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THE UNITED STATES AND
THE REVOLT OF THE SPANISH COLONIES
THE English colonies of North America renounced allegiance to their sovereign more through fear of future oppression than on account of burdens actually imposed. The colonies of Spain in the southern hemisphere, on the other hand, labored for generations under the burden of one of the most irrational and oppressive economic systems to which any portion of the human race has ever been subjected, and remained without serious attempt at revolution until the dethronement of their sovereign by Napoleon left them to drift gradually, in spite of themselves, as Chateaubriand expressed it, into the republican form of government. To carry the contrast a step further, when the conditions were ripe for independence, the English colonies offered a united resistance, while the action of the Spanish colonies was spasmodic and disconcerted. The North American revolution gave birth to a federal republic, that of the South to a number of separate and independent republics, whose relations with one another have at times been far from amicable. The causes for these striking dif
ferences are to be explained not alone by race psychology, but by a comparison of the English and Spanish colonial systems and of the two revolutions as well. The history of the English colonies and of their revolt has been pretty well exploited, but information in regard to the Spanish-American revolution and its causes, although the sources are abundant, is not easily accessible to English-speaking people.
By virtue of the celebrated Bull of Pope Alexander VI, the Spanish-American colonies were looked upon as possessions of the crown, and not as colonies of Spain. Their affairs were regulated by the king, with the assistance of a board called the Council of the Indies. This council, which was on a footing of equality with the Council of Castile, was established by Ferdinand as early as 1511, and was modified by Charles V in 1524. It was to take cognizance of all ecclesiastical, civil, military, and commercial affairs relating to the colonies. From it proceeded the so-called Laws of the Indies, and all colonial offices in the gift of the crown were conferred by it. In the course of time, however, the personnel of this council became merged with that of Castile, and for all practical purposes the colonies became dependencies of the Spanish nation.
There were from the first establishment of Spanish rule in America, two viceroyalties on the continent. The viceroy of New Spain ruled over Mexico and Central America, whilst all South America subject to Spanish control was for about two centuries under the viceroy of Peru. In regions too remote to be under his immediate control, audiencias, or courts of justice, were established, the president of the audiencia
being known by the title of captain-general. Thus audiencias were established at Quito in 1542, at Charcas (in modern Bolivia) in 1559, in New Granada in 1564, in Chile in 1568, and later at Caracas and at Buenos Aires. In 1740, New Granada was raised to the rank of a viceroyalty, with its capital at Bogota; and in 1776 the same dignity was conferred on Buenos Aires. There were thus on the southern continent three viceroyalties widely separated: one on the Main, one on the Atlantic, and one on the Pacific.
The powers of the viceroy, or captain-general, as the case might be, were limited only by the audiencia, consisting of from three to five members, always of Spanish birth, whose functions were largely advisory, but who had the privilege of corresponding directly with the Council of the Indies, and who in case of emergency sometimes went so far as to depose the viceroy.
It should be borne in mind that in Spanish America the native Indian races were not driven beyond the frontier of civilization, as they were by the English settlers, but became, and remain to this day, an integral part of the population. There was thus in the Spanish colonies an unusual admixture of races. There were (1) European Spaniards; (2) Creoles, or children born in America of Spanish parents; (3) Indians, the indigenous race; (4) Negroes of African race; (5) Mestizos, children of whites and Indians; (6) Mulattoes, children of whites and negroes; and (7) Zambos, children of Indians and negroes.
The maladministration of Spain's colonies may be summarized under two heads: (1) acts of oppression against the native Indian race, and (2) regulations of
a commercial and political character, which acted in restraint of the economic and social development of her own offspring in America.
Under the first head may be mentioned the mita, or ✓forced labor in mines, farms, and factories, and the repartimiento, or encomienda, which was an allotment to Spaniards of territory including the native inhabitants as peons or vassals. In spite of humane restrictions placed by law upon them, these institutions degenerated into systems of fearful oppression, which led, in 1781, to the heroic but unsuccessful efforts of Tupac Amaru, the last of the Incas, to free the land of his fathers from the cruel rule of the Spaniard. So deep-seated was the dissatisfaction and so formidable the revolt, that it was not suppressed for more than two years. The unfortunate Inca and most of his family were cruelly put to death.
The economic and commercial restrictions imposed upon the colonies require fuller notice. The whole object of Spain's colonial policy was to extract gold and silver from America and to force Spanish manufactures and products upon that country. Commerce was confined to Spain and to Spanish vessels.
No South American could own a ship, nor could a cargo be consigned to him; no foreigner was allowed to reside in the country unless born in Spain; and no capital, not Spanish, was permitted in any shape to be employed in the colonies. Orders were given that no foreign vessel, on any pretence whatever, should touch at a South American port. Even ships in distress were not to be received with common hospitality, but were ordered to be seized as prizes, and the crews imprisoned.1
Hall's "Journal on Chili, Peru, and Mexico," 2 Vols. Edinburgh, 1824, Vol. I, p. 249.