The prohibition of shipments of arms and other contraband resulted from English pressures upon the European powers. Shipments prior to the outbreak of the revolt showed that Denmark shared with the Netherlands in shipments, with three and a half times the amount of cargo in 1777 over the previous year.
Until the French entered the war, the Dutch directly or indirectly supplied the largest amounts of munitions from Europe to the Colonies. After 1776 Andreas Peter Bernstorff (1735-97) sought to placate the British and to prevent any disturbance of Anglo-Danish relations of the Danish trade in the West Indies, where smuggling and illicit trade furnished a profitable business.
In 1776 he sent a proclamation to the West Indian Danish islands but application was left to the discretion of the governor, with the natural consequence that he disregarded both Danish and English prohibitions. A mystery arose in 1782 over the sale of several cannon and munitions to a Danish ship's captain and the destination of the cargo, ostensibly the American Colonies.