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CHAPTER V. Manufactures-powder manufactory-goldsmiths-mint
interior commerce-foreign commerce-smuggling-average value of exports and imports.
If we consider the small progress of manufactures in Spain," notwithstanding the numerous encouragements which they have received, since the Ministry of the Marquis de la Ensenada, we shall not be surprised that whatever relates to manufactures and manufacturing industry is still less advanced in Mexico. The restless and suspicious policy of the nations of Europe, the legislation and colonial policy of the moderns, which bear very little resemblance to those of the Phoenicians and Greeks, have thrown insurmountable obstacles in the way of the prosperity of their distant possessions..
Notwithstandig all these obstacles, the manufactures have made some progress in three centuries, during which time Biscayans, Catalonians, Asturians, and Valencians, have settled in the New World, and carried there the industry of their native provinces. The manufacture of coarse stuffs can every where be carried on at a low rate, when raw materials are found in abundance, and when the price of the goods of Europe and Oriental Asia is so much increased by carriage. In time of war, the want of communication with the mother country, and the regulations prohibiting commerce with neutrals, have favoured the establishment of manufactures of calicoes, fine cloth, and whatever is connected with the refinements of luxury.
The value of the produce of the manufacturing industry of New Spain is estimated at about 1,600,0001. per annum. From the quantity and quality of the cotton which the low-lands of New Spain are so well adapted to produce, native manufactures of that material appear to hold the first place in importance. Those of the intendancy of Puebla furnish annually, in time of peace, for the interior commerce, a produce to the value of 325,0001. The weavers. of cottons of all sorts in Puebla were computed in 1802 at more than 1200. In this town, as well as in Mexico, the printing of calicoes, both those imported from Manilla and those manufactured in New Spain, has made considerable progress within these few years.
The oldest cloth manufactories of Mexico are those of Tezcuco. They were in great part established in 1592 by the viceroy Don Louis de Velasco II., the son of the celebrated constable of Castille, who was second viceroy of New Spain. By degrees, this branch of national industry passed entirely into the hands of the Indians and Mestizoes. The value of the cloths and woollen stuffs manufactured in Queretaro at present amounts to more than 135,0001.
With the exception of a few stuffs of cotton mixed with silk, the manufacture of silks is at present next to nothing.
New Spain has no flax or hemp manufactories, and the manufacture of paper is also unknown in it. The manufacture of tobacco is a royal right.
The manufacture of hard soap is a considerable object of commerce at Puebla, Mexico, and Guadalaxara. The first of these towns produces nearly 2143 tons per annum ; and in the intendancy of Guadalaxara, the quantity manufactured is computed at 54,0001. The abundance of soda which we find almost every where at elevations of 6000 to 8000 feet, in the interior table-land of Mexico, is highly favourable to this manufacture.
The town of Puebla was formerly celebrated for its fine manufactories of delft ware (loza) and hats. We have already observed, that, till the commencement of the eighteenth century, these two branches of industry enlivened the commerce between Acapulco and Peru. At present there is little or no communication between Puebla and Lima; and the delft manufactories have fallen off so much, on account of the low price of the stoneware and porcelain of Europe imported at Vera Cruz, that of 46 manufactories which were still existing in 1793, there were in 1802 only sixteen remaining of delft ware, and two of glass.
In New Spain, as well as in the greatest number of countries in Europe, the manufacture of powder
is a royal monopoly. To form an idea of the enormous quantity of powder manufactured and sold in contraband, we have only to bear in mind, that notwithstanding the flourishing state of the Mexican mines, the King has never sold to the miners more than 300,000 or 400,000lbs. of powder per annum ; while a single mine, that of Valenciana, requires from 150,000 to 160,000lbs. It appears from the researches I have made, that the quantity of powder manufactured at the expense of the King, is, to that sold fraudulently, in the proportion of 1 to 4. As, in the interior of New Spain, the nitrate of potash and sulphur are every where to be had in abundance, and the contraband manufacturer can afford to sell powder to the miner at nine pence the pound, the Government ought either to diminish the price of the produce of the manufactory, or to throw the trade in powder entirely open. How is it possible to prevent fraud in a country of an immense extent, in mines at a distance from towns, and dispersed on the ridge of the Cordilleras, in the midst of the wildest and most solitary situations ?
The royal manufactory of powder, the only one in Mexico, is situated near Santa Fe, in the valley of Mexico, about nine miles from the capital. The buildings, which are very beautiful, were constructed in 1780 from the plans of M. Costanzo, the head of the corps of engineers, in a narrow valley which supplies in abundance the necessary water for setting
hydraulic wheels in motion, and through which the aqueduct of Santa Fe passes. Allthe parts of themachines, and chiefly the wheels, are disposed with great skill. It is to be wished, however, that the sieves necessary to make the grain, were either moved by water or by horses. Eighty Mestizo boys, paid at the rate of ls. 1d. per day, are employed in this work. Sulphur, which abounds in the volcanoes of Orizaba and Puebla, in the province of San Luis near Colima, and especially in the intendancy of Guadalaxara, where the rivers bring down considerable masses of it, mixed with fragments of pumicestone, comes perfectly purified from the town of San Luis Potosi. There were made, in the royal powder manufactory of Santa Fe in 1801, more than 786,000 pounds, of which part is exported for the Havannah. It is to be regretted that this fine edifice, where in general more than half a million of pounds of powder are preserved, is not provided with an electrical conductor. During my stay in New Spain, there were only two conductors in that vast country, which were constructed at La Puebla, by the order of an enlightened administrator, the Count de la Cadena, notwithstanding the imprecations of the Indians, and a parcel of ignorant monks.
We shall conclude the article of the manufactures of New Spain with mentioning the working of gold and the coining of money, which, considered merely with relation to industry and mechanical