The People of Gibraltar
1742 - Committing Actions with Impunity

William Hargrave and Captain Preston - Isaac Nieto and Sabine
Bartholome Danino and Juan Bertuloso - Philip Bertuloso and General Bland
Giovanni Battista Sturla and Geronimo Role - Captain John Fleming and Alice Cullum
Isaac Espinosa and Elizabeth Hargrave - Elizabeth Reburn 
Lieutenant-General William Hargrave was by no means the last of a long line of corrupt Governors of Gibraltar, but he was definitely one of the worst. A true soldier, he had fought in the Low Countries, taken part in the Battle of Cadiz and of Vigo Bay and had been present in the Siege of Barcelona. He had been active during the Jacobite Rebellion and had helped the Governor of Jersey put down a military riot. He was an obstinate man and the exasperated tone of much of his correspondence with his bosses in London, Lisbon and elsewhere suggests that he probably thought he was quite entitled to do whatever he pleased as Governor of Gibraltar.
The Battle of Vigo Bay – Hargrave is in there somewhere. He was a young man at the time.
Unlike his predecessors who mainly contented themselves with collecting as much money as possible before they were retired or replaced, Hargrave’s actions seem to have permeated the whole fabric of civilian life on the Rock. A good example was the lengthy saga concerning the repairs to the Catholic Cathedral. To cover the expense he raised subscription among the locals who gave as generously as they could afford. Some of the materials required to carry out the repairs would have to be imported from overseas and he  took the decision to build a new quay in order to make unloading easier. To pay for this extra cost Hargrave levied a tax of one dollar on each barrel of wine sold on the Rock.
In the event half the cathedral was demolished and the Governor used the stones to build new storehouses in the Esplanade – the now demolished site of the old Villa Vieja. He then pocketed the subscription money and ordered that the repairs to the Cathedral be carried out by soldiers. He managed to do this without having to pay a penny. Any soldier caught swearing at any time was forced to work for free.
On another occasion one of the local bakers was obliged to bake and sell lighter loaves in order to compensate for the extortionate price of flour. When Hargrave found out he ordered the baker to be thrown out of Gibraltar. His exile didn’t last too long as he soon found out that a bribe of thirty dollars would allow him back into town. He must have ground his teeth in frustration but he paid up.
In the summer of 1744 things got so bad that even the officers of the Garrison were finding it hard to get any fresh food. A large number of them wrote a letter of complaint to their commanding officer so that he in turn might present it to the Governor. When Hargrave read the memorial he blew his top and threatened to put the whole lot under arrest for mutiny. In the end he wisely decided to desist but word of the affair got back to London and he was forced to issue a general order which stated categorically that soldiers and officers were entitled to bring into the garrison just about anything they wanted and that nobody, not even the Governor himself, was entitled to stop them.
The officers who had written the complaint were understandably overjoyed. Their delight proved premature. A day later when a boat arrived from Tetuan with some sheep for a Jewish merchant a fault was found with his vessel. It was only after a long delay that the master was allowed to sell his sheep at a ridiculously low price to the butcher appointed by the Governor. Other boats from Tangier and elsewhere carrying other produce were treated in the same way.
A bark from Spain with a large quantity of live cattle - and a permit from the Governor to land the cargo at Devil’s Tower - was unable to do so because the master found it impossible to sell at the price offered by Hargrave’s butcher. He was forced to go to Ceuta to see if he had better luck there. On the other hand any ship arriving from the Barbary under the protection of naval warships would find no difficulty in landing large quantities of cattle ‘for the Governor’s butchery’.

Contemporary picture of the Rock showing another tower on the isthmus - La Torre del Molino. It also no longer exists. A rather obscure Devil’s Tower is shown on the bottom left.

A short while later Hargrave produced a second garrison order which completely contradicted the first. Officers were expressly forbidden to order provisions from outside the garrison unless ‘the governor is acquainted and permits.’ The officers, in a state of almost open rebellion petitioned their commanding officer yet again. The letter contained a reference to an event which according to them had ‘made some noise in the world’. It concerned a certain Captain Preston who while on guard duty at Waterport had been unable to resist the temptation of buying himself a turbot for his dinner from a local fisherman – for which of course neither he nor the fisherman had ever paid the required levies. He was court marshalled. His defence, which was read out in court, was based on the ‘sort of reasoning which begins and ends with the same sentence, viz. Necessity has no law’.
Preston was well aware that there was no chance at all of him not being cashiered and must have made the decision to throw all caution to the winds and tell the story exactly as it was. His speech in his own defence is a lengthy denunciation of the way in which Gibraltar was governed.  The following is a small extract;
The present scarcity and want of almost everything is from the Governor's severity; for have not all his orders a selfish view, and tendency to distress? Has he not forbid bringing into town any provisions, but in such as he is interested? Has he not ordered all bundles and baskets to be searched at the gates for beef or mutton? Is it not with the greatest reluctance he suffers any cattle to be landed for the use of the poor sick seamen in the hospital? Has he not inhumanly whipped a soldier of the regiment I belong to, for killing a sheep of his own, by sentence of an illegal court created by himself called a garrison court martial? Would he suffer so much as a sheep to be brought ashore for any private family?
Preston was duly found guilty and cashiered, and Hargrave continued as before. A few days after the trial he issued another order to the garrison. It seemed to be a reminder of others issued in the past on the same topic. It concerned the ban on using soldiers for ‘portering, carrying burdens or being employed in any laborious work whatsoever ‘as it seemed that ‘several people take it upon themselves to employ soldiers in such work to the apparent detriment to his Majesties service.’
Old print of a Catalan Bay fishing vessel. The village itself is probably somewhere to the right
Several days later a very similar order was posted on the Grand Parade much to the surprise of the Garrison as orders given to them had never before been made known to the civilian population. The wording of the order was similar to the original one except that it included the following threat: 
. . . whatever inhabitants, merchant or others, shall employ any soldier to carry any kind of burden or any manner of dirty work for them shall be deemed seducers and encouragers of the soldiers to act in defiance of the duty they owe his Majesty.
Superficially the order appears quite laudable as it seemed designed to protect the discipline of the soldiers and to keep them - as described by a contemporary writer who had lived on the Rock for five years - ‘clean and orderly’. The truth of course lay elsewhere. Hargrave wanted everybody to use the local porters from which he extracted a good amount in taxes. In fact the levies he insisted upon were so unreasonably high that the Genoese found they couldn’t make a living out of portering and ended up refusing to pay. Hargrave had the lot imprisoned and then thrown out of town and the Jews took up the slack.
The Jewish population were well used to this kind of arbitrary taxation. It was a commonplace in Barbary. They also had one big advantage over everybody else. Hargrave’s secretary at that time was none other than Isaac Nieto, ( see LINK ) the chief Rabbi of Gibraltar. He must have saved more than one Jewish merchant’s bacon at one time or the other – if such a cliché can be considered appropriate in the circumstances.
In any case the Jews probably preferred to pay any price as long as they were allowed to remain. Jews were finding it harder to enter the Rock. The authorities were apprehensive that arms and ammunitions were being smuggled into the garrison from Barbary inside the ‘bellies of live cattle and the crops of fowl’ and the Governor would of course not allow these to land without a permit. In reality it was just another ploy to make money. In is also hard to understand how arms and ammunitions could possibly be hidden inside a ‘live’ cow.
The Governor, in othjer words, found it very easy to obtain whatever amount of money he wanted from any merchant ship or boat coming into Gibraltar. All vessels entering the bay were required to fly their colours. If they didn’t a shot was fired in front of the ship, then astern and finally directly at her until she hoisted them. Once allowed in she was boarded by a ‘practic boat’ which was based at the Practic House in Water Port.
Old Photograph of Water Port Gate looking towards the Casemates. The Practic House must have been about a hundred yards in front of the two officers in the Water Port itself
If the officers on board the ‘practic’ decided not to give her a clean bill of health she would not be allowed to unload her cargo. Nor could she receive permission to obtain water or other provisions and to add insult to injury the master would be required to pay for the costs of any shots fired at her. Little wonder then that most ships wanting to do business in Gibraltar just paid whatever bribes were necessary and got on with it. 
This kind of extortion became so extreme that for a while all trade with the Barbary Coast came to a halt. When a sloop and a xebeck from Tetuan were subjected to the usual extortionate demands they refused to comply and returned home without landing their goods. The new king of Mauritania - Muley Abdallah ‘was greatly disobliged’ and promptly closed all trade with Gibraltar. He also threatened to ‘set out some vessels with all expedition to cruise against the English’.
Hargrave – who was ultimately responsible for the whole affair – tried desperately to solve the problem by asking the treasury for money to pay the Pasha for debts that he claimed were owing to him for various inconveniences. He hoped that London would consider it ‘absolutely necessary that all bills should be paid, least, as the Basha threatened, he should pay himself by taking of our merchant ships;’  which the Basha duly did by detaining a Scottish ship from Stranraer and two vessels from Gibraltar.
Luckily for Hargrave the closure was temporary and Abdallah quickly decided there was little to gain by taking on the might of the Royal Navy. As the Governor was well aware, if the commerce with Barbary was cut off the ‘garrison can expect no fresh provisions from any other part, the Spaniards having long ago taken care to prevent the bringing of anything of that kind from their country.’ A week later a couple of dozen fishermen were forced to leave the port and orders were issued not to allow them back. They hadn’t paid their dues.
The storehouses built in the Esplanade with ill-gotten cathedral stones all ended up being owned by Jewish merchants one of which was even able to afford  paying a huge bribe in order to be allowed to distil alcohol. No wonder they scabbed on their Genoese friends. Economically, Gibraltar was proving a very good place for the Jews. In fact the strike by the porters lost the Genoese their former dominant role in this kind of work and for next hundred odd years there would always be fewer Genoese than Jewish porters.



Porters unloading goods at Waterport. These men were ‘uncommon stout athletic men from the opposite Coast of Barbary employed by merchants to load and ship their cargoes. Their dress was peculiar, consisting of a coloured cap, a waistcoat with short sleeves having the arms above the elbows bare and a jacket without collar or sleeves, a pair of petticoat trousers down to the knee with coloured sash tied round their waists. Their necks and arms were bare and they used a pair of Moorish slippers on their feet.’

Ships from Barbary and Spain and elsewhere may have found it both expensive and frustrating to do business with Gibraltar. But they came nevertheless. Both the ship masters and the locals must have found ways of their own to bend the rules. That can’t have been the first turbot that fisherman ever sold and he can’t have been the only fisherman on the Rock who sold his catch without paying any sort of levy or tax.
Muley Abdallah’s threats sound absurd but the importance of Tangier, Tetuan and Mogador for ensuring a continuous supply of essential products in the face of Spanish hostility ensured that the British took them seriously.  As Captain Drinkwater ( see LINK ) of Great Siege fame reminded us in the late 18th century, ‘the Moors, in times of peace, supply the garrison with ox-beef, mutton, veal, and poultry. Fruits of all kinds such as melons, oranges, green figs, grapes, pomegranates etc are brought in abundance from Barbary.’
In a pamphlet published in 1748 under the title of Three Letters, the author indignantly claimed that the Governors of Gibraltar frequently acted in 
. . . . a more arbitrary and tyrannical manner than would have been permitted in Turkey. Their power, being restricted by no civil jurisdiction was essentially unlimited and they have often ‘committed actions with impunity for which a Turkish Bashaw would have lost his head.
He gives the example of a Jewish resident who was kidnapped by the Governor and sent to Barbary. The poor man was preceded by a message to the Moorish Emperor which told him that he had ‘sent him a fat pigeon to pluck.’ The Jew was later released - probably after paying the huge bribe expected of him - and immediately took the unusual course of taking Sabine to court in London. He must have been incandescent with anger. Taking this kind of response was thoroughly usual for a Jew from Gibraltar. Their instinct told them that there were better ways to get one's revenge.

The case became something of a talking point at the time. The Jewish resident was represented by a lawyer called Nowell and the counsel for the defence was a Scotsman by the name of Murray. During the hearing Murray facetiously tried to make the point that although it was true that the Jew had been banished it was also true that he had been ‘banished’ to the country of his birth. Nowell however turned the tables when he asked his learned friend how he himself would like it if he were to be banished to his own country. One can only hope that the poor Jew got some sort of satisfaction out of all this.
As regards ‘the present Governor General Hargrave’, he had even exceeded the kidnapper and was, ‘perhaps, as great a tyrant as lives.’ Gibraltar, the author insisted, ought to be under military government whenever it was under risk of siege and the Governor ought to have power to remove all ‘suspected or useless people’ out of the place’ if he so wished. But in time of peace there was no good reason why the inhabitants who were neither soldiers nor dependent upon any branch of the military should not be governed by British law with magistrates of their own choosing. Curiously he advocated marriage between Minorcans and the English – with the children of such marriages placed ‘entirely in the hands of Protestants’ – but makes no such similar suggestion for Gibraltar.

Lieutenant General William Hargrave - Governor of Gibraltar
( Abraham Seaman )

Hargrave’s relationship with the Genoese community was just as bad as it was with everybody else on the Rock. A good example is his treatment of Bartholome Danino who had been brought to Gibraltar by his father in 1709 when he was only 9 years old. By the time Hargrave became Governor he had become an important Genoese merchant on the Rock. So much so that he had taken change of most Genoese affairs to such good effect that he was eventually appointed consul. 

By all accounts he was also a generous and kind hearted individual. A case in point is that of his friendship with the family of Juan Bertuloso. This gentleman died intestate during General Sabine’s tenure of office and his son Philip found himself in the unfortunate position of being unable to inherit his father’s house which had been held by the family since 1708 for reasons which were difficult to understand.
Danino took on Philip’s case and soon found out that the claim was being rejected on spurious, not to say illegal grounds by the Judge Advocate of Gibraltar. The real motive for this interference by the strong arm of the law was that Sabine had his eye on Bertuloso’s property . Unable to make the stonewalling Advocate change his mind, Danino took  young Philip under his wing and treated him as part of his own family. Danino lost his case but he did manage to stop Sabine from getting his hands on the property and several years later General Bland, Hargrave’s successor as Governor, adjudged in favour of Philip and gave him back his house.
Like all other Genoese consuls other than Giovanni Battista Sturla ( see LINK ) who never seemed to have had any trouble, Danino found it hard to collect consulate fees from Genoese ships that came to Gibraltar. Unlike Geronimo Role whose collection problems mostly stemmed from a lack of personality, Danino had a legitimate dilemma; most of the Genoese ships that were calling into Gibraltar had transferred their allegiance to the British in order to obtain those ultra-useful Mediterranean Passes. Quite understandably the Genoese captains refused to pay him his due.
Hargrave of course refused to help. There was one occasion when Danino tried to intercede on behalf of the members of the crew of a British ship with the very un-British name of Nostra Signora del Assompta Patroneggiata. The men had come to him with complaints about their Genoese captain, Giuseppe Alimonda. Hargrave intervened and spitefully told him to mind his own business. This, he said, was a British ship.
A Genoese galleass. Similar to the xebeck it was a ship much favoured by both the Genoese and the Venetians. Many of these must have called into Gibraltar during the beginning of the 18th century. Nostra Signora del Assompta Patroneggiata was probably a galleass
Later in 1745 Genoa became a French ally during the War of the Austrian Succession and became an enemy of Britain. Hargrave charcteristically over-reacted and threatened to expel all the Genoese from Gibraltar on the grounds that they were now enemy aliens. It is almost certain that the Governor had quickly realized that the situation lent itself to exploitation. 

Special permissions to remain on the Rock in exchange for large sums of money became the order of the day. Several years later a few - presumably those that couldn’t or wouldn’t pay - were forced to leave for Tetuan. Danino must have been one of those who paid up as he was allowed to stay. He had after all been a resident on the Rock for nearly 40 years. When the war ended finally came to an end most of the Genoese came back and everything went back to normal.
The Battle of Fontenoy – A major defeat of Anglo-Dutch forces by the French during the War of the Austrian Succession
Or perhaps one should say worse than normal. Throughout his term of office Hargrave employed a certain Captain John Fleming as his private secretary. He was  reputed to have been and even greater scoundrel than his master. One of the more notorious cases involving this officer was that of Alice Cullum, a British resident of Gibraltar. When Alice was 14 years old her mother died and she inherited both her house and a few small debts. Fleming apparently met her one day walking up Main Street and made her an offer; if she agreed to come and live with him as his housemaid he would pay off all her debts ‘and she should have her house clear and another with it.’
Alice, who was both pretty and principled, indignantly refused what she quite rightly interpreted as an indecent proposal. A month later she found that her tenants were refusing to pay her. When she asked for an explanation she was told that they had been instructed by Fleming to pay their rent to Isaac Espinosa, ( see LINK ) a local Jewish merchant. 

When she went to see Fleming to get him to explain what this was all about, Fleming simply repeated his proposal. When she refused yet again he had her imprisoned for ‘three day and three nights without any particular cause’ in the ‘Lady’s Hole’, which was probably a part of the dungeon in Grand Parade mentioned elsewhere as the ‘Black Hole’.
A year later, Espinosa began to demolish part of the property in order to build a warehouse. Alice’s 80 year old grandmother who lives nearby complained directly to the Governor who promptly also put her in gaol. When Alice also tried to contact the Governor he refused to see her. When she finally managed to take her case to a Board of Enquiry the Court’s recorder found it hard to disguise Hargrave’s arbitrary disdain for the any kind of justice. During the proceeding he had lost his temper and had declared to anybody who might care to listen that ‘he would transport and do as he pleased with' Alice 'and that by God she would never have possession of the house as long as he commanded the Garrison.'
The story had a happy ending in that the Board found in her favour and restored her property. However, once again it is interesting to note that the aggrieved was a Protestant resident. If men like Fleming knew that they could get away with this kind of behaviour with somebody like Alice Cullum how much easier it must have been for him to evict non-British residents on any pretence whatsoever.


1747 annotated Rock showing South Port Gate as Puerta del Campo    (Unknown )     LINK

William Hargrave died soon after he retired, and it was his secretary, Captain Fleming who inherited the bulk of his estate. He did also leave a small legacy to a certain Elizabeth Redburn who had once been his servant. His wife, who died several years later didn’t receive a penny. The Hargraves cannot have had a very good relationship. In fact while he was still alive, Elizabeth Hargrave was forced to petition the Privy Council in order to have a share of her husband’s salary paid to her directly.
There is some evidence to suggest that Elizabeth Reburn and Elizabeth Hargrave are one and the same person. What is certain is that Hargrave had never been formally married. There were, however, no complaints from Fleming who in a flamboyant show of gratitude commissioned an imposing memorial from the French sculpture Louis Francois Roubiliac. Erected in Westminster Abbey where Hargrave was buried, it depicts Hargrave rising from the dead.
William Hargrave’s overwrought monument in Westminster Abbey
Henry Seymour Conway, later  Secretary of State, found time to have something to say both about the monument and the fact that Hargrave had managed to get himself buried in the place.
Since vice and insignificance have entitled people an internment in Westminster Abbey, one General Hargrave has slipt among the crowd.
According to Tito Benady, Conway was by no means the only critic. Shortly after its inauguration somebody scribbled graffiti on the monument. It read; 
Lie still if you’re wise. You’ll be dammed if you rise.