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Full text of "The Spanish colonial system"

THE SPANISH 
COLONIAL SYSTEM 



\YILH I<LM ROSCHKR 



ION EDITED UN 

KHWARD (1AYLORD HOl'RNK 

t'roft ss,- of Histo* v in \\ile Univey^i'y 





\F.\Y \()RK 

IIRNRV HOLT AND COMPANY' 

1904 






RIIRA1 






THE SPANISH 
COLONIAL SYSTEM 



BY 



WILHELM R6SCHER 



TRANSLATION EDITED BY 

EDWARD GAYLORD BOURNE 

Professor of History in Yale University 




NEW YORK 

HENRY HOLT AND COMPANY 
1904 




Cc _ 

BY 

HENRY HOLT AND COMPANY 



ROBERT DRUMMOND, PRINTER, NBW YORK 



PREFACE 

THE secular rivalry and conflict between the colonial inter- 
ests of England and Spain which the United States inherited, 
the many points at which our history touches that of the former 
Spanish colonies, and the earlier and later absorption of Spanish 
possessions within our national boundaries make an intelligent 
appreciation of the work of Spain as a colonizing power an impor- 
tant object in the study of American history. Such a knowledge 
of the aims and work of Spain is no less necessary an adjunct to 
the understanding of the political problems of to-day in the West 
Indies and in the Philippines. The treatments of the subject 
in our ordinary text-books and in the popular narrative histories 
are at best inadequate and too often misleading through the 
prejudices or lack of knowledge of their authors. What is needed 
is a broad historical and comparative treatment of the subject 
such as will be found in the chapter here presented in English 
from Roscher's Kolonien^ Kolonialpolitik und Auswanderung 
(Third Edition, Leipzig, 1885). 

The great profit I have derived from the study of this admir- 
able work has long made me wish it were available for class use 
and for collateral reading, and it is in the hope of making a useful 
addition to the materials for the study of our colonial history or 
the history of colonization in general that I have undertaken an 
English edition of this chapter which is complete in itself. 

The translation is principally the work of Dr. Ernest H. 
Baldwin, but I have carefully revised it and am alone respon- 
sible for it in its present shape. To facilitate the consultation of 
Roscher's authorities for further reading or investigation short 
bibliographical notes have been added where they seemed likely 

to be useful. 

iii 



IV PREFACE 

In this connection it may not be out of place to remark that 
there is much that is still valuable in Robertson's account of the 
Spanish Colonial System as given in the eighth book of his His- 
tory of America, especially in the notes; that the rich materials 
in H. H. Bancroft's Central America and Mexico are too often 
overlooked; and that Konrad Habler's admirable chapters on 
the "Spanish Colonial Empire," in the first volume of Helmolt's 
History of the World, as the work of a scholar who has'critically 
investigated the economic history of Spain, will amply reward 
careful study. 

E. G. B. 

NEW HAVEN, November, 1903 



THE SPANISH COLONIAL SYSTEM 

THE sixteenth century saw the accomplishment of two great 
historical events of world- wide importance: the exploration of 
the globe, and the reformation of the church. The latter task, 
belonging particularly to the spiritual realm, devolved chiefly on 
the Germanic peoples; the former, of a more material nature, 
on the Romance nations. 

Italy's Share in Spain's Achievements. During this entire 
century Spain was, undoubtedly, the foremost power of Europe; 
yet in all of her splendid achievements she had to rely upon Italy. 
For example, in the sphere of religion, the foundation of the Order 
of Jesuits and the Council of Trent took their origin from Spain 
and Italy, equally; upon the whole it would be difficult to say 
whether the restoration of the Catholic Church at that time 
that violent recoil of the Reformation is owing more to the 
Spaniards or to the Italians. How often the Spanish armies, in 
that age the leading troops of the world, were led by Italian 
generals! Recall only Spinola and Alexander of Parma, not to 
mention Pescara. I And do not Spanish literature and art, which 
from the time of Philip II to that of Louis XIV unquestionably 
led those of all Europe, constitute in many respects a beautiful 
silver age of the art and literature of Italy? Similarly the 
discovery of the New World was effected not less by Italians 
(Columbus, Amerigo, Cabot) than by Spaniards. The former,' 
as a rule, made the beginning on the sea; the latter, the actual 
conquest. 

Under the Hapsburgs. He who would study the Spanish 
colonial system in its peculiar completeness must keep in view 
the century and a half from the accession of Philip II to the end 



2 THE SPANISH COLONIAL SYSTEM 

of the Hapsburg male line. 1 During the conquest the govern- 
ment could do little more than gradually to develop its system, and, 
in contest with the unrestrained assertions of independence on the 
part of the conquistadores, to put it into effect step by step. On 
the other hand the Bourbon dynasty, in the administration of their 
colonies as in almost every other respect, disturbed the old Spanish 
order by imitating foreigners. We cannot properly explain the 

/-later colonial policy of the Spaniards as a natural development; 

/ it is rather partly derived from the old Spanish, and partly from 
the French and English policies of the eighteenth century. 2 

Agriculture not the Chief Aim of Spanish Colonization. How 
little. -attention, on the whole, the conquistadores directed to agri- 
cultural colonies, considering their various services in the trans- 
plantation of domestic animals, cereals, and vegetables from the 
Old Fo the New World, is very clearly shown by Peter Martyr, 
who condemns the expedition to Florida with the words : " For 
what purpose do we need such products as are identical with those 
of southern Europe ? " It is true that Columbus' s second voyage 
of discovery had a settlement in view, and for that reason was 
provided with dnmestic__animalsj seeds, etc. It was a failure, 
however, owing to the mutinous spirit of the Spaniards. The 
third^expedition was directed in accordance with a very definite 
plan, wifE a stipulated number of laborers, peasants, and women; 
it was particularly unfortunate, however, that so many criminals 
were transported with it. 4 The regions which were best adapted 

1 More exactly from 1542, when Charles V proclaimed the celebrated "New 
Laws." [On these "New Laws" see Lea, Yale Review, Aug., 1899, "The 
Indian Policy of Spain." B.] 

2 As the chief source for this whole section, I have used the excellent official 
codification: Recopilacion de Leyes de los Reynos de las Indias, 4 vols., fol., 3d 
edition, 1774. 

3 Peter Martyr, Ocean. Dec., VIII, cap. 10. Cortes is an honorable exception 
to this. He introduced into Mexico the cultivation of sugar-cane, wool, and 
silk -growing, and devoted no excessive consideration to the production of precious 
metals. Compare Prescott, Conquest of Mexico, III, 294. [Peter Martyr's 
Decades are accessible in English in Lok's translation in vol. V of Hakluyt's 
Voyages, London, 1809-1812. B.] 

4 Herrera I, 3, 2. [Herrera's Historia General de los Hechos de los Castel- 
lanos en las Islas y Tierra-Firme de el Mar Oceano is accessible in English in 
a somewhat abridged and inaccurate translation by John Stevens under the 



SPANISH CHARACTER 3 

to agricultural colonies, as-, for example, Caracas, Guiana, Buenos 
Ayres, were neglected by the Spaniards for centuries. As they 
saw no advantage in the conquest of these countries, they seized 
the inhabitants to sell them as slaves. 1 In this way, the Span- 
iards, although they were always ashamed to engage in the negro 
slave trade themselves, by their traffic in Caribs exemplified all 
its horrors. 2 

Spanish Character. The character of the Spanish people has, 
from the beginning, been prone to indolence ttd_jmd. All 
thrifty activity was regarded as despicable. No trader had a seat 
in the Cortes of Aragon. As late as 1781 the Academy of Madrid 
was obliged to offer as the subject for a prize essay the proposi- 
tion that there was nothing derogatory in the useful arts. Every 
tradesman and manufacturer sought only to make enough money 
to enable him to live on the interest of it or to establish a trust 
fund for his family. If he was successful he either entered a 
cloister or went to another province in order to pass for a noble. 
In Cervantes we find the maxim: "Whoever wishes to make his 
fortune seeks the church, the sea (i.e.j service in _Amenca), or 
theL Jdrig~V loouse." The highest ambition of the nation in its 
golden age was to be to Europe just what the nobility, the 
clergy, and the army were to single nations. Consequently 
there was an enormous preponderance of personal service in the 
industrial organism, and much of this was purely for ostentation. 

title General History of the Continent and Islands of America, London, 1725 and 
later. B.] 

1 In Caracas, especially, this was extremely difficult because of the number 
and bravery of the natives; compare Depons, Voyage a la Partie Orientale de 
la Terre-Ferme, I, 96 ff. [Depons's Voyage was translated by Washington Irving 
under the title of Voyage to the Eastern Part of Terra Firma or the Spanish Main, 
3 vols., New York, 1806. Later editions have varying titles. B.] 

2 Benzoni, Hist, del Hondo Nuevo, 4, 7 ff. Humboldt, R. H., I, 324. [Ben- 
zoni's Historia del Nuevo Hondo is accessible in English in the version by W. H. 
Smyth for the Hakluyt Society, London, 1857. On Benzoni as an authority 
see the note under his name in Larned's Literature of American History. Hum- 
boldt, R. I?., refers to Humboldt's Relation Historique, originally published in 
Humboldt and Bonpland, Voyage aux regions Equinoxiales du Nouveau Continent, 
1720-1804, Paris, 1814. It is accessible in English as the Personal Narrative of 
Travels, etc., translated first by Helen Maria Williams, 7 vols., London, 1818- 
1829, and again by Thomasina Ross, 3 vols., London, 1852-1853, Bohn's Scien- 
tific Library. B.] 



4 THE SPANISH COLONIAL SYSTEM 

Nowhere in the world were there so many nobles, so many officers, 
civil and military, so many lawyers and clerks, priests and 
monks, so many students and school-boys, with their servants. 
But as truly, nowhere in the world were there so many beggars 
and vagabonds. 

Policy of the Crown in Behalf of the Natives. The Spanish 
colonies were, originally, pure conquest colonies. Very early, 
however, the crown sought to interpose between the conquerors 
and the conquered, and to place the exploitation of the natives 
under restrictions that would be humane and lasting. 1 The 
frequent very violent conflicts of the government with the con- 
quistadores in behalf of the natives may be compared with those 
of England against the planters in favor of the negroes, Hot- 
tentots, etc. 2 Charles V had such a scientific interest in the 
characteristics of his new subjects that he even established pro- 
fessorships of the Mexican language and antiquities. 3 

The Koyal Encomenderos. According to the constitutional 
law of the Indies the land and the soil in all colonies were the 
domain of the king; therefore the encomiendas, which were 
granted only to discoverers, jind ..other men of conspicuous merit, 
were to be considered not so much as landed estates as public 
offices. 4 The encomendero was jLrjrjpj.nte^^nd_sworn (law of 
1532) for.,the express purpose of .giving his Indians military pro- 
tection (law of 1552) and of promoting politically and religiously 
their conversion to civilization (laws of 1509, 1554, i58o). 5 Who- 
ever neglected to do this lost his encomienda (laws of 1536, 1551). 
It is characteristic that the Spaniards so readily combined the 
functions of discoverers, pacificators, and founders of settlements ; 8 

1 As early as the time of the Catholic Queen Isabella; cf. her will, Recopilacion, 
VI, 10, i. Columbus's ruin was principally occasioned by his exportation of 
Indian slaves to Seville (Ausland, 1856, No. 40). 

2 Compare Humboldt, Kriiische Untersuchung, II, 201 ff. Cortes is again 
an honorable exception; cf. his will in Prescott, III, 306. 

3 Wappaus, Mittel- und Sudamerika, 37 ff. 

4 Compare Recopilacion, VI, 8, 9, n. 

5 The king also had the right to attach pensions up to a certain amount, 
as a charge upon the encomiendas. 

6 Philip II had already forbidden the word "conquest' 5 in his law concerning 
the Poblaciones. Recop., IV, i, 6. 



COMPULSORY SERVICES; THE MITA 5 

as a matter of fact most of the Indian races were led to a civil life, 
in our sense of the word, by them. 1 In order to prevent extor- 
tion no encomendero could own a house in his village or stay 
there more than one night (law of 1609, 1618). Not even his 
nearest relatives or his slaves could enter the encomienda (law of 
1574, 1550, and often). He was forbidden to maintain any indus- 
trial establishment in the encomienda (law of 1621), or to take 
into his house any of the inhabitants (law of 1528). That the 
Indians were free men, that they could not be sold by an encomen- 
dero, was recognized in many laws. 2 After the legislation of 1542 
some of the Indians were the immediate subjects of the king, and 
the rest dependents attached to the encomiendas. The former 
paid three-fourths of their taxes to the treasury, and the latter 
the same proportion to their landlords. The right of holding 
an encomienda was granted, regularly, for two generations, except 
in New Spain, where, on account of the very unusual services 
rendered by the conquerors, it was granted for three and even 
four generations. 3 During the eighteenth century many of the 
families of the landlords died out and their possessions were not 
again granted. The authorities always interested themselves 
in the cause of the Indians, until at length Charles III abolished I 
the encomiendas. 4 

Compulsory Services^, the Mita. From the beginning an effort 
was made to moderate the military power by means of jurists 
(so-called licenciados) and Philip II made the attorneys (fiscales) 
of the royal courts the official protectors of the Indians. 5 
To insure impartiality, none of the higher civil officers who had 

1 In regard to Mexico, I will mention only two points: first that the number 
of yearly human sacrifices there before the conquest has been estimated at 20,000 
(Prescott, I, 72); also that Cortes, at least, made an earnest effort not to impose 
more taxes on the conquered than they had paid to their former lords (ibid., 

HI, 3C5). 

* Recopilacion, VI, 2, i, n. 

'Ibid., VI, ii, 14. 

4 Humboldt, Neuspanien, I, 144 ft. [Humboldt's Essai Politique sur le Roy- 
aume de la Nouvelle Espagne, first published as Part III of Humboldt and Bon- 
pland, Voyage, etc., 1811. Four of the six livres of the original were translated 
into English by John Black, 2 vols., London, 1811. B.] 

6 Recopilacion II, 18, 34; compare VI, 6. 



6 THE SPANISH COLONIAL SYSTEM 

to do with the administration of American affairs could have an 
encomienda, or even profit by the cwmoulsorj __service of the 

t Indians^ (law of 1542, 1609, and often). The compulsory labor 
of the Indians was devoted to mining, road-making, maize cul- 
ture, cattle- raising, and similar necessities; never to wine, sugar- 
cane or like luxuries. In Peru not more than one-seventh, in 
Mexico not over four per cent, of the Indians could be summoned 
to service; for mining only such were drafted as lived within a 
certain distance of the mines. 2 Moreover, how far from oppres- 
sive the latter service, the so-called mita, was, is best seen in the 
fact that many, when it was not their turn, applied for it, and 
those bound to it (mitayos) often worked longer hours to gain 
the high wages promised for so doing. 3 

Treatment of Indians. On the whole the treatment of the 
Indians was as humane, perhaps, as was practicable, consider- 
ing^Ehat they were regarded as minors and in view of what was 

\ necessary to secure the Spanish sovereignty. 4 No Indian was to 
carry arms or learn the manufacture of them (law of 1501 and 
often) ; the possession of horses was also forbidden them (law of 
1568); however, all such provisions were 'soon without force. If 
they were obliged to live in villages (law of 1551 and often) and 
forbidden to change their dwelling-place without the permission 
of the authorities (law of 1560, 1604, 1618), yet we can find in this 
only a salutary police regulation by which a relapse to the bar- 
barism of a hunter's life might be prevented. As a matter of fact, 
the Indian is extraordinarily inclined to such relapses. The 
prohibition of the whites, mulattoes, etc., from settling among 
the Indians (law of 1536), and of the merchants from remaining 
longer than three days among them (law of 1600), was designed 
to protect them from ruthless exploitation by those of superior 
abilities. Every Indian village had a native cazique, whose office 
was often hereditary. 5 The government restricted his authority 

1 Recopilacion, VI, 12, 42; II, 3, 15. 

2 Ibid., VI, 12. 

8 Ulloa, Noticias Americanas, cap. 14 (1772). 

4 Recopilacion, VI, 10: "Del Buen Tratamiento de los Irtdios." 

5 Mestizos were not eligible for it (law of 1526); also a very wise precautionary 



TREATMENT OF INDIANS 7 

only to the extent of preventing him from abusing his sub- 
jects by means of white corregidores, or protectors, who were 
entrusted at the same time with the collection of the revenue. 1 
Offences against an Indian were to be avenged more severely 
than if they affected a Spaniard (law of 1593). The Indians 
did not pay the oppressive tax of the alcavala; they were easily 
released from their direct tribute also. 

The church treated the Indians with very exceptional mild- 
ness. The Inquisition never had to do with the Indians. Any 
heresies were to be tried before the bishops' courts (law of 1575), 
but there were never really any prosecutions. Because the Indians 
thought a great deal of their long hair, contrary to the Pauline 
injunction, they were not compelled to cut it off before baptism 
(law of 1581). As for confession, church penances, feast-days, 
the hearing of mass and fasts, in short almost every church require- 
ment, they were treated with an indulgence which would have been 
quite impossible towards the Spaniards themselves. All this was 
"on account of their ignorance and their weak minds." An. 
Indian could marry his godmother notwithstanding the parentela 
spiritualise when necessary even the eating of human flesh by 
him was overlooked. 2 As late as Humboldt's time the laws of 
Isabella and Charles V were still in existence laws which declared 
the Indians minors for life, so that, for example, they might not, 
on their own responsibility, contract debts of over five dollars. 
"No pueden tratar y contratar." Neither their real estate nor 
their personal effects could be sold except in due legal form (law 
of 1571), and the law gave its consent then only when it found the 
trade advantageous to the Indian. 3 

The Spanish. Policy in Theory and in Practice. The humane- 
ness of this policy no one will fail to appreciate. 4 While the 

1 Recopilacion, VI, 7. 

2 Montenegro, Itinerario de Parochos de Indios, IV, 5, 9, No. 8; compare 
Depons, I, 330 ff. Cortes with a shrewd tolerance availed himself of the legend 
of King Quitzalcoatl, who had gone off to the East, and of the Aztec eagle which 
was identified with the dove of the Holy Ghost. 

3 But on the other hand it was required that in criminal cases guilt could be 
pronounced only on the agreeing testimony of six Indians because of their great 
and universally prevailing lack of truthfulness. 

4 Compare Depons, I, 321 ff. Even Merivale, Lectures on Colonization and 



THE SPANISH COLONIAL SYSTEM 

colonies of other European peoples regularly caused the extirpa- 
tion of the barbarous natives wherever they encountered them, 1 
the Spaniards succeeded not merely in preserving them but also 
in converting and civilizing them, besides fusing with them into 
strong mixed races. It is true the Spaniards in America com- 
mitted outrages, like those of unrestrained soldiers in every war, 2 
but only so long as the conquistadores remained independent 
of the power of the state which had contributed little to the con- 
quest. A certain restraint over the colonists as well as over natives 
was essential to that beneficent purpose a firm interposition, 
and separation of the two antagonistic elements by the state. 
Every colonizing nation that desires to treat the aborigines 
humanely may learn a great deal here from the Spanish policy; 
for example, the English in regard to their policy in New Zealand 
and towards the Kaffirs. To be sure humanity was perhaps not 
the only motive of the Spanish government. The principle of 
Divide et impera came into play, and in the Spanish colonial 
administration, especially, played an important part. Colonists 
and aborigines were to check each other. Therefore the whole 
system of treating the Indians as wards was designed manifestly 

Colonies, London, 1842 (II, Lect. 18), is obliged to demand the appointment of 
protectors for the natives, who thus stand immediately under the authority of 
the motherland, as an essential obligation in every colony. Conversion to Chris- 
tianity also seems to him the indispensable previous condition of all civilization; 
and for very barbarous primitive people he considers the Spanish system of hold- 
ing them as minors as appropriate in order to prevent a contract for service be- 
coming a form of slavery. On the other hand he condemns the separation of 
the natives from the colonists; the highest aim should be the amalgamation of 
the two races. For agricultural colonies I agree with this fully. In Spanish 
America, however, circumstances made such amalgamation impossible. The 
temperate tablelands were at first too thickly populated; the hot lowlands were 
much too unhealthy for hard-working Europeans to permit of a very considerable 
emigration from the motherland. Really in that case a mingling would have 
consisted only in a degeneration of the Europeans. 

1 Hence such distinguished authorities as Poppig (article on Indians in the 
Encyclopaedia of Ersch and Gruber) and Darwin speak of an inexplicable neces- 
sity of nature which caused the barbarous races to succumb before the settlements 
of highly civilized men in their neighborhood. That the fact to which they refer 
is to be otherwise explained has been shown by Merivale, II, 206 ff. 

2 Compare the famous work of Las Casas, Relation de la Destruycion de las 
Indias, 1552. [In English in many forms; cf. Winsor, Narr. and Crit. Hist, 
of Am., II, 333-342. B.] 



THE SPANISH POLICY IN THEORY AND IN PRACTICE 9 

for permanence. Had the wards ever sought to attain maturity 
and real independence, for which it is very doubtful whether they 
were fitted, the Spanish system would have obstructed them at 
every step. And yet it is the chief object of education to make 
itself finally no longer necessary. How difficult the legal inca- ( 
pacity of the Indians in regard to borrowing must have rendered 
every industry! Their own caziques, more than anything else, 
contributed to keep them in dependence and ignorance. Laws v 
were necessary to prevent caziquesTrom treatmglESFsubjects as 
slaves. 1 In short, whoever considers the enormous extent and 
the thin population of all the Spanish colonies, the rapid succession 
of viceroys, their great distance from the superior administrative 
authorities in Europe, etc., cannot doubt but that in practice the 
treatment of the Indians was by no means always in accord with 
the beneficent purpose of the laws. For example, it was repeatedly 
forbidden to convert the Indians to Christianity by force (law / 
of 1523, 1618), and yet as a matter of fact it was quite customary / 
for missionaries, whenever slaves (foitos] seemed necessary, at 
the head of their soldiers and converted Indians (Indios reducidos) 
to make inroads upon the territory of the heathen in order to 
seize young people there (entrada, conquista de almas).' 2 ' Hum- 
boldt also asserts that, among other things, the undoubted improve- 
ment of introducing camels to take the place of men as freight- 
carriers was hindered by the encomenderos, who feared it would 
endanger their feudal rights. 3 Just think of the enormous size 
of so many ecomiendas ! When in Peru the kingdom was rudely 
overthrown by Gasca, single officers received as reward estates 
which paid a yearly income of 150,000 or 200,000 pesos. 4 The 

1 Recopilacion, VI, 2, 3. Compare especially the remarkable memorial of 
the bishop of Mechoacan in 1799, in Humboldt, Neuspanien, I, 149 ff. 

2 Compare Humboldt, Relation Historique, II, 274, 400, 471. 

3 Humboldt, Relation Historique, II, 93; compare Recopilacion, VI, 12, 9 ff. 
The principal work, for an understanding of these dark sides of the Spanish colonial 
system, is- that by Antonio de Ulloa and Jorge Juan, Noticias Secretas de America, 
a secret report of these well-known travellers, to Ferdinand VI, which was printed 
in London in 1826. 

4 Gomara, Hist. General de las Indias, cap. 164; Vega, II, 6, 3. According to 
Herrera (Decad., VII, 6, 3) the estates of Gonzalo Pizarro were more lucrative 
than those of the bishop of Toledo. 



lo THE SPANISH COLONIAL SYSTEM 

mayorazgo [entailed estate] of the Oaxaca valley (Cortes) in 
Humboldt's time consisted of four cities, forty-nine villages, and 
17,700 inhabitants; its income, in Cortes' s time, 1 was valued at 
sixty thousand ducats annually. 2 

Support given the Crown by the Church. What supported the 
crown in its policy toward the Indians more than anything else 
was the influence of the church, which in Spanish America was 
not less important than in the motherland. 3 Hence in the Recopil 

1 Humboldt, Neuspanien, II, 166; Prescott, III, 286. 

2 The Spaniards have always had the reputation of treating their negroes 
very mildly, and Adam Smith suggested as the explanation of this phenomenon 
the despotic authority of their rulers. But there were still other grounds. 
Because of the slight interest which Spaniards had in plantation colonies, their 
need of negro slaves was small; so all the severe measures of security were omitted 
measures which were ordered elsewhere because of the great number of blacks. 
Humboldt estimates the whole number of negroes in the Spanish-American main- 
land for 1822 as 387,000, that is, a little more than a fifth of those in Brazil and 
not nearly so many as there were in the single state of Virginia (R. H., Ill, 338) 
In the province of Caracas alone there were at the beginning of the nineteenth 
century 218,400 negroes (Depons, I, 241), so that there were very few in the chief 
colonies. Because of the great repulsion between negroes and Indians, the in- 
troduction of the former could serve as a means of safety for the Spanish rule. 
In general the slaves were not overworked for the same reasons that kept their 
masters from overwork. In some respects, on the contrary, the English or even 
the French slaves were much better off, for as to dress, food, and care in sickness 
the Spaniard took very little care of his slaves. On the other hand, however 
he used extraordinary care for their instruction in Christianity, and their public 
worship, etc. Unmarried negresses were usually shut up at night (Depons, op- 
cit.}. While most of the other systems of legislation made emancipation as dif- 
ficult as possible, it was very easy in Spain, and, especially by means of a will, quite 
customary (Humboldt, Cuba, I, 147). For the slightest abuse blows from 
which any blood flowed were absolutely forbidden the master could be forced 
to sell his slaves and even at the cost price, which, moreover, was never reckoned 
higher than 300 pesos, or in case the slave was already worn out the price was 
fixed by one of the judges at a very low figure. For this reason among others 
travellers were often begged by blacks on the street to buy them (Humboldt, 
ibid., I, 326 ff.). The slave could acquire property, moreover, and if he wished 
to buy his own freedom with it, or that of his wife and child under stated con- 
ditions, then the master had to allow it. In every province there was a special 
officer appointed, who was to protect the slaves in their rights. To what extent 
this mildness was consonant with the old Spanish system and its former weakness 
one may see from the fact that in later times, since the economic improvement 
of Cuba has begun, the slaves there have been treated with the greatest harsh- 
ness. Compare R. R. Madden, The Island of Cuba, London, 1849. 

8 In the colonies, as well as at home, for example, it was customary to measure 



LAS CASAS'S PLAN OF COLONIZATION II 

acton, I, 7, where the rights and duties of the bishops are treated, 
almost a third relates to their protection of the Indians. The 
cross was again to heal the wounds made by the sword. 

We must remember the close union which existed in the mother- 
land between the throne and the altar. Because no monarch of 
the world was esteemed so Catholic as the Spanish, so none had 
such a power over his country's church with the permission of the 
pope. Absolutism in Spain rested preferably upon spiritual 
foundations ; upon the right of patronage of the king over bishops ; 
upon his grand-mastership of the religious orders of knights ; and 
finally upon the Inquisition. This influence was even much greater 
in America, a papal donation. No priest could go to AmericaV, 
without the express permission of the king (law of 1522 and later)uJ/ 
The ecclesiastical patronage of the whole of the Indies belonged^ 
eJEchisrvely to the crown ; ^Ey it ail bishops^were nominated to the 
pope, and all canons to Hie prelates (law of iSoS). 1 Again, no 
papal bull could extend to America except by permission of the 
council of the Indies. 2 One of the most important prerogatives 
was the royal sale of indulgences", similarly the annates flowecJ 
not into the papal but into the royal treasury. 3 _. X 

Las Casas's Plan of Colonization. The plan of colonization of 
the celebrated Las Casas at Cumana is especially noteworthy; to be 
sure, it was a failure, on the whole, but it is an instructive example 
of later missions, such as that of the Jesuits in Paraguay (1520). 
Las Casas would take with him only farmers, laborers, and priests. 
No soldier, particularly no Spanish soldier, was to go without his 
permission. The settlers themselves were to wear a peculiar 
uniform, and the whole enterprise was aimed at the conversion of 
the natives. Las Casas promised to convert ten thousand Indians 
in two years, and to pay the king fifteen thousand ducats annu- 
ally, and after the expiration of ten years sixty thousand. 4 

Missions. With few and insignificant exceptions, missionary 

the importance of a town, not by the number of its inhabitants, but according 
to the number of its cloisters and churches: Depons, II, 148. 
^ l Recopilacion, I, 6. 

2 Ibid., I, 9; Herrera, I, 6, 19 ff. 
* s Recopilacion, I, 17, 20. 
4 Herrera, II, 4, i- 



12 THE SPANISH COLONIAL SYSTEM 

enterprises did not really succeed until after the end of the period 
of conquest, that is, until the middle of the seventeenth century. 1 
Many missions were founded in the last quarter of the eighteenth 
century, even; for example,. the fine series which embraced upper 
California, between 1772 and 1784. Soon after their first estab- 
lishment, they usually cost the state nothing. The interior of such 
a mission has been very graphically "described by Humboldt and 
Duflot de Mofras. 2 The cabins were quite uniform and the 
streets straight and at right angles, all reminding one of the 
colonies of the Moravian Brethren. In addition to the labor 
performed on his own land, every adult Indian was required to 
work on the common land one hour every morning and evening 
(conuco de la comunidad) ; the produce of this labor was devoted, 
first, under the direction of the priest, to the church and service 
of God, and then a proportion was also applied to the needs of 
the Indians themselves. Near the coast the principal products 
were sugar, indigo, and hemp. In an open space in the centre of 
the mission was situated the church, school, the house of the 
missionaries, and the so-called Casa del Rey, a convenient inn for 
the free shelter of travellers. Scattered about the surrounding 
region for thirty or forty square leagues were perhaps fifteen or 
twenty isolated leased haciendas, generally devoted to cattle- 
raising; here and there, too, were solitary branch chapels. 

Military Defence of Missions. The so-called presidios were 
intended to serve as the military defence for a whole series of 
missions; these were small forts with an armament of perhaps 
eight guns and some seventy men who rode excellently (each one 
having seven horses) and were dressed in leather (companias de 
la cuera). From four to six of these soldiers were assigned to 
each mission, as well for its protection as for the purpose of for- 
warding despatches. The support which had to be provided 

1 A distinction should be made between the curas who labored in Spanish 
places, the doctrineros who lived with the converted Indians, and the misioneros 
sent to the barbarians. For the actual work of conversion they have always 
used monks only, who, Cortes, for example, declared, were alone useful for such 
work. Relac., IV, in Lorenzana, 391. 

2 Humboldt, Relation Historique, I, 373. Duflot de Mofras, Exploration 
du Territoire de I'Or/gon, des Californies et de la Mer Vermeille (1844), I, ch. 7. 



MISSIONARY ENTERPRISE 13 

for the presidios by the missions was afterwards made good to 
the latter by the government. 

Missionary Enterprise. The life of the Indians was regulated 
by the missionaries in every respect. For instance, on the Orinoco 
the inexhaustible stores of turtles' eggs were earlier exploited very 
irregularly, and perhaps, occasionally, most of them trampled 
upon. The Indians were greatly indebted to the missionaries 
in this matter and especially to the Jesuits, who always left remain- 
ing a nucleus of eggs, while their successors, the Franciscans, 
gave less attention to such permanent exploitation. 1 The num- 
ber of inhabitants of a mission near the sea amounted to perhaps 
eight hundred to two thousand souls; farther inland, often to only 
a little over two hundred. The finest mission of New California, 
St. Gabriel the Archangel, numbered almost three thousand 
Indians in 1834, and possessed one hundred and five thousand 
head of horned cattle, twenty thousand horses, and over forty 
thousand sheep ; they harvested annually twenty thousand fane- 
gas 2 of corn, five hundred barrels of wine, and as much brandy. 3 
Humboldt calls these settlements "etats intermediaires " between 
the real colony and the wilderness (I, 461). They were always 
somewhat like camps; I recall only the circumstance that they 
could be broken up and moved at every whim of the missionary 
who, perhaps, found the region unhealthful. 4 Of the forcible 
"entradas" I have already spoken above; they were especially 
favored by the Jesuits, less so by the Franciscans. 5 "El ecco de 
la polvora," says a Jesuit in the Lettres Edifiantes, must first 
sound if the knowledge of the cross is to find entrance. 

Missionary Seclusion. One chief aim of the monks was always 
directed towards the keeping of their true flocks from all inter- 
course with strangers and enlightened people, the so-called gente 
de razon. This was a point where the above-mentioned pro- 
hibitory laws, sharply separating the Indians and whites, were 

1 Humboldt, Relation Historique, II, 245. 

2 A Spanish dry measure varying from one to two bushels. TR. 

3 Humboldt, Relation Historique, II, 393. Duflot de Mofras, I, 350. 

4 Humboldt, Relation Historique, I, 403. In spite of the legal prohibition, 
Recopilacion, VI, 3, 13. 

6 Humboldt, Relation Historique, II, 274. 



14 THE SPANISH COLONIAL SYSTEM 

really observed. Even children of soldiers were forbidden in 
the settlements. 1 The famous hospitality of the missionaries 
was intimately connected with their aim to superintend the inter- 
course of travellers and compel them to go on as soon as possible. 
Usually one was allowed but a single night's lodging. Peddlers 
thought they noticed an intention to discourage them from coming 
again by the use of every sort of chicanery. 2 The missionary, 
who did not disdain to trade himself, was to fo'rm the only con- 
nection between his mission and the outside world. That this 
must have led to much friction with the secular authorities is self- 
evident; the Spanish government followed a pretty variable 
course in the matter, now on one side and now on the other. 3 
Indeed the great remoteness of so many missions, perhaps, occa- 
sionally invited a good deal of insubordination against their 
spiritual lords, of which Humboldt relates a remarkable instance. 4 
Character of the Missionaries. The missionaries were strictly 
forbidden to accept from their spiritual children any perquisites 
whatever beyond their pretty niggardly salary. Unfortunately 
they got around this prohibition quite frequently, since they sold 
pictures of the saints, rosaries, and the like, and in so doing only 
too often increased their sales by misusing their spiritual power. 5 
That Humboldt 6 praises the administration of missions in general 
is not absolutely a denial of such abuses. A man like Poppig, 
wholly removed from every hierarchical or Catholic bias, but 
possessing clear insight and a strong love of truth, praises "that 
remarkable spirit which, far removed from fanaticism, made the 
priests ready to endure the greatest hardships with almost inde- 
scribable resignation; that silent and pious enthusiasm, the work 
of which the traveller of to-day sees only in ruins, but in ruins 
which fill the beholder with respect for the exiled builders." 

1 Humboldt, Neuspanien, II, 239. 

2 Humboldt, Relation Historique, II, 327. 
8 Ibid., especially II, 623 ff. 

*Ibid., II, 544- 

8 Depons, II, 136 ff. The dark side of the Spanish mission system is most 
glaringly pictured in Forbes, A History of Upper and Lower California, London, 
1831; Beechey, Narrative o} a Voyage to the Pacific Ocean, London, 1831. 

c Walton %istorique, 1, 413. 



THE JESUIT MISSIONS IN PARAGUAY 15 

Experience teaches that barbarous peoples who are unable to 
maintain their complete independence are most gently subjected 
by a strong church. Hence the popes, for instance, repeatedly 
demanded that the converted Prussians be treated humanely, 
at all events not wojrse than they were accustomed to in their 
pagan condition. What shepherd would not interest himself 
for his flock which is obedient to him with body and soul for this 
life and for that to come ? Similar phenomena repeat themselves 
continually. Thus, for example, on the Cape, the Boers con- 
ceived the greatest hatred for the missionaries who tried to pro- 
tect the natives. 1 It is very well known that in the English 
Antilles the cause of the negroes against the planters is strongly 
supported by the Baptist missionaries. 

The Jesuit Missions in Paraguay. The conquest by the sword 
and the cross which established the Spanish colonial system was 
continued on a small scale by the missions and presidios for 
centuries after the end of the period of the conquista properly 
so called. The most noteworthy example of this is, undoubtedly, 
the Jesuit mission in Paraguay (after 1609), where the above- 
described principles had the most extensive and intensive develop- 
ment. 2 In every mission the Indians chose their own gobernador, 
although, naturally, subject to the veto of the priest, to whom, 
likewise, all judicial punishments of the gobernador had to be 
submitted for sanction. These punishments had altogether the 
character of church penances. Usually the affairs of the mission 
were divided between two monks; the elder had the spiritual 
oversight, the younger the secular economic control. With great 
shrewdness the Indians were formed into military companies 
and, by the means of splendid uniforms and titles and such like, 
became a well-organized machine. All foreign necessities were 

^prengel's Barrow, p. 345 ff. [The German trans, by M. C. Sprengel 
of Sir John Barrow's Travels into the Interior of Southern Africa, London, 1801. 

-B.] 

2 Compare Ulloa, Viage a la America Meridional (2 vols., 4to, 1748), II, 
T, 15. Charlevoix, Histoire du Paraguay, II (Paris, 1757). [Ulloa's Voyage 
is accessible in English both by itself in various editions and in vol. 14 of 
Pinkerton's Voyages. Charlevoix's Paraguay has also been translated, London, 
1769. B.] 



1 6 THE SPANISH COLONIAL SYSTEM 

paid for by the sale of Paraguay Jeas which the order managed 
" because the Indians are too timid." Then, too, the laborers 
and such people worked under the direction of the priest, and 
even the public slaughter-house was managed by him. Work 
on the conuco l claimed two days of every week. The beginning 
and ending of a day's work were regulated by church ceremonies; 
likewise the hour and manner of meals, dress, and so on were 
arranged once for all by the mission. "The missionaries," says 
Duflot de Mofras, "had solved the great problem of making work 
attractive. They had brought the Indians to the realization 
that, grouped about the mission, they were safer from the attacks 
of hostile tribes, and that they could maintain themselves more 
comfortably and plentifully from the light and varying work of 
the mission than from the insecure and dangerous spoil of the 
chase and of robbery." In every mission there was a specia) 
house, called beaterio, where women of bad repute were kept 
under control; here also resorted childless married women during 
the absence of their husbands. In similar cloistered seclusion 
young maidens (monjas] were kept until marriageable age. 
The missionaries, too, had charge of the diversions, combining 
with them instruction in all kinds of vocal and instrumental 
music. One may see how ably the community of property which 
obtains among almost all barbarous peoples was retained here, 
and was freed from its natural defects by an admirably well- 
directed "organization of labor." In many missions, for example, 
in California, the arrangement of the mission house immediately 
reminds one of the phalansteries of Fourier. 2 The strict exclu- 
siveness of the whole mission was designed to safeguard the 
innocent and not sufficiently established moral habits of the 
Indians from contagion. 3 

1 [See above, p. 12. B.] 

2 Compare Duflot de Mofras, I, 126 ff. 

3 The melancholy decline of missions, after the republican governments (in 
Mexico, 1832) robbed them of their estates, is depicted by Duflot de Mofras 
in impressive terms. The majority of the converted Indians have been scattered 
again, their laboriously acquired property plundered, and they themselves become 
more and more savage. The wild Indians have again commenced their raids 
upon the Spanish communities, as the powerful ecclesiastico-military frontier 
which formerly withstood them has been done away with. At first they rob 



DIFFERENT POLICIES OF DIFFERENT ORDERS 17 

Different Policies of Different Orders. The different orders 
adhered to very different principles regarding the missions. 
The Dominicans sought to make proselytes by fire and sword 
and purposely destroyed the monuments of earlier culture. The 
Franciscans attached little importance to science, but preached 
Christianity with fervent love. The Jesuits, according to cir- 
cumstances, pursued sometimes this course, sometimes that, and v > 
did much for philology, geography, etc. To take one example, 
surrounded by a vast variety of Indian languages, they contrib- 
uted a great deal toward making the language of the Incas the 
common language for South America. 1 

Population of Spanish America Emigration Laws. As for 
the population of Spanish America, it is in accordance with the 
nature of conquest colonies that immigration from the mother 
country, which in the sixteenth century was anything but over- 
populated, could never be numerous. About 1546 there were in 
Peru upwards of 6,000 Spaniards; 2 four years later there are 
said to have been in all the New World only i5,ooo. 3 From the 
time of Charles V no Spaniard was permitted to go to America 
without the express permission of the crown, and this was usually ^ 
given for only a stated time, perhaps two years/j Whoever sought 
this permission had not merely to furnish a sufficient reason, 
but present in addition satisfactory proofs regarding his morals 
and especially that neither he nor his ancestors for two generations 
had been punished by the Inquisition (law of 1518). The per- 
mission was also usually limited to a certain province, and the 
journey thence had to be very direct (law of 1566 and often). 
Even Creoles who had been in Europe, perhaps for their educa- \f 
tion, required the same official permission to return (law of 1589). 
Every shipmaster had to make declaration on oath that he had 

the Creoles of their horses, as a result of which they are unable to pursue them, 
then of their remaining cattle, and, at last, of their women. 

1 Wappaus, Mittel- und Sudamerika, 37 ff. Compare Tschudi, Peru, II, 352. 
[English trans, by Thomasina Ross, London, 1847. B.] 

2 Herrera, VIII, 3, i. 

8 Benzoni, III, 21. Yet in his Historia General de las Indias, C. 162, Gomara 
speaks of there being 20,000 Spanish families in Mexico a few years after its con- 
quest by Cortes. 

4 Recopilacion, IX, 26. 



1 8 THE SPANISH COLONIAL SYSTEM 

no unlicensed person on board. 1 Depons (I, p. 185) actually 
estimates the number of those who annually emigrated from 
Spain to the Captaincy-General of Caracas, as 100 at the most. 
The majority remained a lifetime, because a similar license was 
required for the return from America (law of 1570, 1612); only 
the restless Catalonians and Basques felt homesick. 
4- Composition and Distribution. When Humboldt was in 
America there were in general for every 100 inhabitants: in the 
United States, 83 whites; in New Spain (excluding the so-called 
interior provinces), 16; in Peru, 12; in Jamaica, 10; and in the 
city of Mexico, 51. In New Spain, where, proportionately, 
there was the largest European element, there were 1,200,000 
whites, of whom, at the highest estimate, 70,000 or 80,000 were 
native-born Spaniards, almost 2,500,000 Indians, and probably 
as many mestizos and some negroes. 2 Later the same writer 
tabulates the population of Spanish America as follows : 3 

Indians. Whites. Negroes. Mestizos. 

In Mexico 3,700,000 1,230,000 

In Guatemala 880,000 280,000 

In Colombia 720,000 642,000 

In Peru and Chile 1,030,000 465,000 



In Buenos Ayres 1,200,000 320,000 



1,860,000 
420,000 

387,000 1,256,000 

853,000 
742,000 



In Cuba and Porto Rico 339,000 389,000 197,000 



7,530,000 3,276,000 776,000 5,328,000 

The thorough investigations of Wappaus, which comprised 
r"the years 1860 to 1870, give for Mexico at least three-fifths pure 
L Indians and about an eighth pure whites. In Central America? 
according to Squier and Scherzer, there are perhaps about 5 per 
cent, whites, i per cent, negroes, almost 38 per cent, mixed, and 
fully 56 per cent. Indians. In Panama, according to M. Wag- 
ner, there are 5.5 per cent, whites, 12.7 per cent, negroes, mulat- 
toes, and zambos, 7.2 per cent, pure Indians, and the remain- 
der mestizos. In New Granada there are probably 16.6 per cent, 
whites; in Venezuela 27.5 per cent, pure whites, 23.3 per cent, 
pure Indians, 5.2 per cent, pure blacks, the remainder mixed 
races ; in Ecuador, at the most, 8 per cent, of whites and at least 

1 First ordered by Chas. V; Recopilacion, IX, 35, 20. 

2 Humboldt, Neuspanien, I, 165. 

3 Humboldt, Relation Historique, III, 339. 






POPULATION 19 

50 per cent, of pure Indians. In Peru, according to Miller, 
there are 14 per cent, whites, 57 per cent. Indians, 22 per cent, 
mestizos, 7 per cent, negroes and mixtures of negro blood. 1 Just 
like the Spaniards, the Spanish Creoles have an extraordinary 
love for city life ; a landlord, there, thinks he does very well if he 
makes one journey of recreation in a year to his possessions, 
without the least business motive. 2 Hence the white population'; 
is to be found only in the cities for the most part, and hardly at all i\ 
in the country. In Lima, one hundred and forty years ago, there 
were from 16,000 to 18,000 whites; in Mexico, in 1790, some- 
thing like 50,000 Creoles and 2,300 peninsular Spaniards. 3 The 
government seems to have especially feared the rise of a Creole 
peasantry. For this reason it held the more firmly to great 
entailed estates the more distant the province. In Chile the 
only exception allowed was on the frontier. Here Poppig found 
the sturdiest and at the same time the most warlike population, 4 
as was strikingly illustrated during the recent war with Peru and 
Bolivia. 5 This unmistakable superiority of Chile over all the 
rest of the Spanish-American world, which appears also in other 
fields, as, for example, statistics, public education, road-building, 
and particularly political freedom and order, may be due partly 
to the temperate climate of the country. The basis of it, how- 
ever, is undoubtedly the ethnological preponderance of the whites 
themselves, who, according to Wappaus, 6 apparently form the 
majority, besides the fact that the white race already predomi- 
nates among the mestizos and always will do so to an increasing 
degree. 

Class Distinctions. That conquest colonies naturally tend to 
divide the people into castes has been observed elsewhere. 7 
In Spanish America this caste distinction on account of race and 
color was necessarily much sharper. The names chapetons 

1 Wappaus, op. cit., especially 30, 243, 379, 407, 547> 6 3> 6 95- 

2 Depons, II, 313. 

3 Ulloa, Viage, II, i, 55 Humboldt Relation Historique, I, 573. 

4 Poppig, Reise, I, 108 ff. 

5 Compare Diego Barros Arana, Histoire de la Guerre du Pwfique, 1879- 
1880, II, 1881. 

6 Op. cit n 774 ff. 

7 Roscher's Kolonien, etc., 6. 



20 THE SPANISH COLONIAL SYSTEM 

(gachupins), Creoles, mestizos, mulattoes, tercerons, quadroons, 
zamboSj. and so on are quite well known. Marriage between 
the different degrees of color is considered a mesalliance and 
parents may prohibit it without further formality. It was the 
A Spanish policy to encourage these class distinctions as much 
as possible, - because it was rightly recognized as a chief means 
of making the dependence of the colonies on the mother country 
lasting. Each caste was extremely envious of the higher and 
correspondingly disdainful of the lower ones. This prevented 
any general union to shake off the common yoke; for the lowest 
class, which, to be sure, by a general uprising could only have 
gained, was extremely apathetic and at bottom revered the Spanish 
^ state and the church as protectors from the oppressors who 
were nearest and of whom they were most sensible. 1 Legally the 
Creole was on complete equality with the chapeton; but, as a 
matter of fact, until 1637 only twelve of the three hundred and 
sixty-nine bishops had been Creoles, and until 1808 only one of 
fifty viceroys of New Spain had been a Creole. 2 Wappaus knew 
of only four Creoles among one hundred and sixty viceroys, and 
only fourteen among six hundred and two captains-general or 
governors. 3 To the excluded this must have been all the more 
irritating, since they had in their midst a numerous and brilliant 
nobility 4 and since the preference of those born in the mother 
country was frequently due to the opinion that the whites quickly 
degenerated in the tropics. How often must the Creole blood 
have boiled at that! Yet to accomplish their plans they had first 
\ of all to arm the mestizos, Indians, etc., and in a measure incor- 
porate them with themselves; but the latter they disdained even 

1 Hence even to-day in most of those countries the aristocratic and priestly 
party is allied with the colored people. 

2 Robertson, History of America, II, 500. Humboldt, Neuspanien, II, 82. 

3 Wappaus, Republiken von Sudamerika, I, 1 1 

4 In Lima from one-quarter to one-third of the whites were of noble blood, and 
among them were forty-five families of marquises and counts; one of these sprung, 
on the female side, from the old Incas (Ulloa, Viage, II, i, 15). Moreover, there 
were in every colony two kinds of nobility: families whose ancestors at first for 
a short time had held high office and whose prominence was derived rather from 
old Spain; and those who descended from the conquistadores (Humboldt, R. H n 
I, 592). 



NATURAL ANTIPATHIES 21 

more than they hated the gachupins. Likewise the aversion 
between mulattoes and negroes was as great as that between 
whites and negroes. 1 The civil position of every class depended 
mainly and naturally upon the greater or less whiteness of their 
complexion. " To do bianco es caballero" Sometimes even 
now a traveller will give the most grievous offence if he does not 
recognize as perfectly white and noble a dark-brown half-naked 
woodsman, who, for want of a hut, can only fasten a hammock in 
the trees. Humboldt relates some amusing instances of this. 
It was therefore a successful device of Spanish policy to furnish 
men from the mixed castes, who, owing to their capacity and 
energy, might be dangerous, with a patent declaring them white. 
By this means the mestizos were deprived, in advance, of their 
natural leaders in any revolt. Of the same effect was the cir- 
cumstance that the Indian caziques were regarded as equal to 
the Spaniards; the Tlascalans had great privileges, for example. 2 
, Natural Antipathies. There were also a great many apples 
of discord between the subject population which must have facili- 
tated the government greatly in its policy of Divide. Every- 
where in Spanish America there existed the most violent antipathy 
between the inhabitants of the coast and those of the mountains, 
as, for example, Vera Cruz and Mexico ; the former were accused 
of being frivolous, the latter of being slow. 3 Few countries con- 
tain in themselves such numerous differences in climate and 
mode of living as the tierra caliente and tierra fria in Spanish 
America, the inhabitants of which despise each other heartily. 4 
In addition there were the same great provincial distinctions 
which mark the Catalonians, the Andalusians, the Basques, and 
the mountaineers in old Spain, and which they stubbornly pre- 
served even in America. 5 How very different, too, the individual 
colonies were from each other! Not merely because of their 
immense size and sparse population, but also because almost all 
the means of connection were naturally very bad. For example, 

1 Poussin, Richesse Ame'ricaine, II, 412. [For Richesse read Puissance. B.] 

2 Recopilacion, VI, i. 39. 

8 Humboldt, Neuspanien, IV, 319. 

4 Humboldt, Relation Historique, III, 30. 

6 Ibid., especially I, 568. 



22 THE SPANISH COLONIAL SYSTEM 

the voyage between Peru and Mexico is so difficult, on account 
of the winds and currents, that it is considered the most tedious 
and irksome of the whole world. 1 We are told that while the 
Spaniards, in order to impede the intercourse by land between 
the provinces, had left isolated Indian races on the intervening 
frontiers intentionally unconquered, Indians speaking a different 
language intruded between the old settled places. 2 The excellent 
postal communication which Count Florida Blanca established 
from Buenos Ayres to California was considered by many men 
of the good old stamp as a highly dangerous innovation. 3 Dis- 
cord was disseminated within every social circle. The tremen- 
dous pride and stiff ceremonialism which characterize the Spaniards 
in Spain had developed here incomparably more, so that all cor- 
diality was smothered beneath it, and, more than that, numberless 
family quarrels, denunciations, etc., resulted from it. 4 

Aristocratic Ideas in Spanish America, I have shown in 
another place that the principle of Divide et impera is the lead- 
ing idea of every aristocratic system. 5 Aristocracy rules its sub- 
jects particularly by separating the people into a multitude of 
small and very exclusive cliques, every clique with special privi- 
leges. Its chief aid in accomplishing this object is a close union 
with the church, and in material affairs a very mild treatment of 
the lowest classes. It might seem strange that, in a perfectly 
unlimited monarchy such as that of Spanish America, so many 
aristocratic principles are met with. But in every state based on 
caste, be the form of government what it may, the basis of all 
political life is always aristocratic. Moreover, the government 
itself, if the king resides on the other side of the ocean and never 

1 Compare Humboldt, Neuspanien, IV, 330 ff. Ulloa relates a popular anec- 
dote of a ship-captain who married a wife in Payta, but before he arrived in Callao 
had a son who was able to read; and the distance covered amounted only to 140 
leagues (Viage, II, 2, i). 

2 Ausland, 1844, No. 243. Reise der Novara, III, 372. [Eng. tr. London, 
1861-1863. B.] 

3 Humboldt, Relation Historique, I, 573. 
4 Depons, I, 189, 216. 

6 In my Umrissen zur Naturlehre der drei Staatsformen (second essay: "Aris- 
tokratie") which was published in the Berliner allgemeine Zeitschrift fur Ge- 
schichte in 1847. 



ARISTOCRATIC IDEAS IN SPANISH AMERICA 23 

makes even the most hasty pleasure-trip to the country, must 
inevitably assume a strong aristocratic color. Spanish America""^ 
is classic ground for the so-called official aristocracy. I mean 
by that that independent bureaucracy which existed in almost 
all the absolute monarchies from the middle of the sixteenth to 
the middle of the eighteenth century, and which was really the 
only bulwark against arbitrary despotism for a long time after 
the decline of the old provincial representative institutions. The 
French Parlements furnish the best-known example. It was 
the period oj office-buying .and fee-paying ; which generally pro- 
moted incapacity, indolence, and avarice among officials, but 
which also maintained their independence of superiors. At 
that time the collegiate * system still prevailed with its imperfect 
division of labor and gradations of jurisdiction and appeals, its 
slowness, pedantry, and weakness, but also with its consideration 
and paternal clemency. The often very absurd red-tape con- 
nected with that system ought always to be regarded as a measure 
of safety against arbitrary power, and the class exclusiveness and 
arrogance of the numerous officials as a help to independence 
against temptation. This official system, with its good and bad 
features, had taken very early and deep root in Spain. It was 
closely connected with the temper of the people as depicted 
above. Many of the political elements of weakness from which 
we Germans have suffered so much the large number of pedants 
and the excessive number of legal documents, secretiveness in 
public service, mania for rank and title, etiquette, 2 slow old ways, 
litigiousness all that sort of thing is even more widely developed 
among the Spaniards, and especially in America. 

The Viceroys. At first the viceroys possessed the entire royal 
authority. 3 In course of time their authority was by degrees 
restricted so that districts lying at a distance were raised, one 
after another, to a separate and independent captaincy-general. 
The ceremonial maintained by the viceroys was pompous in 

1 [Collegiate in the sense in which College is used in Electoral College. B.] 

2 One may compare the long section " de las precedences, ceremonias y cor- 
tesias ": Recopilacion, III, 15. 

3 Recopilacion, III, 3. 



24 THE SPANISH COLONIAL SYSTEM 

the extreme. They were served by pages, and every time they 
went out they were attended by their own guard on horseback. 1 
In their palace they could eat only with their families, so they 
could enjoy the pleasures of good-fellowship only when travelling 
through the country. However, like every ceremonial, this one 
was also an important restraint. It prevented the viceroy from 
becoming too firmly established in his province, an event which, 
in the case of very distantly situated officials, is always a chief 
danger to the government. For that reason they never permitted 
them to remain in their offices very long not over seven years at 
the most; and seldom were persons of very distinguished rank 
selected. An important check was also imposed by the so-called 
visit as which were instituted from time to time in the colonies, 2 
but which seldom resulted in the immediate relief of the subjects. 
In addition every high official in the colonies, especially the vice- 
roy, was subject, after retirement from his office, to a process 
known as the residential The* Council of the Indies appointed 
for this a particularly prominent jurist, who had to be ready for 
months to receive charges of every kind against the outgoing 
official. The justice of these charges was decided in Spain, and 
no viceroy or other officer could receive the slightest new appoint- 
ment without first successfully meeting this test. The well-nigh 
proverbial ingratitude of the Spanish court towards its great 
discoverers and conquerors is at bottom nothing more than the 
painful introduction of the later colonial policy of permitting no 
one to become too powerful. 4 

Audiencias. Associated with the governors were the audien- 
cias. 5 

1 One may find a brilliant description of the reception which was accorded 
the new viceroy of Peru in Ulloa, Viage, II, i, 4. Something like it, only in less 
degree, was repeated every time the viceroy was to preside in person at the audien- 
cia. Also in the case of captains-general. See Depons, II, 20. 

2 Recopilacion, II, 34. 

3 Ibid., V, 15. Even Cortes had to put up with such a juez de residencia. 

4 The personal un worthiness of the first minister of the Indies, Fonseca, does 
not admit of question; compare Washington Irving, Life and Voyages o] Colum- 
bus, append., 32. 

5 Recopilacion, II, 15 ff. An audiencia was associated with Cortes first in 
1527, as the court recognized the impossibility of controlling so great a hero by 



THE COUNCIL OF THE INDIES 25 

Properly speaking these were courts of appeal, but at the same 
time they were also to constitute a sort of council of state for all 
the more important and extraordinary affairs with a great restrain- 
ing power over the governor. The audiencia could correspond 
with the king directly and without the knowledge of the governor 
(law of 1620); to it the Spanish government turned when special 
information was needed regarding the conduct of the governor. 
The commands of the audiencia were regarded as if they emanated 
from the king himself (law of 1530). But this circumstance was 
not to lessen the respect due the governor from the subjects nor 
affect the necessary unity of the supreme authority ; for this reason 
the viceroys or captains-general formally presided over the audien- 
cias, and the latter, like the old French Parlements, could oppose 
a definite command of its president only by representations, 
reports, and the like to Spain. In case of vacancies, the audiencia 
acted in place of the governor (law of 1600). Generally the 
members, because of their high rank and good salary, were placed 
in an independent position. To preserve their impartiality they 
had to lead a life withdrawn from the world; they could neither 
borrow nor loan on interest ; they could acquire no landed property, 
or keep more than four slaves; they could make no marriage 
alliance in their jurisdiction, nor serve as godparent or act in any 
similar capacity. 1 

The Council of the Indies. The supreme authority for all 
American affairs was vested in the celebrated Council of the In- 
dies, founded in 1511 and finally organized in 1542. 2 This board 
originally embodied all financial, police, military, ecclesiastical, 
and commercial authority, and at the same time served as the 
high court of appeal in all civil actions of over 6,000 piastres. 
Endowed with the entire royal prerogative, it had, at all times, 
to remain in the neighborhood of the court. New laws could 
be passed only by a majority of at least two-thirds. For a cen- 
tury the Council of the Indies was universally and deservedly 
held in the greatest esteem. Its members were chosen prefer- 

means of a single, and perhaps insignificant, man. Compare Herrera, Decad., IV, 
21, 3, 8; Prescott, Conquest of Mexico, III, 234. 

1 Recopilacion, II, 16, 38 ff. 

3 Ibid., II, 2-15. 



26 THE SPANISH COLONIAL SYSTEM 

ably from those who had held high offices in America with distinc- 
tion. 1 Only by means of such a body was made possible that 
firm adherence to proved principle, that uninterrupted and at 
the same time mild activity, " without haste but also without 
rest," upon which the Spanish dominion preferably depended. 2 

Fondness for Titles and Rank. I have before described the 
litigiousness and the multiplicity of legal documents, which are 
unfortunately the usual accompaniments of the conditions 
described. Depons (II, 63 ff.) was able to make the paradoxical 
statement that the whole population of Spanish America was 
divided into two classes; those who ruined themselves by law- 

1 Depons, II, 13 ff. 

2 This well organized and truly Spanish system of Indian administration was 
undermined much more by the ideas of centralization of the eighteenth century 
which mounted the throne of Spain with the Bourbon dynasty than by foreign 
enemies. Of how little advantage centralization could be when the centre was 
over five thousand miles distant across the sea and every naval war completely 
broke the connection, the reader may judge for himself. For example, the crown 
insisted over against the viceroy on always exercising its right of appointment to 
all offices. On the other hand the audiencias were degraded; in case the office 
of governor fell vacant they were not to supply his place any more, but the officer 
of next lower grade (law of 1800). At the same time the influence of the gov- 
ernor as presiding officer was considerably increased by requiring from him an 
official report each year of all cases that had been tried or postponed under the 
pretext of expediting business (law of 1802). Compare Depons, II, 32, 37. The 
municipal liberties also of the so-called Cabildos, which in the time of Philip II 
had been granted so willingly, were always more jealously restricted rather than 
granted to new districts (Humboldt, Relation Historiqite, II, 52). In Spain, 
even, the Council of the Indies had to put up with the bureaucratic authority 
of the department ministers. First came the creation of a Ministry of the Indies, 
which naturally was in everlasting conflict with the Council of the Indies. For 
that reason, in the time of Charles III, the presidency of the latter was entrusted to 
the minister and so the importance of the council as an independent body was prac- 
tically destroyed. Charles IV, to be sure, re-established this venerable collegiate 
body outwardly, and the Indian ministry was divided among five department min- 
isters of war, navy, finance, foreign affairs, justice and pardons. (Bourgoing, Ta- 
bleau de I'Espagne, I, 186 [Eng. trans., London, 1789].) But this only aggravated 
the evil, since the good results of the bureaucratic system were lost without re- 
gaining those of the collegiate system. No special officer in America could 
execute a command which had not reached him from his special minister. Cases 
occurred where the war minister ordered certain fortifications most urgently, 
but where nothing was done because the finance minister neglected to allot the 
sums for payment of the same (Depons, II, 16). How long could such a condition 
of affairs last? 



SECRECY IN STATE AFFAIRS 27 

suits and those who enriched themselves by the same means, or 
at least made their living by those means. In the single city of 
Caracas there were 600 judges, lawyers, and clerks in a population 
of 31,000 in all. Closely associated with this is the inordinate 
fondness for titles and rank which characterized the Creoles. 
" There is no person of distinction who does not pretend to be a 
military officer, yet without having any of the preliminary and 
indispensable training for that noble occupation. There is no one, 
white or almost white, who does not intend to be a lawyer, priest, 
or monk ; those who are unable to give such wing to their preten- 
sions aim, at least, at being notaries, secretaries, clerks of church 
sacristans, or attaches of some religious community, such as lay 
brothers, pupils, or foundlings. Thus the fields lie deserted and 
their fertility is proof of our inactivity. Cultivation of the soil is 
despised. Every one wants to be a gentleman or live in idleness." 
Very frequently militia colonels in uniform and decorated with 
orders could be seen behind the shop-counter. 2 Every man of 
rank was accustomed to maintain an agent in Madrid authorized 
to seek titles, orders, etc., for his employer at every opportunity 
that offered itself. Such an apoderado, naturally, took no step 
without being paid for it, and besides the authorities had to see 
ready money for every mark of favor. Innumerable persons fell 
deeply in debt in this way. 3 One may see in this a device of the 
Spanish court for keeping the Creoles under their thumbs, as 
efficacious as it was cheap. 

Secrecy in State Affairs. A consequence in part of this 
overweening estimation of the green table, and in part, too, of 
the aristocratic, despotic methods of the government in general, 
was the profound secrecy with which all state affairs were veiled. 
The excellent Robertson, in 1777, had to derive his knowledge 
of Peruvian finances from a manuscript of 1614. The revenues 

*Dr. Sanz, in Depons, I, 186. 

2 Humboldt, Neuspanien, V, 39. 

3 Depons, II, 314 ff. Much more salutary was the idea of Charles IV, who 
established at Madrid a company of his body guard out of Creole nobles in order 
to bring together and fuse the two halves of his empire and to have hostages in 
the event of a colonial uprising. Unfortunately Ferdinand VII did away with 
this organization. Duflot de Mofras, I, 4. 



28 THE SPANISH COLONIAL SYSTEM 

of Mexico he estimates at only 4,000,000 piastres, although at 
that time they amounted to over 15, 000,000. * Thus it was made 
a matter of serious reproach to Count Revillagigedo, and espe- 
cially in America, that he made public the census of the popu- 
lation in New Spain and so brought to every one's knowledge 
the small number of peninsular Spaniards there. 2 

Restriction of Foreign Intercourse. A state which conceals 
within itself numerous and important conflicting elements, and 
can remain master of them only by means of a very skilful govern- 
mental machinery, will always be inclined to restrict as much 
as pbssible the intercourse of its own people with foreigners. 
This is especially so with all despotic and aristocratic states, 
as soon as they have passed beyond the stage of merely natural 
development. I call to mind, for example, ancient Egypt and 
Lacedemonia, in modern times China and Japan, and to a cer- 
tain extent Russia and Austria before 1848. Spanish America, 
for reasons easy to understand, especially developed this system of 
isolation. It was, at the beginning, an exceedingly natural feel- 
ing which sought to keep all non- Spaniards away from America. 
All Europe, at that time, looked upon America as a sort of Castle 
of Indolence, the enjoyment of which by the Spaniards every- 
body envied. The Spanish possessions were much too exten- 
sive, much too thinly populated, and much too distant from 
the mother country to be easily defended at all points by mere 
physical means. Therefore they fell back upon immaterial 
means of defence. All intercourse with foreigners, without ex- 
press permission, was forbidden on penalty of death and confis- 
cation. 3 Until the middle of the seventeenth century the Spaniards 

1 Compare Humboldt, Neuspanien, V, 9. 

2 Humboldt, Relation Historique, I, 573. In the colonies people were very 
much more concerned about such matters than in the mother country. Thus, 
for example, Humboldt, when he neared the frontiers of Brazil, ran the greatest 
danger of being arrested by the authorities there as a person dangerous to the 
state and sent to Europe, which the Portuguese government itself would only 
have regretted. Ibid., II, 476. 

3 Recopilacion, IX, 27, i, 4, 7 ff. These laws date back to Philip II. Earlier 
English traders were not uncommonly met with in the Canary Islands. Hack- 
luyt, Voyages, III, 447, 454. 



RESTRICTION "FAVORED BY NATURE 29 

treated the entry of any foreign ship into American waters as 
a crime. Shipmasters who were stranded on their shores were 
frequently executed or sent to the Mexican mines for life. Even 
as late as the end of the seventeenth century the so-called coast- 
guards were not ashamed of similar outrages. 1 When the French 
tried to make a settlement in Florida between 1564 and 1567 
they were nearly all killed by the Spaniards. 2 It ought not to 
be forgotten that, until the loss of the Invincible Armada, Spain 
was generally considered the first sea-power and, until the Thirty 
Years' War, even more generally as the first land power of the 
world. Even the valor of individual Spaniards was very greatly 
feared. Foreigners could really never hope to obtain permis- 
sion to make an actual settlement during the period when the 
Spanish colonial power was in its prime. It was not until 
toward the end that the unconditional prohibition was replaced 
by a high tax. But even then the earlier policy of the govern- 
ment was only too firmly fixed in the habits of the people. Every 
foreigner was looked upon as a heretic, and, unless he disarmed 
the national prejudice by an extraordinary friendliness, had to 
fear daily charges of blasphemy, etc., witnesses of which were 
never wanting. 3 

Such Restriction Favored by Nature. Moreover, in the 
Spanish colonies nature herself remarkably favored such an 
almost Chinese exclusiveness. Besides Vera Cruz and Cam- 
peche, the immense eastern coast of New Spain contains prac- 
tically no harbors. Even these are only moderately good, and 
in addition they are completely commanded strategically from 
Havana. The kingdom of New Granada was connected with 
the sea only by the harbors of S. Marta and Cartagena and 
by a rushing stream. The Gulf of Mexico is difficult to navi- 
gate throughout the year because of the prevailing winds. 4 In all 
the provinces which formerly were of particular importance the 
coast regions are almost uninhabited, in Peru because of the 

1 Examples are given in B. Edwards, History of the British West Indies, I, 140 ff. 

2 Anderson, Origin of Commerce, II, under the year 1565. 
8 Depons, I, 184. 

4 Humboldt, Relation Historique, I, 569. 



30 THE SPANISH COLONIAL SYSTEM 



lack of rain, 1 in New Spain and New Granada because of 
their heat and unhealthfulness. The population is concen- 
trated inland on the tablelands, and is accessible from the coast 
only by means of very steep and tiresome mountain roads. The 
yellow fever, too, which threatens every foreigner on the coast, 
is an especially formidable means of defence, and perhaps more 
efficacious than the Chinese wall. 2 The government sought to 
develop these natural conditions to the utmost, or at least to 
preserve them. For example, the chief city of Guiana was not 
allowed to be founded at the mouth of the magnificent river 
Orinoco, but eighty-five leagues back from the sea, for the sake of 
better defence ; and the region between was to contain no impor- 
tant place. 3 For the same reason the very bad road from Caracas 
to the harbor of Laguayra was never improved. 4 Thus is ex- 
plained the indifference with which Charles III scorned every 
plan for cutting through the Isthmus of Panama. 5 But the 
best bulwark for the whole west coast was its remote situation 
in the Antipodes of Europe. "As a matter of fact, as soon as 
the Spanish colonies became known foreigners began to intrigue 
to make them revolt against the mother country. " 6 Those 
Spanish provinces which by their situation were more accessible 
to intercourse with the outside world, like Caracas and the regions 
of the Orinoco and of the Rio de la Plata, were always very much 

1 According to Tschudi, the Peruvian sand deserts are 440 leagues long (3 
35' to 21 48' S. B.), but only three to twenty leagues wide. 

2 Compare Humboldt, Relation Historique, I, 550; also Neuspanien, IV, 
376 ff. 

8 Humboldt, Relation Historique, II, 643. 
4 Depons, II, 72. 

5 Bourgoing, II. 256 ff. The Spanish Cortes ordered the cutting through of 
the isthmus in 1814. In this connection the difference between the enthusiastic 
enterprise of Charles V's time, when the Spanish colonial empire was won, and 
the conservative constructive period of Philip II, is very remarkable. Charles V in 
1523 had ordered Cortes to search the coasts of New Spain for the "discovery 
of the secret" for which in 1524 Cortes fitted out five expeditions at the same 
time. Pizarro wanted a Panama canal for political reasons. On the other hand 
Philip II, who at the beginning cherished similar ideas, later forbade even the 
mere mention of such a canal (v. Scherzer, Oesterreich. Zeitschr. /. d. Orient^ 
1883, No. 9). 

6 Duflot de Mofras. 



ECCLESIASTICAL CENSORSHIP 31 

neglected by the mother country. Another important reason 
for this was the circumstance that Spanish colonization aimed 
at conquest, but that here the natives had previously not been 
used to work. Caracas with its splendid coast was in many re- 
spects an exception to the Spanish rule. There towards the end 
of the eighteenth century the cultured youth studied French 
and English, and the old Castilian costume gave place more 
and more to the new French styles. 1 It was there and in Buenos 
Ayres that the revolt from the mother country began. 

Ecclesiastical Censorship. In the ecclesiastical realm the 
Spanish system of isolation expressed itself particularly by a 
rigorous censorship. The great roles which Philip II and Alba 
played in the general history of censorship is known. In America 
this tendency developed more freely. The entire control of the 
press was given into the hands of the Inquisition, and the pre- 
scriptions for its exercise as they are collected in the Recopilacion, I, 
24, and Depons, II, 95 ff., are a real masterpiece in the bad 
sense of the word. A few lines will suffice for its characterization. 
For example, every bookseller had to have always on hand in 
his shop a catalogue of all prohibited books, under penalty of 
forty ducats. He had to hand in, annually, a catalogue of his 
stock with the declaration upon oath that he had nothing else. 
Whoever, even for the first time, sold a prohibited book was 
suspended from his business for two years, banished for the same 
length of time from his place of residence, and sentenced to pay 
a fine of 200 ducats. A traveller who, in crossing the frontier 
even, concealed a book brought with him suffered a fine of 200 
ducats. The commissaries of the Inquisition might enter private 
houses even, at any hour of the day or night, for prohibited books 
or other similar articles. 

Spanish Commercial Policy. The Spanish commercial policy 
had the same end in view. Humboldt calls attention to the 
remarkable phenomenon that Mexican trade often flourished 
more in time of war than in time of peace, when the Spanish 
revenue ships could operate unhindered. Even in the years 
1820-1822 Basil Hall was able to show the most surprising con- 

1 Depons, I, 196 ff. 



32 THE SPANISH COLONIAL SYSTEM 

trast between Lima, which still remained Spanish, and Valparaiso, 
which had thrown off Spanish rule. Here the harbor was full 
of ships, the warehouses full of goods; there was a large number 
of bookstores and travellers; no pass was necessary; nothing 
but modern European costumes were worn. In Lima the con- 
tiary was the case in everything; the custom house was empty 
and closed, the streets were deserted; the ships at Callao were in 
a corner of the harbor, close under the fort, surrounded by gun- 
boats and closed in with a boom. 1 Wherever, subsequently, 
Spaniards reconquered, they threw all foreign merchants, Ameri- 
cans, Englishmen, and all, into the most horrible dungeons, such 
as the Morillo in Cartagena. 2 

Management of American Trade. For the management of 
the American trade, the Casa de Contratacior 3 was established 
at Seville in 1503; a body at once administrative and judicial 
which soon became subordinated to the Council of the Indies. 
Charles V associated with this Casa lectures and instruction in 
nautical subjects; and the whole institution was, in his time, con- 
sidered so excellent that, among others, Henry VIII speedily pat- 
terned one after it as closely as possible for his own realm. 4 No 
ship was permitted to sail from Spain to America, or land from 
there, until it had been inspected by the officers of the Casa and 
had received a license. Of everything a most careful register was 
kept. 5 Charles V had ordered, on pain of death and confiscation, 
that every Spaniard, embark where he would, must direct his jour- 
ney back from America only to Seville ; and soon the journey out 
was only permissible from Seville. In particular all gold and silver, 
all pearls and precious stones could be brought only to Seville. 8 
This preference for Seville came r from the fact that it was the only 
large place in the kingdom of Castile which could carry on ocean 

1 B. Hall, Journal Written on the Coasts of Chili, etc., I, 87 ff. 

2 Ibid., I, 239 ff. Compare Robertson,. Letters on South America II, 73 ff. 



3 Recopilacion, IX, i ff. 

4 Anderson, II, under the year 1512. 

6 Recopilacion, IX, 33-35. The officers of the ship had to swear that they 
would take no unregistered goods with them: IX, 15, 8. 
6 Recopilacion, IX, i, 56. 



MANAGEMENT OF AMERICAN TRADE 33 

commerce and at the same time had a considerable river trade. 
Then, again, since the kingdom of Castile alone had borne the 
expense and dangers of the discovery of America, it wanted to 
have all the profit of it. 1 After 1720 Cadiz took the place of 
Seville, because the Guadalquivir had grown so shallow that large 
ships could no longer navigate so far. 2 

In order to facilitate the control and, in times of danger, the 
convoy of ships, all trade was limited to two regular fleets. The 
galleons, consisting generally of twenty-seven ships destined for 
South America, went annually to Porto Bello, landing first in Car- 
tagena; the fleets for Central America went to Vera Cruz every 
three years and usually numbered twenty-three ships. 3 The 
route of both fleets was determined with the greatest exactness 
and only for very pressing necessity could this be changed or a 
ship leave the convoy. 4 This was the case to some degree as 
early as 1526. All trade with Peru and Chile passed through 
Porto Bello. Their exports were brought by water in a similar 
fleet to Panama and then carried by mules over the Isthmus. 
The exchange took place at Porto Bello during a forty days' fair, 
on which occasion this otherwise quite desolate and unhealthy 
place was for a time enlivened to an extraordinary degree. Very 

1 The independence of the provinces of Spain was so great in this respect 
that, for example, the Portuguese, when their country was united with Spain, 
might not trade with the Philippines even from their own Moluccas (Recopila- 
cion, IX, 27, 29; compare IX, 37, 12). 

2 Cadiz had always had some connection with American trade. Compare 
Recopilacion, IX, 4. 

3 [This statement that the flotas for New Spain sailed only once in three years 
is derived from J. Townsend's Journey through Spain in the Years 1786 and 1787, 
London, 1791, 2d ed., enlarged, 1792, II, 397, and is an error. The fleet went 
annually as a regular thing. The law of 1561 as given in the Recopilacion, lib. 
IX, tit. XXXVI, ley XIII, says: "La flota que hubiere de salir para Nueva Espana 
este aprestada a primero de abril de cada un ano en la barra de Sanlucar/'etc. 
The annual service became irregular in the later eighteenth century, and there 
were only eleven fleets in the years 1781-1800. (Bancroft's Mexico, II, 752.) B.] 

* Recopilacion, IX, 30 ff.: " Instruccion de Generates," 1597. Most of the 
ships were of 800 to 1,000 tons burden; the smallest about 550 (J. Townsend 
Journey through Spain, II, 371). When Peter Hein seized the galleons in 1618, 
the booty is said to have been worth twenty million pounds. (Anderson, sub 
anno.) Exact specifications of a cargo of a Spanish silver fleet and a corresponding 
Portuguese one are given in Anderson, under the years 1734 and 1737. 



34 THE SPANISH COLONIAL SYSTEM 

small booths were rented for 1,000 pesos or more, and single 
houses for 4,000 to 6,000 pesos. The remaining larger portion 
of the year was characteristically enough called the dead time of 
year. 1 The Spanish and Peruvian merchants appeared at the 
fair as two regular companies; the former under the admiral of 
the galleons, the latter under the president of Panama. The 
authorized agents of both companies meet together at the admiral's 
ship and fixed the price at which every one could buy wares. As 
soon as the ships arrived at Cartagena, the news had to be sent 
to the viceroy of Peru at once, and also on the return to the higher 
Spanish authorities. The same was true of the so-called silver 
fleet to Vera Cruz. Here, on account of the unhealthy climate, 
the actual sales took place in the nearest healthy city, Jalapa. 
On the return to Europe both fleets united at Havana. 

Monopolies of Shipping. It is easy to understand that the 
utilizing of this very limited opportunity of shipping soon became, 
necessarily, practically a monoply of some favored commercial 
houses. Especially so when the merchants of Seville from the 
time of Charles V, and those of Mexico and Lima from the time 
of Philip II, became privileged corporations with an elected 
prior and consuls at their head. 2 

For example, the trade with the silver fleet was in the sole 
possession of eight or ten large Mexican houses. 3 The Spaniards, 
in their trade with America, often made 100 to 300 per cent. 
profit. 4 Actually, towards the end of the eighteenth century 
Varinas tobacco cost, in Spain, four times, and in the rest of Europe 
seven times, as much as in America. 5 " The .supplying of a great 
kingdom," exclaims Humboldt, "was carried on like the pro- 
visioning of a blockaded fortress! " We see here in many respects 
a prototype of the great commercial companies which, in England 
and Holland in particular, played such an important role from 

1 Compare Ulloa, Viage, I, i, 9, and 2, 6. 

2 Recopilacion, IX, 6, 46. These consulados corresponded in many ways upon 
a small scale to the Casa de Contratacion. 

3 Humboidt, Neuspanien, IV, 352. 

4 Ulloa, Re'tdblissement des Manufactures et du Commerce de VEspagne r II, 
191. 

* Brougham, Colonial Policy, I, 421. 



EFFECT ON DEVELOPMENT OF NATIONAL WEALTH 35 

the beginning of the seventeenth century. The similarity appears 
still greater when one remembers that the English East India 
Company first in 1612 formed a real stock company. Previously 
the members had traded "by several separate stocks." How- 
ever,* those Spanish consulados did not really receive an inde- 
pendent political power; that would have been altogether incom- 
patible with the spirit of absolute monarchy and official aristoc- 
racy. 1 Moreover, the government avoided all communication 
with America outside the regular channels so much that the 
court sometimes first learned of the most important occurrences 
from foreigners. 2 

Staples, caravans, trading companies, are exactly the insti- , 
tutions which serve admirably for the beginnings of trade and ( 
for the lower stages of civilization; but Spain tried to per- 
petuate them in her colonies. But where not only the state, 
but society as a whole is established upon the basis of medieval 
ideas and institutions the caste system, the impossibility of a 
separate nationality, the great power of the church it is prac- 
tically impossible to break away from them even in trade. Highly 
artificial governments, which are at the same time conscious of 
their weakness, have ever felt the need of limiting to as small an 
amount as possible trade which brings peoples together and which 
might bring, with foreign wares, foreign ideas and influences. 

Effect on Development of National Wealth. What effect such 
an artificial adherence to the lower stages of culture must have 
upon the development of national wealth is self-evident. In 
Spanish America this was aggravated by the fact -that the mother 
country, to which the colonies were chained in all economic 

1 Compare Ustariz, Teoria y Pratica del Commercio, chs. 38, 39. 

2 Trade with the Philippines was restricted to a single galley which sailed ' 
annually from Manila to Acapulco. Ordinarily this was said to export only 
half a million piastres; but there were generally one and one-half to two mil- 
lions. As soon as the ship was seen approaching along the coast, everybody 
hastened to Acapulco, where, however, again individual large houses bought 
up most of the cargo. In Manila, besides the 'merchants, the monastic houses 
especially took a share of it. Compare Recopilacion, IX, 45; Humboldt, Neu- 
spanien, IV, 331 ff . The great ship occasionally had 1,200 men aboard. (Anson's 
Voyage, 330.) The booty, when one was taken in 1762, according to Anderson, 
amounted to three million piastres. 



36 THE SPANISH COLONIAL SYSTEM 

matters, was, after the middle of the sixteenth century, really 
retrograding. For example, Caracas could not dispose of its 
enormous excess of hides in Spain, because she already received 
from Buenos Ayres and Montevideo more hides than were needed 
and those of Buenos Ayres were superior to those of Caracas 
in every respect. 1 When the trade of Seville was at the height 
of its prosperity both fleets did not carry more than 27,500 tons, 
while, for example, in 1836 the little island of Mauritius sent 
17,690 tons to England and received 18,576 tons from her. 2 
The last silver fleet arrived in 1778; previously, the annual expor- 
tation from Vera Cruz reached, on an average, 617,000 piastres; 
after 1787, 2,840,000 piastres annually. 3 The total exports to 
and imports from Spanish America in 1778 amounted to 
148,500,0x30 reals; the number of ships was about 300, and duties 
amounted to about 6,500,000 reals. Ten years later the amount 
had risen to 1,104,500,000 reals and to about 55,000,000 in 
duties. 4 The trade with Cuba, which in 1765 required scarcely 
six ships, required over two hundred in 1778, after all Spaniards 
were allowed to share in it by paying a duty of six per cent. From 
1765 to 1770 the income from duties at Havana trebled, while 
the exportation from the whole island increased fivefold. Before 
1765 this magnificent island, which was able to provide all Europe 
with sugar, did not have even enough for the consumption of 
the mother country. 5 

Smuggling. Naturally, those colonies which were situated 
at the greatest distance from the three large staple ports suffered 
most; for example, Chile, which had to have its whole trade 
conducted not merely through Porto Bello, but even through 
Peru. For New Spain and New Granada the restriction was 
not so great as appears at first glance, because the nature of 
their coast-line made the harbors of Vera Cruz and Cartagena 

1 Depons, II, 391. 

2 Campomanes, Educ. Popul., I, 435; II, no; Porter, Progress of the Nation, 
II, 177 ff. About 1849 the trade between Mauritius and Great Britain em- 
ployed more than 65,000 tonnage. 

3 Humboldt, Neuspanien, IV, 352 ff. 
4 Bourgoing, II, 180 ff. Brougham, I, 445. 
6 Brougham, I, 438. 



SMUGGLING 37 

the chief ports. In the river regions of the La Plata and Orinoco 
the case was just the opposite: everywhere the finest oppor- 
tunities to land, but nevertheless a thin population and neglect 
on the part of the Spaniards. It was therefore in these places that 
the Spanish revenue system received its most grievous wounds from 
smuggling. 1 The West Indian possessions of Holland, as well as 
those of England and France, were smuggling stations on a very 
large scale. 2 Shortly before 1740 the English alone are said to 
have had as much share in the Spanish colonial trade in ways pro- 
hibited as the Spaniards themselves had in the authorized ways. 3 
If one can speak of honor among smugglers, it existed here in 
the highest degree. Although scarcely five per cent, of American 
necessities were furnished by Spanish manufacturers themselves, 
it is most remarkable that actually at no time did a Spanish 
agent ever betray his foreign business friend. 4 The trade of 
Caracas was surrendered to the company organized at Guipuscoa 
in 1728, because the government could no longer overcome smug- 
gling; they now for the first time tried to appeal to the private' 
interest of the merchants Caracas produced the greatest amount 
of cocoa in the world and Spain consumed the most, but thej 
cocoa trade was almost exclusively hi the hands of Dutch smug- 
glers. 5 The company, by arming its ships, really succeeded in 
exterminating a large part of this smuggling. Trade thus man- 
aged by a company is always very restricted; in this case it was, 
besides, on the Spanish side, limited to the harbors of San Sebas- 
tian and Cadiz. But in comparison with the earlier Spanish 
system, it could almost be considered free trade. Caracas, 
apart from the company, had connections with the Canary Islands 
by a registered ship and with Vera Cruz enjoyed free trade. 6 
Within a short time the cattle business of the colony was trebled, 

1 Compare Robertson, II, 337. 

2 Depons, II, 336. 

3 Brougham, I, 423. 

4 Zavala, Representation al Rey D. Felipe V., 226. Compare Depons, II, 

404 ff. 

5 In the sixteen years before 1728 not a single ship sailed from Caracas to 
Spain, and in twenty years only five from Spain to Caracas! 

6 Robertson, II, 413- 



38 THE SPANISH COLONIAL SYSTEM 

the cocoa trade doubled, and the price of cocoa in the mother 
country fell to one-half its former price. 1 

Increasing Difficulty of Maintaining the Spanish Commercial 
Policy. The maintenance of the Spanish commercial policy 
necessarily became more difficult the more the colonial popula- 
tion, progressing in numbers and culture, learned to need 
European wares; the more foreign nations through the increase 
of internal competition were forced to seek new markets; and 
the less, in later years, the Spanish laws were supported by the 
old terror of the Spanish arms?) The English war of 1739 against ^ 
the Bourbon poweiiPperhaps decided for all time the question 
whether, in the colonial world, the Germanic or Latin races 
should rule. In fact almost nothing was to be gained by indiv- 
idual concessions; rather was it true that every stone which 
was removed from the highly artificial structure had the inevitable 
result of bringing down another stone. This happened in the 
course of the eighteenth century, when the new ruling house 
which came from France departed from the old Spanish ways 
in so many particulars. Even during the war of the succession, 
because of the want of Spanish ships, the ports of Peru and Chile 
were opened to the merchants of St. Malo, but only until the 
beginning of the peace. Much more dangerous still than this 
deviation from the old rule was the so-called Assiento Treaty 
which was made with England in 1713; this provided that the 
English South Sea Company might not only import into the 
Spanish colonies 4,800 negro slaves annually, but also send a 
ship of 500 tons to the fair at Porto Bello. It was not enough 
that this number of tons was very soon exceeded in manifold 
ways, 2 but in addition the English established factories in the 
most important places. Through these they obtained an exact 
knowledge of the tastes and needs of the colonists, which had 

1 Brougham, I, 442 ff.; Depons, II, 343 ff.; Townsend, II, 376. 

2 This one ship could import from five to six times as much as one of the Spanish 
fleet (Townsend, II, 372). It was accompanied by several other ships which 
lay at anchor at some distance and renewed the cargo of the first as soon as it 
was discharged. More than that, single vessels, and occasionally whole squad- 
rons, entered Spanish harbors under the pretext of provisioning, but in fact to 
smuggle in English goods. Compare Coxe, Bourbon Kings of Spain, III, 300. 



BREAKDOWN OF THE SPANISH COMMERCIAL POLICY 39 

previously been lacking, and, after that time, could extend their 
smuggling from Jamaica over an extraordinarily wide range. 
The galleons fell pretty rapidly from 15,000 to 2,000 tons l (about 
1737). After 1740 permission was granted to fit out so-called 
"register ships" in the intervals from one fleet to another, 
especially to such as had a share in no fleet. About 1748 the 
galleons were entirely given up. Now one could sail directly 
to Chile and Peru around Cape Horn. Panama and Porto Bello 
declined. But on the other side trade was still fettered by the 
monopoly of Cadiz and paid high royal licenses. 2 Charles III, 
in 1764, established monthly mail packet-boats between Corunna 
and Havana, and these were permitted to transport goods to 
the extent of half their cargo. Every two months a similar 
packet-boat went to Buenos Ayres, and there were American 
post-routes connected with it. In 1765 came the great advance 
that intercourse with the West Indies was opened to all Spaniards 
and to a number of different ports under a duty of six per cent. 
In 1768 this was extended to Louisiana, in 1770 to Campeche 
and Yucatan, in 1778 to Peru, Chile, Buenos Ayres, New Granada 
and Guatemala, and at last in 1788 to New Spain. The more 
important a colony was for the motherland, the later was it re- 
solved to open it to free trade. Furthermore, the duty on many 
classes of goods was lowered and in 1774 the previously existing 
prohibition of internal trade between Peru, Guatemala, New 
Spain, and New Granada was removed. Indeed, just as if 
all earlier maxims were to be exactly reversed, the American 
ports were now classified as may ores and menores; the former, 
naturally the more important and better situated, were burdened 
with higher duties, in order to equalize by such means the natural 
disadvantages of the latter. 3 

Profit of Spain from the Administration of her Colonies. 
Finally there remains the question, what immediate profit did 
Spain get out of the administration of her colonial possessions? 

1 Campomanes, I, 436. 

2 In the year 1748 for a brief time trade was made free to all Spanish harbors. 
As numerous bankruptcies occurred as a result at Cadiz, the government soon 
after recalled its permission. 

3 Depons, II, 357. 



40 THE SPANISH COLONIAL SYSTEM 

I shall pass over, here, the advantages of a purely Jdeal nature, 
\ t such as the political satisfaction which comes from the control 
of such an immense territory, the historic fame which results from 
the conversion, civilizing, and assimilation of so many peoples. 
o Also the general advantages from every great colonization I must 
here presuppose to be understood. In distinction from these 
I will designate what economic net profit the government, the 
officials, priests, and knights, and finally the mercantile and pro- 
fessional classes of Spain obtained from America. 

Advantage to the State. The actual surplus which, in Hum- 
boldt's time, 1 flowed into the treasury at Madrid from the colonial 
administration was estimated at the following amounts: from 
New Spain, from 5,000,000 to 6,000,000 piastres annually; from 
Peru, 1,000,000 at the highest; from Buenos Ayres, from 600,000 
to 700,000; and from New Granada, from 400,000 to 500,000. 
In the remaining provinces the expenditure was at least equal 
to the receipts ; in fact, regular appropriations (situados) of prob- 
ably 3,500,000 had to be sent annually to the Spanish West Indies, 
Florida, Louisiana, the Philippines, and Chile to help out their 
domestic administration. From Lima a contribution of 100,000 
pesos went to Santiago and Concepcion every year, half in silver 
and half in supplies for the garrison there. Valdivia received 
annually 70,000 pesos likewise from Lima. 2 The supplementary 
contribution for San Domingo is said to have amounted to 200,000 
silver piastres annually, or from the beginning of the eighteenth 
century to 1784, inclusive, to about i7,ooo,ooo. 3 Before the 
establishment of the Guipuscoa company two-thirds of the 
expenditure of Caracas, Maracaibo, and Cumand had to be sup- 
plied from Mexico. 4 Taken all together the exports from Spanish 
America towards the end of the eighteenth century amounted 
to 9,800,000 piastres more than the imports. Whatever portion 
of this is not to be reckoned in the above-mentioned government 
surplus must have flowed into the hands of private individuals in 
Spain. 5 

1 Humboldt, Neuspanien, V, 20 ff. 3 Bourgoing, II, 215. 

2 Ulloa, Viage, II, 2, 8. 4 Depons, III, 3. 

5 Humboldt, Neuspanien, IV, 375. 



/ 



ADVANTAGES TO INDIVIDUALS 41 

Advantages to Individuals. The numerous civil and ecclesi- 
astical officers in America were, for the most part, very well paid, 
so that the government of the mother country thus had a great 
many opportunities to enrich distinguished men or favorites. 
The viceroys of New Spain and Peru received fixed salaries of 
60,000 piastres and those of New Granada and Buenos Ayres 
40,000. l The captain-general of Caracas received 9,000 piastres 
and almost as much more in perquisites. 2 Individual viceroys, 
to be sure, extorted millions in a few years, as they demanded 
money for filling offices, conferring titles, privileges of trade, 
and concessions in connection with quicksilver royalties. But 
such abuses were possible only in so far as they had a strong 
party on their side at Madrid. The intendant of Caracas had 
an annual salary of 9,000 silver piastres and almost as much more 
from confiscations of smuggled goods, etc. The regent of the 
audiencia at Caracas received 5,300 piastres annually, each of 
the three Oidores and the two attorneys, 3,300 piastres. 3 

These advantages to the state as well as to private individuals 
were naturally most important in the first century of colonization. 
In everything, and especially in political affairs, the period of 
development is fuller of spontaneous activity than maturity and 
the standing still that follows. The streams of gold and silver 
which flowed from America to Spain had in the sixteenth cen- 
tury a greater effect, because the value of the precious metals 
had not then fallen so low as was the case later. What an impres- 
sion it must have made, for example, when Pizarro paid, out of 
the ransom of the Inca Atahualpa, to every knight of his army 
8,000 pesos, and to every foot-soldier 4,000! 4 The more lasting 
sources of wealth, trade, and industry in which England and 
France so greatly outstripped Spain in the seventeenth century 
were, in the sixteenth century, not strong enough to counter- 
balance Potosi and Zacatecas. Hence I do not doubt for a 

1 Humboldt, Neuspanien, V, 18 ff. 

2 Depons, II, 23. One viceroy alone received some 60,000 pesos as a birth- 
day gift: Robertson, II, 433. 
3 Depons, III, 6; II, 30. 
4 Robertson, II, 179. 



42 THE SPANISH COLONIAL SYSTEM 

m^i. ?nt that the treasures of America essentially promoted the 
world-wir^ tremendous power of Philip II not only in an imma- 
terial bu. ilso in a material way, although the fact may hardly 
allow of an exact estimate. 1 

Industry in Spain. That Spain, under the Hapsburg dynasty, 
adhered to the scientific mercantile system only lukewarmly and 
in an illogical way is sufficiently well-known. To be sure, the 
exportation of the precious metals was hindered as much as 
possible. But on the other hand they strove to lessen the expor- 
tation of commodities as much as possible and to increase their 
importation, especially that of manufactured goods. The Cortes 3 
and the crown agreed that the prevailing rise in the price of all 
commodities resulted from the malice of the merchants, who 
wished to limit the quantity of wares by a heavy exportation. 
So, for example, the exportation of cattle, leather, and grain was 
forbidden. In 1552 Charles V ordered that every foreigner 
who exported raw wool should import a certain quantity of woolen 
stuffs. Similarly the importation of silk was allowed, the expor- 
tation prohibited. Spanish industry at that time was very unim- 
portant. Philip II and with him the majority of his people 
valued industry so little that his laws regularly designated the 
work of tanners, shoemakers, and blacksmiths as "officios viles 
y baxos" (low and debasing occupations). To take up kitchen 
service did not disgrace a noble, if it was only temporary, but the 
exercise of a manual trade was an ineradicable stain. 3 Under such 
circumstances is it any wonder that the design of exploiting the 
colonies for the benefit of Spanish industry did not particularly 
interest the government? 

Industry in the Colonies. In 1545 Charles V expressly ordered 
that the governors should encourage the cultivation of hemp 
and flax and also spinning and weaving on the part of the natives. 

1 This was doubted by no one at that time. Compare W. Raleigh, The Dis- 
covery of Guiane, preface. 

2 Compare the resolutions of the Cortes between 1550 and 1560. L. v. Ranke, 
Fursten und Volker, I, 400 ff. [In English as The Ottoman and Spanish Empires 
in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries, tr. by W. K. Kelly, London, 1843. B.] 

3 Prescott, History of the Reign of Ferdinand and Isabella, II, ch. 26. 



INDUSTRY IN THE COLONIES 43 

In 1548 the exportation of raw hides to Spain was- much ;.*', red 
by the same prince, and in 1572 the production of raw wool 
was considerably encouraged by his successor. 1 G . the other 
hand the cultivation of the vine by the colonists was strictly 
forbidden; only those vineyards previously existing in Peru were 
allowed under a pretty high tax (law of 1595), but no Peruvian 
wine was permitted to be sold outside of South America. 2 In 
the year 1628 the law was enacted that every new manufacturing 
enterprise required the consent of not only the viceroy, but of 
the king himself; chiefly, as it appears, with the intention of 
protecting the Indians from new claims to service by their en- 
comenderos. 3 But one may easily understand how effectually 
this law could be used to fetter every industrial activity, partic- 
ularly during the eighteenth century. Such was the result, for 
example, in Humboldt's time, less in consequence of general 
measures than because of a mass of particular obstacles which 
were imposed upon industry by the authorities. 4 What indus- 
trial products the Indians required were supplied in great part 
by themselves by labor at home. This was the case in Quito, in 
Peru, and especially in Mexico. 5 

But a short time ago Mexico consumed scarcely four times 
as much of European commodities as Caracas, although its 
population was eight times as large a natural result of the fact 
that a much larger proportion of tne population were Indians. 6 
The European stuffs which were wanted by the white people 
all had to come from Spain and for this reason were known as 

1 Recopilacion, IV, 18, 20, 23, 2. However, in 1621 Philip IV wished those 
skilled in manufacturing to know that they were excepted from the general prohi- 
bition that no foreigners should be found in America (IX, 27, 10). Moreover, 
that the minister Galvez, towards the end of the eighteenth century, established 
powder-factories in America was a violation of all earlier governmental maxims. 
(Bourgoing, II, 97.) 

2 Recopilacion, IV, 17, 18; IV, 18, 15, 18. Cortes, on the contrary, had en- 
couraged vine-growing in New Spain as much as possible; in every repartimiento 
there was planted a certain number of vines (Prescott, Conquest of Mexico, III, 

238). 

3 Recopilacion, IV, 26. 
4 Humboldt, Neuspanien, IV, 258. 
5 Ulloa, Viage, I, 6, i; II, i, n. 

6 Humboldt, R. H., Ill, 113. 



44 THE SPANISH COLONIAL SYSTEM 

Castilian goods. 1 It was chiefly in Seville that Spanish industry 
made use of American raw materials, and there most of the 
establishments were in the possession of the crown. For example, 
the manufacture of tobacco and of bronze ordnance and the coinage 
of the precious metals flourished at Seville. 2 Of the manufactures 
exported to America, the greater part (it is said nineteen-twen- 
tieths) was made in England, Holland, France, etc., and the 
Spaniards themselves, apart from their own illicit trade, had 
only two kinds of profit from it. In the first place the national 
treasury secured the considerable customs which had to be paid 
in transit through Spain. Second, the merchants, shipowners, etc., 
gained from the many charges which were added to the price of 
the goods and were paid again by the Americans. In order 
to avoid, at least, the customs an immense partial smuggling 
was carried on at Cadiz. The silk, stocking, calico, and wax 
manufactories there were apparently of only small capacity, 
but at the same time had an enormous output. In fact they 
served chiefly merely as a mask, under which their managers 
were able to send great quantities of foreign goods to America 
without incurring too great suspicion. 3 Moreover, the colonists 
had become so thoroughly accustomed to having the foreign 
commerce in the hands of the peninsular Spaniards that the 
internal trade of America, the retail shopkeeping, was carried 
on in great part by chapetons or Canary-Islanders. As is the 
case in many countries which possess little real productive and 
commercial enterprise, the shopkeeping class was decidedly 
overcrowded. 4 

As an important connecting link between the fiscal and the 
mercantile advantage derived by Spain from the colonies, the 
quicksilver royalty deserves to be mentioned. Nowhere in the 
world was so much quicksilver needed as in Spanish America, 
where the precious metal was separated from the ore almost solely 
by amalgamation. On the other hand, Spain of all countries of 

1 Ulloa, Viage, II, i, 10. 

2 Bourgoing, III, 99 ff . 
*Ibid., 150. 

4 Ulloa, Viage, I, 27, 251. Depons, II, 425. For the information of the 
reader I present the following from the official list of exports and imports at 



CAUSES OF SPANISH COLONIAL DECLINE 45 

the Old World is by far the richest in quicksilver. 1 In America 
itself, until a short Jime ago, quicksilver was supplied only from 
the mines at Guancavelica. This, therefore, was a case of an 
important economic need where the mother country and colony 
were appointed for each other by nature itself. 2 

Causes of Spanish Colonial Decline, -v- The Spanish colonial 
empire did not die a natural death. The terrible shock given 
the mother country by Napoleon was, as is well-known, the 
principal cause for the revolt of the colonies: the captivity of 
the old royal house, the elevation of the Bonapartist dynasty, 
the frightful war with France, and finally the rapid alteration of 

Vera Cruz for the year 1803, which Humboldt published in Neuspanien, IV, 305, 
318. There came from Spain: 

Piastres. 

Spanish raw products worth 2,010,423 

(More than 1,546,000 piastres of this was wine, brandy, vinegar, etc.) 

Spanish manufactured products 8,604,380 

(About 7,335,000 piastres of this was for cloths, in which the above- 
mentioned smuggling was especially extensive.) 

Foreign goods 7,878,486 

(Of which again more than 7,500,000 were cloths.) 

Imports from other Spanish colonies 1,373,428 

(The imports of wax alone were almost 462,000 piastres and for 
cocoa more than 700,000.) 

Total 19,866,717 

The exports to Spain were worth 12,017,062 

(More than 2,238,000 of this was cochineal, 263,729 indigo, sugar 
almost 1,500,000, gold 142,229, and silver 7,356,530.) 

Exports to other Spanish colonies 2,465,846 

(Of which again 21,730 was gold and 1,834,146 silver.) 

Total 14,482,908 

What was imported and exported on the government account was not in- 
cluded. The most important was an exportation of 6,200,000 piastres of gold, 
and an importation of 2,500 tons of quicksilver and 280,000 reams of paper for 
the use of royal tobacco manufacture. 

1 The total European production is estimated at about 1,460,000 kilograms 
annually, of which Almaden alone yields 1,100,000 (Duflot de Mofras, I, 50 ff.). 
[Later these amounts have been much changed by the increased production in 
Austria-Hungary, as well as in Spain. In 1895 the amount mined in Spain was 
1,506,000 kilograms, and in 1898 California produced 1,058,000 kilograms. B.] 

2 Compare Ulloa, Noticias Americanas, cap. 12-15. Spain lately derived 
from Mexico, through the rise in the price of quicksilver, almost as much as 
formerly from the right of coining. Why has Mexico not made the attempt to 
secure the lease of the mines of Almaden for herself instead of allowing it to be 
acquired by the Rothschilds? 



4& THE SPANISH COLONIAL SYSTEM 

absolutist and constitutional rule through revolution in Spain 
herself. As a result the old carefully transmitted structure of 
colonial institutions, ideas, and policy was completely thrown 
out of joint./ The keystone was removed, as it were; this was 
particularly the case when many of the highest colonial officials 
vacillated between the legitimate kings and the usurper. When 
at the same time the mother country was in such pressing need 
of the political help of England, it was really impossible to pre- 
vent her invading the colonial markets. One hundred years 
earlier (during the war of the Spanish Succession) the old system 
of the Philips had successfully withstood similar dangers; the 
new Bourbon system, however, completely honeycombed from 
within, was no longer strong enough to do so. In addition, after 
the restoration of general peace in Europe, the English both pri- 
vately (Lord Cochran) and as a part of public policy (Canning) 
favored according to their means the separation of the Spanish 
colonies from the mother country. The results have shown, 
unfortunately, that these colonies were by no means all ripe for 
freedom. It is much easier to win independence than worthily 
to maintain it. If I except the colonies of Caracas and Chile, 
which were neglected by the mother country, the condition of 
the remainder of Spanish America for sixty years has been such 
that one could only wish ,that they had remained for a longer 
*/ time dependent. There was an immense decline in economic 
prosperity; 1 for example, the German linen trade suffered from 
this most keenly; insurrections of the troops have been unending, 
yet without high motives and even without any real bravery, as, 
for instance, in Buenos Ayres once, where fifteen presidents were 
overthrown within nine months, although every one of them was 
chosen for three years; 2 a perfect venality of justice has prevailed, 
and consequently such a contempt for law that the traveller often 
found more protection with the leaders of robber bands than 
with the authorities; 3 finally there has been an oppression of the 

1 Mexico had, for a long time, even in time of peace, an annual deficit of 
almost 3,000,000 piastres, while as a colony it was able to send an immense 
surplus to the mother country and other colonies (Duflot de Mofras, I, 62). 

2 Ch. Darwin, Journal of Researches^ I, 141, 295. 

3 When the Swiss consul was robbed and murdered in Mexico in 1835, an 
adjutant of President Santa Anna was at the head of the band of robbers (Duflot 
de Mofras, I, 16). 



CAUSES OF SPANISH COLONIAL DECLINE 47 

natives, harder to endure, as it has been less systematic, which, some 
day, may lead to a war of extermination against the whole Span- 
ish raceTJ The sad picture which Duflot de Mofras, Ferry, 1 and 
otherFnave presented of Mexico, Stephens of Central America, and 
Tschudi of Peru was fully justified during the war between Mexico 
and the United States. The Americans would find no stronger 
resistance, even as far as the southern boundary of the Spanish 
colonial empire, except possibly in Caracas and Chile and among 
the wild nomads of Buenos Ayres. Alexander von Humboldt, 
shortly before his death, said to Wappaus, 2 "The United States 
will absorb the whole of Mexico and then fall to pieces herself. " 

But I do not once think that, without the shock to the mother 
country, the mere logical adherence to the old Spanish system 
could have guaranteed the prosperity of the colonial empire. 
A state which discourages and must discourage every internal 
development will surely succumb, in the end, to some more highly 
developed foreign power. About 1792 the Spanish navy num- 
bered 80 ships of the line, 48 frigates, and 79 corvettes, etc. ; 3 how 
insignificant it is to-day! How little would it be in a position 
now to defend the old colonial dominions against peaceful or 
warlike attacks of the European sea powers! And how much 
more irresistibly still would her neighbor in North America, 
with, her energy, activity, and recklessness, know how to put 
an end to the Spanish system of isolation! In 1803 the Vice- 
President of the United States, Aaron Burr, announced, openly, 
his intention to revolutionize and conquer New Spain. 4 

1 [Gabriel Ferry, author of Les Revolutions du Mexique, Paris, 1864, Souvenirs 
de Mexique et de Calif ornie, Paris, 1884, and other works in the same field. B.] 

2 Op. eiL, 133. 

3 Bourgoing, II, 106-144. 

4 The most important survival of the old Spanish colonial system is to be found 
to-day in the Philippines, where especially the native Tagals are even now sub- 
ject to a sort of life-long guardianship under the special care of the clergy. Com- 
pare Jurien de la Graviere, Voyage en Chine, etc., II, 1853. [On the great changes 
that have taken place in Mexico see C. F. Lummis, The Awakening of a Nation: 
Mexico of To-day \ 1898; on Aaron Burr's project, W. F. McCaleb, The Aaron 
Burr Conspiracy, 1903; and on the Spanish Colonial System as exemplified in 
the Philippines, besides the works of Foreman and Jagor, the Historical Intro- 
duction by the writer to the great documentary publication The Philippine Islands, 
Cleveland, 1903, and the historical section of the article "Philippines" (also by 
the writer) in The New International Encyclopedia. In regard to Burr it should 
be remarked that it was in 1805, after he had ceased to be Vice-President, that 
he announced his intentions, and not strictly "openly " at- that time. B.] 



48 THE SPANISH COLONIAL SYSTEM 

How slight was the natural bond between old Spain and 
most of Her colonies is to be seen most plainly in the present 
trade relations with Peru. In 1854 the exports of this country 
to Spain were worth only about 20,000 francs annually, but those 
to England fully 30,000,000. The importations from Spain were 
over 2,000,000, those from France 5,000,000, and those from 
England 18,000,000. The number of tons of Spanish shipping 
in the trade with Peru amounted to only 3,200, that of England 
151,000 tons. 1 In the shipping reports for 1876 (incoming 
338,547 tons, outgoing 404,462 tons) Spain is considerably 
behind Sweden and is included under "various," her shipping 
amounting in all to 8,154 tons. The same is true in Chile and 
Argentina. 2 In general one can say that if the Spanish colonies 
have developed so much more poorly than the English, it is due 
in great part to the fact that since the restoration of peace the 
former have remained almost wholly separated from Spain, 
while the latter very soon resumed their connection with England 
in every sphere except the political, and a connection highly 
advantageous for both. 3 But whence was this difference itself? 
Chiefly because Spain for a long time and in every respect had 
been a fallen nation, whose nationality, as such, no longer pos- 
sessed power enough to hold together a hemisphere under the 

conditions of freedom. 

i 

1 Journal des Economistes, May, 1854. 

2 Leroy-Beaulieu, De la Colonisation, 40 ff. 

3 Compare Wappaus, Mittel- und Sudamerica, 117 ff. 





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