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Spain." Without repeating what has been sufficiently developed by several writers on Political Economy, we shall pursue the course which we have hitherto marked out, bringing together facts, and conducting the reader by means of these facts to general results. When we reflect on the state of the colonies before the reign of Charles III., and the odious monopoly possessed by Seville and Cadiz for centuries, of the commerce of America, we need not be surprised that the famous regulation of the 12th October 1778, was designated by the name of the edict of free trade. In affairs of commerce, as well as in politics, the word freedom expresses merely a relative idea; and from the oppression under which the colonists groaned in the times of the galleons, the registers, and the fleets, to that state of things in which fourteen ports were nearly at the same time opened to the productions of America, the passage is as great as from the most arbitrary despotism to a liberty sanctioned by law. It is true, that without wholly adopting the theory of the econo
* Bourgoing, Tableau de l'Espagne moderne, 4 edn, t. ii. chap. vii., viii. and ix. p. 188–296. Laborde, Itineraire descriptif de l'Espagne, t. iv. p. 373-384. Encyclop. method. Economie politique, t. ii. p. 319-324,
mists, we might be tempted to believe that both the mother country and the colonies would have gained, if the law of a free trade had been followed by the abolition of a tarif of the duties unfavourable to American agriculture and industry; but are we to expect that Spain should have been the first to get rid of a colonial system, which notwithstanding the most cruel experience both for individual happiness and the public tranquillity, has been so long followed by the most enlightened nations of Europe? , , ,
At the period when the whole commerce of New Spain was carried on in registered vessels, collected together in a fleet, which arrived every three or four years from Cadiz at Vera Cruz, the purchases and sales were in the hands of eight or ten commercial houses of Mexico, who exercised an exclusive monopoly. There was then a fair (feria) at Xalapa, and the supply of a vast empire was there managed like that of a place under blockade. There was, almost no competition; and the price of iron, steel, and all the other objects indispensable for the mines were raised at pleasure. The last fleet which arrived at Vera Cruz in the month of January 1778, was commanded by the celebrated tra. veller, Don Antonio, Ulloa. The following table contains the value of the goods exported
in that fleet, compared with the value of the exportation from Vera Cruz during the four years of 1787, 1788, 1789, and 1790, contained
in the period designated by the denomination of free trade. . . . . . . . .
Exportation from New Spain by Vera Cruz, in
the time of the fleets, and during the 3.
- period of the free commerce.
Total exportation of the years | Exportation by the fleet com- | Difference in favour of the free 1787, 1788, 1789, and 1790. manded by Ulloa in 1778. commerce between 1787 & 1790.
Names of Commodities. Value in - Value in --- Value in
Quantities. double Quantities. double Quantities. double
piastres. - piastres. piastres.
As the fleet of Don Antonio Ulloa was loaded with the produce of the Mexican agriculture from 1774 to 1778, we see from the preceding Table what a powerful influence the free trade had on the progress of industry. The value of the registered exportation amounted at an average before 1778 to 617,000 piastres annually; but during this period which commenced in 1787 and ended in 1790, the registered exportation amounted to 2,840,000 piastres.
Although the fleet of 1778, was the last which entered New Spain, that country however never fully enjoyed the privilege granted by the regulation of the 12th October 1778, till 1786, when several commercial houses were established at Vera Cruz with success. The merchants who inhabit the towns of the interior, and who formerly supplied themselves with European goods at Mexico, have got into the habit of going directly to Vera Cruz for their purchases (para emplear). This change in the direction of commerce has been unfavourable to the interests of the inhabitants of the capital; but the increase which has been observable since the year 1778, in every branch of public revenue, sufficiently proves that what was hurtful to a few individuals, was useful to the national prosperity. The three following Tables were drawn up for the purpose of more completely illustrating this im