The People of Gibraltar
1729 - John Braithwaite - Good Money for Bad

Russel, Portmore and Clayton - Mulay Ismael and Charles Wager
Abelkader Perez and Ambassador Aboggly - Captain Steward and Argalus Carter
William Prendergass and Araham Benider - Hadge Lucas, Bashaw Hamet and Simons.

John Braithwaite was the author of The History of the Revolution in the Empire of Morocco upon the Death of the late Emperor Muley Ishmael. The Book is curiously dedicated to the Governors of the Royal African Company of England. This was a slaving company set up by the Royal Stuart family in 1660 with a monopoly over the English slave trade.

The preface of the book - written by one of his friends- gives a resume of his varied and adventurous life up to 1729. Apparently he served as a young man in the navy, was a lieutenant in the Welsh fusiliers, an ensign in the Royal Guards, and was employed as secretary to the British resident at Venice, with whom he travelled throughout Europe

He was once placed in charge of an expedition to St Lucia and St Vincent and then had a wander through Africa where he wrote an account of his travels through the Gold Coast. He ended his career as Chief Merchant and Governor of Cape-Coast Castle in Ghana a post he no doubt obtained as a result of his work with the slave-trading Royal African Company

Braithwaite arrived in Gibraltar in 1727 - as the 'first gentleman to have entered that fortress as a volunteer. He did not stay there for too long as he crossed the Straits to join John Russel - the British consul-general in Morocco - that same year. His history is based on diaries of his experiences in Barbary and cover a period from July 1727 to February 1728.

Understandably, most of Braithwaite's history deals with Barbary but the following are a series of quotes from it on matters either directly or indirectly relevant to Gibraltar.

Why He Went
Divisions among the Moors were a great advantage to our Garrison of Gibraltar, during the siege, both parties industriously courting friendship; and my Lord Portmore, the Admiral and Brigadier Clayton, made proper uses of it, obliging both parties with a pretty equal hand; but the Tetuaner were the most capable of serving us.

For from thence we have all our Fascines, Gabions, Pickets, brush for cleaning our ships, Provisions and many other necessities, which could not have been had without them, nearer than Oran in the Kingdom of Algiers. or Portugal. How practical it would have been and what expense to the nation to have been furnished at that distance I leave the reader to judge.

A foretaste of the kind of diplomacy which served Britain so well for the next three hundred years. The Moors were themselves involved in some serious squabbling after the death of the Emperor Muley Ishmael and every Pasha in the Barbary Coast was anxious to obtain gunpowder for his troops.

Muley Ishmael

In fact the Pasha of Tangier had just ordered the Jews living in his town to write to their Jewish counterparts in Gibraltar and warn them that if they dared to furnish his rival in Tangier with powder he would personally supervise the massacre of all the Jews in town. Lord Portmore was the Governor of Gibraltar at the time. Brigadier Clayton would soon succeed him. The Admiral was probably Sir Charles Wager

French Map of Gibraltar - Note Admiral Charles Wager's ships on either side of the Rock    ( 1727 - Delahaye )

For those not fully conversant with the minutiae of military engineering in the 18th century facines, gabions and pickets are essential requirements in the construction of fortifications. Pickets are thick wooden poles, fascines are essentially bundles of brushwood and gabions are cylindrical hampers made of basketwork which can be filled with earth.

Fascines, gabbions - and claies - the last one is similar to a picket

Presents and Bribes
. . the Admiral gave the Bashaw several princely presents, knowing what consequences it was of, to secure this port for use of our fleet in case of sickness among them, . . and indeed without Tangier and Tetuan our sick would have perished in our hospitals at Gibraltar since what Broths and Nourishments they had was from thence.

'Presents' was the contemporary euphemism for bribes. The Bashaw - or Pasha - gave Admiral Wager a horse as a real present for his pains.

Perez arrived . . in Gibraltar . . and he refused to go ashore until such time as Lord Portmore was acquainted with his being on board and that he had letters from the Emperor of Morocco to his Lordship . . . He had several conferences with the Admiral . . about the Embassador Aboggly; in which he was always answered, their Embassador had never been detained but that he was there of his own choice.

Admiral Abelkader Perez - Admiral of Sallee and former Ambassador to England.

Perez proved extremely useful to Russel by acting as interpreter and giving information as and when required as to what could or should be done under certain delicate situations

Aboggly - who was living in Gibraltar - had been Mulay Ismael's ambassador and now found himself in deep trouble. His wife and children were in Tetuan. If he went to Tangier the rulers of Tetuan would kill them. If he went to Tetuan he was almost certain t be killed himself. The solution was to stay put in Gibraltar but this of, course depended on the generosity of the British authorities. They allowed him to stay and used him as a pawn in their negotiations.

Moroccan Ambassador Abghali - aka ’Mr. Aboggly’ ( 1725 - unknown )

The only way to carry on business with Tetuan was via a certain Hadge Lucas an extremely rich 70 year old bed-ridden old man. All the Gibraltar merchants shipping things to or from Tetuan had to bribe him heavily to get anything done.

Liberating English Slaves
But as we constantly heard from Gibraltar, that things remained in the same tiresome uncertainty, and that the Advantage was on our side the Water ; for from Gibraltar our Friends would write in a moving manner for a Couple of Sheep, or a Dozen or two of Fowls, we thought ourselves very happy. . .

. . The Moors here have ordered the Jews to write to their Jewish correspondents at Gibraltar, that in case any Jew from thence, furnish Bashaw Hamet at Tangier with powder or arms he will massacre all the Jews in this town. . .

Tangier in the early 18th century  ( Wenceslas Hollar )

We were visited by most of the Chrisitian captives and by all who had the least expectation thro' Mr. Russel's means, of getting their liberty. . . . we could hear of but two English in Captivity in the whole Empire ; one was a Boy left behind by Captain Steward when he was Ambassador here : It seems he was then in so great Favour with a Queen, whose Slave he was, she would not hear of parting with him ; and the Ambassador was advised not to insist too much upon him for fear her Interest should interrupt his whole Negotiations. . .

Captain Steward's rather casual approach towards his responsibilities to his charges is perhaps slightly forgivable - at that time he was negotiating the release of no less than 300 Englishmen who were in captivity in Barbary.

In the end Braithwaite and Russel managed to obtain the lad's freedom - his name was Argalus Carter, - as well as that of William Prendergass and a young Genoese born in Gibraltar with the very un-Genoese name of Peter Simons.

The Interpreter from Gibraltar
At the same time Araham Benider, a Jew, who was Interpreter to Mr. Aboggly in England, arrived from Gibraltar in a Vessel for Provisions upon his own Account : This Abraham is a Tetuan Jew, but by residing at Gibraltar, had learnt English to great Perfection, and was very serviceable to the fleet by acting as Interpreter to Sir Charles Wager in procuring provisions both for the fleet and the Garrison.

Admiral Sir Charles Wager ( 1731 Thomas Gibson )

The Bashaw's whole income depended almost on what he got from Gibraltar; for what he robbed from the people was of very little use and next to nothing without he had a place to vend it at. People come in and . . keep a market . . We took this opportunity to buy what fowls, eggs, Corn etc we could, for our friends in Gibraltar . . During the Siege of Gibraltar, the Moors and Jews were so cunning thay wonderfully lowered the price of our Moydores and raised their silver; whenever our fleet . . were victaulling among them . . they did the same imposing bad money upon the unwary seamen . . .

During the timer of the Siege coins were not milled the Jews tended to clip them. It meant that the Moors never went anywhere without a small pair of scales in their pockets to weigh the money and make sure they were not being had. Both The Jews and the Moors also ‘exchanged good money for bad’ – meaning that they swindled everybody by giving poor rates of exchange for the many different types of coins in circulation.

In many ways Braithwaite's account confirms Gibraltar's dependence on Barbary for its very survival whenever Spain decided not to cooperate - a state of affair that has persisted right up to the modern era.

One of the reasons why Gibraltar was made a free port was an acknowledgement of this fact. It is curious then that despite the convenience of being able to trade while actually living on the Rock, the Moors, more or less like the British but unlike the Jews, never really settled in Gibraltar in any numbers. Perhaps, like the British, they much preferred to live in their own country and within their own culture - and simply visit the Rock only whenever they found it necessary to exploit it as a money-making machine.