After implementing comercio libre (free internal trade) in 1778, the Spanish crown endeavored to create multiple new consulados (chambers of commerce) to facilitate commercial exchange within Spain's Atlantic territories. However, while the crown established new metropolitan consulados in the mid-1780s, it approved colonial consulados only in the 1790s, after the death of the minister of the Indies, José de Gálvez, in 1787. Why did the crown initially hesitate to establish colonial consulados? I argue that unlike Gálvez, who was committed to an extractive system of imperialism, the post-1787 ministers were inspired by a distinct kind of soft imperialism, which held that the empire's survival depended on stimulating colonial economic growth while promoting reciprocal bonds among all Spanish subjects. In reconstructing this history, I show how the post-1787 ministers established a new regime of colonial economic improvement to bind the empire during a moment of impending crisis.

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