king, and perhaps twice as much on the account of private individuals.1 When the news of the loss reached Mexico, Cortez, partly to reimburse the emperor for this miscarriage, partly it may be as a thank offering for his appointment to the governorship of New Spain, hastened to gather all the gold and silver he could find for a second gift to his sovereign. In 1524, 60,000 pesos in gold, the product of the quinto, and a silver cannon weighing 2,450 pounds, were forwarded to Seville in the care of the treasurer, Diego de Soto.2

From the "Coleccion de documentos ineditos, etc." and from the Ternaux-Compans collection,' Soetbeer assembled what evidence he could find bearing upon the amount of precious metals in Mexico after the conquest. Both he and Lexis, however, base their estimates of the gold and silver production of the country in the first half-century upon a single table of figures published by Ternaux-Compans, entitled: "Envois d'or et d'argent faits par les gouverneurs et vicerois du Mexique

jusqu'à l'année, 1587, etc." 4 This table, which Soetbeer reprints in full, appeared in a French translation without any indication of its source. The original was probably among the papers of the historian Muñoz, to which Ternaux-Compans had access. A Spanish copy, evidently emanating from the same source but

1 Colecc. de doc., 1st series, vol. xii, p. 352; "Relacion del oro plata é joyas é otras cosas que los procuradores de Nueva España llevan á Su Magestad. Cuyoacan, 19 Mayo, 1522." Cf. also the register of the cargo of one of these caravels, the Sta. Maria de la Rabida (ibidem, p. 253). Bernal Diaz says (cap. 159) that the vessels carried 88,000 pesos in gold lingots besides the treasures of Montezuma's "guardarropa."

The figures printed by Soetbeer at the head of column 2, p. 50 (op. cit.), are given an entirely mistaken meaning. They represent, not the quinto shipped to the emperor in 1522, but the receipts of Alderete as treasurer up to that time.

2 Cortez' 4th letter, October 15, 1524; Gómara, lib. ii, cap. 64; Bernal Diaz, caps. 159 and 170. Soetbeer calls the cannon a Gefäss."

Ternaux-Compans, H., Recueil des voyages . . découverte de l'Amerique, 20 vols. Paris, 1837-41. relatives au Mexique."

Ibidem, vol. x, p. 451.

pour servir à l'histoire de la Vols. x and xvi, "Documents

carrying the table down to the year 1601, may be seen in the British Museum.1

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Soetbeer seems to have assumed that the figures of the table stood for the ordinary " pesos fuertes " of 8 reals, worth 272 maravedis. Professor Lexis, however, interpreted them as representing "pesos de minas" of 450 maravedis or 13 reals, and made his calculations upon that basis. The fact that the smaller units were "tomines" and "granos" lent color to his conjecture. On the other hand, the document distinctly stated that the various kinds of pesos were reduced to pesos d'or communs." Moreover a comparison of the figures with those given by Cortez in his letters, and with others found in the "Colecc. de doc. ined.," would have raised the suspicion that the smaller peso was meant. The sum given for 1522 is really the treasure carried by the two proctors, Avila and Quinoñes, reduced to pesos of 8 reals. The 99,264 pesos, 5 tom., 8 gr. set down for 1524, is exactly the 60,000 pesos of gold mentioned by Cortez as sent to Spain with the silver cannon in that year. Lastly, figures in the ledgers of the treasurers of New Spain entirely confirm this conclusion. The first premise of Professor Lexis' calculations was therefore a mistaken one.2

Professor Lexis also assumes that the sums sent to Spain on the royal account represented in the long run the whole of the quinto of the produce of the mines. That would be reserved with especial care for the crown, the expense of administration in the Indies being met by other revenues. The figures of the table, therefore, multiplied by five or ten as the case might be, would give in round numbers the entire registered pro

1 Add. Mss. 13,964, fol. 196 ff.

2 Lexis, op. cit., p. 380. For a discussion of units of value in Mexico after the conquest, see appendix to this paper.

duction for those years. Soetbeer, however, introduces other considerations: (1) a part of the quinto was often expended in America; (2) the remittances to Spain included revenues in addition to the quinto; (3) 5 per cent was added to his silver and 10 per cent to his gold figures to represent the bullion unregistered. For these reasons, the estimates he arrives at are somewhat less than those based simply on the data given in the table.

The results obtained by these two scholars are the following: 1

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My own estimates for the first forty years after the conquest are based entirely upon the accounts preserved in Seville of the early treasurers of the colony. those for the first decade the exact amount of the quinto is not always clearly indicated. Inclusive sums are given which cover not only receipts from this source, but other items such as tribute of the Indians, customs dues and judicial fines. I have consequently been compelled, in some cases, to make an approximation based upon a comparison with the figures for other years.

The factor I have used to represent the "royal fifth during this decade differs from that accepted by Soetbeer and Lexis. According to a remark dropped by the auditor Salmeron in a letter to the emperor of August

1 The proportionate amounts assigned for gold and silver were purely arbitrary assumptions. No real data were at hand.

Humboldt's figures for Mexico were;



40,500,000 pesos of 8 reals.

104,000,000 pesos of 8 reals.

To these estimates he added one-seventh, or over 14 per cent, to represent bullion unregistered. His results were enormously reduced by both Soetbeer and Lexis.

14, 1531, the crown in the years 1523-29 had collected only one-tenth, thereafter presumably returning to the full legal quinto. But it is evident from the treasury papers that this " diezmo " was not universal. On some bullion one-fifth was paid; on others oneeighth and one-ninth. I have taken one-eighth as a

general average.

Apparently by a cedula of September 17, 1548, the quinto on silver was again reduced to a diezmo for six years, but the rule applied only to certain districts. The ordinance was several times renewed till 1572, and then became permanent. Not till 1723 was there a general law for all Mexico. The tax on gold continued to be one-fifth till 1572, when it too was reduced to one-tenth. For the silver production of Mexico in the years 1548-60, therefore, I have again used the factor 8.

Another consideration to be noted is the "derecho del fundidor ensayador y marcador." In these American records it is clear that from the very beginning the crown charged 1 per cent for the trouble of smelting, assaying and stamping the bullion brought to the assay offices. This 1 per cent was first deducted from the bullion, and then the quinto. Charles V in 1552 raised the tax to 11 per cent; but 1 per cent continued to be levied in Mexico for some years, perhaps till 1578 when another cedula repeating the order of 1552 was issued. The new rule was not put into force at Potosí till 1585.5


1 Ternaux-Compans, op. cit., vol. xvi, p. 179.

Gallardo Fernandez, F., Rentas de la corona de España, vol. vi, pp. 1-19; Duport, St. Clair, De la production des metaux precieux au Mexique. Paris, 1843, p. 161. The original cedulas bearing upon this point I have not been able to find, but their import is confirmed by the treasury papers. The general ordinance was not ex

tended to Peru till 1735.

The rule was embodied in a general decree by Philip II in 1579. (Recop., lib. viii, tit. 10, ley 19.)

Recop., lib. iv, tit. 22, ley 13.

Add. Mss. 13,976, fol. 405 ff. In 1522, the emperor nominated his secretary, Francisco de los Cobos, " fundidor, ensayador y marcador mayor " for all New Spain.

As the combined charge amounted to only 20% per cent, I have not taken this tax into account in my calculations.


Finally, it is evident from the treasury papers that part of the tribute of the Indians was in the form of golddust. Such tribute paid to private "encomenderos " was subject to the "royal fifth," and is included in the figures for the quinto. Revenue from this source on the crown estates, however, naturally represented, not onefifth, but the entire yield of the gold-washings. To cover this production I have added to my results, for the first period 10 per cent, for the second 2 per cent, of the tribute of the Indians.2

The conclusions arrived at are the following:

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The entire output of gold and silver had a value of 32,289,850 pesos of 8 reals. Professor Lexis' figure was 30,600,000 pesos; that of Soetbeer, 17,243,750 pesos. The final result achieved differs little from that of Lexis. This, however, is only an accident, as his estimates are based on a mistaken reading of the TernauxCompans table. Had he interpreted the table aright, his totals would have been under twenty millions. His surmise, therefore, that the remittances from New Spain

In 1534 the patent was extended to include Peru. Santa Marta was added in 1535, and the region of Central America in 1538. As "fundidor mayor" Cobos enjoyed the income from the 1 per cent collected for the crown, and after his death the tax continued to be called, the "Cobos." In 1552 an annuity of 3,000,000 maravedis on the produce of this tax was granted to his son and widow. (A. de I., 2—1—220/16; 4—1—1/19, ramo 2; 139-1-7, lib. 13, fol. 64; Patr. 2 -5-1, no. 2, ramos 16, 17; Aud. de Lima, 1097-1. Restrepo, V., Estudio sobre las minas . . de Colombia. ed. Bogotá, 1888, p. 207.

1 Recop., lib. viii, tit. 10, leyes 6, 7.


* I have found no evidence that there were any mines in Mexico exploited on the account of the crown. Such is also the testimony of Humboldt.

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