« ForrigeFortsett »
hazarded, however, of the sum extracted from Potosí, and also of the relative amounts of gold and silver in the vice-royalty.
The figures taken to represent the quinto of Potosí from 1545 to 1557 have already been indicated. For the last three years, 1558-60, the official returns of Echavarria have been used. The results are as follows:
If we accept these figures and take into account the probable fraud, the total production of Potosí before 1560 must have been about 56 millions.1 Soetbeer arrived at
120 millions, Lexis at 102 millions.
If Potosí produced 56 millions, 28 millions remain as the production of Peru and Chili between 1533 and 1560. Soetbeer's approximation is nearly 62 millions, that of Lexis about 34 millions. Very likely both writers have vastly exaggerated the gold production of Chili during these pioneer years.
According to the ledgers of the royal treasurers, the gold quinto between May, 1552 and December, 1557, amounted to 188,969 pesos de minas. This presupposes an average annual production, including the amounts unregistered, of about 420,000 pesos fuertes. Lexis assumed for the period 1545-60 an annual output in Peru of about 325,300, and in Upper Peru of about 123,500 pesos. Soetbeer's figures were 118,500 for Peru, and 395,000 for Upper Peru.
1 About two-thirds of the entire output of the vice-royalty from 1533, and perhaps 80 per cent of the production after 1545.
It seems, therefore, in conclusion, that both Soetbeer and Lexis greatly over-estimated the production of the mines of Potosí during the eleven problematical years, 1545-55. As for the rest of the vice-royalty, Lexis' result is very close to the one based on the treasury papers. The difference may easily be accounted for, as already said, by exaggerated figures assumed for Chili. In regard to the annual gold production, if we again ignore Chili, Lexis seems very near the truth. Soetbeer over-estimates by a fourth or a fifth.
Of all the lands in the New World subdued by the Spaniards, that which in the end proved richest in the golden booty sought by the conquerors was the region called by them the Realm of New Granada, today the republic of Colombia. Its exploration and conquest, except along the coasts, came very late, after that of Peru, in the years 1534-38. The initial booty of the Spaniards was less than the ransom of Atahualpa, but the gold extracted from its mines and streams soon surpassed in quantity that produced by Mexico or Peru.
Santa Marta, the first permanent settlement within the limits of the present republic, was founded in 1525 by Rodrigo de Bastides, one of the earliest explorers of the Caribbean coasts. Eight years later a companion of Bastidas, Pedro de Heredia, laid the first stones of the more famous Cartagena de Indias. But altho vague
rumors were current of El Dorado and of wealthy, civilized nations living on the high plateaux of the interior, it did not fall to the lot of either to verify them. Bastidas gathered a few thousand pesos of gold, the slow accumulations of generations of Indians from the sands of the neighboring rivers and creeks; but he lost his life at the hands of envious associates. Expeditions set out from Cartagena into the interior after 1534, and returned with extraordinary tales. In a single Indian cemetery (were we to believe accounts so obviously exaggerated), golden ornaments were collected to the value of 300,000 pesos! Cieza de Leon, who as a lad of nineteen accompanied an expedition in 1537, gave most enthusiastic descriptions of the riches of the country. If the gold of all this region, he says, had belonged to a single prince, his wealth would have been greater than that of the Incas.1
These gold-hunting raids from Cartagena, however, did not penetrate to the seat of the so-called Chibcha empire. The conquest of New Granada belongs to an obscure lawyer, Gonzalo Jimenez de Quesada, who came to Santa Marta in January, 1536, in the train of a new governor, Pedro de Lugo. Quesada, leaving Santa Marta in the following April with a force of about 500 men and 100 horses, after a year of terrible suffering 1 Cronica del Peru, cap. cxv. Cf., on the other hand, the account of the expedition of George Espira, governor of Venezuela for the Welsers. He penetrated into the interior in 1535, with a company of 261 men and 80 horses, and emerged after three with the loss of half his men and 66 horses. The total amount of treasure secured was 5,518 pesos, which after smelting and refining shrank to less than 1,600 pesos de minas. (Oviedo, lib. xxv, cap. 16.)
from heat and fever, insects and wild animals, emerged on the great plateau of central Colombia with a remnant of 170 followers. Here he found cultivated fields, prosperous towns, and what was of supreme importance to these "white children of the Sun," signs of great wealth in gold and emeralds. From Muqueta, Tunja and Iraca, the three chief pueblos of the Chibcha race, Quesada and his men secured rich plunder; and in August of 1538 they laid the foundations of their new city, Santa Fé de Bogotá.1
The reports of treasure gathered in the expeditions from Cartagena seem on the face of them to be grossly exaggerated. From Quesada we for the first time obtain trustworthy figures. In a narrative composed later by the great conquistador himself, he tells us that the booty amounted to 191,294 pesos de oro fino and 56,682 pesos de oro bajo; and these figures are corroborated by the ledgers of the first royal treasurer of the new colony.
As is so well known, Quesada's conquest of the plateau was scarcely complete, when two other companies of white men appeared simultaneously in his vicinity one led by Sebastian Benalcázar, a captain of Pizarro, who had conquered Quito, and was induced by reports of the rich kingdom of the Chibchas to penetrate still farther north; the other, an expedition of a German named Nicolas Federmann, agent of the great banking house of the Welsers, who had made his way through the forest from Coro in Venezula, also in search of the fabled El Dorado. Each of the trio claimed priority of discovery. According to one pious story, each had 160 men, one monk and one priest -the coincidence struck
1 Oviedo, lib. xxvi, cap. 11.
Each of the soldiers following Quesada received 510 pesos oro fino," 57 pesos "oro bajo" and 5 emeralds.
their superstitious imaginations, and they promptly came to an agreement. Benalcázar and Federmann made terms with Quesada for ready cash, and the three men returned to Spain in the same ship, to press their respective suits at the Spanish court.
The first of Quesada's party to act as treasurer was Antonio de Lebrixa, one of the most active and intrepid of his captains. Lebrixa returned to Spain with his chief, and his accounts close on May 12,1539, the day on which Quesada left Bogotá for the coast. Hernando Venegas took his place, and exercised the duties of treasurer till June, 1543, while Hernan Perez de Quesada, brother of the conquistador, was in nominal command of the colony. In the spring of that year arrived a new governor, Alonso Luis de Lugo, a renegade son of Quesada's old associate. Alonso had intrigued successfully against Quesada in Spain, and came out to America with a commission as adelantado of the province. He deprived many of the original conquerors of their lands and Indians, and Venegas lost his post as treasurer. Venegas' successor, Pedro de Briceño, a former treasurer of Santa Marta, was no more fortunate under the tyranny of the governor. caxa real " was plundered, and the royal officials imprisoned and maltreated. In March, 1544, the treasurer and contador fled to San Domingo, Briceño leaving powers with Hernando Xuarez de Villalobos to act as deputy in his absence.
The Spanish crown in 1545 sent out a commissioner to reduce the country to order, and with him Briceño returned to Bogotá. As a consequence of these dissensions, however, the royal accounts were reduced to a state of entire confusion. Briceño continued to act as treasurer till his death in December, 1552; and in the following month Andres Lopez de Galarra assumed the responsibilities of that office.