Versión en Español


Introducción de Herbert Klein y John Jay TePaske al volumen 3 titulado The Royal Treasuries of the Spanish Empire in America, Volume 3. Chile and the Río de la Plata. Publicados por Duke University Press, Durham, N.C. en 1982. (Reproducido con autorización de los autores).




The Development of the Royal Treasury System (Real Hacienda) in Chile.


A slivery appendage on the south Pacific Coast tacked on to the Viceroyalty of Peru, Chile was a frontier area of the Spanish empire in America. Always in the shadow of its richer, more prestigious northern neighbors, Peru and Upper Peru (Bolivia), Chile nevertheless took on many of the administrative institutions designed to bring conquered peoples under Spanish domination and to keep Spanish conquerors and their progeny loyal to the crown. Governed from the time of the conquest by a captain-general, Chile became a bishopric in 1563. 1 By 1567 a temporary audiencia was operating at Concepción, later to be reestablished permanently in 1609 at Santiago. 2 At the same time Spanish troops began flowing into Chile to do battle with the defiant Araucanian Indians in s struggle which gave Chile the title, Flandes Indiano, the Flandres of the Spanish Indies.

For the Spanish crown, Chile became important for its gold, particularly during the inmediate post-conquest epoch. Not surprisingly, virtually at the time of the conquest (1541), Charles V appointed royal treasury officials for Santiago to supervise tax collection and to insure the crown its share of the gold being produced. 3 Thirteen years later in 1554 treasury officials were serving at Concepción four hundred kilometers southwest of Santiago on the Pacific Coast, and by 1575 a similar group had been assigned to Valdivia, three hundred kilometers south of Concepción and seven hundred from Santiago. 4 As in other areas of the Indies, the king established agents of the royal treasury or real hacienda in Chile to solidify his hold on the New World and to insure himself a share of the wealth being produced.

The process by which formal treasury districts (cajas) came to Chile is not clear. Although royal officials supervised and collection taxes in Santiago, Concepción, and Valdivia by 1575, evidence suggests that Santiago was the only formal treasury district of the sixteenth century, established in 1548; Concepción attained the same status somewhat later, probably by the opening of the seventeenth century. 5 For Santiago only a few accounts have survived for the sixteenth century, and only at the beginning of the seventeenth century, when the series contained in this volume begins, do accounts for the caja of Santiago appear with any regularity. 6 For Concepción a few accounts have been located for the 1620s, but otherwise no series appears with any frequency until the beginning of the eighteenth century. Valdivia, it appears, never attained the status of Concepción and Santiago until 1769, when it too became a formal treasury district issuing its own accounts as a full-fledged caja. 7

At the beginning of the seventeenth century the regularization of accounting and reporting procedures by royal officials assigned to the caja of Santiago can be explained by two factors. First, in 1600 the viceroy in Lima began sending an annual subsidy (situado) to Chile for support of the military effort against the Araucanians and for coastal defenses to meet the threat of foreign corsairs. 8 This, in turn, created the need for stricter accounting methods to assure the viceroy and his aides in Peru that the subsidy was being well spent. Another factor in standardizing the process was Philip III's creation of a royal auditing and management bureau (Tribunal de Cuentas) in Lima in 1605, an institution designed to insure the honest, efficient operation of the royal treasury system throughout the viceroyalty. Treasuries in Chile were responsible to the Tribunal, which sent out periodic visitors to the cajas at Concepción and Santiago and audited all treasury accounts before they were sent off to Spain for final perusal by the Contaduría Mayor de Cuentas of the Council of the Indies. 9 Not surprisingly then, after 1609 the account ledgers for Santiago appear more regularly, with occasional gaps, but still more regularly than in the sixteenth century.

For Concepción the caja was functioning early in the seventeenth century. A contador, a royal accountant, reported in1620, for example, that income from diverse sources for the caja of Concepción between 1609 and 1618 amounted to 16,547 pesos, an average annual income of about 1,650 pesos a year. 10 Also a few accounts for the treasury of Concepción made their way to the Contaduría Mayor of the Council of the Indies in Spain in the 1620s, but otherwise no accounts for Concepción appear consistently until the beginning of the eighteenth century (1708), still with considerable lacunae to 1760. 11

Charles III created three new cajas in Chile during his reign: Valdivia in 1769, Mendoza in 1778, and Chiloé in 1782. Formation of the new treasury of Valdivia may have been loosely tied to the establishment in 1769 of a new Contaduría Mayor de Cuentas for the Kingdom of Chile. Like the Tribunal de Cuentas in Lima, the Contaduría Mayor was a supervisory and auditing agency which oversaw the work of the royal treasury officials in Chile. Since Valdivia received large military subsidies, the Contaduría could keep a closer watch over expenditures by creating a new formal caja district in the region. Submission of annual accounts for examination by the officials of the Contaduría in Santiago would insure honest efficient operation of treasury functions. Yet Valdivia seems to have had few ties with the Contaduría in Santiago and was more closely linked to the Tribunal de Cuentas in Lima, which also had an interest in Valdivia as a penal colony for Peruvian miscreants, who were used as forced laborers on the fortifications. 12

Located on the eastern slope of the Andes over the mountains from Santiago, Mendoza became the fourth treasury district of Chile in 1778. 13 The town merited a royal caja for number of reasons. First, it was located on the trade route between Buenos Aires and Santiago. With the Río de la Plata area growing in importance as the entrepot from which Chile received at least some of its European goods, Mendoza grew in importance as well. At the same time Mendoza has developed trade ties with towns to the north such as San Juan, La Rioja, Córdoba, and Santiago del Estero and to the east with San Luis on the route to Buenos Aires. As a wine and brandy producing region, Mendoza also became a likely place for imposition of new Spanish taxes on these products. 14 In 1778, therefore, it became a caja district in its own right, and despite its location on the eastern slope of the Andes, was tied more closely to the Chilean treasuries than to the cajas of the Río de la Plata.

A last caja, Chiloé, was established in 1782. Over four hundred kilometers south of Valdivia and over 1200 kilometers south of Santiago, the island of Chiloé was the southernmost bastion of Spanish defense on the south Pacific coast of the Viceroyalty of Peru and began receiving military subsides from Lima in the 1750s. At first these were small amounts of about 20,000 pesos annually, but as the century wore on, Chiloé got larger sums, amounting to more than 100,000 pesos yearly by the opening of the nineteenth century when the English posed a serious threat to southern Spanish South America. Far removed from Santiago and provided with all its subsidy directly from Peru, Chiloé actually maintained closer ties with Lima than with Santiago, although because of its location, it has been included here in the Chilean nexus of treasury districts. In terms of the revenues generated by royal taxes, each caja maintained its relative position consistently throughout the colonial period. As the focal point for administrative and judicial activities in Chile, Santiago was by far the most important treasury. For Chile it functioned like Potosí in Upper Peru as an intermediate matrix treasury, collecting taxes and making disbursements, not only in its own territorial jurisdiction but in the areas of the other cajas as well, providing funds to Valdivia, Concepción, Chiloé, and the Islands of Juan Fernández. Concepción was next in importance. Like Santiago Concepción had a large enough Spanish and mestizo population on whom taxes could be levied and in addition to its annual situado from Peru, the caja produced some of its own revenues. This was not true of Valdivia which ranked third. Valdivia depended almost exclusively upon the military subside coming from Peru; Chiloé followed the same pattern. Royal officials from cajas at Valdivia and Chiloé collected a few taxes such as the alcabala or the almojarifazgo, and in Chiloé they assessed tribute on conquered Indians, but on balance both were almost completely dependent upon outside aid for their existence. As a trade and market center, Mendoza steadily increases its revenues from the time of its foundation as a caja in 1778. In fact by 1814, just before José de San Martín and his Argentine supporters of independence moved into Mendoza to make it a standing area for their assault on Chile, the treasury was taking in more monies than ever before. Thus, of the five Chilean cajas at the end of the eighteenth century only Santiago and Mendoza were self-sustaining. Concepción subsisted in part on the Peruvian situado and in part or revenues collected by its royal officials, while the military outpost of Chiloé and Valdivia depended almost entirely on outside support with few sources producing revenues for royal officials.

Development of the Royal Hacienda in the Río de la Plata.


Like Chile the Río de la Plata area (present-day Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay), was an insignificant fringe area of the Spanish empire in America, particularly in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Isolated from the seat of the Viceroyalty of Peru in Lima across the Andes, far removed from the Audiencia of La Plata at Chuquisaca (present-day Sucre), and cut off by legal prohibitions from direct trade with Spain, the Río de la Plata region got little attention from the metropolis in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Paraguay had become a bishopric in 1547 and Tucumán in the northwest in 1570, largely because of their large Indian populations, but otherwise the Río de la Plata was a colonial backwash. Refounded in 1580, Buenos Aires became a bishopric in 1616 and a separate governorship in 1621. 15 In 1661 the establishment of an audiencia in the city attempted to improve judicial practices in the area, but it was disbanded after eleven years, and porteños once again had to take their legal appeals to Chuquisaca to be heard by the audiencia there. Still, because of its commanding position at the juncture of the Uruguay River and the Río de la Plata and its proximity to Portuguese Brazil, Buenos Aires had a strategic significance for the Spanish crown, in many ways like that of Spanish Saint Augustine in Florida.

Buenos Aires evidently became a formal treasury district in the first part of the seventeenth century (1634) and was the only caja in the area until the middle of the eighteenth century. In many ways, until 1720 the treasury of Buenos Aires resembled the caja of Concepción in Chile, relying heavily upon the subsidies sent from Potosí and the other cajas of Upper Peru for its existence. Royal officials in Buenos Aires took in some monies from sales and port taxes, salary imposts, sales of officials, and monies from the seizure or sale of slaves, but otherwise the caja looked to Potosí for its operating funds. 16

After the War of the Spanish Succession in 1713, the fortunes of Buenos Aires began to change. Commercial reforms of the new Bourbon regime provided for direct trade between Spain and Buenos Aires on licensed ships called variously permisos, sueltos, or registros. These same ships were also granted licenses to sail around Cape Horn to Chile and Peru, increasing the importance of Buenos Aires as an entrepot and port-of-call. This in turn increased the flow of silver into the city from the mines of Potosí and Oruro. Also, by mid-century the Río de la Plata basin and Buenos Aires took on new importance because of growing Portuguese incursions on Spanish territory, which meant infusions of new monies from Potosí to support increasingly larger military and naval forces in the region. All this culminated in the creation of the Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata in 177 and new Audiencia of Buenos Aires in 1785. 17 Meanwhile the caja of Buenos Aires greatly expanded its operations, especially in face of the English threat at the beginning of the eighteenth century.

In other parts of the Río de la Plata in the eighteenth century, the Bourbons instituted fiscal reforms, including formation of clusters of new cajas. By mid-century seven treasuries or sub-treasuries were operating in the northwestern part of the Río de la Plata area at Catamarca, Córdoba, Jujuy, La Rioja, Salta, Santiago del Estero, and Tucumán. Located in the provincial capitals which still bear these names, the new cajas formed a fiscal nexus in the northwest to provided firmer royal control over tax collections and disbursements. An eighth treasury, San Juan, began operation in 1779, a year after the creation of the Chilean caja of Mendoza. Of these eighth treasuries, four were sub-treasuries (cajas menores): Catamarca, La Rioja, San Juan, and Santiago del Estero. A fifth, Tucumán, was initially classified as a major caja 18 , but in reality, it never seems to have attained that status, at least no accounts of the treasury found their way to the Contaduría Mayor of the Council of the Indies in Spain. The other three, however, were became major treasuries (cajas principales). Initially both Córdoba and Salta were subsidiaries of the treasury of Jujuy, but in 1783 the caja of Jujuy closed and was replaced by Salta as the caja principal in the area. At the same time Córdoba became a first-class caja in its own right.

Elsewhere, in the 1770s and 1780s Charles III created a network of treasuries in the Río de la Plata basin, including the cajas of Montevideo (1770), Corrientes (1771), Santa Fé de Veracruz (1771), Paraguay (1772), and Maldonado (1786). Because of its strategic location on the north bank of the Río de la Plata in the banda oriental being contested with the Portugueses and as a port commanding the entrance to the Río de la Plata system, Montevideo formally became a caja in 1770. A year later Santa Fé de Veracruz and Corrientes began operation, Santa Fé up river from Buenos Aires about five hundred kilometers of the Paraná and Corrientes six hundred kilometers north of Santa Fé on the same river. Corrientes was a sub-treasury (caja menor), while Santa Fé became a sub-treasury (caja foránea) of the caja of Buenos Aires. 19 In 1772 Paraguay also got its own treasury, located at Asunción at the junction of the Pilcomayo and Paraguay Rivers. Sixteen years later in 1786 the creation of the treasury of Maldonado completed this string of cajas in the Río de la Plata basin. Situated on the north bank of the Río de la Plata about one hundred kilometers east of Montevideo, Maldonado was established primarily to provide for the new Spanish settlements at San Carlos and Rocha and for the provisioning and support of the garrison at the small fort (fortaleza) of Santa Teresa on the border with Portuguese Brazil.

Eighteenth-century development of the caja system in the Río de la Plata is significant because of the light it casts upon Bourbon reforms in the region. It demonstrates first the transformation of the area into a major source of concern for the Spanish crown, which began exercising more rigorous control over the region by the 1750s. In Upper Peru fiscal reforms and the extension of the real hacienda system did not occur until a quarter century later. Second, the expansion of the fiscal system seems to have been carried out systematically, first by creation of treasuries or sub-treasuries in every important town of the interior provinces and then by linking these treasuries together in a fiscal network. In the Río de la Plata basin, treasuries or sub-treasuries emerged at virtually every important town along the river system stretching from Maldonado at Punta del Este on the Atlantic to Asunción some 1,600 kilometers in the interior.

Since the real hacienda system came so late to the Río de la Plata, the cajas cannot be ranked in importance until the last half of the eighteenth century. Up to 1750 Buenos Aires was the only formal treasury district in operation in the region, but by the 1770s thirteen treasuries had been created. Of these Buenos Aires was by far the most important in terms of the revenues it produced, the monies it received from Potosí and Upper Peru, and its disbursement of these funds for military, naval, and administrative purposes. Clustered far behind Buenos Aires at a second revel were the cajas of Santa Fé de Veracruz, Jujuy, Salta, and Paraguay in the order; their annual revenues in 1772 ranged between 12,000 and 16,000 pesos. Farther down, leaving aside the subsidies it received for military or naval purposes, the caja of Montevideo took in a bit over 6,000 pesos in 1772. The same year the smaller sub-treasuries ranked in order were Corrientes (2,663 pesos), Tucumán, (2,463 pesos), Córdoba (2,083 pesos), Catamarca (1,877 pesos), Santiago del Estero (477 pesos), and La Rioja (244 pesos).

By 1800, however, these rankings changed markedly. Buenos Aires was still preeminent, but Montevideo had surged into second place. Salta, which had replaced Jujuy as the caja principal in the northwest, was third, followed by Paraguay, Córdoba, Santa Fé, San Juan, Tucumán, Catamarca, Maldonado, Santiago del Estero, Corrientes, and lowly La Rioja. Ten years later with the outbreak of the wars of independence, the rebels concentrated their early efforts in the Río de la Plata basin, taking control of Buenos Aires, Montevideo, Maldonado, Santa Fé, Corrientes, and Paraguay and then moving into the interior. In fact by 1816 only five royal cajas remained in the crumbling viceroyalty: Salta, Córdoba, Tucumán, Catamarca and Santiago del Estero, all in the northwestern pocket of the region. Of these Salta and Córdoba were taking in the most royal revenues, in both cases more than in 1800, Tucumán was third, followed in order by Catamarca and Santiago del Estero. Ultimately, however, these towns fell to rebel assaults as well, putting an end to the real hacienda system in the Río de la Plata by 1820.

Royal Accounts as an Historical Source.


The royal accounts in this volume constitute a vital source for understanding the economy and society of Chile and the Río de la Plata and for determining Spanish imperial policies in these regions. The account summaries (sumarios) come from the ledgers kept by accountants (contadores), who served in the cajas of Upper Peru. The accountant normally kept two kinds of accounts, the libro manual and the libro mayor. The libro manual was a day book listing daily tax collections and disbursements, in effect a record for the royal caja. In the libro mayor the accountant kept his ledger by sections or ramos. For example, all tribute collected was posted in the libro mayor in the ramo of tributes, sales taxes in the ramo of alcabalas, import-export taxes in the ramo of almojarifazgos, etc. Expenditures were posted in the same way. At the end of an account period the accountant closed his books by adding together the entries for each ramo and summarizing all the totals at the end of the libro mayor. These constituted the sumarios, also called tanteos or relaciones juradas. A summary thus listed all revenues and expenditures by ramo with a total for each one. The extant summaries of the accounts for the five treasuries of Chile and for the fourteen of the Río de la Plata are contained in this volume

Entries on the cargo or income side of the accounts reveal a great deal about economic activity in each caja district. For example, income items listed taxes on gold and silver production (1.5% y quinto del oro, 1.5% y quinto de plata, 1.5% y diezmos de plata, etc.) and minting and assay taxes (senoreage and ensaye). Sales tax collection (alcabalas of all sorts) reflected commercial activity in the treasury district. Import-export taxes (almojarifazgos) for Buenos Aires, Chiloé, Concepción, Santiago, and Valdivia provide an index to traffic in these ports. Ecclesiastical officeholders in both region pad salary taxes and subsidy to the crown including the media anata eclesiástica, mesada eclesiástica, and subsidio eclesiástico. The church bore other tax burdens as well by contributing portions of income from major and minor ecclesiastical benefices (vacantes mayores and vacantes menores), income from the sale of the liquid wealth of the bishop who had died of left office (espoleos), and two-ninths of one-half of the tithe reserved as crown income (novenos). Toward the end of the eighteenth century, all bishoprics in the Indies contributed fixed addressments to the crown for support of the Real Order de Carlos III, referred to also as the pension carolina. Payment for the sale, renunciation, or rental of civil offices (oficios vendibles y renunciables) by royal treasury officials, cabildo members (regidores), public scribes (escribanos), and other lesser civil servant was another source of income as was the tax of a half-year's salary for the first year in office (media anata) levied on virtually all royal officials.

Revenues from host of other sources helped fill the royal exchequers in Chile and the Río de la Plata. A myriad of royal monopolies provided funds for the most royal cajas. These included such things as alum (alumbre), snow (nieve), playing cards (naipes), copper (cobre), cockfighting (juego de gallos), bull fighting (plaza de toros), stamped legal paper (papel sellado), salt (sal and salinas), lotteries (lotería), leather (cordobanes), tobacco (tabaco), and the all-important mercury (azogue) used in the amalgamation of silver. The sale of indulgences (bulas de santa cruzada and bulas cuadragesimales) was another lucrative source of income as were monies paid for legalization and sale of land titles (composición de tierras), taxes on foreign residents (composición de extranjeros), and store licenses (pulperías). Indians were exempt from many taxes, but they paid tribute (tributes) and other assessments such as the tomín de hospital, medio real de hospital, or contribución de hospital to support Indian hospitals. At the end of the eighteenth century assessments were also made on the salaries of civil, military, or ecclesiastical officials for the pensions of windows, orphans, and retirees (montepío de ministros, montepío de oficinas, inválidos, montepío military, etc.) Extraordinario was another category reserved for income from sources for which there was no ramo. For the cajas of Mexico and Lima these were very large sums, but in Chile and the Río de la Plata the monies collected in any caja for extraordinario were small and usually incorporated into the ramo of real hacienda.

Some entries on the income side of the ledger were not really revenues but were only temporary infusion of money into the royal caja. Sometimes these were sums left over from the previous year or year such as existencia or alcances de cuentas; sometimes these were sums deposited as guarantees (depositos) which could be removed when obligations mere met; sometimes these were loans set down as préstamos, préstamos patrióticos, emprestitos, suplementos de real hacienda, or imposiciones de capitales. Sometimes accountants listes as income debts still owing but as yet uncollected: debido de cobrar, debido de cobrar años anteriores, debido de cobrar esta cuenta, etc. Since both Chile and the Río de la Plata were fringe areas of the empire, many of the cajas relied on subsidies coming from the Lima or Upper Peru. Thus, situados or otras tesorerías are common categories in many accounts, reflecting transfers from the other cajas.

On the data or expenditure side entries are as revealing as those on the income side. Expenditures included salaries of all public officials serving in the caja district such as the oidores and alcaldes del crimen of the royal audiencia at Buenos Aires and Santiago, regidores, royal treasury officials, porters, guards, and a host of other civil officials assigned to Chile and the Río de la Plata. The summaries also included expenses of these same officials for pen, paper and ink (gastos del escritorio or gastos de real hacienda) as well as the rental or repair of the quarters they used (alquiler de casas reales or reparos de casas reales). Salaries and expenses for military and naval purposes fell under such categories as war (guerra), fortification (fortificación), naval expenses (gastos de armada or gastos de embarcaciones del río), military salaries (sueldos militares), militia (milicias), regular troops (tropa arreglada), arms (sala de armas), and similar items.

Treasury support for religious, charitable, and educational activity also appeared in the accounts, but in smaller sums than defense. These included funds allocated to the clergy for parish or mission work (sínodos, sínodos de doctrinas, sínodos de misiones, limosnas del vino y aceite, Mercedes y situaciones, etc.). Sometimes officials serving in Chile or the Río de la Plata whose families remained in Spain provided them a regular income with a salary assessment called asignaciones para España. Windows, orphans, retirees, and invalids received support from the montepíos, inválidos, and other pension funds. In some cases, particularly in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, royal revenues went for pious works in Spain such as the palace of San Lorenzo del Escorial, San Isidro de Madrid, or the building or the Palacio del Oriente in Madrid in the early eighteenth century, but these more commonly came from the richer cajas of Lima, Potosí, or Mexico.

In most cases expenditures from a specific ramo indicates the coasts of collections for that ramo. For example, in most cases the listing of alcabala expenditures showed the costs collecting that tax. But this was not always true. In some cases, alcabala entries on the data side signified what was spent from that ramo for salaries, war expenses, and general expenditures from the royal caja. The same oftentimes true tribute and other large ramos. Sometimes, therefore, expenditures may not be for costs of collection at all, simply what was expended from particular ramos for the needs of the caja distric. After 1786 or 1787, however, expenditures for salaries were generally listed specifically within civil, military, and ecclesiatical categories.

Another problem sometimes arises over the vagaries of accounting methods which differed from treasury to treasury and accounting to accounting. Some record keepers for example, listed only net income on the cargo side, only the sum remaining after all expenses and salaries had been paid from the certain ramo. Sometimes too, accountants ignored the carry-over categories such as existencia and listed monies collected in previous years as current income for each ramo. Also names of entries were sometimes shifted into different categories. After 1779, for example, the entry for sales taxes (alcabalas) completely disappears from the Buenos Aires accounts. As aduana or customs house income, it was included first in the entry aduana de Buenos Aires and then after 1784 subsumed under the category otras tesorerías (other treasuries), just as if it were a subsidy from Potosí. A problem also in determining both income and disbursements was the common practice of lumping them both into one category, real hacienda, an aggregate sum for both revenues and expenditures in the seventeenth and eighteenth century. In such cases the only recourse for determining specific sources of income or disbursements is to consult the ramo or real hacienda for the account.

Double-entry bookkeeping began in the Spanish empire in 1786 or 1787 and initially caused chaos among imperial record keepers until the system became standardized about 1790 or 1791. One innovation brought in with the advent of the double-entry method was the addiction of new ramo, real hacienda en común. For the accountants of Chile and the Río de la Plata, the ramo meant different things. To some, it was category representing sums available for disbursement after expenses were paid from each ramo. In other words, if income from sales taxes was 50,000 and disbursement were 25,000 pesos, 25,000 peso would be placed also in the ramo of real hacienda en común as income. All such sums were then added together and appeared in the summary as that category. On the data side real hacienda en común consisted of the total of disbursements for which there were no ramos on the cargo side or disbursements which exceeded expenditures on the data side. For example, treasury officials' salaries (sueldos de real hacienda) had no entry on the income side of the ledger and were placed on the data side twice, once as sueldos de real hacienda and again in the real hacienda en común category. In some treasuries, however, real hacienda en común served either as the catch-all ramo like extraoridnario or as a carry-over category such as existencia.

Closely tied to the establlishment of double-entry bookkeeping was the breakdown of the ramos within each account into three divisions: ramos of the royal treasury (ramos de real hacienda), special ramos (ramos particulares), and assigned ramos (ramos agenos). These distinctions prevalied throught much of the eighteenth century, but were more clearly differentiated by colonial accountants after the advent of the double-entry system in 1786 or 1787. Ramos de real hacienda were the major sources of income for imperial use in Chile and the Río de la Plata and were mining taxes, tribute, sales taxes, sales revenues from some royal monopolies, import-export taxes, some fines, and other royal exactions. Revenues from this ramo supported royal officials in both regions, paid the expenses of the bureaucracy, supported some mission and charitable work, and maintained the military in time of war or rebellion. Ramos particulares, labeled also second-class ramos, consisted of taxes allocated by the crown for specific purposes, revenues which could not be used as general operating funds but royal treasury officials. In Buenos Aires, Santiago, and elsewhere these included such taxes as the media anata eclesiástica, mesada eclesiástica, vacantes mayores, vacantes menores, mercury sales from Almadén, revenues from the sale of playing cards and tobacco, and discounts from soldiers salaries used to support those incapacitated or retired (inválidos). The third category of ramos ajenos was for revenues allocated for specific purposes either in Spain, Peru, or the Indies. Among these were the Royal Order of Charles III assessed on al bishoprics, the sales of the liquid wealth of a retiring or deceased prelate, the payment of the tomín for the Indian hospitals, pension funds, and senoreage tax of one real per mark of silver (real en marco de minería) set aside exclusively for the promotion and development of mining. In theory and by law, revenues from ramos particulares and ramos ajenos could not be used to bail out the treasury districs of the viceroyalty when funds were exhausted in the ramo de real hacienda: they were assigned specifically to the crown or the certain institutions, individuals, or purposes. In fact, however, they were often shifted into the ramo de real hacienda when the need arose, at first as loans and then as permanent contributions to the royal treasury, particularly in the early nineteenth century because of the necessity to cover mounting imperial expenses being incurred during the wars of independence.

The accounts for the cajas of Chile and the Río de la Plata in this volume consist of most of the extant cartas cuentas found in archives in Spain, Chile, and Argentina. For Chile only few isolated accounts have been uncovered for the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries-for Santiago in the late 1560s and early 1750s and in the 1620s for Concepción-but these were too few fragmentary to be included in this volume. Outs series begins when the accounts for these two cajas first appeared regularly, for Santiago early in the seventeenth century and for Concepción the first decade of the eighteenth century. Even then there are gaps in both series until 1760. For the other three treasuries established in the last half of the eighteenth century, Chiloé, Vladivia, and Mendoza, there are only a few missing years. In the Río de la Plata, Buenos Aires was the only caja functioning in the seventeenth century, and its accounts began in 1634. Unlike the accounts for Santiago, the series for Buenos Aires running from 1634 to 1809 is remarkably complete with only lacunae for eight years, one of these for 1809 when the English occupied the city. Since the other treasuries and sub-treasuries in the region were eighteenth-century innovations, the series for these cajas of the Río de la Plata have only a few gaps.

Normally royal treasury officials kept three sets of supplicate libros mayores and libros manuales: one for the seat the royal treasury, one for the Tribunal de Cuentas, and a third for the Contaduría Mayor of the Council of the Indies in Spain. Thus, at one time or another, there should have been three sets of accounts books extant. Still, some have evidently been lost forever. For Chile, a fringe area of the empire far removed from Spain and Lima, it is not surprising that gaps exist for Santiago and Concepción. For Buenos Aires, t is equally surprising that the series is so complete. Still, further research in Spanish, Chilean, Argentine, and Peruvian archives may help fill the gaps in our series, although, on balance, the accounts in this volume provide a rich source for reconstructing the fiscal structure of both Chile and the Río de la Plata region during the colonial period.

Money of Account.


Accountants in the cajas of Chile and the Río de la Plata kept their in pesos de ocho of eight reales, called pieces of eight. Unlike their counterparts in Peru and Upper Peru who used the peso ensayado, peso ensayado de 12-1/2 reales, peso de 9 reales, peso de 10 reales, peso corriente, ducado, etc., treasury officials in Chile and the Río de la Plata used only the peso de ocho. Throughout the colonial period the peso de ocho remained constant at eight reales and 272 maravedís. A standard unit of accounting in Spain, maravedís enable peninsulars to convert the value of colonial coins into units used in Spain. Thus, one peso de ocho amounted to eight reales and 272 maravedís with one real equaling thirty-four maravedís. Strangely, despite the constant tempering with the coinage system in Spain itself, the Spanish crown never devalued the peso de ocho.

Debasement, however, was another matter. For over two centuries (1525-1728) the crown kept the silver content of colonial coins constant, with a peso de ocho containing 25.561 grams of fine silver. In 1778, however, Phillip V ordered a reduction in weight of this coin to 24.809 grams, which lasted until 1772 when the weight was set at 24.433 grams. In 1786 one last change occurred when the peso de ocho was further reduced to 24.245 grams of fine silver, the weight in effect until the end of the colonial period in 1825. Thus, over the eighteenth century the silver content of the peso de ocho declined by a bit over one gram or about four percent from 1728 to the end of the colonial epoch. 20

Methods Used to Compile the Accounts


The accounts summaries in this volume were compiled by a team of researchers working with documents found in the Archivo General de Indias in Sevilla, Archivo General de la Nación in Buenos Aires, and the Archivo Nacional and Biblioteca Nacional of Chile in Santiago. Starting in Spain, this team first examined all bundles of documents (legajos) with any prospect of containing an accounts summary. Those with summaries were microfilmed, or in some cases copied by hand if they were kept in double-entry style or badly smeared. The resulting material was then coded in the followed way. Each tax entry in the each summary was assigned a code number, differentiated in a separate codebook into cargo (income) and data (outgo) categories. Income from alcabalas reales, for example, became 19C and outgo from the same ramo 13D; for tributes reales 8845C indicated cargo and 8844D data. Ultimately the codebook grew to some 8,000 separate income and outgo tax entries for the sixty-seven cajas for which data were collected. Coding sheets also listed has location of the document (and the bundle number), inclusive dates of the account summary (month and year), a tax code number of the entry followed by a C or D for cargo or data, the amount of the entry in pesos de ocho, and grouped tax code, which assigned over 8,000 account entries to one of forty-four tax or expenditure categories. Computer cards were then punched from these sheets and summaries reproduced in machine-readable form on computer printouts, including also a computer total (total computado) to aid the checking process. Each printout was then compared with the copy flow reproduction of the original for errors. Mistakes were noted, new card punched to replace those with errors, and a new printout produced. This same process was then repeated four or five times until the computer summary conformed exactly to the original account.

The account summaries in this volume are thus exact replicas of the original accounts with only a few minor changes. First, the original accounts were in pesos, tomínes (reales), and granos with eight tómines equaling one peso and twelve granos one tómin. The printed accounts, however, were rounded off to the nearest peso, eliminating the tómines and granos. For example, if an entry appeared in the original accounts as 16 pesos 5 tómines 6 granos, it would appear as 17 pesos in the computer summary. If an entry was 26 pesos 3 tómines 8 granos, it would be listed in the printout as 26 pesos. Entries of four or more tómines were rounded off to the next peso explaining in part the small discrepancies between the accountant's original totals and the computer totals. Second, to assist the researcher, entries have been placed in alphabetical order; the originals were not in that form. Third, wherever possible, entries have been standardized. Although this was not always possible, it occurred whenever it was most obvious. For example, a new set of indulgences providing the crown with income in the late eighteenth century was called bulas cuadragesimales but sometimes they were referred to as bulas de carne, since they provided exemptions from the prohibition on eating meat during Lent. Bulas de carne are always listed in these accounts as bulas cuadragesimales. A fourth change was necessitated because of programming restrictions limiting the length or character entries and creating the need for abbreviations. A List of Abbreviations follows this introduction. A fifth difference was a need, in a few cases, to aggregate certain entries. Sometimes account summaries listed the individual salaries of each official and soldier within a caja district. In such cases salaries were aggregated into their more general categories. A final innovation was to add a computes total (total computado) for every account on both the income and outgo sides of the ledger. Where the computer totals and the accountants' totals do not agree or could not be reconciled, the differences have remained. Where there is no accountant's total, the account summary is incomplete for some reason. Basically, however, the summaries are in their rawest form as originally set down by the accountant and his aides in the royal caja district.

Besides the entries and amount of revenue or disbursement, the printed summaries provide other information. In the upper left-hand corner or each account are numbers or letters preceded by an S, B or C. An S indicates the original account is located in Sevilla in the Archivo General de Indias, a B that it is the Archivo General de la Nacion in Buenos Aires, and C that it is in the Archivo Nacional or Biblioteca Nacional in Santiago. Thus, B13 indicates that the account is found in Buenos Aires in Sala 13 of the Archivo de la Nación. For documents in Sevilla, the letter S comes first, followed by the bundle (legajo) number. To ca. 1760 the summaries come from the Contaduría Section of the Archivo de Indias; after 1760 they may be found either in the Audiencia of Chile, Audiencia of Lima, or Audiencia of Buenos Aires Sections of that same archive. In Sevilla the accounts for the five cajas of Chile are found in the Contaduría Section, legajos 1854-1858 and 1860, and after the mid-eighteenth century in the Audiencia of Chile Section, legajos 339-351, 395-415. In Santiago the majority of the cartas cuentas are found in the Archivo Nacional de Chile, Contaduría Mayor, 2a Series, various volumes numbered between 681 and 2927. A few accounts for the caja of Santiago are in the Colección José Toribio Medina at the Biblioteca Nacional, while scattered accounts for Mendoza were uncovered in Sala 13 of the Archivo de la Nación de Buenos Aires.

For the fourteen cajas of the Río de la Plata, accounts were located in both Spain and Argentina. In the Archivo General de Indias in Sevilla they repose in Contaduría Section, legajos 1845, 1846, 1884, 1886A, 1887A, 1894A, and 1894B; Audiencia of Buenos Aires, legajos 393-399, 401-409, 442, 445-446, 448, 450-451, 453-455, 457-458, 460-462, 464-466, 484, 619-620, and 701-703; and Audiencia of Lima, legajo 1416. All of the accounts for the treasuries of Catamarca, Corrientes, La Rioja, San Juan, Santiago del Estero, and Tucumán are located in Sala 13 of the Archivo de la Nación in Buenos Aires. Scattered accounts for the caja of Maldonado exist in Sala 9 of the same archive.

Also included in the printed summaries are the inclusive dates for the accounts, rounded off to the nearest month. Except for Buenos Aires to 1755, accounts generally ran for a calendar year in both Chile and the Río de la Plata. If an account was for an irregular period, however, it was rounded of the nearest month. If an account ran for fifteen or more days a month, that account was listed as being for a whole month. If it ran for less than fifteenth days, it was not included as part of the account period. Thus as account which ran from May 17, 1684 to May 4, 1688, reads 6/1685-4/1688; one which ran from May 12. 1690 to May 28, 1692, reads 5-1690-5/1692.

In conclusion this volume is part of a larger project to compile and publish the account summaries for five regions of the Spanish empire in America: Mexico, Peru, Upper Peru (Bolivia), Chile, and Río de la Plata. For Mexico three volumes of account summaries for the twenty-three cajas of Mexico have been published by the Secretaría de Hacienda in Mexico City. At the same time, for those who wish to use these data in machine-readable form, the accounts are available in various data banks throughout the United States. These repositories are Duke University, Columbia University, University of Wisconsin-Madison, University of Florida, and the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research at the University of Michigan. We view these accounts as fundamental for the understanding of the development of the Spanish empire in America over time and space and of the regional economies within that vast structure. These data should also significantly increase our understanding of the world economy and the world economic system in the early modern period.


A large project calling for the compilation and checking of over a quarter million of pieces of numerical data demands a great deal of financial and personal backing. This project was no exception. Fortunately we had the strong support of number of institutions and individuals. Most significant was the financial assistance of the Tinker Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities, whose very substantial help made the compilation of these account summaries possible. Other support came from the Duke University Committee on International Studies and the Duke University Research Council, whose grants made it possible to determine the feasibility of the project and carry on some of the early research. To round out the project, the American Philosophical Society provided assistance to Professor TePaske for research in Sevilla to work out the differences in accounting methods, the meaning of certain entries, tax rates, and some other questions which the work of compilation had left open. Both Duke University and Columbia University provided ample amounts of monies for card punching and computer time essential to the project.

A large number of individuals contributed to the work of the project. In Spain Rosario Parra, Director of the Archive of the Indies, and her entire staff cooperated in very way, both in assisting in the work of compilation and in granting permission to microfilm the accounts summaries. In Sevilla also, Dr. José Jesús Hernández Palomo of the Escuela de Estudios Hispano-Americanos, his wife Mariluz, and Dr. G. Douglas Inglis served as liaison consultants when problems arose during the course of compilation. In Buenos Aires the staff of the Archivo General de Nación provided a great deal of help both the Eileen Keremitsis and to Kendall Brown and Kenneth Adrien in their quest for the accounts of the Río de la Plata and Chile respectively. The same was true of the staffs of the Archivo Nacional de Chile and Biblioteca Nacional in Santiago. In this regard Eillen Keremitsis deserves a special note of commendation for the work in uncovering a large number of accounts in the Archivo General de la Nación, particularly those of the sub-treasuries of Catamarca, Corrientes, Córdoba de Tucumán, San Juan, Santiago del Estero, and Tucumán; all of these came from Sala 13 of the Archivo General, many of wich she copied by hand. The same is true of Kendall Brown and Kenneth Adrien in finding a great many missing accounts in Santiago, particularly from seventeenth century Chile.

In the United States a multitude of colleagues, students, family members, and friends labored over various aspects of the project. Dr. Miles Wortman directed the team of researchers which began the initial work of compilation in Sevilla in 1975-1976, a team consisting of Kenneth Andrien, Dr. Josefina Tiryakian, and Kendall W. Brown. Kathy Ames, Pamela Landreth, Ellen Thompson, Nancy Smith, Neomi TePaske, Marianna TePaske, Susan TePaske-King, and Michael Jones aided in the tasks of coding, card punching, and interminable checking of the printed summaries with the original accounts. Marion Salinger of the Duke University Center for International Studies helped in innumerable ways throughout the life of the project, and Dorothy Sapp, always a helpmate and friend, provided assistance in a variety of tasks and was invaluable in preparing this volume for publication. At the Duke University Computation Center, Heath Tuttle, Gary Grady, Andy Beamer, Amy McElhaney, Ellen Lenox, Mildred Phillips, and Neal Paris gave generously of their time, advice, and expertise over a long period to guarantee the success of the technical aspects of the project. At the Duke University Press Anne Poole, John Menapace, and Ed Hayes helped immeasurably. A subsidy from the University Research Council of Duke University made possible the publication both of this volume and the other two in the series. For the errors which will inevitably occur-and in a work like this they are bound to occur-we are solely responsible.

John J. TePaske, Duke University

Herbert S. Klein, Columbia University



1. Cosme Bueno, Geografía del Perú Virreinal (Siglo XVIII) publicado por Daniel Valcarcel (Lima, 1951), p. 18.Continuar leyendo

2. Ibid., p. 16; Sonia Pinto, Luz María Mémdez, Sergio Vergara, Antecedentes históricos de la Contraloría General de la República (Santiago de Chile: Contraloría General de la República, 1977), pp. 79-87. An audiencia was a colonial appeals court.Continuar leyendo

3. Pinto et al., Antecedentes, p. 65. For a brief discusión of the duties of treasury officials and the operation of the royal caja in Peru, see the Introduction to John J. TePaske and Hebert S. Klein, The Royal Treasuries of the Spanish Empire in America: Peru (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1982).Continuar leyendo

4. Pinto et al., Antecedentes, pp. 69-70, 72.Continuar leyendo

5. Ibid., p. 68.Continuar leyendo

6. We have uncovered a few accounts for the caja of Santiago for the late 1560s and early 1570s, but otherwise have found no more extant accounts until the first decade of the seventeenth century when our series begins.Continuar leyendo

7. Without royal cédulas or other such evidence, it is difficult to establish the precise dates at which royal treasuries were created or began functioning. Thus, unless there is firm evidence from some other source, we have used the date when an account for each caja first appeared as the date the caja began operation, knowing full well it may have been functioning before this date.Continuar leyendo

8. Pinto et al., Antecedentes, p. 73. Continuar leyendo

9. Ismael Sánchez Bella, La organización financiera de las Indias (siglo XVI) (Sevilla: Escuela de Estudios Hispano-Americanos, 1968), pp. 59-69.Continuar leyendo

10. Pinto et al., Antecedentes, p. 71.Continuar leyendo

11. The major gaps in our series in the early eighteenth century for the caja of Concepción are for the years 1713-1734 and 1741-1760.Continuar leyendo

12. On the formation and operation of the Contaduría Mayor de Cuentas, see Jacques Barbier, Reform and Politics in Bourbon Chile, 1755-1796 (Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press, 1980), pp. 77-94.Continuar leyendo

13. Pedro Santos Martínez, Historia económica de Mendoza durante el virreinato (1776-1810) (Madrid: Instituto ‘Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo,’ 1961), pp. 165-204. In this chapter the autor discusses the operation of the caja of Mendoza; his listing of most of the labor entries in the accounts begins in 1778 with only one reference to an account for 1777.Continuar leyendo

14. Ibid., pp. 93-101.Continuar leyendo

15 Cosme Bueno, Geografía, p. 18; Antonio de Alcedo, Diccionario geográfico de las Indias Occidentales o América, 4 vols. (Madrid: Ediciones Atlas, 1967), I: 181-185.Continuar leyendo

16 Apparently Buenos Aires was a thriving center of illicit trade in the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries with many of the illicit goods being brought in by slave traders. For porteños the trade was absolutely essential; goods coming from Lima sold at astronomical prices.Continuar leyendo

17 Luis Navarro García, Hispanoamérica en el siglo XVIII (Sevilla: Universidad de Sevilla, 1975), pp. 236-237.Continuar leyendo

18 Santos Martínez, Historia económica, p. 67.Continuar leyendo

19 Royal cajas took on many names. A major was referred to as caja principal or caja propietaria. A subordinate caja but one which had royal officials who kept accounts like the caja of Mendoza or Pachuca in Mexico was oftentimes referred to as a caja foránea or caja subordinada. In a third category was the sub-treasury called caja menor or tesorería menor. Tucumán was a caja principal but never seems to have functioned as one.Continuar leyendo

20 Of the many articles on colonial coinage and money, the two most valuable are by Humberto Burzio, “El ´peso de plata´ hispanoamericano, “Historia (Buenos Aires) 3 (1958): 9-24; and “El ‘peso de oro’ hispanoamericano, “Historia (Buenos Aires) 4 (1956): 21-52.Continuar leyendo