« ForrigeFortsett »
9. There can be no doubt that at the time of issuing our ordinances, very few mines -were worked, many of them being kept concealed, as is set forth in the law itself.* And at a period subsequent to this, Don Bernardo Perez de Vargas, in the dedication of his famous treatise, De re metallica, inscribed to Philip II., laments deeply, that through the want of good master-workmen among our countrymen, we should be put to the expense of engaging foreigners, notwithstanding the great number of mines which had been discovered, both on account of the crown and its subjects,f which he considers a proof of the inferior industry of the natives of the peninsula.
10. In confirmation of this opinion it is known, that a lease was granted by Phillip II. to the Counts de Fakares (natives of Germany), of the celebrated mines of Gaudalcanal, Rio Tinto, Cazalla, Aracena and Galaroza, which were crown property, and within a certain distance of each of which, under the new and old ordinances, now under consideration, no other mines were permitted to be opened or worked.J By this contract, these foreigners became the richest subjects in Europe; but afterwards, under a suspicion that the government meditated the resumption of the mines, they allowed the water to overflow them.§ An iniquitous piece of revenge, even had their suspicions rested on the most solid grounds. Don Joseph de Vcitia Linage assures us, that in the space of five years, from 1557, there passed through the Casa de Contratacion of the Indies, 497,246,204 maravedis de plata,\\ raised from the mines of Gaudalcanal.^[
22. Considering it therefore, to be established, by the ordinances under consideration, and as an inference from the payment of the eighth, fifth and fourth respectively, to the crown, that the quality of the ores of Spain was high we also infer from the same ordinances that the crown being entitled
* Law 4, tit. 13, book 6. *' The mines thn< have been discovered and worked are few in number. The rich and profitable mines are kept conccaLd, und tbey will not discover or pointtbem out."
t Bernardo Perez de Vargas, de re metallica. Madrid, published in duodecimo, by Pierres Cosin, 1569. t Ordinanco 15.
§ Savary, Dictionuare universel de commerce, tom. 2, Let. Mines, fol. 1374. "L'experience a. fait voir qui'i'l n'y a point en Europe de mines d'or, d'argent, ou autre metal qui surpassent Celles qui out etc trouvees dans la presqu' isle d-Espagne, taut par rapport a I'abondanco qu' a la richesse de la matiore, surtont celles de Gaudalcanal, Rio Tinto, Cnzalla, Aracena et Galaroza, dans les provinces d'Andalousie, ct Estrcmadure. Les Comtcs Alemans de Fakares aiant passe un contrat avec Filipe II. touchant ces cinq mines, ils firent de profit si considerable par l'or et l'argent qu'ils tirerent de celles de Gaudalcanal, la seule qui ait etc ouverte qu'ils y etoient devenus les plus riches sujets e I'F.urope: mnis aiant ensuitc soupromie que lc desseindu gourernement etoit de reprendre ces mines, ils les mirent sous l'eau, et priverent par la le roy et sea iujen, du profit qu' on en auroit peu tirer.
II About $1,438,971.—Trans.
V Veitia, Norte in la Contratacion de Indias, lib., cap. 33, in fine.
to the produce of the mines, has made them common, subject to the liabilities above-mentioned.*
23. Our sovereigns first commanded, that a fifth should be levied on the gold, silver and other metals of the Indies, without deducting expenccs, leav. ing the other four parts free, as a return for the costs and cxpences of working.f At first, according to Solorzano, the privilege was granted, in some mining districts, of paying a tenth, more or less, or cren a twentieth only; in consideration of certain of the mining districts being recently discovered, or being poorer,J a privilege which ought still to be maintained, being especially sanctioned by the law.§ Afterwards, by orders issued respectively from Valladolid, the 17th of September, 1548, from Aranjuez, the 2oth of May, 1569, and from Madrid, the 26th of October, 1572, directed to the kingdom of Mexico, a tenth was ordered to be levied on the silver raised from the mines, instead of a fifth; but these abatements would appear to have been temporary, for besides that the first of the aforesaid orders expressly limits the privilege to the term of six years, the very repetition of the order at different periods, shews that it must have been temporary in its operation. || But, as we have already observed in Chap. II., n. 71, it appears, from the report of the meeting, consisting of tho viceroy and ministers of Mexico, that by an order of the 30th of December, 1716, a tenth was or. dered to be levied on the miners of New Spain generally; and it is stated by Don Francisco Ramiro de Valenzuela, in his additions to the Politico, of Don Juan de Solorzano,*i[ that a like abatement was afterwards made, in 1735, with respect to the mines of Peru.
24. The purchasers of ores, however, still continued liable to pay the fifth, until by an order dated at Balsain, the 19th of June, 1723, it was ordered, that a tenth should be levied generally upon gold and silver, throughout the government of New Spain, whether reduced by smelting or amalgamation; and that not only the miners, but also the suppliers, the purchasers by auction or contract, and others, should bo liable to the same reduced duty; the object being, by this reduction of duty, to prevent the fraudulent and clandestine embezzlement of the precious metals.
* Vide snp. cap. 2, n. 16 to 2S. Lagunez, de fruct. 1. p. cap. 10, n. 63 and «4. Solorzano, de jnr. Indiar. tom. 2, lib. 5, cap. unic. n. 22 et 25. And in the Polit. lib. 6, cap. 1, n. 21. Antanez de Portugal, de donat. lib. 3, cap. 12 throughout, particularly n. 10. Escalona, in his Gazoph. lib. 2, p. 2, cap. 1, n. 2 and 5.
t Law 1, tit. 10, book 8, Collection of the Indies.
t Solorz. lib. 6, Polit. cap. 1, n. 21.
§ Law 53, tit. 10, book 8, Collection of the Indies .
|| These orders are at pp. 34, 91 and 98 of a book in the city of Mexico, under the caro of the secretary, Don Gabriel Mendieta Rebollo, who certified that it was perserved from the conflagration and tumult of that city, on the night of the 16th of August, 1692, together with another book of the ordinances of the city, an index to which we possess, in our MS. orders, vol. 1. p, 219.
v Solorzan, lib. 6, Polit. cap. 18. n. 125, and lib. 6, cap. 1, n. f I.
25. And by another order, dated at San Hdefonso, the 10 th of August, 1738, the unexampled privilege was conceded to the kingdom of Guatemala, for the term of ten years, of paying only five per cent, duty on gold (as is now done in Peru), the object of which concession was, to encourage the working of the mines of that kingdom, as we have observed in the proper place.*
26. It is evident from theso laws and orders, and from those of Castile, that it had been found to be for the advantage of the treasury to make these considerate abatements, the expences of the subject being very great, and the standard of the ores too low to admit of reduction. If then, these and other motives operated in regard to the kingdom of Castile, in causing the reduction of duties observed to be sanctioned by the later ordinances, where the depth of the mines and the scantiness of the produce of the heaps of rubbish and slag are noticed as circumstances entitling the proprietors to a relief of duty, a privilege extended also, as appears by the 76th ordinance, to the owners of mines much flooded with water, and requiring works of drainage; how much more strongly ought similar motives to be afforded, by the circumstances which so notoriously prevail in the Indies, where the depth of many of the mines is incredible, the heaps of refuse ore of low standard immense, and the price of quicksilver, iron, steel, salt, magistral,f and other stores, and of utensils, and the rate of wages, twice or thrice as high as in Spain; circumstances which ought all of them, unquestionably to be taken into the account, and which are therefore much relied on by Solorbano, as giving a just claim to relief.J And in New Spain in particular, the price of quicksilver is still higher than in other parts of the Indies, from its being supplied from Europe or Peru. Besides all this, the water is, in many mines, too abundant to be overcome by the efforts of an individual; as for instance in Zacatecas, Pachuca and Real del Monte, where the most substantial men have broken down, and the largest fortunes have been absorbed.§
27. Returning to the subject of the tenth, the same amount of duty is also to be paid ou gold and precious stones captured in war,|| on the produce of ores purchased,^! and on what is set apart for the churches and monasteries.** The duty is also to be levied on what is paid by the Indians by way of tribute,ff which cannot be conveyed from one province to another, nor to Spain, without paying the duty,JJ under the penalty of forfeiting four times the value of the silver, together with the mules and beasts of burthen or slaves.§§ Nor is it lawful to be possessed of gold or silver, pearls, precious
* Cap. 2, n. fin.
t Roasted sulphuret of copper : a re-agent employed in the reduction of the ore by amalga nation,—Tram. t Solorz. diet. lib. I, n. 29.
$ Villa-Senor, Theatr Americano, page 25, cap 3, edition printed at Mexico in 1746.
II Law 2, tit. 10, book 8, Collection of the Indies.
T Law 4, ditto. ** Law 5, ditto.
tt Lawa S and 7, ditto. ft Lawa 8, 9, 10, ditto.
§5 Law 11, ditto.
stones or pieces of plate, which have not paid the duty, under the penalty of the forfeiture of these articles, and of the goods of the silversmith who shall have made them.* Besides these, there are various other precautionary regulations, for preventing fraud as far as possible; thus, if there be no refining establishment in the mining district, the bars or pieces, after being registered before the justice and royal officers, are to be conveyed direct to the nearest establishment of the kind ;f and the silver which ought to be taken in to pay the duty at one particular office, is not to be allowed to pay the duty at any other.J The duty is to be levied upon the real value of the gold or silver,§ and the one and a half per cent. ought to be first deducted, for the principal assayer, melter and stamper, and then the fifth, which is to be of gold or silver of the same quality as the piece stamped. || Various other economical arrangements are also established by the laws of the Indies for the advancement of this important department.^]'
28. Here we must notice three laws, two of which are the 16th and 18th laws of title 10, book 8, and relate to the gold and silver seized for not having paid the duty, at Cabit or any other port where there is no refining establishment; such gold or silver is, by these laws, declared forfeited, because it is here evident that the object can only have been to export it clandestinely to foreign countries, to the great prejudice of the crown. But it is never theless conceded by the 25th law of the same title and book, with respect to the port of Vera Cruz, that gold or silver seized there for non-payment of the duty, shall be returned without further delay or impediment, upon payment of the proper duties. But the rule is not altered as to the other ports," for this regulation being made for a special case, is merely a subordinate one, and has no repealing force; and it was in fact made upon consideration of the great number of bars, both large and small, clandestinely sent to foreign countries. And here we may observe an exercise of the greatest benignity, in that this very extreme of irregularity, instead of calling forth a more severe and rigorous punishment, is met by free pardon and forgiveness, upon payment of the usual duties alone. And the injury to the revenue arising from this practice, has in great measure been remedied, by the establishment of the markets held at Xalapa on the arrival of the convoys, and by the Flotistas (as the agents and traders from Spain are called), being prevented, by the facilities afforded for purchasing the metals in the mining districts,
• Laws 47, 43, 49. book 8, Collection of the Indies.
t Law 11, ditto. t Law 12, ditto.
§ Laws 22, 23, and 24, ditto, and Laws 1 and 2, title 22, book 4, of Collection of the Indie*.
II l-aws 19 and 21, title 10, book 8, Law 13, title 22, book 4, Collection of the Indies.
T Oook 8, title 10, of the Collection of the Indies, on the royal duty of the fifth, and book 4, title 22, on the us.^iying and smelting of gold and silver.
** Argument, cap. si. Papa, 10 de privil. in 6, "ct quia jam peralias leges proTisum erat, qua non sunt loperflus nec abrogate," cap. li Romanorum, dist. 19.
and by other means, from penetrating into the interior of the kingdom, or establishing themselves at Mexico, the inhabitants of which kingdom, in fact, make more profit by selling the silver to the crown at a just price, according to its quality, at the same time paying the duty, than by selling it to the silversmiths or Flotistas, who always pay them less than the value; and this may be said with still more truth,- now that all the business of the mint, as well as of the Apartado,* is conducted with so much openness and fidelity,f a small rate of interest being all that is demanded for the advance of money to the owners, should it happen that they are urgently in want of it, during the tedious operation of parting the bars in which silver and gold are combined.
29. We should also notice laws 47, 48 and 49, by which all wrought gold and silver, pieces of plate, chains, &c., not having paid the duty, are declared forfeited (two parts to the exchequer, and one part to the judge and informer), as well as the goods of any silversmith who shall have any such in his possession, for the purpose of being worked. The crown however, as observed by Escalona,J generally waives the benefit rtof these laws, and allows the forfeited property to be brought in to pay the duty. But an order granting a special exemption of this kind, expires at once,§ and cannot be renewed from time to time, or enforced by the viceroy.
BO. In the year 1G82, the Duke de la Palata, in obedience to an order issued the 13th of October, 1680, prohibited the exportation of wrought silver from the kingdom of Peru, on account of the irregularities experienced at the markets of Portobello. For it being unlawful to export unwrought silver, it was the practice to make it into heavy masses, which, after receiving half a dozen blows of a hammer, passed as wrought silver, and dealings were carried on in this way at that port to the amount of at least. two millions: whereupon the duke issued an edict prohibiting the exportation of wrought silver, but permitting ornaments intended for the use of the churches or for presents, or plate required for use on the voyage, to be exported to Spain, by licence from the government. And upon the silversmiths shutting up their shops, declaring that they could not work silver which had paid the duty, because they had always been accustomed to purchase it free of duty, the duke ordered that the law on this subject should b.e enforced, and issued an edict, directing that the assayers's mark should be added to that of the silversmith ;|| but leaving it still lawful to work old silver, and such as should
•Establishment for parting gold and silver.—Tram.
t Dispatch is directed by tho 10th ordinance. "With as much dispatch as the state of the funds of the establishment will permit, it being of tho utmost importance both to the mines and to the trade in general, that the value of the metals should be returned to the owners without delay; to which therefore, my superintendent is to pay proper attention."
t Escalona, in his Gazopliil. lib. 2, p. 2, cap. 1, n. 10. "These orders being dispensatory and a matter of favour, are exhausted by once operating, and cannot be renewed or made perpetual."
J L. mortuo bove, hoc sermone, ff. de v. s.
II Instructions of the Duke de la Palata to bis successor, Count de la Monclova, num. 616.