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participants were the guilds of coachbuilders, wax chandlers, confectioners,
silk spinners, master tailors, shoemakers, blacksmiths, hat makers, and
dyers. Each guild member contributed, with a sum of approximately 2 pesos
per head104 ; and the same applied to the cotton dealers, saddlers, boiler
makers, and potters. Even the comics, dancers, and musicians of the Royal
Coliseum Theatre participated, offering the receipts of various performances
to this end.105

101 For a partial list of the creditors to whom interest was paid by the Consulado, see AGN, Consulado,
vol. 312, exp. 8, leg. 4.
For the amounts collected from the wealthy in 1793, see AGN, Donativos y Pr´stamos, vol. 28, exp.
7, f. 94. Information on rural donations is more dispersed, but see AGN, Donativos y Pr´stamos, vol.
26, fs. 338“341.
Branciforte™s request to collect the donation was published on two occasions, May 13 and June 24,
1795; AGN, Donativos y Pr´stamos, vol. 30, f. 50.
Some carpenters gave as much as twenty pesos and some silk spinners up to thirteen pesos but the
average was nearer two pesos per head. See the complete membership lists for each association and
the quantities supplied in AGN, Donativos y Pr´stamos, vol. 13, fs. 13“188.
Primary school teachers also gave small amounts. AGN, Donativos y Pr´stamos, vol. 13, f. 326.
112 Bankruptcy of Empire

At the same time, senior ¬scal bureaucrats circulated instructions to the
Mexico City Council of¬cials to collect small sums from each neighborhood
resident. Again the contributions varied according to social position; in the
Plazuela de las Vizcainas a prosperous contributor offered twenty-¬ve silver
pesos while other poor residents, could not give more than two granos (the
equivalent of two pennies). Appropriately enough, in Rat Street (Calle de
las Ratas) the average donation was between one and four granos while in the
Callej´n de Dolores the contribution ranged between one and twenty-nine
Although the amounts obtained in the cities were substantial, the total
volume of funds extracted from towns and peasant communities was more
considerable. The administrator of the General Court of Indians (Juzgado
General de Indios) boasted of the monies collected from the Indians who lived
in the capital™s suburbs:
The Indians of the Parcialidades de San Juan and Santiago in this capital, their towns
and neighborhoods . . . whose communal properties are administered under my
direction for the General Court of Indians (Juzgado General de Naturales) . . . donate
10,000 pesos.107

The majority of these sums came from community funds, which were nor-
mally used to pay primary school teachers as well as the expenses of certain
The amounts contributed by the workers in mines and estates were also
substantial. In Guanajuato, for example, workers from seventeen mines gave
(or were forced to give) 4,396 pesos, while those of twenty-six landed estates
supplied almost 2,000 pesos and city workers contributed 1,840 pesos.109
In most cases, the bureaucrats sent complete lists of contributors, with job,
family, and given names; in Guanajuato one-third of the amount collected
came from the great mine of La Valenciana, whose administrator included
a complete list of more than 2,000 workers: the more specialized laborers
(mostly Spanish or mestizo) contributed 1“2 pesos per capita, the mulattos
1 peso apiece, and the Indians 4 reales per head.110

106 A silver peso was worth eight reales and each real twelve granos. (One silver peso was equal to one
silver dollar: therefore one real was worth the equivalent of twelve cents and one grano was worth
one penny; for data on the contributions in the different neighborhoods of the capital, see AGN,
Donativos y Pr´stamos, vol. 13, fs. 274“283.
AGN, Donativos y Pr´stamos, vol. 13, f. 348.
The compulsory character of these contributions from community funds is analyzed in D. Tanck,
Pueblos de Indios, pp. 495“499.
AGN, Donativos y Pr´stamos, vol. 30, f. 53.
The total collected for the donation in Guanajuato was 7,770 pesos of which 2,390 came from
La Valenciana. The priest, however, told the governor (intendente) Riano that the mine was failing.
AGN, Donativos y Pr´stamos, vol. 30, fs. 50“54.
Imperial Wars and Loans from New Spain, 1780“1800 113

The monies collected were sent from the regional treasuries to Veracruz
and thence to Spain in various ships that also carried other income belonging
to the Crown.111 In March 1796, after a year and eight months as viceroy of
New Spain, the marquis of Branciforte sent a general report to the Madrid
government, boasting that he had authorized the remittance of the huge
sum of twenty-six million pesos in a very short time; ¬fteen million pesos in
silver had been sent directly to Spain in the warships Conquistador, Santiago
la Espa˜ a, San Pedro Alc´ ntara, Santiago la Am´rica, and Europa; another nine
n a e
million pesos were sent via merchant ¬‚eets that had transshipped the funds
in Havana to royal ships of the line; ¬nally, two million pesos had been
remitted to the Philippines to pay for royal garrisons in Manila.112

The Donation and Loans of 1798 for the Naval War against Britain
Despite the enormous transfers of silver sent from New Spain, the metropoli-
tan treasury continued to suffer large de¬cits. The situation worsened
markedly when naval war with England began at the end of 1796. Customs
revenues in Spain “ a primary tax revenue in the metropolis “ declined
abruptly as a result of the drop in transatlantic trade, as all Spanish ship-
ping was persecuted mercilessly by the British Navy. In 1796, government
expenditures were covered with a loan contracted with merchants in Madrid
and C´ diz for 100 million reales and with several American silver consign-
ments that had escaped the British warships.113 On the other hand, in
1797 the rising de¬cits and the scarcity of hard currency in Spain spurred
renewed speculation in vales reales “ the main form of public debt “ pro-
voking a strong decline in their value, and making new issues increasingly
In November 1797, in the midst of the growing crisis, the distinguished
bureaucrat and military of¬cer Francisco de Saavedra was named minister

111 On May 29, 1795, a little after assuming his position as Viceroy, Branciforte reported to the king
that he had ordered that work in the Mexico City mint (Casa de Moneda) should be continued on
festive days and Sundays, with night shifts: the result was a production of the impressive sum of
three million pesos in less than a month, all with the objective of speeding up deliveries to Spain.
AGN, Correspondencia de Virreyes, 1 serie, vol. 180, exp. 361, fs. 240“241.
112 AGN, Correspondencia de Virreyes, 1a serie, vol. 183, exp. 637, fs. 122“124.
113 The attempt to obtain funds through credits from Spanish merchants was a complete failure. The
C´ diz and Madrid merchant guilds, for example, offered an advance of ¬fteen million reales each,
but under conditions unacceptable to the Ministry of Finance. On ¬nancial policy at the beginning
of the war, see Jos´ Patricio Merino, “La Hacienda de Carlos IV,” Hacienda P´ blica Espa˜ ola, 69
e u n
(1981), 139“181.
114 For a theoretical analysis of the origins and mechanisms of the speculation (agio) with royal promis-
sory notes, see the interesting document of the Banco de San Carlos, entitled “Report of the Bank
Regarding the Reduction of the Loss of Notes and the Circulation of Bank Documents,” November
1, 1794. Archivo Hist´ rico del Banco de Espana, (AHBE), Banco de San Carlos, leg. 708.
114 Bankruptcy of Empire

of ¬nance, and he immediately began a revision of the overall state of
the monarchy™s revenues. In early 1798, he presented a plan of extraor-
dinary measures to avoid the bankruptcy of the government. Historians
have praised his proposals to reform and modernize royal ¬nance, but it is
worth noting that the major planks of Saavedra™s proposals were limited to
the well-worn policy of exacting wealth from America to compensate for
declining metropolitan tax income.115 In fact, the ¬rst measure proposed
by the minister was to authorize a patriotic loan in Spain and the Indies.
The second was to transfer America™s wealth in warships, but ensuring the
British Navy did not intercept them. Saavedra wrote:

More or less everywhere in the different parts of (Spanish) America it is possible to
collect considerable capital, but New Spain in particular offers great resources . . . It
is necessary, then, to immediately send instructions for the collection of funds in
America. . . . 116

Saavedra™s proposal to launch a royal loan in metropolis and colonies
(denominated pr´stamo patri´tico) was partially successful, but there were
e o
problems in transferring the monies from the colonies due to the ongoing
naval war with Great Britain. The decree requesting a loan and a donation
for the war was signed in May 1798 although it was not until October of
the same year that the donation actually began to be collected in Mexico.
According to a recent study, approximately 60 percent of the total amount
collected for this loan between 1798 and 1800 came from America, most
from New Spain.117 Senior civil bureaucrats, high-level church of¬cials, and
af¬‚uent merchants and miners were the ¬rst to show their support for the
monarch. Viceroy Azanza contributed 50,000 pesos of his own salary, the
bishop of Vallodolid sent 50,000 pesos, and the bishop of Puebla delivered
20,000 pesos. As always, the wealthy merchants contributed large sums, but
other wealthy groups outside Mexico City also contributed, as is testi¬ed
by the contribution of the recently formed Merchant Guild of Veracruz
(Consulado de Comercio de Veracruz), which sent 100,000 pesos as a loan.118
The list of contributors was published in the principal newspaper of the
viceroyalty, the Gazeta de M´xico.119

See the favorable comments on Saavedra™s policy in J. P. Merino, “Hacienda de Carlos IV” 159“161.
See the Memoria of Saavedra in J. Canga Arguelles (1833“34), vol. 2, 183“186.
J. P. Merino, “Hacienda de Carlos IV,” p. 176.
See Matilde Souto Mantec´ n, “El Consulado de comercio de Veracruz, 1796“1821,” Ph.D. thesis,
El Colegio de M´ xico, 1996, that explains in detail the relationship between the loans granted to
the Crown and the agreement to establish the Consulado de Veracruz from 1796.
119 Among the Mexico City merchants, the ¬rst to make contributions was, as always, Antonio Bassoco
with 25,000 pesos for the loan and 10,000 pesos as a donation. Among the miners, the marquis
of Apartado (descendant of a great silver mining fortune) promised 40,000 pesos for the loan and
Imperial Wars and Loans from New Spain, 1780“1800 115

To ensure the greatest possible collection, the viceroy sent letters to
many different bodies, requesting the donation: ecclesiastical councils, the
provincials of different religious orders, the merchant guilds, the Mining
Tribunal, the town councils, the courts, the governors (intendentes), the mili-
tia commanders, public of¬cials, and regional mining associations (diputa-
ciones territoriales de miner´a). From the published lists, it can be observed
that not only wealthy subjects but virtually all members of colonial society
contributed to this donation. In the capital, both rich and poor residents
were urged by district of¬cials to contribute, and agents were sent house to
house to collect the monies from each family.
Again, as in 1795, the artisan guilds all made contributions, including
bakers, tanners, dyers, tailors, cobblers, saddlers, coachbuilders, silk spin-
ners, cotton weavers, needlewomen, and carpenters among others.120 The
military and militia of the viceroyalty gave larger amounts to this credit
than previously. The Standing Infantry Regiment (Regimiento de Infanter´a ±
Fija) under the command of a future Viceroy, Pedro Garibay, contributed
2,361 pesos; the Urban Regiment of Mexico City 7,125 pesos; the Provincial
Cavalry of Quer´ taro 5,000 pesos; the Regiment of Provincial Dragoons of
Puebla 4,324 pesos; the Standing Infantry Regiment of Puebla (Regimiento
de Infanter´a Fijo de Puebla) 10,289 pesos; and so on, throughout the whole
New Spain.121 In general, individual of¬cers contributed amounts between
20 and 100 pesos, the noncommissioned of¬cers between 5 and 20 pesos,
and soldiers between 1 and 4 pesos. The militia also made important con-
tributions. On August 3, 1799, for example, the Gazeta de M´xico recorded
donations from the Merida White Militia Battalion (Batall´n de Milicias
Blancos de M´rida) as well as from the Division of Free Coloreds (Divisi´n
e o
de Pardos) and three regiments of Urban militia, including Urban Blacks
(Negros Urbanos) and Urban Free Coloreds (Pardos Urbanos).
Numerous merchants and mine owners offered donations to strengthen
and supply the militias in the hope that the viceroy would name them
of¬cers in these bodies, since these positions carried high social prestige.
For example, Ignacio Obreg´ n, “legitimate son of the Count of Valencia,”
one of the richest miners in Mexico, gave 7,200 pesos “to kit out and arm
three companies of cavalry from his native province of Le´ n.”122 At the

10,000 pesos as a donation. See lists published in the Gazeta de M´xico, from October 1798 onward,
with particularly rich material in the ¬nal volumes of 1799.
120 For a complete list of contributions from the capital city guilds, see AGN, Donativos y Pr´stamos,
vol. 18, fs. 222“223.
121 Information about individual and institutional contributions are to be found in supplements of the
Gazeta de M´xico from November 1798 until September 1799. Abundant information can also be
found in AGN, Donativos y Pr´stamos, vols. 2, 14“16.
122 Christon Archer, El ej´rcito en el M´xico borb´ nico, 1760“1810 (Mexico: Fondo de Cultura Econ´ mica,
e e o o
1983), p. 268.
116 Bankruptcy of Empire

same time he offered a war contribution of 1,500 pesos through the Mining
Tribunal; in recompense, Viceroy Branciforte named him captain of a militia
Local merchants were the principal contributors to the militia. The trader
Juan Ibanez Celorvera, from the city of Oaxaca, sent a letter that spoke of
the measures adopted by the governor (intendente) to collect the donation;
He met with all the merchants so that each one, for his part, might contribute
with a quantity proportional to his means; now proposing a gracious donation,
or (alternatively) a loan. . . . I offered two hundred pesos, the same amount I had
provided previously . . . having, in addition, contributed last year three thousand,
eight hundred pesos for the uniforms and armaments for a company of the battalion
of the militia (Compa˜ ´a del Batall´n de Milicias) of this city, of which a son of mine
n± o
is captain. . . .
Neither did the great and medium estate owners fall behind; the mar-
chioness of San Francisco donated 10,000 pesos, the marquis of Inguanzo
another 10,000 pesos, the merchant and owner of sugar plantations, Gabriel


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