1712 - Colonel Joseph Bennett - Remarks on Gibraltar
Colonel Joseph Bennett was a hardened Tangier veteran who soon after the taking of the Rock in 1704, became one of the first of the Rock's a long line of celebrated Chief Engineers.
In 1712, dismayed by the corruption and lack of discipline that he saw both in high places and elsewhere, he wrote a report about his concerns to the Earl of Dartmouth who was the Secretary of State for the Southern Department at the time. The following is a section of the document.
1st Earl of Dartmouth
That in a short time after the place was declared an open port, many people came from all parts to reside in it, and gave any money for houses, both in large fines and heavy monthly rents, upon which the garrison by degrees were removed out of their quarters, and put into the very worst and ruined house of the town, for to make room for strangers, and the engineer obliged to fit up, and repair those houses out of the money appropriated for the fortifications, of which I often complained and therefore have drawn the governor's displeasure upon me, inasmuch that he has threatened to hang me, to break my bones, and given me the lye.
It is likewise observed that if any commanding officer of regiments, or companies do complain of the badness of their quarters for themselves or soldiers, and that the men are often killed and disabled by the falling of their quarters, and lodge so close that it may occasion a sickness in the place, they are either snubbed or looked upon as disaffected to the Governor's interest and scarcely dare an officer keep them company while in disgrace.
The Jews come daily and in great numbers from Barbary, Leghorn and Portugal to inquire into every particular circumstance of the place, and have their correspondents abroad; those from Barbary have raised the price of provisions to a very great degree; and indulged by their paying high fines and rents, so that they have some of the best houses in town, and thinking to ease themselves of these taxes and great rents have complained to the court of Mequinez.
Ismael Mulay, Emperor - or Sultan - of Morocco
The true reason that Gibraltar was made a free port was the Emperor of Morocco having received complaints of the Moorish Jews in Gibraltar, would not allow timber, lime and bricks &c for the fortifications, until the Queen made it a free port, as well for Moors as for Jews. The Emperor of Morocco said this in a letter to me when I went to Barbary with the Queen's letter to procure those materials.
This original letter was sent to Earl Dartmouth, and a copy to the Master of the Ordinance. Bennett also confirmed his misgivings in a letter home to a friend:
Besides all this trouble I had another difficulty to surmount, which was that many officers had a design to quit the place and blow up the works. But I always opposed them, and mentioned the garrison could be kept with the number of 900 men we had and no more, as I believe you will have an account of. Some were for cutting my throat and others for cutting off my ears. ( see LINK )
Although there were probably more than one culprit the main one - in Bennett's eyes at any rate - was the Governor, Brigadier-General Thomas Stanwix, one of the most venal administrators the Rock has had the misfortune to be governed by. Bennett may have been in a particularly nasty mood when he wrote this; because of the Governor's shenanigans he had been forced to spend £2000 of his own money on much needed repairs to the garrison's fortification and it was becoming increasingly likely that the Governor would never repay him.
The very same year Bennett wrote his report for the Earl Dartmouth he also compiled a list of all the monthly rents paid by Genoese residents in Gibraltar . It is hard to tell who ordered him to do so as well as why - as Tito Benady comments in his article on the civilian population of the Rock in 1704 - he found it so hard to get hold of actual surnames.
Genoeze Jack - $4
A Genoeze armorer for two houses - $8
A Genoeze confectioner - $2
A Genoeze near the Governor's - $4
Another Genoeze in the same street - $4
Another Genoeze in the same street - $3
A Genoeze near Machado's house - $3 ½
A Genoeze who married a Black - $4
4 Genoeze near the Govrs & pay - $14 ½
Francisco Baptista - $4
John Batista Sturla - $3 ½
2 Genoeze near Lieut. Govr. - $7 ½
3 Genoeze gardeners - $12
Bennett's report ended up in the hands of the three Commissioners who were sent to Gibraltar - and elsewhere -just after the 13th Siege to investigate the extent of corruption in the British Army. A summary of the final report issued by these gentlemen is dealt with separately in another chapter. ( see LINK )
A document dated 1712 from the Public Records Office in London gives a list of the names of these individual as taken by a British officer who was almost certainly Colonel Bennett himself.
Elsewhere Bennett comments on the number of people who chose to stay in Gibraltar after the takeover.
. . there remained about 30 families and six clergymen, but the whole number of men, women and children did not exceed seventy in all.
List of people who stayed in Gibraltar after the takeover in 1704