« PreviousContinue »
As late as 1816, when the United States protested against the blockade established by General Morillo, as contrary to international law, M. Onis, the Spanish minister, replied that the object of the blockade was to maintain the laws of the Indies, which during the Napoleonic wars had been somewhat relaxed, adding:
You are aware that, agreeably to those laws, no foreign vessel was allowed to trade with the dominions of his majesty on that continent without a special license, and that vessels found near or evidently shaping a course towards them were liable to confiscation as interlopers.
When, later in the year, a United States commissioner was sent to Cartagena to reclaim American vessels so seized, the Spanish viceroy gave him to understand that he did not pretend to be acquainted with the law of nations.2
Not only were the colonists prohibited from engaging in manufactures which interfered with those of Spain, but restrictions were even placed on agriculture in the interests of the Spanish producer. Thus the cultivation of flax, hemp, and saffron was forbidden under severe penalty; the cultivation of tobacco was not allowed; and grapes and olives could be raised V only for table use, so that oil and wine had to be imported from Spain. Upon one occasion (in 1803) orders were sent "to root up all the vines in certain provinces, because the Cadiz merchants complained of a diminution in the consumption of Spanish wines." 3 The carrying out of this commercial system in all
Am. St. Pap., For. Rel., Vol. IV, pp. 156-159.
Hall's " 'Journal," Vol. I, p. 296. See also Rodney's report on South America, in Vol. IV, Am. St. Pap., For. Rel.
its details was entrusted to the Casa de Contratacion, or House of Trade, which was located at Seville until 1717, when it was transferred to Cadiz. The India House, as it was called, was established by warrant of Queen Joanna in 1503. To this house were to be brought all merchandise for the colonies and all products from them of whatever character. The colonial trade was thus limited to one Spanish port. The affairs of the house were in charge of three commissioners or judges, who had jurisdiction, civil and criminal, over all cases arising out of the trade with America. Their authority was subordinated to no other court or council but that of the Indies.
Not only were no foreigners allowed to go to the Spanish colonies, but careful restrictions were placed on the movement of Spaniards to and from America. In 1511 King Ferdinand had by a special order permitted all subjects of Spain without distinction to go over to the Indies upon entering their names at the India House; but in the years 1518, 1522, 1530, and 1539 several orders were passed "that no person reconciled, or newly converted to our holy Catholic faith, from Judaism or Mahometanism, nor the children of such, nor the children or grandsons of any that had worn the St. Andrew's Cross of the Inquisition, or been burnt or condemned as heretics, or for any heretical crime, either by male or female line, might go over to the Indies, upon pain of forfeiting
A full history of the India House and an account of its regulations is given by Veitia Linage in his "Norte de la Contratacion," Seville, 1672; translated into English by Captain John Stevens under the title, "Spanish Rule of Trade to the West Indies," London, 1702. Linage was for a number of years Treasurer and Comptroller of the India House. A good summary of the history and regulations of the House is given by Prof. Bernard Moses in his "Casa de Contratacion" in the Papers of the Am Hist. Ass. for 1894. and in the third chapter of his "Establishment of Spanish Rule in America."
all their goods, of an hundred lashes, perpetual banishment from the Indies, and their bodies to be at the king's disposition."
The commissioners might "grant passes to merchants to go over, or return if they came from thence, including married merchants, provided they have leave from their wives, and give 1,000 ducats security to return within three years." "
There were also strict rules about passing from one province in America to another. This could not be done without special leave from the king. “The inhabitants of the Indies may not come to Spain without leave from the viceroys, presidents or governors of the places of their habitation, in which they are to express the causes of their coming, and whether it is to stay here or return." "In the Indies, the magistrates are directed to apprehend any persons they find are gone over without leave, to imprison them till they can send them back into Spain, upon pain of losing their employments." In 1594 and 1602 it was decreed that persons going over without leave should be sent to the galleys for four years. In 1622 King Philip IV decreed that a person simply going aboard a ship bound for the Indies without leave should be immediately sent to the galleys for eight years.10 Other decrees equally severe were issued from time to time.
In order to keep the trade strictly under control and to properly protect it, intercourse with the colonies was held only once a year. Two squadrons, consisting of merchant ships and convoys under com
Linage," Norte de la Contratacion," p. 107. • Ibid., p. 110.
1 Ibid., p. 113.
Ibid., p. 114.
10 Ibid., p. 109.
mand of an admiral and vice-admiral, made the trip each year. The fleet for New Spain (Mexico) sailed in the spring, and that for the mainland in the early fall. The first touched at some of the islands and then went to Vera Cruz; the latter touched first at Cartagena and passed on thence to Porto Bello, where the fair was held about the middle of March. This fair was the great event of the year, and lasted forty days from the time of the arrival of the fleet. From this point goods were distributed by way of Panama to Peru, Chile, and even across the continent to Buenos Aires. The gold bullion was sent in turn to this point by the viceroy of Peru. It came in fifteen days from Potosi to Arica, thence by sea in eight days to Callao, and in twenty days from Callao to Panama. The viceroy of Peru was to take care to have the plate at Panama by the middle of March. At Porto Bello it was taken aboard the galleons. About the middle of June the galleons met the fleet from New Spain at Havana, and from that point the two fleets with their convoys proceeded in greater safety to Spain. Thus for two centuries all intercourse between Spain and her colonies at one end of the line was limited at first to Seville, and then to Cadiz; and at the other to Vera Cruz and Porto Bello." At a later period this arrangement was modified to some extent, and Buenos Aires was made a port of entry. The reason for not permitting trade with Buenos Aires during the earlier period was the fear that the British and Dutch would smuggle through that port. While the relations of the colonies with Spain were kept under the strictest control, intercourse with for11 Linage," Norte de la Contratacion," pp. 191-193.
eign nations, although absolutely prohibited under the severest penalties, could not be entirely prevented. In speaking of Spain's restrictive policy, a British naval officer, who was on the South American station during the revolution, says:
Unfortunately, however, for that system, the South Americans, notwithstanding the network of chains by which they were enveloped, had still some sparks of humanity left, and, in spite of all their degradation, longed earnestly for the enjoyments suitable to their nature; and finding that the Spaniards neither could nor would furnish them with an adequate supply, they invited the assistance of other nations. To this call the other nations were not slow to listen; and, in process of time, there was established one of the most extraordinary systems of organized smuggling which the world ever saw. This was known under the name of the contraband or forced trade, and was carried on in armed vessels, well manned, and prepared to fight their way to the coast, and to resist, as they often did with effect, the guarda costas, or coast blockades of Spain. This singular system of warlike commerce was conducted by the Dutch, Portuguese, French, English, and latterly by the North Americans. In this way goods to an immense value were distributed over South America; and although the prices were necessarily high, and the supply precarious, that taste for the comforts and luxuries of European invention was first encouraged, which afterwards operated so powerfully in giving a steady and intelligible motive to the efforts of the Patriots in their struggle with the mother-country. Along with the goods which the contraband trade forced into the colonies, no small portion of knowledge found entrance, in spite of the increased exertions of the Inquisition and church influence, aided by the redoubled vigilance of government, who enforced every penalty with the utmost rigor. Many foreigners, too, by means of bribes and other arts, succeeded in getting into the country, so that the progress of intelligence was gradually encouraged, to the utter despair of the Spaniards, who knew no other method of governing the colonies but that of mere