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This calculation, founded on exact data, explains the reason why the country, whose mines are the richest and most constant in their produce, does not possess a great mass of specie, and why the price of labour still remains very low there. Enormous sums are accumulated in the hands of a few individuals”, but the indigence of the people cannot help striking those Europeans who travel through the country and the towns of the interior of Mexico. I am tempted to believe that of the ninety-one millions of piastrest which we have supposed to exist in specie among the thirteen or fourteen millions of inhabitants of the Spanish Colonies of continental America, nearly fifty-five or sixty millions are in Mexico. Although the population of this kingdom is not altogether in the proportion of one to two to the population of the other continental colonies, its national wealth is to that of the other colonies nearly in the proportion of two to three. The estimate of sixty millions of piastres gives only ten piastres per head; but this sum must appear too great when we reflect, that in Spain seven piastres, and in France, fourteen piastres, are allowed for each inhabitant. In the Capitania general of Cara
* See vol. i. chap. vii.
cas, in 1801, the specie which circulates among a population of between seven and eight hundred thousand inhabitants was calculated at three millions of piastres *; but then what a difference between an empire, rich in mines like Mexico, and another which is entirely destitute of them, and where the exports scarcely equal the value of the importation! Several writers on political economy suppose that the specie of a country is generally in the proportion of four to one to its gross revenue. Now the revenue of the kingdom of New Spain, deducting what the government draws from \ the mines, amounts to 16 millions of piastres. From this datum the mass of the specie would be sixty-four millions, which differs very little from our first estimate. We have already seen that the ministry of Spain have not always had the most accurate ideas respecting the national wealth of Mexico. Occupied in 1804 with the project of paying off the vales or public debt, the mother country imagined it possible to draw at once from New Spain, a sum of fortyfour millions and a half of piastres belonging to ecclesiastical corporations. # It was easy, however, to foresee that the proprietors in whose hands this sum was placed, and who
RESULTS. Piastres exported i - ? from Vera Cruz From 1766 From 1779 to the Spanish to 1778. to 1791. Difference. - Colonies. of - - - so |On account o - - - -
TABLE III. _ Amount of piastres exported from Vera Cruz
into Spain and the Spanish Colonies, both on account of the king, and on account of individuals.
Before the decla- || After the declaraDestination. ration of free trade, |tion of free trade, from 1766 to 1778. |from 1779 to 1791.
. Let us now compare the actual produce of the mines of New Spain with the loss in specie experienced by that country from the unfavourable balance of its trade. Prepared by the information which we have been acquiring relative to the exportation of Vera Cruz and Acapulco, we shall be enabled to resolve the important question, whether the precious metals are accumulated in a region which contains the most abundant silver mines in the known world. It was advanced in several memoirs presented to the court of Madrid, that in time of peace before the year 1796, the balance of trade of Vera Cruz was, deducting the contraband trade, as in the following table:
Importation. - Piastres. Importation from Spain - , - 11,100,000 Importation from Spanish America 1,300,000 12,400,000 Exportation. - Piastres. Produce of Mexican agriculture - 3,400,000 Precious metals - - - - 9,000,000 12,400,000
This balance exhibits a state of exportation apparently unfavourable for the kingdom of
New Spain. If in the preceding table is included the specie exported on account of merchants, there is no reason for not adding the quantity of piastres annually sent on account of the government either to Europe or to the Spanish colonies. The amount of the exportation to the latter is at an average eight or nine millions of piastres. We have already seen, that between 1779 and 1791, the exportation of gold and silver from Mexico by the port of Vera Cruz on account of the king and individuals, amounted to more than two hundred and twenty-four millions of piastres, which is at an average equal to the sum of eighteen millions and a half per annum.
We find in general that agreeable to the above tables from 1766 to 1791, the exportation of precious metals from the port of Vera Cruz Piastres. amounted to - - - - 379,000,000 The quantity of precious metals extracted from the mines of Mex: 460,000,000 ico, during the same period amounted to - -
Difference - - - - 81,000,000 It appears then from these data, that during a period of twenty-five years, the annual accumulation of specie has not exceeded the sum