William Warren Sweet.

A history of Latin America online

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and the Indians whom th^ had collected into villages were left
without leaders or teachers, and they either became the prey
of ruthless settlers or reverted to their savage state. Among
the reforms of Pombal was his attempt to protect the Indians
against enslavement. This resulted in greatly increasing the
number of N^ro slaves. \^th this increased
Ntfra skvM to importation of N^^roes intermixture with the

Negro rapidly followed, and it became com-
mon for yoimg Brazilians to have Negro mistresses. The
Dutch had been slaveholders during their occupation of Brazil-
ian territory, and when they were driven out the Braalians
took over their slaves. This led to an increase of Negro impor-
tation, as did also the discovery of gold. It was not long until
Negro labor was used everywhere and the Negro became the
most numerous single element in the population. By the end
of the eighteenth century twenty thousand slaves were im-
ported annually into the country and five thousand were sold
every year in Rio de Janeiro alone.

As Brazil grew in wealth and population the revenues ob-
tained by Portugal from her great colony likewise increased.
It has been estimated that between 1728 and 1734 the annual
sum received by the Portuguese government from Brazil was
not less than $10,000,000. There were heavy taxes on imports;
iron and salt were taxed a hundred per cent; the crown received
Brmxa at «• cioM ^^^ ^7^ ^^^ '^°^ ^^^ products of the mines,
of tilt Biciitoaoth while trade restrictions of every variety ham-
^^*"**'^ pered the free interchange of products. In

spite of these absurd restrictions the foreign trade of Brazil at
the close of the colonial period amounted to some $20,000,000
annually and the population had grown to over 2,000,000, dis-
tributed as follows: 430,000 whites, 1,500,000 Negroes, 700,000
Indians. There were 12 cities and 66 towns. Rio de Janeiro
was the largest city irith a population of some 30,000. Social



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life was of the most degraded kind, and even wealthy planters
lived in filth and degradation. The church was comii^, while
lasy and immoral priests swarmed the streets of the cities and


Saiirfaotory aooounts of the oolonisation of Branl may be found m
Hutory qf the South American Rejmblice, by Thomas C. Dawson (1906),
Vd. I, i^. 287-400; and very briefly in BtoeU, by P. Denis Unwin,
Londcm, 1911). i

A brief aoooimt of the oolonisation of Brasil may also be found in the
Cambridge Modem Hietory, VoL I, 84^69; TV, 70^-769; V, 076-780; VI,
oh^. 12).


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The colonial government instituted I^ Spain for her Amer-
ican colonies was in many reefpects the most highly developed
system of colonial control ever put into operation. To say,
however, that it was highly developed does not necessarily
imply that it was highly successful. On the
iCokoiai other hand, we must not jump to the con-

clusion that it was a complete failure. Spain
was one ci the first modem nations to establish a colonial «n-
pire and a definite colonial gystem. For three hundred years
she governed one of the most widely extended empires that have
ever existed. For these reasons her system of colonial govern-
ment deserves our respect and should commend our study.

To get the best understanding of Spain's colonial sjrstem it
will be weU for us to know something of the kind of institutions
which prevailed in Castile, especially at the time the colonies
were established. Castile had been instrumental in the dis-
covery and colonization of the Indies, and
the government devised for the colonies was
modeled closely after the institutions of that
realm. At the time of the discovery of America the governmen t
of Caslile was underling a tEoroui^l'ebryra nization at the
hands of the Catholic kin^," and severa^^f the mstitutions.
afterward transferred to the colonies, were in^ tt^ejgma^e

At the head of the Castilian realm stood the sovereign, in
theory supreme and absolute. In former times the Cortes had
been a check upon the power of the sov^^ign, but imHftr ^^r-
dinand and Isabella it had lost much of its authority. Of greatest
importance in the administration of the gov-
Sr^a^T*"* emment were the councils. There came to

be eight of these, but^e CgungU of _
was the earliest organized and romftinod by"^
- "* 94 'j;6 >


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Every member of the councils was appointed directly
by tiie sovereigns and could be dismissed at their pleasure.
'^Through them the sovereigns carried their absolutism into
every department and subdivision of the conduct of the gov-
ernment.'' When the time came to organize a government for
the colonies the monarchs simply formed another council, the
Council of the~In<HQJ,"lrtllch was modeled after the Council of
Castile. _^ - ^

'"^Ximong the institutions which underwent reorganisation at
the hands of the Catholic kings were the tribunals of justice.
At first there was but one royal court, known as the royal
audiencia,l>ut lat^ otBef courfe were formed, all of which were
called audiencias. Besides being courts of justice, the provin-
cial audiencias had legislative and adminis-
trative functions, though in their administra-
tive capacity they were subject to instructions from the king.
They also decided elections and confirmed judges. In their
judicial capacity the audiencias were divided into a civil and
criminal court, each of which was presided over by a judge.
In every audiencia there was an officer called a fiscal, who was

^the^pfosecutor; and also certiun other officials corresponding
iJDmewhat to our sheriff and constable.

Before the tame of Ferdmand and Isabella the government of
Spain was greatly decentralized, l^d there was much trouble in
collecting the taxes and enforcing justice. It became necessary
to introduce certain officios whose 8uty it was to look after
the royal interests in the provinces anrf ritiffl. This new officer
^^""^TT* was the corregidor. ^i 1480 they were sent

for the first time to all Castilian cities, and
from that time this institution was extended over the entire
reahn. The corrc^dor became extremely powerful and exer-
cised military, judicial, financial, and executive functions. His
du^ was Vi see that all the laws of the kingdom were enforced
and that the king was not defrauded of either the honor or
taxes due him. The district over which he presided was called
a corregimiento. The' corregidor has been described as the

' ^Vnamompetent servant of an absolute king.''

In oonn^^ction with this new official* the corregidor, there


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developed another inititution known as the reeidencia. This
was an enforced residence of an official, for fieveral months
after his t^m of office closed, so as to give any person in his
district, ^o had a grievance, an opportimity
of entering suit agamst him. The corregidor
was subject to this enforced residence, as he was always ap-
pointed from without his corregimiento. The corregidor, how-
ever, was not the only official subject to this regulation, but it
was IsAec extended to several others. The purpose of the
residencia seems to have been two fold — ^to secure the highesT'
possible efficiency among officials and to enable the crown to
gam a further hold over atBxAais who represented them at a

The tendency in the government of Spain after the accession
of Ferdinand and Isabella was toward centralisation. Reforms
increasing the royal power were introduced {rom the b^^inning
"x T«od«My Towutf ^^ *^® veAgfi of the Catholic kings. The mem-
c«BtniiaftiioB in tiM archs, howcver, never got over this suspicion
spaaiih GoTwnflMot ^j^^^ ^^^^ ,^^^^ being defrauded by the pro-
vincial and district officials, and for this reason officers were
appointed whose duty it was to watch other officials. One
office was set over against another, and powers, duties, and
imvileges were vaguely defined.

The machineiy of government, abeady developed or in the
process of development, in the mother country was transferred
to the colonies. The difficulties in the admkiistration of col-
onies so vast, and so far away, were extremely great. The
operation of the laws was slow and cumbersome, while official
''activities on either side of the ocean were only too (tften
shackled by red tape and routine, or else smothered under
mountains of documents."

When Pope Alexanc^ VI issued the papal bull, aftar the
first voyage of Ck>lumbus, he conveyed to Ferdinand and Isa-
bella the new Iands« and nothing was said about the Spanish
nation. Thus from the beginning America was considered the
property of the Spanish sovereigns and the administration of
the a£Eairs <^ the colonies was carried on with this presumption.
From a strictly l^al point of view, Mexico, Peru, and later


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the other sUtes of equal dignity, appear as kingdoms in a per*
^^ sonal union with the kingdom of Spain, rather

flgiiirii somiicni than as colonies in the ordinary meaning of
imi^Q^^mamt that term. "The king of Spam bore much
the same relation to the colonies that he bore
to the kingdom of Spain itself." The regular governing agen-
des in Spain, however, had nothing to do with the government
of the colonies. New and special agencies were created to
assist the king in the governing o7 Bis vast cotontHi kingdums ;

First in rank among these special governing agencies for the
colonies stands the Council of the Indies. Its beginning dates ^^
from 1403, when Juan de i<'oiUMMi& WUb -appointed to' assist the
admiral m inreparing for Ids second voyage. In affairs pertain-
ing to the Indies this council was supreme. It had sole right
of making laws for the Spanish possessions; it was a court of
last resort for all cases pertaining to America; while it advised
the khig on all questions relating to the ad-
^*j|^^^^"^ ^ *• ministration of American affairs. It early be-
came the custom to appoint persons as
msmbers of the council who had'seen service either in America
or in the Philippmes. The council became fully organized in
1542. Its meeting place was Seville, ^le of its jluties was to
collect all available information about the Indies; another was
to serve as a nominating board for ''all civil and ecclesiastical
offioen In the Incfies.'^ In the course of two hundred years the
Iqpristion lOTthbrlxKly was collected into a body of taw known
as the "Laws of the Indies,'^ which dealt with every duty and

rigjit of officials and inhabitants.

Beddea the- Council of " thcTTndies, another bd^ ' wfiT ^^
created to superintend the economic affws of the colonies.
This body was called the Casa de C oRtJCfttecito , or Indian
House, and was organized at devilie in 1503, wBere a house was
especially built for its use. The general purpose oi this body ^ ffh •
was to give the long a rigid mon op oly of aHcrtonial trade. It ^V

TiM Ctm 6m *^^^^ account of everything pertaining to the

coa tn i f i ri dn, oc ecouomic affairs of the Indies. It granted

iDdtaAHo«iM licenses to those gomg out to the Indic«; it

supervised the equipping of ships; gave direction to their load-


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ing and unloading; in short, its officials supervised every detaO
of the Indies trade. The officers of the Indian House were a
president, treasurer, secretary, agent, three judges, and an at-
torney. Their duties were prescribed to the last detail and
they were hedged about with all manner of restrictions. We
will have occasion to describe the Indian House more fully in a
future chapter.

During the process of settlement and exploration the chief
governmental authority in America rested" in "ttie-hands ef-a
militaiy governor, called the adelantado. In Spain this titie
tta Bwiwrt^okjoiia ^^ given the miHtary governor of a bord^
offlctai; tiM province. Colum bus w as given this title, as

well as most of the other f ounHers of ^lonies
in America. After the period of settlement was passed the
authority in the colony passed usually to the audiencia, which
often performed all the functions of government.

When fully organized, the heads of the governments in Amer-
ica were the vlcerays.- In 1574 the Spanish possessions m
America were d^scrU)fid afi consisttfig of two khigdoms;^|irew
Spain, which included Mexico, Central America^ and the Is-
lands; and Peru^ which included all Spanish territory in South
America. These two kingdonis were ruled over by two vice-
' roys, who were the personal representatives
nM^icoy tnd Hit ^j ^^^ j^^^ ^^j performed all the royal

functions, as though the king were present
and reigning in person. The viceroy kept a court modeled after
that of Spain; he exercised power*of panton; presided over the
audiencia, which acted as his council; kept a "recor d oT the
distribution of the Indians, and acted as ^dgeTh cases where
tliey were involved. His power was checked by the audiencia,
which in cases of dispute could refer matters to the Council of
the Indies. The viceroy of Peru was considered the most im-
portant, and it bwame common for the Mexican viisemj f -to
be promoted to the Pefuvian viceroyalty.
The colonial official ranking next to the viceroy was the
^^. r^_. captain-general. The functions of theHSp-
tain-general were similar to those of the vice-
roy, except that he ruled over a smaller territcg^. Thus

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Chflejbecame a captjfflcy-gCTierai jn 1778. and was practically
mdependent of Peru, thougE nominally it was still a part
of the viceroyalty. Venezuela was created a c aptaincy-yp jiftfft!
in 1773 and later Cuba ancj Guatemala."'

The governor of the provmce, the corregidor, came next.
The im>vinoe in turn was divided into partidoe, at the head of
wfach wg re' Tffl mEr* catted' " tflcalde taayors, who exercised
j)olice, militaryi and judicial functions. Ta
the colonial towns, both Spanish and Indian,
there was a considerable degree of self-
government, following the example set by towns and cities in
Spahi. The municipal councils, or the cabildos, generally con-
sisted of Sx r^dpres, or aldermen, and two alcaldes, or jus-
tioes! hi many cases the regidores and the alcaldes were
elected by the'citizeDa of the tawiiB» though in the course of
time these offices became hereditary or were sold to the highest

Besides the divisions into viceroyalties, captaincy-generals,
provinces, and districts, the colonies were divided into audien-
cias. In the course of the seventeenth century there came to
be eleven of these in Ammca. ''Strictly speaking, an audien-
cia was a body of magistrates, constituting at once a supreme
court and a board of admmistration for the province; but the
designation was applied equally to the area over which its
jurisdiction extended." If the audiencia had
^SiSdMi^ *® ^*® presiding officer a "governor and cap-

tain-general,'' the area over which it had
authority bore the name "captaincy-general" or "presidency"
as well as "audiencia." If, however, the audiencia "was pre-
sided over by a jurist, the area was then termed a 'presidency'
in a narrower sense." The number belonging to an audiencia
dep^ided upon its jjQsitiaa andJunportance. The Audiencia of
M^ooconsosted of four oidores, or civil judges; four alcaldes
de crimen^ 6r_cnimnaL judges and two prosecuting attorneys.
The luidTencias acted as councils for the viceroys and captain-
generals, and during an interr^num assiuned all the functions
of executive administration.
In 1786 still another administrative division was made in

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the Spanish colonies known as intendencies. At the hea d of
each was""aDrintaidenf. tTp HirA^riy ri^prptaftrit^d^tlii^ vrown
in the financial adniinis^ration, his chief
i^dMdM tad tiM business being to see that the king got all
that was due him from the colonies. He was
given a large d^pree of independence in the manag^nent of
his office. Intendencies were created because of the corruption
of the corridors, and it was expected that the intendent
would bring about reform in the admmistration.

The Spanish institution known as the residencia was likewise
introduced into the colonies. As a colonial institution it pro-
vided that all admmistrative officials should remain in the
iteRMidttiick colony a certain period after their terms of

office were over, in order to give all those
who had grievances against them a chance to bring charges.
A special court was set up, consisting of one or more conunis-
sionersy who heard all complaints and forwarded th^n to the
Council of the Indies, where a decision was made.

Portugal never developed a colonial system comparable tq_
that of Spain. Several councils in Lisbon had to do with colo-
nial affau^, though the Council of State exercised the most
authority, appointing the officers of high rank for the colonies.
At first Brazil was divided into feudal divi-
AtoSiSmtto""^ sions called captaincies, m which the pro-
prietor exercised complete authority. In
1548 a captain-general was appointed who brought the prov-
inces under his authority, la 1763 a viceroy was appouited
for Brazil, and Rio de Janeiro was made the seat of his gov-
ernment. Under him were the several captains-general, al-
though they manifested a considerable independence, and did
not hesitate to oppose undue interference from the central
authority in local affairs.


Most serviceable accounts of the Spanish AdministratiTe system will
be found in EstabUshmeni of Spamah Rule in Amerieoy by Bernard Moses
(Q. P. Putnam's Sons, 1808), Chapters II and IV; and in Spain in AfVMr-
ioo, by E. O. Bourne (Harpers, 1906), Chapter XV.


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A Imef but clear account will be found in IxOm Ameriea, by W. R.
Shepherd (Henry Holt & Co., 1914), Chapter II.

For the institutional background ci the Spaniah colonies, The Riae cj
the Spanish Bmjrirej by R. B. Merriman (The Macmillan Company, 1918),
will be found especially valuable, particularly VoL II, Chi4>ter XV.

For the student who reads Spanish the BecopUaddn de Leye% de he
Beyno9 de laa Indias (The Collection of Spaniah Colonial Law), 1844, may
be studied with profit.


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I. The Trade Ststem

Thi Spanish colonists not cmly brou^t with th^n their reli-
gion and forms of gov^iunenti but also their economic ideas
and practices. And yet the economic ideas entertained by
Spain in the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries
were much like those held by other European peoples. The
chirf difference between Spain and Englandi in their economic
spidn'ft iGOMok dealings with their coloniesi was that Spain
Pkvtnm ill RMpMt was able to carry out her economic program
•o Bm coioBiet ^^^ enforced her restrictive trade laws, while

Enfl^d passed similar laws but was entirely unable to enforce
them. As far as mtention was concerned, England was little
different from Spain. As Bancroft says, "the mercantile re-
strictive system was the superstition of the age,'' and was held,
not alone by Spain and Portugal, but also by the other col-
onising nations of western Europe. The colonies were con-
fiidered to exist for the benefit of the mother country, and no
nation was more successful in carrsring out this mistaken idea
than Spam.

In the year 1503 there was organized m Seville what was
known as the Casa de Contrataci6n, or Indian House. The
purpose of this organisation has already been explained. Wh^i
the Indian House was established it was provided that all trade
of the Indies was to be confined to the one Spanish port of
Seville. That city maintained the monopoly of trade with

^^^^ ^^ little interruption down to 1717, when it was

removed to Cadis, because ships no longer

could make their way up the Guadalquivir. In the early

years, before the gold and silver of Peru and Mexico came to

be an important part of the returning cargoes, ships sailed for



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the Indies sin^y. The development of piracy, however, soon
caused the Indian House to decree that henceforth ships must
sail in fleets. The fleet system was officially established m
1561. Down to 1748 two fleets went annually, one bound for
Vera Cruz in New Spain, the other to Forto Bello on the

When the fleets arrived at their American destination there
was inaugurated at each place a great fair, for the sale and
distribution of the goods brought over. The Porto Bello fair
was the largest and most important, due to the fact that it was
the distributing center for all the Peruvian trade. On the
arrival of the Porto Bello fleet those who desired to purchase
assembled from all the colonies in South America. Ordinarily,
the town was small and extremdy unhealthy, and during the
forty days of the fair it was crowded far beyond its capacity.
Tte Fair Sf^tnm aa Rooms for living rented at $125 for the fair,
i^in ito while display rooms for goods commanded the

""^^ exorbitant rent of from $1,000 to $5,000.
Food was correiqpondingly dear, and due to the miserable sani-
tary conditions and overcrowdmg, the death rate was extremely
high. Similar conditions prevailed at Vera Cruz, where in
1556 four members <A an English merchant's family of eight
died in ten days. Porto Bello was described during fau: time
by one who saw the conditions, as an ''open grave.'' This
system of distribution raised the price of goods to a tremendous
figure. Goods intended for Peru after they were purchased at
Porto Bello were loaded on backs of mules and taken across the
isthmus. They were then reloaded upon vessels bound down
the coast, and after months <A toil and danger finally reached
their destination, where they sold for from five to six hundred
per cent above thdr original cost.

For a long time the Indian House was the efficient agent in
carrying out this rigid ^stem of commercial control. By the
b^hming of the eighteenth century, however, changes were
taking place which rendered it more and more difficult for
Spain to maintam this strict monopoly. By the treaty of
Utrecht (1713) England obtamed the contract to furnish slaves
to the Spanish colonies, and at the same time she obtained the


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privilege of sending one ship, c^ five hundred tons burden, a
year to trade at Porto Bello. England took full advantage
Brankiac Down of ^^ ^^ rift in the Spanish trade monopoly
th« sptniHi TMde and before long was unloading whole fleets

ca^b^LrndB ^^^ ^® ^^^ ^^ ^^ ^"^ ^P* ^ trade
with the southern part of the continent

under this S3rstttn was compelled to pass through Porto Bello
and Peru. This was, of course, greatly to the disadvantage of
Buenos Ayres. By the beginning of the seventeenth century,
however, Buenos Ayres was becoming a great contraband port.
It was not, mdeed, until that city became a great smuggling
port that it began to prosper and grow. After the English and
Dutch established colonies in the West Indies, smuggling like-
wise became common along the northern coast of South Amer-
ica. The English and Dutch colonists served as centers for this
trade. In 1762 the En^ish captured Habana, and that port
was opened to English ships and the great possibility of free
trade was at once shown. Charles III of Spain, three years
later, opened up the trade of the Indies to eight ^>anish ports
besides Cadis. In 1778 commerce with the Indies was de-
clared free to all Spanish ports, and Buenos Ayres, Peru, and
Chile were allowed to trade directly with Spain.

II. AGBicuiyruRB in the Colonies
''The principal pursuits of Spanish America were farming,
grazing, and mining. The romance of the conquest and of the
silver fleets did much to give disproportionate prominence to
the production of gold and silver in popular accounts of Span-
ish colonisation.'' The bulkier agricultural {HNxiucts were not
raised for exportation, while the products of the mines found
their way to Spain in vast quantities. For this reason mining
received much more attention hi books. Yet by far ihe largest
majority of people in Latin America lived by agricultural pur-
importuice qf sults, and at the be^nning of the nineteenth

Online LibraryWilliam Warren SweetA history of Latin America → online text (page 9 of 27)