01_Ch20: Spain builds an American Empire
Again, the efﬁcient administration of a colonial empire ensured a proﬁtable mercantilist environment for the Mother country. Responsibilities covered territorial possessions on the North & South American continents as well as the Caribbean Sea. Among its duties were:
A. Assigning Viceroys to Spanish colonies to serve ﬁve-year terms as governors. The main ‘Viceroyalties’ were:
1. New Spain (Mexico, North America) 1535
2. Peru (Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia) 1542
3. New Granada (Colombia, Venezuela, Panama) 1739
4. Rio de la Plata (Argentina, Chile) 1776
B. Scheduling regular shipments of raw materials, specie, food staples, and other resources from the colonies to the Mother country (Spain) via the main port at Seville. Records created by this agency and preserved reveal the following:
Shipment of Specie (1500 – 1650)
Gold = 181 tons
Silver = 16,000 tons
Additional records indicate that output increased dramatically in the 1570's as mercury mines are found and exploited.
C. Instituting and enforcing royal directives in the Spanish colonies.
Bartolome de Las Casas (Dominican Friar/ Native American Advocate)
III. Coerced Labor & the Encomienda System
Once the territory of the Americas and its native population is overwhelmed by European numbers, technology, animals, and disease, the aim of making the venture proﬁtable led to the eventual servitude of millions. In the case of the native peoples, the Spanish Encomienda system was to be a humane method of tapping into the native labor force. The impact was often less than humane (by any standards) and had these characteristics: A. Native Americans
Plots of land/ estates were awarded to certain Spaniards as possessions with certain
stipulations. The landowner was obliged to physically and spiritually care for the native peoples entrusted to him in return for their labor. The spiritual care often involved converting the natives to Christianity and teaching them to read the scripture in the Spanish language.
Native peoples would be apportioned to these estates by a policy known as the Repartimiento.
The tasks involved included ranching (for cowhide, tallow), farming (for tobacco, and then sugar cane as cash crops), mining (for specie) and other activities that tapped local resources.
As exploitation reached such levels that Native American populations were being depleted, the Spanish government sent advocates like Bartolome de Las Casas (Dominican Friar/ Native American Advocate) to halt the abuse.
The disease and overwhelming burdens of labor introduced by the European decimated the native populations they came in contact with. Africa, as a source of labor, was explored as early as the 15th C. by Portuguese voyages sponsored by Prince Henry (the Navigator). The need for African labor in Europe at the time was limited at best by economic and climatic conditions. The American colonial effort, however, was different. In that environment, the right mix of labor shortage, climate, and economic incentive created an enormous desire for labor that could augment, and eventually supplant, native laborers. The previous exposure that Africans had to Europeans had also allowed them to acquire immunity to disease that native peoples did not have.
The Middle Passage of the Triangle Trade was responsible for transporting millions of slave laborers to the Americas. A signiﬁcant portion never reached the Western Hemisphere and are
The inﬂux of specie in vast amounts sends Europe’s economy into an inﬂationary spiral. Charles V’s massive war and 2imperial expenditures spreads specie wealth throughout Europe. This monarch is leading the effort against the spread of the Protestant ‘Heresy’.