The People of Gibraltar
1843 - John Adam Dix - Miserably Clad and Exceedingly Foul

John Adam Dix was born in Boscowen, New Hampshire. He entered military service as a young man. was Secretary of State for New York for several years, started a literary and scientific magazine, and held strong anti-slavery views. His most memorably claim to fame, however, was an event that took place while he was Secretary of the Treasury.

Trying to cope with an attempted take-over of a Federal Revenue cutter in New Orleans, Dix sent a telegraph to the Treasury office. It read; 'If any one attempts to haul down the American flag, shoot him on the spot.'

John Adam Dix

In the 1843, however, his wife became ill and on their doctor's advice the couple travelled to Madeira and the Mediterranean. He subsequently wrote about his experiences in A Winter in Madeira and a Summer in Spain and Florence which was published in 1850. The quotes below are taken from his chapter on Gibraltar.

On the last day of April we embarked for Gibraltar, in the British steamer Lady Mary Wood, one of the finest steam-vessels we have ever seen. She was large, an admirable sea-boat, exceedingly neat and clean, and furnished with every imaginable convenience for travellers.

The brand new P&O steamship the Lady Mary Wood. William Thackeray also travelled in her to Gibraltar             ( Unknown )

It was seven o'clock when we entered the Bay of Gibraltar, and certainly a more remarkable object is not to be found than the Rock, on which the town and the fortifications are built. . . .  As you enter the Bay of Gibraltar and come near the town, the water, as well as the land, bears testimony to the vast physical force by which the post is defended.

Several vessels of the largest size always lie anchored off the town. An immense mole, built of rock and of admirable workmanship, runs far out into the bay, with a battery of guns on each side, and bearing the significant name of the Devil's Tongue.

On the north side of this mole is the landing-place; and it is always covered with a motley assemblage of men of different nations: the Spaniard with his peaked hat and leather gaiters; the Moorish merchant with his full turban and embroidered cassock; the Jew with his close skull-cap and bag-like coat; the Greek with his full trowsers and jaunty jacket; the filthy Arab crouching upon the ground; the Bohemian with his coarse blanket overcoat and thick boots; in short, men from almost all parts of the globe may be seen here, our own countrymen not excepted, as though this were the World's congress, in which every race had its representative . . .

When you have entered the city, the same mixed mass is seen filling the streets, occupying the shops, and mingling in all the business of the place. The resident population amounts to about 15,000 persons, of whom about 10,000 are British subjects. . .

. . Taken as a whole, the population of Gibraltar is as wretched in appearance as it is mixed in character. There are some fifteen hundred Jews, and by far the greater portion are miserably clad and exceedingly foul in their persona. Of the native Christians, some, who are engaged in menial services, are not much before them. . .

. . . They are, for the most part, temporary residents, engaged in the extensive and diversified traffic which Gibraltar opens with the opposite coast of Barbary, with Spain, and the other countries of the Mediterranean. . . Not the least important and lucrative part of this traffic, either to the persons engaged in it or to Great Britain, is the smuggling carried on with the interior of Spain. Gibraltar being a free port, merchandise is carried there and deposited in large quantities, for the purpose of being taken out again as opportunities occur, and illicitly introduced within the Spanish lines.

British Garrison
Amid the motley throng the British sentinel marches up and down his prescribed station, with measured tread, the perfection of military neatness and discipline, and in all that constitutes the soldier, so far as externals go, the very opposite of the arms-bearing portion of the population of Spain. . .

The officers, and the persons connected with the city government are, with their families, sufficiently numerous for all social purposes; there is a very fine miscellaneous library; the station is near home; it has a mild winter climate; the heat in summer, though great, is not insupportable; and Gibraltar, for the military, must be one of the most desirable stations among the British possessions.

But to a stranger there are no objects of attraction, excepting the fortifications, and these are seen in one or two days. The most remarkable are the excavations cut in the perpendicular face of the Rock, looking out upon the neutral ground which separates the Spanish from the British territory.

South Barracks from Rosia  ( 1846 - J.M.Carter )

The Town
The city itself, that part of it at least which is connected with its business, is indifferently built. On the other hand, all that belongs to the place as a military station, is solid, substantial, and not infrequently in very good taste. The fortifications themselves are built in the very best manner. In masonry nothing can be superior to some of the defences on the water side.

The barracks are large, and apparently commodious and airy. The houses occupied by some of the officers of the higher grades are exceedingly pretty, in the cottage style, surrounded by gardens filled with tropical fruits, and with an abundance of shade-trees; and the position of some of them, especially in the direction of Europa Point, where the surface is broken and irregular, is very beautiful and picturesque.

Gibraltar from San Roque ( Illustration from the book )

The Alameda
The  Alameda, occupying  nearly  a  central  position between  the  northern  and  southern
extremities of the Rock, has an area, to all appearance, of some thirty or forty acres. A large portion of it consists of beautiful walks, groves of forest trees and shrubbery, with here and there a fountain or a statue, and with a graveled square on its western side sufficiently capacious for the evolutions of a regiment.

On several days in each week two of the military bands are upon these grounds, far enough removed from each other to &void the intermixture of sounds, and the walks, groves, and square are, on these occasions, always thronged with the population of the city. This is the chief source of public amusement in the place.

The Alameda  ( 1940 T. Boys )

The Galleries
They consist of extensive galleries entirely within the Rock, with port holes cut out so as to enable the guns to bear upon the neutral ground and the causeway which connects the Rock with it. The galleries are wide enough to allow a gun to be drawn through them, and where the cannon are mounted the excavation is enlarged, as to enable them to be worked with ease. . . . The efficiency of the galleries as a means of defence has not been tested, and is not likely to be, excepting in the last extremity. 

That they might be very serviceable in case of an attempt to assault the works on the side of the isthmus is unquestionable. But whether they would bear long and continued discharges from the cannon within them may be doubted. They are cut in the rock with only a slight shell between them and the exterior surface, which is generally perpendicular, and it would not be surprising if, by repeated firing some of these superficial chambers should give way.

The rock, it is true, is of compact limestone; but when the violent concussion produced by the explosion of cannon within a very confined space is considered, sometimes causing the blood to start from the nostrils and ears of the cannoniers, it is not unreasonable to apprehend serious disasters from a long-continued use of these batteries. . .

The Galleries - St. Georges Hall ( H.E. Allen )

. . . On the western side there is a mixture of argillaceous earth, quartz, and breccia of great variety and beauty. In the more elevated parts of the Rock holes are found, filled with quartz and jaspers, worn round, like the holes themselves, by the action of water, and affording the strongest evidence that the whole formation was once beneath the waves.

In the fissures and cavities fossil bones are found in great quantities. A large number were examined by Cuvier, who pronounced them to be the remains of domestic animals; and the shells, of which there are many varieties, he found to belong uniformly to fresh-water species.

Cost of Running Gibraltar
The expense of maintaining Gibraltar is about $850,000 per annum. Of this amount about $150,000 is paid by the revenue of the place, leaving an annual balance of $700,000 to be paid by the government of Great Britain. The commerce of Great Britain 'with Gibraltar, and through Gibraltar with Spain, is very considerable; but it is not, of itself, sufficient to indemnify her for the expense of keeping up the establishment.

It is only through its advantages as a military post that she can be considered as compensated for her heavy annual disbursements in maintaining it. The whole amount of goods of the manufacture of the United Kingdom and its colonies introduced annually into Gibraltar, does not equal five millions of dollars in value; and so much of this amount as is designed for external consumption, would find its way to the consumers through other channels, if Gibraltar were not in her hands. Still, the profits on her commercial intercourse with the place, deduct something from the annual burden of maintaining it.

A very conventional account. The Rock itself he finds impressive, the town indifferent, the Alameda Gardens worthy of more than a mention including that of two military bands playing there at the same time. British troops are yet again compared favourably with their shoddy Spanish equivalents, and the Galleries remain as awesome as always, although I have not come across elsewhere Dix's suggestion that the exterior surfaces of the embrasures might give way if the cannons were ever fired in anger. One can only hope he kept his opinions to himself as they would not have gone down well with his British hosts.

Perhaps his most interesting comments concern the local population. For a start he makes a clear distinction between visiting Spaniards, Moors, Arabs and Greeks and the actual residents - including the Jews. The figures he gives are quite accurate and were probably taken from the 1844 census which revealed a population of 15,823. This was the first time that the population was classified as either British or Alien. According to the census about 12 000 were considered as British. 1000 of these were people who were probably ex-pats from Great Britain, but the rest were mostly of either Spanish or Genoese descent with  around 1 300 identifiable Jews. 

They were therefore anything but temporary residents - as Dix suggests. Permission to live permanently on the Rock was hard-earned and once obtained rarely relinquished. Nor were most of these people directly involved in smuggling. In fact hardly any of them were. As mentioned elsewhere, the main importers of contraband goods into Gibraltar were British merchants of British descent. The carriers were mostly Spaniards. He was right in pointing out that the people who made the most money out of smuggling were British suppliers who were residents of Great Britain.