The People of Gibraltar
1723 - The Francia Family of Gibraltar - Part 3

The Rock from Spain   (1850s - William Wild)

Throughout the 1830s and 40s Joseph Francia and his brother John Louis alternated as members of the Gibraltar Public School Committee. It can’t have been too time-consuming a task as during much of this period they were busy elsewhere. In 1841 Joseph must have decided to make some extra money away from the courts and became the director of the newly created Rock Fire Assurance Company. Six years later his elder brother John Louis became an auditor of the company and shortly after its Secretary and then President.

In 1847 it was back to the law courts as Joseph was appointed Judge on the newly created Court of Requests. A couple of months later he became a Justice of the Peace. According to the Colonial authorities:
. . . . the appointment of this highly respectable and eminently qualified Barrister will, we are convinced, afford general satisfaction
As regards Pasqual’s youngest son Peter, I am afraid I have been unable to trace any further information on him other than that which appears on the 1834 Census. He was at the time, and possibly for the rest of his life a “Catholic Merchant” who had decided early on that civic duties were not for him.

Francis may not have married but his elder brother Anthony certainly did. He and his wife Mary Giro produced several children of which their eldest son was Francis Pasqual - the young man who suffered that misadventure in Soto Gordo. 1851 would not be the last time Francis Pasqual would make it into the chronology of the Gibraltar Directories - or elsewhere. In 1854, for example, he refused to follow in his father’s footsteps and turned down his nomination as Deputy Governor of the Civil Hospital.

In 1865 a cholera epidemic took its toll on the civilian residents of Gibraltar. The immediate response by Gibraltar’s colonial masters was to order a series of public health reforms. They were no doubt worried that health problems within the local community would have an effect on the members of the Garrison and therefore on the security of the Colony. 

1865 - Map from Sanitary Order in Council, Gibraltar

Among these reforms was the replacement of the old Paving and Scavenging Commission with a brand new one with a somewhat less inelegant name - the Sanitary Commission. The first Commissioners to be appointed included Messrs. Richard Abrines, Emile Bonnet, Benjamin Carver, Jr., Francis Imossi, Solomon Levy, Richard Parody, Michael A. Pitman, John R. Recaño and Joseph Shakery, a veritable who’s who of the more well-off and influential members of Gibraltar’s civilian population. Francis Pasqual was its first Chairman. His brother William Henry would soon be a member too.

Far less elegant than the change of name was the actual proclamation. It was published in London as the Sanitary Order in Council, Gibraltar - 1865 and was a classic example of bureaucratic overkill. It ran to nearly two hundred pages of closely written instructions and including no less than nearly 70 specific forms required to be used for every conceivable occasion. It also included a lengthy report on sanitary condition in Gibraltar which was interestingly addressed to the Secretary of State for War.  
(1865 - Sanitary Order in Council, Gibraltar)

It is impossible to believe that Francis Pasqual could have had either the time or the inclination to read this unreadable tract. Besides he was already fully engaged elsewhere. Among other civil responsibilities he was also the president of a committee of community leaders set up to raise funds for worthy causes by subscription. Unfortunately the committee soon found that the work involved was proving much more onerous - and expensive - than they had originally thought it would be. 

In an attempt to rectify this unforeseen and unwanted state of affairs,  Francis Pasqual met with the Governor - William Codrington - and earnestly requested - or so it was reported in the Gibraltar Chronicle - that the Governor provide his committee with £1000 out of Government revenues to make up for what they had spent on their precious soup kitchens and the like. As one historian once put it - it was good to give and good to be seen to be giving but not if it hurt your own pocket too much.

William Codrington - twenty odd years later

One year after the cholera epidemic a complex debate ensued between the locals and the colonial administration concerning the need to tighten the rules of the Aliens Order in Council of 1843 - including whether jus soli was applicable for Gibraltar. For those not entirely au faire with legal terminology - and I am one of them - Jus Soli refers to the right of nationality of the place a person happens to be born in.  It was not something that the Colonial Government in Gibraltar could have been particularly keen on - in fact I am sure they were dead against it.

The police magistrate at the time - later attorney-general - was Frederick Solly Flood - a man not exactly beloved by the locals and vice versa. This was the man who had later casually been appointed as attorney general in Gibraltar - over the heads much more qualified locally born colleagues. In 1872 Flood managed to make a complete hash of the famous Mary Celeste enquiry. (see LINK)

Flood created a self-servicing Commission on Aliens at the end of 1853 appointing a certain Colonel Maberley as chairman and including a selection of those he must have considered the local great and good. It included Benjamin Carver, Thomas Mosley and W.H. Smith. Francis Pasqual was also a member. Their report in 1867 not surprisingly embraced “a free market morality.”  

Flood's, pet concern was that Spanish prostitutes plying their trade in the red light district around Serruyas Ramp were marrying British “Tommies” and claiming rights of residence as British subjects long after their husbands had been posted elsewhere.

Serruya’s Ramp possibly in the very early 20th century before the governor Horace Smith-Dorrien decided to change the name of the Ramp and get rid of all those Tommy marrying ladies     (Cumbo Postcard)

As regards Francis Pasqual it is hard to guess exactly where he stood on the issue of Aliens but my guess is that he was probably more or less in line with Flood. His family at any rate would never bear the brunt of any new legislation however draconian - and Gibraltar was becoming far more crowded than most those who had settled and made good would have wished. By the 1870s the population had increased to over 18 000.

With his involvement in all these committees it is sometimes easy to forget that Francis Pasqual’s main occupation was that of a merchant - and by all accounts a very good one at that - although apparently not always. 

In June 1869 three boxes containing $12 000 in gold and silver belonging to the Bank of Malaga, $12,000 in gold and silver belonging to the Bank of Malaga were shipped from Gibraltar to Malaga aboard the S.S. Adriano by Mr. William Henry Francis, Francis Pasqual’s younger brother. $5,000 dollars were found missing on arrival in Malaga.

A servant called Castaños who had left Francis Pasqual’s employment shortly after the robbery was a prime suspect but despite being tried at two Criminal Sessions in 1872 - no less than three years after the event - he was found guiltless and was discharged together with others who had also been accused of being implicated with him in the theft.

The manner in which this event was reported locally has a certain “nudge, nudge, know what I mean” element to it that is hard to decipher. Was it that a guilty Castaños had got away with it . . . or was it that Francis Pasqual or his brother William Henry - or both - had profited from the missing money?

Whatever the case, Gibraltar being Gibraltar, Royalty could always be depended upon to produce a feeling of light relief - as suggested by this brown-nosed article that appeared in a local publication:
Arrival of H.R.H the Prince of Wales in the “Serapis” when he was accorded a right royal reception - Mr. Francis (Pasqual) Chairman of the Exchange Committee reading an address on behalf of the inhabitants - Illuminations took place at night. During his visit H.R.H Highness laid the foundation stone of the new market, and attended the Theatre, &c., &c. H.R.H. left on the 20th April (1876) accompanied by H.R.H. the Duke of Connaught in the yacht “Osborne” for Seville. 

HMS Serapis with the gunboat Express in front, berthed at the South Mole during the Prince of Wales visit    (1876)

Almost immediately after having seen off His Royal Highness the next local problem reared its ugly head - smuggling (see LINK) - an activity that had been endemic in Gibraltar since Queen Anne declared the place a free port shortly after it had been captured by Anglo-Dutch forces.

In 1874 a British steamer on her way to Malaga, took on tow eight Spanish Feluccas - laden with tobacco it so happens - when she was attacked by Spanish guardacostas. The British response was to send a couple of armed ships to shoo away what they interpreted as Spanish interference.

To cut a long story short, it took the intervention of two Gibraltar Governors - William Fenswick Williams and Lord Napier as well as that of the Foreign Office and the Secretary of State for the Colonies in the shape of Lord Carnarvon - two years to come to the conclusion that it might be a good idea to impose a tax on tobacco. It might make smuggling rather less of an attractive proposition in Gibraltar.

Williams, Napier and Carnarvon

In yet another of his disastrous intervention Solly Flood - now attorney general - argued that the UK Government did not have the right to revoke Queen Anne’s charter. In due course he got an appropriate reply from Carnarvon that mocked his arguments and put paid to his career.

The local merchants - many of them the very same people who supplied the smugglers with their contraband - now thought it prudent to enter the fray.  Memorials were written and multiple arguments against any form of taxation offered. Francis Pasqual wrote directly to Carnarvon on behalf of the Exchange Committee - but it was all to no effect. 

Carnarvon could see no reason why the proposed tax should not come into effect. The anti-tax brigade - now increased in numbers to include British political and commercial allies - regrouped and asked for and obtained permission to visit the Secretary of State in his own lair. Francis Pasqual was one of the three representatives of the Exchange Committee who travelled to London. 

I am not entirely sure why - whether it was mostly through the persuasive arguments of Francis Pasqual et al, or those the other people present - two Members of Parliament, a London Merchant and the President of the Manchester Chamber of Commerce - or whether Carnarvon had other more important matters to attend to - this last being the most likely - but the end result was that the Secretary of State decided to rethink the whole thing and eventually postponed his decision sine die. Well over a century later the postponement was still there and smuggling continued as before. 

This type of petty contraband continued in Gibraltar right up to the middle of the 20th century

The question therefore arises - did the Francias dabble in smuggling themselves? The answer is a categorical no. What is almost a sure bet, however, is that they sold a considerable quantity of their goods to known smugglers salving their consciences with the usual local argument. If you sell a piece of rope to somebody and he uses it to hang himself - well that isn’t really your fault. The end result of all these shenanigans may have been welcomed by the local business mafia but it did lead to what can best be described as a particularly unsavoury event in the annals of Gibraltar’s social history and of which perhaps Francis Pasqual was partially to blame.

John Baptist Scandella vicar apostolic and titular Bishop of Gibraltar had decided - off his own bat - to intervene in the anti-tax arguments and had carried out multiple parallel meetings in London with UK merchants and Members of parliament. Throughout he was assisted by his secretary Gonzalo Canilla.

Scandella and Canilla

Francis Pasqual, a good friend of Scandella, had been instructed by the Exchange Committee to speak to the Bishop and and demand that they desist immediately. Apparently Scandella’s arguments against the tax had revealed to the British authorities that most of the tobacco imported into Gibraltar was ultimately smuggled into Spain via Oran, Melilla and Ceuta. Unfortunately Francis Pasqual “forgot” to pass on these instructions to Scandella. The repercussion proved rather more unpleasant than one would have expected.

In 1881 Scandella died and his secretary Gonzalo Canilla - the man who had accompanied him to London during the discussions - was proposed as his successor by the local clergy. The proposal was angrily rejected by the majority of the merchant community. They were still furious about Scandella’s and Canilla’s intervention in the smuggling dispute. 

They proposed an alternative Greek born candidate - Father Stephanopoulis - who promptly gathered a thousand names in support of a petition to disregard the recommendations of the local clergy and personally took it to Rome. 

Meanwhile Francis Pasqual - who also appears to have been against Canilla’s appointment - organised a public meeting at the Theatre Royal to discuss the situation. Canilla meanwhile had tried to calm the waters by publishing a statement that he intended to refuse the appointment - unless of course the Holy Father conferred the office on him.

The Theatre Royal during the late 19th Century

The meeting went ahead but was chaired by Peter Amigo possibly because Francis Pasqual had had a change of heart. The Pope had confirmed Canilla’s appointment and Francis Pasqual decided to submit to that decision - “Rome has spoken, the matter is finished”.

Despite the protests Canilla was consecrated Bishop in London but by the time he returned to Gibraltar the local 'Committee of Elders' often referred to inauspiciously as the “Junta of Elders” had already been reconstituted. It was the type of committee that arbitrarily attributed to itself the right to intervene in all matters concerning the Vicariate of Gibraltar. 

As far as I can make out they seem to crop up periodically out of nowhere. They were usually made up of self-appointed, self-seeking, and generally reactionary groups of rich local individuals - all of them of course Catholics.

I suspect that their confidence during this particular dispute stemmed from a previous confrontation in 1840 between them and Henry Hughes - the Catholic Bishop at the time. The argument on that occasion was basically about who was actually in charge of the Churches considerable revenue. During the various meetings and court cases that ensued, Francis Pascual supported the arguments of the Junta and testified that their rights were longstanding. The actual words he used were “from time immemorial”. The Junta won that one.

Bishop Scandella, unaware of what the future would hold, surrounded by several unidentified members of the Junta during less confrontational days - Possibly taken on 1858 during the opening of the first St Bernard’s School    (1989 - Charles Caruana - The Rock under a Cloud)

During the Canilla episode, however, the Elders had formed an unholy alliance with anarchists from La Linea, and ruffians recruited from both sides of the border. With the backing of this little lot they even succeeded for a while in keeping the new Bishop out of his church - the Cathedral of St Mary the Crowned. (See LINK)

The story, however, did have a good ending - Canilla did manage to enter the church albeit with the protection of the Army. He survived as Bishop of Gibraltar and ended up almost universally admired and respected. 

Canilla finally makes it into his Cathedral    (From - The Rock under a Cloud)

There was also an important coda. Most of the members of the Junta of Elders were also involved in the committee that ran the Exchange Committee and Chamber of Commerce - to give it its full name.

Certain members had become disenchanted by the way in which the Committee had run the campaign against Canilla which they felt had resulted in a neglect of local commercial concerns. They therefore decided it was time to set up an alternative organisation. In 1882 the Gibraltar Chamber of Commerce came into existence made up by mostly of Protestant, British born merchants. Tellingly Benjamin Carver - a prominent Manchester businessman - was elected as its first president.

Alexander Mosley, a local banker who had married Francis Pasqual’s daughter Mercedes in 1880 was another leading light and subsequent President of the new organisation. Ironically his father-in-law remained loyal to the ECCC.

Perhaps it is worth pointing out that during this period local groups such as the Junta of Elders, the Exchange and now the newly formed Chamber of Commerce mostly thought of themselves as representing the voice of the ordinary man-in-the street. Elections were often held but nobody knew exactly who was allowed to vote or indeed who was entitled to stand. There was in the final analysis no question that any of them could make claim to a popular mandate. 

With very special thanks to Alex Panayoti. Most of what I have written is based on his meticulous research. Without his help it would have been impossible to do so. Thank you Alex.

To continue please click on the following LINKS

1723 - The Francia Family of Gibraltar - Part 1
1723 - The Francia Family of Gibraltar - Part 2
1723 - The Francia Family of Gibraltar - Part 3
1723 - The Francia Family of Gibraltar - Part 4
1723 - The Francia Family Tree