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into Spain, between 1595 and 1724, which he estimates at 1536 millions ; so that the total produce of Spanish America in gold and silver, from 1492 to 1724, amounted, according to this author, to 5536 millions of piastres. : It is easy to prove that this calculation does not rest on very solid foundations. Four thousand millions divided among one hundred and three years, from 1492 to 1595, suppose an average annual produce of more than 38 millions of piastres. Now, we learn from the history of the mines of America, that the quantity of gold and silver introduced into Spain between 1492 and 1535 was very small, and cannot be estimated at more than 130 or 140 millions. If, however, we admit 12 millions of piastres per annum for this first period, the sum which Ustariz fixes for the period between 1595 and 1724, we shall find that the annual produce between 1535 and 1595 ought at least to be 58 millions. All the estimates are four or five times too high, as we may be convinced of by casting our eyes over the registers of Potosi, and recollecting that the mines of New Spain, till the beginning of the eighteenth century, never yielded above three millions of piastres per annum. Moreover, Garcilasso and Herera, in speaking of the great wealth of the mines of the New Continent, expressly say, that towards the end of the
sixteenth century, from ten to twelve millions of piastres annually entered Spain by the mouth of the Guadalquivir, The estimates in round numbers of thousands of millions, far from being entitled to be considered as the fruits of accurate research, are merely the result of an approximate calculation. Hence every author has thought himself entitled to fix on different quantities.
Solorzano affirms*, on the authority of Davila, that Spain received from America, from its discovery in 1492 to 1628, fifteen hundred millions of registered piastres, a sum which differs nearly by one half from that adopted by Ustariz. On the other hand, we find in the political treatise of Navaretet, that between 1519 and 1617, according to registers, there was imported 1536 millions. According to this valuation, we attribute to the period of 98 years a smaller sum of piastres than what Solorzano and Davila admit for the period of 136 years, which is a contradiction so much the greater, as the one of these periods composes a part of the other.
Raynal, in the first editions of his celebrated work on the settlements in the Indiest, es
* De Indiarum jure, T. II. p. 846. Hist. magna Matritensis, p. 472. + De la conservacion de las Monarquias, Disc. XXI.
Compare the changes made in B. viii. $ xlii.; B. x.
timated the gold and silver imported from America into Europe, since the discovery of the New World, at nine thousand millions of piastres; but in 1780 he reduced this sum to five thousand millions. He supposes that the annual importation of registered gold and silver into Spain, on an average of eleven years,
from 1754 to 1764, only amounted to 13,984,185 piastres ; while we know, from the registers preserved in the mint of Mexico, that at that very period New Spain alone produced annually nearly twelve millions of piastres. I cannot conceive how an author, full of sagacity and generally well informed, can have allowed himself to form such erroneous notions respecting the commerce in the precious metals. Raynal gives tables apparently the result of very extensive labour: he estimates, separately, the quantities of gold and silver from each part of the colonies; and notwithstanding this apparent accuracy, a great number of these calculations rests on no very solid foundation. He affirms that Spain drew, from 1780, every year from the continent of America, 89,095,052 livres in gold and silver, or 16,970,484 piastres : because, from an average year taken during the period from 1748 to 1753, there was imported :
Hist. Philosophique, Geneva Edo. 1780, T. II. p. 339.
From New Spain
44,106,047 8,418,294 From Carthagena or
New Grenada 14,087,304 2,683,296 From Lima or Peru 25,267,849 4,812,924 From Buenos Ayres
or the kingdom of
5,304,705 1,010,420 From Caracas
239,144 45,551 Total of an average year | 89,095,049 16,970,485
It is surprising to see Raynal confound the produce of 1750 with that of 1780: for during that space of thirty years, the exportation of silver from Mexico had increased more than a fourth; and the mines of South America, far from being exhausted, were become more abundant. In 1780 there was coined, at the mint of Mexico alone, the sum of 17,514,263 piastres; while the Abbé Raynal estimates the total produce of the mines of Spanish America, at only eighteen millions. He ought to have known, from the testimony of a statesman thoroughly informed respecting the commerce of Spain *, that in 1775 the total produce had already risen to 30 millions of piastres, or to 157,500,000 livres tournois per
• Campomanes, Discurso sobre la Educacion popular de los artesanos, Vol. ii. p. 331.
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With respect to the quantity of precious metals received by Spain from her colonies, since the discovery of America, Raynal fixes it at 25,570,279,924 liv., or 4,870,529,509 piastres. This calculation, which would inspire more confidence if the sums were expressed in round numbers, is sufficiently accurate; and it proves, that even in setting out from the falsest data, we may sometimes, by fortunate computations, arrive at results very near the truth.
Adam Smith, in his classical work on the causes of the wealth of nations *, estimates the silver exported from the New Continent into Cadiz and Lisbon, at six millions sterling, or 264 millions of piastres per annum ;
but this estimate was too small by two-fifths, even in his time, in 1775. The English author followed the calculations of Meggens; according to whom, during 1748 and 1753, Spain and Portugal received annually, at
average, in registered precious metals, £5,746,000 sterling, or 25,337,000 piastres. Reckoning four millions for the importation of gold from Brazil, we find, according to Meggens, 21 millions of piastres for the Spanish colonies alone; and, consequently, three millions more than Raynal allows for the year 1780 Mr. Garnier, the learned commentator on
* Book I. Chap. I.