The fortunes of trade were foremost in the thoughts of Spain’s enlightened despots, yet such efforts as were made to compile national trade statistics appear to have faltered in the late 1790s. This neglect deprived historians, as well as contemporaries, of a vital index of economic activity for the last three decades of the American empire.

The historians’ loss, however, can still be made good from port and regional records, widely scattered in Spanish archives. This article presents results of continuing research efforts in this direction. The Spanish consulates’ avería accounts provide a starting point.2 Reconstructed breakdowns from eight sets of these accounts have been combined with other Spanish figures into annual estimates of official exports and imports to and from the Indies at both constant and market prices. The resulting series have then been compared and supplemented with foreign and colonial records of transatlantic trade. Though both sources and procedures are admittedly subject to question, it will be argued that they convey at least a plausible picture of trade fluctuations during the period 1792-1820.

When brought to bear on a number of historical questions, the new trade figures do far more than outline overall trends. Regarded purely as information, they confirm the overwhelming impact of warfare and the spectacular collapse of Spain’s colonial trade during two successive naval wars with England. Adduced as explanation, they point to surprising resilience of the Spanish economy in the 1800s, while, in some respects, the colonies’ misfortunes were compounded—not eased—with the rise of neutral trade. The decisive turning point in the Indies’ trade did not come until the establishment of firm commercial relations between England and several colonial ports in 1808-9, while Spain succumbed to the French invader. In the 1810s, Spain’s balance of trade with the Indies appears to have deteriorated markedly, while private inflows of precious metals, boosted perhaps by massive repatriation of capital to the mother country, increased in the face of a virtual collapse in the purchasing power of Spanish exports. By themselves, the new figures confirm and enrich what little is known about Spanish colonial trade in this period. Combined with new data of public finance, they will open avenues of research on the fall of the Spanish empire in America.


The new trade series presented in this article are based in part on the proceeds from the derecho de avería, a duty collected at most Spanish ports on behalf of the merchant guilds, known as consulados de comercio. Most of these institutions were chartered in the mid-1780s in the image of the old Consulate of Cádiz to settle mercantile litigation and to promote economic growth in their respective regions.3 Each new consulate was funded with the proceeds from an ad valorem duty of 0.5 percent on all commodities traded at the ports in its territorial jurisdiction.4 The Consulate of Cádiz received similar funding in 1785 in replacement of the avería consular of 1 percent it had exacted since 1717.5 To ensure the full collection and orderly rendering of this revenue, all consulates were to assign permanent delegates at the customs office of each port, and their accounts were to be regularly examined by an ad hoc committee of the Junta General de Comercio y Moneda.6 For this latter purpose the consulates were instructed to submit annual statements to the Junta General with detailed breakdowns by exports and imports of food, raw materials, and manufactures to and from the Indies, foreign countries, and other Spanish ports.7 Collection of the avería persisted until at least the mid-1830s,8 with only brief interruptions at certain ports in the early 1820s.9

Unfortunately, the extant avería accounts are not as informative on the composition of Spanish trade as was officially intended. Not all consulates adopted the prescribed procedure in the preparation and submission of annual statements, and some of those that did discontinued the practice after the turn of the century, despite frequent complaints from the Junta General.10 The researcher’s difficulties are aggravated by wide dispersion of the sources in several Spanish archives and by the probable loss of some of the documents.11 Of eleven sets of port accounts examined, two, those of Barcelona and Valencia, are not strictly comparable with the others because the duties of periage (an ad valorem import duty) and avería levied at these harbors covered only imports.12 As is shown in Table I, few of the remaining nine sets of accounts yield useful breakdowns beyond total exports and imports to and from the Indies and foreign countries. Even if the data are arranged in a very favorable form, selecting only annual totals at eight ports in the years 1792 to 1820, as many as 22 out of 232 are either partially documented or missing.

Further problems are posed by the indecisiveness of official policy on the avería’s coverage of commodities. Many of the consulates’ charters stated that the duty was to be levied on every single good,13 but contrary legislation in the mid-1780s may have altered the procedures adopted at certain ports. On January 14, 1785, a royal order addressed to the customs officials in Seville exempted from the avería all goods not subject to derechos reales. This policy was confirmed four months later with reference to Málaga, Seville, and Cádiz, and in June it was incorporated into the charter of the new Consulate of Alicante.14 Before the end of the year, however, exceptions had to be made in favor of Alicante and Santander, for otherwise those consulates would not have had enough income. 15 Full coverage was extended to all consulates on January 20, 1786, by resolution of the Junta de Estado,16 and subsequent orders repeatedly applied the same policy to specific cases.17

It is not clear, however, how long and to what extent the 1786 resolution remained in force, for in 1803 and 1804 three general orders exempted coastal trade from the avería and restricted its coverage to goods subject to customs taxes.18 There is reason to doubt that such general orders were automatically enforced at all customs houses. The granting of full coverage to Alicante and Santander in 1785, as mentioned, and other such instances, reveal a readiness to yield to local requests whenever the financial survival of a consulate appeared to be at stake.19 Despite Bourbon reforms, Spanish regional institutions still enjoyed considerable autonomy from the central administration, and the consulates’ assertiveness must have increased as the Treasury’s dependence on their loans from the late 1790s onward20 weakened the rationale for curtailing their taxing powers. Moreover, in times of financial stress, the less affluent consulates may well have insisted at the customs upon full coverage for the avería, which was often their only source of income, and such demands were unlikely to meet with stem opposition from producers and merchants as the weight of the duty was far lighter than that of customs taxes.

That full coverage did prevail at several ports into the turn of the century and beyond is at any rate confirmed by the wording and structure of the avería accounts themselves. The 1797 account of the Consulate of Seville explicitly mentioned that the avería was charged on all goods, “national and foreign, subject or not to the payment of derechos reales”; the accounts of 1800 and 1804 likewise stated that the duty covered all commodities.21 Most of the avería statements of Sanlúcar de Barrameda list under separate headings receipts from nontaxable goods.22 The Consulate of La Coruña also left little room for doubt: until April 1803, the avería was said to have covered all commodities.23 Thereafter the consulate levied three separate duties, which together amounted to full coverage: 1 percent on goods subject to customs taxes, 0.5 percent on exempted commodities, and 0.25 percent on certain goods subject only to consular duties.24 The Consulate of Santander certainly retained full coverage at least until 1802, for its avería income up to that year was exactly 0.5 percent of the full values said to have been traded at the ports of its jurisdiction.25

In Barcelona and in Cádiz, on the other hand, coverage restrictions of minor duties started earlier and probably lasted longer than elsewhere. In Barcelona, where the avería was not levied, the Junta Particular de Comercio never charged the periage on all goods and progressively exempted foreign raw materials, Spanish-made goods, and grains.26 The Consulate of Cádiz, it will be contended in Section II, always exempted from the avería tax-free exports to the Indies. Part of the explanation lies in the Junta’s enlightened concern over Catalonia’s economic prosperity, part in the consulate’s ability to afford leniency so long as the trade of Cádiz remained relatively buoyant into the late 1810s. But the restraint of these institutions may also have reflected the leverage of potential resistance. The highly articulate traders and producers of Barcelona intelligently opposed indiscriminate local taxation, notably in the late 1810s.27 For their part, the merchants of Cádiz, who paid higher than average avería rates28 and were obliged to carry a fixed proportion of Spanish textiles—largely tax-free—on every vessel sailing for the Indies,29 might conceivably have objected to an additional burden on their less competitive merchandise.30

The methods of valuation of the avería are less difficult to ascertain. Before 1792, the duty was assessed at the ports according to local custom or to specific orders, either at market prices or at the official values listed in the Reglamento y aranceles of 1778.31 In 1791 the Junta de Estado resolved that only Reglamento values be used,32 but reigning confusion at the customs was not cleared in favor of official valuation until the following year.33 Unlike customs taxes, which began to be calculated on current values in 1795,34 the avería appears to have been assessed at official, constant prices through at least 1823.35 Some of these prices were subsequently revised, others were added to the official lists as new commodities appeared and were valued at the customs; but there is ample evidence that most remained unchanged until 1821.36 To a large extent, therefore, the avería series do not reflect the balance of trade, but only the changing volume of imports and exports, and in this sense they differ little from the official values of English commerce in the period 1697- 1869.37

Despite their many shortcomings, the avería figures can be processed into rough indicators of Spain’s official imports and exports at both constant and market prices in the years 1792-1820. This task is undertaken with reference to the series of colonial trade at Cádiz (Section II) and at eight other Spanish ports (Section III).


The legitimacy of using avería revenues as proxies for trade values stands or falls with the quality of the Cádiz series, which account for over two-thirds of total receipts at eight Spanish ports in the period 1792-1820. These series are the longest and among the most detailed, but the wording of the accounts suggests that the Consulate of Cádiz always exempted tax-free goods from the avería. In order to verify this point and to explain the derivation of trade figures for Cádiz, the following steps have been taken. First, comparison with a parallel series from an independent source will show that most avería values of exports to the Indies—multiplied by 200 to account for the duty’s rate of 0.5 percent— fall short of the reference values. Second, analysis based on estimated ratios of total to taxable goods will confirm that the avería export figures do appear to represent taxable goods alone. Third, it will be shown that the sources presented so far yield five separate series of annual exports from Cádiz. And fourth, it will be argued that the avería values of imports from the Indies probably reflect full coverage of commodities.

The only known sources close enough to the avería to serve as a basis for comparison38 are the hojas registros, or cargo inventories, made up at Spanish ports for each vessel sailing for the Indies. Unlike the avería accounts, the cargo inventories of the three decades under study yield neither values of imports from the Indies nor data on Spanish foreign trade, but they can be processed into detailed annual figures of exports to the Indies by quantity and value.39 Series of exports of Spanish and foreign goods, at both market and constant prices of 1778, have recently been compiled by Antonio García-Baquero González from the Cádiz inventories of the years 1792-94, 1796-1811, and 1815-21.40 Such figures are presumably true official export values, though it must be borne in mind that some of the original documents may not be extant.41

Comparison of the Cádiz avería export values with those in the cargo inventories (at constant prices) shows that the former fall short of the latter in all years but 1797. A plausible interpretation of these differences is that the cargo inventories include tax-exempt exports not covered by the avería, while those of 1797 are incomplete. On this hypothesis, the avería and the cargo inventories would represent, respectively, taxable and total exports. The credibility of both sources would be strengthened if the avería (A) could be shown to relate to the cargo inventories (C) in a similar way as taxable exports (t) do to total exports (t + e, where e = tax-exempt goods):

ACtt+ e

Alternatively, the avería times the ratio of total to taxable exports in each year should not differ significantly from the corresponding cargo inventory value:


This test requires that annual ratios of total to taxable exports be derived from an independent source, regardless of the monetary unit.

To this end, annual figures of total and taxable imports from Spain have been estimated from the Balanzas de comercio of Veracruz, which contain complete lists of commodities by volume and value (in pesos) for the years 1806-12 and 1816-20.42 Efforts have been made to include every single good imported from Spain, whether Spanish or foreign, in Spanish or in neutral vessels, directly from Spain or indirectly through other colonial ports.43 The estimates of taxable imports derive from Spanish texts of general commercial legislation, supplemented from a stock of more than 500 orders and decrees enacted in the period 1778-1820.44 The subseries of Spanish brandy and paper, whose values are relatively large and incorporate extreme price fluctuations, have been deflated to make the annual totals as comparable as possible to their Spanish counterparts at constant prices.45 Finally, ratios of total to taxable imports from Spain have been calculated for each year.

It must be conceded at once that Veracruz’s total and taxable imports from Spain are at best rough indicators of Cádiz’s total and taxable exports to the Indies. The former would be likely to approximate the latter only if Cádiz’s exports and Veracruz’s imports were both representative samples of Spanish exports and colonial imports. The first proposition is supported by Cádiz’s overwhelming share of Spanish exports46 and by the presence in its cargo inventories of goods from all Spanish regions, including Catalonia and the Basque provinces.47 The representativeness of Veracruz’s imports in the colonial totals is less clear, for this port took only 23.8 percent of the value of Spanish exports in 179248 and may not have increased its share well beyond the 50 percent mark until the 1810s,49 when a growing number of other colonial harbors were permanently opened to foreign ships; fortunately, most of the figures being compared pertain to the later years. A further source of error is the length of time taken for an Atlantic crossing. This seems to have averaged about eighty-five days,50 so that cargoes leaving Cádiz from October through December were probably recorded at Veracruz as imports of the following year. The existence of these lags prevents simultaneous comparison of the colonial Balances with the Spanish cargo inventories—but not with the avería, whose monthly breakdowns permit conversion to October-September years.

With these qualifications, the procedure outlined above is presented in Table II. In the left panel, corrected avería exports51 (columns 1 and 2) are shown to fall short of cargo inventory exports (column 3) by a total of 31.4 percent (column 4). In the right panel (columns 8 and 9), avería figures for January-September and October-December in year n (columns 1 and 2), compounded with estimated ratios of total to taxable exports in the years n and n + 1 respectively52 (Veracruz panel: column 7), are found to differ from the cargo inventory data by a net total of only 6 percent. Alternatively, compounding of the avería figures causes the coefficient of correlation with the cargo inventory series to increase significantly from + 0.934 (columns [1 + 2] and 3) to + 0.987 (columns 8 and 3).53 Annual discrepancies remain, but most are smaller than 10 percent and the others probably reflect exogenous influences of neutral trade upon the Veracruz values of total and taxable imports from Spain.54 The overall fit is surprisingly close in view of the lack of exact correspondence between the colonial and the Spanish sources, discussed above. Though, admittedly, the sample is small and the use of Veracruz ratios is subject to question, it seems reasonable to conclude that differences between avería and cargo inventory data are largely explained by the absence of tax-free exports in the avería accounts of Cádiz.

The sources discussed so far yield five separate series of annual exports from Cádiz. The proceeds from the avería (×200) have been adopted as proxies for exports of taxable goods at constant prices; they have also been used to estimate missing and questionable cargo inventory data.55 The resulting series of cargo inventory values have been adopted as total exports (taxable plus tax-free goods) of Spanish and foreign commodities at constant and market prices. These data will be presented in Section III, together with comparable export figures for eight other Spanish ports.

It remains to be discussed whether avería proceeds can be used as proxies for Cádiz’s total imports from the Indies—a point of much consequence because the cargo inventories do not yield import values, only weights and quantities. Presumably, the Consulate of Cádiz would have exempted tax-free imports as it did tax-free exports. Such a policy, however, would have conflicted with a royal order of May 9, 1786, which prescribed that consular duties be charged on all imports from the Indies except textile fibers and construction timber.56 That the consulate probably complied with this order is suggested by the large values of its avería proceeds from imports when compared with estimates of the taxable component. Import weights and quantities for eighteen years, compiled by García-Baquero González from the cargo inventories of Cádiz,57 have been valued at the import prices listed in the Reglamento of 1778, and totals of taxable goods obtained with the aid of the tariff legislation embodied in the same document.58 Had the consulate exempted all tax-free imports, its avería receipts (×200) would equal the estimated totals of taxable goods; in fact, the former exceed the latter by wide margins in all years. The avería’s relatively large values might reflect market-price valuation or missing cargo inventories. The first possibility is unlikely because large differences remain even if the cargo inventory figures are valued at twice the official prices. The second is unverifiable so long as the actual number of original inventories is unknown. As to the consulate’s treatment of textile fibers and timber, exemption of these goods would have made little difference because their import values are insignificant compared to those of sugar, textile dyes, and other tax-free imports. For these reasons, the avería figures of imports from the Indies will be presented intact on the plausible assumption that they represent virtually full coverage of commodities.


Estimates of total colonial trade at seven other Spanish ports can be derived from the consular accounts of Alicante, La Coruña, Málaga, Sanlúcar de Barrameda, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Santander, and Seville. To this end, full avería series of exports and imports in the period 1792- 1820 were reconstructed from the extant breakdowns, and estimates were replaced wherever possible with more reliable figures from regional and national records.59 In keeping with the analysis presented in Section I, it was assumed that all seven consulates enforced full coverage of exports up to 1804, while only those of La Coruña, Sanlúcar, and Seville continued to do so in later years. Accordingly, the avería export figures of 1805-20 for the other four ports were multiplied by annual rates of conversion from taxable to total exports.60 The import figures were left intact on the assumption that all consulates followed the lead of Cádiz in complying with the general order of May 9, 1786. Totals of exports and imports for the seven ports are presented in Table III together with those of Cádiz.

Estimates of taxable exports for the same ports were also derived from the consular data. The four export subseries of Alicante, Málaga, Santa Cruz, and Santander (1805-20), which probably represent taxable goods alone, were left intact. All other export figures were divided by the rates of conversion from Cádiz data, already mentioned, to discount tax-free goods. The totals of taxable exports for the seven ports were added to the avería export figures of Cádiz.

Of the remaining trade with the Indies carried by Spanish ports, only that of Barcelona appears to have been significant. Bilbao was not empowered to trade with the Indies in this period and relied on the middleman services of Santander and Cádiz. Valencia was not granted that right until late in 1791,61 and its contribution is not mentioned in the Spanish Balance of 1792; this port’s relative importance in later years has not been ascertained because, as has been noted in Section I, the avería figures of its Junta de Comercio cover only imports from foreign countries.62 Four other minor ports listed in the Balance of 1792 carried a mere 0.7 percent of total colonial trade in that year; judging from the avería receipts of the new Consulate of Mallorca (founded on August 7, 1800), Palma was never an important port except in 1810-13, during the French occupation of Catalonia. The more substantial trade of Barcelona, which accounted in 1792 for 13.5 and 4.2 percent of total exports and imports respectively, must be included in the present figures if they are to convey as comprehensive as possible a picture of national trends and cycles.

Unfortunately, extant figures for Barcelona’s colonial trade are few and seldom directly comparable with one another. Export values for this harbor have been taken from cargo inventory data compiled by García- Baquero González (1792-97),63 from the avería accounts of Mallorca (1810-13),64 and from customs returns from a number of Catalan ports (1803-7, 1815-19);65 the figures from the third source, which are probably market values, were deflated with rates of current-price over constant-price export data from the cargo inventories of Cádiz.66 The remaining export figures were estimated on the assumption that trends in Barcelona’s exports in the missing years did not differ significantly from those at eight major Spanish ports taken as a whole. The annual totals were then divided—as were those of seven Spanish ports—by rates of conversion from Cádiz data to obtain estimates of taxable exports.

Estimation of import figures for Barcelona was also elaborate. Scattered import data were taken from the Spanish Balance of 1792 and from several customs returns (1793, 1795, and 1804-6);67 the last three figures were converted to 1778 prices.68 Import figures for 1810-13 were taken, as those of exports, from the avería accounts of Mallorca. In the absence of satisfactory data for the remaining nineteen years, recourse was made to the extant proceeds from the duty of periage (1792-1808, 1814-20),69 already mentioned, which in all likelihood represent imports of taxable goods at constant prices from both the Indies and foreign countries. To obtain estimates of total imports from the Indies alone, annual periage proceeds converted to a constant rate of 100 percent70 were divided by the average proportions by which they exceed the known figures of 1805 (naval war years: 1796-1801 and 1807) and of 1792, 1793, and 1795 (all other missing years). Resulting errors in the series of national imports may well be small so long as the average share of Barcelona’s imports in the totals does not appear to be much larger than 10 percent. The figures of total exports and imports at Barcelona are presented separately in Table III. Those of taxable exports were added to the corresponding data for Cádiz and seven other Spanish ports.

Table IV summarizes data of taxable exports for Cádiz, seven other Spanish ports, and Barcelona (column 3), the derivation of which has already been discussed; column 4 (total tax-free exports) was obtained by subtraction from the export totals. In addition, breakdowns of total exports of Spanish and foreign goods are presented in columns 1 and 2. The Cádiz components of these series are actual cargo inventory data and avería estimates for eight undocumented years. Other breakdowns are either actual data or estimates from the known shares of Spanish and foreign goods at each port.71 Since all foreign goods were taxable, an additional series of Spanish taxable exports (column 5) was obtained by subtracting total foreign goods from total taxable goods (column 3 minus column 2).

The series discussed so far, all of which represent constant prices of 1778, can be fruitfully supplemented with comparable data of exports and imports at market values. Two export series of this kind (Spanish and foreign goods) are furnished by the cargo inventories of Cádiz.72 Parallel figures for seven other Spanish ports and Barcelona were estimated as constant-price exports times current-price over constant-price exports of Spanish and foreign goods at Cádiz.73 The resulting series of exports at market prices were added to their Cádiz counterparts.

Estimation of comparable import figures at market prices rests on weaker evidence. For lack of actual import valuations at Spanish ports, recourse was made to a weighted price index of cochineal, cocoa, hides, indigo, and sugar—five commodities that together, judging from the cargo inventories of Cádiz, may have accounted on the average for 90 percent of Spain’s total import values.74 Unit values calculated from volume and value data of cochineal exports to Spain in the Balances of Veracruz (1796-1820) were extended backwards and converted to a base of 1778 = 100 with a parallel series of cochineal prices at Oaxaca.75 The remaining four components of the index are based on “actual” wholesale prices at the Exchange of Amsterdam (1778-1800s), and on wholesale prices in Philadelphia (from 1796 onwards when possible), all converted to a common base of 1778 = 100 and reduced by 20 percent to discount markups from colonial ports to the wholesale level at the cities of destination.76 Each annual price was then compounded with an estimated share of the respective commodity in Spanish imports in each year,77 and the resulting weighted index was multiplied by the constant-price import values of nine major Spanish ports to obtain market-price data.

Selected series of market values, three of which are presented in Table V (columns 1, 2, and 5), yield rough estimates of Spain’s balance of merchandise trade with the Indies (columns 3 and 4). Subtraction of the total balances (column 3) from avería-based data of private remittances from the Indies (column 8)78 furnishes estimates of net money flows (column 9). In addition, indexes of Spain’s net barter and income terms of trade were obtained, respectively, from ratios of export prices over import prices (column 6) times total exports at constant prices of 1778 (column 7).


The picture of Spanish colonial trade conveyed by Tables III, IV, and V may well appear more accurate than it truly is; yet both the sources and the estimation procedures, however fragile, rest on firm foundations. The Cádiz series, which are the longest and the most detailed, gain credence from the close fit demonstrated in Section II between cargo inventory and compounded avería values. The overwhelming presence of the trade of Cádiz, which probably accounted for over two-thirds of the total value, in turn supports the use of Cádiz-based ratios to fill gaps in eight other export series of Spanish, foreign, and taxable goods at both constant and market prices. Conversely, the relative paucity of colonial trade outside Cádiz reduces the risks of distortion arising from extensive interpolation, the absence of data for lesser ports, and the uncertain estimation of import figures for Barcelona from periage proceeds. More questionable is the use of foreign prices to derive market values of imports—whose likely bias weakens the balance of trade estimates presented in Table V. Scholars may wish to construct more accurate series as new evidence becomes available; to facilitate their task, both sources and procedures have been described in detail.

The new series testify to the overwhelming impact of contemporary warfare on the course of Spanish colonial trade. An index of total exports plus imports at constant prices, displayed in the uppermost panel of Chart 1, registers five pronounced cycles defined by the peaks of 1792, 1796, 1802, 1809, 1815, and 1820. The first two decades saw three sharp declines during the wars with France (1793-95) and with England (1797- 1801, 1804-8), punctuated by short-lived recoveries during the interludes of peace. After 1809 fluctuations became less intense as the total volume appears to have settled on a mild upward trend; but the two cycles of the last decade reflect the impact of the Spanish War of Independence (1808-14) and the ebb and flow of colonial secession and revolt. The overall picture is one of severe contraction in both exports and imports to less than a third of the 1792 level.

More detailed breakdowns of the trade figures confirm that the two wars with England had the most spectacular effects. To be sure, Spain had already suffered heavy losses at the height of war with revolutionary France in 1793-94. At that time cessation of commercial relations with the northern neighbor, which had supplied in 1792 about 25 percent of Spain’s official imports from foreign countries,79 had helped bring about falls of perhaps 60 and 70 percent in total exports and reexports to the Indies respectively.80 But colonial imports into Cádiz had declined only moderately,81 and private remittances from the Indies, boosted perhaps by rising prices and inelastic demand for imported goods in colonial markets, had actually increased in 1794.82 The significance of the naval wars lies in the depth and pervasiveness of the resulting setbacks. On both occasions the British navy brought imports as well as exports to a virtual standstill, and as the movement of goods dried up so did the inflows of precious metals that nourished domestic production and paid for foreign supplies. The same forces that governed the course of colonial trade also affected its direction and composition. The share of Cádiz sharply declined in 1797-1801 and again in 1805-8 as lesser Spanish ports cushioned part of their losses at its expense, particularly on the import side.83 The proportion of reexports also fell84 as foreign goods, first by general permission and later under special licenses and contracts, began to bypass the peninsula under neutral flags.

In the midst of crisis, however, the Spanish economy displayed surprising resilience. The recovery of exports in 1802 shows the strain of prolonged stagnation, particularly on the domestic side; but the total gains of this and the following year far exceeded those of 1795-96, and by 1804 Catalan exports widely surpassed the 1792 value.85 Nor do the wars appear to have crushed Spain’s long-term prospects as trading partner and middleman with its New World colonies. There are indications that the Catalan cotton industry, which had suffered widespread closures and output reductions during the first war with England,86 could lean on domestic markets in times of crisis and was substantially modernized from 1802 to 1807.87 The impressive performance of exports at La Coruña , Santander, and, perhaps, Málaga as well in 1802,88 confirms that less complex processing of agricultural produce could also survive shortterm losses. And general bankruptcy among merchants and insurers at the turn of the century89 did not prevent Cádiz from recapturing a major share of the Indies’ trade from Spanish and, as will be noted, perhaps foreign competitors as well: export data from British and United States records, which presumably include smuggling as well as legal trade, suggest that Spain effectively curbed direct foreign competition in colonial markets during the years of peace.90 It seems warranted to speculate that, had Spain not been struck by the double disaster of French invasion and colonial revolt, the erosion of its commercial monopoly might have been more gradual and less complete than in fact proved the case.

The Spanish American colonies were no less vulnerable than Spain to prolonged interruption of transatlantic communications, for by the 1790s key sectors of the empire had been drawn into the world economy.91 While certain colonial interests stood to benefit from the mother country’s weakness, on the whole the events of this period did not significantly alter established patterns of colonial dependence. It is true that, as is well known, the onset of war fostered growth in certain branches of colonial manufacture, notably in those textile obrajes where Spanish competition had failed to eradicate long-established traditions of expertise. But such stimulus as textile production was afforded could easily vanish as imports through Spain were replaced with directly competitive cargoes from Europe: in 1807, for example, textile imports in neutral ships alone into Veracruz were valued at 9.2 million pesos against a total of 9.5 million from Spain in 1804.92 It is also true that other colonial producers and merchants could turn to foreign nations; but there are indications that the value of neutral trade could fall far below that of peacetime exchange between Spain and the Indies. Data of both neutral and Spanish trade at La Guaira and Montevideo, presented in Tables VI and VII, point to a mixed to poor record in export volumes in 1798-99 and 1805-6—and to far lower import values in the first two years than those of 1795-96.93 The more representative figures of Cuba and Veracruz widely confirm these findings94 and further suggest that, while the colonies normally had an unfavorable balance of trade with Spain in this period,95 their commerce in foreign and colonial goods with other nations was likely to run into even heavier deficits.96 How profitable this trade could be for the foreigner is indicated by the fact that, in 1807, money outflows directly to other nations actually exceeded the average drainage to Spain in the peace years 1802-4.97

The decisive turning point in the Indies’ trade was the establishment of firm commercial relations between England and several colonial ports in 1808-9, while Spain succumbed to the French invader. British trade with Spanish America, to be sure, had by this time a long history;98 but its value does not appear to have grown significantly until 1796, and its subsequent fortunes had remained contingent upon the ebb and flow of European warfare. Rough indexes of foreign trade with Spain and its colonies,99 displayed in Chart 3 with parallel Spanish figures, show that British official exports to the “foreign West Indies and South America” rose unsteadily in 1796-99, sharply declined and stagnated in 1800-1805, and resumed growth in 1806. Significantly, this series moves inversely with those of exports to Spain and Spain’s reexports to the Indies in the same period (see upper panel of Chart 3). These negative correlations100 suggest that, while British goods by-passed the peninsula during both naval wars, they tended to be channeled through Cádiz in the years of peace. The largest export gains wrested from Spain before 1808 may have accrued to United States shipping.101 Return cargoes of colonial goods also changed course toward Spanish ports in 1802-4—in part perhaps to the benefit of French merchants and consumers (see middle and lower panels of Chart 3).102 On the whole, therefore, it appears that England’s flirtation with Spanish America in this period was widely shared. By contrast, its exports soared to unprecedented heights in 1808-9 and settled on a lofty plateau through much of the following decade, while those of the United States declined and stagnated until the early 1820s (see, again, the upper panel of Chart 3).

The events of 1808-9, which on the positive side brought resumption of transatlantic communications, also fostered growth in Spanish colonial trade; but the immediate gains were far smaller and even shorter lived than those of 1802-4, and the subsequent trend remained well below the modest levels of 1809-10. The main reasons for this seemingly permanent contraction are obvious enough, but their relative importance is not. There can be little doubt that the Spanish War of Independence (1808-14) crippled such limited ability to meet the Indies’ needs as Spain might have regained after 1808. One partial consequence of this catastrophe was the poor performance of domestic exports—and, perhaps, their relatively low share in 1813-16.103 But the new evidence also reflects the obvious fact that Spain had to compete in relatively open and shrinking markets. The growing susceptibility of domestic exports to market forces is suggested by the rising share of the tax-free component in the last six years104—while the rest was being burdened with a host of new taxes and duties in a period of price deflation.105 To this strain was added that of mounting growth in British exports to Spanish America after 1808, the overwhelming size of which106 helps to account for ample evidence of smuggling from the seceded colonies to Spain’s remaining strongholds.107 In view of these pressures, it would not be surprising to confirm a probable convergence of Spanish exports on Veracruz,108 where geographical and other circumstances made for more effective control than was possible elsewhere.109 Part of this shift, to be sure, was a response to political intransigence as well as to price differentials; but even at Veracruz foreign goods often did far better than Spanish products.110

Meanwhile, Spain’s balance of merchandise trade with the shrinking empire appears to have deteriorated markedly. On this point, as on others, the evidence is not conclusive,111 but the new estimates of exports and imports at market prices point unmistakably to an almost complete reversal from the first to the last dozen years.112 The explanation lies in part in a more than proportional decline in export volumes,113 and in part in increasingly adverse terms of trade as import prices tended to rise more rapidly and to fall more slowly than the unit values of exports.114 Breakdowns displayed in Chart 4 (upper middle panel) suggest that the market value of reexports no longer sufficed after 1808 to finance permanent Spanish deficits in the balance of Spanish and colonial goods (see also lower middle panel, dotted line). The combined effects of falling export volumes and terms of trade would have led to a virtual collapse in the purchasing power of Spanish exports as measured by the income terms of trade.115

In the twilight of empire, however, Spain’s private interests continued to draw large sums of precious metals from the Indies. The extent of this drainage may be roughly conveyed by the sizeable surpluses of private remittances to Spain116 over the balance of merchandise trade (exports minus imports at market prices). The exact nature of these surpluses—labeled “net money flows” in Table V and displayed as vertical gaps in Chart 4 (lower middle panel)—is hard to ascertain given the present state of research; but the magnitudes involved suggest a gradual change in their composition. Those of the years preceding the Independence movements would mainly reflect, in addition to Spanish profits from freight and insurance, wide price differentials imposed by Spanish merchants in colonial markets: significantly, they are unusually large in years following peninsular warfare and prolonged interruption of transatlantic commerce—during which Spanish importables had become scarce in the Indies and colonial exportables abundant. In this sense, much of the “net money inflows” of this period would represent the profits of such commercial monopoly as Spain was still able to command. Those of the last dozen years, the average value of which was much larger in the face of widespread smuggling and gradual shrinkage of the empire, probably incorporate substantial repatriation of capital to the mother country.117 Research now in progress into the foreign side of Spanish trade118 will ascertain the extent to which total inflows of bullion found their way to Europe in payment for manufactures—and, perhaps, will help explore the possible contribution of the collapse of the Spanish empire to the onset of the great deflationary trend of European prices in the nineteenth century.119

The foregoing sketch has identified a number of areas where quantitative analysis can add precision to old notions, help formulate new questions, and point to novel answers. But these avenues of research by no means exhaust the possibilities of the present figures. It has long been a commonplace in historical writing that Spanish colonial policy was shortsighted and inflexible; yet the specific connections between commercial measures and trade fluctuations have so far escaped systematic analysis. Information now available on both Spanish legislation and government revenue already permits a year-to-year assessment of the expedients with which central administrations sought to relieve mounting financial difficulties from the early 1790s to the mid-1820s. When combined with detailed data of revenue from customs taxes and duties,120 the new trade figures will yield average rates of taxation on commerce comparable to those calculated by Albert H. Imlah for England during the same period.121 Research along these lines will hardly assign to Spanish fiscal policy more than a modest role compared to that of warfare and relative economic backwardness. It may well point to the conclusion that Spanish governments contributed to the decline of trade and failed to minimize the resulting damage to the Spanish and Spanish American economies.

Legislative Sources

All items of legislation not documented in the footnotes have been compiled from the following sources: AHN, Hacienda, Colección de órdenes de rentas, vols. 15-14; Colección de los decretos y órdenes generales expedidos por las Cortes (Madrid: Imprenta Nacional, 1810-14, 1820-23); and Joseph Señan y Velázquez, ed., Guía o estado general de la Real Hacienda de España (Madrid: Imprenta de Vega y Compañía, 1801-8, 1815-20, 1823-27).

General texts of Spanish commercial legislation in this period include: Juan García Barzanallana, ed., Arancel de derechos que pagan los géneros, frutos y efectos estranjeros a su entrada en el reino; los que satisfacen éstos y los nacionales a su estracción a otras potencias y a nuestras Américas (Madrid: Imprenta de D. Fernando de la Parte, 1816); Arancel general de los frutos, géneros y efectos prohibidos estraer del reino, de los que en su estracción son libres de todos los derechos; de los que se permite sacar con pago de ellos y de los que tienen premios señalados para su salida del reyno en bandera española (Madrid: Imprenta Real, 1802); Aranceles reales recopilados en uno, para el más pronto y uniforme despacho en las aduanas (Madrid: Joachín Ibarra, 1782); Reglamento y aranceles reales para el comercio libre de España a Indias de 12 de octubre de 1778 (Madrid: Imprenta de Pedro Marín, 1778); and Sistema general de las aduanas de la monarquía española en ambos hemisferios (Madrid: Imprenta Especial de las Cortes, 1820).

Avería Accounts—Sources and Notes

Sources. AGI, Consulados, legs. 584-604, 606-611, 625, 631; AGI, Indiferente, legs. 2350, 2351-A, 2351-B, 2373, 2380, 2381-A, 2389, 2390, 3115-B; AGS, CSH, legs. 210, 211, 215-222, 224-231, 233-244, 300, libros 165-173; AGS, Secretaría de Hacienda, leg. 886; AHPS, Beai Consulado, legs. 145, 207, 208, 210, 217, 219; and BRCC, Libros de Actas, 1792-97.

Notes onTable I. With the exceptions mentioned below, all figures in Table I represent actual total proceeds from the 0.5 percent ad valorem duty of avería or consulado on commodities and gold and silver, as granted to the respective consulate in its royal charter and collected on its behalf in the main port of its territorial jurisdiction.

The figures for Cádiz were taken from the accounts of the consulado antiguo (originally called consulado moderno), established by the Royal Order of July 5, 1785. The figures for Sanificar were reported up to 1804 in the accounts of the Consulate of Seville. The figures for Alicante correspond to December-November years.

The figures for Málaga and Santander include avería proceeds at the aduanas agregadas of the respective consulates; these receipts seldom exceeded 10 percent of the totals.

The figures for Alicante, La Coruña, Málaga, Sanlúcar, and Seville were converted into a constant 0.5 percent to account for rate changes and for extra receipts that appear consolidated with the totals. Figures given in maravedís (Alicante, Sanlúcar, and Seville) and in libras mallorquínas (Palma de Mallorca) were converted into reales de vellón at the rates 34/1 and 1/13.287197 respectively (the latter rate is implicit in the avería accounts themselves and is matched by that given in Pascual Madoz, Diccionario geográfico-estadístico-histórico de España y sus posesiones de Ultramar, 16 vols. [Madrid, 1845-50], XI, 125). The monthly figures of Santa Cruz de Tenerife (September-August accounts) were converted to January-December years.

Notes onTables III, IV, and V. Before the avería receipts could be processed in the manner explained in the text, complete series of exports and imports to and from the Indies and foreign countries had to be reconstructed from the original records. All extant figures were first multiplied by 200 to convert receipts at 0.5 percent into full trade values. Missing breakdowns for each port were then estimated from the average shares in the grand totals (net of coastal trade where applicable) of the same breakdowns in the closest periods for which actual data are available.

Breakdowns for Sanlúcar in 1806-19 were estimated by adding the known proceeds from tax-free commodities in four equal parts to the known proceeds (1806-17; estimates for 1818 and 1819) from taxable exports and imports to and from the Indies and foreign countries.

Breakdowns of private remittances of gold and silver from the Indies (totals in Table V, column 8) were derived in the same manner from the avería accounts of Alicante, Cádiz, La Coruña, Málaga, and Santander. At the remaining three ports no distinction was made between commodity and money imports; however, money remittances to these ports accounted for slightly over 1 percent of the Spanish total in 1792 (Balanza . . . España . . . en América . . . 1792). The derivation of data of remittances for Barcelona is explained in n.78.

Foreign Trade Figures (in Chart 3)—Sources and Procedures

The figures for British trade with the “Foreign West Indies and South America” and Spain were taken, respectively, from B. R. Mitchell and P. Deane, Abstract of British Historical Statistics (Cambridge, 1971), p. 311; and Joaquín Nadal Farreras, “Notas sobre la balanza comercial hispano-británica, 1697-1914,” Información Comercial Española, 511 (Mar. 1976), 100-101.

The figures for United States exports to Spanish America and Spain were compiled and calculated from U.S. Congress, American State Papers, Class 4, Commerce and Navigation, 2 vols. (Washington, 1832, 1834). The resulting series were deflated with two weighted indexes— one for Spanish America and the other for Spain—calculated from monthly price data in Anne Bezanson, R. D. Gray, and M. Hussey, Wholesale Prices in Philadelphia, 1784-1861, 2 vols. (Philadelphia, 1936), I, 352-353; II, 45, 80. For analysis of these sources and details on geographical areas, commodity prices, and weights, see Javier Cuenca Esteban, “The Trade and Commercial Policy of Spain, 1765-1826” (Ph.D. Diss., University of Toronto, 1978), pp. 46-51, 216-217.

The figures for French trade with Spain and its colonies were taken from Alexandre Chabert, Essai sur les mouvements des prix et des revenus en France de 1798 à 1820, 2 vols, in 1 (Paris, 1945-49), II, 324, 326. These series were deflated with two weighted indexes—one for exports to Spain and its colonies and the other for imports from Spain— calculated from price data in Chabert, I, 167, 211, 234. For analysis of these sources and details on commodity prices and weights, see Cuenca Esteban, “The Trade and Commercial Policy of Spain, 1765-1826,” pp. 53, 218.

All foreign figures were converted into reales de vellón (rs. vn.) at the rates £1 = 100 rs. vn.; $1 = 20 rs. vn.; and 1 franc = 4 rs. vn.

The reader is reminded that, owing to inaccurate valuation of the British official figures and to the use of fixed rates of exchange, Chart 3 must be interpreted with extreme care: see n.99.


The author discovered the existence of nearly complete sets of avería accounts in Spanish archives during a countrywide search for trade figures in the summer of 1975. The search was partly supported by generous financial assistance from the University of Toronto and the Council for European Studies. Three years later, it was brought to his attention that consular sales taxes had been mentioned among possible indicators of commercial activity in Spanish American ports by John J. TePaske, “Quantification in Latin American Colonial History” in Val R. Lorwin and J. M. Price, eds., The Dimensions of the Past: Materials, Problems, and Opportunities for Quantitative Work in History (New Haven, 1972), pp. 437-438.


William J. Callahan, “A Note on the Real y General Junta de Comercio, 1679-1814,” Economic History Review, 2d ser., 21 (1968), 524. In Barcelona and in Valencia, where juntas particulares de comercio were also established as part of the structure of the merchant consulates, the juntas were in charge of economic affairs including the administration of customs duties, while the consulates dealt with strictly judicial matters (Jaime Carrera Pujal, La Lonja del Mar y los cuerpos de comercio de Barcelona [Barcelona, 1953], p. 191).


The terms of the duty were often specified in the consulates’ royal charters. See, for example, the charters of the Consulates of Canarias (R. Ced. Dec. 22, 1786), Málaga (R. Ced. Jan. 18, 1785), Santander (AHPS, Real Consulado, leg. 1, no. 1, R. Ced. Nov. 25, 1785), and Seville (AGS, Secretaría de Hacienda, leg. 901, R. Ced. Nov. 24, 1784). This avería should not be confused with the duties levied at Seville since the mid-sixteenth century and at Bilbao and Cádiz in the eighteenth century.


Antonia Heredia Herrera, “Guía de los fondos del Consulado de Cargadores a Indias,” Archivo Hispalense, núm. 183 (1977), 98. This avería moderna was referred to in later accounts as avería antigua to distinguish it from a new avería created by the R.O. of May 17, 1797.


R.O. Aug. 24, 1785; R.O. Sept. 10, 1791; and R.D. Apr. 30, 1800. On the general history and functions of the Junta General, see Callahan, “A Note”, passim.


A comprehensive statement of this policy is contained in R.D. and Instrucción of Apr. 30, 1800. Also relevant are: R.O. Sept. 10, 1791 (referred to in AGI, Indiferente, leg. 3115-B; 1796 avería account of the Consulate of Canarias); R.O. Sept. 10, 1795 (mentioned in AGI, Indiferente, leg. 2380, 1799 avería account of the Consulate of Alicante); R.O. June 1, 1800; and Real Instrucción of Nov. 4, 1815. The Consulate of Cádiz was ordered to submit monthly statements: R.O. May 20, 1785.


Sources on consular duties in the late 1820s and in the 1830s are difficult to locate. The Consulate of Santander levied the avería until at least 1835, figures for 1826-32 and 1835 in AHPS, Real Consulado, leg. 217, no. 26, and AHPS, Diputación de Santander, leg. 1235. Consular duties were exacted in 1834 at five other Spanish ports: accounts in AHN, Hacienda, leg. 2151. The avería must have been levied in one form or another in the late 1830s for it was abolished in 1841: see José García Barzanallana, Lecciones de legislación de aduanas de España (Madrid, 1850), pp. 43-47.


The policy of the second liberal legislature (1820-23) toward the avería was hesitant and at times unclear. Two ambiguously worded Decretos de las Cortes of Oct. 5, 1820, and May 17, 1821, led to temporary suspension of payments at least in Málaga, from Jan. to July 1821. (Francisco Bejarano Robles, Historia del Consulado y de la Junta de Comercio de Málaga, 1785-1859 [Madrid, 1947], pp. 54-55.) A decree of June 29, 1822, leaving the matter of the avería undecided, had similar effects in La Coruña (AGS, C[onsejo] S[upremo de] H[acienda], leg. 300: 1826 bundle, doc. dated Jan. 29, 1825); in Málaga (Bejarano, Historia del Consulado, p. 56); and in Palma de Mallorca (AGS, CSH, leg. 235, avería accounts of 1822-23). In Alicante merchants refused to pay (Carrera Pujal, La Lonja del Mar, p. 191). Resumption of avería collections was decreed on Jan. 7, 1823, and later confirmed (R.O. Nov. 24, 1826; R.O. Jan. 12, 1827).


On these complaints see, for example, AGI, Indiferente, leg. 3115-B, 1796 avería account of the Consulate of Canarias. Also, AGI, Indiferente, leg. 2381-A, 1803 and 1817-19 accounts of the Consulate of Alicante; the correspondence on these accounts between the consulate and the Junta General began in 1805 and in 1819 respectively. As late as 1828, the Consejo de Hacienda urged the Consulate of Alicante to submit its avería accounts of 1820-26. Also, AGI, Indiferente, leg. 2381-B, 1801 account of the Junta de Comercio of Valencia. Correspondence on the shortcomings of this account has been traced through as late as 1818.


See  Appendix II: Avería Accounts—Sources and Notes. The original avería accounts of the Consulate of Málaga were requisitioned in 1940; the reason given was shortage of paper. A manuscript index to the seventy-four legajos that made up the archive of this consulate is still kept in the Archivo de la Cámara de Comercio (Málaga). The author is indebted to Rosario Parra Cala, director of the AGI, for permission to consult the avería accounts of the Consulate of Cádiz; and to Antonia Heredia Herrera for her excellent work in cataloging those documents.


A brief description of the periage and raw figures for 1760-64 to 1809 are given in Pierre Vilar, La Catalogue dans I’Espagne moderne, 3 vols. (Paris, 1962), III, 26-27. A longer series corrected for rate changes will be used in Section III. In January 1815, and again in November 1822, the Junta reported that no consular duties other than the periage were exacted in the Principate (AGS, CSH, leg. 267, doc. dated Jan. 11, 1815; BCDB, Junta de Comercio, leg. 18, no. 25, doc. dated Nov. 18, 1822). Proceeds from an avería on gold and silver from the Indies from May 1785 to June 1793 are given in BCDB, Junta de Comercio, lib. 269, fol. 67. The Junta de Comercio of Valencia did levy a derecho consular de avería on commodities, but this duty resembles the periage in that it covered only imports: Valencia accounts in AGI, Indiferente, legs. 2381-B and 2405-B, and in AGS CSH, legs. 245-247.


Full coverage is explicitly prescribed in the four royal charters referred to in n.4. An R.O. of May 9, 1774, had previously stressed that nobody was free from the consular duty—not even hospitals, the mendicant orders, or the Pious Works.


R.O. Jan. 14, 1785; R.O. May 6, 1785 (on Málaga and Seville); R.O. May 20, 1785 (on Cádiz: AGS, CSH, leg. 280); and R. Ced. June 26, 1785 (charter on the Consulate of Alicante). Derechos reales probably refers to exactions accruing to the Royal Treasury as opposed to local or private institutions.


R.O. Nov. 26, 1785. This measure was taken upon request from the Consulate of Alicante.


R.O. Jan. 20, 1786.


Notably in 1786 with reference to coastal trade (R.O. Mar. 16, 1786) and to colonial imports (R.O. May 9, 1786: timber and textile fibers exempted, but see p. 396); and in the 1800 charter of the new Consulate of Mallorca (AGS, CSH, leg. 342, R. Ced. Aug. 7, 1800).


R.O. Feb. 16, 1803 (on foreign trade); R.O. June 11, 1803 (on coastal trade); and R.O. July 2, 1804 (on colonial trade).


Other such instances known to the writer include the extension of the avería’s coverage to goods traded by land in Málaga (R.O. May 2, 1799) and the granting of full coverage to the Junta de Comercio of Valencia (R.O. Mar. 6, 1817). On other occasions, however, consulates confronting extraordinary expenses or coverage restrictions were empowered to raise the rates of existing duties or to create new ones: see, for example, R.O. Jan. 28, 1793; R.O. July 2, 1804; R.O. Apr. 20, 1816; and R.O. Feb. 16, 1817.


Governments often resorted to the consulates for help in times of financial crisis: see, for example, R.O. May 17, 1797; R.D. June 26, 1805; and R.O. Feb. 16, 1816.


AGS, CSH, leg. 241 (1797 account) and leg. 242 (1804 account). AGI, Indiferente, leg. 2351-A (1800 account). Presumably, the Consulate of Seville continued to enforce full coverage after 1804 as did its former officials of Sanlúcar de Barrameda.


Exceptions are the statements of 1790, 1793, and 1805.


AGS, CSH, leg. 300, 1826 bundle, doc. dated Jan. 29, 1825.


AGS, CSH, leg. 218, account of 1803.


Calculated from customs returns for the period 1793-1802, in AHPS, Real Consulado, caja 57, leg. 207, and caja 58, leg. 208.


See Vilar, La Catalogue, III, 26, and BCDB, Junta de Comercio, leg. 18, no. 25, doc. dated Nov. 18, 1822. More precise information on the goods exempted is given in AGS, CSH, leg. 267, doc. dated Jan. 11, 1815, and in BCDB, Folleto Bonsoms, no. 7495, Instrucción of July 15, 1816.


An instructive example is furnished by Barcelona’s attempt to soften the impact of the new derecho de puertas created in 1817. The city offered to advance a payment in cash provided that it be allowed to administer the tax in a way favorable to the local economy (BCDB, Junta de Comercio, leg. 18, no. 1, Representación a S.M. de la ciudad de Barcelona s/ las nuevas tarifas del derecho de puertas). The city was granted minor concessions (BCDB, Junta de Comercio, leg. 19, no. 8, doc. dated Feb. 23, 1819).


The rates of all avería duties levied at Cádiz in 1799 added up to 3.5 percent (mentioned in R.O. July 27, 1799), compared to 1.75 percent at La Coruña (from 1803 onward), 1.25 percent at Sanlúcar and Seville, and .05 to 1 percent elsewhere. Subsequent rate reductions at Cádiz (see, for example, R.O. Apr. 23, 1803) could hardly have bridged the gap.


See, for example, R.O. May 28, 1789; R.O. Oct. 30, 1789; R.O. Mar. 26, 1791; and Instrucción general de rentas reales, fechada en Madrid a 16 de abril de 1816, p. 49, art. 129.


The merchants of Cádiz were as ready as the Catalans to exercise their bargaining power with governments. See, for example, their refusal to continue paying an extra duty on colonial imports in 1793: AGI, Indiferente, leg. 2317, Expediente en que el comercio de Cádiz se niega a seguir contribuyendo . . . 1793.


The standard procedure, particularly in the mid-1780s, may well have been to assess the avería at Reglamento values, which were also used from late 1778 onward for customs taxes. See R.D. Apr. 8, 1778, and Reglamento y aranceles para el comercio libre de España a Indias de 12 de octubre de 1778 (Madrid, 1778), pp. 27, 172-173. Customs taxes on unlisted goods were to be assessed at the ports: details in Reglamento 1778, pp. 67-68, 172-173. In 1786, however, the customs of La Coruña was ordered to calculate the avería at market values to account for price fluctuations: R.O. July 1, 1786.


R.O. Mar. 21, 1791. Again, unlisted goods were to be assessed at the customs, and, presumably, the resulting values and rates were entered in the Reglamento’s blank spaces—allowance for which had been made in the original text (Reglamento 1778, p. 172). Tax-free exports to the Indies, not valued in the Reglamento, may likewise have been assessed for avería purposes at those customs offices where the consulates retained full coverage.


R.O. July 10, 1792, stating that methods of valuation differed significantly from port to port, and prescribing that all municipal and “particular” duties be assessed at the values listed in the aranceles recopilados—which presumably included, in addition to the Reglamento itself, the import tariff of 1782, where only rates per unit or weight are given: Aranceles reales recopilados en uno . . .(Madrid, 1782).


R.O. May 25, 1795. Not all customs implemented this order at once: see, for example, AGS, D[irección] G[eneral de] R[entas], 2a remesa, leg. 579, Estado de valores . . . 1795, Málaga, item dated June 22, 1796.


The orders of 1791 and 1792 prescribing official valuation of the avería were confirmed in 1816 (Juan García Barzanallana, ed., Arancel de derechos [Madrid, 1816], p. 252) and in 1823 (D.C. Jan 7, 1823). Two customs returns of 1795 explicitly stated that the avería had been assessed at 1778 prices (AGS, DGR, 2a remesa, leg. 579: estados of Málaga and Santa Cruz de Tenerife). Unfortunately, the avería accounts themselves are silent on this point.


Items in the aranceles of 1816 and 1820 have been compared with those in the Reglamento of 1778 and in the import tariff of 1782, already mentioned. A random sample of taxable goods exported to the Indies showed no differences in valuation between 1778 and 1816. Certainly, the official prices of such important commodities as brandy (aguardiente), wine, foreign steel, and Brittany cloths remained unchanged. The same appears to be true of cochineal, indigo, and cocoa imported from the Indies and reexported to foreign countries (comparison of import values is seldom possible; where values were not given, they were inferred from the stated rates). A random sample of textiles imported from foreign countries showed only one discrepancy in rates per unit or weight between 1782 and 1816. The liberal arancel of 1820 introduced significant changes in both valuation and rates, but this import-export tariff was not to take effect until Jan. 1, 1821 (Sistema general de las aduanas [Madrid, 1820] p. 3, art. 1).


For definitive elaboration and analysis of these figures, see Albert H. Imlah, Economic Elements in the Pax Britannica (Cambridge, Mass., 1958), pp. 20-41 and passim; Phyllis Deane and W. A. Cole, British Economic Growth 1688-1959 (Cambridge, 1969), pp. 28-36, 41-50; Ralph Davis, The Industrial Revolution and British Overseas Trade (Atlantic Highlands, N.J., 1979), pp. 77-86; and Phyllis Deane, The First Industrial Revolution, 2d ed. (Cambridge, 1979), pp. 61-65. Breakdowns of British official trade with Spain and Spanish America are displayed with other figures in Chart 3.


For an extensive survey of contemporary trade records, see Javier Cuenca Esteban, “The Trade and Commercial Policy of Spain, 1765-1826” (Ph.D. Diss., University of Toronto, 1978), pp. 16-67.


Hojas registros for this period can be found in both the AGI and the Archivo de Simancas. See Antonio García-Baquero González, Comercio colonial y guerras revolucionarias (Seville, 1972), pp. 13-14, and idem., “Comercio colonial y producción industrial en Cataluña a fines del siglo XVIII” in J. Nadal and G. Tortella, eds., Agricultura, comercio colonial y crecimiento económico en la España contemporánea (Barcelona, 1974), pp. 271, 276.


García-Baquero González, Comercio colonial, segunda parte, passim.


García-Baquero González is silent on this point. More careful use of Spanish cargo inventories has recently been made by Javier Ortiz de la Tabla, Comercio exterior de Veracruz, 1778-1821 (Seville, 1978), pp. 42-60. Information from colonial archives casts further doubts as to the completeness of the extant collections of cargo inventories: see Anthony McFarlane, “El comercio exterior del Virreinato de la Nueva Granada: conflictos de la política económica de los Borbones, 1783-1789,” Anuario colombiano de historia social y de la cultura (Bogotá) 6-7 (1971-72), 110.


Balanza del comercio marítimo . . . 1820 (Veracruz, 1821); other Balances in Miguel Lerdo de Tejada, Comercio exterior de México desde la conquista hasta hoy (Mexico City, 1853). For the origin and structure of these documents, see Robert S. Smith, “José María Quirós: ‘Balanza del comercio marítimo de Veracruz’ e ideas económicas,” El Trimestre Económico, 13 (Jan.-Mar. 1947), 680-711. Raw figures from these Balances have recently been used uncritically by Javier Ortiz de la Tabla, Comercio exterior, pp. 225-240; see Javier Cuenca Esteban’s “Review” in Moneda y Crédito, no. 148 (Mar. 1979), 132-134.


Accordingly, total imports include imports from Spain (Spanish and foreign goods), imports in neutral ships (1806-8, 1817-18, 1820: Spanish goods only), and imports from other colonial ports (Spanish goods only in years when there was neutral trade; Spanish and foreign goods in all other years). Goods not explicitly identified as Spanish or foreign were classified from exhaustive lists from the Veracruz Balances themselves, from the Spanish Balance of 1792, and from scattered items of legislation. The resulting total values do not differ significantly from the few comparable figures given in the notes to the Balances of Veracruz. Details are available from the author upon request.


Legislative sources in  Appendix I. This project involved classification of Spanish textiles into silks, which were taxable, and woolens, cottons, and linens, which were not. All foreign goods were treated as taxable. The most significant legislative change was brought about by a decree of the Cortes of March 6, 1820, exempting exports of Spanish wine, brandy, vinegar, and all liquors (see also R.O. Dec. 12, 1824); accordingly, three-fourths of the value of these goods was treated as tax-exempt (see Table II, note h).


For this purpose, series of unit values were calculated from the volume and value figures given in the Balances of Veracruz, and two indexes were constructed with base in each commodity’s average unit value in the entire period. Discontinuities in the series of unit values preclude similar deflation for most other goods.


The Spanish Balance of 1792 (Balanza . . . España . . . en América . . . 1792 [Madrid, 1805]) put the value of Cádiz’s exports to the Indies at 69.3 percent of the Spanish total in that year. The avería estimates presented in this article point to the maintenance of this port’s supremacy down to 1820.


See García-Baquero González, Comercio colonial, pp. 56-57.


Balanza . . .España . . .en América . . .1792.


Calculations pointing to this conclusion are described and documented in Section IV.


According to García-Baquero González, the voyages of 21 flotas from Cádiz to Veracruz in the period 1717-78 took on the average 85 days, with a minimum of 62 and a maximum of 143 (standard deviation not given): Cádiz y el Atlántico, 1717-1778, 2 vols. (Seville, 1976), I, 276. Similar data for subsequent years have not been found.


The largest corrections of the avería figures resulted from spreading out the impact of unusually high values in December 1805 and October 1808. All post-1815 figures were altered to compensate for a collection fee of 5 percent charged the consulates by the customs offices (R.O. Dec. 20, 1815). Details in Table II, notes a through f.


This procedure was adopted on the assumption that cargoes leaving Cádiz in the last three months of year n were recorded at Veracruz as imports of year n + 1.


A one-tail test based on Fisher’s z transformation shows that the second coefficient is significantly greater than the first at the 99 percent level of probability.


The four annual differences in excess of 10 percent occur precisely in years when neutral trade was permitted. The presence of this trade could easily alter the official proportions of taxable and tax-free imports through misrepresentation or outright smuggling of foreign goods.


Cargo inventory data are missing in the years 1795 and 1812-14. The values for 1797 and 1808, which fall short of the avería counterparts, probably reflect missing inventories. All these figures were estimated as the avería times the average ratio of cargo inventory over avería values in the preceding and following years.


R.O. May 9, 1786, addressed to the customs of Cádiz.


Tables in García-Baquero González, Comercio colonial, passim (1798-1811 and 1815-18).


Reglamento 1778, arancel segundo and passim.


Reconstruction procedures explained in  Appendix II. 1792 figures for La Coruña, Sanlúcar, and Santander from the Spanish Balance of that year. Note, however, that the accuracy of this Balance was questioned by at least one contemporary writer: Juan Alvarez Guerra, Modo de extinguir la deuda pública (Cádiz, 1813), p. 32. Comparisons with avería figures show only slight discrepancies, except that the import figure for Alicante reported in the Balance appears to include imports from other Spanish ports. 1793-95 figures for La Coruña compiled from Eugenio Larruga y Boneta, Memorias políticas y económicas sobre los frutos, comercio, fábricas y minas de España, 45 vols. (Madrid, 1787-1800), XLIV, 98-173. 1795 figures for Málaga, Santa Cruz, and Seville in AGS, DGR, 2a remesa, leg. 579.


These rates were obtained from the Cádiz series of avería and cargo inventory data (cargo/avería), on the assumption that shares of tax-free exports at the four ports taken as a whole did not differ significantly from the Cádiz shares.


On Aug. 12, 1791, as mentioned in R.O. Mar. 2, 1794.


It would not be surprising to learn that Valencia continued to export to the Indies partly via Cádiz (as it had about 1785: see Richard Herr, The Eighteenth-Century Revolution in Spain [Princeton, 1958], Map IV, pp. 138-139).


Barcelona exports of Spanish and foreign goods in García-Baquero González, “Comercio colonial y producción industrial,” p. 278.


As is well known, many Catalan merchants emigrated to Mallorca during the French occupation of Catalonia; their activities are clearly reflected in the avería proceeds of the Consulate of Mallorca in those years (see Table I).


Catalan exports of Spanish and foreign goods in ADPB, leg. 27, Correspondencia de los Diputados en Cortes, 1820. Totals reproduced in Josep Fontana Lázaro, “Formación del mercado nacional y toma de conciencia de la burguesía” in Josep Fontana Lázaro, Cambio económico y actitudes políticas en la España del siglo XIX (Barcelona, 1973), p. 47.


Sources and procedures in n.73. Admittedly, the Cádiz ratios are better deflators when applied—as will be done in reverse to obtain the market values in Table V—to the exports of eight major Spanish ports, which presumably were a more representative sample of Cádiz’s exports than Barcelona’s alone.


1792 figure in Balanza . . . España . . . en América . . . 1792; other figures as reproduced in Vilar, La Catalogue, III, 115, 538-557, 136.


Construction of price index for imports explained below in connection with Table V.


Raw periage data for 1792-98 and 1807-8 in Vilar, La Catalogue, III, 27. Other years from several estados and accounts in AGI, Indiferente, legs. 2384, 2385; AGS, CSH, legs. 212, 272; and ADPB, leg. 602 lib. 5. Figures for 1809 and 1814 estimated from seven month’s data. Periage proceeds from April 1816 onwards were reproduced with no reference and with slight errors in Pascual Madoz, Diccionario geográfico-estadístico-histórico de España y sus posesiones de Ultramar, 16 vols. (Madrid, 1845-50), III, 545.


The periage appears to have been assessed at two dineros per £ (1 £ = 240 dineros) up to July 1806, at three dineros per £ up to Jan. 1816, and at six dineros per £ thereafter: 0.83, 1.25, and 2.5 percent respectively (see Cuenca Esteban, “The Trade and Commercial Policy of Spain, 1765-1826,” pp. 36-37, 60, 61). All periage proceeds were also converted from reales de ardite into reales de vellón at the rate 0.93/1.


Sources in  Appendix II and in supra, ns. 59, 63, 65. Note that all the extant avería breakdowns of Spanish and foreign goods at ports other than Cádiz probably represent full coverage of commodities, for they appear either in pre-1805 years or in the accounts of La Coruña.


Data compiled by García-Baquero González, Comercio colonial, passim. Figures for 1797 and 1808 corrected with percentage changes in avería estimates from the previous years. Missing figures for 1792-96 and 1812-14 estimated from the average shares in the Cádiz export totals (at market prices) of the known subtotals of Spanish and foreign goods for 1797-1802 and 1810-20 respectively.


Ratios calculated from current-price and constant-price data in García-Baquero González, Comercio colonial, passim; gaps estimated as explained in the preceding footnote. Spanish and foreign goods were treated separately at all stages to account for known differences in the export mix of Cádiz. The unit values represented by these ratios are far more suitable for the present purpose than a general price index, but, in the absence of classifications of commodities, it was necessary to assume that neither the composition of exports nor the current-price valuations at the eight ports taken as a whole differed significantly from those at Cádiz.


Estimate from volume data (compiled from García-Baquero González, Comercio colonial, passim [1798-1811 and 1815-18]) multiplied by import prices in the Reglamento of 1778.


All figures in Lerdo de Tejada, Comercio exterior, núms. 14, 18, 55. Oaxaca prices (núm. 55: 1758-1834) also reproduced from other sources, up to 1821, in Brian R. Hamnett, Politics and Trade in Southern Mexico, 1750-1821 (Cambridge, 1971),  Appendix I.


Amsterdam prices in Nicolaas Wilhelmus Posthumus, Inquiry into the History of Prices in Holland, 2 vols. (Leiden, 1946, 1964), I, 196-197, 356-357, 417-418, 130 (Caracas cocoa, Buenos Aires hides, Gatimalo indigo, and San Domingo white powdered sugar). Philadelphia prices calculated from monthly data in Anne Bezanson, R. D. Gray, and M. Hussey, Wholesale Prices in Philadelphia, 1784-1861, 2 vols. (Philadelphia, 1936), II, 42-43, 94, 99, 222 (cocoa and Caracas cocoa, Buenos Aires ox hides, indigo, and Havana brown and muscovado sugar). The discount of 20 percent is based on a very rough guess of the total average markup due to Spanish colonial export taxes, freight and insurance costs, and foreign import duties and wholesale commissions. Freight and marine insurance rates are available for much of this period, but the series are too short and not specific enough for the present purpose (see, for example, Douglass C. North, “Ocean Freight Rates and Economic Development, 1750-1913,” Journal of Economic History, 18 [1958], 548-555; and Donald R. Adams, Jr., “American Neutrality and Prosperity, 1793-1808: A Reconsideration,” Journal of Economic History, 40 [1980], 729). To the extent that freight and insurance costs may have been a significant component of the total markups, and bearing in mind that these costs are known to have increased during wartime and decreased in peace years, the present import values would be correspondingly biased upwards and downwards respectively.


Estimates of annual import shares based on the calculations referred to in n.74. The shares for the missing years are averages of those for the nearest periods of peace or war.


Data of remittances for five ports derived from avería accounts (see  Appendix II). Comparable figures for Barcelona estimated from the avería accounts of Mallorca (1810-14) and from the average share of Barcelona’s known remittances in 1792-93 and 1795 in the totals of Cádiz. The latter estimates are admittedly very rough, but it is worth noting that the 1811-12 figures coincide almost exactly with those from the accounts of Mallorca.


Calculated from Balanza del comercio de España con las potencias estranjeras en el año de 1792 (Madrid, 1803).


See the two uppermost panels in Chart 2.


See the lowermost panel in Chart 2.


See Table V, column 8.


See Table III.


See Table IV, column 2.


See the two uppermost panels in Chart 2, Chart 1, and Table III (column 3). The reader is reminded that the export figures given in Table III for Barcelona in 1803-7 (and 1815-19) were taken from customs returns from a number of Catalan ports.


James C. La Force, Jr., The Development of the Spanish Textile Industry, 1750-1800 (Berkeley, 1965), p. 16.


See Jordi Nadal, El fracaso de la revolución industrial en España, 1814-1913 (Barcelona, 1975), pp. 189-192.


This fact stands out in the raw avería breakdowns of exports to the Indies at La Coruña and Santander; the corresponding figure for Málaga had to be estimated, but the total proceeds of 1802 at this port were also very high (see Table I).


García-Baquero González, Comercio colonial, pp. 151, 155.


This evidence is presented in Chart 3, and is documented in  Appendix III.


The latter point is most forcefully made in John Lynch, The Spanish-American Revolutions, 1808-1826 (New York, 1973), pp. 2-15.


Data compiled and calculated from the respective Balances of Veracruz (in Lerdo de Tejada, Comercio exterior, núms. 15-17, 20). The total (market) value of textile imports in 1807 actually exceeded that of 1804 by one million pesos. It is fair to mention that 1807 was a peak year for textile imports in neutral ships; the annual average in 1802-4 was 13.1 million pesos. Unfortunately, comparisons by length, number, and type of manufacture are precluded by the absence of detail in the Balances of 1802-4.


References in Tables VI and VII. Cuban data in Jacobo de la Pezuela y Lobo, Diccionario geográfico, estadístico, histórico de la isla de Cuba, 4 vols. (Madrid, 1863-66), II, 133, 37.


In the years 1805-8, Cuba’s exports and imports in foreign ships were valued, on the average, at 4.1 and 8.6 million pesos respectively, compared to 5.8 and 8.6 million in Spanish vessels alone in 1803. In 1806-8, merchandise exports and imports in neutral ships were valued in Veracruz at 3.6 and 18.6 million pesos respectively, as opposed to 16.6 and 53.8 million with Spain in 1802-4: calculated from Lerdo de Tejada, Comercio exterior, núm. 14 (Estado ó Balanza General del Comercio recíproco hecho por el Puerto de Vera-Cruz con los de España y América y algunos estrangeros en los veinticinco años corridos desde el de 1796, primero después de la erección del consulado de Vera-Cruz, hasta el de 1820, inclusive).


This point can be verified in Table V (column 3) and will be elaborated upon below.


These merchandise deficits amounted in Veracruz to 13.6 million pesos in neutral ships in 1806-8 and only 4.6 million with Spain in 1802-4 (imports of Spanish goods in both 1806-8 and 1802-4 not considered; their inclusion in the 1806-8 calculations increases the first figure to 15.1 million pesos); calculated from Lerdo de Tejada, Comercio exterior, núm. 14.


19.3 million pesos in neutral ships in 1807 as opposed to 15.8 million to Spain in 1802-4 on the average. Calculated from ibid.


See, among others, Vera L. Brown, “The South Sea Company and Contraband Trade,” American Historical Review, 31 (July 1926), 662-678; Curtis P. Nettels, “England and the Spanish-American Trade, 1680-1715,” Journal of Modern History, 3 (Mar. 1931), 1-32; Judith B. Williams, “The Establishment of British Commerce with Argentina,” HAHR, 15 (Feb. 1934), 43-64; Dorothy B. Goebel, “British Trade to the Spanish Colonies, 1796-1823,” American Historical Review, 43 (Jan. 1938), 288-320; Allan Christelow, “Contraband Trade between Jamaica and the Spanish Main, and the Free Port Act of 1766,” HAHR, 22 (May 1942), 309-343, and “Great Britain and the Trades from Cadiz and Lisbon to Spanish America and Brazil, 1759-1783,” HAHR, 27 (Feb. 1947), 2-29; and Frances Armytage, The Free Port System in the British West Indies. A Study in Commercial Policy, 1766-1822 (London, 1953).


Sources, deflation procedures, and rates of exchange in  Appendix III. The reader is reminded that the British official trade figures do not represent actual values but only rough trends and cycles (see references in n.37). New estimates by Leandro Prados de la Escosura, a doctoral student at Oxford University, suggest that the real values of British trade with Spain in this period exceed the official valuations by very wide margins. Ms. in possession of author. Pending satisfactory estimation of the extent of smuggling, no attempt was made to reconvert the British index with the official values of Spanish exports and imports with England in 1792 (in Balanza . . .España . . .potencias estranjeras). In view of these and other difficulties related to the use of fixed rates of exchange, Chart 3 must be interpreted with extreme care.


-0.56 and -0.51 respectively; both coefficients are significantly different from zero at the 95 percent level of probability.


For reasons already mentioned, comparisons of British and United States trade values (as opposed to trends and cycles) are not very meaningful, but there is ample evidence that American merchants still commanded a stronger position and enjoyed a more privileged status than their English counterparts in key sectors of the empire (see, for example, Goebel, “British Trade,” pp. 295-296).


It was argued at the time, however, that hostile French policy combined with onerous Spanish duties priced Spain’s colonial products out of French markets. José Canga Argüelles, Diccionario de hacienda con aplicación a España, 2 vols. (Madrid, 1833-34), I, 122-124; idem., Memoria primera. Sobre los perjuicios que sufría España con el Arancel de Francia de 22 de julio de 1802 . . . a 26 de agosto de 1832 (a second memoria on French discrimination against Spanish shipping is dated Aug. 17, 1802, I, 124-125; the frequency with which errors crept into this famous dictionary is well known to the specialist in contemporary printed sources).


Calculated from Table IV (column 1) and Table III (Total Exports).


See Table IV (column 5: Exports of Spanish Taxable Goods). This increase was strongest in 1818-20 (calculated from the same subseries and the corresponding export totals in Table III). The share of (tax-free) cottons in Veracruz’s imports of Spanish cottons plus (taxable) silks increased from 14.5 percent in 1808-9 to 20.9 percent in 1816-20 (these results do not change significantly if the period 1806-12 is used as reference instead); compiled and calculated from Lerdo de Tejada, Comercio exterior, núms. 19-29; and Balanza del comercio marítimo . . . 1820.


This point is documented with contemporary legislation in Cuenca Esteban, “The Trade and Commercial Policy of Spain, 1765-1826,” pp. 162-165.


See the upper panel of Chart 3.


Circumstantial evidence of smuggling in this period abounds, but no attempt has been made to estimate its overall extent. For examples see, among other works, Charles C. Griffin, “Privateering from Baltimore during the Spanish American Wars of Independence,” Maryland Historical Magazine, 35 (1940), 1-25; Theodore S. Currier, Los cruceros del “General San Martín” (Buenos Aires, 1944); and José L. Franco, Política continental americana de España en Cuba, 1812-1830, 2d ed. (Havana, 1964), pp. 117-200.


This conjecture is based on comparisons between the figures of imports from Spain into Veracruz in the years 1796-1820 (in Lerdo de Tejada, Comercio exterior, núm. 14) and the corresponding estimates of Spain’s total exports to the Indies at market prices (in Table V, column 1). The former figures were converted from pesos into reales de vellón at the rate of 1/15 reales and 2 maravedís (as given in the Reglamento of 1778, p. 28; the same rate was frequently used in the correspondence of the Consulate of Cádiz: see, for example, AGI, Consulados, leg. 1398, doc. dated Dec. 29, 1800). The resulting figures in reales were then reduced by 8 percent to account for prescribed markups at colonial ports (this rate is that given for Havana in Reglamento, p. 28). On this evidence, the average share of Veracruz’s imports from Spain in Spain’s total exports to the Indies would have increased from 59.8 percent in 1796-1806 to 75.9 percent in 1813-20 (86.2 percent in 1813-17). The accuracy of these comparisons is weakened by differences in annual recording of arrivals at Veracruz, in methods of valuation at Spanish and colonial customs, and in degrees of administrative corruption. These sources of error may account for the fact that the estimates for Veracruz in 1807 and 1809-12 are greater than their Spanish counterparts.


See Arthur P. Whitaker, The United States and the Independence of Latin America, 1800-1830 (Baltimore, 1941), p. 136.


In 1816-20, imports of foreign and Spanish goods (textiles in parentheses and italicized) were valued in Veracruz at 17.4 (14.7) and 15.7 (5.9) million pesos respectively; the overall gap was much wider in 1814-15. In the last 3 years, however, Spanish goods surpassed the 50 percent mark, while Spanish textiles approached 40 percent: compiled and calculated from Lerdo de Tejada, Comercio exterior, núms. 14, 26-29, and Balanza del comercio marítimo . . . 1820. No account was taken of imports from other colonial ports (Efectos de Europa), for the corresponding figures seldom distinguish between Spanish and foreign goods; calculations mentioned in n.43 suggest that these imports, which became very important in the late 1810s, contained even greater proportions of foreign textiles.


One probable source of error is the import deflator described at the end of Section III, which is based largely on foreign prices. Less disturbing are the merchandise deficits with Spain shown in all the years 1796-1820 by the Balances of Veracruz, for this harbor’s commodity exports to Spain were probably a small proportion of Spain’s imports from the Indies throughout the period (an average of only 20.4 percent, with little change from the early to the later years, is yielded by similar comparisons to those described and documented in n.108).


From + 555.0 to - 467.3 million reales: see Table V (column 3).


See the export and import totals in Chart 2 (top panel).


As implied in the index of net barter terms of trade given in Table V (column 6) and displayed in Chart 4 (bottom panel).


Definition and index given in Table V (column 7), and index displayed in Chart 4 (bottom panel).


In Table V (column 8) and Chart 4 (lower middle panel); the derivation of this series is explained in n.78. Private remittances should not be confused with net government revenue from colonial administration. Preliminary annual estimates of the latter, from the manuscript accounts of the Tesorería General, are presented in Javier Cuenca Esteban, “Ingresos netos del estado español, 1788-1820,” Hacienda Pública Española, 69 (Mar.-Apr. 1981), Cuadro 4, column 6.


Circumstantial evidence of capital repatriation to Spain in the 1810s abounds: see, for example, Lynch, Spanish-American Revolutions, pp. 328, 273.


The author is preparing a paper on Spanish foreign trade during the period 1792-1820 from Spanish, British, American, and French sources. Data in the Spanish Balances of 1792 (Madrid, 1803 and 1805) suggest that net inflows of commodities and money from the Indies helped finance sizeable deficits on current account with foreign countries. For an ingenious analysis of the Spanish Balances of 1792 and 1827, see Josep Fontana Lázaro, “Colapso y transformación del comercio exterior español entre 1792 v 1827,” Moneda y Crédito, 115 (Dec. 1970), 3-23.


Spanish America may have “produced the greater part of the entire world output of the precious metals in the second half of the eighteenth century” (Earl J. Hamilton, War and Prices in Spain 1651-1800 [Cambridge, Mass., 1947], p. 85) or “contributed 90 per cent of total world [silver] output” (Stanley J. and Barbara H. Stein, The Colonial Heritage of Latin America [New York, 1970], pp. 100-101). The subsequent disruption of mining can hardly have failed to affect the size of the world’s money supply and to influence the course of prices. The present explanation of the deflationary trend of the nineteenth century assigns more weight to real than to monetary forces: see, for example, W. W. Rostow, British Economy of the Nineteenth Century (Oxford, 1948), p. 12 and passim; and David S. Landes, The Unbound Prometheus: Technological Change and Industrial Development in Western Europe from 1750 to the Present (Cambridge, 1969), p. 234. For a recent contribution to this recurrent controversy, see Michael D. Bordo and Anna J. Schwartz, “Money and Prices in the Nineteenth Century. An Old Debate Rejoined,” Journal of Economic History, 40 (1980), 61-67.


It must be borne in mind that the customs revenues known as rentas generales were by no means the only burden on Spanish overseas trade. In addition to the avería itself, there was a host of duties, many of which were created or modified from 1793 onward. For an analysis of the most important, and estimates of total proceeds accruing to the Tesorería General, see Cuenca Esteban, “The Trade and Commercial Policy of Spain, 1765-1826,” pp. 118-136, and “Ingresos netos del estado español, 1788-1820,” Section V and Cuadro 4, column 5.


Imlah, Economic Elements in the Pax Britannica, pp. 121-122, Table 11 and Chart 17: average rate(s) on net imports (imports less reexports), 1796-1820. No less useful, for the economic historian of the late Spanish empire, will be the average rates of taxation on the carrying trade of Spain and its leading competitors.

Author notes


The author is Assistant Professor of Economics at the University of Waterloo, Canada.


This article is partly based on materials consulted in the following Spanish archives: Archivo de la Diputación Provincial de Barcelona, Archivo General de las Indias (Seville), Archivo General de Simancas, Archivo Histórico Nacional (Madrid), Archivo Histórico Provincial de Santander, Biblioteca Central de la Diputación de Barcelona, and Biblioteca del Real Consulado de La Coruña (abbreviated hereinafter as ADPB, AGI, AGS, AHN, AHPS, BCDB, and BRCC, respectively). Items of legislation not documented in the footnotes are to be found in the sources listed in  Appendix I. The following legal terms are frequently used: Decreto de las Cortes, Real Cédula, Real Decreto, and Real Orden (abbreviated hereinafter as D.C., R. Ced., R.D., and R.O., respectively).