New Spain exportations of silver from private owners, merchants and assets of deceased persons.
The Hacienda Real during the colony taxed the commerce with several tariffs, the most important being the avería and the almojarifazgo. The latter would do so directly on traded goods. The information it gives is a rich source for interpreting colonial and intercontinental trade. The study focuses on the documentation of tax by the Real Caja de Veracruz at the New-Hispanic port of Veracruz, which served as the re-shipper of the goods negotiated in Mexico. It gives us information about incoming and outgoing ships, their destinations or origins, and the amount paid for almojarifazgo, without distinctions. The total value negotiated in the port between 1587 and 1650 has been calculated as a percentage charged on the value of the merchandise. In spite of fraud and contraband during this whole period, these calculations can be considered a source of reliable, if approximate, information of the new Spanish trade. It establishes the supremacy of imports over exports and intercontinental trade with Spain over colonial trade.
- tax law
- trade commerce
- New Spain
The maintenance of the Spanish trading system with America in large part was based on the collection of a series of taxes levied on the value of goods traded there, such as the breakdown, the duty of tonnes, the Admiralty, the market or the
Of all these taxes, the
To better understand what colonial taxation was in general we must highlight a recent work on taxation, coordinated by Pilar Martínez, Ernest Sánchez and Matilde Souto , in which they study the works of Bartholome Yun, on taxation within the context of the nation state . More specifically, for the
2. The tax
In 1497, after the discovery of America, the Catholic Monarchs extended the collection of the almojarifazgo to the trade of goods sent to that continent, exempting from the payment of this and any other rights to intercolonial trade and to all products Americans exported from the new territories annexed to the metropolis without exception (, pp. 209–210; , p. 105).1 Initially, the collection of this tax was intended for the financing of the colonial administration, although the Crown initially imposed it to justify the high costs of its policy.
The exact date of its implementation in America is unknown to us, but the advance of the conquest and colonization of the new colonies was matched by the implementation of the
As can be seen, the
This tax was applied once certain American agricultural products began to be exported, which was the beginning of a much bulkier trade to Europe. After a series of consultations with the king, held between 1559 and 1566 (, p. 218), and after consulting the Council of the Indies. The king decided to reorganize the collection of
According to this
The imposition of these new tariffs was by no means accepted by those most directly affected by merchants. In New Spain the merchants maintained a relationship with Viceroy Enríquez, who in turn sent them to Castile, in which they explained the possible consequences of the new collection on trade due to such a substantial increase in taxes (, pp. 221–222). In the Peruvian viceroyalty the opposition of traders and the
In fact, the economic repercussions of the increase in almojarifazgo in American trade were very different from the alarmist relations of traders on both continents.
3. Exemptions and reductions in the collection of
Despite the mandatory charge of tax on all products, there were always exemptions at certain ports for political or economic reasons. Of course, there was no
From early on, the personal belongings of travelers were exempt from tax, as long as they were not sold at the destination. The royal officers were tasked with enforcing these rules. In the case of the sale of any belonging, it was penalized with the collection of double the percentage of the respective almojarifazgo. When there were intermediaries of third parties, the goods were seized along with half of the assets of the complainant, which were distributed to third parties between the Crown, the judge and the complainant.8
Another article partially exempt from the payment of the
Certain ports also saw the
These reductions are also found in several Venezuelan ports at the end of the sixteenth century. Specifically, tax rates for intercolonial trade were halved. Cumaná obtained this privilege in 1589, Margarita in 1592, Caracas in 1592 and 1597, Río Hacha (New Kingdom of Granada) in 1596 and Nueva Andalucía in 1597 (, pp. 371 and 372; , p. 107; , p. 39). Cartagena would receive permits to reduce the collection of taxes by 1535, 1539 and 1540, in this case for goods that encouraged local agriculture and livestock (, p. 62).10
Puerto Rico received this benefit in 1567, 1606, 1611, 1625, 1632 and 1636 (, pp. 224–225; , pp. 371–372). Specifically, the
4. Evaluation of the value of goods and revenue
Royal officers calculated the tax on merchandise value from the prices at the port of origin or destination within thirty days of being shipped or landed (, pp. 235 and 236; , pp. 479–481).11 The source for his calculation was the records of the vessels or affidavit produced by the merchant. As noted by Antúnez (, p. 233) and Lorenzo (, pp. 378–379) in reference to the accounting of the
This non-verification of the declared was a privilege of Indian traders and shippers (, p. 165). Very rarely were they checked by the royal officers. To avoid this, there were the respective consulates who with their donations and petitions to the Crown managed to wipe out the most jealous official and obtain greater privileges for their trade. The delays that would result from such inquiries in the loading and unloading of fleets and vessels were in their favour, as this delay would create increments in their profits and in the collection of taxes. In order to grant these privileges, the Crown issued a certificate in 1586, urging its officials not to open the loaded bales and to speed up the dispatch of fleets and vessels (, 1797, pp. 237–238).
This privilege was met with the opposition of some royal officials. Thus, we can see how in 1596 the
As can be gleened from the text, this privilege favoured fraud in legal trade. The amounts reported as evasion by the two New Spain officers may be exaggerated, but the reality was that the omission of goods or their undervaluation in the registers amounted to between 75 and 80% of what was traded in the fleets (, p. 378). One way of circumventing fiscal control was the loading and/or unloading of goods out of port or the exchange between ships on the high seas, claiming that they were registered on other vessels or could not be because of the haste of departure of the fleet or vessel.
The existence of this fraud would not be understood without the participation of the same royal officers and even the authorities, since many of them bought their positions from the Crown, particularly in the seventeenth century, and needed to make them profitable in order to compensate the expenditure made to attain them.
To curb tax evasion, the Crown drafted a number of rules. Merchants or travellers often did not declare goods they brought to America in order to pay for their journey with their sale, or to concel their existence from the
In 1624 the Consulate and the
Initially, the payment method of the
The Crown did not allow the payment of this tax to be postponed,15 although the reality was another by allowing royal officials to trust in Seville and America. Payment was made in advance of the sale of the goods, withholding them in case of non-payment. Nevertheless, the major cash-flow problems that the established commercial system originated in traders made delay, installments and credit in paying the tax, function on a daily basis. For the Sevillian case they had to wait for the return voyage to be able to pay the
These “illegal” forms of payment of the tax were not condoned by the Crown, hence between 1550 and 1627 five
Once the value of the goods had been established, it was sent to Mexico for consideration by the
But the value of the goods calculated according to existing prices in the port of Veracruz was fictitious, since very few were sold in that port. Veracruz was only a distribution point and Mexico was in charge of its sale and redistribution to the rest of the New Spain territory. That is why in 1576 Viceroy Enríquez ordered that the price of merchandise be calculated according to the highest, medium and lowest value that had occurred in its sale, taking into account that it was produced on credit (, pp. 227–228). When this calculation was made, they took into account shipping costs and damage to goods during transport or from storage in the port warehouses.
The fact that the real market of unloaded goods in Veracruz was the capital of the viceroyalty influenced its collection of
During the period between 1587 and 1650, notwithstanding gaps in documentation,19 a total of 5,433,564.8 pesos were collected at the
Export superiority over import was substantial, with exports not reaching 10% of what was traded. However, during the seventeenth century the trend changed compared to the sixteenth century and exports have a higher share in Veracruz trade, 9.1% versus 7.58%, respectively. The reasons for this dispute are that import trade from Seville, the fleets, was mainly composed of European manufactures of high value and quantity; while exports, raw materials for the most part of lower value, are compensated by the silver output. As we know, American colonial trade was characterized by a monopoly on European manufactures and by the lack of a local industry that generated its own merchandise.
6. Evolution and stages of global revenue
At the beginning of the reign of Philip II, the
According to data from the annual collection of the
6.1 First stage of boom: (1587–1593)
After the epidemic of yellow fever, which ravaged New Spain during the years 1576 and 1580 and which left a lull in the economy of the viceroyalty (, pp. 67–86), there was a boom23 in the collection of the
In these 8 years the amount paid for this right amounted to 642,638.9 pesos, 11.83% of the total collected. Although fleet traffic was not constant, there was no arrival in 1587, 1589 and 1592, nor of departure in 1587, 1588, 1589 and 1593. 581,949.1 pesos, 90.56% were raised for this concept; while trade on the side lines only totaled 60,689.8 pesos (Figure 2).
At the time, The
6.2 First stage of crisis: (1594–1598)
The European policy of the Castilian Crown conditioned the evolution of commercial traffic between the two continents and between the same colonies. Thus the wars of the late sixteenth century with Holland and France, allied with England, would influence the traffic and the collection of
At this stage, collection is reduced to 171,025.2 pesos, 3.15% of what was entered in the
While the tax charge for inbound fleets and intercolonial trade was reduced, exports of the former saw a 30.13% increase over the previous stage, constituting the beginning of a phase of export expansion of Veracruz to the metropolis in the fleets, that would last until 1616.
6.3 Second stage of boom: (1599–1615)
The political problems that interfered with the normal development of intercontinental trade disappeared from 159925 the collection of
The reality could well be another: the saturation of the markets. Already in 1606, there was a significant reduction in fleet tax collection compared to the previous year, from 240,837.9 pesos in 1605 to 69,643.5 pesos in 1606 and to 2,962.3 pesos in 1607. The Mexican Consulate argued that the dangers of navigation were a cause of this decrease.
In these 17 years a total of 2,509,028.7 pesos, 46.18% of the total were entered into the
Although the margin of share of intercolonial trade in income was less than in the previous stage, 5.3% versus 12.23%, the average annual value of intercolonial trade, increased by double, or 7813 pesos versus 3486.6. During these years, fleet trade eclipsed non-fleet commerce, even if the latter was prosperous.
6.4 Second stage of crisis: (1616–1635)
The saturation of colonial markets led to a reduction in imports from the metropolis. This fact caused Sevillian merchants to opt for cut-offs of colonial markets in order to be able to place their products. This undersupply favored alternative ways to alleviate manufacturing shortages, such as smuggling, the emergence of an indigenous industry capable of competing with imported products in fleets, or sourcing them through the Manila Galleon.27
This was reflected in the collection of
This decline in tax revenues was more noticeable in imports, which fell to 1,048,877.9 pesos; while exports on the other hand increased by 37.15%. This increase would confirm the good health of the
6.5 Crisis: (1636–1650)
The depression produced in the previous stage was worsened by the changes in frequency of fleets, from annually to every two years.28 There were no entry fleets in the port of Veracruz in 1637, 1639, 1641, 1643, 1645 and 1649, nor were there departures between 1634 and 1638 and in 1640, 1642, 1644 and 1646. These absences would significantly lower the income of the port
The consequences of this decline in intercontinental commercial activity would affect, by half, the intercolonial exchange of the
Colonial trade was taxed by several tariffs levied by the
Taxes were collected by royal officials appointed by the
Although Veracruz was only a mere redistributor of the goods that were negotiated in the capital of the viceroyalty, all traffic with Spain and the rest of the American colonies of the Caribbean passed through their docks. This had an influence on the calculation of the value of the declared goods. At first, the average prices calculated in Veracruz were fictitious. For this reason, a different form of calculation was established in 1576, using the average price of its highest, average and lowest value of its value in Mexico.
During the period studied (1573–1650), 5,533,564.8 pesos were collected at the
Based on the evolution of the collection we have established five well differentiated stages, two of boom and three of crises, the last of them being the one that was felt the most by the economic and political situation of Spain. The first boom stage, between 1588 and 1599, arises as a result of a commercial take-off following the yellow fever epidemic in New Spain (1576–1580) and is characterized by the introduction of European goods for consumption by Spaniards and their re-export to other Caribbean markets. Then there is a crisis phase, between 1594 and 1598, of reduction of collection in the course of the European wars of Spain and that will have a positive consequence in the increase in trade towards the metropolis, with an increase of 30.13%. A second moment of boom (1599–1615) appears with peace in Europe, in which a regularity is established in the predominance of the fleet trade over the rest of the Veracruz trade. Then there is a second and long stage of crisis in the collection (1616–1635) caused by the saturation of the New Spain markets and that the Sevillian traders cause more criticism by deliberately undersupplying traffic. Thus, smuggling would arise and the development of an internal, local industry, which would supply the New Spain market. The collection shows us a reduction in imports, but not exports. Finally, this crisis would be exacerbated between 1635 and 1650 because the annual fleets become biannual. This was a major disruption of incoming
My acknowledgment to Maria Ruth Giesbrecht for her support and collaboration in the translation of this work.
Archivo General de Indias (A.G.I.).
Audiencia de México, Leg. 351. Cartas y expedientes de oficiales reales de Veracruz.
Contaduría. Caja Real de Veracruz. Leg. 878. Cuentas de Real Hacienda de lo remitido a España desde 1568 a fin de junio de 1573 con los comprobantes del cargo.
Contaduría. Caja Real de Veracruz. Leg. 879. Cuentas de Real Hacienda desde 1587 a 1591.
Contaduría. Caja Real de Veracruz. Leg. 880. Cuentas de Real Hacienda desde junio de 1590 a diciembre de 1594.
Contaduría. Caja Real de Veracruz. Leg. 881. Cuentas de Real Hacienda desde 17 de diciembre de 1594 a fin de 1599.
Contaduría. Caja Real de Veracruz. Leg. 882. Cuentas de Real Hacienda desde 1°de enero de 1600 a 14 de octubre de 1609.
Contaduría. Caja Real de Veracruz. Leg, 883. Cuentas de Real Hacienda desde 14 de octubre de 1609 a 3 de septiembre de 1622.
Contaduría. Caja Real de Veracruz. Leg. 884B. Cuentas de Real Hacienda desde 6 de septiembre de 1622 a 8 de agosto de 1637.
Contaduría. Caja Real de Veracruz. Leg. 884A. Cuentas de Real Hacienda desde 6 de septiembre de 1622 a 8 de agosto de 1637.
Contaduría. Caja Real de Veracruz. Leg. 885A. Cuentas de Real Hacienda desde 9 de agosto de 1637 a 4 de octubre de 1646.
Contaduría. Caja Real de Veracruz. Leg. 885B. Cuentas de Real Hacienda desde 5 de octubre de 1646 a 27 de noviembre de 1653.
Consulado. Libro I. Libros de las Juntas y acuerdos del Consulado.
- Merced given in Burgos on 6 May 1497 and ratified by the Consejo de Indias. We also use as a source the book of Antúnez, Memorias histórcas…, although it is not a very reliable source, but it includes tax legislation and other issues relating to existing regulations in the tax season.
- This Real Cédula refers to the collection of the almojarifazgo from intercontinental trade and was issued on June 24, 1566, received by the Real Audiencia de México on September 21 of the same year, sent to Veracruz the following day and settled in the books of the Real Caja of the port by treasurer Rodrigo Fránquez on August 27, 1573. Archivo General de Indias (hereinafter A.G.I.). Contaduría. Real Caja de Veracruz. Leg. 878. Recop. Leyes de Indias... Book VIII. Tit. XV. Law I.
- This Real Provision establishes the almojarifazgo for intercolonial trade. Its development is produced by the Cédula of October 11, 1570. In New Spain, Viceroy Enríquez imposed it on Provision of April 6, 1571 given in Mexico City on September 30, 1571. A.G.I. Contaduría. Caja Real de Veracruz. Leg. 878. Recop. Leyes de Indias… Lib. VIII. Tit. XV. Law I.
- A.G.I. Contaduría. Caja Real de Veracruz. Leg. 878. Transfer of Her Majesty’s Card where the scareping rights of the goods of Castile are sent to collect to X per cent and the wines to XX.
- A.G.I. Contaduría. Caja Real de Veracruz. Leg. 878. The collection of the new almojarifazgo rights at two and a half percent.
- Cédula of January 25, 1567.
- Goods shipped by the Crown have been exempt from 1507. April 27, 1574, ratified by the Cédulas of September 14, 1613 and December 12, 1619. Recop. Leyes de Indias... Lib. VIII. Tit. XV. Law XXVI.
- December 15, 1531 for clergy and February 28, 1543 for the rest of the passengers. Recop. Leyes de Indias...Lib. VIII. Tit. XV. Laws XXVIII and XXIX.
- November 4, 1548 contained in the Recop. Leyes de Indias... Lib. VIII. Tit. XV. Law XXVII.
- Real Cédulas of December 8, 1533, November 8, 1539 and February 11, 1540.
- Ordenanzas of 1554 and Cédula of December 22, 1579.
- A.G.I. Contaduría, Caja Real de Veracruz, Leg. 878.
- April 21 and 27 1574.Recop. Leyes de Indias... Lib. VIII. Tit. XV. Laws VIII and XIX.
- Cédulas of December 28, 1568 and March 9, 1620. Recop. Leyes de Indias..., Lib. VIII. Tit. XV. Law I.
- Recop. Leyes de Indias... Lib. VIII. Tit. XV. Law V.
- Cédulas of April 16 and August 4, 1550, May 10, 1554, August 24, 1619 and January 23, 1627. Recop. Leyes de Indias. Lib. VIII. Tit. XV. Law V.
- Real Card of December 22, 1579.
- A.G.I. Contaduría. Caja Real de Veracruz. Leg. 878.
- Existing documentary gaps are from June 14, to December 17, 1594, from May 6, to August 31, 1601, from May 17 to November 29, 1602, from June to October 31, 1607, from July to October 1627, from August, 9 1628 to November 7, 1630, from November 4, 1632 to August 6, 1633 and from September 5, 1636 to August 11, 1637.
- A.G.I. Contaduría. Caja Real de Veracruz. Legs. 878, 879, 880, 881, 882, 883, 884B, 884A, 885A, and 885B.
- A.G.I. Contaduría. Caja Real de Veracruz. Leg. 878, branch 1, from Septembre of 1568 until June of 1571.
- A.G.I. Contaduría. Caja Real de Veracruz. Leg. 885B, branch 7, from October to December 31, 1650.
- A.G.I. Contaduría. Caja Real de Veracruz. Legs. 878, branch 3, from August 11, 1572 to June 30, 1573; 879, branches 1 y 2, from June, 1587 to June 13, 1591; y 880, branches 1 a 4, from June 30, 1590 to June 14, 1594.
- A.G.I. Contaduría. Caja Real de Veracruz. Legs. 880, branch 4, from October 20, 1592 to June 14, 1594; y 881, branches 1 to 5, from October 19, 1594 to January 1, 1600.
- A.G.I. Contaduría. Caja Real de Veracruz. Legs. 881, branch 4, from May 26, 1598 to January 1, 1600; 882, branches 1 a 11, from May 7, 1600 to October 14, 1609; and 883, branches 1 to 7, from October 14, 1609 to June 12, 1616.
- A.G.I. Consulado. Libro I. Folios. 162–165.
- A.G.I. Contaduría. Caja Real de Veracruz. Legs. 883, branches 7 a 14, from June 11, 1615 to October 14, 1622; 884B, branches 1 a 9, from September 5, 1622 to September 14, 1627; and 884A, branches 1 to 10, from September 14, 1627 to September 4, 1636.
- A.G.I. Contaduría. Caja Real de Veracruz. Legs. 884A, branch 10, from November 19, 1634 to September 4, 1636; 885A, branches 1 to 6, from August 12, 1637 to October 4, 1646; and 885B, branch 7, from October 5, 1646 hasta December 5, 1650.