The People of Gibraltar
1721 - Abraham Benider - The Butcher of Gibraltar

The Rock of Gibraltar    ( Early 18th century - Unknown )

One of the more unfortunate clauses included in article X of the Treaty of Utrecht (see LINK) specified that Jews and Moors were to be persona non grata on the Rock. 
And Her Britannic Majesty, at the request of the Catholic King, does consent and agree, that no leave shall be given under any pretence whatsoever, either to Jews or Moors, to reside or have their dwellings in the said town of Gibraltar.
The British authorities in London tried to comply - with some success - during the first few years after signing on the dotted line - despite a noticeable reluctance on the part of the Governors of the Rock who adopted a far more pragmatic approach.  The land frontier with Spain was closed and maritime trade was at a standstill while the Garrison was sadly lacking in just about everything including two rather important commodities. The first was a serious military problem - there was a shortage of pickets, fascines, gabbions - and claies.

For those who know as little as I do about military engineering in the early 18th century these four items are essential requirements for 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 and “clais” are basketwork fences. No self-respecting fortifications could do without these - and Gibraltar was one of the world’s great fortresses.

The other essential was beef which was - in theory - available three times a week to the rank and file. The fact that it was rarely available as often as that was a bone of contention to everybody - including the locals. According to Robert Poole - who visited the Rock in 1748 (see LINK) - by the time the Governor and his officers had taken their share there was precious little left for anybody else, lean or otherwise. The excuse was that it was thought to encourage scurvy.

By the end of the second decade of the 18th century it had become pretty obvious that if Spain was unwilling then some sort of arrangement would have to be arrived at with somebody else. That “somebody” was the Pasha of Tetuan whose income was already more or less dependent on what he could get from trade with Gibraltar.

The outcome was a foregone conclusion. Trading arrangements were made and the emissaries got their fascines, pickets and gabions in exchange for gunpowder and ammunition. As regards a supply of beef - well it was question of hard cash and the ability to transfer cattle from Tangier or elsewhere on the Barbary Coast to Gibraltar. The end result of all this was a treaty negotiated in 1721 by Commodore Charles Stewart of the Royal Navy which included a clause which ran completely counter to the spirit of Utrecht:
Subjects of the Emperor of Fez and Morocco, whether Moors or Jews, residing in the dominions of the King of Great Britain, shall entirely enjoy the same privileges that are granted to the English residing in Barbary. 

Charles Stewart    ( 1740 - Allan Ramsay )

Stewart’s translator throughout the proceedings was Abraham Benider. Originally from Tetuan, Benider was at the time a resident of Gibraltar. He had become persona non-grata in his original home town because of his close connections with a pasha who had been forcibly removed by the people of Tetuan because of his many excesses. In his 1729 History of Revolutions in Morocco John Braithwaite describes Benider as having:
. . . . 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 Charles Wager    (1731 - Thomas Gibson)

Wager had been one of the many accompanying Admiral George Rooke’s Fleet in 1704 when Anglo-Dutch forces took Gibraltar. (See LINK) He returned in 1727 to take part in the defense of the Rock during the 13th Siege of Gibraltar. 

 Vice Admiral Sir Charles Wage doing his thing during the 13th Siege  ( 1727 - Guillaume Delahaye - detail )

Benider also worked as an interpreter for Mohammed Abghali - the Moorish ambassador to England. Several years earlier Abghali - or Mr Aboggly to the English - had also been forced to leave Barbary for political reasons and had taken up residence on the Rock. It is quite possible that this is where they got to know and commiserate with each other.

Mohammed ben Ali Abghali - the Moroccan Ambassador to England from 1725 to 1737   

From 1930 onward, Benider - who was probably not just a natural linguist but a polyglot of the first water - managed to make life even more comfortable for himself within the claustrophobic confines of civilian Gibraltar by becoming Governor Joseph Sabine’s secretary.

Joseph Sabine  ( 1730 - John Faber )

By the time William Hargrave had taken over as Governor in 1740 he was already more than capable of dealing with - to his own advantage - the extraordinarily corrupt practices of those in charge of the Fortress. According to a visitor writing about his experiences on the rock in 1748:

The Governor (William Hargrave) permitted but one butcher to exercise his calling in the garrison, and that in return for this monopoly, His Excellency's table was furnished with meat gratis, while the officers could not obtain even a quarter of mutton without first offering its equivalent to the governor. 

William Hargrave - He had every reason to feel as self-satisfied as he does in this portrait

Somehow or other Benider must have made Hargrave the kind of financial offer he was unable to refuse and managed to persuade him to sack his butcher - who happened to be Spanish - and allow him to take his place. Benider incidentally seems to have known Hargrave long before he became Governor. When looking after the shop in 1722 as Colonel Hargrave, Commanding Officer of the Garrison - Richard Kane presumably being away on other business - the Colonel found time to grant Benider a nice little bit of waste ground south of “George Lane” on which he built himself a house.

Generally his relationship with Hargrave seems to have been excellent with the Governor offering him scraps here and there to supplement what must have been a pretty decent income in the first place. When a certain “Smith Forge” was dismantled the place was offered to Benedir who declined on the grounds that the place was in too poor a state.

By 1749 Humphrey Bland took over as Governors and Benider presumably lost his butcher’s monopoly. The need for interpreters also seems to have taken a downturn but Abraham was obviously not the kind of man to crumble at the first sign of trouble. He took his turn during Bland’s intrusive Court of Enquiry and claimed ownership of a storehouse opposite the Chief Engineer’s house which he said he had bought from Captain Hugh Scott. 

Not surprisingly the Chief Engineer himself - James Montressor (see LINK) - was in no mood to allow this to go through without putting up considerable resistance. In the first place, he told the court in no uncertain terms - part of the ground on which the store was built belonged to the Officers Quarters and had been lent to Capt Scott who had promised to return it when demanded to do so by Montressor. In other words the place was not Scott’s to sell to anybody.

James Gabriel Montressor

With surprising élan Benider brushed this off by maintaining that Governor Hargrave had agree to let him have this extra bit of land as otherwise he would never have had enough space to build his storehouse. When Montressor had approached the Governor to make his complaint the answer he got was - “What a noise you are making of a little bit of land”-  In other words a happy ending for Benider who kept possession of his storehouse with the full approval of the Court.

In typically Gibraltarian fashion Abraham made full use of his influence with those on high. His Gibraltar born son Jacob was for a time the British vice-consul in Mogador and was even once sent as an ambassador to London by the Moroccan emperor.