Page images

have usefully employed it in the amelioration of their lands, would not be in a condition to restore it in specie; and hence this operation of the governmert completely failed. It is not to be denied that since the last war which broke out between Spain and France in 1793, Mexico has suffered from time to time great losses in specie. Besides the situados, the net revenue of the king and the property - of individuals, several millions have annually passsed into Europe, as gratuitous gifts, for the maintenance of a war, considered by the lower people as a war of religion. These contributions were not always the effect of the enthusiasm produced by the sermons of the monks and the proclamations of the viceroys; for frequently the authority of the magistrates was interposed to compel the different townships to offer the voluntary gift, and to prescribe the amount of it. In 1797, long after the peace of Bâle, an extraordinary loan was opened at Mexico, of which the produce amounted to seventeen millions of piastres. This large sum was sent to Madrid, and the revenue of the royal farm (renta de tabaco) which generally yields a produce of three millions and a half of piastres, was assigned as a hypothec to the Mexican creditors. These facts are sufficient to show that the exportation of specie by the ports of Vera Cruz and Acapulco sometimes


exceed the produce of the coinage, and that the operations of the ministry of Spain latterly have contributed to impoverish Mexico. In fact this diminution of specie would soon be severely felt, if for several successive years the mint of Mexico should furnish fewer piastres, either on account of bad management of the mines, which are now most abundant, or a diminution in the quantity of mercury necessary for the amalgamation works. The position of a population of five or six millions of inhabitants, who from an unfavourable balance of trade should experience an annual diminution of their capital of more than fourteen millions of piastres, would be very critical, if ever they were deprived of their metallic wealth; for at present twenty millions of piastres worth of goods imported into Mexico, are exchanged for six millions of piastres in produce of Mexican agriculture, and fourteen millions of piastres in specie, which may be considered as drawn from the bowels of the earth. . On the other hand, had the kings of Spain governed Mexico by princes of their house residing in the country, or if in consequence of those events of which we have examples in the history of every age, the colonies had separated from the mother country, Mexico would have lost nine millions of specie less annually, which were partly paid into the

royal treasury of Madrid, and partly under the improper denomination of situados paid into the provincial treasuries of the Havannah, Porto Rico, Pensacola, and Manilla. By allowing a free course to the national industry, by encouraging agriculture and manufactures, the importation will diminish of itself; and it will then be easy for the Mexicans to pay the value of foreign commodities with the productions of their own soil. The free cultivation of the vine and the olive on the table land of New Spain; the free distillation of spirits from rum, rice, and the grape; the exportation of flour favoured by the making of new roads; the increase of plantations of sugar cane, cotton and tobacco; the working of the iron and mercury mines; and the manufacture of steel, will perhaps one day become more inexhaustible sources of wealth, than all the veins of gold and silver united. Under more favourable external circumstances, the balance of trade may be favourable to New Spain, without paying the account which has been opened for centuries between the two continents entirely with Mexican piastres. In the present state of the trade of Vera Cruz and Acapulco, the total value of exported agricultural produce scarcely equals the value of the sugar furnished by the island of Cuba, which amounts to 7,520,000 piastres, admitting only an exportation of 188 chests of sugar, of 16 arrobas each, and valuing the price of the chest of sugar at forty piastres. But the importation of Mexico, which we calculate on an average at twenty millions of piastres annually, is an object of the very highest importance for the commercial nations of Europe, who want an outlet for their manufactures. We shall call to mind on this occasion, 1st, That the United States of North America, of which the exportation in 1802 " amounted to 71,957,144 dollars, exported in 1791 only to the value of 19,000,000 dollars; 2nd, That England at the period of the greatest activity of its trade with France in 1790, only imported into that country goods to the value of 5,700,000 piastres; and 3rd, That the exportation from England for Portugal and Germany in 1790 did not exceed, the former 7,600,000 piastres, and the latter 12,400,000 piastres. f. These data are sufficient to explain, why towards the end of the last century Great Britain made so many efforts to procure a share of the trade between the Peninsula and Mexico. In classing the ports of Spanish America according to the importance of their trade, Vera Cruz and the Havannah occupy the first rank, An enormous mass of business was transacted there during the last war, in the short space of time when the entry of neutral vessels into the colonies was permitted by the court of Madrid. We may range the other ports in the following order: Lima, Carthagena, Buenos-Ayres, la Guayra, Guayaquil, Porto Rico, Cumana, Santa Marta, Panama, and Portobello. To enable the reader to judge of the relative activity of the trade of the Spanish colonies of America, I shall succinctly specify the value of the exports and imports of several of the above ports. My object is merely to furnish here such general results as may be interesting to political economy and the science of trade.

* See note G. at the end of this volume. † Playfair, commercial atlas, 1801. Pl. v. viii. and x.

All the minute details are reserved for the notes,

which will accompany the historical account of my travels to the equinoctial regions. Vera Cruz. Importation, 15 millions of piastres. Exportation (not including the precious metals) five millions of piastres.

Havannah. Exportation in native produce,

eight millions of piastres, of which 31,600,000 kilogrammes * or 6,320,000 piastres in sugar (valuing the chest of sugar at 40 piastres); 525,000 kilogrammes + or 720,000 piastres in wax (the arroba at 18 piastres); 625,000 ki)

* 69,678,000 lb. avoid trans. + 1,157,625 lb, avoird. To

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »