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imprisonment of Iturrigaray, General Pedro Garibay, was named viceroy “
a fact that tended to lend tranquility to the hierarchy of the colonial admin-
istration and power elites in the capital city, despite a series of local rivalries
and con¬‚icts.
The story of this early (royalist) coup d™etat in Mexico is well known, but
there are as yet few in-depth studies of the buildup of tensions between
the viceregal government and the distinct factions of New Spain™s elite,
which reached their climax in the fall of 1808.23 The viceroy™s arrogance
and his poor relations with the powerful merchant guilds of Mexico City
and Veracruz between 1805 and 1808 had already caused his isolation from
many of the wealthiest members of society.24 To this should be added the
uncertainty and effervescence caused by news of the violent events taking
place in Spain in the spring and summer of 1808. Increasingly heated
political discussions within the colony reached a new high point in the
month of August when virtual autonomy from the metropolis began to be
The proposals for autonomy from Spain were anathema to the leading
members of the merchant elite of colonial Mexico. They insisted that it was
necessary to send ¬nancial support to the patriot government at Seville. This
position was made explicit in the important meetings of notables on August
29 and September 9 in Mexico City, which were the key antecedents to the
coup against the viceroy, who was increasingly accused of wavering between

22 For details see L. Alam´ n, Historia de M´xico, Chapters 4 and 5 and Lawrence Black, “Con¬‚ict among
a e
Elites: The Overthrow of Viceroy Iturrigaray, Mexico 1808,” unpublished Ph.D. thesis, Tulane
University, 1980.
23 The unpublished study by L. Black, “Con¬‚ict among Elites” is the best account of the 1808 coup.
24 L. Black, “Con¬‚ict among Elites” describes Iturrigaray™s alliances with different sectors of the elite
(particularly the rich mine owners) which are contrasted with his disputes with the merchants.
25 The classic account is that of L. Alam´ n, Historia de M´xico, vol. 1, who describes the debates during
a e
August and the beginning of September between the viceroy, the municipal government, and the
Court (Audiencia) and other notables on the convenience of convening a general congress or assembly
to discuss the political destiny of the viceroyalty, step by step.
222 Bankruptcy of Empire

loyalty and treason to the Crown.26 For the most powerful merchants of
Mexico, isolation from the metropolis and/or a modi¬cation of the political,
social, and economic status quo within the colony represented a grave danger
to maintenance of their privileges, which were based on the commercial
monopoly exercised by guild members.27
The debates about the convenience of remitting funds to the metropolis
were not unassociated with the movement that ended with the dismissal
of the viceroy. Proclamations of support for Ferdinand VII began to be
published in the of¬cial Gazeta de Mexico from early August 1808 with
offers to organize volunteer companies of militia to sail for Spain and join
the struggle against Napoleon.28 Among the ¬rst corporations that made
haste to express its loyalty was the Mexico City Mining Tribunal (Tribunal de
Miner´a). The wealthy miners offered to ¬nance the casting of 100 cannon
in Mexico to be sent to the Iberian Peninsula.29 They also promised to
cover the salaries of eight battalions of 80 soldiers each, including a set of
noncommissioned of¬cers, selected and trained from students at the famous
Mexico City School of Mining.30
Almost simultaneously, the ecclesiastical hierarchy announced its inten-
tion of participating in the campaign to raise funds for the Spanish patriot
armies. The archbishop and the Mexico City Cathedral Council donated
80,000 pesos in September, encouraging other prelates to offer large sums.
On September 13, 1808, the Archbishop Francisco de Lizana publicly
exhorted the inhabitants of the viceroyalty to combine patriotism and
Catholicism to sustain the Spanish government in the struggle against
Napoleon, who “ he argued “ intended to “subvert religion, monarch and
laws” in the mother country.31 Lizana encouraged Mexicans to contribute

26 Fray Servando de Mier, Historia de la Revoluci´ n de Nueva Espa˜ a (original edition, Londres, 1813),
o n
second edition. (Mexico: Fondo de Cultura Econ´ mica, 1986), books iii and iv. It was argued, on the
one hand, that the viceroy was an ally of the French and, on the other, that he favored independence
from Spain.
For an analysis of the privileges of the Mexico City Merchant Guild, see G. Valle Pav´ n, “Consulado
de Comerciantes,” passim.
Gazeta de M´xico, August 3 and 6, 1808. It should be noted that these proclamations had already
begun to be distributed in Cuba in mid July when the Capitan-General Marqu´ s de Someruelos
requested donations for Spain. See the pamphlet Proclama. Habitantes de la Isla de Cuba, hijos dignos de
la generosa naci´n espa˜ ola, Havana, July 17, 1808, 4 pp., Fondo Reservado, 165/LAF, BN (Mexico).
o n
E. Flores Clair, Las deudas del Tribuna, p. 15, notes that the Tribunal de Miner´a contributed 200,000
pesos for casting the canons.
A long article in the Gazeta de M´xico (Supplement), August 6, 1808, xv, 74, 543“545, explains this
Exhortaci´n del ilustr´simo Sr. D. Francisco Xavier de Lizana y Beaumont en que se mani¬esta la obligaci´ n
o ± o
de socorrer a la Naci´n Espa˜ ola en la actual guerra con la Francia [Exhortation of the Illustrious Sr.
o n
Don Francisco de Lizano and Beaumont in Which He Shows the Obligation to Aid the Spanish Nation in
Mexican Silver for the Cortes of C´ diz and the War against Napoleon 223

to the defense of the Catholic religion, stating that if the French were not
expelled from the Peninsular, there could be untold consequences for New
Spain itself:
The humble Indian, who honors with a candle the Saint that defends his home,
as well as the wealthy Mexican who enjoys using his wealth for sumptuous events
dedicated to the Virgin of Guadalupe, . . . will ¬nd themselves forced to submit to
the martial spirit and philosophy . . . (of the French invaders). . . . 32
The of¬cial proclamation requesting ¬nancial contributions from the
Mexican population for the defense of the metropolis was only rati¬ed after
the Viceroy Iturrigaray had been deposed in early September 1808, and the
struggle for political power in the capital settled with the victory of the
wealthy guild merchants. In spite of the growing popular discontent caused
by the political coup in the capital, the new Viceroy, General Pedro Garibay,
began to collect a great quantity of funds, sending them to the metropolis.
The explicit objective was to provide ¬nancial resources for the struggle of
the patriots against the French armies and, at the same time, to shore up
the shaky edi¬ce of the Spanish imperial state.

Mexican Silver for Defense of the Metropolis:
The Donation of 1808“1809
On October 4, 1808, Viceroy Garibay published an of¬cial petition
addressed to the inhabitants of New Spain, asking them to provide resources
to sustain the Spanish in their war against the French. His edict suggested
that the money would be sent in the name of the king to Junta at Seville and
ordered the formation of “associations of bodies, communities or guilds” to
collect the funds. Initially, there was certain confusion about the speci¬c
nature of the ¬rst contribution, but it was soon con¬rmed to be a univer-
sal donation. From November 1808 onward, the Gazeta de Mexico regularly
published lists of the donors and the amounts they had contributed. The
majority of the initial contributors were from the capital city and surround-
ing zones. (See Table 7.1.)
By November, almost half a million pesos had been collected from dif-
ferent social groups and regions, and over the next two years, additional
amounts were added in successive campaigns, resulting in a total donation
of more than two million pesos.33 The detailed lists sent to Mexico by

Its Current War with France], (M´ xico: September 13, 1808), 4-page pamphlet, Fondo Reservado,
Colecci´ n Lafragua, BN (Mexico).
32 Ibid., p. 2.
33 The Gazeta de M´xico published the lists daily between late 1808 and early 1811.
224 Bankruptcy of Empire

Table 7.1. Donations Collected in Mexico City between October 12 and November 11, 1808 a

Contributors Pesos
Illustrious Archbishop of Mexico 30,000
The Ecclesiastical Council of the Archbishopric 50,000
The Order of the Carmelites 6,000
The Judge (Oidor) Tom´ s Calderon
a 2,000
The Judge (Oidor) Tom´ s Aguirre
a 1,000
The Chief Administrator of the royal treasury Francisco Xavier Borb´ n
o 1,000
The Chief Legal Council to the Viceregal Government (Asesor General) Miguel 1,000
Bachiller and his wife
Dr. Juan Josef Guerena, Priest of the Parish of San Miguel 500
The Royal Prosecutor Ciriaco Gonz´ lez Carbajal.
a 1,000
The Count of Medina and Torres 1,000
The Royal Congregation of the Oratorio of San Felipe Neri 1,000
Don Juan Francisco Gallo 2,000
Don Diego de Agreda 12,000
Count de la Cortina 6,000
Of¬cers of Urban Regiment of Mexico City Merchant Guild 25,000
The Royal Inquisition of Mexico 11,000
The Augustinian Order in this capital 4,000
The Royal Convent of Jesus Mar´a ± 4,000
D. Tom´ s Domingo de Acha, merchant of this city
a 6,000
D. Domingo Ignacio Lardizabal, treasurer of Royal Customs and his son, 4,000
D. Manuel Joaqu´n ±
Merchants registered by the Tribunal of the Merchant Guild 65,160
D. Mariano de Zuniga and Ontiveros 1,000
Captain of Militia Francisco Servando Munoz 1,000
Marquis de Selva Nevada 1,000
Marquis de Santa Cruz de Inguanzo 4,000
The Royal Ponti¬cal University 10,000
a This donation, to help in the Spanish struggle against the French armies, continued to be collected
throughout 1809 and 1810, and the names of the principal and secondary donors published daily.
Source: Gazeta de M´xico (October 28 and November 11, 1808).

the regional functionaries in charge of collecting monies demonstrate that
all categories of colonial society contributed: merchants, mine owners,
landowners, bureaucrats, military of¬cers and soldiers, diverse sectors of
urban society, and hundreds of Indian peasant communities, which made
contributions through their communal funds.34
In December 1808, the Guadalajara Merchant Guild published a man-
ifesto, urging the local population to donate to Spain, offering its services
as collection agency and dispatcher. The rhetorical language utilized by

34 For more details about this donation, see details in Appendix III.1.
Mexican Silver for the Cortes of C´ diz and the War against Napoleon 225

the Guadalajara merchants was intended to awaken both the fear and the
generosity of contributors, denouncing the “monster Napoleon,” who after
usurping Spain™s dominions had taken harsh measures against the patriots.
A literary note was added to the manifesto to add to the alarm:

He (Napoleon) has ordered his generals that one hundred thousand Spaniards be
sent to him, tied two by two with iron rings on their wrists . . . and has threatened to
exterminate with blood and ¬re all towns that resist the completion of so inhuman
orders . . . 35

But militant propaganda was not enough to create a climate appropriate
for the collection of new donations. In order to win over converts to the
cause of the struggle against Napoleon, the colonial government declared
the de¬nitive suspension of the Consolidation Fund in New Spain.36 The
viceroy, the judges of the Royal Tribunal (Real Audiencia), and other high
of¬cers debated this measure, making the decree public by the end of
the month. This naturally produced a rapid improvement in government“
Church relations and also alleviated the pressure on thousands of property
owners who had debts with the Of¬ces of Pious Works ( Juzgados de Obras
P´as y Capellan´as).
± ±
The reconciliation between ecclesiastical and civil powers was mani-
fest in the collection of the donation in 1808 and 1809. For example, in
Puebla de los Angeles, the second largest city in the viceroyalty, the local
bishop quickly offered to donate 50,000 pesos on October 11, 1808 for “the
urgent needs of the Spanish Peninsula” and, on the same day, announced
a contribution for the same amount from the Puebla Cathedral Council.
During October and November the wealthier inhabitants of the city, above
all merchants, contributed an additional 35,000 pesos.37
The campaign to collect the donation was soon extended the length
and breadth of the viceroyalty. In Guanajuato, the Mining Delegation
(Diputaci´n de Miner´a) offered to donate a silver peso for each hundred
o ±
pounds of mercury used in the work of the silver mines “for as long as the
war lasted.” At the same time, a group of forty of the wealthiest proprietors
(mostly silver miners) of San Luis Potos´ offered a donation of 10,000 pesos

35 Juan E. Hern´ ndez y D´ valos, Historia de la guerra de independencia de M´xico, vol. 1 (Mexico: Instituto
a a e
Nacional de la Revoluci´ n Mexicana, 1985), doc. 254, p. 641.
36 This measure had been announced by Iturrigaray at the end of June but, in practice, collections for
the Consolidation continued for several more months. The order regarding the “absolute cessation
of the Consolidation Fund from 26 December 1804 concerning expropriation of church and the
surrender of mortgages (¬ncas p´as y redenciones de censos) . . . ” was published in the Gaceta de M´xico,
± e
October 26, 1808, 823“824.
37 AGN, Donativos y Pr´stamos, vol. 11, exp. 5, fs. 51“68.
226 Bankruptcy of Empire

while the municipal council (ayuntamiento) contributed 2,021 pesos and
merchants donated 3,268 pesos.38
As in previous donations, the ¬nancial campaign was also promoted
in rural villages. Great numbers of documents and lists have been con-
served of the donations sent by estate administrators, rural traders, and
above all, by tax of¬cials and priests who were responsible for the col-
lection in the peasant communities. It should be noted, however, that
while the donations of 1808“1810 were initially intended as voluntary
contributions for the mother country, the application of coercive measures
was common. Tax of¬cials raided the community treasuries of hundreds of
peasant towns, which were precisely those least prepared to contribute to
the Crown. The drainage of funds left them at the mercy of the terrible,
agrarian crisis, which devastated the countryside in 1809, and the conse-
quent wave of lethal epidemics, which swept through Mexico during that


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