The People of Gibraltar

1850 - General Sir Robert Gardiner - Padded with Tobacco

In 1850 Sir Robert Gardiner, Governor of Gibraltar, sent his Report on the Military Defences, Government and Trade of Gibraltar with Considerations of the Relative Position of that Fortress with Spain to his immediate boss - the Secretary of State for the Colonies, the Earl Grey. At 190 pages it proved as lengthy as its title. Six years later Gardiner felt the work was important enough to attach it as an appendix to yet another of his reports on Gibraltar - which is dealt with in detail elsewhere ( see LINK

General Sir Robert Gardiner   ( The National Archives )

In his 'Introduction' Gardiners argued that it was 100 years since Humphrey Bland, the Governor at the time, had written the last general report on Gibraltar. It was time for a new one. His  'history ' section is largely given over to a moot and lengthy distinction between American and British Tobacco - the first being much cheaper than the second and a therefore a more popular item for contraband - to the detriment of British trade. The rest is a complaint about smuggling. As regards 'Revenue and Expenditure', the following is a synopsis of the more important points raised by the Governor.
. . . With the decline of trade at Gibraltar, of course we experienced some diminution in Revenue. But neither in this decline of Trade or Revenue is there any sign of decay in the sources of public prosperity. Any person visiting our bustling streets and well-stocked market, where all consumption is daily paid for, would say that we are a prospering community. There is no sign of want, except among those classes in which it is common in all countries. . . 
Gibraltar being a Free Port, no Revenue of any sort is raised on goods imported into the Garrison. On the landing of wines, spirits, and tobacco, a small Wharfage Duty is charged on each cask. On wines and spirits consumed within the Garrison, a Duty is also levied, amounting, with the licences for houses to retail them . . 
At Gibraltar, there is not any establishment approaching the nature of a Custom-house. Ships arrive and depart, their cargoes are landed and reshipped, free from all charge, except Anchorage Dues. No officers are put on board, no examination takes place, nor is any question asked . . . If these are landed for exportation, like other merchandise, they are free from examination or inspection.
The revenue of Gibraltar, therefore, is collected without any contribution of direct taxation from the inhabitants whatever, and without interfering with the Charter of the Port, which is free, I believe, to an extent unknown in any other instance.
. . . The time for taxing tobacco is gone by. The Spaniards have set to work with such earnestness and determination to redeem this great source of their Revenue from contraband, that they employ at Sevilla alone 30,000 persons in its trade. As I attach the chief evils of Gibraltar, both moral and fiscal, to its traffic in smuggling, it is with great satisfaction that I observe a falling off in the quantity imported of this drug.
Gardiner then continued with a detailed lists  of 'Sources of Revenues' and 'Estimated Expenditure' and a protest at the fact that the duties of the Land Surveyor had not been transferred to the Chief Engineer as expected.
A glance at the constitution of the present Crown Land Commissioners will convince your Lordship of the utter inutility of its members for superintending the work, surveying, and practical duties of this department They are gentlemen neither fitted by experience or instruction for such duties 
He then offered various proposal which are too lengthy to go into here. In the next chapter - on ' Public Debt' -  he noted that on his arrival in February 1849, he found the Government "encumbered" with it. He suggested that such a state of affairs arose:
. . . from a variety of causes, the results of which might have been made palpably evident, easily guarded against, and altogether avoided. . . . On searching through the local Disbursements and appropriation of Revenue, I find a sum amounting to £6,000 unaccounted for . . . 
Arguments as to how to make things better are somewhat obtuse and best given a miss but there are a couple of  titbits of information. 
 . . . The original cost. of the Chatham Counter-guard is stated to have been £12,012 3s. 5d. . . . The lighthouse was commenced in 1837, finished in 1842, and its cost to this Fortress was £5,713 4s. 1d.

( The National Archives )

But his biggest grievance was the fact that in 1830 the legal status of Gibraltar had been changed.
It was a mistake in the Government of the day to alter the construction and character of this Government. There may have existed faults, and even abuses, but they could easily have been reformed without destroying the simplicity, vigour, and fitness of the Government, by changes totally inapplicable to the character of the place.  As a Fortress and a Free Port, and with a licit trade, Gibraltar would, I am confident, draw a far greater extent of exportation from England than under its present smuggling traffic  . . .
But to give Gibraltar a name beyond its pretensions, and call upon its Government to maintain the pageant of a Colony, when it has neither produce of any kind, or manufactures, or trade to furnish a Revenue adequate to such a purpose, is to vest it with an importance only conducive
to its ruin.
Which led in nicely to the next section:
Trade - It cannot be said that the trade of Gibraltar has hitherto added to its fair name . . . Smuggling, in periods of war, is as fair a means of diminishing an enemy's revenue, as sinking his ships or annihilating his armies. But it is unfair to a nation with whom we are at peace, and can but exasperate, and alienate all goodwill and friendly feeling in that nation from us. . . 
Till the year 1793, the traders appear to have been rather sutlers than merchants, their trade for the most part being confined to the supply of the necessities of the Garrison. The wars which at that time sprang out of the French During the periods at which we were at war with Spain, privateering, arming letters of marque, and smuggling, were all justifiable means of aggression, and they were followed up with unchecked licence, under all the eagerness of individual interest.
It was under these circumstances that Gibraltar, unaided, almost unheeded by the Imperial Government, advanced from penury to comparative affluence, and a commercial capability, which should certainly long since have been made available for purposes of national benefit. I have been informed, that at one period, I think in 1823, the smuggling trade of Gibraltar exported goods from England, amounting annually to nearly a million sterling.

Gardiner's residence   ( The National Archives )

Following from this is his much quoted passages on smuggling in Gibraltar.
The trade of Gibraltar consists of articles of British manufacture, chiefly cotton, and of tobacco, the introduction by sale of both being strictly prohibited in Spain. There is a hidden contraband trade here, and an open one. The one is carried on by freighting vessels with English contraband goods, secretly, so as to elude the vigilance of the Spanish Guarda Costas. 
The other, though carried on openly, is to all intents and purposes smuggling, the goods being known by the buyers and sellers to be contraband, and bought and sold to be fraudulently passed into Spain.From the first early opening of the gates, there is to be seen a stream of Spanish men, women, and children, horses, and a few caleches, passing into the town, where they remain moving about from shop to shop till near noon. 
The human beings enter the Garrison in their natural sizes, but quit it swathed and swelled out with our cotton manufactures, and padded with tobacco, while the carriages and beasts, which came light and springy into the place, quit it scarcely able to drag or to bear their burdens. 
The Spanish authorities bear part in this traffic, by receiving a bribe from every individual passing the Lines, their persons and their purposes being thoroughly known to them. Some of these people take hardware goods, as well as cottons and tobacco, into Spain . . . . And a soldier who can he bribed for one purpose, would with very easy inducement be bribed for another. But that is not all. A soldier, his honour and pride of honesty once forfeited, ceases to be trustworthy.
The next chapters dealt with Military Defences and is of little interest here . . . except perhaps for this:
 . . . we have to deplore the moral corruption spread by bribery among the troops. This is no partial evil confined to known bad characters, but exists among the regiments at Gibraltar generally - along the line of our advanced sentries chiefly; but thetroops within the Garrison become, after a short service at Gibraltar, tainted, and equally open to the foul corruption. 
The amount and extent of this bribery is beyond belief, and it ought long since to have been made a question how far it is justifiable to permit the continuation of the smuggling traffic of Gibraltar, its results being known to be so injurious to the army. It is certainly a question calling for the most serious thought, as regards even the safety of a Fortress like this, how far a soldier, corrupted by bribery in one way, may not be bribed for other purposes.
Next were arguments in favour of port Improvements and a discussion on the  Church and Religious Establishments of which he had little to say. It was followed by a rather touchy subject;
Judicial and Magisterial Establishments - Whatever irregularities may have existed in the earlier period of our possession of Gibraltar, everything that was required for the judicial and magisterial administration of justice, was provided for in that admirable abstract of common sense, public morality, and practical just government, compiled by General Bland on assuming the government in 1749. . . . The Governor, being supreme, presided in all criminal matters, sitting on the bench at Sessions. 
. . . But magisterial or judicial law or justice were never abused or lost sight of. Magisterial vigilance never slept Charges were drawn to insure the punishment of crime. Crimewas never " quashed ;" guilt was never spared; punishment was never averted. 
In 1830 a law officer, who had been appointed judge from England, proposed and obtained from Government a new Charter of Justice, under which the Court was entirely new modelled . . . . the old charters were revoked, and a "Supreme Court" was erected. The judge himself was denominated "Supreme Judge."The authority of the Governor in all matters, criminal as well as civil, was in a great measure put aside; among others, the past provision for a local appeal to the Governor was erased from the Charter.

( The National Archives )
To prove the utter uselessness of any criminal or judicial court of such magnitude, expense, and pretension, as the "Supreme Court" of Gibraltar, it is only necessary to mention that, during a period of fifteen months, there has been but one Criminal Session held at Gibraltar, that of the 4th December 1849. 
There is little doubt that the charter of 1830, the appointment of a 'Supreme Judge and the side-lining of the Governor in matters of justice was a source of the utmost annoyance to Gardiner. State of Crime - If the few trials, and long intervals between the Sessions held by the Supreme Court, denoted absence of crime, there could be no spot on earth with a community so impeccable as that of Gibraltar. 
But the absence of crime must not be inferred from such causes. Crime at Gibraltar revolves on smuggling, and there is a sharpness and dexterity in petty crime here, the character of the place, which is the result of early schooling in that demoralizing traffic, and which instinctively teaches men how far they can go without danger of incurring committal, or punishment, but who will stop at nothing (in the way of petty crime) which they can accomplish undetected. 
In the cases also, which are brought before the magistrate, as they for the most part arise out of smuggling, and as the soldiery and civil police are unfortunately alike after a time bribed and corrupted, it is often difficult, with a clever lawyer to defend them, which there is here,to bring home to the parties sufficient grounds to commit them. But these observations relate more properly to "moral character," which I will more fully advert to under the head of" Population."
Population Numbers - My attention, on assuming the government, was drawn to the swarms of children born in this city, many of whose fathers are alien residents, having no property in the place, and merely holding daily tickets of admission or temporary permits, the mothers being natives of the Garrison. 
The crews of the hulks, and lighter-men in the bay, all matriculated seamen, the masons, stonecutters, and artificers, and labourers employed in the Royal Engineer Department and Dockyard, the men employed on the north front by the contractors for victualling the troops,Jews from Barbary, who are here merely on daily or temporary permits, and many other description of aliens, have married female natives of the Garrison, under the idea that it gave them a claim of residence. 
The system now amounts to an absolute evil, and having unfortunately been permitted, it cannot be remedied without injury to some and suffering to many. 

 ( The National Archives )

Details of the Census figures given for 1844 are shown below.

Protestants - 1,402
Papists - 12,721
Hebrews - 1,690
Mahometans - 10    
Total - 15,823

Married - 4,431

Single - 10,121
Widowers and widows- 1,271
Total  15,823

Children in school
Boys - 1,257
Girls - 1,046
Total - 2,303

Since then - Gardiner suggested - the figure had gone up to 17,000. He was probably not far wrong. The 1860 census shows a population of 17, 674. Gardiner followed this with a curiously prescient comment that predicted the controversial 'Useless Mouths' evacuation during World War  II:
In the event of war, how feed them? What would be- come of them? We could not keep them here. The Spaniards would not receive them, or permit their entry into Spain. . .   
Notwithstanding the shifty adroitness engendered by the smuggling traffic of Gibraltar, and the preponderating numbers of alien above British population in the Garrison, I must say, that the Governor is less troubled, and his time and duties less interrupted by the native Spaniards, than by the handful of Englishmen who reside here, and who, from the moment of the acquisition of Gibraltar to the Crown of England, have grown bolder in their attempts at innovation and interference in the administration of its government. 
The bearing and conduct of the Spanish population is marked by that respect and ready obedience to authority which distinguishes the Spanish character. . . . . . while I condemn smuggling as a disreputable and demoralizing traffic, I offer my tributeof sincere and high respect to the enterprising, just, and fair British merchant. The capitalists who are principals, and the agents employed by them in the illicit trade of Gibraltar, areextremely sensitive to the imputation of smuggling; that word must not be mentioned. Their dealing is to be called a "transit trade."

A contemporary satirical cartoon. Note dog used my smugglers to carry contraband across the frontier - and the mention of Gardiner's immediate boss - Earl Grey.  ( E. Fairfax ) 
And when any discredit is thrown upon smuggling, or any attempt made to check it, the one and the other are loudly abused as "obstructions thrown in the way of trader. Capitalists in England and their agents here, take their own moral estimate of the trade of Gibraltar, and square it to their particular views and interests. To the Spaniards they give a character which justifies, in their individual view, the nature of traffic they follow . . .
In other words, how to square the circle - or how to tell your British boss - without hurting his sensibilities - that the main smuggling culprits were - like himself - British to the core. A chance then for Gardiner to shift attention elsewhere by offering a quote from Major Rowan, the local magistrate at the time:
It is a general remark here, that few of the lower class of natives are eligible for confidential or active employment . That being brought up in idleness, or, what is perhaps worse, congregated in the sedentary and demoralizing occupation of cigar-makers, they arrive at maturity with vitiated habits, and without physical capabilities or mental instruction to fit them for more useful occupation. The character of the natives has always induced the better classes to give a preference to foreigners, the augmentation of whose numbers has thus increased and perpetuated the evil.
Which, perhaps appropriately, leads Gardiner to give his opinions on:
Education - The number of public schools at Gibraltar is in no way commensurate to the number of children on the Rock, who literally swarm in every direction, without any apparent means of earning a future livelihood
One Church of England Free School - 164 pupils
Gibraltar Public School - 254 pupils
Four Roman Catholic Schools - 672 pupils
Seven Methodist Schools - 431 pupils

The Town from St Bernard's College in the South  

Charitable Institutions - There is a civil hospital at Gibraltar ( see LINK ) for the reception institutions. of patients of the poor and indigent population of the Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Hebrew communities, each contributing separately by ample subscriptions to the maintenance of its own department.

The final section of the Report deals with the sensitive topic of how to interpret Article X of the Treaty of Utrecht ( see LINK ) of which Gardiner quotes in its entirety in both Spanish and English. His views on this were:
Territorial Boundary and Jurisdiction - It is clear from this article of the Treaty that Gibraltar was ceded to Great Britain as an isolated Fortress, the natural boundaries of which cut it off entirely from Spain, without territorial right or possession beyond the land barrier. Since the close of the war in 1815, a line of English Sentries has been established in advance, extending across the Isthmus from the western to the eastern beach, and pushed forward to the north, so as to occupy about two- thirds of the space to which, in time of war, we were
denied any approach. .  
This extent of water, like that of land on the Isthmus, would be unavailing for any useful purposes in time of war. The enemy, without bringing heavy guns to the site of Fort San Felipe, would be able to bring them sufficiently near to sweep the Old Mole Anchorage clear of shipping, and drive them to the anchorage off the New Mole. ( see LINK . . .   
My object in referring to the question of territorial jurisdiction, is less with a view of defining territorial limits, than to bring under your Lordship's consideration the frequent embarrassments and difficulties which occur between the Spanish troops and ourselves, from the absence of any stipulated arrangement whatever . . . 

( The National Archives )
A few words of arrangement between the Governors of Algeciras and Gibraltar would settle the disposal of these local difficulties, and save much future embarrassment to the two national services, if not diplomatic embarrassment to the Governments of Spain and England. 
Relations with Spain - In our relations with Spain, whether commercial, present military, or national, there has existed, from the moment of our conquest of Gibraltar, an unfriendly feeling towards England . . . . The first inquiry that suggests itself, naturally reverts to the fulfilment or non-fulfilment of the Treaty which ceded Gibraltar to the Crown of Great Britain.  
How have we observed this? In the very first days of our conquest some English smugglers resorted hither on sufferance, and commenced an immediate systematic infringement of the treaty. For years we have permitted a course of smuggling, and not only thus diminished the revenue of Spain, but have imposed on her the burden of maintaining an extensive coast-guard.
Gardiner also argued that Gibraltar's role as harbourers of Spanish 'revolutionaries' during the various liberal revolution and other upheavals from the 1820s onwards did nothing towards improving relations with Spain. But it is the smuggling factor that really bothered him. 
Conclusions - . . . .I might have illustrated my observations with clearer detail, and less frequency of repetition. But with its many faults, I believe I have left no point unconsidered . . .
Indeed, he was right on both counts. The rest of the 'Conclusions' are simply a repetition of the main points of the Report, which ends with a long quote from Humphrey Bland's own conclusions to his own Report ( see LINK ) produced - as he had already mentioned at the start - one hundred years earlier.