The Life & Uncommon Adventures of Captain Dudley Bradstreet

From Chanticleer Society

Originally written in 1755, this (perhaps slightly exaggerated) auto-biography by Captain Dudley Bradstreet, includes an important written accounting of how he arrived at the scheme to sell gin to Londoners without going afoul of the laws of the day. In those days, it was illegal to sell gin in quantities less than two gallons without endangering oneself to prison time. The laws apparently included a loophole that Captain Bradstreet would take advantage of. In order to be apprehended, the name of the person who owned the home where the gin was being sold had to be known, so by hiding his identity he was able to technically abide by the law as it was written. [1][2]

Below in the excerpt in question, as it was reproduced in a 1929 reprinting of the original, which relied on utilizing copies in the British Museum, and the Bodleian Library.[3]

p. 78

     Now, Reader, prepare yourself to hear nothing from me but Vices, Schemes, and Immoralities; in my Justification I have little more to say than this, they were the only Means I had to live by.
     My first Scheme I went upon was directly opposite to the Laws of England. At this time the selling of Geneva in a less Quantity than two Gallons, was prohibited by Act of Parliament, and whoever presumed to do it must pay ten Pounds to the Informer, or be confined two Months in Prison, and there whipt. Most of the Gaols were full on account of this Act, and Numbers of People every Day dragged to one Prison or other for transgressing this Law.
     The Mob being very noisy and clamorous for want of their beloved Liquor, which few or none at last dared to sell, it soon occurred to me to venture upon that Trade. I bought the Act, and read it over several times, and found no Authority by it to break open Doors, and that the Informer must know the Name of the Person who rented the House it was sold in. To evade this, I got an Acquaintance to take a house in Blue Anchor Alley in St. Luke's Parish, who privately convey'd his Bargain to me; I then got it well secured, and laid out in a Bed and other Furniture five Pounds, in Provision and Drink that would keep about two Pounds, and purchased in Moorfields the Sign of a Cat, and had it nailed to a Street Window; I then caused a Leaden Pipe, the small End out about an Inch, to be placed under the Paw of the Cat; the End that was within had a Funnel to it.
     When my house was ready for Business, I enquired what Distiller in London was most famous for good Gin, and was assured by several, that it was Mr. L--dale in Holbourn: To him I went and laid out thirteen Pounds, which was all the Money I had, except two Shillings, and told him my Scheme, which he approved of. This Cargo was sent off to my House, at the Back of which there was a Way to go in or out. When the Liquor was properly disposed, I got a Person to inform a few of the Mob, that Gin would be sold by the Cat at my Window the next Day, provided they put the Money in its Mouth, from whence there was a Hole that conveyed it to me. At night I took Possession of my Den, and got up early next Morning to be ready for Custom; it was near three Hours before any body called, which made me almost despair of the Project; at last I heard the Chink of Money, and a comfortable Voice say, "Puss, give me two Pennyworth of Gin." I instantly put my mouth to the Tube, and bid them receive it from the Pipe under the Paw, and then measured and poured it into the Fennel, from whence they soon received it. Before Night I took six Shillings, the next Day above thirty Shillings, and afterwards three or four Pounds a Day; from all Parts of London People used to resort to me in such Numbers, that my Neighbours could scarcely get in our out of their Houses. After this manner I went on for a Month, in which time I cleared upwards of two and twenty Pounds.