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perfectly with the consortium™s plans.
While Parish was negotiating the contracts with Oliver and other
¬rms such as Archibald Gracie of New York, Vincente Nolte concentrated
on establishing relations with New Orleans™ most prominent mercantile
houses, including the well-known house of Amory and Callender.88 Between
mid-1805 and the end of 1806, approximately twenty ships left from New
Orleans for Veracruz on Nolte™s account and a similar number in the fol-
lowing two years.89 All the expeditions sailing to Mexico from New York,
Baltimore, and New Orleans had Gabriel Villanueva as their consignee,
who was now settled in the port of Veracruz. There, he faced the critical
issue of choosing which local trade houses would be the most appropriate
to take charge of the unloading, storage, and sale of the merchandise.
Villanueva soon reached agreement with the Veracruz ¬rms of Pedro
Miguel de Echeverr´a and Francisco Luis de Septien. Working together, they
±
were to look after the dozens of merchant ships sent by the Hope/Baring

85 The classic work that describes these operations is S. Bruchey, R. Oliver, Merchant of Baltimore, who
used the papers from the house of Oliver. On Craig™s commercial career, see J. A. Jackson, “The
Mexican Silver Schemes,” p. 107.
Of¬cial documentation regarding the permissions obtained by the house of Oliver by and for other
86
North American houses can be found in AGN, Reales C´dulas Originales, vols. 195“197; see in
e
particular, the ¬les 31“72 in vol. 196.
S. Bruchey, R. Oliver, Merchant of Baltimore, Chapters 4 and 5.
87
Nolte™s autobiography, Fifty Years in Both Hemispheres, is the indispensable source.
88
For a list of arrivals at Veracruz of neutral shipping convoys between September 1805 and September
89
1806, see AGN, Marina, vol. 229, fs. 9“14. The neutral shipping arrivals in 1807“1808 are dispersed
among documents in Marina, vols. 223“226, 233, and 234; however, there are gaps in these registries,
making it premature to attempt a de¬nitive calculation.
180 Bankruptcy of Empire

conglomerate.90 Echeverr´a was one of the most experienced merchants in
±
neutral commerce, having participated in this activity between 1797 and
1800: the proprietor of a Veracruz trading house that specialized in the
import of manufacturing goods from Europe as well as in the export of
silver and cochineal (the most expensive dye in the world), Echeverrr´a was
±
also prominent in the newly founded Veracruz Merchant Guild (Consulado
de Comercio de Veracruz), acting as a board member from 1798 and also as
mayor (alcalde ordinario) of the port from January 1805.91 In the latter year
he was named special commissioner of the Fund (Caja de Consolidaci´n de o
Vales Reales), presumably to facilitate the ¬nancial operations as well as
those of neutral trade.92 Echeverr´a™s close collaborator in many of these
±
transactions was Francisco Septien, member of a distinguished Guanaju-
ato mining family who had founded a small but dynamic merchant house
in Veracruz.93 The many tasks of Echeverr´a and Septien “ closely coordi-
±
nated with Villanueva “ included unloading the ships, paying taxes, storing
the merchandise in Veracruz and Xalapa, and proceeding to their sale. At
the same time as they were concentrating on these commercial activities,
Echeverr´a and Septien spent much time in organizing the parallel activ-
±
ity of transport of the Consolidation Fund™s silver assets from Mexico City
to the port, collaborating closely with the merchant, Lorenzo Angulo de
Guardamino, who had been named special agent of the Fund in charge of
the transport of the precious metals to Veracruz.
Echeverr´a and his colleague Septien managed the sale of a great quantity
±
of imported merchandise in Mexico between 1805 and 1808. Commercial
houses such as Robert Oliver of Baltimore, which supplied the greater part of
the neutral ships, depended on information sent by the Veracruz merchants
about local markets and the products in greatest demand. Initially, the value
of the commodities sent by Oliver did not amount to more than 500,000
or 600,000 reales per ship, but after a time, average cargos reached 2 or 3
million reales (100,000“150,000 silver pesos or dollars). The business was
so lucrative that Oliver bought various ships for these transactions (almost


90 The repository with the richest information about the expeditions for which Echeverr´a was respon-
±
sible and documentation used for the payment of the Fund™s bills of exchange is in AGN, Marina,
in particular, vol. 218, fs. 57“78; vol. 238, passim; and vol. 222, fs. 19“22. Also see J. A. Jackson,
“The Mexican Silver Schemes,” p. 129, on the arrangements between Villanueva and Echeverr´a. ±
91 On Echeverr´a™s participation in the cochineal trade from 1790, see B. Hamnett, Politics and Trade
±
in Southern Mexico, pp. 178“180. On the posts he held, see Gazeta de M´xico, ix, 19, 14 (December
e
1798) and xii, 26, 8 (January 1805).
92 See AGN, Marina, vol. 206, f. 57 (1806), a letter in which the secretary of the viceroy registered:
“Pedro Miguel de Echeverr´a, commissioner for loading the treasure of the Consolidation Fund (Caxa
±
de Consolidaci´n) on to the neutral vessels.”
o
93 According to the genealogical table in D. Brading, Mineros y comerciantes, p. 463, Francisco Luis
probably was the son of Francisco Septien y Arce, a Guanajuato miner and merchant.
Napoleon and Mexican Silver, 1805“1808 181

all consigned to Echeverr´a or Septien). They were given names that alluded
±
to speed of navigation: among them were Dash (which made two voyages
to Veracruz), Matchless (four voyages), Fox (eight), Meteor (seven), Messenger
(three), Rapid (four), and six other ships that made between two and four
voyages each.94
The merchandise sent by Oliver from Baltimore, by Nolte from New
Orleans, and by Archibald Gracie from New York consisted principally
of textiles. The increase in commercial activity is highlighted by trade
statistics. In 1805 the value of foreign textiles imported by Veracruz was
scarcely one million pesos; in 1806 it amounted to three million pesos;
and by 1807 it reached the extraordinary sum of ten million pesos. Ninety
percent of these shipments were carried on neutral ships.95 The cloth with
the greatest demand in New Spain was cotton (six million pesos in 1809),
followed by linen and hemp, silk, and ¬nally, wool.96
The neutral trade was not limited exclusively to textile imports. For
example, the Aspacia that arrived from New York in March 1806, with
Villanueva on board, brought a relatively small cargo composed of sherry,
Valencia brandy, cotton, and linen cloth (from England, Holland, France,
and Germany), as well as silk and cotton stockings (from Valencia and
Lyon).97 Another example of the type of shipments is given by the cargo
list of the Messenger sent by Robert Oliver to Veracruz with a total value of
1,200,000 reales, the bulk made up of textiles but including small quantities
of paper, furniture, crockery, cod, and cheese. The textiles sent were varied:
breta˜ as, mahones from China, English cotton stocking, white morselinas,
n
white jerkins, white English corduroy, narrow chintz, and foreign cashmere,
among others.98 An examination of the different bills of lading does not
permit a certain knowledge of the origins of all imports, but it can be
surmised that English textiles led, being followed by those of German
and French origin. In contrast, manufactures of Spanish origin “ including
Catalan cloth “ were rarely included in these shipments. But this neutral


94 For detailed information on shipments sent to Oliver in Veracruz, see S. Bruchey, R. Oliver, Merchant
of Baltimore, passim. This data can be compared with the registries and correspondence on ships that
entered and departed Veracruz: AGN, Marina, vols. 223“226 and 233“236.
According to Smith™s careful calculations, “Shipping in the Port of Veracruz,” Table 5, p. 13, a total
95
of 119 North American ships arrived in Veracruz between 1805 and 1808, 43 from New Orleans,
56 from Baltimore, 13 from New York, and 7 from Philadelphia.
For a detailed analysis of these imports, see Javier Cuenca, “Comercio y hacienda en la ca´da del
±
96
˜
imperio espanol, 1776“1826,” in Josep Fontana, ed., La econom´a espa˜ ola al ¬nal del antiguo R´gimen,
± n e
˜
vol. 3 Comercio y colonias (Madrid: Alianza y Banco de Espana, 1982), p. 440, who uses the annual
statistics of the Balanzas del Consulado de Veracruz.
The total shipment was worth 351,000 reales: AGN, Marina, vol. 223, fs. 61“66.
97
A broad list of contemporary textile terms is to be found in the appendixes of In´ s Herrera Canales,
e
98
El comercio exterior de M´xico, 1821“1857 (Mexico: El Colegio de M´ xico, 1977).
e e
182 Bankruptcy of Empire

commerce did not only facilitate imports. Acting on behalf of Parish, Oliver,
and Nolte, Echeverr´a and Septien also purchased large amounts of local
±
merchandise and exported it to the United States and Europe “ cochineal
from Oaxaca, indigo from Guatemala, cotton, sugar, sarsaparilla, and vanilla
from Veracruz.
To summarize, the participation of Echeverr´a and Septien was abso-
±
lutely essential for the success of the numerous Hope/Baring shipments to
Mexico “ perhaps even more than that of the foreign traders and agents. This
can be shown, for example, from the correspondence between Echeverr´a ±
and various senior government viceregal of¬cials, including the Viceroy
Iturrigaray, the military governor of Veracruz, Pedro Alonso, the acting
mayor, Pedro Telmo Landero, the top of¬cial royal treasury in Mexico City,
Javier de Borb´ n, and others. The letters refer to various issues, including
o
payment of the bills of exchange of the Consolidation Fund, permissions to
disembark neutral ships arriving on Villanueva™s consignment, and tax pay-
ments on imports.99 Quite clearly, the success of the neutral trade operations
run by Hope/Baring in Mexico depended to a large degree on the viceroy™s
consent and his orders to key of¬cials to facilitate the transactions. As a
result the merchants engaged did not face signi¬cant obstacles neither for
the import of a huge volume of textiles nor for the export of vast quantities
of silver and a lesser amount of primary products from the viceroyalty.
Indeed, it should be noted that in spite of the protests of a considerable
number of Mexico City and Veracruz merchants who felt marginalized by
neutral trade, the viceroy insisted that absolute priority should be given to
these transactions. On September 4, 1806, Iturrigaray wrote to Landero,
one of the top royal of¬cials at Veracruz, stressing the urgency of moving the
cargos “that are arriving in the said neutral ships” from the port of Veracruz
to the upland town of Xalapa for their sale. According to the viceroy, this
step would avoid the spread of disease and fever “ especially the black
vomit/yellow fever (v´mito negro) “ that had caused so many deaths in the
o
port of Veracruz in earlier years. He also added that the military commander
of Xalapa ought to provide all possible help to the merchants transporting
goods from the neutral vessels, indicating that he should “scrupulously take
care and look after those that provide the mule trains for the neutrals with
preference over those living in that city. . . .”100
The pro¬ts gained by the merchant houses and foreign agents responsible
for these transactions were extraordinary. This is a subject discussed in detail
by various monographs on the trading houses of Oliver and Hope. According
to historian Robert Bruchey, Oliver™s pro¬ts approached $775,000 between
1806 and 1808. In his memoirs, Vincent Nolte, one of the chief participants

99 AGN, Marina, vols. 206, 218, 223“226, 229, 233“234, passim.
100 The full text of Iturrigaray™s instructions to Landero is in AGN, Marina, vol. 226, fs. 97“102.
Napoleon and Mexican Silver, 1805“1808 183

in the consortium, indicated that the bankers Hope and Baring had quite
probably reaped one million pesos (dollars) apiece.101 The exact amount of
Echeverr´a and Septien™s pro¬ts is not known, although it is known that
±
by 1808 they had accumulated formidable trading fortunes. Given their
crucial role as direct agents, they were the principal bene¬ciaries of this
business in Veracruz, although it should not be forgotten that other local
and Mexico City merchants were also involved in many of these extremely
lucrative transactions.102
Neutral trade offered a powerful stimulus to New Spain™s imports and
exports in the critical period 1805“1808, but even more important was the
role it played in facilitating the export of silver from the royal treasuries
of Mexico, required by the Consolidation Fund for the ful¬llment of its
international commitments in the midst of war. As has been seen, a sub-
stantial part of these funds passed through the United States or through
England and Holland, but a large portion ¬nally ended up in the Napoleonic
treasury.103 Nonetheless, the shipments organized by the banking ¬rms of
Hope and Baring and their partners were not the only ones authorized by
the Spanish royal of¬cials. In parallel, various dozens of ships arrived to
Veracruz from Europe and Jamaica, under the control of another powerful
trading conglomerate, which is the subject of the following chapter.

101 According to S. Bruchey, R. Oliver, Merchant of Baltimore, pp. 326“332, Oliver™s pro¬ts were as
much as $775,000. V. Nolte, Fifty Years in Both Hemispheres, states that the bankers Hope and
Baring made equivalent amounts, pp. 110 and ss. Additional information about David Parish™s
pro¬ts and those of other traders involved is to be found in J. A. Jackson, “The Mexican Silver
Schemes,” Chapter 10. To research this issue in-depth would not only help clarify Parish™s business
affairs but also those of Villanueva and the Veracruz merchants, Echeverr´a and Septien. It would
±
require research into Parish™s abundant personal correspondence located in the New York Historical
Society archives, used in part by J. A. Jackson, “The Mexican Silver Schemes” and by S. Stein, “Crisis
metropolitana.”
102 Government of¬cials also made money with these secret operations, which could be for relatively
substantial amounts, although it is not easy to locate reliable documentation. Some information
might be found in the legal papers of the court case against Iturrigaray that took place years
later. It was claimed that the viceroy had received commissions for at least 72,000 pesos from the
Fund™s bills of exchange. Lucas Alam´ n, Historia de M´xico, vol. 1, Appendix, docs. 11“13, includes
a e
transcriptions of various documents relating to this court case.
103 J. A. Jackson, “The Mexican Silver Schemes,” pp. 271“273, notes that between 1806 and 1808,
12.5 millions of silver pesos were exported by the Parish™/Baring/Hope consortium. However, he
does not make mention of the 3.8 million silver pesos sent on the warship Diana in 1807 on Baring
and Hope™s account, already discussed. According to J. A. Jackson, “The Mexican Silver Schemes,”
p. 286, of these amounts, only 6 million pesos were actually paid in to the French Treasury.
6
Between Spain and America: The Royal
Treasury and the Gordon & Murphy
Consortium, 1806“1808

We have seen with great pain and indignation the Royal licences granted
through the Consolidation Fund (Caxa de Consolidaci´ n de Vales Reales) to
o
various foreign trading houses from Europe and the United States . . . to send
to this port as many vessels as they wish and to return with gold, silver and
the products of this country . . . directly to Spain or to neutral ports.
Merchant Guild of Veracruz (Consulado de Veracruz) (1809)1

For the administration of Charles IV, the transfers of American silver to
Europe were fundamental not only to pay for wartime obligations such as the
Subsidy Treaty signed with Napoleon but also to sustain the overall ¬nances
of the monarchy. To ensure a regular ¬‚ow of bullion from the colonies, it
was essential that the ¬scal system in the Americas continue to produce and
remit tax surpluses, despite the obstacles and interruptions caused by naval
wars. This depended on both the ability of royal of¬cials to collect resources
in the colonies and the smooth functioning of the most important state
monopolies, which required regular dispatches of vital materials from Spain
to the colonies as well as return shipments of key commodities and silver
from the Americas. In sum, an indispensable condition for the continuity

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