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Smith *, who has displayed the greatest accuracy in his researches, estimates the produce of the gold and silver mines of Spanish America, in 1802, at 159 millions of livres tournois, or 30,285,000 piastres ; a sum which approaches nearer to the truth than all the calculations to be found in other works on Political Economy.
Robertson estimates, in his History of America, the amount of the precious metals imported into Spain, between 1492 and 1775, at the enormous sum of two thousand millions sterling, or 8800 millions of piastres; and what is more singular, this justly celebrated author considers his calculation as founded on very moderate suppositions, though he estimates the annual produce of the mines, during 283 consecutive years, at four millions sterling, and the amount of the contraband, during that period, at 968 millions.t
compare these data with those of the work of Ustariz, we observe that the sums of the Spanish author are lower by one half.
In the Recherches sur le Commerce, published at Amsterdam in 1778f, the amount of gold and silver exported from Spanish
* T. V. p. 137.
America, between 1674 and 1723, is estimated at 672 millions of piastres. Reckoning at the
rate the 283 years between 1492 and 1775, and adding a third for the contraband, we find the total of all the metals imported into Spain 5072 millions of piastres. The same author estimates the gold imported from Brazil, since the discovery of that country, at 1350 millions; a sum which appears nearly double too much, as we shall prove in the sequel of the discussion.
Mr. Necker*, in his researches respecting the existing specie in France, estimates the gold and silver received at Cadiz and Lisbon, from 1763 to 1777, at 1600 millions of livres tournois, or 304,800,000 piastres. According to this hypothesis, the total exportation of precious metals from the two Americas would have amounted only to 21millions of piastres per annum; while that to Spain alone, according to authentic information, was more than 30 millions. + On the other hand, M. Gerboux, in his Discussions sur les effets de la démonétisation de l'ort, estimates the importation of
* Sur le commerce des grains, Liv. ii. chap. v. l'administration des finances. T. iii. chap. viii. p. 71.
+ Encyl. méthod. Economie polit. T. ii. p. 324. I Pag. 36, 66, 69, 70.
gold and silver into Europe in livres tournois, as follows:
From 1724 to 1766-4000 millions.
1766 — 1800-4000
From whence it would follow that the annual importation, from 1724 to 1803, amounted to 21 millions of piastres.
Uniting in one point of view the results of all these calculations, which are founded on nothing but mere conjectures, we find that the mass of registered precious metals imported into Europe, is according to
Names of Authors.
1492-1724 3536 millions. Solorzano
1492—1628 1500 Moncada
1492-1595 2000 Navarete
1492–1780 5154 Robertson
1763—1777 304 Gerboux
1724—1800 1600 The author of Re
cherches sur le
To avoid as much as possible in these researches the causes of error, which are but too
numerous, I shall follow a different course from that adopted by the writers above mentioned. I shall first state the quantity of gold and silver, which, according to the records of the mints and the royal treasury, we know to have been extracted from the mines of Mexico and Potosi; I shall add, from the historical knowledge which I acquired respecting the state of the Mexican mining operations, the amount furnished by each metalliferous region of Peru, Buenos Ayres, and New Grenada ; and I shall distinguish what has been registered from what has been fraudulently introduced. Instead of estimating, as has hitherto been done, the total produce of this contraband trade, at a third or a fourth of the whole of the registered metals, I shall make partial estimates, according to the position of each colony and its relations with the neighbouring countries. When we wish to judge of a distance which we cannot measure with precision, we are sure of committing errors of less consequence if we divide the whole extent into several parts, and if we compare each of these with objects of a known greatness.
1. Quantity of Registered Gold and Silver
extracted from the mines of America between the years of 1492 and 1803.
A. SPANISH COLONIES.
Piastres. The kingdom of New Spain has
furnished the mint of Mexico, between 1690 and 1803, according to the register already given, with
- 1,353,452,000 The mines of Tasco, Zultepec, Pachuca,
and Tlapujahua, are almost
almost the only ones which were worked immediately after the destruction of the city of Tenochtilan in 1521, and from that memorable period till 1548. As the quantity of gold and silver coined in the beginning of the 18th century did not exceed five millions of piastres per annum, I reckon from the conquest by Hernan Cortez till 1548 for the total produce of Mexico 40,500,000
Carried over 1,393,952,000