With respect to the quantity of precious metals received by Spain from her colonies, since the discovery of America, Raynal fixes it at 25,570,279,924 liv., or 4,870,529,509 piastres. This calculation, which would inspire more confidence if the sums were expressed in round numbers, is sufficiently accurate; and it proves that even in setting out from the falsest data, we may sometimes by fortunate computations, arrive at results very near the truth. Adam Smith, in his classical work on the causes of the wealth of nations * estimates the silver exported from the New Continent into Cadiz and Lisbon, at six millions sterling, or 26| millions of piastres per annum; but this estimate was too small by two fifths even in his time, in 1775. The English author followed the calculations of Meggens, according to whom during 1748 and 1753, Spain and Portugal received annually, at an average, in registered precious metals .£5,746,000 sterling, or 25,337,000 piastres. Reckoning four millions for the importation of gold from Brazil, we find according to Meggins, 21 millions of piastres for the Spanish Colonies alone, and consequently three millions more than Raynal allows for the year 1780. Mr. Gamier, the learned commentator on * Book I. Chap. I. I Chap, Il] KINGDOM OF NEW SPAIN. 409Smith *, 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 of Political Economy. Robertson in the History of America, values 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 f. When we compare these data with those of the work of Ustariz, we obnerve that the sums of the Spanish author are lower by one half. In the Recherches sur le Commerce, published at Amsterdam in 1778 J the amount of gold and silver exported from Spanish * T. V. p. 137. f History of America, Vol. iv. p. 62. America between 1674 and 1723, is estimated at 672 millions of piastres. Reckoning at the same 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 to 2H millions of piastres per annum, while that of Spain alone according to certain information was more than 30 millions f. On the other hand, M. Gerboux in his discussions on the effects of melting down the gold coinage (demonetization de Vor)l values the importation of gold and * Sur It commerce des graim, Liv. ii. chap. T. De I'administration des finances. T. iii. «hap. viii. p. 71. t Encycl. method. Economie polit. T. ii. p. 324. t Gerboux, p. 36, 66, 69, 70* silver into Europe in livres tournois as follows: From 1724 to 1766—4000 millions. 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 more than mere conjectures, we find that the mass of registered precious metals imported into Europe, is according to: from what has been followed 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 Pern, Buenos Ayres, and New Grenada; and I shall distinguish what has been registered from what has been smuggled. 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 the greatness 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. |