Sunday, 25 May 2014

The "Garvey Question"; British or Spanish?

An article published in El Diario de Jerez in February 2014 by Juan P Simo

Throughout its history, Sherry has had immense power, and the Sherry business has moved all kinds of mountains, has built entire cities, has controlled the lives of its people for centuries, ruined and swallowed up whole families, and brought prosperity to generations of others. For that alone, the history of Jerez could never be understood without its wine. And if many of those first captains of industry, the first Sherry barons, went bust in the attempt, many others built up fortunes enough to keep the next three or four generations going.

In Jerez there have been incalculable fortunes. Imagine the legacy of Manuel Maria Gonzalez Angel, founder and patriarch of Gonzalez Byass, or of his son, Pedro Nolasco Gonzalez y Soto and of many other legendary names. Pedro Domecq Lembeye, the first of the Domecqs to come to Jerez, left the “trifling” sum of one million pounds to his brother Juan Pedro, not having any masculine heirs. {How things have changed, thank goodness!} Or Juan Pedro Aladro, Pedro Domecq’s adopted son, who died leaving a legacy of more than two million escudos.  We could get lost in a sea of unbelievable figures for the period.

William Garvey Power already came from a line of aristocrats when he came from county Waterford in Ireland to the bay of Cadiz in 1776. He set out with the idea of acquiring some merino sheep for his father, when his ship was wrecked and he was rescued by Captain Rafael Gomez, whose daughter he later married. Here he spotted the enormous possibilities of the Bay of Cadiz, and changed his plans to dedicate himself wholly to the wine business.

William Garvey, who started it all
The “Garvey Question” arose with his son Patrick (Patricio) Garvey Gomez, who married in 1826 Maria de los Angeles Capdepon y Lacoste, a young girl from a French family with a large fortune, who would bear him eleven children. Only seven survived; three boys and four girls. The sons were Guillermo, Patricio and Jose. Patricio went on to marry Consolacion de la Mota Velasquez-Gaztelu, but Guillermo and Jose remained bachelors.

Little is known about Jose Garvey, who was born in Jerez and dedicated much of his work to the family firm. On his death in 1912, and given his state of bachelorhood, he made his will in favour of his nephews and nieces, Luis, Angeles and Blanca Medina Garvey as well as to Angeles and Dolores San Juan Garvey, and on the other side to Jose Lopez de Carrizosa, Marques del Merito, another of his nephews.

What he bequeathed amounted to a fortune of 42,152,777.37 pesetas {have you noticed how the currency keeps changing?} which he possessed in English and Swiss banks, an almost unimaginable fortune, but there was more; his deposits in Spanish banks amounted to some 3,942,480.37 pesetas, a most respectable amount for those days.

The problem arose when Hacienda Española – the Spanish tax authority – opposed the legacy being governed by English law as opposed to Spanish law. The case was complex and certainly long drawn out, being published in El Parlamentario, which followed it step by step during 1916 in the book “The Garvey Question: A Case in Law”. Over three years, two hundred and fifty pages were filled, covering the ins and outs of judicial hearings until the case ended up at the Supreme Tribunal. Here, the Garvey case was corroborated, Jose Garvey was deemed to be a British subject.

This was not so much a fiscal case, but one of volition: the volition of a Jerezano, Jose Garvey, who felt that he was a British subject, not a Spanish one. The Spanish case was not unreasonable in that, unlike his father Patrick and his grandfather William, he was a Jerezano by birth, and by dint of that he had felt obliged to obey certain Spanish laws, including doing military service, and later, being included in the electoral roll, casting votes.

It might be concluded that these two matters would constitute overwhelming proof of his being Spanish, but the Spanish authorities had never precluded anyone of British nationality from serving in the army. The same authorities made a big mistake, however, by including him, as a British subject, in the electoral roll, meaning his votes were illegal.

Jose, just like his father and grandfather, were British subjects, and were registered as such at the British Consulate in Cadiz, the British Vice-Consulate in Jerez and also at the Civil Government in Cadiz. Furthermore, the three of them travelled on passports issued by British Consular agents, passports which had been authorised by Spanish diplomats who had recognised them as British subjects. At the same time, none of the Garveys had made any effort to become Spanish subjects, so three generations of Garveys scrupulously held on to their British nationality. They never renounced it nor made any effort to take Spanish nationality.

The court’s ruling was clear. The socialist MP Pablo Iglesias took it himself to the Spanish Parliament. There was no reason for Hacienda to tax the inheritance of a British subject. The Inland Revenue of Britain, however, was the winner, having received annual income tax from Jose Garvey, seen by them too, as a British subject. The Garvey legacy was paid out in England. Interestingly, the Garvey family came from Ireland, not really Britain.

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