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A History of Spain by Charles E. Chapman

Philip surrendered to the Genoese


[Sidenote:

Taxes in the other kingdoms.]

The above refers to taxes collected in Castile, but the other dominions of Spain, peninsula and otherwise, produced considerable amounts for the state. Aragon, Catalonia, and Valencia yielded much less than Castile. The Low Countries were profitable for a time; Charles I procured 450,000 ducats a year (nearly $7,000,000) at the outset of his reign. Under Philip II, however, they were the scene of heavy expenditures. The Americas have often been considered as the principal financial resort of the Spanish kings, and although this is not certain and may even be doubtful they did yield vast sums. Prior to the conquest of Mexico the annual revenues were only some 70,000 ducats (about $1,000,000), but the conquests of Cort?s, followed soon by those of Pizarro in Peru, resulted in an enormous increase. Under Philip II they amounted annually to about 1,200,000 ($18,000,000) according to some writers, and to as much as 2,000,000 ($30,000,000) in the opinion of others. Castilian taxes were applied in the new world, together with certain others arising out of the special circumstances of colonial affairs, such as the royal fifth on precious metals from the mines and the poll tax collected from the Indians. Data are not at hand for an accurate estimate of the entire revenues of Spain, but it seems clear that they increased enormously in the period. They may have reached their highest point under Philip III, when it was estimated

that they were some 24,000,000 ducats ($360,000,000) a year, of which not more than half reached the Spanish treasury. An estimate made toward the close of the century gave the revenues as about 17,750,000 ($270,000,000), of which only a third was actually available.

[Sidenote: Growth of the national debt.]

Despite these relatively great sums the national debt was a constant factor, and advanced greatly in amount under Philip II, who is said to have left a debt of 100,000,000 ducats ($1,500,000,000). This was reduced in later reigns, but was still 70,000,000 (well over $1,000,000,000) in 1690,--a huge sum as national debts went then, even though creditors were frequently scaled down or not paid at all. One of the important elements in the debt was that of the loans made by Flemish, German, and Italian bankers, especially those of Genoa. The frequency with which these loans were sought and the high rate of interest required have caused Spain to be characterized, with accuracy, as a mere bridge over which the wealth of the Americas (and, to be sure, that of the peninsula itself) passed to other nations as interest and part payment of the nation's debts. In 1539 this form of indebtedness amounted to about 1,000,000 ducats ($15,000,000), and in 1560, some 7,000,000 (over $100,000,000). When the Spanish kings were unable to pay a note that had become due, as much as 33-1/3 per cent might be charged for its renewal; indeed, the ordinary rate of interest ranged from 15 to 30 per cent. The inability of Philip II to meet his obligations caused all but the Genoese bankers to refuse him credit, and they joined with the others when he suspended the payment of interest on their notes. Unable to get funds in any other way, Philip surrendered to the Genoese, who exacted as part payment for fresh loans a share in various revenues of the Spanish state, such as in that of the salt monopoly and in certain of the taxes collected from the church,--thus belying the original object for which the latter had been imposed. The _Cortes_, though it had declined in other respects, was perhaps the most important organ of public finance. It not only voted subsidies but also collected them, a function which it had exercised in previous eras. It had charge of several other taxes as well, such as the productive _alcabala_ and the _millones_. For these purposes special committees of the _Cortes_ were formed. Nevertheless, the _Consejo de Hacienda_, founded in 1593, grew rapidly in functions and in power, and by the close of the seventeenth century is said to have had over 60,000 employes. This vast number was due in part to the variety in the origin and character of the various tributes. Without taking into consideration the inevitable accompaniment of graft, such a horde of officials involved the state in a heavy cost for the collection and administration of the revenues.


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