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the Fourth, gave the first shock to the royal authority. The subsequent invasion of the Peninsula by Napoleon, the captivity of the Spanish monarch, and the deposition of the old dynasty by the memorable decrees at Bayonne, effectually destroyed that illusive charm of omnipotence which the colonists had imagined to surround and consecrate the sceptre of their ancient kings. The spell was now broken by the victorious legions of France, and the sword of Buonaparte cut asunder that moral force which had hitherto secured to the court of Madrid the obedience of seventeen millions of transatlantic subjects.

Our readers are aware that after the occurrence of these events the government of Old Spain was vested in local juntas, which started up in every province and city. The juntas of Asturias and Seville, the two first established in the mother country, despatched commissioners to America, clothed with powers equivalent to the royal prerogative. Now, it is highly important to observe, that it was a fundamental principle of Spanish jurisprudence, with regard to her colonial possessions, to consider them as vested in the crown, and not in the state. When the commissioners presented themselves, and displayed their credentials, that established and universally recognised principle was instantly brought forward against their pretensions, the natives being resolutely determined not to admit the validity of any written instrument which did not bear the king's seal and signature. The Creoles further contended that these commissioners were merely provincial delegates from two districts, which, of themselves, composed only a fraction of the mother country, an additional argument, strong and just, against their interference. Thus the first brick was taken out of the old building, an ominous presage of its entire and speedy demolition.

The principle of non-intervention being thus insisted on, the native leaders deduced from it the following conclusions: “The king being in captivity, the allegiance of his subjects is suspended, and therefore, during the term of his imprisonment, the people have a right to frame some system of temporary government to prevent the horrors of anarchy. Let then the inhabitants of Old Spain establish local juntas, or a central junta, for the maintenance of order in the mother country, as they may deem most politic. With such internal arrangements the Creoles have no concern, but they protest against any extension of that assumed power to the colonies, for Spanish America never belonged to the state, but to the crown. The Creoles will adopt the same measures as the Spaniards, and establish juntas composed of natives, and rule their own country, as they think fit, until the restoration of the king to his throne, for to the king alone their allegiance is due." The commissioners refused to listen to these arguments, and both parties resolved to appeal to arms.

Such, in few words, was the proximate cause of the out-breaking of the revolution ; but the remote cause must be sought for in three centuries

of oppression. The materials of combustion were all collected; it required but a spark to kindle them into flames. It is the object of this article to give an outline of the colonial policy which Spain adopted towards America during the long period of her unresisted domination, and our readers will then judge for themselves whether the facts and statements adduced afford both an apology and a justification for the protracted and sanguinary war of independence.

With the exception of Brazil, Dutch and French Guiana, and the present British Colonies of Demerara and Esequibo, the Spanish possessions included the whole of South America, the Isthmus of Panama, and a portion of the Northern Continent, which extended to the confines of the United States. This vast territory was divided into four viceroyalties and five captain generalships. The former comprised Mexico, Peru, Rio de la Plata, otherwise designated Buenos Ayres, and New Grenada ; the latter, the Peninsula of Yucatan, Guatemala, Chile, Venezuela, and the Island of Cuba. The captains general, although holding situations of minor importance, were independent of the viceroys, as were the viceroys of each other. Indeed, in most cases, natural barriers precluded the possibility of interference.

These great officers of state were invested with almost kingly power, though there were three limitations to their authority, which, however, were rather nominal than real. The first of these checks on their complete irresponsibility was the council of the Indies, which was held at Madrid. This board was created in 1511, by Ferdinand the Second, and remodelled by Charles the Fifth, in 1524, for the exclusive superintendence of the affairs of the colonies. Over this supreme tribunal the king was supposed to preside in person. The second rein on the viceroys and captains general was expressed by the curious phrase "residencia." It involved accountability, the governors being subject, on their return home, to have their conduct legally investigated, during their residence abroad, at the sole will and pleasure of the king, but this appears to have been very seldom, if ever, enforced. The third restraint to which they were subjected, was the authority of the "audiencia," a local board composed entirely of Europeans, and of which the viceroy was honorary president. This court had controul over all the colonial tribunals, ecclesiastical as well as civil, where the value of the object in litigation was under ten thousand dollars; but if it exceeded that sum, an appeal lay to the council of the Indies. The viceroy and the members of the audiencia always understood each other, and their interests rarely came into collision. The local laws enacted by this tribunal, the precedents of cases they had decided, and the decrees transmitted from Madrid for enrolment, formed that system of jurisprudence called “Recopilacion de las Leyes de las Indias," or, General Collection of the Laws of the Indies. They were printed and bound together in four folio volumes, but the work was

so full of contradictions that the ablest lawyers were uncertain what laws were in force and what in disuse, what had been wholly repealed and what had been modified, what had a general, and what a local, application. This constituted one of the chief grievances of the Creoles, for the judges were always Spaniards, and strained every point against the natives in favour of their own countrymen.

The system of exclusiveness was carried out to the most pernicious extreme by the establishment of fueros, which were special privileges granted to corporate bodies and different professions. The fueros of the clergy embraced all dignitaries of the church, canons, inquisitors, monks, members of the sacerdotal colleges, and even their dependents. Persons employed in public affairs, merchants, the militia, the navy, the engineers, the artillery corps, and the army in general, all had their respective fueros. These fueros exempted the holders from being tried by the regular judicial authorities, and gave them the right, in all civil and criminal cases, of selecting for their judges the members of the special tribunal attached to their own profession or corporation. Thus, in all matters of law, an imperium in imperio existed, and as these fueros were rarely granted to any but Europeans, the natives had scarcely a chance of obtaining justice, and in no instance without encountering delay, vexation, and expense, for a Spaniard might hold a triple fuero, as a merchant, a militiaman, and a government civil officer, in which cases it was almost impossible for a Creole to bring his European opponent into court.

The local government of the interior districts, provincias internas, was entrusted to functionaries called "alcaldes," and "regidores," and they composed the ayuntamientos or municipalities. Originally these officers were elected by the respectable inhabitants, but as corruption increased, their situations were put up to auction, and disposed of to the best bidder. But the most extraordinary and iniquitous organization of these bodies was effected in 1794, by brigadier Calleja, afterwards Conde de Calderon. He decreed that, in every town and village, the captain of the militia should be perpetual alcalde; the first and second lieutenants, regidores ; and the first sergeant, procurador, or legal adviser to the corporation. By this absurd system, in the distant provinces, where the municipalities were the only tribunals for the decision of all petty disputes, a corporal, or even a private, in the absence of his superiors, was entrusted with the administration of justice. The sentence pronounced by these incompetent functionaries could only be reversed by an appeal to the governor of the province, or to the provincial audiencia, thus exposing the suitors to vexation and expense.

We have already remarked that, according to Spanish jurisprudence, the colonies were vested in the crown, not in the state. This principle was rigidly applied to the ecclesiastical establishments, nor did the court of Madrid ever allow the direct interference of the Roman pontiff in its

transatlantic possessions. Papal bulls could only be introduced into America through the permission of the council of the Indies, and this privilege was never conceded without a bargain being struck between the king and the pope. Indulgences and dispensations were purchased at Rome on account of the Spanish monarch, and these he sold to his American subjects at an enormous profit. The keenest vigilance was employed in the regulation of this discreditable traffic, and a native, convicted of smuggling any of these religious documents into the country, was deemed guilty of a crime, even more flagitious than treason.

The collection of the customs and the revenue generally employed a vast number of officers, called “intendentes,” each of whom presided over a district. Their power was considerable, and as they held their situations directly from the council of the Indies, they were almost independent of the viceroys. But though the viceroy was not supreme in the fiscal department he had many opportunities, by holding out bribes, of influencing the officers of the revenue, and thus doing indirectly what he could not do directly. As he was absolute master of the army, and filled up all vacancies by granting new commissions to whomsoever he pleased, that patronage alone secured to him the most ready and obsequious submission.

Such is an outline of the political system adopted by Spain towards America, and if we fairly consider the spirit of the age in which it was framed, we must allow that in theory it was far from defective. By the old laws the natives were eligible to every office, even to the viceroyalty, but they were practically excluded from any participation in public authority. Every situation in the gift of the crown, down to the lowest custom-house officer, was conferred on an European. It was the favourite policy of the court of Madrid to prevent the slightest identity of interests between the Spaniards and the Creoles, and, among other antisocial regulations, no member either of the central audiencia, or even of the provincial ones, was permitted to marry a native. The Spaniards assumed the exclusive airs of a privileged caste, and their habits, feelings, and sentiments, were all enlisted against the local interests of the colonists. Indeed it was a maxim with them, “that while a Manchego mule, or a Castilian cobler remained in the Peninsula, either the beast or the man had a right to govern America."

The public functionaries merely consulted their own private emolument, and regarded the natives simply as instruments by which they could accumulate wealth. The salary of the viceroys was fixed at sixty thousand dollars, and yet, living in a style of almost regal splendour, they usually returned to the mother country with fortunes exceeding a million of dollars. This plunder was realized by granting mercantile licenses to the great commercial houses of Vera Cruz and Mexico, for which enormous sums were paid; and as the merchants always derived immense


profits from these illegal monopolies, the real tạx was ultimately levied upon the native consumers. Such was the avidity with which the people of the Peninsula sought after colonial appointments, that, under the administration of the prince of peace, they were readily accepted, even without a salary, as a sure road to affluence. Nor was the system of extortion confined to the acts of individuals, for the principle itself was sanctioned by the fiscal laws of the government. The court of Madrid reserved to itself the right of supplying all the demands of the colonists, The cultivation of the vine and the olive, to which the climate of America is admirably suited, was absolutely prohibited, and the growth of what is called colonial produce (as cocoa, coffee, and indigo,) was only allowed to the extent that the mother country itself might require. No foreigner was permitted to trade with the natives, and no foreign vessel was permitted to enter their ports ; nay more; no American could be a ship

In Spain itself the trade was confined, for upwards of a century, to the single port of Seville, from which every vessel chartered for America was bound to sail, and to which it was compelled to return. The violation of this law was punishable with death.

Until the year 1700 the whole of the supplies destined for America were introduced through the ports of Porto Bello and Vera Cruz, from the first of which remittances were made through Panama, (on the opposite side of the Isthmus) to the whole line of coast on the Pacific, comprising Guyaquil, Quito, Chile, and Peru. During the war of Succession, the trade with Peru was opened to the French; and

many Americans are of opinion, that to this temporary enjoyment of the sweets of foreign intercourse the late revolution may be traced. At the peace of Utrecht, 1713, Great Britain, with the Asiento, (or contract for the supply of slaves), obtained a direct participation in the American trade, by virtue of the permission which was granted to her, to send a vessel of five hundred tons annually to the fair of Porto Bello. This privilege ceased with the partial hostilities of 1737, but Spain found herself compelled, on the restoration of peace, in 1739, to make some provision for meeting that additional demand which this comparatively free communication with Europe had created. Licenses were granted with this view to vessels, which were called register ships, and which were chartered during the intervals between the usual periods for the departure of the galleons. In 1764 a further improvement was made, by the establishment of monthly packets to the Havanna, Porto Rico, and Buenos Ayres, which were allowed to carry out half a cargo of goods. This was followed, in 1774, by the removal of the interdict upon the intercourse of the colonies with each other; and this again, in 1778, by what is termed the decree of free trade, by which seven of the principal ports of the Peninsula were allowed to carry on a direct intercourse with Buenos Ayres and the South Sea.

That these were ameliorations of the old system must be admitted.

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