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of Madrid at least would not recognize them *
an established body by a constitutional act.
The legislation of the mines was formerly under infinite confusion, because, at the beginning of the conquest, under the reign of Charles the 5th, a mixture of Spanish, Belgic, and German laws was introduced into Mexico; which laws, from the difference of local circumstances, were inapplicable those distant regions. The erection of the supreme council of mines, of which the chieft bears a name of celebrity in the annals of chemical science, was followed by the establishment of the school of mines, and the compilation of a new code of laws, published under the title of Ordonanzas de la Mineria de Nueva España. The council Tribunal general is composed of a director, two deputies from the body of miners, an assessor, two consultors, and a judge, who is head of the juzgado de alzadas de mineria. On the Tribunal general depend the thirty-seven councils of provincial mines or diputaciones de mineria, of which the names have been already
Representacion que a nombre de la Mineria de esta Nueva España hacen al Rey nuestro Señor los Apoderados de ella, D. Juan Lucas de Lassaga y D. Joaquin Velasquez de Leon, (Mexico 1774) p. 40.
+ Don Fausto de Elhuyar.
mentioned. The proprietors of mines (mineros) send their representatives to the provincial councils, and the two general deputies who reside at Mexico, are chosen from among the deputies of the districts. The body of miners of New Spain has, besides, apoderados, or representative proprietors at Madrid, for treating immediately with the ministry, as to the interest of the colonies, in whatever respects the mines. The students of the colegio de mineria, instructed at the expence of the state, are distributed by the Tribunal among the head towns of the different diputaciones. It cannot be denied that the representative system followed in the new organization of the body of Mexican miners, possesses great advantages. It preserves public spirit in a country where the citizens, scattered over an immense surface, do not sufficiently feel the community of their interests ; and it gives the supreme council a facility of collecting considerable sums, whenever any great or useful undertaking is proposed. It is to be desired, however, that the director of the tribunal should possess more influence on the progress of the operations in the provinces, and that the proprietors of mines, less jealous of what they call their liberty, were more enlightened as to their true interests.
The Supreme Council possesses an income
of more than a million of livres tournois. The king granted it on its establishment two thirds of the royal right of signiorage, which amounts to a real de plata, or the eighth part of a double piastre, per mare of silver delivered in to the mint. This million of revenue is destined for the salaries of the members of the tribunal, the support of the school of mines, and to a fund for assistance or advances (avios) to the proprietors of the mines. These advances, as we have already observed, have been given with more liberality than discernment. A miner of Pachuca at one time obtained 170,000 piastres †; and the share-holders of the mina de agua of Temascaltepec, received 214,000 piastres ; but this assistance never produced any thing. S The tribunal during the last years of the war of Spain with France and England, was compelled to make a gratuitous present to the court of Madrid, of two millions and a half of francs, and to lend it fifteen millions besides, six of which have
* 40,8161. Sterling.
+ These salaries amount to 25,000 piastres. (52501. Sterling. Trans.). The director general has only 6000 (12601.); and the seminary or school of mines, in which the Creole, Spaniards, and noble Indians are educated, consumes only 30,000 piastres (63001. Sterling. Trans.) per annum.
$ 35,7001. Sterling. Trans. § See the account rendered to the electors, published under the title of Estado general que manifesta a los vocales los caudales del Tribunal de Mineria desde 1777 hasta 1788.
never been repaid. To support these extra. ordinary expences, they were compelled to have recourse to borrowing; and at present the half of the revenues of the supreme council of mines is employed in paying the interest of that capital. They have increased one half the signorial impost, till the period of the liquidation of the debts contracted by the tribunal; and in place of eight grains, the miners are obliged to pay twelve* per marc of silver. In this state of things, the tribunal can no longer make advances to the miners, who for want of funds are frequently unable to carry on useful undertakings. Great capitals formerly employed in mining, are now destined to agriculture, and the proprietors of mines would again require those establishments (bancos de plata, compañias refaccionarias † ò de habilitacion y avios) which advanced to the miners considerable sums of money at a large interest.
All the metallic wealth of the Spanish colonies is in the hands of individuals. The government possesses no other mine than that of
* Ocho granos de Señoreage, y quatro granos temporalmente impuestos. At Lima the tribunal receives
a real per
+ Real cedula sobre la compañia refaccionaria propuesta por el Genoves Domingo Reborato, del 12 Marzo 1744. Don Josef Bustamente, Informe sobre la habilitacion de los Mineros, 1748.
Huancavelica in Peru, which has been long abandoned ; and it is not even proprietor of the great levels, as several sovereigns of Germany
The individuals receive from the king a grant of a certain number of measures on the direction of a vein or bed; and they are only held to pay very moderate duties on the ores extracted from the mines, which have been valued at an average for all Spanish America, at 114 per cent. of the silver, and 3 per cent. of the gold.*
In New Spain the proprietors of mines pay the government the half of the fifth or tenth, the duty of one per cent. (derecho del uno por ciento) and the duty of coinage, called derecho de monedage y señoreage. This last duty, established in 1566 by a law of Philip II. and increased at the end of the 17th century t, now amounts to 34 reals per marc, of silver, 68 reals being computed in the marc with half a real of expences, and the proprietor of the silver only receiving back 64 reals. Of this 34 reals, 2} are accounted derecho de monedage, and 1 real derecho de señoreage.
Bourgoing, t. ii. p. 284. + Recapilacion de leyes de Castilla, de 1598, Lib. v. Tit. xxi. n. 9.- Ley 8. Tit. xxiii. Lib. iv. de Indias.-Real cedula dirigida al Virey Conde de Moctezuma, y dada en Madrid à 26 de Junio, de 1698,