 111. c. 7.) to encourage privateering by authorising the Admiralty to grant commissions, and apparently English sailors were everywhere readily taking advantage of the opportunity so afforded for their enterprise. (See Lecky. History of Eighteenth Century, vol. iv. ch. xiv.) But to obtain such a commission the applicant had to find the security of sureties, of whose `sufficiency' the commissioners were to satisfy themselves, and also to send in a written application specifying the ship for which the commission was asked, with full details as to the number of her guns and other matters. He surely could not have ventured to place himself in the hands of the Government in this way without a friend at Court. It certainly seems a fair inference from their popularity, their fame, and from the fact that they both rose to leading positions amongst the smugglers while still comparatively young, that Harry Carter and his brother John were superior men to the rough material of which their crews were probably composed.
The accounts of the actual smuggling in the following pages are not very elaborate, but we must remember that at the time when Harry Carter was writing (1809), John Carter and the `Cove boys' were still at it, and Prussia Cove had not yet ceased to be a great centre of smugglers. This would also explain the absence of any more particular reference to any of his companions. This reticence, which we must respect, although we may regret it, is quite compensated for by the variety of his later experiences.
To have been a prisoner in France during the Reign of Terror, and at a time when the Convention had decreed that no quarter should be given to an Englishman (Carlyle. French Revolution, bk. iii. eh. iv.) is of itself no small claim on the attention of his countrymen. From his account, which is, I believe, unique in English literature, and especially when it is compared with those of French writers, it would seem that the English, who were, of course, prisoners of war, were placed on the same footing as the `aristocrats' and ` suspects,' the great number of whom made it necessary to utilise the convents and even private houses as prisons. Alexandrine des Echerolles tells us (Private Life in Public Calamities) that `Bread was distributed daily to the prisoners, and their pitchers were filled every morning with fresh water. Those who could not pay the turnkeys for their trouble got none, so the rich used to bestow alms upon the poor in this form . . . . Once a fortnight, I think, they were supplied with fresh straw, or what was called such, each person received an armful.' She mentions that by degrees the prisoners managed to make themselves more comfortable by introducing tables, and chairs, and mattresses, which they were compelled to leave behind on their removal to other prisons. All this coincides very closely with Harry Carter's account, and he seems to have shared their anxiety as to the fate of his friends and the common anticipation of the guillotine.