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diminishing.” If the produce of 1549, was really eight or ten times less than that of 1546, how should the traveller have passed over this enormous diminution of wealth in silence.
We may conclude, from the whole of these discussions, that the total produce of silver registered during the eleven years which are deficient in the preceding tables, far from amounting to 72 millions of marcs, as we might be led to suppose from Ulloa, and the celebrated author of the Recherches Philosophiques, has not exceeded the sum of 15 millions of
Nor can we give great faith to Solor. zano *, who vaguely asserts that Potosi yielded between 1545 and 1628, that is in 83 years,
the sum of 850 millions of pounds of silver, which is almost the double of what the mountain supplied in two centuries and a half. It is really surprising to see a writer, who was long a member of the audience of Lima, so very ill informed; for how can we suppose during 83 years an annual produce of 2,400,000 marcs, when the registers preserved in the treasury of Potosi, prove that during this period the mean sum of the produce seldom amounted to 800,000
* Solorzano Pereira, de Indiarum jure, t. ii. lib. v. c. i. (edit. Lugd.) VOL. III.
Moreover Acosta * who went over both Americas, and whose work can only be sufficiently appreciated by those who have visited the same places, confirms the assertions of Cieça. He relates that " in the time of the Licenciate “ Polo” (consequently before the year 1549), “ the fifth amounted to a million and a half of “ piastres per annum. t" He adds that “ not“ withstanding the confusion which prevails in the “ books of accounts of the first years, we know “ from tradition, and from the investigation “ carried on by orders of the Viceroy Don “ Francisco de Toledo, that the quantity of re
gistered silver, from 1545 to 1574, amounted “ to 76 millions of piastres, and from 1574 to “ 1585, to 35 millions of piastres, (at 13 reales “and one quartillo), which in forty years “ amounts to 111 millions." These 111 mil. lions of piastres imaginary money (pesos de minas), only suppose an annual produce of 555,000 marcs, which differs very little from that of the vein of Guanaxuato. There is no doubt that Acosta speaks of the whole quantity of silver extracted from the mines, and registered at the treasury.
He says expressly : se ha
* Historia natural y moral de las Indias, (Barcelona, 1591)
+ Which implies a produce of 1,490,000 marcs. (Herrera, Decada viii. 1. ii. c. xiv.)
metido a quintar, monta lo que se ha quintado. Solorzano translates this passage of the natural history of Acosta, by the following words : ex Potosiensi fodina extracti sunt centum et undecim milliones.
The authors whose works contain exaggerated valuations of the quantity of the precious metals which have inundated Spain since the middle of the 16th century, appear to have confounded the value of the produce of the mines with the fifth paid from it. Although they had no knowledge of the official papers which I have here published, they would never have fallen into this error had they only read attentively the works of Acosta, Cieca, and Alonzo Barba. * The latter, who filled the cure of a parish in the town of Potosi, only values the quantity of silver extracted from the Cerro de Potosi, between 1545 and 1636, at 450 millions of piastres of 8 reals; a sum which merely supposes an annual produce of 4,900,000 piastres, or 576,000 marcs, which forms a singular contrast with the 613 millions gratuitously admitted for the first periods from 1545, to 1556. However, Alonzo Barba had no motive for lowering the total produce; on the contrary, he endeavours to prove that an extent of ground of 60 square leagues might be covered with the
* Barba. lib. i. c. i.
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number of piastres coined from the silver of Potosi.
The following table exhibits the state of these mines from the period when the fifths were recorded with accuracy:
Produce of the Cerro de Potosi (Hatun
Marcs of silver extract
ed from the mines. Periods.
the piastre the piastre
at 132 reals. at 8 reals. From 1556 to 15662,159,216 428,767
1585 15957,540,620 1,497,380 887,073 1624 16345,232,425
1615,580 1670 1690 3,234,580
380,538 1720 1730|1,299,800
152,918 1740 1750 1,850,250
217,676 1779 1789 3,676,330
As there is some uncertainty respecting the period at which they ceased to reckon by piastres of 13 reals, of which 5. make a marc of silver, I prefer giving both valuations of the piastres till 1595; and we thus obtain the mari. mum of wealth which we are at liberty to suppose. A passage of the commentaries of Garcilasso, already quoted by us, would lead
one to believe, however, that a few years after 1580, they reckoned at Peru by piastres of 8 reals de plata. During the whole period of 233 years, from 1556 to 1789, the mining of Potosi never attained so high a degree of splendour as from 1585 to 1606. For several consecutive years the fifth was a million and a half of piastres, which supposes a produce of 1,490,000, or 882,000 marcs, according as we value the piastre at 136 or 8 reals. This wealth is the more surprising, as according to Acosta, more than a third of the silver was never registered. After 1606 the produce has been gradually diminishing, and especially since 1694. From 1606 to 1688, however, it was never below 350,000 marcs. During the last half of the 18th century the mountain generally supplied from three to four hundred thousand marcs; and this produce is undoubtedly still too considerable to allow us to advance with a celebrated author * that the mines of Potosi are no longer worth the trouble of working. These mines in their present state are not the first in the known world ; but we may rank them immediately after the mines of Guanaxuato.
The richness of the ores of Potosi has di
* Robertson's History of America, b. iv. p.339 and 399.