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of silver is in general such in the chain of the Andes, that when we reflect on the number of mineral depositories which remain untouched, or which have been very superficially wrought, we are tempted to believe, that the Europeans have yet scarcely begun to enjoy the inexhausti. ble fund of wealth contained in the New World. When we cast our eyes over the mining district of Guanaxuato, which, on the small space of a few thousand square metres, supplies annually the seventh or eighth part of all the American silver, we shall see that the 550,000 marcs which are annually extracted from the famous veta madre are the produce of only two mines, the Valenciana and that of the Mar. quis de Rayas, and that more than four fifths of this vein have never yet been attempted. It is very probable, however, that in uniting the two mines of Fraustros and Mellado, and clearing them out, a mine would be found of equal wealth with that of Valenciana. The opinion that New Spain produces only perhaps the third part of the precious metals which it could supply under happier political circumstances, has been long entertained by all the intelligent persons who inhabit the principal districts of mines of that country, and is formally announced in a Memoir presented by the deputies of the body of miners to the king in 1774, a production drawn up with great wisdom and know
ledge of local circumstances. Europe would be inundated with precious metals, if they were to work at the same time, and with all the means afforded by the improvements in the art of mining, the mineral depositories of Bolaños, Batopilas, Sombrerete, Rosario, Pachuca, Moran, Zultepec, Chihuahua, and so many others which have been long and justly celebrated. I am aware, that in thus expressing myself, I am in direct contradiction with the authors of a great number of works of Political Economy, in which it is affirmed that the mines of America are partly exhausted, and partly too deep to be worked any longer with advantage. It is true no doubt, that the expences of the mine of Valenciana have doubled in the space of ten years, but the profits of the proprietors have still remained the same; and this increase of expence is much more to be attributed to the injudicious direction of the operations than to the depth of the pits. . They forget that in Peru, the famous mines of Yauricocha or Pasco, which annually supply more than 200,000 marcs of silver, are yet only from thirty to forty metres in depth.* It appears to me superfluous to refute opinions which are at variance with the numerous facts brought forward by me in this chapter ; nor need we be astonished at the
ignorance we betray in Europe with regard to the state of the mines of the New World, when it is considered how little accuracy is displayed by the most celebrated politicians in their investigations regarding the state of the mines of their own country.
But what is the proportion between the produce of the Mexican mines, and the produce of the other Spanish Colonies? We shall successively examine the wealth of Peru, Chili, the kingdom of Buenos Ayres, and New Grenada. It is known that the other great political divisions, namely, the four capitanias generales of Guatimala, the Havannah, Portorico, and Caracas, contain no mines which are wrought. I shall not follow the vague and imperfect data to be found in several very recent works, but shall discuss only what I have been able to procure from official papers communicated to me.
I. There has been given into the mint at Lima,
marcs of gold. From 1754 to 1772-6,102,139 and 129,080 1772 - 1791-8,478,367
marcs of silver.
The value of the gold and silver* amounted in the first of these periods to 68,944,522
* Unanue, Guia politica del Peru, 1790, p. 45.
piastres *, and in the second to 85,434,849 piastres t, which on an annual average of gold and silver is
From 1754 to 1772 - 3,830,000 piastres f.
1772 - 1791 — 4,496,000 S.
The produce of gold has diminished while that of silver has considerably increased. In 1790, the produce of the mines of Peru || amounted to 534,000 marcs of silver, and 6,380 marcs of gold. Between 1797 and 1801, there was coined at Lima gold and silver to the amount of 26,032,653 piastress. The following table points out the produce of the mines. year after year**
* £14,478,349 Sterling. Trans.
de moneda de Lima. (MS.)
Coinage of the Mint at Lima.
Value of gold & silver in piastres.
583,724 4,516,206 5,099,930 535,810 4,758,094 5,293,904 496,486 5,512,345 6,008,831 378,596 4,399,409 4,778,005 328,051 4,523,932 4,851,983
Total in 5 years. 2,322,667 23,709,986 26,032,653
In the five preceding years, the produce amounted to 30 millions; so that we may consider six millions of piastres as the mean term for one year, the produce of gold and silver having declined in 1800 and 1801, on account of the maritime war, which impeded the importation of mercury, as well as iron and steel, from Europe. We shall adopt, however, a smaller sum, viz. 3,450 marcs of gold, and 570,000 marcs of silver, the value of which amounts altogether to 5,300,000 piastres.*
The places in Peru most celebrated for abounding with precious metals, or the magnitude of the works, are in following the chain of the Andes from north to south. In the province of Catamarca, the Cerro de Gualgayoc, near Micuipampa, Fuentestiana, and Pilancones; in the
€1,113,000 Sterling. Trans.