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might relieve the increasingly severe ¬nancial crisis of the monarchy. The
income from the sale of papal bulls (indulgences), the transfer to the state of
salaries of vacant positions in the religious hierarchy, the rental income from
old Jesuit properties now administered by a state foundation, as well as a
number of additional ecclesiastical contributions were carefully monitored
by the royal treasury. Among the most signi¬cant were the bulas de la santa
cruzada (papal bulls) that the faithful acquired (by means of stipulated dona-
tions to the church) in exchange for indulgences: the latter were religious
documents that purportedly remitted punishments due on certain sins, for
example, by reduction of the years he or she would pass in purgatory after
death.22
According to ancient norms, the money earned from the papal bulls
was to be devoted to “¬ghting the unfaithful and preserving the faith.” Not

19 The annual net total of tithes in New Spain ¬‚uctuated between 1,600,000 and 2,000,000 pesos
during 1785“1810, according to calculations by D. Brading, Una iglesia asediada, p. 242, and Juan
Carlos Garavaglia and Juan Carlos Grosso, “De Veracruz a Durango: un an´ lisis regional de la Nueva
a
˜
Espana borb´ nica,” Siglo XIX, 2, 4 (1987), 52. Stanley Stein indicates that in the 1780“1790 decade
o
the tithe annual average collection was 1,835,382 pesos: “Prelude to Upheaval in Spain and New
Spain, 1800“1808: Trust Funds, Spanish Finance and Colonial Silver,” in R. Garner and W. Taylor,
eds., Iberian Colonies, New World Societies, p. 191.
20 This additional noveno was levied on the totality of collected tithes. See AGN, Diezmos, vol. 21,
pp. 274“280.
21 These estimates are based on the novenos collected since 1804, representing 22% of all tithes, to
which other minor branches must be added. R. Garner and S. E. Stefanou, Economic Growth and
Change, pp. 47“53 present the most exhaustive discussion of tithe dynamics in the viceroyalty: they
estimate that tithes produced a total average of 1,570,000 pesos per year in the period 1770“1790
and almost 2,000,000 pesos annually in 1790“1800.
22 The complex organization of this branch and the methods used for their predication and sale,
including solemn processions, are described in detail in AGN, Bulas de Santa Cruzada, especially
vol. 23, ¬le 8 and vol. 25, ¬le 19, pp. 417“426.
128 Bankruptcy of Empire

surprisingly, the Crown felt justi¬ed in promoting them on an increased
scale to pay for wars against protestant Britain or, alternatively, against
revolutionary France in the last years of the eighteenth century. The revenues
from the placement of indulgences increased for several years, the annual
average total rising from 240,000 pesos in 1780“1784 to 300,000 pesos in
1795“1799 “ although reliable data for the whole period is scarce.23 Though
the acquisition of indulgences was in principle voluntary, in practice they
were administered as almost any other religious or civil tax. More than once,
the head of administration of papal bulls (known grandiloquently as the
general commissioner and apostolic judge of the Holy Crusade) instructed
bishops in New Spain that priests should make a census of “people likely
to buy the papal bulls.”24 Thus, the church, like the Crown, resorted not
only to persuasion but also to coercive mechanisms for extracting money
from the pious, whether rich or poor.
As could be expected, impositions triggered frequent protests and even
rejection among the peasantry. In 1792, for example, Viceroy Revillagigedo
ordered that Indian towns not be exempted from the sale of indulgences
despite their likely opposition to the measures. The task, however, was
not always easy, as revealed by the letters of the priest of municipality of
Teoloyuca, where the placement of indulgences had fallen off “due to the
exploitation that natives from this town have endured, being forced to work
in the mines of the Count of Regla.”25 Regardless of harsh punishments,
the desired outcomes were not always forthcoming. For example, in 1791,
in the town of Xochimilco, near Mexico City, the local priest recommended
imprisonment for a number of natives who were in arrears on payments
of indulgences which, evidently, they had acquired without enthusiasm.
The priest accused the villagers of being “poorly educated and exemplars of
inebriation,” although this was not an obstacle for him to extract more than
2,000 pesos from the community that same year on account of the sales of
papal bulls.26
Since the tax administration of the viceroyalty became increasingly
dependent upon these and other ecclesiastical branches of revenue (and
considering that it would be impossible to pay off arrears), in 1800 the new
Viceroy Berenguer supported the top functionaries of the colonial treasury of
Mexico when they asked Madrid to include the ecclesiastical contributions

23 Income on sales of indulgences amounted to 180,000 and 200,000 pesos per year in 1765“1780,
reaching 250,000 pesos in 1780“1790, according to F. Fonseca and C. Urrutia, Historia General,
vol. 1, p. xx.
24 C. Morin, Michoac´ n en la Nueva Espa˜ a, p. 41.
a n
25 AGN, Bulas de Santa Cruzada, vol. 14, ¬le 19, pp. 340“341.
26 AGN, Bulas de Santa Cruzada, vol. 14, ¬le 19, pp. 324“325. The priest in question explained to
royal treasury of¬cers that the best method for selling bulls to the natives was through a credit
system, with partial payments. AGN, Bulas de Santa Cruzada, vol. 14, pp. 326“341 and vol. 15,
pp. 324“330.
Royal Church and the Finances of the Viceroyalty 129

in the common branches of the treasury. This would help to settle debts of
the royal treasury to the church by means of a simple accounting measure,
and simultaneously facilitate the use of the annual revenues of those same
branches to cover a part of ordinary expenditures. The Minister of Finance
Miguel Soler answered that he was in agreement but emphasized that all
surplus obtained from sale of indulgences should be directly dispatched
to the peninsula. This, however, proved impossible, since “ according to
treasury of¬cials of New Spain “ those ecclesiastical branches were essen-
tial to balance the accounts of the royal treasuries in Mexico. The of¬cial
correspondence re¬‚ected the numerous tensions between metropolitan and
colonial representatives “ and revealed important underlying disagreements
with regard to the operation of the empire™s ¬scal machinery.27
In 1802 the Council of the Indies decided to implement a new policy
aimed at reorganizing the sale of papal indulgences in New Spain and Peru
and requiring the remittance of a third part of revenues to the Royal Con-
solidation Fund (Caja de Consolidaci´n) in Madrid. The Council instructed
o
the local delegates of the Caja to record full listings of the money reserves
accumulated in the administration of indulgences in each intendancy in
New Spain and ordered them to take the third part of the cash out of the
regional treasuries and send it on to the peninsula. The functionaries were
ordered to keep a close watch on:
the monies yielded (to be kept) in a three-keyed coffer, without laying a hand on
them for any reason until they are transferred to the treasury of¬cers at authorized
ports and then embarked on ships heading to any of the authorized ports in Spain,
where they shall be put at the order and will of the Council, and thus, of the
Comisi´n de Vales Reales. . . . 28
o
The of¬cers of the viceregal treasury also worked hard to extract resources
from other special ¬scal branches which included, for example, the salaries
of vacant positions in the religious hierarchy that were customarily trans-
ferred to the state treasuries and sent to Spain. These branches were known
as vacantes mayores y menores, medias anatas, and mesadas, each of which
had its own administration and treasury where surpluses were amassed.29
Traditionally, the government had authorized that such sums be channeled

27 See the interesting letter from Viceroy Iturrigaray, dated February 26, 1803 in which he comments on
the disputes between Soler and royal treasury of¬cers, concerning the use of funds from ecclesiastical
sectors; see AGN, Correspondencia de Virreyes, 1a series, vol. 214, ¬le 330, pp. 201“203.
28 This quotation is from AGN, Bulas y Santa Cruzada, vol. 25, p. 420. The Council developed a
detailed outline, itemizing the amount of each bull that would be used for that purpose.
29 Some of the various minor religious incomes collected in New Spain in 1810 were the branches
of Santos Lugares de Jerusal´n, the royal chapel (capilla real), the pension of His Majesty™s chaplain,
e
´
and the pension of the bishop of Louisiana, among others. AGN, Caja Matriz, “Libro Comun de la
Tesorer´a de Ej´ rcito y Real Hacienda de 1810.” For a more complete list, including those branches
± e
˜
collected in previous decades see H. Klein, “La econom´a de la Nueva Espana,” pp. 601“609.
±
130 Bankruptcy of Empire

to the spiritual, educational, or charitable goals for which they had origi-
nally been established. However, by the end of the eighteenth century the
government decided to amend that policy. In the ¬rst place, supervision
of the collection of each religious “tax” was made more rigorous, and sec-
ondly, the royal functionaries began to systematically use the surplus funds
to cover de¬cits in other branches of the government treasuries.30
The branch known as vacantes mayores y menores was a source of revenues
indirectly derived from tithes, since it consisted of transfers to the gov-
ernment by the Catholic Church of salaries corresponding to vacancies in
bishoprics, abbeys, and minor ecclesiastical positions such as the racioneros
and medios racioneros. So long as the church kept those positions un¬lled,
it was obliged to provide the royal treasury with the corresponding share
of salaries that these religious of¬cers would have earned “ as salary “ in
their dioceses. The vacant positions yielded average revenues to Mexican
royal treasuries between 110,000 and 150,000 pesos per year in the period
1780“1800, while from 1800 to 1808 the amounts transferred to the royal
administration were even higher.31 Additional transfers were obtained from
those church ¬scal branches, known as medias anatas and mesadas: newly
appointed prelates were required to render half of their incomes to the trea-
sury during their ¬rst year in of¬ce, amounting to a not insigni¬cant, annual
sum of close to 60,000 pesos in the last decades of the eighteenth century,
all of which was to be remitted to the metropolitan royal treasury.32
From 1790 onward the Crown also demanded that bishops in New
Spain pay ecclesiastical subsidies traditionally collected in the metropolis, but
not in the colonies.33 In practice, these cotributions constituted a ¬scal
branch that had been on the colonial books for decades, but had not been


30 The Crown did not begin extracting money from the “ramos particulares” until the 1790s. Both
Klein and TePaske agree that a study of these branches is extremely dif¬cult without a thorough
review of the libros manuales (detailed ¬nancial accounting records) of New Spain™s royal treasury,
many of which are to be found in the Archivo de Indias in Sevilla. H. Klein, “La econom´a de la
±
˜
Nueva Espana,” p. 590 and J. J. TePaske and J. and M. L. Hern´ ndez Palomo, La Real Hacienda,
a
Introduction. The Archivo General de la Naci´ n in Mexico City contains a large number of still
o
unclassi¬ed libros manuales.
31 According to F. Fonseca and C. Urrutia, Historia General, vol. 2, p. xxx the annual average levy
corresponding to vacantes mayores y menores amounted to 137,818 pesos in 1785“1789. In 1792 the
amount increased to 154,006 pesos, while the annual average for 1795“1799 was 112,733 pesos:
data in tables in Archivo General de Indias (AGI), Audiencia de M´xico, 2358 and Biblioteca Nacional
e
(Mexico), ms. 1282. I am grateful to Guillermina del Valle Pav´ n for copies of these documents.
o
32 See the previous note for sources on revenues resulting from medias anatas. Other ecclesiastical
branches that were to be sent to Spain from 1798 onward were the indulto cuadrigesimal, the subsidios
eclesi´ sticos, the increase of the Bulas de Santa Cruzada, and the noveno decimal. AGN, Caja Matriz,
a
´
“Libro Comun de la Tesorer´a.” ±
33 For data regarding the religious subsidy in Spain during the last decades of the eighteenth century,
see M. Artola, La hacienda del antiguo r´gimen, pp. 366“367.
e
Royal Church and the Finances of the Viceroyalty 131

put into practice. David Brading points out that in 1783 the minister
of the Indies Jos´ de G´ lvez ordered every viceroy, governor, and bishop
e a
in the American empire to pay off all arrears of the ecclesiastical subsidy.
The measure, however, was not actually implemented until the 1790s when
the demands of war made it imperative.34
By May 1794 viceroy Revillagigedo could report to Madrid that he had already
collected 382,299 out of the 573,741 pesos in arrears of the (ecclesiastical) subsidy.
Encouraged by the success of this measure, the ministers obtained new subsidies,
in 1795 and again in 1799, each totaling one million and a half pesos.35
Apart from collecting subsidies, the Crown required religious authori-
ties to render detailed reports on overall church revenues which provided
evidence of a signi¬cant concentration of wealth in the bishoprics of Mex-
ico, Puebla, and Michoac´ n: these three dioceses yielded 75 percent of total
a
church income and 68 percent of the ecclesiastical subsidy collected in the
entire viceroyalty in the year 1799.36
To complete our picture of ¬scal contributions collected by the viceregal
government from ecclesiastical sources, we should mention a series of funds
that were separately managed by the royal treasury. These included the
branch of Temporalidades that administered the old properties of the Jesuit
order which had been violently ejected from the viceroyalty in 1767. Jesuit
assets mainly consisted of colleges and churches in urban areas and haciendas
and ranches in rural regions. According to a contemporary source, the branch
of Temporalidades was in charge of the administration of forty haciendas in
Mexico™s archbishopric and ¬fty-three haciendas and ranches in the diocese
of Puebla.37 Since the royal treasury account books lack many details, it is
hard to make an accurate estimation of total revenues from Temporalidades,
most of which were sent to the peninsula to support military and ¬nancial
expenses of the monarchy. During the 1779“1783 wars against Britain,
for example, three different studies mention that viceroy Mayorga took out
loans for the Crown amounting to 2.7 million pesos from the revenues col-
lected through the Temporalidades branch, with the promise of paying them
off as soon as possible with an annual interest rate of 5 percent.38

D. Brading, Una iglesia asediada, pp. 244“245.
34
D. Brading, Una iglesia asediada, p. 245.
35
Estimates based on D. Brading, Una iglesia asediada, Appendix, Table 1.
36
F. Fonseca and C. Urrutia, Historia General, vol. 5, p. 227.
37
J. Lewis, “New Spain during American Revolution,” p. 217, mentions that pro¬ts from sales and
38
leasing of properties of Temporalidades were traditionally sent to the metropolis, but between 1779
and 1782 (date of the loan) they were kept in royal coffers in Mexico. F. Fonseca and C. Urrutia,
Historia General, vol. 1, p. xx present data, as well as Jos´ Antonio Calder´ n Quijano, Los virreyes de la
e o
Nueva Espa˜ a durante el reinado de Carlos III, vol. 2 (Sevilla: Escuela de Estudios Hispanoamericanos,
n
1968), p. 160.
132 Bankruptcy of Empire

In later years, the remittance of surplus funds derived from the former
properties of the Jesuits was renewed: 300,000 pesos produced by Tempo-
ralidades were sent from New Spain to the peninsula in 1790, and 400,000
pesos in 1792.39 After the onset of the war against the French Convention
in 1793, the share of this branch in loans to the Crown acquired addi-
tional importance.40 Metropolitan authorities encouraged the sale of the
old Jesuit properties to obtain more hard cash “ a measure which antici-
pated the subsequent policy of disentailment of religious properties adopted
by the Crown at the turn of the century.41 The clearest evidence of the Span-
ish government™s objective of resorting to revenues from Temporalidades to
redress the monarchy™s ¬nancial crisis was the royal decree issued in 1798,
ordering “any remaining fund from Temporalidades in Spain, the Indies, and
Philippine Islands to be added into the royal treasury for the service of vales
reales.” The ordinance also stressed that while funds were mainly meant to
relieve the government™s domestic debt, in case of emergency a share could
be used for “the monarchy™s urgent needs,” presumably of military nature.42

Church Donations and Loans to Finance the Wars of the
Spanish Crown, 1780“1804
While the Spanish crown lost no time in forcing the church to increase tax
transfers to pay for wars, it also began pressing for a series of loans and dona-
tions from religious institutions throughout Spanish America. According

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