The Seven Years War (1756-63) and imperial defence
The great international conflict known to the colonists as the French and Indian War, and to Europeans as the Seven Years War, was a struggle for global primacy between Britain and France. In that struggle, in which Bourbon Spain was to be directly involved in its closing stages, the fate of North America would be decided. Not only were the lives and prospects of millions of North Americans - the Iroquois and other Indian peoples, French Canadians, colonial Britons, West Indian planters and their slaves - to be changed for ever by the conflict and its aftermath, but its impact would be felt throughout the hemisphere, even in Spanish territories as far away as Chile and Peru. War, even war at second or third remove, was to be the catalyst of change in British and Spanish America alike.
The conflict on North American soil in fact began in 1754, two years before the formal outbreak of war in Europe, when Governor Robert Dinwiddie of Virginia sent a military expedition under the 21-year-old Lieutenant-Colonel George Washington to the further side of the Allegheny mountains in a bid to challenge the assertion of French sovereignty over the Ohio Valley.' As was to he expected, the expansionist plans of the recently formed Ohio Company of Virginia2 had collided with those of the French to establish a permanent presence for themselves and their Indian allies in the vast area of territory between their settlements in Canada and in the Mississippi Valley, and so to block British expansion into the interior. Washington's crushing defeat at Fort Necessity was followed by the despatch in 1755 by the Duke of Newcastle's ministry of Irish infantry regiments under the command of Major-General Edward Braddock - `two miserable battalions of Irish', as William Pitt described them in a speech to the House of Commons; - to expunge the chain of French forts. His expedition, like that of Washington, ended in disaster at the hands of the Indians and the French.
The Duke of Newcastle hoped to confine the conflict to North America, but the dramatic reversal of great-power alliances in Europe created the conditions and the opportunities for a struggle that was to be global in scale. England declared war on France in May 1756, as French warships sailed up the St Lawrence with troops for the defence of Canada under the command of Montcalm.4 Montcalm's energetic direction of military operations forced the English and colonial forces on to the defensive, and it was only after William Pitt was entrusted by a reluctant George II in 1757 with the effective running of the war that vigour and coherence were injected into the British war effort, and the run of defeats was succeeded by an even more spectacular run of victories.
Map 6. British America, 1763.
Based on The New Cambridge Modern History, Vol. XIV, Atlas (1970), pp. 197 and 198; Daniel K. Richter, Facing East from Indian Country. A Native History of Early America (2001), p. 212.
By establishing British naval superiority in the Atlantic, and making North America the principal focus of Britain's military effort, Pitt was able to turn the war around. During the course of 1758 General Amherst captured Louisbourg on Cape Breton Island, commanding the mouth of the St Lawrence,' and AngloAmerican forces took and destroyed the strategically commanding Fort Duquesne at the forks of the Ohio. The year 1759 was to be the annus mirabilis of British arms. A naval force in the West Indies seized the immensely profitable sugar island of Guadeloupe; a campaign fought with the help of the Iroquois, who realized that the time had come to switch their support to the English, captured the French forts in the Lake Ontario region; and Quebec capitulated to the troops of General Wolfe. When the last effective French Atlantic squadron was defeated two months later at Quiberon Bay, the chances of French recovery in North America were gone, and with the surrender of Montreal in the summer of 1760 the conquest of Canada was complete. The young George III, ascending the British throne in October of that year, had entered into a rich and vastly expanded imperial inheritance. On both sides of the Atlantic his triumphant peoples could celebrate an unprecedented succession of victories around the world; and there were more to come, both in India and America, where the remaining islands of the French West Indies, including Martinique, fell to British attacks in 1761-2.6
When Charles III succeeded his half-brother Ferdinand VI on the Spanish throne in 1759, the year before the accession of George III, it was already obvious that the balance of global power had tilted decisively in favour of Great Britain. Although courted by both sides, Spain had remained neutral during the opening years of the Anglo-French conflict, but the run of British victories was cause for growing concern to Madrid, and in 1761 the French and Spanish Bourbons renewed their Family Compact. Although this was nominally a defensive alliance, the British government got wind of a secret convention promising Spanish intervention in the conflict after the safe arrival of the treasure fleet, and in January 1762 Britain pre-emptively declared war on Spain.7
Spain's ill-judged intervention was to prove a disaster. In a pair of audacious military and naval operations that testified to the new global dimensions of eighteenth-century warfare, a British expeditionary force sailing from Portsmouth, and joined in the West Indies by regular and provincial troops from North America, besieged and took Havana, the pearl of the Antilles, while another expeditionary force, despatched from Madras to the Philippines, seized Manila, the trading entrepot where Asia and the viceroyalty of New Spain touched hands.'
The almost simultaneous fall of these two port cities - one the key to the Gulf of Mexico and the other to the trans-Pacific trade - was a devastating blow to Spanish prestige and morale. No peace settlement would be possible without the return of Havana to Spain, but the security of Florida and central America was now endangered, and the French minister, Choiseul, was keen for negotiations to begin. Although Britain had achieved a crushing naval superiority, its finances were stretched, and Choiseul found a war-weary British government willing to respond. The Treaty of Paris, which came into effect in February 1763, involved a complex series of territorial exchanges and adjustments that, while recognizing the extent of the British victory, would, it was hoped, give reasonable satisfaction to all three powers involved. Britain retained Canada but restored Guadeloupe and Martinique to France; Spain, in exchange for the return of Cuba, ceded Florida - the entire region east of the Mississippi - to Britain, abandoned its claims to the Newfoundland fisheries, and made concessions on logwood cutting along the central American coast; and the French, to sweeten the pill for their Spanish allies, transferred to Spain their colony of Louisiana, which they themselves were no longer in a position to defend. With France now effectively expelled from North America, Britain and Spain were left to face each other across thinly colonized border regions and the vast expanses of the Indian interior.9
For both these imperial powers, the war itself had exposed major structural weaknesses, which the acquisition of new territories under the terms of the peace settlement would only compound. In London and Madrid alike, reform had become the order of the day. Britain might be basking in the euphoria of victory, but, as ministers in London were painfully aware, its power was now so great that it could only be a question of time before France and Spain again joined forces to challenge its supremacy. How long that time would be depended on the speed with which Charles III's secretaries of state could implement a programme of fiscal and commercial reforms that had been the subject of constant discussion in official circles, and which the government of Ferdinand VI had taken the first steps to introducing in the 1750s. The failure of the defending forces at Havana and Manila brought a new urgency to their task. `The secretaries', it was reported, `... are working like dogs. They are doing more in a week than they previously did in six months."° The long siesta was drawing to a close.
The most pressing problem for both the British and Spanish governments was the improvement of measures for imperial defence. For the victors as for the vanquished, the strains and stresses of war had thrown the inadequacies of the existing system into sharp relief. The central issue for both London and Madrid was how to achieve a fair distribution of defence costs and obligations between the metropolis and the overseas territories in ways that would produce the most effective results. Both empires had traditionally relied heavily on colonial militias for the protection of their American possessions against either Indian or European attack, but as frontiers expanded during the first half of the eighteenth century, and European rivalries on the American continent intensified, the drawbacks of the militia system became glaringly apparent."
The Spanish authorities already made use of regular or veteran troops to man the expanding network of presidios or frontier garrisons, finally numbering 22, along the vast northern frontier of the viceroyalty of New Spain. They also turned to regulars for the protection of the vital harbour of Vera Cruz on the coast of Mexico, raising an infantry battalion in 1740 to reinforce its defences. Over the middle decades of the eighteenth century in the viceroyalty of New Spain, therefore, a small number of regular troops - perhaps 2,600 in all, and widely dispersed on garrison duty - came to supplement the urban and provincial militias on which the viceroyalty's defence had traditionally depended. In spite of an attempt at reform in the 1730s, these militias, which were open to all classes except for Indians, and included companies of pardos (all or part black) '12 were neither organized nor disciplined, and could offer little effective resistance in the event of attack.13 The story was similar in other parts of Spanish America. It was true that over vast areas of the interior of the continent, far removed from the dangers posed by hostile Indians or European rivals, there was little cause for concern. The disasters of 1762, however, exposed the hollowness of a defence system ill prepared either for serious frontier warfare or for amphibious attack.
In the British colonies, with their long frontiers bordering on potentially hostile French, Spanish or Indian territory, and their own growing populations in expansionist mode, the militias were more likely to be put to the test than their Spanish American counterparts. By the eighteenth century, however, their military effectiveness had taken second place to social respectability. Not only Indians, as in New Spain, but also blacks and mulattoes were excluded from the mainland militia companies, and the citizens who manned them were naturally reluctant to commit themselves to the lengthy periods of service demanded by a frontier war that grew dramatically in scale in the 1740s. As a result, the militias had increasingly to be supplemented by volunteer units, drawn from among the poorer whites, and unwillingly paid for by colonial assemblies which had a visceral dislike of voting taxes.14
Although the colonies made an intensive effort in the 1740s to get their militias and volunteer units out on campaign, their military record was mixed, and looked even less satisfactory when subjected to the cold critical scrutiny of British professional soldiers and government officials. Where the viceroys of New Spain and Peru, although with limited financial resources at their disposal, could make, in their capacity as captains-general, such provisions for defence as they considered necessary, the thirteen governors of the mainland colonies of British North America had the difficult preliminary task of negotiating with assemblies that were all too likely to be truculent. The Board of Trade was growing increasingly concerned that Britain's American empire was in no position to repulse a sustained onslaught from New France. Provincial politicking and the ineptitude of military amateurs were putting Britain's valuable North American empire at risk. In deciding in the 1750s, therefore, to commit regular troops to the defence of its transatlantic possessions the British government embarked on a major change of policy. By the end of the decade twenty regiments from the home country were to be stationed in America."
In spite of the growing British commitment to the defence of North America, there was a not unreasonable expectation that the king's American subjects should do more to defend themselves. This involved a much greater degree of mutual co-operation than they usually managed to achieve. While in the northern colonies the danger from the French and the Indians had fostered a tradition of mutual assistance in emergencies, the intensity of inter-colonial jealousies and rivalries made it difficult, if not impossible, for all thirteen colonies to act in unison. Even before the formal outbreak of war between Britain and France in 1756, however, the urgency of the need for common defence measures was becoming apparent to observers on both sides of the Atlantic. In June 1754 the Board of Trade was informed that the king thought it highly expedient that `a plan for a general concert be entered into by the colonies for their mutual and common defence', and ordered the Board to prepare such a plan.16 In America itself, Benjamin Franklin, who had become the eager apostle of a great British empire in America, drafted a `Plan of Union' for submission to a congress convened in Albany in 1754 on the instructions of the Board of Trade for the co-ordination of the Indian policies of the different colonies. Franklin's plan was ambitious - too ambitious for colonies historically jealous of their own rights and traditions, and deeply suspicious of any scheme involving the surrender of some of the most cherished of those rights to a `Grand Council' of the colonies, meeting annually and empowered not only to negotiate on their behalf with the Indians, but also to levy taxes and raise troops for colonial defence. When the plan was brought before the colonial legislatures, most of them rejected it out of hand, and some did not even consider it.'7 The idea of unity was not one that came instinctively to societies born and bred in diversity.
Exasperation in London went hand in hand with relief at the inability of increasingly prosperous and independent-minded colonies to join together in a common endeavour that might conceivably be one day directed against the mother country itself. At present, the very danger posed by the French and the Indians was an inducement for them to stay in line. But at the same time the inability of the colonists to set aside their differences in the face of this danger persuaded the Duke of Newcastle of the need for more direct and consistent intervention from London. Already he had decided to appoint a commander-inchief for North America, and this was to be followed by the appointment of two superintendents for Indian affairs, for the northern and southern colonies respectively, to bring some order and uniformity to the anarchic American scene.18 The failure of the Albany congress was confirmation, if any were still needed, that colonial defence was too serious a matter to be left to mere colonials.
First-hand experience during the course of the war did not enhance the admiration of British officials and military commanders for the attitude and behaviour of these provincial Americans. `The delays we meet with in carrying on the Service, from every parts [sic] of this Country, are immense', wrote the commander-in-chief, the Earl of Loudon, in August 1756. `They have assumed to themselves, what they call Rights and Priviledges, totally unknown in the Mother Country, and [these] are made use of, for no purpose, but to screen them, from giving any Aid, of any sort, for carrying on, the Service, and refusing us Quarters.'19
Collaboration would improve considerably as Pitt took over the direction of the war and introduced a system of reimbursement for the military expenses of the colonies. But the haggling and procrastination of the colonial assemblies, and the indiscipline of provincial troops who had little use or respect for the rigidities of European military professionalism and hierarchies of rank, gave rise to constant complaint. The exasperation of the British authorities was further compounded by the systematic disregard shown by colonial merchants for the regulations prohibiting trade in Dutch, French and French-Caribbean commodi- ties.20 `It is not easy to imagine', wrote Governor Clinton of New York in 1752, ,to what an enormous hight [sic] this transgression of the Laws of Trade goes in North America. 121 The inhabitants of the British colonies displayed a positively Spanish American enthusiasm for the smuggling of enemy goods.
The conquest of Canada added further complications to the logistical and practical problems of defending the British empire of America. A vast new area of territory had been added to the king's dominions, and more would be added with the transfer of Spanish Florida to British rule by the peace settlement of 1763. The French threat might for the moment have been eliminated, but France would certainly be seeking revenge. The Spain of Charles III, too, was a far from friendly power, and the Indian nations along the borderlands were a continuing preoccupation. By the later stages of the war 32 regiments containing over 30,000 British regular soldiers were serving in the Americas, at enormous expense to the British tax-payer, who was paying 26 shillings a head for imperial defence, as against a shilling a head paid by the colonists.22 If some of these regiments were to remain on American soil after the return of peace, it would be necessary to devise ways of financing them.
George III, guided by the Earl of Bute and imbued with all the enthusiasm of a novice king, took a direct personal interest in the question. By the end of 1762 he had reached the conclusion that a large British army would have to remain in the colonies. His ministers endorsed what they called `his majesty's plan', and prepared to present it to the House of Commons. Under the plan, as outlined to the House in March 1763, 21 battalions, totalling some 10,000 men, were to be permanently stationed in North America in order to maintain authority over the Indians of Canada, `not familiaris'd to civil government', as well as over `90 thousand Canadians'. The American colonists were to assist with the upkeep of these troops, although the method and quantity of their contribution was, for the time being, left open.23 When the great Indian rebellion, led by the Ottawa war leader, Pontiac, broke out in the spring of 1763, and one after another of the British forts around the Great Lakes and in the Ohio valley fell to Indian attack, the wisdom of `his majesty's plan' could hardly be contested.
While George III and his ministers were grappling with the consequences of victory, Charles III and his ministers were grappling with the implications of defeat. The naval construction programme undertaken by his predecessor had given Charles III a relatively strong fleet, and his government, dominated at this early stage of the reign by two Italians, the marquises of Esquilache and Grimaldi, pressed ahead with the shipbuilding programme on both sides of the Atlantic, turning to the French for technical expertise.24 But the most urgent task facing the administration was a radical overhaul of the whole system for defence of the Spanish Indies. A secret junta, consisting of Grimaldi, Esquilache and the secretary for the Indies and the navy, Julian de Arriaga, was set up late in 1763 to consider not only questions of defence, but also of government and revenue in the American viceroyalties, and the Indies trade. By early 1764 the junta was ready with its proposals for the improvement of American defences, while another junta was entrusted with the task of preparing proposals for increasing trade and revenue.25
The fortifications of the American Atlantic ports - Vera Cruz, Havana, Campeche and Cartagena - were to be massively strengthened, at great expense. But, as with George III's plan, the principal recommendation was for the sending of metropolitan forces to improve the security of the American territories. The existing permanent garrisons and the urban and provincial militias had both proved themselves largely useless. The solution appeared to lie in the professionalization of the military in America, with the formation of well-trained and wellequipped regiments, established on a permanent footing. If only on grounds of cost, the new field army, however, would be much more dependent on colonial participation than the British army in America. It was to consist in large part of units of volunteers, recruited in the Indies, but commanded and trained by Spanish officers. These `fixed' units, as they were called, would be reinforced by peninsular regiments sent out to the Indies for a maximum of four years' service. Their presence would provide, or so it was hoped, a model of modern military methods in time of peace, and the nucleus of a professional army in time of war. At the same time, the old colonial militias would be augmented, reorganized and professionally trained by a cadre of Spanish officers, to furnish an auxiliary force for use in emergencies.26
The captain-general of Andalusia, Lieutenant-General Juan de Villalba, arrived in New Spain in November 1764 at the head of two regiments, carrying with him instructions to implement the programme of military reforms. Predictably he soon found himself in conflict with the viceroy, jealous of his own prerogatives as captain-general of New Spain. Moreover, as in the British colonies, differences of attitude and approach created endless possibilities for misunderstanding and antagonism between professional soldiers sent out from the metropolis and the colonial population. The Spanish officers, like their British counterparts, looked down on the creoles and were frustrated by the inadequacies of the militias they had been sent to reorganize. Their presence, therefore, increased the already existing tensions between creoles and peninsulares. Although the Spanish authorities were haunted by fears of a rebellion supported by the militiamen, just as the British authorities were perturbed during the Seven Years War by manifestations of `a general disposition to independence''27 the creoles in fact showed very little inclination for military activities and resisted calls to enlist. Villalba's high-handed approach did not help his cause. He affronted creole sensibilities by mixing whites and castas in the infantry companies, and found that members of the creole elite were unwilling to apply for commissions.
The military reform programme in New Spain therefore got off to a rocky start. Although, on Villalba's figures, the viceroyalty had an army of 2,341 regulars and 9,244 provincials by the summer of 1766, only one of the six provincial regiments was properly armed and uniformed, and the quality of the recruits was low. Yet at least the structure of the army of New Spain was now in place, and the pattern established in the viceroyalty would be followed across the continent. By the end of the decade it was estimated that some 40,000 men, in different categories, were stationed across Spanish America .21
Spanish officers brought a new military professionalism to the Indies, with encouraging results. In 1770, for instance, the governor of Buenos Aires was able to expel the British from the Malvinas - the Falkland Islands - where they had established a fishing and naval station. For diplomatic reasons, however, his success was to be short-lived. In the following year a British ultimatum forced Charles III to abandon the islands, since the French, whose alliance with Spain was essential for successful defiance of England, were unwilling to come to his support.29
Over the next two or three decades, as Spanish America acquired a permanent military establishment, creole attitudes to military service changed. Madrid had always hoped that military titles and uniforms would prove a magnet to a creole elite hungry for office and honour. But its hopes were dashed when young men of good colonial families showed themselves unwilling to serve under Spanish officers. Service in the militia, however, began to look rather more attractive when - as in New Spain in 1766 - full privileges under the fuero militar were extended to officers in provincial units, and partial privileges to enlisted personnel.3o Traditionally, in the corporate society of metropolitan Spain, the military, like the clergy, constituted a distinctive corporation, possessing the right or fuero of jurisdiction over its own members. By extending immunity in criminal and civil cases to officers serving in the provincial militias, the fuero militar effectively set them apart from the mass of the population. Across the continent, from Mexico City to Santiago de Chile, the sons of the creole elite, resplendent in their uniforms, would constitute just over half the veteran officer corps of the army of America by the last decade of the eighteenth century.31 The first seeds of the militarization of the states of nineteenth- and twentieth-century Latin America were sown by the Bourbon military reforms of the late eighteenth century.
The contemporaneous reforms in the system of British imperial defence were destined to have an opposite effect. The British government's decision to provide an army for America composed of regiments sent from the home country arose out of a perception of colonial realities that failed to factor colonial sensibilities into the equation. There were vast territories to be defended, and their experiences with provincial units during the Seven Years' War had left British commanders with a low opinion of American fighting capabilities. The authorities in London were therefore inclined - unwisely as it later transpired - to write off the militias as being of little value, and particularly those of New England which had been most heavily involved in the Canada campaign.32 Where the Spanish author ities - driven more by financial stringency than by any high regard for the fighting qualities of the creoles - chose to integrate reorganized and retrained local militias into the new system of imperial defence, their British counterparts, with large numbers of unemployed soldiers on their hands after the signing of the peace, saw the solution to their domestic and American problems in a standing army imported from England .31
The very notion of a standing army, however, smacked of continental tyranny to a colonial population that took for granted its entitlement to English liberty. During the war it had seen for itself how the argument of military necessity could ride roughshod over rights.34 For the time being, Pontiac's rebellion made them grateful for the continuing protection afforded by the redcoats. But grounds for apprehension already existed, and the subsequent actions of the ministers in London would do nothing to assuage them.
The drive for reform
The problem of security was to be the precipitant of change in both the British and the Spanish empires. Increased security meant increased costs, as ministers in Madrid and London were painfully aware. Britain emerged from the war saddled with an enormous burden of debt, and it now had to find an estimated £225,000 a year35 to maintain an army in America. It seemed reasonable to expect the colonists, whose current contribution to the costs of empire came from inefficiently collected customs dues, to take a fair share of paying for an army intended for their protection. Ministers in Madrid were moved by similar considerations. The defences of outlying and exposed regions, like the Caribbean islands or the central American coast, represented a continuous drain on the resources of hardpressed treasuries, and if the Indies were better administered they could surely do more to meet the costs of their own protection. Fiscal and administrative reform therefore appeared to follow naturally from the requirements of a modernized system of imperial defence.
Other, and related, considerations were also impelling British and Spanish ministers in the direction of a general reassessment of their colonial policies. There was, in particular, the question of territorial boundaries. For Britain the acquisition of New France and Florida meant the addition to its American empire of large new territories with their own distinctive legal and administrative systems, and with Roman Catholic populations. How could they be satisfactorily incorporated, and what rights could their populations be safely allowed at a time when English Catholics were excluded from participation in political life? The defeat of the French also meant the removal of the most effective barrier to trans- Appalachian expansion by a land-hungry population hemmed in along the Atlantic seaboard. Were the colonists now to be permitted to swarm into the Indian interior, thus provoking new Indian wars, with all the additional strain on financial and military resources that this would involve? The Spaniards, too, were faced with difficult boundary problems. The long northern frontier of New Spain was only thinly settled. Should it be extended still further northwards to form a barrier against the English, thus provoking further conflict with the Indians, and again adding to the costs of defence? The dilemma that confronted both Britain and Spain was that of an empire too far.
Their problems were exacerbated by the fact that the imperial territories they already possessed appeared to be in danger of slipping from their control. The consolidation of creole oligarchies, and the accelerating infiltration of their members into high judicial, administrative and ecclesiastical posts,36 had left Spanish ministers and viceroys with a growing sense of impotence in the face of creole opposition. For all the talk of reform, and serious efforts between 1713 and 1729 to return to traditional standards of appointment, 108 creoles secured positions in the Audiencias during the reign of the first two Bourbons, and it was only in 1750 that the crown felt able to end the practice of putting these posts up for sale. By then, creole judges were in the majority in the Audiencias of Mexico City, Lima and Santiago, and retained it for a further two decades.37 By no means all the creole judges were local sons, but, where they were, the strength of their local connections hardly guaranteed an impartial enforcement of royal justice and an effective implementation of royal decrees.
In the British colonies, royal governors found themselves hamstrung by their lack of financial independence, with colonial assemblies dictating appointments through their control of salary appropriations. `The ruling faction has obtained in effect the nomination to all offices,' complained Governor Clinton of New York in 1746.38 The Seven Years War only served to increase the opportunities for political leverage by the assemblies. By the end of the war all the lower houses in the British colonies had effectively secured an exclusive right to frame money bills, and were becoming accustomed to thinking of themselves as local equivalents of the House of Commons.39 Until now, the presence of the French had helped to restrain those inclinations to independence which ministers in London suspected the colonists of harbouring. With that presence removed, how could continuing loyalty be assured?
These were the kind of problems that had long preoccupied George Montagu Dunk, Earl of Halifax, President of the Board of Trade between 1748 and 1761, who had tried to push successive administrations into paying more attention to American affairs and had presented them with far-reaching proposals for administrative reform.40 They also bulked large in the minds of the reformist ministers whom Charles III had gathered round him in Madrid. The temper of the age in continental Europe was running strongly towards the strengthening of the state and the rationalization of administration in line with the scientific principles of the Enlightenment. Ministers and officials were anxious to take their decisions on the basis of the most up-to-date information available. This meant applying the methods of science to government and ensuring that reliable statistics were collected. Ministers therefore launched surveys and promoted scientific expeditions that would furnish them with the facts and figures on which to base their policies. Even English ministers were not immune to the new breezes blowing from the continent. Halifax exemplified this new rationality as he sought to devise a programme of colonial reforms that would enable London to create a cost-effective empire.41
It was one of the ironies of the 1760s that Spanish ministers should have taken Britain's commercial empire in America as a model for their own at a time when the British themselves were becoming increasingly attracted by the idea of a more centrally controlled empire on the model of the Spanish. Madrid wanted to see Spain's American possessions transformed into British-style `colonies', a rich source of staple products and a market for its goods, but it was under no illusions as to the scale of the reforms that would be needed. The loss of Cuba, however, and its recovery under the terms of the Peace of Paris, presented ministers with an opportunity that they were quick to seize. The urgent need for a radical overhaul of the island's defences made Cuba an ideal laboratory for trying out a programme of comprehensive reform that might later be extended to the mainland territories.42
Following the return of the island to Spain, the Count of Ricla was sent out as governor and captain-general to retake possession and reorganize the system of defence. He arrived in Havana in June 1763, accompanied by General Alejandro O'Reilly, who was deputed to oversee the plans for refortifying Havana harbour, expanding the garrison, and reconstituting the island militia as a disciplined force. The costs of implementing the plans, however, would be high, and government revenues in the island were low The alcabala, which in other American territories was a substantial source of income consisting of 4-6 per cent payable on sales, had only recently been imposed on domestic transactions, and was set at a meagre 2 per cent. Although the Mexican treasury would contribute to the cost of constructing new fortifications, there was still a heavy shortfall, and the challenge facing Ricla was to generate more income in the island itself.
Ricla embarked on a round of astute negotiations with the tobacco and sugar planters, the ranchers and the merchants who constituted the island's elite. Access to British markets during the months of British occupation had brought home to them the benefits to be gained from a more liberal trading system than the highly regulated system that still prevailed in the Spanish colonial trade, in spite of recent attempts at relaxation. Ricla's best hope of success therefore lay in hinting at the possibilities of a change in the commercial regime as compensation for acceptance by the islanders of an increase in taxes. Such a change, however, would mean the government's defying the formidable Consulado of Cadiz merchants, who were determined to preserve their monopoly of the American trade.
In April 1764, following a recommendation by Esquilache's reforming junta, the crown raised the Cuban alcabala from 2 to 4 per cent and placed levies on brandy (aguardiente) and rum. An anxious period of waiting followed on the island, as the Spanish crown considered a Cuban petition for liberalization of the trading laws. During this period Esquilache was engaged in facing down conservative-minded ministers and officials and the lobbying of the Cadiz Consulado. By October 1765 he was ready to act. In a decisive break with the practice of channelling the principal Indies trade through Cadiz, permission was granted to nine Spanish ports to trade directly with Cuba and the other Spanish Caribbean islands, and the ban was lifted on inter-island trade. A second royal decree modified and consolidated the island's tax system, raising the alcabala in the process to 6 per cent.
Esquilache himself was toppled from power five months later by a popular insurrection in Madrid directed against the Italian reformist ministers of Charles III and covertly encouraged by highly placed government officials.43 But the Cuban fiscal and commercial reforms that Esquilache had devised in partnership with Ricla not only survived but were sufficiently successful to lay the groundwork for Cuba's future prosperity as a sugar-producing colony. At the same time, the appointment in 1764 of an intendant to handle the island's fiscal and military affairs - the first time that one of these new-style officials, introduced into Spain by the Bourbons, had been appointed outside the peninsula - represented a first, tentative, experiment towards endowing the Indies with a modern, professional bureaucracy.44 The institution of these various measures, even if on the small scale of an island setting, suggested how reformist ministers, playing their cards skilfully within the traditional Spanish political culture of bargaining and mutual concessions, could defuse opposition and find a compromise solution acceptable both to themselves and to a colonial elite with a list of grievances to be redressed. It was an example that the ministers of George III would prove unable to replicate.
Even before they could be certain of the outcome of the Cuban reforms, Charles III's minsterial team decided to apply their reformist brushstrokes to a wider canvas. In 1765 Jose de Galvez, a lawyer in Esquilache's circle with a dry personality and a fanatical zeal for reform, was sent out to conduct a general visitation of the viceroyalty of New Spain. His six-year visitation was to be decisive both for his own career in the service of the crown, and for the future of the reform programme in Spain's American possessions as a whole. The success of his mission was to lead to similar visitations of the viceroyalties of Peru in 1777 and New Granada in 1778. Galvez himself, created Marquis of La Sonora by a grateful monarch, was appointed secretary of the Indies in 1775, and exercised a dominant control over American affairs up to the time of his death in 1787.45
The reform projects associated with the name of Galvez, involving fiscal, administrative and commercial innovation on an unprecedented scale, testify to the extent of the transformation of attitudes and assumptions about Spain's empire of the Indies that had been gathering strength in Madrid over the middle decades of the eighteenth century. The reforms were bold, but Charles III and his closest advisers had reached the conclusion that the case for reform was overwhelming. There was no doubt in their minds that, in the predatory international world of the eighteenth century, the survival of Spain's American empire could no longer be taken for granted. The loss of America, with its great reserves of silver and its large population - probably now approaching, and soon to overtake, the population of peninsular Spain with its 9 million inhabitants46 - would mean the end of Spain's pretensions to be counted among the great powers of Europe.
Although Britain might have won the war, British ministers in London were as anxious as their Madrid counterparts about the future of their overseas empire. The population of British America still lagged far behind that of Britain itself: in the 1750s the mainland colonies had some 1,200,000 inhabitants and the West Indies 330,000, while the population of the British Isles now stood at around 10 million.47 It was generally acknowledged, however, that the value of the commodities produced for Great Britain by the colonies, and their rapidly growing potential as a market for British goods, had made their retention central to British policy. But they had to be retained in such a way as to prevent them from becoming a permanent burden on the British tax-payer, and this could not be achieved without major reforms in colonial management. In the spring of 1763 Bute observed: `We ought to set about reforming our old colonies before we settled new ones.'48
The fall of Bute and the appointment in April 1763 of George Grenville as first Lord of the Treasury in his place, placed government in the hands of a man with an obsessive determination to balance the books. His financial expertise, coupled with the American expertise of Halifax, who three months later was made secretary of state for the South, promised a determined attempt to reduce colonial affairs to order.49 This involved large-scale territorial reorganization, undertaken in the autumn of 1763. The newly acquired Spanish Florida was reconstituted as two separate colonies, East and West Florida.50 These were to have royal governors and elected assemblies, and be made subject to the English legal system. French Quebec similarly became a British colony, while the territory south of the St Lawrence estuary was added to Nova Scotia, a British colony since 1713.51 It was also necessary to give the benefits of royal protection to the king's new Indian subjects, together with his new French subjects and the handful of Spaniards who chose to remain in Pensacola and Florida after their transfer to the English crown. Halifax attempted to resolve the border question and pacify the Indian peoples by creating a demarcation line that would exclude settlers from the American interior. A royal proclamation of October 1763 established the famous Proclamation Line, drawing a boundary along the line of the Appalachian mountains - a boundary that was supposed to be policed by the colonial army, but that settlers and land speculators would rapidly come to ignore.12
This redrawing of the American map by ministers and officials in Whitehall was accompanied by the raft of measures between 1763 and 1765 which were to make the name of Grenville famous, or infamous, in Anglo-American history: the attempt to enforce the collection of customs dues by strengthening the system of vice-admiralty courts, originally established in 1697;53 the 1764 Currency Act, curtailing the emission of independent currencies by the colonies;54 the American Duties (Sugar) Act;55 and the notorious Stamp Act of March 1765, imposing a duty on legal documents, books, newspapers and other paper products - a form of taxation which, under the name of papel sellado, had been levied in the Spanish Indies since the 1630s.56 `The great object', said Grenville in a speech in the House of Commons in 1764, `is to reconcile the regulation of commerce with an increase of revenue. 117
This was equally the object of the Spanish crown, which was simultaneously accelerating its own campaign to secure higher returns from its American possessions. At the heart of this campaign was the move by royal officials to assume direct administration of the collection of excise and other dues previously farmed out to the highest bidder, and the establishment or reorganization of state monopolies on major articles of consumption, notably brandy and tobacco.58 These fiscal measures were to be accompanied by a more rational and better regulated system for the transatlantic trade, which would both encourage its development through some liberalization of the existing laws, and reduce the opportunities and the pretext for contraband - a source of deep concern to Madrid as it was to London.
In comparison with the measures taken by Madrid, those taken by Grenville and his ministerial successors, although infused by a determination to establish firmer metropolitan control over wayward colonies, look more like a set of pragmatic responses to the military, financial and administrative problems created by the Seven Years War than the building blocks of a coherent programme of reform.59 It was true that the sheer scale and complexity of the demands on the British military establishment in North America presented Whitehall with a formidable array of difficulties. As its commander-in-chief, General Thomas Gage, was painfully aware, his army was expected simultaneously to garrison an internal continental frontier against Indian attack, prevent colonists from jeopardizing relations with the Indian nations of the interior by flooding across the Proclamation Line, and keep a watchful eye on seaboard colonies that seemed strangely ungrateful to the mother country for all that it had done to defend them during the recent war. The costs of this programme were massive. Army estimates for America came to £400,000 a year, while the colonies themselves were yielding less than £80,000 in revenue annually.60
Government policy in the years following the Peace of Paris, however, lacked consistency of direction. The Quartering Act of 1765, specifying the services to be provided to the troops, was a typically botched piece of work, precipitating conflicts with colonial assemblies and unrest and violence in New York.6' British ministers, having decided that something must urgently be done, give the impression of acting without having thought through their policies or calculated the impact on colonial sensibilities of measures that would inevitably challenge deeply ingrained practices and assumptions. Charles III's ministers in Madrid, by contrast, showed greater wisdom in their first moves to bring change to America. The pilot project successfully carried through in Cuba by the Count of Ricla suggests at once a more systematic approach to reform in the Indies, and a greater consistency in its implementation.
The greater coherence of Iberian reformist policy in America can be partly attributed to the presence of a dominant figure in the affairs of the Indies over a long stretch of time. The volatility of British domestic politics in the 1760s, and running disputes between the President of the Board of Trade and the Secretary of State for Southern Affairs, left American policy in an uneasy limbo. As Lord Chesterfield observed in 1766: `if we have no Secretary of State with full and undisputed powers for America, in a few years we may as well have no America.'62 It was only in 1768 that a new office of Secretary of State for the Plantations was created, with the Earl of Hillsborough, a hard-liner in his approach to the colonies, as the first holder of the office. For all his American expertise, the Earl of Halifax was never given the opportunity to evolve into a Jose de Galvez, who made his career by identifying himself with the cause of reform, first in America itself during his visitation of New Spain between 1765 and 1771, and subsequently in Madrid, as secretary for the Indies.
With a team of like-minded officials to support him, Galvez displayed an unrelenting commitment over more than two decades to the reconstruction of a system of government that he regarded as antiquated, corrupt and ineffectual.63 He found an America in the hands of old-style local officials, the corregidores and alcaldes mayores, and left it in the hands of new-style bureaucrats, the intendants. He found, too, a transatlantic commercial system straining under the rusty machinery of Habsburg regulation, and oversaw its replacement by a new and modernized version that was to operate under the famous ordinance for `free trade' - comercio libre - of 1778.
Yet for all the drive and determination of a powerful minister backed by a resolute monarch, there were also strong underlying political and ideological forces pushing the Spanish reform programme forward. Unlike Britain, powerful in its new-found economic and maritime strength, Spain was a country convalescing from a long period of debilitating weakness. While the slow process of recovery was by now under way, there was still far to go. Royal officials who spoke the new language of political economy, like Jose del Campillo,64 or the rising star of the royal administration, Pedro Rodriguez de Campomanes,65 had left the king and his ministers in no doubt of the fundamental importance of the Indies and the American trade to that process. The political and administrative recovery of the Indies was a sine qua non for the internal and international recovery of Spain. The continuity which this assumption gave to Madrid's American policy over the following decades was reinforced by the continuity in office or in positions of influence of ministers who might differ in their ideas and approaches, but who were all committed to the goal of reform both in the Indies and in Spain itself - not only Galvez, but also the three principal ministers of the reign of Charles III after the fall of Esquilache, the counts of Aranda, Campomanes and Floridablanca.
Reform in the peninsula had been directed over half a century to removing the obstacles to the creation of a powerful state capable of generating the wealth and mobilizing the resources that would enable it to hold its own in a ruthlessly competitive international system. In the eyes of the crown and its advisers this entailed the dismantling of much of the old order inherited from the Habsburgs. It meant the suppression of the old regional laws and institutions, and the dissolution of the Habsburg corporate society with its immunities and privileges - privileges which, in the view of Madrid, impeded the effective exercise of royal authority and obstructed the development of agriculture, trade and industry, the prerequisite of national power and prosperity. All private interests were to be subordinated to the common good - the bien coma n66 - and every group in society must be subjected to a uniformity of dependence on the crown. `As a magistrate', wrote Campomanes in 1765, `I cannot abandon the bien comun, hide the abuses that obstruct it, or fail to call on the support of the laws against them, and if some of these laws have fallen out of use or have been forgotten, to propose their renewal or improvement.'67
The sole object of loyalty was henceforth to be the unified nation-state - the cuerpo unido de nacion68 - embodied in the person of the monarch. In place of the regional patriotisms of the Habsburg composite monarchy, a new and genuinely Spanish patriotism was required. In the words of the famous Aragonese exponent of Enlightenment doctrine, Benito Jeronimo Feijoo (1676-1764), `the patria ... which we ought to value above our own private interests is that body politic in which, under a civil government, we are united beneath the yoke of the same laws. Thus Spain is the object of the love of the Spaniard.'69
In a campaign designed to extend state control over every aspect of public life, the church, with its enormous wealth and its corporate rights and immunities, inevitably came to occupy the attention of the reformers. In practice, regalist policies were nothing new, and had long been pursued by the Habsburgs, but they were resumed with a new vigour by the ministers of Charles III, who launched a determined assault on clerical privilege in their efforts to complete the work begun by the Concordat of 1753 and ensure the clear subordination of the church to the throne.
The American church had a somewhat different relationship to the crown from that of the church in Spain. Royal control of ecclesiastical appointments under the Patronato had made it a dependent, if not always reliable, junior partner in the government of the Indies. Questions of clerical immunity and of the excessive wealth of bishops and cathedral chapters, however, were universal in the Hispanic world. In the Indies, as in Spain, both the church and the religious orders could be represented as impediments to the effective exercise of a royal power operating in the name of the `common good'. From the 1760s to the end of the century colonial officials therefore worked with varying degrees of success to curtail or abolish the immunities of the American clergy, while an obedient episcopal hierarchy sought to raise the level of ecclesiastical discipline, using provincial councils as the instruments of reform.70
The religious orders, for their part, presented special problems in the Indies, as a result of their pre-eminent position in the work of evangelization. Bourbon reformers, with their regalist notions, had little love for independent-minded members of religious communities enjoying a semi-autonomous status, and were therefore inclined to support the efforts of the bishops and the secular clergy to limit their influence. A new impetus was given to the campaign that had been waged since the late sixteenth century for the secularization of the parishes, a process that the religious orders systematically opposed in the courts .71 By the 1760s they found themselves on the defensive, and in 1766 the Jesuits, the most powerful and intransigent of them all, finally lost their long legal battle against paying the 10 per cent of tithes on the produce of their properties, which the laity and the other orders paid to the cathedral chapters.72
This setback to the Jesuits in Mexico was to be overshadowed by the catastrophe that overtook the entire order in the following year, when Charles III, following the example of the kings of Portugal and France, decreed its expulsion from all his dominions. He had his own reasons for disliking the Jesuit order, which he saw as a dangerously powerful international organization unamenable to royal control, and which he suspected, with some reason, of being in collusion with the interest groups involved in the recent overthrow of his reforming minister, Esquilache.73 A decree, however, that was warmly welcomed by adherents of the philosophy of the Enlightenment also received the support of `Jansenist' elements in the Spanish church, which questioned the value of the religious orders and looked to a pastoral clergy and an internalized religion for spiritual reformation. This more austere form of Spanish Catholicism, which found its architectural and visual counterpart in the replacement of exuberantly ornate baroque church decoration by simple neo-classical interiors, was well suited to the temper of a regime that expected the church to confine itself to spiritual concerns, unless or until otherwise directed by the crown.74
The expulsion decree of 1767, dramatic as it was for metropolitan Spain, left a still more gaping hole in the fabric of Spanish American life. The enforced departure of some 2,200 Jesuits, many of them creoles,71 meant the abandonment of their frontier missions, including the famed Indian communities in Paraguay. The order owned a total of some 400 large haciendas distributed through New Spain, Peru, Chile and New Granada. This massive amount of well-managed real estate was now transferred to the crown, and eventually from the crown to private pur- chasers.76 In addition, the expulsion produced a major upheaval in the educational system of Spanish America, where Jesuit colleges had formed generation after generation of the creole elite, and it deprived the Indies of dedicated pastors and teachers, many of whom would carry with them to Europe a deep nostalgia for the world they had left behind them. Their precipitate departure provoked immediate and violent outbreaks of protest. Jose de Galvez, busy with his visitation of New Spain, used the newly arrived regiments to crush the riots, hanging 85 of the ringleaders, and condemning hundreds more to imprisonment.77 While the immediate protests might have been stifled, the long-term repercussions of the expulsion were to be as revolutionary as the decree that drove the Jesuits out.
There could have been no better symbol of the ruthless determination of the Caroline reformers to break decisively with the past than the expulsion of the Jesuits. When taken in conjunction with the administrative and fiscal reforms now gathering pace, it suggested to anxious creole elites that the world was fast changing around them. At the heart of that world had been an apparently stable relationship between the crown and its American subjects, governed by the predictability that came from the belief that each party to the relationship would abide by the rules. Now suddenly the very foundations of that relationship appeared to be crumbling. Far away to the north, the no less anxious subjects of the British crown were reluctantly arriving at the same conclusion.
Redefining imperial relationships
Ministers in Madrid and London were taken aback by the strength of colonial reactions to what seemed to them to be their entirely justified measures for fiscal and administrative reform. A comment made in 1766 by the fiscal attorney of the Audiencia of Quito was as applicable to the American subjects of George III as to those of Charles III of Spain: `there is no American who does not reject any novelty whatsoever in the management of taxation.'78 The words were written with feeling. Quito in 1765 was the scene of the first great outbreak in Spanish America of violent protest against the Caroline reform programme - an urban insurrection that dwarfed in length and intensity the Mexico City food riots of 1692.79
In conformity with the programme for increasing American revenues, although apparently acting without direct orders from Madrid, the viceroy of New Granada, Pedro Messia de la Cerda, gave instructions for the removal of the administration of the alcabala sales tax and the brandy monopoly from the hands of private tax-farmers. Instead, it was to be taken over by royal officials, whose loyalty and dedication would, he hoped, substantially increase the returns to the treasury. The effect of this proposed reform was to unite in opposition to the new measures a large number of disparate social groups in the city. The creole elite saw its economic interests directly affected by the changes. This was especially true of landowners who grew the sugar that was distilled into brandy. The elite also bitterly resented any attempt by the authorities to introduce fiscal innovations without prior consultation with the city council. For their part, householders, small tradesmen and artisans would be hit by more rigorous collection of the sales tax at a time of acute depression in the local textile economy, which had long been suffering from foreign competition and was further hit by the influx of cheaper, European, cloths at the end of the Seven Years' War. With the encouragement of members of the clergy and the religious orders - the Jesuits, among others, had sugar-producing estates - and with the approval of the Audiencia, the city council decided to resort to the old Hispanic tradition in times of trouble of convening an expanded town meeting - a cabildo abierto - in which representatives of different sections of the urban community would have the opportunity to air their views.
Acting, again following tradition, in the name of the public good - a bien comi n conceived rather differently from that put forward by royal ministers - the meeting resolved to oppose the reforms and petition the viceroy to this effect. De la Cerda had no intention of changing his plans. His officials, having successfully introduced the changes to the brandy monopoly, proceeded to push ahead with the scheme for taking the alcabala into administration. On 22 May 1765 large crowds, mostly mestizo in composition, came out onto the streets from the dif ferent barrios, or quarters, of the city, probably encouraged by clerics and members of the creole elite. There were no troops in the city, the militia companies were conspicuously invisible when their presence was needed, and the crowds, which were joined by Indians, ransacked and destroyed the alcabala office.
Once the weakness of the authorities had been exposed, the confidence and the radicalism of the protesters increased. The viceroy had chosen a peninsular Spaniard to introduce the Quito reforms, and strong anti-Spanish feelings began to rise to the surface, with placards being posted demanding the expulsion of all the peninsulares in the city. On St John's night, 24 June, a party of armed citizens headed by the corregidor and including peninsular Spaniards tried to reassert control by firing on the crowd, killing two young men. As the news spread, large numbers swarmed into the streets and congregated in the Plaza Mayor, where they attacked the palace of the Audiencia, the citadel of royal authority. The rioters were now in control, and the Audiencia, under pressure, had no choice but to order the expulsion of all peninsular Spaniards who were not married to creoles. The expulsion decree was read out in a public ceremony in the Plaza Mayor, and the crowd celebrated its victory with shouts of `Long live the king!'
The royal government in Quito had effectively collapsed, and although the Indian communities in the immediate countryside remained quiet, the unrest spread southwards to the city of Cuenca, and northwards as far as Popayan and Cali. In Quito itself order was maintained by an increasingly precarious coalition of plebeian leaders and prominent creole citizens, who were becoming alarmed at the level of violence. By degrees, as the coalition crumbled, the urban patriciate and the Audiencia recovered control. When royal troops sent by the viceroy from Santa Fe de Bogota finally entered the city in September 1766 they met with no resistance. The Audiencia, which had been so closely identified with the collapse of royal authority, was purged, and early in 1767 the brandy monopoly was restored. The crown had no intention of forgoing a valuable source of revenue, or of abandoning its reforms.
The Quito rebellion was an anti-tax revolt, which temporarily united the different strata of urban society in a common cause. It provided an outlet for the strong anti-Spanish sentiments that ran through so much of colonial society in eighteenth-century Spanish America, but if some of the rebels envisaged full autonomy for the kingdom of Quito there was no general intention of overthrowing royal government. The insurrection, however, was also a form of constitutional protest, in the conventional constitutionalist style of the Spanish Monarchy. Even if the American viceroyalties had no representative assemblies, the cities had their cabildos, and creole patriciates expected to be consulted by the authorities before innovations were introduced. In the absence of such consultation, the calling of a cabildo abierto, which extended the process of deliberation to embrace the urban community as a whole, was the logical next step in the organization of protest, and a preliminary to organized resistance.
Since the resistance on this occasion was to a reform programme that Madrid planned to extend to all its American territories, it could be regarded as presaging a general opposition throughout the continent. Quito, however, was a remote city in the Andean highlands, living in a world of its own. Although the kingdom of Quito had been incorporated into the viceroyalty of New Granada when it was re-established in 1739, it retained a substantial degree of autonomy and was some eight to ten weeks' travelling distance from New Granada's capital of Santa Fe de Bogota. If anything, its links were closer to Lima and to the viceroyalty of Peru, to which it had formerly belonged.80
Given the city's remoteness, the events in Quito might have seemed a localized phenomenon, and one likely to have only limited repercussions. News, however, had a way of percolating through the Hispanic world, and it duly reached New Spain, where, in the autumn of 1765, rumours of an increase in taxes provoked an assault by the populace on soldiers in the garrison of Puebla.81 More significantly, in Spain itself the rebellion provided yet another argument for use by the enemies of Esquilache. Already highly unpopular for his monopoly of power and office, his radical reforming policies, and his dictatorial ways, he could now be accused of pursuing a programme that threatened to lose Spain its American empire. 12 In so far as the accusation played its part in the movement that led to his overthrow on 23 March 1766, the uprising in Quito marked the moment at which events in America first began to influence Spanish domestic politics. Spanish ministers were starting to find, as British ministers were also finding, that the Atlantic was narrower than it looked.
In Spanish America itself, however, the varied timing of the reforms, depending on the region involved, helped reduce the chances of co-ordinated resistance by colonial populations across jurisdictional and administrative boundaries. The general visitation of Peru, for instance, by Jose Antonio de Areche, the natural sequence to that of New Spain by Galvez in the 1760s, would only begin in 1777. This staggered approach to reform, a logical consequence of the vast areas of territory to be covered, gave the Spanish imperial authorities an advantage over their British counterparts when it came to responding to opposition, as the 1765 Stamp Act crisis in the British Atlantic community was to demonstrate.
Although early responses in the British colonies to Grenville's measures were muted, they provoked a groundswell of uneasiness. The plans for the rigorous enforcement of customs duties under the 1764 Sugar Act were deeply disturbing to merchants all down the Atlantic seaboard, and Governor Bernard of Massachusetts reported that `the publication of orders for the strict execution of the Molasses Act has caused a greater alarm in this country than the taking of Fort William Henry did in 1757 ... the Merchants say, There is an end of the trade in this Province."' But the concern extended far beyond the mercantile community, badly hit by the post-war slump.84 The colonies had emerged from the war proud of their contribution to a victory which had seen the glory of the British Empire - their empire - raised to unparalleled heights. Looking back more than half a century later to the early years of the war and the arrival of General Amherst and his redcoats in Worcester, Massachusetts, on their way to Fort William Henry, John Adams wrote: `I then rejoiced that I was an Englishman, and gloried in the name of Britain."' Now, at the moment of triumph, after the colonists had played their own part by raising some 20,000 men a year and paying half the cost themselves,86 they saw their contribution to victory disparaged, a standing army stationed on their soil, and new revenue-raising measures being introduced without prior consultation or approval by their own elected assemblies.
News of the Stamp Act spread through the colonies in April and May 1765, around the time when the people of Quito were deciding to take the law into their own hands against the fiscal measures being imposed by the Spanish authorities. Initial responses were again muted, but on 29 May, in the Virginia House of Burgesses, Patrick Henry made the electrifying speech in which he argued for the passage of five resolutions outlining the House's constitutional objections to the Act. 17 Like the petitions put forward by the creoles in Spanish America, who used the historical argument of their descent from the conquistadores and first settlers to justify their claims to rights contested by the Spanish crown, so the Virginia resolutions also argued from history in favour of the colonists' rights:
Resolved, that the first Adventurers and Settlers of this his Majesty's Colony and Dominion of Virginia, brought with them, and transmitted to their Posterity, and all other his Majesty's subjects since inhabiting in this his Majesty's said Colony, all the Liberties, Privileges, Franchises and Immunities, that have at any Time been held, enjoyed, and possessed, by the people of Great Britain.88
By including `all other his Majesty's subjects', this resolution was nominally more all-inclusive than comparable Spanish creole assertions of their historical legitimacy, but it did not include two-fifths of Virginia's population, its 200,000 black slaves.
It was the fifth resolution, subsequently rescinded by the House of Burgesses but spread through the colonies by newspapers and gazettes with the addition of two spurious resolutions to the original five, that provoked uproar in the House and an upsurge of excitement far beyond it:
Resolved Therefore that the General Assembly of this Colony have the only and sole exclusive Right and Power to lay Taxes and Impositions upon the Inhabitants of this Colony and that every Attempt to vest such Power in any Person or Persons whatsoever other than the General Assembly aforesaid has a manifest Tendency to destroy British as well as American Freedom.
Here was a direct challenge to the right of the British parliament to tax the colonies, and a challenge mounted, moreover, in the name of British as well as American liberty. As such, it provided a rallying cry for protest, and it was in Boston on 14 August 1765 that direct action first followed on protest.
Boston's population of some 16,000 was around half that of Quito, estimated at 30,000 in this period.89 Boston, too, had been badly affected by sluggish economic conditions, exacerbated at the beginning of 1765 by what John Hancock called `the most prodigious shock ever known in this part of the world' - the collapse and flight of a merchant banker, Nathaniel Wheelwright, with whom small-scale merchants, shopowners and artisans had deposited their money.HO The Boston riots, like those of Quito that summer, were the work of a well-orchestrated mob, whose leaders, the Loyal Nine - soon to rename themselves the Sons of Liberty - were acting with the connivance or collusion of members of the civic elite.91 The Loyal Nine were largely artisans and shopkeepers, the kind of people badly hit by the depression and the banking collapse. As in Quito, the first target of the rioters was the office from which it was expected that the hated new tax would be administered, and this was followed by the ransacking of the house of the designated stamp distributor, Andrew Oliver, who promptly resigned a post to which he had not yet received his official appointment. Twelve days later, the mobs turned their attention to the houses of the comptroller of customs, the register of the vice-admiralty court, and the wealthy lieutenantgovernor of Massachusetts, Thomas Hutchinson. Running through the acts of looting and violence, as in Quito, was the animosity of the impoverished against rich citizens, some of whom had grown substantially richer on the profits made during the war by military contracting and other activities. According to the governor, Francis Bernard, `a War of plunder, of general levelling and taking away the distinction of rich and poor', was only narrowly averted.92 He himself retired to the safety of Castle William. With no regular soldiers stationed in Boston there was nothing he could do. British imperial authority in Massachusetts was as impotent as Spanish imperial authority in New Granada, but where the latter would eventually get its way, the former failed to do so.
The reasons for this were various, and were related to both local and wider colonial circumstances, and to the metropolitan context. Whereas the highland economy of Quito, although possessing remote access to the Pacific through the port of Guayaquil, left it relatively disconnected from the outer world, Boston was a normally flourishing port city, a busy hub of inter-colonial and transatlantic trade, closely and influentially connected with the other mainland colonies and those of the West Indies. It was also, as William Burke described it in his Account of the European Settlements in America, published eight years earlier, ,the capital of Massachusetts bay, the first city of New-England, and of all North America'." The Massachusetts interior did not always march in step with its bustling capital, but on this occasion the city radicals effectively persuaded the colony's freehold farmers, with their `very free, bold, and republican spirit', of the justice of their cause. `In no part of the world', wrote William Burke, `are the ordinary sort so independent, or possess so many of the conveniences of life.'94 Flaunting their independence and flying their flag in the name of liberty - the birthright of every subject of the British crown - they united with the citydwellers in an expression of outrage that resonated through all colonial America. Its effectiveness was revealed as rioting spread to other cities, and groups calling themselves Sons of Liberty sprang up in colony after colony.
Whether the different colonies could actually co-ordinate their opposition to the Stamp Act remained an open question. The emergence of a popular press during the preceding decades had raised the level of awareness in individual colonies of what was happening in the others, but the past record of inter-colonial cooperation had not been impressive, although the shared struggles and triumphs of the Seven Years War are likely to have fostered the sense of a wider American community to which all the colonies belonged. Eventually nine of the thirteen colonies attended the congress specially summoned for New York in October 1765. This itself was a remarkable display of unity, and all the more so since three of the absentees, Virginia, North Carolina and Georgia, were prevented from participating by the refusal of their governors to convene assemblies for the election of delegates.95
While the delegates to the Stamp Act Congress were anxious to reaffirm their loyalty to the British crown in the statement they prepared to draft on colonial rights and privileges, they were equally anxious to affirm their conviction that powers of taxation over the colonies were vested exclusively in their own elected assemblies. They accepted that legislation in matters of trade rested with parliament in London, but were faced with the awkward fact that Grenville's measures raised the problem of deciding where trade regulation ended and the levying of new taxes began. With opinions divided over tactics and wording, the final statement was inevitably somewhat ambiguous, but its general tenor was clear. Americans, by virtue of their rights as Britons, could not and should not be subjected to taxation voted by a British parliament in which they were not represented.
One lesson suggested by the Stamp Act Congress was that there was more to unite than divide the colonies. In the words of Christopher Gadsden, the representative of South Carolina: `There ought to be no New England men, no New Yorker, &c., known on the Continent, but all of us Americans ...'96 Resistance to the Stamp Act, spreading - although in largely muted form - to the West Indies'97 helped to strengthen ties of solidarity, enhancing a sense of American identity among people loudly proclaiming that they were Britons to the core. This community of feeling and action bridged social as well as inter-colonial divisions. Social groups that were disaffected or had hitherto played little or no part in colonial politics now became active participants in the cause of liberty. `Such an Union', wrote John Adams triumphantly, `was never known before in America.'98
The passionate dedication of the colonists to liberty, as manifested in the riots in the seaboard cities and the successful staging of an inter-colonial congress, found practical expression in the development of an unprecedented weapon of political opposition for bringing pressure to bear on the British ministers and parliament - the boycotting of British goods. Under the Stamp Act, merchants would need to pay stamp duty to clear their goods through customs. A group of New York merchants took the initiative in pledging to cancel all orders for manufactured articles until the Stamp Act was repealed.99 Their action was publicized in colonial newspapers; merchants' orders were cancelled in Boston, Philadelphia and elsewhere; and consumers were exhorted to refrain from purchasing British luxuries.
In some respects the initiative taken by the New York merchants and imitated by their colleagues in the other port cities was self-serving. Times were depressed, import merchants had overstocked inventories on their hands, and the market for English goods was temporarily saturated. As it turned out, compliance with the boycott was patchy, but the colonists had hit on a form of leverage against the mother country with enormous potential. If the rapidly expanding consumer society of colonial America was heavily dependent on imports from Britain, the American market in turn had become of crucial importance for the industrializing British economy. Some two-thirds of the new industrial goods exported by Britain - linens, cottons, silks, metalware - were by now being exported to America.'00 At the beginning of the century, North America took 5.7 per cent of all British domestic exports; in 1772-3, the figure was 25.3 per cent.10'
Virginia and Maryland financed the purchase of these British goods primarily through their tobacco exports to Britain, while New England and the Middle Colonies did the same by supplying timber, grain, flour and meat to the West Indies plantations. Any disruption to this delicately poised British Atlantic system could obviously have the most serious repercussions both for the British imperial economy and for domestic industrial production in Britain, as the chairman of an organization of London merchants warned the Marquis of Rockingham. When the colonists refused to participate in any commerce requiring stamps, as he expected them to do on 1 November, `our sugar islands will be deprived of their usual supplies of provisions, lumber etc.' The West Indies planters would then be `disabled from sending home their produce or even subsisting their slaves', with obvious and disastrous consequences for the economy of the mother country. He warned, too, that a stoppage of American trade would prevent merchants collecting their debts, thus threatening them with ruin, while those who survived would stop buying manufactured goods for export to America. `It naturally and unavoidably follows that an exceedingly great number of manufacturers are soon to be without employ and of course without bread. 1102
Any British parliament was likely to be acutely sensitive to such a threat to national prosperity, and not surprisingly the House of Commons took notice when confronted by petitions from 25 trading towns urging repeal of the Stamp Act because of the distress they were suffering as a result of the fall in exports to America.103 It was the novel character of Britain's commercial empire of the eighteenth century - an `empire of goods' - that made non-importation such a potentially effective weapon. For Spain's American colonists such a weapon was unimaginable. Not only did Spain lack a representative body in which commercial and industrial interests could publicly voice their concerns, but the backwardness of Spanish industry meant that Spanish American consumers were largely dependent on non-Spanish manufacturers for the luxuries they craved. Their insatiable appetite for European goods, whether legally or clandestinely imported, was far more harmful to the mother country than any boycott could ever be. In the Spanish Atlantic system, contraband, not boycotting, was the most effective form of protest against unpopular policies emanating from Madrid, and the purchase of contraband goods had become second nature to these overseas subjects of the King of Spain.
Through consumer boycotts and street protests alike, the Stamp Act, formally introduced on 1 November 1765, was to all intents and purposes a dead letter from the start. Mass resistance on this scale took ministers in London by surprise, and presented them with a dilemma from which there was no obvious escape. But Grenville's removal from office that summer had provided the opportunity for at least a temporary retreat if this should be needed. The new Rockingham administration's expectation that the Stamp Act would be self-enforcing was dashed when it received in early December a report on the imminent danger of rebellion in New York. Already aware of the logistical problems in the way of reinforcing from England the army in America to levels which would enable it to contain the rising tide of disorder, the administration rightly came to the conclusion that the act was unenforceable.104 Imperial authority, however, must somehow be upheld. The government's solution was to repeal the Stamp Act in February 1766, but to follow the repeal with a Declaratory Act affirming the sovereignty of parliament over the colonies. It was in conformity with this act that Charles Townshend would introduce his project of colonial taxation in 1767, and thus unleash a new, and graver, crisis in the increasingly fraught relationship between London and the colonies.
The Stamp Act crisis exposed, as never before, the fragility of the imperial hold over North America in the face of violent and more or less co-ordinated resistance throughout the colonies to measures deemed unacceptable by their populations. But beyond this it also exposed fundamental ambiguities in the constitutional ordering of the empire itself. As a result of these ambiguities the metropolis and the colonies had come to view their relationship through very different lenses. The same was true of Spain and its American empire, but the ambiguities were not the same, and the problems they created, although severe, were not so immediately intractable.
The crisis that overtook the Anglo-American community in the 1760s can be seen in constitutional terms as the crisis of the British composite monarchy in the form it had come to assume by the middle of the eighteenth century.105 Where Bourbon Spain had turned its back on the idea of composite monarchy and was moving firmly in the direction of an authoritarian monarchy based on a vertical articulation of power,106 Hanoverian Britain was set on a course that had led to a partially composite parliamentary state. The events of 1688 had established the sovereignty of king in parliament, and the incorporating union of Scotland with England in 1707 had given the Scots parliamentary representation at Westminster in compensation for the loss of their own parliament in Edinburgh. Both Ireland and the colonies, however, remained outside this incorporating parliamentary union, and retained elected assemblies of their own.
This left open the question of the relationship between these assemblies and the Westminster parliament, at least until 1720, when it passed a Declaratory Act asserting its authority over the Irish parliament. But the Westminster parliament refrained from exercising tax-raising powers over the Irish, and was careful to obtain the agreement of the Irish parliament before legislating on Irish matters.107 Until the 1760s it was similarly circumspect in questions relating to the internal affairs of the American colonies, although it showed no such scruples where the regulation of trade was concerned. But if the question of the ultimate location of sovereignty were to be directly put, there was no doubt at Westminster what the answer should be. Sovereignty was indivisible, and it lay with the English parliament. While rejoicing in American resistance in his famous speech on the Stamp Act of 14 January 1766, William Pitt described the constitutional position with brutal clarity: `When two countries are connected together, like England and her colonies, without being incorporated, the one must necessarily govern; the greater must rule the less .. '108
For a parliament, rather than the monarch, to assert sovereignty over the component parts of a composite monarchy, all of which had their own representative assemblies, constituted a novelty in the history of composite monarchies. Pitt and his fellow parliamentarians therefore found themselves navigating in uncharted waters. But the very notion of the indivisibility of sovereignty left them with little room for manoeuvre. The dominant interpretation of the status of colonies in terms of the historical example of the Romans, who (it was incorrectly believed) considered their colonies to be imperial dependencies, in contrast to the Greeks, merely strengthened their conviction of the correctness of their course.109 As Charles Townshend observed in replying to Grenville, if parliament were ever to give up the right of taxing America, then `he must give up the word "colony" - for that implies subordination."10 `Subordination' was automatically taken to mean subordination to the English legislature.
An incorporating union between Britain and the colonies on the Scottish model would have brought American representatives to the Westminster parliament. This was an idea that Benjamin Franklin, as Pennsylvania's agent in London, toyed with at the height of the Stamp Act crisis, but soon abandoned on hearing the latest news from America. `The Time has been', he wrote, `when the Colonies, would have esteem'd it a great Advantage as well as Honour to them to be permitted to send Members to Parliament; and would have ask'd for that Privilege if they could have had the least hopes of obtaining it. The Time is now come when they are indifferent about it, and will probably not ask it ...'i'i They would have no truck, either, with the argument devised by Thomas Whately during the course of the crisis, that the colonists, like those residents of Britain who did not possess the vote, nevertheless enjoyed `virtual representation' in parliament, a notion described by a Maryland lawyer as `a mere cob-web, spread to catch the unwary, and intangle the weak'."2 They had been endowed with their own representative assemblies, modelled on the English House of Commons, and the copies should surely replicate the original, not only in its workings but also in its pow- ers.113 Their assemblies provided not only a guarantee of the right they enjoyed by virtue of their English descent to reject all taxation to which they had not given their prior consent, but also the only proper forum for consent to new taxes when new taxes were required.
Loyalty to the person of the British monarch remained unshaken, and the colonists continued to take pride in their participation in a British Empire that was an empire of the free. But the incompatibility between their perception of their British rights and the British parliament's perception of its own uncontested sovereignty as the necessary condition for the effective running of that empire created a constitutional impasse. This impasse was, if anything, made all the more difficult to negotiate by the sense of shared identity and shared ideals. Occasional references might be made in England to Americans as foreigners '114 but many would have agreed with William Strahan, a London printer, when he wrote: `I consider British Subjects in America as only living in a different Country, having the selfsame Interests, and entituled to the self-same Liberties."" `Every drop of blood in my heart is British', wrote the Pennsylvania attorney, John Dickinson, in 1766, as if in confirmation. 116 It was precisely because they saw themselves as British that the Americans would stand up for their rights. This left little room for compromise in a constitutional framework which entrenched in representative institutions rights regarded as fundamental on both sides of the Atlantic.
The effective absence of such institutions in Spain's Monarchy and empire inevitably created a different dynamic from that which determined relationships in the British Atlantic community. But in the Spanish Atlantic community also there was a growing divergence in assumptions and perceptions on the two sides of the Atlantic that similarly presaged major troubles ahead. Spain's American territories, like the British colonies, continued to see themselves as members of a composite monarchy at a time when Madrid's terms of reference had changed. But where the British colonies now found themselves confronting a parliamentary regime that - even as it proclaimed its own absolute authority - still half spoke the language of composite monarchy, of liberty and rights, Spain's American dominions were faced with a monarch and ministers for whom the very notion of composite monarchy had become anathema. As a result, the two sides of the Spanish Atlantic were speaking different languages, whereas the languages spoken by Britain and British America were confusingly, and dangerously, the same.
The language spoken in official circles in Spain was now that of the unitary nation-state with an absolutist monarch at its head - a monarch who received his power directly from God without any mediation by the community."? This was the language used by the viceroy of New Spain, the Marquis of Croix, in his 1767 viceregal proclamation ordering absolute submission by all classes and conditions of Mexican society to the royal decree for the expulsion of the Jesuits: `... the subjects of the great monarch who occupies the throne of Spain should know once and for all that they were born to keep silent and obey, and not to discuss or express opinions on high matters of government."
In the authoritarian centralized monarchy of Charles III's ministers and viceroys there was no room for the semi-autonomous kingdoms and provinces of which a composite monarchy was traditionally composed, nor for the compacts that guaranteed the preservation of their distinctive identities. Instead, they must be integrated into the unitary state. But the creole elites of the kingdoms of Peru and New Spain, of Quito and New Granada naturally clung to the historic privileges and traditions of the lands that had become their patrias. These privileges and traditions, as they saw it, were now under growing threat from the interference of meddling reformers, and they expected their protests to be heard, and their grievances to be addressed, in the ways they always had been - through petitioning and bargaining, until an acceptable compromise was reached.
The reformers, however, showed alarming signs of being unwilling to play the old game, as the intransigent reaction of the New Granada authorities to the Quito riots made all too clear. In the more politically sophisticated creole community of New Spain, Jose de Galvez's visitation between 1765 and 1771 provoked similar alarm. Taken in conjunction with the expulsion of the Jesuits, his attitudes and behaviour provided eloquent evidence of the new spirit that prevailed in Madrid. He had come with a clear mandate for reform, and the reform included plans for sweeping administrative changes, that would effectively put an end to the management by creoles of their own affairs. In 1768, in line with the experiment introduced in Cuba four years earlier, he proposed a new system of government for the Mexican viceroyalty, which would be divided into eleven intendancies, thus bringing it into uniformity with the administrative system established by the Bourbons in Spain. The plan envisaged the disappearance of the 150 district magistracies - the alcaldes mayores - which had allowed creoles to gain control of large areas of local government, with consequent opportunities for the exploitation of the Indian population.119
At the same time as Galvez was drawing up his scheme for the undercutting of local interests through the professionalization of the American bureaucracy, ministers in Madrid were considering the government of the Indies in the light of reactions in the Indies to the expulsion of the Jesuits. On 5 March 1768 an extraordinary council, presided over by the Count of Aranda, president of the Council of Castile, met to discuss ways of strengthening the ties between Spain and its American possessions at a time when the expulsion had subjected them to heavy strain. The Council of Castile's two attorneys, Campomanes and Jose Morino, the future Count of Floridablanca, drew up the report.120 The tenor of their proposals was reminiscent of those put forward in the 1620s by the countduke of Olivares for the closer integration of the Spanish Monarchy,121 but while it still carried overtones of the age of composite monarchy, the temper of the document belonged to the new age of the unitary state.
Where Olivares had written of the need to end `the separation of hearts' between the various kingdoms of the Monarchy,'22 the committee was concerned with the problem of how to induce the king's vassals in the Indies to `love their mother, who is Spain', when they lived at such a distance from her. Nothing was being done to make them `desire or love the nation', and there was little chance of this happening as long as they saw the peninsulares crossing the Atlantic to enrich themselves at creole expense. `Those countries', said the report, `should no longer be regarded as simple colonies (pura colonia) but as powerful and considerable provinces of the Spanish Empire.' One way to treat them as such was to bring over young creoles to study in Spain, reserve places in the Spanish administration for them, and establish a native American regiment in the peninsula. At the same time the policy should be maintained of
always sending Spaniards to fill the principal posts, bishoprics and prebends in the Indies, but appointing creoles to equivalent offices in Spain. This is what would strengthen friendship and union [the words might have come straight from the Count-Duke's pen] and [an eighteenth-century touch] would create a single national body (un solo cuerpo de nacion), with the creoles over here as so many hostages for the retention of those lands under the gentle dominion of His Majesty123
This and the other proposals in the report were approved by the council, which saw them as a device for binding the Indies to the mother country with ties of mutual interest `in order to make this union indissoluble'. The Indies were, in effect, to become provinces of Spain, and, as a further measure of integration, it was proposed that each of the three American viceroyalties, together with the Philippines, should be allowed to appoint a deputy to join those of Castile, Aragon and Catalonia in the standing body, or diputacion, which had taken the place of Cortes now defunct. The object would be for them `to confer and humbly represent suitable measures for the utility of those dominions'. This was the nearest that an absolute monarchy could permit itself to come to the suggestions being entertained in London for the inclusion of American representatives in the House of Commons.
Impelling the 1768 report was the fear, always latent in Madrid as in London, that the American territories might at some moment attempt to break loose. A few months earlier the fiscal attorney of the Council of the Indies had remarked that `although they have been the most peaceful of our dominions since their discovery, it is never wise to assume that they are entirely safe from the danger of rebellion. 12' But could the plans for closer integration now being discussed in Madrid quieten the unrest of the creoles by addressing their complaints? It soon became apparent that they could not.
With Galvez missing no opportunity to display his contempt for the creoles, there was a growing suspicion in New Spain that Madrid had embarked on a systematic policy of filling the higher judicial and administrative offices in the viceroyalty with peninsular Spaniards. At present, six of the seven judges of the Mexican Audiencia were creoles.125 Were those born and bred in New Spain no longer to hold positions of trust in their own land? In 1771 the Mexico City council commissioned one of the creole judges, Antonio Joaquin de Rivadaneira y Barrientos, to draw up an official protest for submission to the crown.126 Rivadaneira responded with an eloquent statement of the creole case for preferential treatment in appointment to office - a statement that moved beyond the standard argument, endlessly repeated since the sixteenth century, that such treatment was owed them by virtue of their descent from the conquerors and first settlers of New Spain.
Any attempt, Rivadaneira warned, to exclude `American Spaniards' from high office `is to seek to overturn the law of peoples. It will lead not only to the loss of America but to the ruin of the state.' `Natural reason', he argued, and `the laws of all kingdoms' dictated that `foreigners' should not hold offices to the exclusion of natives. `European Spaniards', even if sharing the same sovereign, should be considered foreigners `by nature, if not by law' - a prudent qualification in view of the fact that the Indies had been constitutionally incorporated into the Crown of Castile by right of conquest. `The truth is that while these people may not be considered foreigners in the Indies from a constitutional point of view, in fact they do not derive their identity from the Indies. They have their homes, their parents, their brothers and sisters, and all their ties in Old Spain, not in New Spain.' As a result, `they regard themselves as transients in America whose prime purpose is to return wealthy to their own home and their native land.'
An awareness of the constitutional objections to his case had driven Rivadaneira to resort to the argument from `nature' - an argument couched in terms of incipient national identity, and in this respect more radical than any yet advanced by the North American colonists. He had in effect turned Spaniards' criticisms of creoles against themselves. It was not the creoles but the Spaniards who were the `foreigners', ignorant of the land they had been sent out to rule and stayed to exploit. Innate loyalty and political prudence, however, made him also well aware of the need to avoid any suggestion that Spanish Americans were determined to split the Hispanic community in two. `We cannot cut out the Europeans altogether. This would mean seeking to maintain two separate and independent bodies under one head, something of a political monstrosity.' But there was an element of bathos when he went on to ask: `do they have to receive all the higher appointments?'
Rivadaneira was engaged in a difficult balancing act. On the one hand he had to affirm the essentially Spanish character of the creoles, while at the same time he had to establish their right as natives of their patria to be the real masters in their own land. By placing so much emphasis on the patria, however, in an attempt to counter the relative weakness of their constitutional case, the creoles ran into problems that could be at least temporarily evaded by the North American colonists, who were similarly wrestling with the implications of a dual identity. British Americans could dwell on the constitutional rights to which they considered themselves entitled as Britons, while turning a blind eye to the presence of Indians and black slaves in their midst. But the presence of other races, and especially of large indigenous or mixed populations, was less easily ignored by Spanish creoles intent on defending their patrias against metropolitan attack. Metropolitan Spaniards had persistently flung at the creoles the charge that they had not only degenerated in an American environment but had also been contaminated by continuous miscegenation. Rivadaneira therefore had to protect his flank by preserving a sharp differentiation between creoles and Indians, `born to poverty, bred in destitution, and controlled through punishment'.
His words only serve to underline how the creole patria had been constructed as essentially the preserve of those who had conquered and settled it, men and women of incontestable Spanish lineage. `We have to make it clear', he wrote, ,that America consists of a large number of Spaniards whose blood is as pure as that of Spaniards from Old Spain.' In the face of Spanish disparagement of all things American, the creole claim to purity of blood (limpieza de sangre), with all the resonance those words enjoyed in the Hispanic world, carried a heavy weight of psychological baggage. It might be deployed in support of the same underlying argument about the fundamental unity and equality of metropolitans and colonials, but it went well beyond the purely symbolic character of John Dickinson's proud boast that `every drop of blood in my heart is British."27 For the creoles of Spanish America, blood, in the most literal sense of the word, was the source of rights.
Long before the imperial innovations of the 1760s the notion of the patria had been well rehearsed in the Spanish American territories - much more so than in British America, even if, on the classical analogy of the patria, there was some talk here too of `country', as applied to individual colonies.121 The ambivalence running through the petition of the Mexico City council reflects the ambivalence in combining loyalty to the Hispanic community with loyalty to the patria. Traditionally that community had been defined in terms of a composite monarchy, in which the patria possessed its rights on the basis of a contract agreed with the monarch - a contract which, at least in the eyes of creoles, placed their territories on an equal footing with the other kingdoms and provinces of the Spanish Monarchy. Even if that claim had never been fully accepted by Madrid as far as its American possessions were concerned, practice - as distinct from theory - had given it some validity over the course of a century or more.
Now the practice, as well as the theory, was in the course of being rejected by royal ministers. Mexico City's petition fell on deaf ears. By a decree issued in February 1776, the crown ordered, in accordance with the proposals of the extraordinary council of 1768, that `to strengthen further the union of those kingdoms and these', creoles should be recommended for clerical and judicial positions in Spain. At the same time, a third of the posts in American Audiencias and cathedral chapters should be reserved for creoles. Consequently, peninsular candidates could be appointed to the remaining two-thirds. The Mexico City council immediately protested, and once again its protest was ignored. 121
Creoles, still thinking in terms of the consensus political culture of a composite monarchy, now found themselves faced with the authoritarian responses of an absolutist regime. As Madrid sought to strengthen its grasp on its American territories in the 1770s and 1780s, the scope for conflict was obvious. But the authoritarianism of the Bourbon monarchy did not, in the last resort, preclude the possibility of manoeuvre and compromise. It was always possible for the crown to jettison an unpopular minister or dismiss an over-zealous official without permanently diminishing the authority of a monarch cast in the role of the benevolent protector of his subjects. No great constitutional principle was at stake. With an absolute parliament, on the other hand, matters were different. In spite of themselves, Britain and its American colonies had become inextricably involved in that most intractable of all forms of conflict, the conflict over competing constitutional rights.