The People of Gibraltar
1809 - John Galt - Orang-utans of Gibraltar 

 John Galt was a Scottish novelist. He was born in Irvine, North Ayrshire and was the son of a naval captain. When his family moved to Malden in 1789, Galt became an apprentice junior clerk, and wrote essays and stories for local journals in his spare time. 

He moved to London in 1804 to seek his fortune and in 1809 he began to study law at Lincoln's Inn Very shortly afterwards he spent three years travelling in the Mediterranean. In 1812 he published his Voyages and Travels in the years 1809, 1810, and 1811 which met with moderate success. In was during his travels that he met and befriended Lord Byron

 In 1824, the British Government appointed Galt Secretary to the Canada Company, a charter enterprise which was supposed to be an aid to the colonization of northern Canada. Three years later he founded the Canadian city of Guelph. The community of Galt in Ontario was also named after him.

 He retired to Greenock in Scotland where he wrote and published his two volume Autobiography in 1833.  His Voyages and Travels begin with a four page chapter on Gibraltar which is reproduced here with my comments.

 John Galt  (Unknown )

The Bay 
The Bay of Gibraltar may be described as of semi-oval form. It is about five miles in breadth between the town of Algeciras and the Rock, and probably of the same extent in the contrary direction. The mountains of Andalusia are seen rising at a distance, beyond the hill which has been called the Queen's seat ever since it was the station from which the infamous Queen of Spain surveyed the grand attack on the fortress, and witnessed the destruction of the floating batteries. On turning round, Apes Hill, opposite the mouth of the Bay, forms a majestic central object, from the East and West sides of which, interminable vistas of the African mountains are seen extending. 

Gibraltar from The Queen of Spain's Chair  ( Unknown )

His short introduction to the place manages a quick jibe at Spain while at the same time reminding the reader of perhaps the most well known episode of the Great Siege. He does not reveal the reason why he describes the Spanish Queen as 'infamous' other than she was Spanish. Happily he spares the reader the details as to why the place has retained her name over the years. 
The Fortress 
The fortress, undoubtedly may be called stupendous, and may be regarded as impregnable; but it has not that degree of visible grandeur which its fame and the circumstances of its resistance in the last siege lead one to expect. From the ship's deck not a spot of pasturage can be seen; and the few trees scattered among the buildings and along the ramparts appear so stunted in their growth, and are usually so disguised with dust, that they may be considered rather as memorials than as specimens of vegetation. 
Unlike so many others Galt is unimpressed by Gibraltar's massive fortifications. The truth is that an impartial observer would have to agree with him; Gibraltar's bastions may be impregnable but they are low-lying and the Rock itself dominates to such an extent that they have never been a spectacular sight when seen from a distance. 
The Town 
The town is situated behind the principle bastions, and rises in successive tiers of ordinary looking houses, a considerable way up the acclivity. The ruins of a Moorish castle on the shoulder of the Rock, add an air of antiquity to its picturesque effect. Strangers on entering the works, are conducted by a sentinel to the town-major, from whom they obtain a permit for passing the gates during the time they intend to stay. If they are properly introduced, they may also obtain permission to view the batteries and excavations. In walking round the ramparts different parts of the walls were pointed out to me, as covered with a composition, which though only road-dust, pounded stone, and a little mortar mixed up with water, becomes as hard and as durable as stone - something like Wyatt's cement, which the House of Lords is coated. 
Wyatt's cement - aka Parker's Cement or Roman cement was based on the kind of stuff used by the Romans. It was known for its great hardness and imperishable qualities something which it undoubtedly proved itself to be in Gibraltar.
The Civilian Population 
The population of the rock, exclusive of the garrison, may be computed at ten thousand souls. In the principal street, however, the throng is certainly very great; and were the appearance there to be taken as the criterion, even twenty thousand could not be considered too high an estimate. 

The motley multitude of Jews, Moors, Spaniards, &c. at the Mole, where the trading vessels lie, presented a new scene to me; nor was it easy to avoid thinking of the odious race of the Orang-utan, on seeing several filthy, bearded, bear-legged groups huddled together in shady corners during the heat of the day. The languor occasioned by the heat appeared to have increased the silly expression of their faces; particularly of the Jews, who, notwithstanding the usual sinister cast of the Hebrew features, seemed here to be deplorably simple animals. 
Their females are entitled to any epithets but those which convey ideas of beauty or delicacy. A few may possibly be discovered, now and then, inclining towards comeliness, but so seldom, that it is no great injustice to call them, on the whole, superlatively ugly. 
This breathtakingly racist and anti-Semitic diatribe is hard to justify even when taking into account the mores and prejudices of an early nineteenth century Briton. He was no doubt influenced by his friend Byron's very low opinion of the Rock. Nevertheless it does cast doubts on everything he wrote about Gibraltar. Anybody capable of such a vitriolic description of a civilian population can hardly be trusted to give an unbiased account of the place they lived in.
The Law
The town of Gibraltar possess a charter which being calculated for a place much inferior in size and importance to what it has become, in now, perhaps limited. In criminal causes justice is administered according to the laws of England; but, as in other colonies of the Empire, there are local peculiarities in settling civil disputes. 

 Questions between debtors and creditors are referred to the Judge Advocate, and two respectable persons of property from whose award an appeal may be made to the Governor. When the sum at issue exceeds three hundred pound sterling, the Council at home may be appealed to, but when under this amount, the decision of the Governor is final. 

The value of Gibraltar to the British Nation I had hitherto been rather disposed to doubt, conceiving the expense of maintaining it to be fully equal to its utility. I had been led to form this opinion by considering the large force which it withheld from active service, and the little protection which, in the first years of the present war it afforded to merchant vessels against the gunboats of Algeciras; but a view of the place, and a better knowledge of local circumstances, have altered my opinion. 

 French map of the Bay of gibraltar more or less as Galt found it  ( 1802 - Ambroise Tardieu - Detail )
Gibraltar may in many points be compared to a great guard-ship, the utility of which, without a supplementary fleet of small vessels may be justly questioned; but with such a fleet, no boat from Algeciras should be able to do any mischief to our trade, while no boat of the enemy could escape. Economy The neglect of rendering the fortress in this way a point of offence, has perhaps tended to lower its value in the estimation of mercantile men. To the nation it is not a very expensive establishment. 

There are perhaps several noble families which perhaps cost the public as much. Between four and five thousand vessels annually touch at the rock either for trade , or in the course of their passage up and down the straits. During the last twelve months the value of British goods sold here has been estimated at a million sterling. The net annual charge against the place is not more than fifty thousand pounds, of which thirty thousand are extended on the works, and the remainder in payment of the officers' salaries. 

The disbursements, on account of the regiments which compose the garrison, are less than the expense of a fleet of men of war would be on this station, and the possession of such a place adds to the reputation of our power with neighbouring nations. Besides the annual charge of fifty thousand pounds might, with little difficulty, be raised by a tax on the exports of the town, and an assessment on the inhabitants, who at present do not contribute anything in return for the protection afforded them. The British nation never refused to pay the Sound duty to Denmark; why a toll should not also be levied by us I am at a loss to understand. 
This unusual interest in the minutiae of Gibraltar's legal system and its economy is understandable when one realizes that two years after his travels Galt attempted to establish a Gibraltarian trading company in order to circumvent Napoleon's embargo on British trade. Wellington's victory in Spain put paid to these plans.

Galt was correct in identifying those gunboats of Algeciras - he could have added those from Tarifa as well - as an absolute nuisance. However that was in the past. It seems rather unlikely that Spanish gunboats should have been giving the British in Gibraltar too many problems in 1809 - or even later. The odd privateer was unavoidable but not much else.

It is of course difficult to tell exactly when Galt was in Gibraltar given the three dates included in the title of his book, but the most likely year would be 1809. If so the Governor would probably have been either Sir John Craddock or Sir Colin Campbell - or both if his stay was long enough.

 General John Francis Craddock  ( Unkonwn )

The uprising of the 2nd of May in 1808 in Madrid would have come and gone, the Peninsular wars were in full swing and Wellington was doing his stuff in Portugal. Britian and Spain were allies and whoever was the British Governor at the time he would have been on the best of terms with his Spanish counterpart in San Roque. At the back of Galt's mind, however, must have been the fear that was surely present in the minds of the military establishment on the Rock - that the French would try to take Gibraltar.

In fact they need not have worried. When Napoleon was asked at St Helena whether he had ever considered attacking the Rock his reply was perceptive;
'That was far from my thoughts. Things suited us as they were. Gibraltar is of no value to Britain. It defends nothing. It intercepts nothing. It is simply an object of national pride which costs the English a great deal and wounds deeply the Spanish nation. We should have been crassly stupid to have destroyed such a combination.'
 Galt couldn't have known Napoleon's thoughts, of course. In any case he would not have agreed with his sentiments.

Contemporary Plan of the Rock. The Mole of Aigade refers to Ragged Staff.
There is a contemptible theater, where strolling Spanish comedians sometimes perform. The Garrison Library is the only place of rational amusement for strangers, and there are few towns which have anything comparable to it. The inns are mean, but the rate of the charges is abundantly magnificent. A dollar here passes under the name of a cob; and it is but a small matter that a cob can purchase. 
The continual good press given to the Library by most visitors seem to confirm that it was an exceptional establishment by any standards. The fact that neither the locals nor most of the non-military British residents were allowed in was probably part of its charm to people like Galt. Quite frankly and in general terms, there seems to be little in the above article to disprove the premise that Sir John Galt was a nasty piece of work.

In a review of the book in the New York Quarterly Magazine of 1812 a critic notes Galt's negative attitude not just towards Gibraltarians but towards other people who inhabit the Mediterranean. Scathing in his overall criticism of the book the critic ends by confirming that he had ‘seldom met with a work of the kind that it was less possible to commend.’
It is a review that I find it difficul not to agree with.