The king's coffer

Material Information

The king's coffer proprietors of the Spanish Florida treasury, 1565-1702
Bushnell, Amy Turner
Place of Publication:
University Presses of Florida
Physical Description:
ix, 198 p. : map ; 24 cm.


Subjects / Keywords:
Finance, Public -- History -- Spain ( lcsh )
Finance, Public -- History -- Florida ( lcsh )
Finanzas públicas -- Historia -- Florida, EE.UU
bibliography ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )


Bibliography: p. 187-191.
General Note:
"A University of Florida book."
General Note:
Includes index.
Statement of Responsibility:
Amy Bushnell.

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University of Florida
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Copyright, University Press of Florida. Publisher as appropriate]. Permission granted to University of Florida to digitize and display this item for non-profit research and educational purposes. Any reuse of this item in excess of fair use or other copyright exemptions requires permission of the copyright holder.
Resource Identifier:
07554319 ( OCLC )
81007403 ( LCCN )
0813006902 ( ISBN )
HJ1242 .T87 1981 ( lcc )
354.460072/09 ( ddc )
7,34 ( ssgn )

UFDC Membership

University Press of Florida


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The King's Coffer

(Paris Is.)

Guale (St. Catherines Is.)

Augustine 1565

Matanzas Inlet


...---...... Spanish roads AF*

miles Lo

0 50 100 150

Composite of Tribal Territories and Place Names before 1702
(after Boyd, Chatelain, and Boniface)

The King's Coffer

Proprietors of the Spanish Florida Treasury

Amy Bushnell

A University of Florida Book
Gainesville 1981


University Presses of Florida is the central agency for scholarly publishing of the State of
Florida's university system. Its offices are located at 15 NW 15th Street, Gainesville, FL 32603.
Works published by University Presses of Florida are evaluated and selected for publication
by a faculty editorial committee of any one of Florida's nine public universities: Florida A&M
University (Tallahassee), Florida Atlantic University (Boca Raton), Florida International
University (Miami), Florida State University (Tallahassee), University of Central Florida
(Orlando), University of Florida (Gainesville), University of North Florida (acksonville),
University of South Florida (Tampa), University of West Florida (Pensacola).

Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data

Bushnell, Amy.
The king's coffer.

"A University of Florida book."
Bibliography: p.
Includes index.
1. Finance, Public-Spain-History.
2. Finance, Public-Florida-History. I. Title
HJ1242.B87 354.460072'09 81-7403
ISBN 0-8130-0690-2 AACR2

Copyright 1981 by the Board of Regents of the State of Florida
Typography by American Graphics Corporation
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Printed in USA


Preface Q: vii

1. The Florida Provinces and Their Treasury Go 1

2. The Expenses of Position _Q0 15

3. Proprietary Office Q 30

4. Duties and Organization -Q 50

5. The Situado _Q 63

6. The Royal Revenues 2Q~ 75

7. Political Functions of the Royal Officials _Q 101

8. Accounting and Accountability 2~0 118

Conclusion Q 137

Appendixes 2 141

Glossary Q 149

Notes GF 151

Bibliography (z 187

Index 192

To Catherine Turner
Clyde Bushnell


] HE historiography of Spanish Florida has traditionally concen-
L treated on Indians, friars, and soldiers, all dependent on the
yearly situado, or crown subsidy. Other Floridians, poor and com-
mon, appear to have had no purpose beyond witless opposition to the
royal governor This was so unusual for a Spanish colony that I was
sure the true situation must have been more complex. In the imperial
bureaucracy, ecclesiastical, military, magisterial, fiscal, and judicial
functions of government were customarily distributed among a
number of officials and tribunals with conflicting jurisdictions.I
believe tatresearch would reveal an elite in Florida, encouraged by
the crown as a counterweightito t-e governor and that this eitwas
pursuingits own rational economic interests.
I began by studying a branch of the Menendez clan, the Menendez
Marquez family, correlating their ranching activities to the determi-
nants of economic expansion in Florida. Governors came and went,
but the Menendez Marquezes exercised power in the colony and held
office in the treasury from 1565 to 1743. It became apparent that the
way to identify and study a Florida elite was prosopographically,
through the proprietors of the royal treasury. Such an investigation
would serve a second purpose of wider interest and value: revealing
how a part of the Spanish imperial bureaucracy operated on the local
level. On the small scale of Florida, imperial organization and crown
policies would leave the realm of the theoretical to become the
problems of real people.

I do not present the results of my research as a quantitative
economic or financial history. The audited accounts necessary to that
type of history exist; those for the sixteenth century have been
examined with profit by Paul Hoffman and Eugene Lyon, and schol-
ars may eventually mine the exhaustive legajos for the seventeenth
century. But my purpose has been different: to describe the adminis-
trators of one colonial treasury in action within their environment.
To keep the project manageable I have limited it chronologically
to the Habsburg era, from the time St. Augustine was founded in
1565 to the change of ruling houses, which the city observed in 1702.
My main source has been the preserved correspondence between the
crown and its governors and treasury officials, whose overlapping
responsibilities led to constant wrangling and countless reports, legal
actions, and letters.
In a sense, every scholarly work is a collaboration between the
researcher and his predecessors, yet one feels a special obligation to
those who have given their assistance personally, offering insights,
transcripts, and bibliographies with a generosity of mind that sees
no knowledge as a private enclave. The foremost person on my list is
L. N. McAlister; the director of my doctoral program. In the course
of our long friendship, his standards of scholarship, writing, and
teaching have become the models for my own. He and Michael V
Gannon, David L. Niddrie, Marvin L. Entner; Claude C. Sturgill,
Cornelis Ch. Goslinga, Eugene Lyon, and Peter Lisca, reading and
criticizing the manuscript for this book in various of its drafts, have
delivered me from many a blunder. For the new ones I may have
fallen into, they are not accountable.
Luis R. Arana, of the National Park Service at the Castillo de San
Marcos, supplied me with interesting data on the Menendez Marquez
family. Overton Ganong, at the Historic Saint Augustine Preserva-
tion Board, permitted me to spend a week with the Saint Augustine
Historical Society's unfinished transcript of the Cathedral Records of
St. Augustine Parish. Ross Morrell of the Division of Archives,
History, and Records Management of the Florida Department of
State allowed me to see translations and summaries made under the
division's auspices. Mark E. Fretwell, editor of the journal of the St.
Augustine Historical Society, granted permission to reprint Chapter
2, which appeared as "The Expenses of Hidalguia in Seventeenth-
Century St. Augustine," El Escribano 15 (1978):23-36. Paul E.



Hoffman, JohnJ. TePaske, Charles Arnade, and Samuel Proctor gave
me encouragement and advice. Elizabeth Alexander and her staff at
the P. K. Yonge Library of Florida History, University of Florida,
provided a research home. The care they take of that library's rich
resources is something I never cease to appreciate.
For financial support I am indebted to the University of Florida,
in particular to the Latin American Center the Graduate School, and
the Division of Sponsored Research. The United States government
supplied three years of NDEA Title VI fellowships in Spanish and
Portuguese, and the American Association of University Women
awarded me the Meta Glass and Margaret Maltby fellowship.
My greatest acknowledgment is to the people I live with. My
writer and scholar husband, Peter, has freed my time for writing
without telling me how to do it. He, Catherine, and Colleen, listen-
ing with good grace to a hundred historical anecdotes, have helped
me to believe that what I was doing mattered.

Amy Bushnell
Cluj-Napoca, Romania
July 6, 1980




The Florida Provinces and Their Treasury

SHE Spanish Habsburgs liked their treasure tangible, in bars of
L gold, heavy silver coins, precious stones, chunks of jewel
amber and strings of pearls. By their command, each regional branch
of the royal treasury of the Indies (hacienda real de Indias), a part of
their patrimony, had a heavily guarded room containing a coffer of
solid wood, reinforced at the edges, bottom, and corners with iron,
strongly barred, and bearing three or four locks the keys to which
were held by different persons. The keepers of the keys, who had to
meet to open the coffer, were the king's personal servants, with
antecedents in the customs houses of Aragon and the conquests of
Castile. They were called the royal officials of the treasury.
In the Indies, individual treasuries grew out of the fiscal ar-
rangements for expeditions of conquest. The crown, as intent on
collecting its legitimate revenues as on the propagation of the faith,
required every conquistador to take along officers of the exchequer.
A factor guarded the king's investment, if any, in weapons and
supplies and disposed of tribute in kind. An overseer of barter and
trade (veedor de rescates y contrataciones) saw to commercial contacts
with the natives and in case of war claimed the king's share of booty.
An accountant (contador) recorded income and outgo and was the
guardian and interpreter of royal instructions. A treasurer (tesorero)
was entrusted with monies and made payments in the king's name. If
the expedition resulted in a permanent settlement these officials
continued their duties there, protecting the interests of the crown in a
new colony.'1
*Notes begin on page 151.

2 The King's Coffer
There was a strongly commercial side to these earliest treasuries,
supervised after 1503 by the House of Trade (Casa de Contratacion) in
Seville. The factor in particular served as the House's representative,
watching the movement of merchandise and seeing that the masters
of ships enforced the rules against unlicensed passengers and pro-
hibited goods. He also engaged in active and resourceful trading,
exchanging the royal tributes and taxes paid in kind for necessary
supplies. In 1524 the newly created Council of the Indies (Consejo de
Indias) assumed the supervision of overseas treasuries, a duty it
retained throughout the Habsburg period except for the brief interval
of 1557-62.
By 1565, founding date of the treasury under study, Spanish
presence in the Indies was seventy-three years old. The experimental
stage of government was past; institutions of administration had
taken more or less permanent shape. A network of royal treasuries
existed, some subordinate to viceroyalties or presidencies and others
fairly independent. Principal treasuries with proprietary officials
were located in the capital cities; subordinate treasuries staffed by
lieutenants were at seaports, mining centers, or distant outposts. The
factor had become a kind of business manager; administering tributes
and native labor. The overseer's original functions were forgotten as
the crown turned its attention from commerce and conquest to the
dazzling wealth of mines. As a result of the overriding interest in
precious metals, overseers were confined to duty at the mints; in
places without a mint their office was subsumed under the factor's.
And wherever there was little revenue from tribute the factorship
was disappearing as well.
The treasury of Florida had its beginnings in a maritime enter-
prise. This was no haphazard private adventure, but the carefully
organized joint action of a corporate family and the crown.2 Pedro
Menendez de Avil6s was a tough, corsairing Asturian sea captain
known to hold the interests of his clan above the regulations of the
House of Trade, but the king could not afford to be particular. In
response to French settlement at Fort Caroline, Philip II made a
three-year contract (capitulacion) with Menendez, naming him
Adelantado, or contractual conqueror; of Florida. At his own cost,
essentially, Men6ndez was to drive out Ren6 de Laudonniere and
every other interloper from the land between Terra Nova (New-
foundland) and the Ancones (St. Joseph's Bay) on the Gulf of

The Florida Provinces and Treasury 3
Mexico. Before three years were out he was to establish.two or three
fortified settlements and populate them.3 He did all of this, but as the
French crisis escalated, the king had to come to his support.4 During
the three years of the contract Menendez and his supporters invested
over 75,000 ducats; the crown, more than 208,000 ducats, counting
Florida's share of the 1566 Sancho de Archiniega reinforcements of
1,500 men and seventeen ships.5
Despite the heavy royal interests, the new colony was governed
like a patrimonial estate. The adelantado nominated his own men to
treasury office: his kinsman Esteban de las Alas as treasurer, his
nephew Pedro Menendez Marquez as accountant, and a future son-
in-law, Hernando de Miranda, as factor-overseer This was open and
honorable patronage, as Menendez himself said: "Now, as never
before, I have need that my kinfolk and friends follow me, trustwor-
thy people who love me and respect me with all love and loyalty."6 It
was also an effort to settle the land, as he once explained:

They are people of confidence and high standing who have
served your Majesty many years in my company, and all are
married to noblewomen. Out of covetousness for the offices
[for which they are proposed], and out of love for me, it could
be that they might bring their wives and households. Because
of these and of others who would come with their wives, it is a
fine beginning for the population of the provinces of Florida
with persons of noble blood.7

Since there were as yet neither products of the land to tax nor royal
revenues to administer; these nominal officials of the king's coffer
continued about their business elsewhere: Las Alas governing the
settlement of Santa Elena (on present-day Parris Island), Miranda
making voyages of exploration, and Menendez Marquez governing
. for his uncle in Cuba. With most of the rest of the clan they also
served in the new Indies Fleet (Armada Real de la Guardia de las Costas e
Islas y Carrera de las Indias) that Pedro Menendez built in 1568,
brought to the Caribbean, and commanded until 1573. From 1570 to
1574 the fiscal officers of that armada were the acting ir. als
forlorida, wooosel ysuperyii h is
records and nm Lyj li .rio gisons They would not
consent to live there.8 Meanwhile, the king issued Miranda and

The King's Coffer

Menendez Marquez their long-awaited titles. Las Alas, under inves-
tigation for withdrawing most of the garrison at Santa Elena and
taking it to Spain, was passed over in favor of a young nephew of the
adelantado's called variously Pedro Menendez the Younger and the
Cross-Eyed or One-Eyed (El Tuerto). Of the three royal appointees
Pedro was the only one to take up residence.9 The others continued
to name substitutes.
Because it established claim by occupation to North America
from the Chesapeake Bay southward, Florida was an outpost of
empire to be maintained however unprofitable. Any one of its un-
explored waterways might be the passage to the East. With this in
mind, Philip II had renewed the Menendez contract when it expired,
letting the subsidy for the Indies fleet cover the wages for 150 men of
the garrisons. Three years later; in 1570, the king changed this provi-
sion to give Florida a subsidy of its own.10 Despite this underwriting
of the colony the adelantado remained to all purposes its lord proprie-
tor. When he died in 1574, acting governorship shifted from his
son-in-law Diego de Velasco to the already-mentioned Hernando de
Miranda, husband of Menendez's one surviving legitimate heir. In
1576 the Cusabo Indian uprising resulted in the massacre of Pedro
Menendez the Younger and two other treasury officials. Governor
Miranda abandoned the fort at Santa Elena and returned to Spain to
face charges of desertion.11 Once more the king came to the rescue,
doubling the number of soldiers he would support.12 Florida began
the slow shift from a proprietary colony to a royal one.
The only person considered capable of holding the provinces
against heretic and heathen alike was Admiral Pedro Menendez
Marquez, awaiting sentence for misdeeds as lieutenant-governor of
Cuba. The Council granted him both a reprieve and the acting
governorship of Florida, and he sailed for St. Augustine. Along with
the three new appointees to the treasury, he had permission to pay
himself half his salary from the yearly subsidy, or situado,13 The
provinces that he pacified did not remain quiet for long. In 1580 a
French galleass entered the St. Johns estuary for trade and informa-
tion. Menendez Marquez took two frigates to the scene and defeated
the Frenchmen in the naval battle of San Mateo. Four years later the
Potano Indians of the interior staged an uprising and were driven
from their homes.14 Sir Francis Drake stopped by St. Augustine long
enough to burn its two forts (the fifth and the just-finished sixth) and


The Florida Provinces and Treasury 5
the town, which is why subsequent financial reports gave no figures
earlier than 1586, "the year the books were burned." To consolidate
their forces the Spanish again abandoned Santa Elena, and this time
did not go back. 15The twelve Franciscans who arrived in 1587 ready
to commence their apostolic mission found Spanish settlement
contracted to a single outpost.16
In these first uncertain years the presidios (garrison outposts) were
little more than segments of an anchored armada, supported but not
rigorously supervised by the crown. The sixteenth-century gover-
nors, who could be called the "Asturian Dynasty," filled the little
colony with family intrigues and profiteering. All the officers, treas-
ury officials included, were captains of sea and war who could build a
fort, command a warship, smuggle a contraband cargo, or keep a
double set of books with equal composure. Juan de Posada, for
instance, was an expert navigator who sometimes doubled as lieuten-
ant governor for his brother-in-law Pedro Menendez Marquez. He
once calculated for the crown that a good-sized galley, a 100-man fort,
or four frigates would all cost the same per year: 16,000 ducats.
Posada was bringing back a title of treasurer for himself in 1592 when
his ship sank and he drowned off the Florida coast, which he had once
called easy sailing.17
As the orders instituting the situado in 1570 explicitly stated that
troops in Florida were to be paid and rationed the same as those in the
Menendez fleet or the Havana garrison, the first royal officials mod-
eled themselves after their counterparts in the king's armadas and
garrisons rather than his civilian exchequers.18 Treasurer Juan de
Cevadilla and Accountant Lazaro Saez de Mercado, taking office in
1580, thought that this system allowed the governor undue power. It
was not appropriate to transfer all the fiscal practices from the ar-
madas, they said, when "the exchequer can be looked after better on
land than on sea."19 Auditor Pedro Redondo Villegas, who came in
1600, refused to accept any armada precedent without a cedula (writ-
ten royal order) applying it to Florida.20 Thereafter the officials
compared their treasury with wholly land-based ones and demanded
equal treatment with the bureaucrats of Peru, Yucatan, Honduras,
and the Philippines. As payroll and supply officers for a garrison,
however they continued to envy the Havana presidio's royal slaves
and the new stone fort built there between 1558 and 1578.21
During the course of the seventeenth century, the treasury at St.

The King's Coffer

Augustine built up precedents that achieved the practical force of law.
Cedulas from the crown were respectfully received and recorded, but
not necessarily implemented. In this the officials followed the ancient
principle of"I obey but do not execute" ("obedezco pero no cumplo"), a
form of particularism expounded for the adelantado in 1567 by his
friend Francisco de Toral, Bishop of Merida:

For every day there will be new things and transactions which
will bring necessity for new provisions and new remedies. For
the General Laws of the Indies cannot cease having mild
interpretations, the languages and lands being different, inas-
much as in one land and people they usually ignore things in
conformity to the times. Thus it will be suitable for your
lordship to do things there [in Florida] of which experience
and the condition of those natives have given you under-

The Florida creoles, born in the New World of Spanish parents,
referred to long custom to justify their actions, and this argument
was taken seriously.23 The Franciscan commissary general for the
Indies, writing the year after publication of the great Recopilacion de
leyes de los Reynos de las Indias, observed that some practices in the
Indies were not amenable to change after so long a time.24
Perhaps it was only right that there should be flexibility in the
application of laws. Florida was an exception to the usual colony. It
had been founded for reasons of dynastic prestige, and for those
reasons it was maintained, at a cost out of all proportion to benefits
received. The colony did not mature beyond its initial status of
captaincy general. It was a perennial military frontier that was never
under the Habsburgs, absorbed by another administrative unit. The
governors were military men with permanent ranks of admiral,
captain, sergeant major or colonel, who took orders from the Coun-
cil and the Junta de Guerra (Council of War) alone. It was a dubious
distinction, for wartime coordination with New Spain or Havana
depended upon mutual goodwill rather than any sense of obligation.
The French, when not at war with the Spanish, made more reliable
In his civil role the governor answered neither to the audiencia
(high court and governing body) in Santo Domingo nor the one in


The Florida Provinces and Treasury 7

Mexico City, and he took orders from no viceroy. In the seventeenth
century the crown moved with majestic deliberation to establish the
authority, first of the Audiencia of Santo Domingo, then that of
Mexico City, over civil and criminal appeals; responsibility for
treasury audits was handed back and forth between the Mexico City
Tribunal of Accounts and the royal auditor in Havana. These meas-
ures did not affect the Florida governorship, which remained inde-
pendent. As Governor Marques Cabrera explained more than once,
no audiencia cared to be responsible for poor frontier provinces.
Distances were great, navigation was perilous, and ministers were
unwilling to make the journey. 26 If mines of silver had been found
within its borders, New Spain would have annexed Florida without
delay. Not everyone was satisfied with a separate status. The friars
thought that prices would be lower if the governor were subject to
some viceroy or audiencia (or were at least a Christian). And royal
officials grumbled that there was little point in the king's having
appointed them to a republic of poor soldiers, in which the governor
disregarded his treasury officials and answered to no audiencia.27
For their own reasons, the accountant, treasurer and factor often
made the governor look more autocratic than he was. Florida may
not have been a popular democracy, but neither was it a dictatorship.
There were within th community carefully drawn class distinctions
based on inequalities of state din_ e n the officials ofthe
treas were gentlemen, expecting and receiving the honQrs.ueAo
their class. They were not mere quartermasters on the governor's
staff As proprietors of treasury office and judges of the exchequer
they were his quasi-peers, and as titled councilmen of the one Spanish
city in Florida they were his civil advisory council, just as the sergeant
major and captains were his council of war and the priests and friars
his ecclesiastical counselors. The governor who ignored the advice of
these men of experience was spoken of disparagingly as "carried off
by his own opinions."
The royal treasury of St. Augustine differed from the ones
elsewhere mainly in that it had fewer revenues. For various reasons,
t)^L Florida never approached that op s,
or productive region. European settlement there, however earlyby
North American standards, had gotten a late start in Sanish terms.
In the rest of the Indies, debate had been going on for years about
Indian rationality, just wars and slavery, forced conversions, en-

8 The King's Coffer
comiendas (allotments of tribute or service), and the alienationof
native lands-and while theologians and lawyers argued, soldiersand
settlers exploited. By the time the florida conquest began these
questions were more or less settled. Although not advanced enough
to be subject to the Inquisition, the Indian had beendetermined a
rational being. He could not be held in servitude or have his lands
taken. It was forbidden to enter his territory with arms and banners
or to resettle him anywhere against his will.28 Florida was to be
conquered through the Gospel-not the fastest way. As five
Apalachicola chiefs once courteously told Governor Marques Ca-
brera, if God ever wished them and their vassals to become Chris-
tians they would let the governor know.29
Pacifying the natives by trade was not effective either; for the
Spanish could maintain no monopoly. For over forty years the
French continued to trade in Florida, and the Indians preferred them.
In a single summer fifteen French ships were sighted off the coast of
Guale, coming into the Savannah River for pelts and sassafras.30
Dutch and English interlopers bartered with the adamantly inde-
pendent Indians ofAis, Jeaga, and the Carlos confederacy to the south
for amber and the salvaged goods of shipwrecks.31 The Spanish
crown no longer encouraged Indian trade in the late sixteenth century
anyhow; it barely permitted it. St. Augustine was a coast guard
station, a military base, and a mission center, not a commercial
colony, and the government saw no reason to supply sailors, soldiers,
and friars with trade goods. When Governor Mendez de Canzo made
peace with the Guale Indians in 1600 the treasurer observed for the
royal benefit that it was to be hoped the governor was acting out of a
zeal for souls and His Majesty's service and was not influenced by the
good price for sassafras in Seville.32
Pious disclaimers aside, Florida's colonists and governors did not
agree with His Majesty's restrictions on Indian trade. The natives had
many things that Spaniards wanted: sassafras, amber, deer and buf-
falo skins, nut oil, bear grease, tobacco, canoes, storage containers,
and, most of all, food. And the Indians soon wanted what the Spanish
had: weapons, construction and cultivation tools, nails, cloth, blan-
kets, bells, glass beads, church ornaments, and rum. The problem
was not to create a market but to supply it. When the amber-trading
Indians demanded iron tools Governor Rebolledo made them from
60 quintals (6,000 pounds) of the presidio's pig iron, plus melted

The Florida Provinces and Treasury

down cannons and arquebuses.33 The 1,500-ducat fund that the king
intended for gifts to allied chiefs, the governors sometimes diverted
to buy trade goods. Soldiers, having little else, exchanged their
firearms; the Cherokees living on the Upper Tennessee River in 1673
owned sixty Spanish flintlocks. Without royal approval, however,
there was a limit to the amount of trading that could be done, and the
crown favored the regular commerce of the fleets and New Spain.
Throughout the Habsburg period Florida was licensed to send no
more than two frigates a year to Seville or the Canaries, and a bare "
2,000 to 3,000 ducats' worth of pelts.34
The English who colonized in NortA ericasufferednosuch
handicaps. As early as 1678, four ships at a time could be seen in the
Charles Town harbor; at St. Augustine the colonists would have been
happy to receive one a year from Spain.35 Later on, when the English
wanted in trade Hispanic Indian slaves or scalps, they had the
wherewithal to pay for them. For a single scalp brought to the
Carolina governor one warrior was supposedly given clothing piled
to reach his shoulders, a flintlock with all the ammunition he wanted,
and a barrel of rum.36 The Indians of the Southeast shifted to the
English side with alacrity. The bishop of Tricale reported in 1736 that
natives who had been baptized Catholic put their hands to their heads
saying, "Go away, water! I am no Christian."37
Protected Indians, limited exports, and a shortage of trade goods
were only three of the factors hampering normal economic growth
in Florida. Another was the continuing silver rush to New Spain and
Peru. St. Augustine was not the place of choice for,a Spanish immi-
grant. Soldiers and even friars assigned to Florida had to be guarded
in the ports en route to keep them from jumping ship. In this sense
the other North Atlantic colonies were again more fortunate. There
were no better places for Englishmen, Scots, and Germans to go.
Ideally the presidio of St. Augustine should have been supplied
through the free competition of merchants bringing their shiploads
of goods to exchange for the money to be found in the king's coffer
and the soldiers' wallets.38 It did not work out this way for several
reasons. Under the Habsburgs the situado for Florida soldiers and
friars never rose above 51,000 ducats or 70,000 pesos a year; payable
from 1592 to 1702 from the Mexico City treasury.39 But supporting
presidio in Florida was not one of that treasury's priorities. The
Mexico City officials paid the situado, lrregurarly iand piecemeal. For


The King's Coffer

a merchant, selling to the Florida presidio was equivalent to making a
badly secured, long-term loan. The king, whose private interests
might conflict with the national or general interest, once had all the
Caribbean situados sequestered and carried to him in exchange for
promissory notes.40 Sometimes an entire situado would be mort-
gaged before it arrived, with creditors waiting on the Havana docks.
In order to be supplied at all, St. Augustine was forced to take
whatever its creditors would release: shoddy, unsuitable fabrics and
moldy flour. The presidio was chronically in debt, and so was
everyone dependent on it. Soldiers seldom saw money; Indians
almost never used it.41
St. Augustine was a poor and isolated market with little to export.
Its seaways were beset by corsairs in summer and storms in winter.
No merchant could risk one of his ships on that dangerous journey
without an advance contract guaranteeing the sale of his cargo at a
profit of 100 to 200 percent.42 Citizens sometimes tried to circumvent
the high cost of imports by going in together to order a quantity of
goods, making sure that anyone they entrusted with money had local
ties to guarantee his return. But the price of bringing goods to Florida
was still prohibitive. A single frigate trip to the San Juan de Uhia
harbor and back cost 400 ducats.43 It was of little help to be located
along the return route of the Fleet of the Indies. Once a year the
heavily laden galleons sailed northward in convoy just out of sight of
land, riding the Gulf Stream up the Bahama Channel to Cape Hat-
teras to catch the trade winds back to Spain, but the St. Augustine
harbor, with its shallow bar which would pass only flat-bottomed or
medium portage vessels, was not a place where these great 500- to
1,500-ton ships could anchor nor would they have interrupted their
progress to stop there. When the Floridians wished to make contact
with a vessel in the fleet they had to send a boat to await it at Cape
Canaveral, a haunt of pirates.44
By Spanish mercantilist rules nothing could be brought into a
Spanish port except in a licensed ship with prior registration. At
times the presidio was so short on military and naval supplies that the
governor and officials waived the regulations and purchased artillery
and ammunition, cables and canvas off a ship hailed on the open seas;
or a foreign merchantman entered the harbor flying a signal of
distress, news bearing, or prisoner exchange, and sold goods either
openly or under cover45


The Florida Provinces and Treasury

Except for trade goods, metals, and military accoutrements,
which always had to be imported, St. Augustine with its hinterland
was surprisingly self-sufficient.46 The timber; stone, and mortar for
construction were available in the vicinity; nails, hinges, and other
hardware were forged in the town. Boats were built in the rivers and
inlets. There was a gristmill, a tannery, and a slaughterhouse. Fruits,
vegetables, and flowers grew in the gardens; pigs and chickens ran in
the streets. Although it was a while before cattle ranching got started,
by the late seventeenth century beef was cheap andplentiful.47 The
swamps and savannahs provided edible roots, wild fruit, and game;
lakes and rivers were full offish; oysters grew huge in the arms of the
sea. Indians paddling canoes or carrying baskets brought their pro-
duce to the market on the plaza: twists of tobacco, pelts, painted
wooden trays, packages of dried cassina tea leaves, rope and fishnets,
earthenware and baskets, dried turkey meat, lard and salt pork,
saddles and shoe leather, charcoal, and fresh fish and game; but
especially they brought maizec
Maize, not wheat~ as the staff of life in Florida. The poor; the
slaves, the convicts and Indians all got their calories from it. When the
maize crops were hurt, St. Augustine was hungry. But the problem
was not so much supply as distribution. After the Indians were
reduced to missions the friars had them plant an extra crop yearly as
insurance against famine and for the support of the poor and beautifi-
cation of the sanctuaries. The missionaries were highly incensed to
have this surplus claimed for the use of the presidio, yet to guarantee
an adequate supply the governor was ready to take desperate meas-
ures: raid the church granaries, even plant maize within musket range
of the fort, providing cover to potential enemies. Each province
presented its problems. The grain from Guale was brought down in
presidio vessels. That from Timucua was carried 15 to 30 leagues on
men's backs for lack of mules or packhorses, and it was easier to bring
in relays of repartimiento (labor service) Indians and raise it near the
city. The inhabitants of Apalache had a ready market for maize in
Havana, and the governor had to station a deputy in San Luis, their
capital, to collect it and transmit it 2,000 miles around the peninsula to
St. Augustine.
To read the hundreds of letters bemoaning the tardiness or inade-
quacy of the situado, one would suppose that the presidio was always
about to starve. This was largely rhetoric, an understandable effort by


The King's Coffer

the governors and royal officials to persuade His Majesty to take the
support of his soldiers seriously. Florida was not so much dependent
upon the subsidy as independent because the subsidy was unreliable.
Supply ships were sometimes years apart, and not even a hardened
Spaniard could go for years without eating.48 He might miss his olive
oil, wheat flour; wine, sugar; and chocolate, but there was some sort
of food to be had unless the town was suffering famine or siege and
had exhausted its reserves. Such exigencies happened. After the
attacks of buccaneers caused the partial abandonment of Guale
Province in the 1680s, the maize source there dried up, while refugees
increased the number of mouths in St. Augustine. Without pro-
visions the militia and Indian auxiliaries could not be called out, nor
repartimiento labor be brought in to work on the fortifications.49
Food reserves were a military necessity, and the governor and cabildo
(municipal council) had emergency powers to requisition hoards and
freeze prices.50
Toaggravate the economic problems,. the colony was almost
never at peace. The peninsula could not be properly explored; as late
as 1599 there was uncertainty over whether or not it was an island.
Throughout the Habsburg era there were two fluctuating frontiers
with enemies on the other sides, for; converted or not, Florida Indians
saw no reason to halt their seasonal warfare. From the south, Ais,
Jeaga, Tocobaga, Pocoy, and Carlos warriors raided the Hispanicized
Indians; Chisca, Chichimeco, Chacato, Tasquique, and Apalachicolo
peoples were some of the enemies to the north and northwest. The
coasts were no safer In 1563, trading and raiding corsairs conducting
an undeclared war were driven by Spanish patrols from the Antilles
to the periphery of the Caribbean: the Main, the Isthmus, and Florida.
The French crisis of1565-68 was followed by the Anglo-Spanish War
of 1585-1603 and the Dutch War of 1621-48.51 Meanwhile, Floridians
watched with foreboding the rival settlements of Virginia, Barbados,
and, after 1655, Jamaica. When Charles Town was founded in 1670
they pleaded for help to drive off the colonists before there were too
many, but the crown's hands were tied by a peace treaty, and its
reaction-the building of a fort, the Castillo de San Marcos in St.
Augustine-was essentially defensive.
During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries Florida was
afflicted by a severe demographic slump which reached nadir in 1706.


The Florida Provinces and Treasury

The first European slavers probably reached the peninsula with their
pathogens and iron chains in the 1490s.52 As there is little basis for
estimating the population at contact, there is no way of knowing
what the initial demographic loss may have been, nor its dislocating
effects.53 At the end of the sixteenth century Bartolome de Argiielles,
who had been in Florida twenty-four years and traversed it from
Santa Elena to the Keys, said it was his impression that there were
relatively few natives.54 --
The first epidemic reported among mission Indians was in 1570;
the next, in1591. Th-e "pests and contagions," lasting from 1613 to
1617, to the best of the friars' knowledge killed half the Indians in
Florida.55 An incoming governor marveled in 1630 at the way "the
Indians... die here as elsewhere."56 Six years later the friars reported
that the natives between St. Augustine and Guale were almost totally
gone. The Franciscans obtained gubernatorial consent to enter the
province of Apalache partly because the depopulating of nearer
provinces had depleted the Spanish food and labor supply. When
Interim Governor Francisco Menendez Marquez suppressed a rebel-
lion of the Apalaches in 1647 and condemned loyal and rebel alike to
the labor repartimiento, he explained that the other provinces of
Christians were almost used up.57
The worst years were yet to come. Between 1649 and 1659 three
epidemi-cs descended on Florida: the first was either typhus or yellow
fever the second was smallpox, and the last, the measles. Governor
Aranguiz y Cotes said that in the seven months after he took posses-
sion in February of 1659, 10,000 Indians died. These were also the
years of famine and of the Great Rebellion of the Timucuans, which
left their remnants scattered and starving.58 From 1672 to 1674 an
unidentified pestilence reduced the population even further. There
were so few Indians in Central Florida that the Spanish gave land in
Timucua Province to anyone who would introduce cattle. As native
town structure broke down under the barrage of disasters, Indians
began detaching themselves from their families and parishes to work
as day labor in construction and contract labor on the ranches, or as
independent suppliers of some commodity to the Spanish: charcoal,
wild game, baskets, or pots. Efforts to make this migratory labor
force return home to their family, church, and repartimiento respon-
sibilities were largely ineffective. In 1675 a governor's census showed


The King's Coffer

only 10,766 Indians under Spanish obedience in all Florida, and
four-fifths of them were in Apalache, 200 miles from St. Augustine
across a virtually empty peninsula.59
Some people were managing to profit by the situation. The
Florencia family had led in the opening up and settling of Apalache
Province and were the ones who had started trade from there to
Havana. Descended from a Portuguese pilot who came to Florida in
1591, for three generations they supplied most of Apalache's deputy
governors and many of its priests, treating the province as a private
fief. A look at the names of provincial circuit judges and inspectors
(visitadores) shows that these ingenious Floridians even cornered the
market on investigating themselves.60 Under their instigation,
Apalache was considering breaking off administratively from the
capital of Florida. The Florencias, the friars, and the Hispanic Indians
all preferred to deal with Havana, only a week's sail from them and
offering more opportunity.61 Whether this would in time have hap-
pened, and what would then have become of St. Augustine, is a moot
point. Colonel James Moore of Carolina and his Creek allies took
advantage of the outbreak of Queen Anne's War in 1702 to mount
slave raids against the Indians of Florida. By 1706 the raids had
reduced the native provincial population to a miserable few hundred
living beneath the guns of the fort.62
SIn thefacePofthe manyhindrances to the settlement and effective
use of Florida-the crown's protective attitude toward natives, the
obstacles to trade, the shortage of currency, the problems of food
distribution, the slow Spanish increase in population and the rapid
native decrease, and the exhausting wars-it was a remarkable
achievement for the Spanish to have remained there at all!lThe way
they did so, and the share of the royal officials of the treasury in the
story, is a demonstration of human ingenuity and idealism, tenacity,
and sheer greed.



The Expenses of Position

U LORIDA, with its frequent wars, small Spanish population, and
J relatively few exports, might not seem a likely place for the
maintenance of a gentlemanly class, known to Spaniards as hidalgos.
But wealth and position are relative, and people differentiate them-
selves wherever there are disparities of background or belongings to
be envied or flaunted. In the small society of St. Augustine, where
everyone's business was everyone else's concern, social presump-
tiveness was regarded severely.1 One of the grievances against Gov-
ernor M6ndez de Canzo was that he had named one of his relatives, a
common retail merchant, captain of a company and let him appoint
as ensign a lad "of small fortune" who had been working in the
tannery.2 From the list of vecinos (householders) asked to respond
with voluntary gifts for public works or defense construction we can
identify the principal persons in town, for avoluntarygift was the
hidalgo's substitute for personal taxation, to which he could not
submit without marking himself a commoner When Governor Hita
Salazar needed to put the castillo into defensible order he gave the
first 200 pesos himself, to put the others under obligation, and then
collected 1,600 pesos from the royal officials of the treasury, the
sergeant major, the captains, other officers and those receiving
bonuses, and some private individuals who raised cattle.3
Whether transferred to Florida from the bureaucracy elsewhere
or coming into office via inheritance, the royal official was presumed
to be an hidalgQ or he would never have been appointed. This meant,

The King's Coffer

technically, that he was of legitimate birth, had never been a shop-
keeper or tradesman, had not refused any challenge to his honor and
could demonstrate two generations of descent from hijos de algo
("sons of something") untainted by Moorish or Jewish blood and
uncondemned by the Inquisition.
The advantages of being an hidalgo someone addressed as don
in a time when that title had significance were unquestioned.
There were, however concomitant responsibilities and expenses. A
gentleman was expected to "live decently," maintaining the dignity
of his estate whether or not his means were adequate. Openhanded-
ness and lavish display were not the idiosyncracies of individuals but
the realities of class, the characteristics that kept everyone with
pretensions to hidalguia searching for sources of income.
The personal quality that St. Augustine appreciated most ear-
nestly in a gentleman was magnanimity. The character references
written for a governor at the end of his term emphasized alms: the
warm shawls given to widows, the delicacies to the sick, and the
baskets of maize and meat distributed by the benefactor's slaves
during a famine. They also stressed his vows fulfilled to the saints:
silver diadems, fine altar cloths, and new shrines.4 When local con-
fraternities elected yearly officers, the governor and treasury officials
were in demand, for they brought to the brotherhood gifts and favors
besides the honor of their presence. The royal officials consistently
turned over a third of their earnings from tavern inspections to the
Confraternity of the Most Holy Sacrament, and the treasurer gave it
his payroll perquisites.5
Alms and offerings were minor expenses compared to the cost of
keeping up a household. The royal officials were admonished to be
married; the crown wanted the Indies populated by citizens in good
standing, not mannerless half-breeds, and a man with a family had
given as it were hostages for his behavior.6 Regular marriage to
someone of one's own class was, however expensive. According to
one hard-pressed official, "The pay-of a soldier will not do for the
position of quality demanded of a treasurer" Another argued that he
needed a raise because his wife was "someone of quality on account
of her parents."7
A woman of quality in one's house had to be suitably gowned. In
1607 six yards of colored taffeta cost almost 9 ducats, the equivalent of
96 wage-days for a repartimiento Indian. A velvet gown would have


The Expenses of Position

cost 48 ducats.8 A lady wore jewels: ornaments on her ears and
fingers, and necklaces. In 1659 a single strand of pearls was valued at
130 pesos. Between wearing the jewelry was kept in a locked case
inside the royal coffer, which served the community as a safety
A lady had female companions near her own rank-usually
dependent kinswomen, although Governor Menendez Marquez
introduced two young chieftainesses to be raised in his house and to
attend his wife, dofia Maria.10 A gentlewoman maintained her own
private charities; Catalina Menendez Marquez, sister of one gov-
ernor, niece of another, widow of two treasury officials and
mother-in-law of a third, kept convalescent, indigent soldiers in her
home.11 The wives and daughters of hidalgos could become imperi-
ous: Juana Caterina of the important Florencia family, married to the
deputy governor of Apalache Province, behaved more like a feudal
chatelaine than the wife of a captain. She required one native to bring
her a pitcher of milk daily, obliged the town of San Luis to furnish six
women to grind maize at her husband's gristmill, and slapped a chief
in the face one Friday when he neglected to bring her fish.12
A gentlewoman's dowry was not intended for household ex-
penses but was supposed to be preserved and passed on to her chil-
dren. Debts a husband had incurred before marriage could not be
collected from his wife's property nor was he liable for debts inher-
ited from her family. A gentlewoman kept her own name as a matter
of course, and if her family was of better quality than her husband's it
was her name that the children took.13 Families were large-Lseena r
eight persons, it was estimated around 1706.14 The four generations
of the Menendez Marquez treasury officials are one example. In the
first generation fourteen children were recorded in the Parish Regis-
ter (all but two of them legitimate). In the second generation there
were ten; in the third, nine; and the fourth generation numbered six.
The number of recognized, baptized children in the direct line of this
family averaged nearest to ten.15
All of the hidalgo's progeny, legitimate or illegitimate, had to be
provided for. The daughters, called "the adornments of the house,"
had to have dowries if they were not to spend their lives as someone's
servants. A common bequest was a sum of money so an im-
poverished gentlewoman could marry or take the veil. Pedro
Menendez de Aviles for this purpose endowed five of his and his


The King's Coffer

wife's kinswomen with 200 to 300 ducats each.16 The usual dowryjn
St. Augustine was a house for the bride, but it could also be a ranch,a.
soldier's plaza(man-space or man-pay) in the garrison, or even a
royal office. Juan Menendez Marquez became treasurer when he was
betrothed to the daughter of the former treasurer Nicolas Ponce de
Le6n II became sergeant major by marrying the illegitimate daughter
of Sergeant Major Eugenio de Espinosa.17 If a man died before all his
daughters had been provided for, that duty fell upon their eldest
brotlier; even if a friar. Girls were taught their prayers, manners, and
accomplishments, and they learned homemaking at their mother's
side; they seldom received formal schooling. When two young ladies
from St. Augustine were sent to be educated at the convent of Santa
Clara in Havana, the question of the habit they were to wear was so
unprecedented that it was referred to the Franciscan commissary
general for the Indies.18
The plan for the sons of the family was to make them self-
supporting. Once a boy had finished the grammar school taught by
one of the friars he had two main career options: the church or the
garrison. To become a friar he entered a novitiate at the seminary in
St. Augustine, if there was one in operation-otherwise, in Santiago
de Cuba or Havana. He was then given his orders and joined the
missionary friars in the Custody or Province of Santa Elena, em-
bracing both Cuba and Florida.19 If he was meant for a soldier his
father purchased or earned for him a minor's plaza, held inactive from
the time he got it at age nine or ten until he started guard duty around
fifteen or regular service two years later Whether as friar or as soldier
the young man was paid a meager 115 ducats a year including
rations-enough for him to live on modestly but not to support
dependents. Even so, there were governors who felt that no one born
in Florida should be on the government payroll, either as a religious
or as a fighting man.20
Advancement cost money, whether in the church, the military, or
the bureaucracy. A treasury official generally trained his eldest son to
succeed him and bought afutura (right of succession) if he could.21
The patronage of lesser offices was an important right and, if the
family possessed any, every effort was made to keep them. When
times were peaceful, markets favorable, and other conditions fell into
line, an hidalgo might set up his son as a rancher or a merchant in the
import-export business, but many sons of hidalgos found none of


The Expenses of Position

these careers open to them. Sometimes, they were deposited with
relatives in New Spain or Cuba; they left Florida of their own accord
to seek their fortunes; or they remained to form the shabby entourage
of more fortunate kinsmen, serving as pages, overseers, skippers, or
Sixteenth-century property inventories studied by Lyon show
that the contrast between social classes around 1580 appeared in
costly furnishings and apparel rather than houses. It made sense, in a
city subject to piracy and natural disasters, to keep one's wealth
portable, in the form of personal, not real, property. The goods of an
hidalgo included silver plate, carpets, tapestries and leather wall
hangings, linens and bedding, rich clothing, and writing desks. The
value of such belongings could be considerable. Governor Trevifio
Guillamas once borrowed 1,000 pesos against the silver service of his
house. 23
During the seventeenth century, houses gradually became a more
important form of property. Construction costs were modest. Tools
and nails, at five to the real (one-eighth of a peso), were often the
single largest expenditure.24 At mid-century it cost about 160 pesos
to build a plain wattle-and-daub hut; a dwelling of rough planks and
palmetto thatch rented for 3 pesos a month. Indian quarrymen,
loggers, and carpenters were paid in set amounts of trade goods
originally worth one real per day. When the price of these items went
up toward the end of the seventeenth century, the cost of labor rose
proportionately but was never high.25 Regidores set the prices on lots
and it is not certain whether these prices rose, fell, or remained stable.
Shipmaster and Deputy Governor Claudio de Florencia's empty lot
sold for 100 pesos after he and his wife were murdered in the
Apalache rebellion. Captain Antonio de Argiielles was quoted a price
of 40 pesos on what may have been a smaller lot sometime before
1680, when the lot on which the treasurer's official residence stood
was subdivided.26
The value of better homes in St. Augustine rose faster than the
cost of living during the seventeenth century, perhaps indicating
houses of larger size or improved quality. In 1604 the finest house in
town was appraised at 1,500 ducats and sold to the crown for 1,000 as
the governor's residence.27 The governor's mansion that the English
destroyed in 1702 was afterward appraised at 8,000 pesos (5,818
ducats). In that siege all but twenty or thirty of the cheaper houses


The King's Coffer

were damaged irreparably; 149 property owners reported losses
totaling 62,570 pesos. The least valuable houses ran 50 to 100 pesos;
the average ones, 200 to 500 pesos. Arnade mentions eight families
owning property worth over 1,000 pesos, with the most valuable
private house appraised at 6,000.28
Royal officials were entitled to live in the government houses, but
in St. Augustine they did not always choose to. After the customs-
counting house and the royal warehouse-treasury were complete,
and even after the treasury officials obtained permission to build
official residences at royal expense, they continued to have other
houses. The Parish Register records one wedding at the home of
Accountant Thomas Menendez Marquez and another in the home of
his wife. Their son Francisco, who inherited the position of account-
ant, owned a two-story shingled house which sold for 1,500 pesos
after he died.29
In St. Augustine, houses were set some distance apart and had
surrounding gardens. The grounds were walled to keep wandering
animals away from the well, the clay outdoor oven, and the fruit
trees, vines, and vegetables.30 Near town on the commons, the
hidalgo's family like all the rest was allocated land for growing maize,
and after the six-month season his cows browsed with those of
commoners on the dry stalks. In 1600 the eighty families in town
were said to own from two to ten head of cattle apiece. Some distance
out of town, maybe two leagues, was the hidalgo's farm, where he
and his household might spend part of the year consuming the
produce on the spot.31
A gentleman was surrounded by dependents. The female rela-
tives who attended his wife had their male counterparts in the
numerous down-at-the-heels nephews and cousins who accom-
panied his travels, lived in his house, and importuned him for a hand
up the social ladder.32 As if these were not enough, through the
institution ofcompadrazgo he placed himself within a stratified net-
work of ritual kin. On the lowest level this was a form of social
structuring. Free blacks or mulattoes were supposed to be attached to
a patron and not to wander about the district answering to no one.
Indians, too, accepted the protection of an important Spaniard,
taking his surname at baptism and accepting his gifts. The progress of
conquest and conversion could conceivably be traced in the surnames


The Expenses of Position

of chiefs. Governor Ybarra once threatened to punish certain of them
"with no intercession of godfathers.""33 The larger the group the
hidalgo was responsible for the greater his power base. He himself
had his own more important patron. Between people of similar social
background, compadrazgo was a sign of friendship, business
partnership, and a certain amount of complicity, since it was not good
form to testify against a compare. TreasurerJuan Menendez Marquez
was connected to many important families in town, including that of
the Portuguese merchant Juan Nifiez de los Rios. Although it was
illegal to relate oneself to gubernatorial or other fiscal authorities,
Juan was also a compare of Governor Mendez de Canzo and three
successive factors.34
Servants filled the intermediate place in the hidalgo's household
between poor relatives and slaves. Sometimes they had entered
service in order to get transportation to America, which was why the
gentleman coming from Spain could bring only a few. One manser-
vant coming to Florida to the governor's house had to promise to
remain there eight years.35 The life of a servant was far from com-
fortable, sleeping wrapped in his cloak at the door of his master's
room and thankful to get enough to fill his belly. Still, a nondis-
chargeable servant had a degree of security, and though not a family
member he could make himself a place by faithful service. The Parish
Register shows how Francisco Perez de Castafieda, who was sent
from Xochimilco as a soldier came to be overseer of the Menendez
Marquez ranch of La Chua and was married in the home of don
Slaves completed the household. Technically, these could be
Indian or even Moorish, like the girl Isabel, who belonged to De
Soto's wife Isabel de Bobadilla and was branded on her face.37 In
actalit, almost all the slaves in Florida were black. Moors were
uncommon, and the crown categorically refused to allow the en-
slavement of Florida Indians, even those who were demonstrably
treacherous. The native women whom Diego de Velasco had sold
(one of them for 25 ducats), Visitor Castillo y Ahedo told through a
translator that they were free, "and each one went away with the
person of her choice."38 Governor Mendez de Canzo was forced to
liberate the Surruques and Guales whom he had handed out as the
spoils of war. One of the few Indian slaves after his time was the


The King's Coffer

Campeche woman Maria, who was taken into the house of Gov-
ernor Vega Castro y Pardo and subsequently bore a child "of father
unknown. "39
The names of slaves were significant. Those who had come
directly from Africa were identified by origin, as Rita Ganga, Maria
Angola, or Arara, Mandinga, or Conga. Those born in the house
were identified with the family: Maria de Pedrosa was Antonia de
Pedrosa's slave; Francisco Capitin belonged to Francisco Menendez
Marquez II, who in his youth had been Florida's first captain of
cavalry. A good Catholic family saw that their slaves were Christian
and the babies legitimate. In the Parish Register are recorded the
occasions when slaves-married, baptized an infant, or served as
sponsors to other slaves, mixed-bloods, or Indians. The parish priest
entered the owner's name and, starting in 1664, frequently noted the
shade of the slave's skin color: negro, moreno, mulato, orpardo. One
family of house slaves belonging to the Menendez Marquez family
are traceable in the registry for three generations.
Sometimes there was evident affection between the races, as the
time the slave Maria Luisa was godmother to the baby daughter of a
captain.40 But on the whole, blacks were not trusted. Too many of
them had run off and intermarried with thefierce Ais people of the
coast.41 The hundred slaves in St. Augustine in 1606 (who included
around forty royal slaves) were expected to fight on the side of any
invader who promised them freedom. Treasury officials objected
strongly to the captains' practice of putting their slaves on the payroll
as drummers, fifers, and flag bearers. In their opinion the king's
money should not be used to pay "persons of their kind, who are the
worst enemies we can have."42
The number of slaves belonging to any particular family is not
easy to determine. The problem with counting them from the Parish
Register is that they never appear all at once, and about all that can be
known is that from one date to another a certain slave owner had at
least x number of different slaves at one time or another. By this
rather uncertain way of numbering them, Juan Menendez Marquez
owned seven slaves; his son Francisco, eleven (of whom three were
infants buried nameless); Juan II had ten; and his brother Thomas,
four besides those out at La Chua. When Francisco II died in penury
he was still the owner of seven. Only three were of an age to be
useful, the rest being either small children or pensioners rather like


The Expenses of Position

himself.43 A conservative estimate of the number of adult slaves at
one time in a gentleman's house might be about four.
The price of slaves remained fairly constant during the sev-
enteenth century. In 1616 Captain Pastrana's drummer; whose pay he
collected, was worth 300 ducats (412 /2 pesos). During the 1650s a
thirty-year-old Angola ranch hand sold for 500 pesos and a mulatto
overseer for 600; a mulatto woman with three small children brought
955 pesos, and two other women sold for 600 and 300. As Account-
ant Nicolhs Ponce de Le6n explained to the crown in 1674, an un-
trained slave cost 150 pesos in Havana, but after he had learned a trade
in St. Augustine he was valued at 500 pesos or more.44 The four
trained adult slaves in the hypothetical household were worth some
2,000 pesos.
All of these dependents and slaves the hidalgo fed, clothed, dosed
with medicines, supplied with weapons or tools, andijpr-videdV with
the services of the church in a manner befitting their station and
connection with his house. There were other servants for whom he
felt no comparable responsibility. Repartimiento Indians cleared the
land and planted the communal and private maize fields with digging
sticks and hoes, guarding the crop from crows and wild animals.
Ordered up by the governor; selected by their chiefs, and adminis-
tered by the royal officials, they lived in huts outside the town and
were given a short ration of maize and now and then a small blanket
or a knife for themselves and some axes and hoes. During the con-
struction of the castillo as many as 300 Indians at a time were working
in St. Augustine.45 In an attempt to stop the escalation of building
costs, their wages were fixed at so many blankets or tools per week,
with ornaments for small change. Indians were not supposed to be
used for personal service but they often were, especially if for some
misdeed they had been sentenced to extra labor. Commissary Gen-
eralJuan Luengo declared that everyone of importance in Florida had
his service Indians and so had all his kinsmen and friends.46 If one of
these natives sickened and died he could be replaced with another.
Native healers "curing in the heathen manner" had been discred-
ited by their non-Christian origins and their inefficacy against Euro-
pean diseases, but there was no prejudice against the native medicinal
herbs, and even the friars resorted to the women who dispensed
them. Medical care of a European kind was not expensive for anyone
connected with the garrison. A surgeon, apothecary, and barber were


The King's Coffer

on the payroll, and the hospital association to which every soldier
belonged provided hospitalization insurance for one real per month.
When an additional real began to be assessed for apothecary's insur-
ance, the soldiers by means of petitions got the charge revoked and
what they had paid on it refunded.47
With housing, labor; and medical care relatively cheap, consum-
able supplies were the hidalgo's largest expense. There are two ways
to estimate what it cost to feed and clothe an ordinary Spaniard in
Florida: by the rations issued at the royal warehouses and by the
prices of individual items. In the armadas, fighting seamen were
issued a daily ration of one-and-a-half pounds hardtack, two pints
wine, half a pound of meat or fish, oil, vinegar; and legumbres, which
were probably dried legumes. During the period when the Florida
garrisons were administered together with the Menendez armada,
this practice was altered to enable a soldier to draw up to two-and-a-
half reales in supplies per day from the royal stores.48 In spite of
admonitions from governors and treasury officials that the cost of
food was taking more and more of the soldiers' wages, the official
allotment for rations was not changed, and any extra that the soldier
drew was charged to his account. Gillaspie has figured that in the
1680s a soldier spent two-thirds of his regular pay on food, and it was
probably more like 70 percent.49 By the end of the seventeenth
century a soldier's wages would barely maintain a bachelor.
A Franciscan, whose vow of poverty forbade him to touch
money, received his stipend, tactfully called "alms," in two pounds of
flour and one pint of wine a day, plus a few dishes and six blankets a
year. He and his colleagues divided among themselves three arrobas
(twenty-five-pound measures) of oil a year and the same of vinegar;
six arrobas of salt, and some paper; needles, and thread. By 1640 the
friars were finding their 115 ducats a year insufficient, in spite of the
king's extra alms of clothing, religious books, wax, and the wine and
flour with which to celebrate Mass. When they had their syndics sell
the surplus from Indian fields to Havana, it was partly because they
were 2,000 pesos in debt to the treasury.50
Commodity prices did not rise evenly throughout the period.
According to the correspondence from St. Augustine, different
necessities were affected at different times. From 1565 to 1602 the
price of wine rose 40 percent and that of cotton prints from Rouen,
170 percent. The price of wheat flour seemed to rise fastest between


The Expenses of Position

1598 and 1602.51 From 1638 to the mid-1650s the primary problem
was dependence upon moneylenders, compounded with the loss in
purchasing power of the notes against unpaid situados and of the
soldiers' certificates for back wages, both of which in the absence of
currency were used for exchange. In 1654 the presidio managed to
free itself from economic vassalage long enough to buy from
suppliers other than those affiliated with the moneylenders. One
situador (commissioned collector) said he was able to buy flour at
one-sixth the price previous agents had been paying. 52 Between 1672
and 1689 there was rampant profiteering in the maize and trade goods
used to feed and pay Indians working on the castillo. In 1687 the
parish priest suddenly increased the costs on his entire schedule of
obventions, from carrying the censer to conducting a memorial
service.53 Throughout the Habsburg period the expense of keeping a
slave or servant continued its irregular rise, whereas the salary of a
royal official remained constant.
Two undisputed facts of life were that imported items cost more
in Florida than in either New Spain orHavanaand that any merchant
able to fix a monopoly upon St. Augustine charged whatever the
market would bear, Since prices of separate items were seldom
reported except by individuals protesting such a monopoly, it is
difficult to determine an ordinary price. Even in a ship's manifest the
measurements may lack exactness for our purposes, if not theirs.
How much cloth was there in a bundle or a chest? How many pints of
wine in a bottle? Sometimes only a relative idea of the cost of things
can be obtained. Wheat flour, which rose in 1598 from 58 to 175
ducats a pipe (126.6 gallons), at the new price cost two-and-a-half
times as much by volume as wine or vinegar did in 1607. Nearly a
hundred years later wheat was still so costly that the wages of the boy
who swept the church for the sacristan were two loaves of bread a
day, worth fifty pesos a year.54
In spite of the high Florida prices, an officer found it socially
necessary to live differently from a soldier, who in turn made a
distinction between himself and a common Indian. Indians supple-
mented a maize, beans, squash, fish, and game diet with acorns, palm
berries, heart-of-palm, and koonti root-strange foods which the
Spanish ate only during a famine.5s An hidalgo's table was set with
Mexican majolica rather than Guale pottery and seashells. It was
supplied with "broken" sugar at 28 reales the arroba, and spices, kept


The King's Coffer

in a locked chest in the dining room.56 His drinking water came from
a spring on Anastasia Island. Instead of the soldier's diet of salt meat,
fish, and gruelor ash-cakes, the hidalgo dined on wheaten bread,
pork, and chicken raised on shellfish. Instead of the native cassina tea
he had Canary wines at 160 pesos a barrel and chocolate at 3 pesos for
a thousand beans of cacao.57 Pedro Menendez Marquez, the gov-
ernor; said he needed 1,000 ducats a year for food in Florida, although
his wife and household were in Seville.58
An hidalgo's lady did not use harsh homemade soaps on her fine
linens; she had the imported kind at three pesos a pound or nineteen
pesos a box.59 In the evening she lit lamps of nut oil or of olive oil at
forty reales the arroba, instead of pine torches, smelly tallow candles,
or a wick floating in lard or bear grease. There were wax candles for a
special occasion such as the saint's day of someone in the family, but
wax was dear: a peso per pound in Havana for the Campeche yellow
and more for the white. When the whole parish church was lit with
wax tapers on the Day of Corpus Christi the cost came to fifty
pesos.60 In St. Augustine, where the common folk used charcoal only
for cooking, the hidalgo's living rooms were warmed with charcoal
braziers. One governor was said to keep two men busy at govern-
ment expense cutting the firewood for his house.61
Even after death there were class distinctions. The hidalgo was
buried in a private crypt, either in the sixteen-ducat section or the
ten-ducat. Other plots of consecrated earth were priced at three or
four ducats. A slave's final resting place cost one ducat, and a pauper
was laid away free. It cost three times as much to bury an attache of
Governor Quiroga y Losada's (thirty-six pesos) as an ordinary sol-
dier (twelve pesos), on whom the priest declared there was no
Clothing was a primary expense and a serious matter. Uncon-
verted Indians would readily kill parties of Spaniards for their
clothes, or so it was believed. Blankets, cloth, and clothing served as
currency. Tobacco, horses, and muskets were priced in terms of cloth
or small blankets. Garrison debts to be paid by the deputy governor
of Apalache in 1703 were not given a currency value at all but were
expressed solely in yards of serge.63
Indians dressed in comfortable leather shirts and blankets. Rather
than look like one of them a Spaniard would go in rags.64 A manifest
for the Nuestra Senora del Rosario out of Seville gives the prices asked


The Expenses of Position

in St. Augustine around 1607 for ready-made articles imported from
Spain. Linen shirts with collar and cuffs of Holland lace cost forty-
eight or sixty reales; doublets of heavy linen were twenty-nine, forty,
and fifty-two reales; hose of worsted yarn cost twenty-eight reales
the pair; a hat was thirty-four to forty-two reales. Breeches and other
garments were made by local tailors and their native apprentices out
of imported goods, with the cheapest and coarsest linen running six
reales the yard, and Rouen cloth, ten and eighteen. Boots and shoes
were made by a part-time cobbler from hides prepared at the tan-
nery.65 The cheapest suit of clothes must have run to twenty ducats
(twenty-seven-and-a-halfpesos). When Notary Juan Jimenez outfit-
ted his son Alejandro as a soldier they ran up bills of seventy pesos to
the shopkeeper; eleven pesos to the shoemaker and unstated amounts
to the armorer; tailor, and washerman.66
An hidalgo had to be better dressed in his everyday clothes than
the common soldier in his finest, and his dress clothes were a serious
matter It was an age when state occasions could be postponed until
the outfits of important participants were ready, and the official
reports of ceremonies described costumes in detail. Governor
Quiroga y Losada once wrote the king especially to say that he was
having the royal officials wear cloaks on Sundays as it looked more
dignified.67 The hidalgo's cloak, breeches, and doublet were colored
taffeta at sixteen reales the yard or velvet at eight ducats. His boots
were of expensive cordovan; his hose were silk and cost four-and-a-
half pesos; his shirt had the finest lace cuffs and collar and detachable
oversleeves that could cost twenty-four ducats. His dress sword cost
eight ducats and his gold chain much more. When, to the professed
shock of Father Leturiondo, Governor Torres y Ayala assumed the
regal prerogative of a canopy during a religious procession, he may
have been protecting his clothes.68
The elegant family and household, with sumptuous food and
clothing-these were displays of wealth that anyone with a good
income could ape. The crucial distinction of an hidalgo was his
fighting capability, measured in his skill and courage, his weapons
and horses, and the number of armed men who followed him. In
Florida even the bureaucrats were men of war. Treasurer Juan
Menendez Marquez went on visit (circuit inspection) with Bishop
Juan de las Cabezas Altamirano, as captain of his armed escort. His
son, Treasurer Francisco, subdued rebellious Apalache Province


The King's Coffer

almost singlehandedly, executing twelve ringleaders and condemn-
ing twenty-six others to labor on the fort. Francisco's son, Account-
ant Juan II, defended the city from pirates, and in 1671 led a flotilla to
attack the English settlement of Charles Town.69
Treasury officials were ordered to leave their swords outside
when they came to their councils, for in a society governed by the
chivalric code, war was not the only excuse for combat. Any insult to
one's honor must be answered by laying hand to swordi, anidthe
hidalgo who refused a formal challenge was disgraced. He couilTfno
longer aspire to a noble title;the commonest soldier held him inr
contempt.70 In Floridaevery free man and even some faverb-6ire
arms. Soldiers, officers, officials, and Indian chiefs were issued
weapons out of the armory and thereafter regarded them as private
property. Prices of the regular issue of swords in 1607 andofifintlock
muskets in 1702 were about the same: ten or eleven pesos. An ar-
quebus, or matchlock musket, was worth half as much. Gunpowder
for hand-held firearms was two-thirds peso per pound in 1702, twice
as much as the coarser artillery powder.
That other requirement of the knight-at-arms, his horse, was not
as readily come by. A horse was expensiveand few survived the
rough trip to Florida. On shipboard they were immobilized in slings,
and when these swung violently against the rigging in bad weather
the animals had to be cut loose and thrown overboard. Until midcen-
tury the most common pack animal in Florida was still an Indian.72
Once horses had gotten a start, however they did well, being easily
trained, well favored, and about seven spans high. Imported Cuban
horses were available in the 1650s at a cost of 100 to 200 pesos, with a
bred mare worth double. In the 1680s and '90s, mares were selling for
30 pesos and horses for 25, about twice as much as a draft ox.73
Horsemanship displays on the plaza had become a part of every
holiday, with the ladies looking down in exquisite apprehension from
second-story windows and balconies.74 The Indian nobility raised
and rode horses the same as Spanish hidalgos. The chiefs of Apalache
were carrying on a lively horse trade with English-allied Indians in
1700, when the Spanish put a stop to it for reasons of military secur-
ity. 75 By that time a gentleman without his horse felt hardly present-
able. When the parish priest Leturiondo locked the church on Saint
Mark's Day and left for the woods to dig roots for his sustenance, his


The Expenses of Position

mind was so agitated, he said, that he went on foot and took only one
The hidalgo of substance had an armed following of slaves or
servants who were known as the people of his house, much as sailors
and soldiers were called people of the sea or of war Sometimes there
were reasons of security for such a retinue. A friar feared to travel to
his triennial chapter meeting without at least one bodyguard, and,
Bishop Diaz Vara Calder6n, when he made his visit to Florida in
1674-75, hired three companies of soldiers to accompany his prog-
ress: one of Spanish infantry, one of Indian archers, and the other of
Indian arquebusiers.77 About town an entourage was for prestige or
intimidation. The crown, trying to preserve order and prevent the
formation of rival authority in faraway places, forbade treasury
officials to bring their followers to councils or have themselves
accompanied in public; it was also forbidden to arm Indians or
slaves.78 It was not merely the secular hidalgo who enjoyed his
following. When Father Leturiondo went out by night bearing the
Host to the dying, he summoned twelve soldiers from the guard-
house and had the church bell tolled for hours to make the faithful
join the procession.79
With all the expensive demands on him (public and private
charities, providing for children, kee~ing_ upa large household, living
on a grand scale, and maintaining his standing as a knight-at-arms),
the hidalgo was in constant need of money-more money, certainly,
than any royal office could presumably provide. As Interim Treasurer
Portal y Maule6n once observed through his lawyer when one's
parents were persons of quality it was not honor that one stood in
need of, but a living.80



Proprietary Office

SN the provinces of Florida, as elsewhere in the empire of the
Spanish Habsburgs, a royal office was an item of property; the
person holding title to it was referred to as the "proprietor." He had
received something of value: the potential income not only of the
salary but of numerous perquisites, supplements and opportunities
for p rfit; and e he been recognizedubicysgtema hom
the king delighted to honor. Perhaps he had put in twenty years of
loyal drudgery on the books of the king's grants. Perhaps he had once
saved the plate fleet from pirates. Perhaps it was not his services that
were rewarded, but those of his ancestors or his wife's family. The
archives are studded with bold demands for honors, rewards and
specific positions, buttressed by generations of worthies. The peti-
tioner himself might be deplorably unworthy, but such a possibility
did not deter a generous prince from encouraging a family tradition
of service.
Appendix 2 (pages 143-48) shows the proprietors of treasury
office, their substitutes and stewards, and the situadores. The date any
one of them took office may have been found by accident in the
correspondence or inferred from the Parish Register In some cases a
proprietor went to New Spain before sailing to Florida, thus delaying
his arrival by at least half a year. Treasurer Juan de Cevadilla and
Accountant Lazaro Siez de Mercado were shipwrecked twice along
their journey and reached St. Augustine two-and-a-half years after
they were appointed.1 The scattering of forces among several forts


Proprietary Office

before 1587 called for multiple substitutes and stewards. From 1567 to
1571 the fiscal officials assigned to Menendez's armada for the defense /
of the Indies doubled as garrison inspectors and auditors and pos-
sessed Florida treasury titles.
During the Habsburg era a process occurred which could be
called the "naturalization of the Florida coffer." To measure this
phenomenon one must distinguish between those royal officials
whose loyalty lay primarily with the Iberian peninsula and those who
were Floridians, born or made. The simple typology of peninsular
versus creole will not do, for many persons came to Florida and
settled permanently. Pedro Menendez himself moved his household
there. Of the twenty-one royally appointed or confirmed treasury
officials who served in Florida, only eight had no known relatives
already there. Four of the eight (Lazaro Siez de Mercado, Nicolis
Ponce de Le6n, Juan de Arrazola, and Francisco Ramirez) joined the
Floridians by intermarriage; another (Juan de Cueva), by compa-
drazgo. One (Joseph de Prado) went on permanent leave, naming a
creole in his place. Only two of the king's officials seem to have
avoided entanglement in the Florida network: Santos de las Heras,
who spent most of his time in New Spain, and Juan Fernandez de
Avila, who was attached to the household of the governor and died
after one year in office. From the time the king began issuing titles in
1571 until the Acclamation of Philip V in 1702 was a period of 131
years. The positions of treasurer and accountant were extant the
entire time, and that of factor-overseer until 1628, making the total
number of treasury office-years 319. The two royal officials who
remained pristinely peninsular served eight years between them,
deducting no time for communication lag, travel, or leaves. Florid-
ians, whether born or naturalized, were in office at least 97 percent of
possible time.
One reason for the naturalization of the coffer was that the king
felt obligated to the descendants of conquerors, and his sense of
obligation could be capitalized on for appointments.2 The Menendez
Marquez family, descended on the one side from the adelantado's
sister; and on the other from a cousin of Governor Pedro Menendez
Marquez, at one time or another held every office in the treasury, and
their efforts to keep them were clearly encouraged by the crown.
When in 1620 Treasurer Juan Menendez Marquez was appointed
governor of Popayan in South America, he retained his Florida


The King's Coffer

proprietorship by means of his eighteen-year-old son Francisco. As
the treasurer was aged and might not live to return, he requested a
future for the youth, assuring the Council that his son had been raised
to the work of the office, had already served as an officer in the
infantry, and was descended from the conquerors of the land. The
official response was noncommittal: what was fitting would be
Francisco's position was ambiguous: neither interim treasurer
nor proprietor. In 1627 word came to St. Augustine that the governor
of Popayan was dead. When Francisco would not agree to go on
half-salary and admit to being an interim appointee, Governor Rojas
y Borja removed him from office and put in his own man, the former
rations notary. The treasurer's son went to Spain to argue before the
Council that "with his death the absence ofJuan Menendez Marquez
was not ended that the use of his office should be." The young man
pleaded that he was the sole support of his mother and ten brothers
and sisters, and he bore down heavily on the merits of his ancestors.
Philip IV's reaction was angry. If the king's lord and father (might he
rest in glory) once saw fit to name Francisco Menendez Marquez
treasurer with full salary in the absence of his father; it was not up to a
governor to remove him without new orders from the royal person.
Rojas y Borja, personally, was commanded to restore Francisco's
salary, retroactively. Since the governor's term was concluding, he
had to sign a note for the amount before he could leave town. Even
without a formal future Francisco had found his right to succession
supported by the crown.
S Another wa in whiichlhcoffer became naturalized was by
purchase, with Floridians coming forward to buy. The~ sa-e biffices
was not shocking to sixteenth- and seventeenth-century administra-
tors, who regarded popular elections as disorderly, conducive to
corruption, and apt to set risky precedents.4 Many types of offices
Were sold or "provided." In 1687 one could acquire a blank patent of
captaincy for Florida by enlisting 100 new soldiers in Spain.5 To
become the Florida governor; Salazar Vallecilla contracted to build a
500-ton galleon for the crown during his first year in office, and was
suspended when the year passed and the galleon was not built.6 It was
also possible to buy a benefice. When Captain Antonio de Argfielles,
old and going blind, wanted to provide handsomely for his Francis-
can son Joseph, he asked friends with influence to persuade the king


Proprietary Office

to give him the position of preacher or some other honor and proudly
promised to pay "though it should cost like a mitre."7
By the secondhalfof the sixteenth century most public offices in
the Indies were venal, that is to say, salable by the crown.8 In 1604
these offices also became renounceable: they could be sold toa-second
party for a payment of half their value to the coffer the first time, and
one-third each time thereafter Offices of the treasury, however; were
not included. It was feared that candidates would use fraud to recover
the purchase price or that incompetents would find their way into
office, and it was the crown's sincere purpose to approve only the
qualified.9 This did not mean that no arrangement was possible. Juan
Menendez Marquez obtained the Florida treasurership in 1593 when
he was betrothed to the twelve-year-old daughter of the former
treasurer, Juan de Posada, and of Catalina Menendez Marquez, the
governor's sister. Francisco Ramirez received the accountancy in
1614 by agreeing to marry the former accountant's widow and sup-
port her eight children.10 Not unnaturally, the members of the
Council who made the proposals for treasury office regarded wealth
as an evidence of sound judgment, and a candidate with means had
ways to sweeten his selection. Bythe4630s-halfway-through the
period we are studying-the king was desperatenoagh toxtendto
the treasury the sal offices and also of renunciations, futures and /v
A governor in Florida might know nothing of the transaction
until after the death of the incumbent, when the new proprietor
presented himself with receipt and title; yet the only known opposi-
tion to the sale of treasury offices came from Governor Marques
Cabrera and was part of his campaign against creoles in general.
When Thomis Menendez Marquez brought in the title to be ac-
countant after the death of his brother Antonio, the governor refused
to honor it, saying that Thomas was locally born and unfit. Marques
Cabrera entreated the king to sell no more treasury offices to unde- v
serving persons and to forbid the officials to marry locally-better)
yet, to transfer them away from Florida altogether. The Junta de
Guerra responded with a history of the official transactions in the
case. According to its records, Antonio Menendez Marquez had paid
1,000 pesos cash to succeed his brotherJuan II in 1673, whenJuan was
promoted from accountant in St. Augustine to factor in Havana. In
1682 Antonio (who was spending most of his time as situador in New


The King's Coffer

Spain) had bought a future for their brother Thomas at a cost of 500
pesos. The Junta ordered the governor to install Thomas as account-
ant immediately with retroactive pay.11 Three years later the Cdmara
de Indias, which was the executive committee of the Council, ap-
proved shipowner Diego de Florencia's request for a future to the
next treasury vacancy for his son Matheo Luis.12 Floridians like
Florencia were the ones who would know when offices were likely to
fall vacant, and they may have been the only ones who wanted them.
Proprietary offices were politely attributed to royal favorxaid
y legizimizediby royal titles, but.the kinghad less and less to do with
appointments. His rights of patronage were gradually alienated until
all that remained as a royal prerogative was enforcing the contract.
The complete contract between the king and his proprietor was
contained in several documents: licenses, instructions, titles, and
The appointee leaving for the Indies from Spain received a
number of licenses, of which some served as passports. Ordinarily,
one could take his immediate family, three slaves, and up to four
servants to the New World. Because the crown was anxious to
preserve the faith pure for the Indians, there could be no one in the
household of suspect orthodoxy. To discourage adventurers, tes-
timony might have to be presented that none of the servants was
leaving a spouse in Spain, and the official might have to promise to
keep them with him for a period of time. Other licenses served as
shipping authorizations. A family was permitted to take, free of
customs, 400 to 600 ducats' worth ofjewels and plate and another 300
to 600 ducats' worth of household belongings. Sometimes the
\ amount of baggage allowance was specified. Because of the crown
policy of strict arms control, weapons were limited to the needs of a
gentleman and his retinue. An official might be permitted six swords,
six daggers, two arquebuses, and one corselet. At the option of the
appointee the standard licenses could be supplemented by additional
paperwork. Gutierre de Miranda carried instructions to the governor
to grant him building lots and lands for planting and pasture as they
had been given to others of his quality. Juan de Posada had a letter
stipulating that situadores were to be chosen from the proprietary
officials and were to receive an expense allowance.'3
Instructions for treasury office in the Indies followed a set for-
mula, with most of the space devoted to duties at smelteries and


Proprietary Office

mints. An official's copy could be picked up at the House of Trade or
in Santo Domingo, or it might be sent to his destination. If he was
already in St. Augustine he would receive his instructions along with
his titles.
Titles were equally standard in format. There were two of them:
one to office in the treasury and the other as regidor of the cabildo.
The treasury title addressed the appointee by name, calling him the
king's accountant, treasurer; or factor-overseer of the provinces of
Florida on account of the death of the former proprietor. After a brief
description of the responsibilities of office the appointee was assured
that in Florida "they shall give and do you all the honors, deferences,
graces, exemptions, liberties, preeminences, prerogatives and im-
munities and each and every other attribute which by reason of the
said office you should enjoy." The salary was stated: invariably
400,000 maravedis a year from the products of the land.14 This was the
only regular income the official was due, for municipal office in
SFlorida was unsalaried. If the appointee was already in Florida,
salaried time began the day he presented himself to be inducted into
office; otherwise, on the day he set sail from San Luicar de Barrameda
or Cadiz. By the time the crown withdrew coverage for travel time in
S1695, Florida treasury offices had long been creole-owned. 15 The one
thing that never appeared in an official's titles was a time limit. His
Appointment, "at the king's pleasure," was understood to be for life.
, The governor, by contrast, had a term of five or six years. He could
threaten, fine, suspend, even imprison a proprietor; but he could not
remove him. And when the governor's term expired and his residencia
(judicial inquiry) came up, every official in the treasury would be
waiting to lodge charges.
The bond for treasury office, whether for the accountant, treas-
urer, or factor-overseer, and whether for the status of proprietor,
interim official, or substitute, was 2,000 ducats. The appointee was
permitted to furnish it in the place of his choice and present a receipt.
Once such offices began to be held by natives the bond was raised by
subscription. As many as thirty-eight soldiers and vecinos at a time
agreed to stand good if the treasury suffered loss because of the said
official's tenure. The effect of this communal backing was that if the
treasury official was accused of malfeasance and his bond was in
danger of being called in, as in the cases of Francisco Menendez
Marquez and Pedro Benedit Horruytiner; the whole town rose to his

35 /

The King's Coffer

defense. Nicolas Ponce de Le6n did not observe the formality of
having his bond notarized. When the document was examined after
his death, it was found that of his twenty-one backers, half had
predeceased him, perhaps in the same epidemic, and only five of the
others acknowledged their signatures.16
At the time of induction the treasury officialhoundhimselfby a
-- --------- ---- ial -y -4-- ~ ~
solemn oathbefore God, the Evangels, and the True Cross-toabe
i-honest and reliable. He presented his bond and his title. His belong-
ings were inventoried, as they would again be at his death, transferral,
or suspension. He was given key to the coffer and its contents als9
were inventoried. From that day forward he was meant never to take
an independent fiscal action. Other officials at his treasury had access
to the same books and locks on the same coffer He would join them
to sign receipts and drafts. Together they would open, read, and
answer correspondence. In the same solidarity they would attend
auctions, visit ships, and initiate debt proceedings.17 Such cumber-
some accounting by committee was intended to guarantee their
probity, for the king had made his officials collegially responsible in
order to watch each other. No single one of them could depart from
rectitude without the collusion or inattention of his colleagues.
A Spanish monarch had elevated ideals for his treasury officials.
SBy law no proprietor might be related by blood or marriage to any
other important official in his district. In Florida this was impractica-
ble. The creole families were intricately intermarried and quickly
absorbed eligible bachelors. Juan de Cevadilla described his predica-

[When] Your Majesty made me the grant of being treasurer
here eight years ago I decided to establish myself in this corner
of the world, and not finding many suitable to my quality I
married dofia Petronila de Estrada Manrique, only daughter
of Captain Rodrigo de Junco, factor of these provinces. If
Your Majesty finds it inconvenient for father-in-law and
son-in-law to be royal officials I shall gladly [accept a] transfer.
/ But the limitations of the land are such that not only are the
royal officials related by blood and marriage, but the govern-
ors as well.18

According to Spanish law, a proprietor was not to hold magisterial
or political office or command troops.19 In St. Augustine the treasury


Proprietary Office

officials were royal judges of the exchequer until 1621. They held the
only political offices there were: places on the city council. They were
also inactive officers of the garrison, who returned to duty with the
first ring of the alarum. In a place known for constant war a man with
self-respect did not decline to fight Indians or pirates.
During the early sixteenth century, royal officials were necessarily
granted sources of income to support them until their treasuries
should have regular revenues. Juan de Afiasco and Luis Hernandez de
Biedma, De Soto's accountant and factor; had permission to engage
in Indian trade as long as the residents of Florida paid no customs.
They and the two other treasury officials were to receive twelve
square leagues of land each and encomiendas of tribute-paying
natives.20 As the century wore on, such supplements to salaries were
curtailed or forbidden. In most places treasury officials had already
had their trading privileges withdrawn; they soon lost the right to
operate productive enterprises such as ranches, sugar mills, or mines,
for every time a royal official engaged in private business there was
fresh proof of why he should not.21 The laws of the Indies lay lightly
on St. Augustine, where the proprietors were more apt to be gov-
erned by circumstance, and in 1580 the restriction on ranches and
farms was removed. Accountant Thomas Menendez Marquez
owned the largest ranch in Florida, shipping hides, dried meat, and
tallow out the Suwannee River to Havana, where he bought rum to
exchange for furs with the Indians who traded in the province of
Apalache. Pirates once held him for ransom for 150 head of his
Encomiendas were another matter. The New Laws of 1542-43
phasing them out for others forbade them altogether for officials of
the treasury, who could not even marry a woman with encomiendas
unless she renounced them.23 This created no hardship for the pro-
prietors in St. Augustine. Although Pedro Men6ndez's contract had
contained tacit permission to grant encomiendas in accordance with
the Populating Ordinances of 1563, they were out of the question in
Florida-where the seasonally nomadic Indians long refused to settle
themselves in towns for the Spanish convenience, and the chiefs
expected to receive tribute, not pay it.24 Eventually the natives
consented to a token tribute, which in time was converted to a
rotating labor service out of which the officials helped themselves-
but there was never an encomienda.25
The expenses of a local treasury, including the salaries of its


The King's Coffer

officers, were theoretically covered by its income. This was im-
mediately declared impossible in Florida, where the coffer either had
few revenues or its officials did not divulge them. The first treasurer;
accountant, and factor-overseer occupied themselves in making their
offices pay off at the expense of the crown and the soldiers. When
instituting the situado, the king made no immediate provision for the
payment of treasury officials. In 1577, however; when Florida was
changed from a proprietary colony to a regular royal one, the crown
was obliged to admit as a temporary expedient that half of the stated
salaries might be collected from the situado. This concession was
reluctantly repeated at two- to six-year intervals.26 The widows of
officials who had served prior to regular salaries were assisted by
The royal officials pointed out between 1595 and 1608 that the
revenues which they and the governor were supposed to divide pro
rata were not enough to cover the other half of their salaries. Fines
were insignificant, as were confiscations; the Indians paid little in
tribute, and the tithes had been assigned to build the parish church.
They did not think the colony could bear the cost of import duties.
The treasure tax on amber and sassafras was difficult to collect.28 At
last the crown resigned itself to the fact that the improvident treasury
of the provinces of Florida would never pay its own way, much less
support a garrison. The royal officials were allowed to collect the
remainder of their salaries out of surpluses in the situado.29
In spite of an inflationary cost of living between 1565 and 1702,
salaries, wages, and rations allowances did not rise in Florida. The
king allowed his officials no payroll initiative. For a while the gov-
ernor used the bonus fund of 1,500 ducats a year to reward merit and
supplement the salaries of lower-echelon officers and soldiers on
special assignment, but the crown gradually extended its control over
that as well.30
Out of context, the figure of 400,000 maravedis, which was the
annual salary of a proprietor, is meaningless.31 Table 1 shows the
salary plus rations of several positions paid from the situado. The date
is that of the earliest known reference after 1565. For comparative
purposes, all units of account have been converted to ducats. Rations
worth 2/ 2 reales a day were over and above salary for members of the
garrison, among whom the treasury officials, the governor; and the
secular priests counted themselves in this case.32 By 1676 at least, a


Proprietary Office



v Salary Value Salary


Treasury proprietor
Sergeant major
Master of construction
Master of the forge
Parish priest
Company captain
Master pilot
Overseer of the slaves

Officer in charge (cabo)
Indian laborer

1693 Sacristan's sweeping boy

Salary as Stated (in ducats)

2,000 ducats/yr
400,000 maravedis/yr
515 ducats/yr
500 ducats/yr
260 ducats/yr
200 ducats/yr
200 ducats/yr
200 ducats/yr
150 ducats/yr
12 ducats/mo
10 ducats/mo
6 ducats/mo
1,200 reales/yr
and plaza
200 pesos/yr
4 ducats/mo
4 ducats/mo
115 ducats/yr
1,000 maravedis/mo
1 real/day
in trade goods
2 lbs. flour/day




(in ducats)



(in ducats)



a. Beginning this year, stated supplies were given whose value increased with prices.
b. Approximate. Depended upon value of trade goods and maize.
c. Varied with the price of flour.

repartimiento Indian received almost exactly the same pay before
rations as a soldier.33 The soldier; of course, was often issued addi-
tional rations for his family, while the Indian got only two or two-
and-a-half pounds of maize per day, worth perhaps 1 /2 reales-and
he might have brought it with him on his back as part of the tribute
from his village.34 A Franciscan drew his entire 115-ducat stipend in
goods and provisions. In 1641 the crown consented to let these items
be constant in quantity regardless of price fluctuations.35 It is ironic /
that natives and friars, both legendarily poor; were the only individu-
als in town besides the sacristan's sweeping boy whose incomes
could rise with the cost of living.36
It was acceptable to hold multiple offices. Pedro Menendez Mar- /




The King's Coffer

quez's salary as governor of Florida began the day he resigned his title
of Admiral of the Indies Fleet-more important than his concurrent
one of Florida accountant.37 Don Antonio Ponce de Le6n usually
exercised several positions at once. In 1687 he was at the same time
chief sacristan of the church, notary of the ecclesiastical court, and
notary of the tribunal of the Holy Crusade. Periodically he was
appointed defense attorney for Indians. While visiting Havana,
probably in 1701, he was made ecclesiastical visitador for Florida and
church organist for St. Augustine. He returned home from Cuba on
one of the troopships sent to break the siege of Colonel Moore, and as
luck would have it, the day before he landed, the withdrawing
Carolinians and Indians burned the church with the organ in it. Don
Antonio presented his title as organist notwithstanding and was
added to the payroll in that capacity since, as the royal officials
pointed out, it was not his fault that there was no organ. By 1707 he
had taken over the chaplaincy of the fort as well.38
Members of the religious community had sources of income
other than the regular stipends. The parish priest was matter-of-fact
in his discussion of burial fees and other perquisites. If these ran short,
he could go to Havana, say a few masses, and buy a new silk soutane.
In St. Augustine the value of a mass was set at seven reales, and the
chaplain complained that the friars demanded cold cash for every one
they said for him when he was ill and unable to attend to his duties.39
Parishioners brought the Franciscans offerings of fish, game, and
produce in quantities sufficient to sell through their syndics. The
income was intended to beautify churches and provide for the needy,
but one friar kept out enough to dower his sister into a convent.40
In the garrison it was possible to collect the pay of a soldier
without being one. There were seldom as many soldiers fit for duty
as there were authorized plazas in the garrison, and the vacant spaces,
called "dead-pays" (plazas muertas), served as a fund for pensions and
allowances. A retired or incapacitated soldier held his plaza for the
length of his life. A minor's plaza (plaza de menor or muchacho) could
be purchased for or granted to someone's son to provide extra in-
come, and if the lad developed no aptitude as a soldier the money did
not have to be paid back. Plazas were used variously as honoraria to
Indian chiefs, dowries, and salary supplements: a captain traditionally
named his own servants or slaves to posts in his company and pock-
eted their pay.41


Proprietary Office

Understrength in the garrison due to these practices was a peren-
nial problem. Sometimes it was the governor who abused his power
to assign plazas. The crown refused to endorse nineteen of them
awarded by Interim Governor Horruytiner to the sons, servants, and
slaves of his supporters. At other times the government in Spain was
to blame. Governor Hita Salazar complained that every ship to arrive
bore new royal grants of plazas for youngsters, pensioners, and
widows. A few of these were outright gifts; on most, the crown
collected both the half-annate and a fee for waiving its own rule
against creoles in the garrison. Again and again governors protested
that of the plazas on the payroll only half were filled by persons who
would be of any use to defend the fort and the town.42
A soldier's plaza was not his sole source of income. On his days
off guard duty he worked at his secondary trade, whether it was to
burn charcoal, build boats, fish, cut firewood, make shoes, grind
maize, round up cattle, tailor; or weave fishnets. A sawyer or logger
could earn 6 or 7 reales extra a day. Every family man was also a v
part-time farmer; with his own patch of maize on the commons and
cheap repartimiento labor to help him cultivate it.43 The soldier had
still other advantages. When traveling on the king's business he could
live off the Indians, commandeer their canoes, order one of them to
carry his bedroll, and cross on their ferries free.44 His medicines cost
nothing, although a single shipment of drugs for the whole presidio
cost over 600 pesos. The same soldier's compulsory contribution to
the hospital association of Santa Barbara, patroness of artillerymen,
was limited to 1 real a month.45 When he became too old to mount
guard he would be kept on the payroll, and after he died his family
would continue to receive rations. The weapons in his possession
went to the woman he had been living with, and his back wages paid
for his burial and the masses said for the good of his soul.46
An officer was entitled to these privileges and more. Not only
might his slaves and servants bring in extra plazas, but he was in a
position to sell noncommissioned offices, and excuses and leaves
from guard duty.47 It was possible for him to draw supplies from the
royal storehouses almost indefinitely. With his higher salary he had
readier cash and could order goods on the supply ship, purchase
property at auction, or buy up quantities of maize for speculation.48
A treasury official possessed most of the advantages of an officer j
plus others of his own. When he served as judge of the exchequer he


The King's Coffer

Swas entitled to a portion after taxes, probably a sixth, of all confis-
cated merchandise. When he was collector of the situado he drew a
per diem of thirty reales, which may have been why Juan de Ce-
vadilla asked the crown to supplement his low salary as treasurer
With the good salary of a situador.49 As a manager of presidio supplies
the treasury official favored his kinsmen and friends who were
importers and cattle ranchers. In time of famine he drew more than
his share of flour. As a payroll officer he credited himself with all the
maravedis over a real, since there was no longer a maravedi coin in
the currency. As a regidor the official took turns with his colleagues at
tavern inspection. Each time a pipe was opened he collected one
peso.50 There must have been many similar ways to supplement a
salary, some acknowledged and others only implied.
The duties of a royal official were not necessarily done by him
personally. An official was often absent, traveling to New Spain or
Havana, visiting the provinces, or looking after his property. He
Chose a substitute, the substitute posted bond, and they divided the
salary. If the substitute found it necessary to hire a replacement of his
own, the subject of payment was reduced to a private deal between
the parties. When a proprietary office fell vacant, the governor
enjoyed the right of appointing ad interim, unless the crown had sold
a future and the new proprietor was waiting. Interim officials were
paid half of a regular salary, the same as substitutes.51 The routine
work of the Florida treasury may have been done more often by
substitutes than proprietors, especially in the late seventeenth cen-
tury, when officials serving as situadores were kept waiting in
Mexico City for years. This raised questions ofliability. Was the royal
treasurer, Matheo Luis de Florencia, accountable for a deficit in the
treasury when he had been in New Spain the entire five years since his
installation? The crown referred the question to its auditors.52
The interim or substitute official was supposed to be someone
familiar with the work of the treasury and possessed of steady charac-
ter: rich, honorable, and married. It was unwise, though, to choose
someone whose connections made him aspire to office himself.
Alonso Sanchez Saez came to Florida with his uncle Lazaro Saez de
Mercado, the accountant, and became a syndic for the friars. When
Lazaro died the governor named Alonso ad interim on half-pay. At
the next audit there was some question about his having been related
to the former accountant, but the crown ruled that the governor


Proprietary Office

could allow what was customary. Since at that time only a half of
salaries was paid from the situado and the coffer had few revenues,
the interim accountant's salary translated into 100,000 maravedis a
year for a 400,000-maravedi position. His requests for a royal title and
full salary were ignored, as were his complaints about his heavy
duties. The next proprietor; Bartolome de Argfielles, kept Alonso
substituting in the counting house during his own lengthy ab-
sences.53 The embittered nephew, who had inherited the work but
not the salary or honor of his office, made a name for himself in St.
Augustine by sequestering funds, giving false alarms, and being
generally contentious. The governor forbade him to sit on the same
bench during Holy Week with the other treasury officials. Alonso
circulated a rumor that the governor was a defrocked friar. The
interim accountant and his wife, whom he always called "a daughter
of the first conquerors," were eventually expelled from town, carry-
ing the governor's charges against them in a sealed envelope.54
In a place as precedent-conscious as St. Augustine, the cases
defining what was to be done about leaves of absence were impor-
tant. Factor Alonso de las Alas quarreled with TreasurerJuan Menen-
dez Marquez in 1595 over whose turn it was to go for thesituado. Las
Alas thought he had won, but when he got back from New Spain the
treasurer and the governor indicted him for bringing part of the
situado in clothing instead of cash. At their recommendation the
Council suspended him for four years without salary. 55After his
reinstatement Las Alas requested a two-year leave to go to Spain. The
treasurer had obtained a similar leave on half-salary the year before,
but the crown felt no obligation to be consistent: Las Alas had to take
his leave without pay.56 The accountant, Bartolome de Argiielles,
also received a two-year leave to attend to personal business, and v
when it expired he did not return. Years later his widow, dofia Maria
de Quiiiones, was still trying to collect his half-pay to use for the
dowries of four daughters.57
An official who experimented with informal leaves of absence
was Accountant Nicolas Ponce de Leon. He was a veteran of Indian
wars in Santa Marta, a descendant of conquerors in Peru, and, most
important, the son-in-law of a Council of the Indies porter. From the
preserved slate ofnominees, he was also the only one out of thirty-six
candidates with no previous exchequer experience. When the gov-
ernor of Florida died in 1631, shortly after his arrival, Nicolas found


The King's Coffer

himself thrust into a co-interim governorship with the psychopathic
Sergeant Major Eugenio de Espinosa.. In mortal fear of his partner;
who had threatened to cut offhis head, he took refuge in the Francis-
can convent until the next governor should arrive. He assured the
crown that this caused the treasury no inconvenience for he had
named a reliable and competent person to do what work could not be
brought to the convent.58
In 1637 this same Nicolas Ponce de Le6n had Treasurer Francisco
Menendez Marquez imprisoned on charges of having spent situado
funds in Mexico City on gambling and other things "which for
modesty and decency cannot be mentioned." Perhaps the accountant
decided that unmentionable sins deserved closer examination. In 1641
he went to Mexico City himself, where he got the viceroy to throw
Martin de Cueva, a former situador; into prison and settled down for
a leisurely lawsuit before the audiencia. After three years the gov-
ernor of Florida sent word for Nicolas to return or have his powers of
attorney revoked. Nicolas appealed the governor's order to the
audiencia. In 1645 the next governor declared the accountant absent
without leave and replaced his substitute, who had let the papers of
the counting house fall into confusion. The king finally intervened in
the case and ordered the viceroy of New Spain to send the recreant
accountant of Florida, who had been amusing himself for the last five
years in Mexico City, home to look after his duties. After an absence
of seven years Nicolas returned to resume his office and family. His
holiday does not seem to have been held against him.59
A case of purchased leave of absence was that of TreasurerJoseph
de Prado. Prado did not buy his office: the position was given him
when he was almost fifty, for his services to the crown. He did not
distinguish himself in Florida. During the Robert Searles raid of 1668
he was the only grown man in town to be captured in his bed and
carried out to the ships for ransom along with the women. A month
later he was sold a license to spend ten years in Guadalajara for the
sake of his health. In 1674 he left St. Augustine and thereafter replied
to no letters. When the ten years were up Governor Marques Cabrera
reported that no one knew whether Prado was dead or alive and
asked that the office be refilled. An indifferent Junta de Guerra clerk
replied that Prado had paid 600 pesos for the privilege of absenting
himself for unlimited periods as he pleased.60
The "honors, deferences, graces, exemptions, liberties, preemi-


Proprietary Office

nences, prerogatives and immunities" promised to the royal official
in his title were as dear to him as his salary and substitutes and maybe
more so, for they acknowledged his position as one of rank and
privilege. He had precedence. He and his family were persons of
consequence. Such perquisites of office were partly tangible and
partly deferential.
Tanible symbols of office were the official's staff ofoffice (vara),
his key to the coffer; and his residence in a government house. In the
seventeenth century it was a common sign of authority to carry a
staff The governor had his baton and so had Indian chiefs. Staves and
banners even served as metonyms for office. Nicolas Ponce
de Le6n II said that "the banner of the militia company being vacant,"
his son Antonio was appointed company ensign. Governor Marques
Cabrera, being rowed out to the waiting galley on the day he de-
serted, threw his baton into the sea, crying, "There's where you can
go for your government in this filthy place!"61 In his role of royal \
judge a treasury official bore one staff, and as a regidor he was entitled /
to another. When the choleric Sergeant Major Espinosa, enraged at
Nicolas Ponce de Le6n I, was restrained by companions from killing
him, he called into the counting house to his adjutant to seize the
accountant's symbol of authority and arrest him. The officer did so,
breaking Ponce de Le6n's staff to pieces.62
Keys were symbols of responsibility as staves were of authority.
When the warden of te castifllo made his oath of fealty to defend his
post, he took charge of the keys of the fort and marched through its
precincts with the public notary, locking and unlocking the gates.63 A
similar ceremony was observed with a new treasury official, who
received his key to the treasure chest and immediately tried it. In legal
documents this chest was sometimes called the "coffer of the four
keys," from the days when there would have been four padlocks on
it, one for each official. At important treasuries another key was
frequently held by the viceroy, the archbishop, or an audiencia judge,
who sent it with a representative when the chest was opened. The
royal officials resented this practice as impugning their honor.64
It was the treasury officials' privilege and duty to reside in the
houses of government (casas reales) where the coffer waskeptf. These
buildings varied in number and location along with the relocations of
the town. During the sixteenth century St. Augustine moved about
with the sites of the fort. According to Alonso de las Alas, the first


The King's Coffer

presidio, known to him as "Old St. Augustine," was built on an
island facing the site of the town he lived in. St. Augustine was
moved "across to this side" when the sea ate the island out from
under it. In its new location on the bay front the town had a guard-
house, an arsenal under the same roof as the royal warehouse, and
perhaps a customs-counting house at the dock.65 There were no
official residences. Three successive governors rented the same house
on the seashore-Governor Ybarra thought it a most unhealthful
location. This St. Augustine, and a new fort on the island of SanJuan
de Pinillo, were destroyed by Drake in 1586; a later St. Augustine, by
fires and a hurricane in 1599.66
Disregarding Pedro Menendez's idea to move the settlement to
the site of an Indian village west of the San Sebastian inlet, Governor
Mendez de Canzo rebuilt it a little to the south, where the landing
was better protected and a curving inlet provided a natural moat. He
laid a bridge across the nearby swamp, sold lots, and bought up
lumber. In spite of the treasury officials' disapproval he began paying
daily wages to repartimiento workers and put the soldiers to work
clearing land. To finance his real development he exacted contribu-
tions from those with houses still standing, approved harbor taxes,
cut down on bonuses and expense allowances, and diverted the funds
sent for castillo construction. The king helped with four years of
tithes, 276 ducats from salvage, and 500 ducats besides.67 Following
Philip II's 1573 ordinances for town planning, Mendez de Canzo laid
out the plaza in back of the landing: 250 by 450 feet, large enough for
a cavalry parade ground. Around the plaza he constructed a new
guardhouse, a royal warehouse doubling as treasury, and a gover-
nor's mansion. He also built a gristmill and an arsenal and started a
counting house onto which a customs house could be added.68
The royal officials might have the right to live in government
houses, but they did not intend to move into quarters that were
inadequate. In the time of Governor Salinas the crown finally ap-
proved construction of suitable residences to be financed from local
revenues and, when these proved insufficient, from the castillo fund.
The proprietors were satisfied. "In all places where Your Majesty has
royal officials they are given dwelling houses," they had said, and
now there were such houses in St. Augustine.69 When the factor-
overseer's position was suppressed a few years later the vacated third
residence was assigned by cedula to the sergeant major70


Proprietary Office

All the buildings in town at this time seem to have been of wood,
with the better ones tiled or shingled and the rest thatched with palm
leaves. By 1666 the government houses, including the counting
house and the arsenal, were ready to collapse. A hurricane and flood
leveled half the town in 1674, but again rebuilding was done mostly
in wood, although there was oyster shell lime and quarried coquina
available on Anastasia Island for the stone masonry of the new
castillo.71 There seems to have been some subdividing of original
lots. During the governorship ofHita Salazar; Sergeant Major Pedro
de Aranda y Avellaneda bought a lot within the compound of the
government houses close to the governor's mansion, although he
had applied for a different one in the compound of the treasury and
royal warehouse. The royal officials not only sold it to him but
supplied him with the materials to build a house next to the gover-
nor's. The next governor, Marques Cabrera, managed to block
Aranda's building there, but not on the lot beside the treasury.
Displeased with what he called the deterioration of the neighbor-
hood, the governor turned the gubernatorial mansion into a public _1
inn and requisitioned for his residence the house of Ana Ruiz, a
widow, two blocks away.72
The next governor, Quiroga y Losada, proposed to sell the gov-
ernment houses and put up a new stone building to contain the
governor's residence, the counting house, and the guardhouse. The
royal officials could move into his renovated old mansion and their
houses be sold.73 Six months later-suspiciously soon-the new
government house was finished. Appraised at 6,000 pesos, it had
been built for 500. Quiroga y Losada had not followed his own
submitted plan, for the counting house, treasury, and royal officials
were still housed as they had been, in buildings that he and the next
governor repaired and remodeled in stone.74 When Colonel Moore
and his forces arrived to lay siege to the castillo in 1702, the treasury
was on the point of being re-shingled. When they marched away,
nothing was left of any of the government houses except blackened
If the tangible symbols of office were staves, keys, and residences,
the deferential symbols of office were precedence and form of ad-
dress. Precedence was a serious matter. Disputes over who might
walk through a door first, sit at the head of a table, or remain covered
in the presence of someone else were not just childish willfulness but


The King's Coffer

efforts to define the offices or estates that would take priority and
those that would be subordinate.76 When parish priest Alonso de
Leturiondo locked the church on Saint Mark's Day because the
governor had sent someone less important than the treasurer to invite
him to the official celebration, it was not solely from offended pride.
As he said, he must maintain the honor of his office.77
The order of procession at feast days and public ceremonies was
strictly observed. Treasury officials, who embodied both fiscal and
municipal dignities, took precedence over all exclusively religious or
military authorities. The two first ministers of Florida at the local
Acclamation of Philip V were the interim accountant and the treas-
urer, "who by royal arrangement follow His Lordship in seat and
signature." The accountant stood at the governor's left hand and the
treasurer, serving as royal standard-bearer for the city, at his right,
leading the hurrahs of "Castilla Florida" for the new monarch and
throwing money into the crowd.78
In some treasuries precedence among the royal officials was
determined by the higher salaries of some or by the fact that proprie-
tors were regidores of the cabildo and substitutes were not. In St.
Augustine, where these differences did not exist, the only bases for
precedence were proprietorship and seniority. The one who first
stepped forward to sign a document was the one who had been a
proprietor in Florida the longest.79
The final right of a royal official was not to be mistreated verbally.
The form of address for each level in society was as elaborately
prescribed as the rest of protocol, and a lapse could only be regarded
as intentional. The governor was referred to as Su Senioria (His
Lordship) and addressed as Vuestra Setnoria or Vuestra Excelencia (Your
Excellency), abbreviated to Vuselensia or even Vselensia in the dis-
patches of semiliterate corporals.80 Governor Ybarra implored the
Franciscan guardian to keep the reckless Father Celaya confined in
the convent, for "if he shows me disrespect [on the street] I shall have
to put him into the fort... for I must have honor to this office."81
Friars were called Vuestra Paternidad (Your Fatherliness). A Spaniard
of one's own rank was addressed as Vuestra Merced (Your Grace),
shortened in usage to Usarced, Usarce, or Busted (precursors of
Usted).82 Only the king could address officials in the familiar form,
otherwise used for children, servants, and common Indians. After
Governor Mendez de Canzo had addressed TreasurerJuan Menendez


Proprietary Office 49

Marquez publicly as "vos," his epithets of "insolent" and "shameless
one" were superfluous. The crown's reaction to such disrespect
toward its treasury officials was to reprimand the offender and order
him in future to "treat them in speech as is proper to the authority of
their persons and the offices in which they serve us, and because it is
right that in everything they be honored."83
As proprietor of the exche Aqur-thergasuxFfficiaI had the
second highest salary in town, job tenure, free housing, and the
opportunity ttef substitut s-dhis work In his connection with the
garrison he could count on regular rations, supplies, and a career for
his sons. Because he was regidor of the cabildo, the whole regional
economy was laid before him to adjust to his advantage. And beyond
all this were the prized "honors, deferences, graces, exemptions,
liberties, preeminences, prerogatives and immunities." A proprietary
official of the royal treasury was as secure financially and socially as
any person could be who lived in that place and at that time.


Duties and Organization

HE work of the treasury was conducted mainly in the houses
SCof government: the counting house, the customs house, the
royal warehouse and arsenal, and the treasury. For all of this work the
royal officials were collegially responsible, and much of it they did
together; but each of them also had his own duties, his headquarters,
and one or more assistants. The organization of the treasury is shown
in Table 2, with the patron or patrons of each position. Those posi-
tions for which wages are known are in Table 3.
The title of accountant called for training in office procedures.
Roving auditors might find errors and make improvements in the
bookkeeping system, yet this could not take the place of careful
routine. In the words of New Spain Auditor Irigoyen: "The account-
ant alone is the one who keeps a record of the branches of revenue and
makes out the drafts for whatever is paid out, and any ignorance or
carelessness he displays must be at the expense of Your Majesty's
exchequer."1 Unfortunately, not every hidalgo who was appointed
accountant enjoyed working with figures. Some left everything in
the hands of subordinates, signing whatever was put in front of them.
The accountant did not handle cash. He was a records specialist,
the archivist who preserved royal cedulas, governors' decrees, and
treasury resolutions. He indexed and researched them, had them
copied, and was the authority on their interpretation. He kept the
census of native tributaries-a count supplemented but not dupli-
cated by the friars' Lenten count of communicants.2 It was his busi-

Duties and Organization


ness to maintain personnel files, entering the date when an individual
went on or off payroll and recording leaves and suspensions. No one
was paid without his certification. Sometimes the crown asked for a
special report: the whereabouts of small firearms in the provinces, a
list of Indian missions and attendant friars with the distances between
them in leagues, a cost analysis of royal slave earnings and expenses,
even an accounting of empty barrels. Instructions came addressed to



King and Royal Treasury
Positions and Dates Created Council Governor Officials Council Other

Treasury Council
Governor x
Accountant x
Factor-overseer to 1628
Treasurer to 1628
Treasurer-steward (1628) x
Interim officials x
Substitute officials xa x
Public and govt. notary to 1631 1631 onb
Commissioned Agents
Situador xc
Procurador x
Supply ship masters x
Provincial tax collectors x
Expedition tax collectors x
Counting House
Chief clerk (1593) x
Assistant clerk (1635) x
Lieutenant auditor (1666) xd
Internal auditor to 1666
Customs House
Customs constable (1603) to 1636 1636 on
Chief guard (1630) x
Guards (as needed) x
Warehouse and Arsenal
Steward x
Rations and munitions x
a. With the governor's consent.
b. Auctioned.
c. Chosen by auditor and governor.
d. Most common practice; varied frequently.


The King's Coffer

Salary Per Diem or Total
without Daily Rations (in
Position Rations (in reales) Bonus ducats)
Proprietor 400,000 mrs/yr 2'/2 1,150
Proprietor as situador 400,000 mrs/yr 30 2,062
Captain as procurador 200 ducats/yr 15 20 ducats/mo 938
Interim or substitute official 200,000 mrs/yr 21/2 618
Lieutenant auditor 500 pesos/yr 21/2 444
Chief clerk 1,000 mrs/mo 21/2 200 pesos/yr 260
Chief guard 250 ducats/yr* 250
Steward 50,000 mrs/yr 21/2 217
Customs constable 1,000 mrs/mo 21/2 25,000 mrs/yr 182
Rations notary 5 ducats/mo 21/2 400 reales/yr 179
Public and govt. notary 1,000 mrs/mo 2/2 400 reales/yr 151
Assistant clerk 1,000 mrs/mo 21/2 50 pesos/yr 151
*This figure may include rations.

all the royal officials and they all signed the prepared report, but the
accountant and his staff did the work.3
The counting house was staffed by a number of clerks. Before
their positions were made official the accountant sometimes hired an
accounts notary (escribano de cuentas) out of his own salary.4 In 1593
the crown approved a chief clerk of the counting house officiall mayor
de la contaduria) to be paid a regular plaza and 200 pesos from the
bonus fund. When the accountant was away this clerk usually served
as his substitute. The position of assistant clerk of the counting house
officiall menor de la contaduria) with a salary supplement of 50 pesos a
year was approved in 1635. The assistant clerk was also known as the
clerk of the half-annate officiall de la media anata), although the half-
annate was seldom collected.5 If the work load at the office became
heavy, temporary help might be hired, but the king did not want this
charged to his treasury. When Accountant Ponce de Le6n and his
substitute allowed the books to get eight years behind, the other
officials were told to deduct from salaries the cost of bringing them
up to date.6 In 1688, soon after a third infantry company was formed,
Accountant Thomas Menendez Marquez requested permission to
hire a third clerk for the increased paperwork. Instead, he was or-
dered to reduce his staff from two clerks to one-an order that was
neither rescinded nor, apparently, obeyed.7 There was by that time
another official at the counting house: a lieutenant auditor chosen by

Duties and Organization

the royal auditor and the governor to replace the internal auditor who
had been appointed periodically. These two positions are discussed in
Chapter 8.
The treasury officials were a committee of harbor masters, regis-
tering the comings and goings of people as well as ships. It was their
duty to see that no one entered the provinces without the correct
papers, or left without the governor's consent and their own fiscal
release. Impetuous young Pedro de Valdes, betrothed to Menendez's
daughter Ana, was probably the only person ever to stow away for
Florida, but convicts, soldiers, and even friars tried to escape. The
presidio's ships had to be manned by Indians and mixed-bloods who
could be relied upon to return home.8
When the royal officials first began collecting harbor taxes, they
recognized the need of a customs constable and inspector (alguacil y
fiel ejecutor de la aduana) to record what was loaded and unloaded from
ships. Otherwise they had to take turns at the customs house them-
selves, which Alonso Sanchez Siez, at least, was unwilling to do.9
The crown approved the new position in 1603, with a 25,000-
maravedi bonus and no doubt a percentage of goods confiscated.10
The governor appointed as first constable Lucas de Soto, a better sort
of soldier sentenced to serve four years in Florida for trying to desert
to New Spain from Cuba. By 1608 De Soto was in Spain with
dispatches, receiving the salary of customs constable but not doing
the work. In 1630 the crown approved a position of chief guard
(guardamayor) for all ports, to be chosen by the treasury officials and
to select his own assistants. In St. Augustine he was paid a respectable
salary of 250 ducats. The royal officials soon objected that the gov-
ernor appointed all the guards and was thus able to unload ships by
night or however he pleased without paying taxes; the customs
constable was no more than his servant and secretary. In response to
their letter the officials were assigned patronage of the constable's
post as well. Within ten years they too were letting him serve by
It was a temptation to double up on offices and hire out the lesser
one. In the early 1670s a Valencian named Juan de Pueyo came to St.
Augustine and begat to work his way up in the counting house,
beginning as the clerk of the half-annate. According to the treasury
officials, since counting house salaries were low they also gave him
the post of constable, which carried its own assistant in the chief


The King's Coffer

guard of the customs house. Pueyo knew the importance of family.
He was promoted to chief clerk around the time his wife's sister
married the accountant's son. As chief clerk of the counting house
Pueyo supervised the assistant clerk, and as customs constable, the
guards. By 1702 the Valencian, serving as interim accountant, stood at
the governor's left hand during the Acclamation of Philip V as one of
the provinces' first ministers. For someone who had started as an
under-bookkeeper he had come a long way.12
As early as 1549 the offices of factor and overseer had begun to be
combined in the Indies. Two years before St. Augustine was founded
the crown determined that the smaller treasuries did not need the
factor-overseer either and that that official's duties could be divided
between the accountant and the treasurer. A factor-overseer was
named for Florida nevertheless, because Spanish occupation there
began as an expedition of conquest: a factor was needed to guard the
king's property, and an overseer to claim the royal share of booty and
to supervise trade. The adelantado expected Florida to become an
important, populous colony with port cities, which would need a
manager of commerce.13 Although the St. Augustine treasury turned
out to be a small treasury indeed, it kept a factor-overseer for over
sixty years. He was the business manager who received the royal
revenues paid in kind and converted them to cash or usable supplies
at auction, whether they were tithes of maize and cattle, the king's
share of confiscated goods, tributes, or the slaves of an estate under-
going liquidation. Whatever was to be auctioned was cried about
town for several days, for it was illegal for the treasury to conduct a
sale without giving everyone a fair chance to buy. Cash was pre-
ferred, but the auctioneer sometimes accepted a signed note against
unpaid wages.14
It was the factor in a presidio, as in an armada, who was account-
able for the storage and distribution of the king's expendable prop-
erties: supplies, provisions, trade goods, and confiscated merchandise.
For these duties he had an assistant called the steward of provisions
and munitions (tenedor de bastimientos y municiones). The first steward
for the enterprise of Florida, it happened, was appointed ahead of the
first factor. Pedro Menendez named his friend Juan deJunco to the
position while they were still in Spain. In 1578Juan's brother Rodrigo
became factor-overseer and technically Juan's superior. Rodrigo


Duties and Organization

suggested that stewards were needed at both St. Augustine and Santa
Elena, and the crown agreed to consider it.1x
The other officials saw the need of two stewards, but not of their
colleague Rodrigo. Treasurer Juan de Cevadilla, shortly after he
arrived, said that in the beginning a treasurer had been in charge of the
armada provisions and supplies, assisted by a steward, who was paid
50 ducats a year above his plaza. If the same were done in Florida the
factor's position could be abridged. Accountant Bartolome de
Argiielles tried to speed the cutback by saying that it looked as if
Factor Rodrigo de unco had nothing to do. The office of factor was
meant for places with mines, he said. The work of an overseer-
looking after musters, purchases, and fortifications-was done by the
accountant in Havana, and Argiielles thought he could handle it in St.
Augustine.16 The Council might have been more impressed with his
offer had he not gotten the duties of factor and overseer reversed.
In 1586 permission arrived for an extra 50,000 maravedis a year
with which to pay two stewards. It was better to have persons with
rewards and regular salaries in positions of responsibility, the au-
thorizing official noted; a plain soldier could not raise bond, and
losses would result. 17 Juan de Cevadilla, by now Rodrigo de unco's
son-in-law, had a brother Gil who became the second steward. This
convenient arrangement lasted until Cevadilla died in New Spain in
1591. Junco was promoted to governor but, on his way to St. Au-
gustine from Spain, was shipwrecked and drowned in the St. Johns
estuary along with Treasurer-elect Juan de Posada. The king's choice
for a new factor never made the trip to Florida. For the time being,
Accountant Argiielles was the only royal official. With Santa Elena
permanently abandoned there was need of only one steward.
Argiielles persuaded the incoming governor to remove both Gil and
Juan and install Gaspar Fernindez de Perete instead, on the full 50,000
maravedis salary.18
The accountant's 1591 instructions to the new steward show the
care with which royal supplies and provisions were supposed to be
guarded.19 Fernandez de Perete must not open the arsenal save in the
presence of the rations and munitions notary, a constable, and the
governor. To guarantee this, it had three padlocks. He must keep the
weapons, matchcord, gunpowder and lead safe from fire. (There was
little he could do about lightning. In 1592 a bolt struck the powder


The King's Coffer

magazine and blew up 3,785 ducats' worth of munitions.) The stew-
ard must protect the provisions against theft and spoilage, storing the
barrels of flour off the ground and away from the leaks in the roof;
keeping the earthenware jars of oil, lard, and vinegar also off the
ground and not touching each other in a place where they would not
get broken; examining the wine casks for leakage twice a day and
tapping them occasionally to see whether the contents were turning
to vinegar in the hot wooden buildings.20 It was the steward's re-
sponsibility to keep a book with the values by category of everything
kept in the warehouses, from ships' canvas to buttons. Once a year
the royal officials would check this book against the items in inven-
tory. Anything missing would be charged to the steward's account.
On the first of every month they and the governor would make a
quality inspection, in which anything found damaged due to the
steward's negligence was weighed, thrown into the sea, and charged
to him.21
Argiielles' opportunity to supervise the steward did not last. A
new factor-overseer, Alonso de las Alas, quickly established his
authority over the steward's position, which he had once held. When
Las Alas' suspension was engineered a few years later the governor
replaced both him and the steward with Juan L6pez de Aviles, a
veteran of the Menendez armada.22 The harried interim official
complained that of all the officials he was the busiest and most
exposed to risk, answering for the laborers' wages, the royal ships,
and the slaves, besides the rations and supplies.23 After Factor Las
Alas was reinstated and recovered control of the warehouses, he used
them for storage of his own goods flourr hardtack, wine, meat, salt,
blankets), and, through a false door, the king's property found its way
into his house. It was said that 100,000 pounds of flour went out
through that door to be baked into bread and sold in one of the shops
he and the treasurer owned in town-shops they secretly supplied
with unregistered merchandise. Governor Fernandez de Olivera
suspended them both. His interim appointees to the treasury found
Las Alas short 125 pipes of flour; 5,540 pints of wine, 1,285 pints of
vinegar and 94jugs of oil-and this was only in the provisions.24 On
his way to defend himself before the Council, Las Alas was wounded
by a pirate musketball and died owing the crown 5,400 ducats.
Hoffman and Lyon, following his story, were surprised to discover


Duties and Organization

three subsequent cedulas praising Las Alas' integrity and services
during an attempted colonization of the Straits of Magellan to fore-
stall Drake. An heir of the twice-suspended factor was granted
200,000 maravedis, the salary which had accumulated after Las Alas'
death while his post was vacant.25
Although the king filled the factorship once more (or honored a
commitment) withJuan de Cueva, this time was recognized to be the
last. Governor Salinas suggested in 1620 that an accountant and a
steward were all Florida really needed. The Council, considering his
letter four years later; recommended that the royal will be to suppress
the office of factor-overseer in Florida and combine the positions of
treasurer and steward. A certain delay in implementing this will
would be unavoidable, treasury offices being lifetime appointments,
but Florida officials might be given first consideration for vacancies
elsewhere. In 1624 Francisco Ramirez, the accountant, was offered a
transfer to the treasury soon to be established at the mines of San Luis
Potosi in New Spain; Factor Juan de Cueva was to become Florida
accountant in his place. Ramirez declined to move. In 1628, the year
Francisco Menendez Marquez won his case to be recognized as
Florida treasurer; Cueva began serving as accountant in place of
Ramirez, who was semiretired. He may have continued his
stewardship duties as well, but not with his old title of factor-
overseer. After the king's new appointee arrived in 1631, Cueva left
for San Luis himself, to be that treasury's accountant.26
The treasurer's individual functions were those of a cashier. He
received the royal revenues paid in specie and disbursed the sums that
he, the other officials, and the governor had approved. The coffer was
his particular responsibility; he lived in the building where it was
kept. Because little money got to Florida the duties of this office were
light. The gossipy Accountant Argiielles said that once the yearly
payroll had been met the treasurer had nothing to do.27 Perhaps this
was why in 1628, the year the factorship was suppressed, the duties of
steward were given to the treasurer and the position treasurer-
steward was created.28 In vain Accountant Nicolis Ponce de Le6n
warned the king that letting Treasurer Francisco Menendez Marquez
have access to the supplies as well as the money would make him
more powerful than the accountant and the governor together.29 In
1754, after three sons and a grandson of Francisco had served their


The King's Coffer

own proprietorships in the treasury, a Bourbon king took the further
step of suppressing the accountancy and reducing the number of
officials to one, the treasurer.30 But that is outside the scope of this
Every day except Sundays and feast days the royal officials went
to the work of the day directly after meeting at morning mass.31 It
might be the day for an auction, or for the monthly inspection of
munitions and supplies. When a pilot came in from coastal patrol his
declaration of salvage and barter had to be taken and his equipment
and supplies checked in. A deputy governor in from the provinces
would present his report of taxes collected, or a new census of
tributaries. The masters of supply ships brought in their receipts and
vouchers to find out what balance they owed to the treasury. If the
ship had brought a situado, the time required would be magnified
several times.
Once a week the treasury officials held a formal treasury council
(acuerdo de hacienda) attended by the public and governmental notary
(escribano ptiblico y de gobernaci6n). Without this notary's presence
there could be no legal gathering for government business, no public
pronouncement, and no official action or message. Any letter not in
his script was considered a rough draft; his signature verified a legal
copy. The public and governmental notary was paid a plaza plus
salary, which began at 100 ducats a year but around 1631 was reduced
to 400 reales. Since no money or supplies passed through his hands he
did not furnish bond.32 Although in his public office a notary was
supposed to be impartial and incorruptible, it was hard for him to
oppose the governor who had appointed him, could remove him,
and might fine him besides.33 Captain Hernando de Mestas, in a letter
smuggled out of prison, said that the notary was his enemy and had
refused him his office. "The former notary would not do what he was
told," said Mestas, "so they took the office from him and gave it to
the present one who does what they tell him, and he has a house and
slaves, while I am poor."34 In an effort to get the notaryship out of the
governor's power the royal officials suggested to the crown that the
position be put up for public auction. The idea was quickly taken up,
but the new system probably changed little. In a town both inbred
and illiterate, notaries were not easy to find. When Alonso de Solana
was suspended from that office by the king's command, and again
when he died, the highest bid to replace him (and the one the royal


Duties and Organization

officials accepted) was that of his son.35 For these reasons of autoc-
racy, patronage, and inbreeding, little reliance can be placed upon
local testimony about a controversial topic. As the bishop of Tricale,
visiting St. Augustine in the eighteenth century, explained: "Here
there is a great facility to swear to whatever is wanted."36
At their treasury council the royal officials checked the contents
of the treasure chest against the book of the coffer. Whatever had been
collected since the last time the chest was open was produced; they all
signed the receipt and saw the money deposited in the coffer and
entered into the book of the coffer kept inside it. It was not unheard of
for an official to keep out part of the royal revenues, so that they never
entered the record at all. As long as the chest was open, those vecinos
using it as a safe might drop by to make a deposit or to check on the
contents of their own small locked cases, for the treasure chest was
the nearest thing to a bank vault in town.
The treasury officials were not supposed to borrow the king's
money or lend it to their friends, but from the number of deficits
found by auditors, they must have done so regularly. When detected,
they had to replace the money within three days or face suspension.37
The treasury was not the only source of credit. Soldiers pledged their
wages to provide bond for an officeholder or situador. Shipowners
sold their vessels to the presidio on time. To ration the garrison
Governor Hita Salazar borrowed produce stored up for sale by the
Franciscans.38 Even Indians operated on the deferred payment plan.
The Christians of San Pedro sold cargoes of maize to the garrison on
credit and so did the heathen on the far side of Apalache. The Guale
women who peddled foodstuffs and tobacco required a pledge of
clothing from Spanish soldiers, and it was complained that they
returned the garments in bad condition.39
After the examination of the coffer the royal officials went on to
important deliberations. Dispatches from the crown addressed to
"my royal officials" were opened by all of them together. Their
replies, limited to one subject per letter were signed collegially except
when one official in disagreement with the others wrote on his own.
The notary wrote up a resume of actions taken, which each official
signed. If there had been disagreement each one signed after his own
opinion (parecer), but the vote of the majority carried. The minutes of
the meeting, in the book of resolutions (libro de acuerdos), had the force
of a judicial action.40


The King's Coffer

The governor was entitled to attend the treasury council and vote
in it, but not to put a lock of his own on the coffer. The royal officials
considered it a hazard to the treasury for the governor to hold a key to
it, and the crown agreed. No one should have access to the king's
money, plate, and jewels without corresponding responsibility for
them. Governors in Florida were forbidden to put a lock on the royal
coffer by a 1579 restraining order that was repeated after further
complaints in 1591 and 1634.41 The governor's vote, although not
decisive, had inordinate weight on the council, especially after the
number of officials was reduced from three to two. The treasury
officials were aware of what this meant. In 1646 they wrote:

The governor who advised Your Majesty on this could have
had no other motive than less opposition to his moneymak-
ing, because three, Sire, are not as easy to trample on as just
two; and besides, if one of them combines with the governor
what can the other poor fellow do, in a place where a governor
can do whatever he likes?42

The governor was most definite about this right when it was time
to commission someone to collect the situado. Once a year the
treasury council met. to decide on the year's situador and what he
should bring back from Mexico City, Vera Cruz, and Havana. To-
gether they wrote out his instructions, signed his powers of attorney,
and accepted his 2,000-ducat bond. Since it was not feasible for the
agent to contact them after he left, they must choose someone of
independent judgment and wide experience-one of themselves,
thought the royal officials. It did not deter them to remember that a
proprietor on per diem drew higher wages than the governor. Mar-
ques Cabrera, who was suspicious about most of what royal officials
did, pointed out that the situador was supposed to answer to them
and they could not fairly judge themselves. A governor usually
proposed someone from his household. Nevertheless, of the
twenty-one royally appointed officials from 1565 to 1702, seventeen
are known to have been situador at least once, and many went several
Another important commissioned agent was the procurador, or
advocate, who represented the presidio on trips to Spain. As his
primary duty was to bring back soldiers and military supplies, the
procurador was usually either an officer with a patent from the crown


Duties and Organization

or someone from the governor's house who had been appointed an
officer ad interim. When he had time the procurador conducted
business of his own, and for many this was their main object. The
colony was allowed two ships-of-permission per year. Pelts worth
2,000 or (after Governor Salinas requested an increase) 3,000 ducats
could be taken to Spain and cargoes brought back for resale, if anyone
wanted to bother. Procurador Juan de Ayala y Escobar, whose career
has been studied by Gillaspie, found the Spanish trade worth his
while. His instinct for scenting profit in war and famine was some-
thing the crown overlooked in return for his keeping St. Augustine
At the weekly treasury council, bills were presented. The treasury
officials examined the authorization for each purchase, along with the
affidavit verifying the price as normal, the bill of lading, and the
factor's or steward's receipt for goods delivered. If everything was in
order the bill was entered into the book of libranzas (drafts), which
was a sort of accounts payable. Each entry carried full details of date,
vendor, items, quantity, price, and delivery, as well as the signed
certifications of the royal officials and the governor Such entries had
great juridical value. A libranza, which was acceptable legal tender
was no more than the notarized copy of an entry. Sinchez-Bella
maintains that the libranzas, or drafts on the royal treasury, were the
primary cause of friction between governors and royal officials in the
Indies.45 The governor of Florida had been ordered to make with-
drawals in conjunction with the officials of the treasury, but many
executives found this too restricting. When Governor Mendez de
Canzo ordered payments against the officials' advice he did not want
their objections recorded; Governor Treviiio Guillamas told them
flatly that it was his business to distribute the situado, not theirs;
Governor Horruytiner presented them with drafts made out for
them to sign.46 The officials were not as helpless as they liked to
sound. The governor endorsed the libranzas, but they had the keys to
the coffer.47
Governors tried several methods of managing the royal officials.
One was by appointment and control of their notary. Another was
interference with the mails. Francisco de la Rocha and Salvador de
Cigarroa complained that few of the cedulas they were supposed to
index ever reached them. Another set of officials, going through the
desk of Governor Martinez de Avendafio after his death, found many


The King's Coffer

of their letters to the crown, unsent. Interim Governor Gutierre de
Miranda stopped the passage of all mail, confiscating one packet
smuggled aboard a dispatch boat in ajar of salt.48 Other governors
operated by the threat of fines. IfArgiielles did not finish a report on
the slaves and the castillo within six days-500 ducats; ifSinchez Saez
did not remain on duty at the customs house-500 ducats; if Cuevas,
Menendez Marquez, and Ramirez did not sign the libranza to pay the
governor's nephew ahead of everyone else-500 ducats each, and 200
ducats from the notary.49 A truly intransigent official could be sus-
pended or imprisoned in his house-a punishment that carried little
onus. Governor Ybarra confined Sinchez Saez three times. Govern-
ors Fernandez de Olivera and Torres y Ayala both arrived in St.
Augustine to find the officials of the treasury all under arrest.50
While the governor could attend an ordinary treasury council and
exercise a vote equal to a royal official's, he could also summon a
general treasury council (acuerdo general de hacienda) with an agenda of
his own. The crown insisted at length that there be no expense to the
exchequer without prior approval, yet it was grudgingly conceded
that in wartime, at a distance of 3,000 miles, emergencies could arise.
At a general treasury council the governor authorized extraordinary
expenditures personally and had the royal officials explain later. On
the pretext that the counting house needed repairs, Governor Mar-
ques Cabrera had all treasury councils meet at his house and, using
the excuse of seasonal piracy and Indian raids, spent as he pleased.51
Their reports could be depended on to get such a headstrong
executive into trouble, but the treasury officials did not wholly rely
on the slow workings of royal justice. St. Augustine had its own
ways to bedevil a governor and to make him write, as Marques
Cabrera did to the king: "Next to my salvation there is nothing I long
for more than to have the good fortune of leaving this place to
wherever God may help me-anywhere, as long as I shall find myself
across the bar of this harbor!"52



The Situado

HE Florida coffer had two sources ofincome:;,Qcally- generated
Royal taxes and revenues, which will be treated in the next
chapter, and the situado, basically a transfer between treasuries.
Although the connections between principal treasuries were tenuous
and debts against one were not collectible at another; a more affluent
treasury could have charged upon it the upkeep of defense outposts
along its essential trade routes. The shifting fortunes of the West
Indies can be traced in the various treasuries' obligations. At first the
House of Trade and Santo Domingo did most of the defense spend-
ing; then it was the ports of the circum-Caribbean. By the 1590s the
viceregal capitals and presidencies had assumed the burden: Lima
provided the situado for Chile; Cartagena, the subsidies of Santa
Marta and Rio de la Hacha; Mexico City, those for the rest of the
In Pedro Menendez's contract with the king (as rewritten fol-
lowing news of a French settlement in Florida) the adelantado was
promised certain trade concessions, the wages for 300 soldiers, and
15,000 ducats. This was the first stage of the Florida subsidy, lasting
three years. When the contract was renewed, along with its trading
privileges, only 150 men were provided for and their wages were to
be taken from Menendez's new armada's subsidy, which was funded
equally by the Tierra Firme and New Spain treasuries. In 1570 the
Florida subsidy was separated from that of the Indies Fleet, though
Florida support remained a charge on Tierra Firme, along with a new

The King's Coffer

subsidy for Havana.2 When the Tierra Firme treasury was divided in
1573 into one at Nombre de Dios and one at Panama, Philip II moved
responsibility for Florida's subsidy to the New Spain coffer of Vera
Cruz, which had financed the luckless Tristan de Luna expedition to
the Pensacola area in 1559. In 1592 the obligation was transferred to
the royal treasury in Mexico City, where it remained for the rest of
the Habsburg period.3
The situado was not a single subsidy but a cluster of them, mostly
based on the number of authorized plazas in the garrison. The
23,436-ducat total that the officials of Tierra Firme were told to
supply yearly beginning in 1571 consisted of 18,336 ducats to ration
150 men and 1,800 ducats to pay them (at the rate ofl ducat a month as
in the fleet of Menendez), 1,800 ducats for powder and ammunition,
and 1,500 ducats for "troop commodities."4 When Pedro Menendez
Marquez went to Florida with reinforcements to restore a fort at
Santa Elena, the crown doubled the size of the garrison but increased
the subsidy by only four million maravedis, or 10,668 ducats. This
was corrected in 1579 when the situado was raised to 47,770 ducats.
Soon afterward, the crown accepted the new royal officials' plan for
collecting the situado themselves, by turn, and administering the
The total did not change substantially for the next ninety years.
An inflationary rise in the cost of provisions was absorbed by the
soldiers, whose plazas were converted to a flat 1,000 maravedis per
month (115 ducats a year) to cover both rations and wages. In an
effort to economize, and at the recommendation of Governor Men-
dez de Canzo, the crown attempted to return the garrison size to 150
men; it succeeded only in making his successor; Governor Ybarra,
unpopular.6 Active strength was diminished more gradually and
effectively by increasing the number of "useless persons" (intitiles)
holding the plazas of soldiers. Perhaps most of these were friars. In
1646 a ceiling was set of 43 Franciscans to be paid out of the subsidy
and the additional ones became supernumerary, covered by a separate
situado for friars which their lay treasurer; or syndic, was permitted
to collect directly. Later in the seventeenth century the same threat
from the north that stimulated the construction of Castillo de San
Marcos brought an increase in the size of the garrison. Fifty plazas
were added in 1669, and in 1673 the 43 friars became supernumerary
along with their colleagues. This gave the presidio an authorized


strength of 350 soldiers, which in 1687 the crown increased to 355.7
The situado was not equivalently raised by 55 plazas of 115 ducats. Its
yearly total in 1701 was only some 70,000 pesos, or about 51,000
ducats.8 Within that slowly rising total the nonplaza subsidies had
varied considerably since 1571. New funds had been created, while
old ones had been reduced in amount, changed in purpose, or elimi-
A governor appointed to Florida usually left Spain on a presidio
frigate loaded with troops for the garrison and also with armor,
gunpowder; and ammunition. The money for these essential military
supplies was sometimes advanced by order of the crown from one of
the funds at the House of Trade, the amount being deducted from the
next situado by a coffer transfer. In wartime, a presidio-appointed
procurador made extra trips to Spain for materiel. The funds for these
large, irregularly spaced expenditures accumulated in a munitions
The 1,500 ducats for "troop commodities" was a bonus (ventajas)
fund used for increasing the base pay of officers and of soldiers on
special assignment, such as working in the counting house or singing
in the choir It doubled with the size of the garrison in the 1570s, but
after the temporary reduction during the governorship of Ybarra the
second 1,500 ducats was not restored. Periodically the crown asked
for a list of bonus recipients, and any change was supposed to receive
its approval.9 In time, bonuses were used like plazas, to reward or to
pension petitioners. As was to be expected, the crown was more
generous in allocation than in fulfillment, and recipients waited years
for "first vacancies" and futuras of bonuses in Florida, as grantees
waited elsewhere in the Indies for encomienda revenues.10 Toward
the end of the seventeenth century the bonus fund was liquidated. As
the holders of bonuses transferred or died, their portions were
applied toward officers' salaries in the third infantry company,
formed in 1687.11
In 1577 a new fund was added to the situado when Governor
Menendez Marquez and the treasury officials were given permission
to collect half their salaries out of it. The governor's half-salary was
1,000 ducats. When there were three proprietary officials in the
treasury, each one getting 200,000 maravedis (533 ducats) in cash, the
figure for administrative salaries came to 2,600 ducats a year. Menen-
dez Marquez soon got permission to draw his entire salary from the

The Situado


The King's Coffer

situado-for a limited period, he was cautioned; but the privilege was
extended to succeeding governors, raising the budget for salaries by
1,000 ducats. This was reduced by one royal official's half-salary
when the position of factor-overseer was suppressed. Only when an
auditor was residing in St. Augustine did the salaries fund rise above
3,067 ducats.12
In 1593 the crown authorized an unspecified fund for making gifts
to Indians: thegasto de indios. Perhaps it was meant to take the place of
the allowance for munitions, for Philip II was serious about his
pacification policy. Those on the scene never achieved unanimity
over whether to accomplish the conquest by kindness or by force.
The friars once asserted that the cost of everything given to the
natives up to their time, 1612, would not have bought the matchcord
to make war on them. Anyway, since they moved about like deer,
without property, there was no way to defeat them. Juan Men6ndez
Marquez, an old Indian fighter had a contrary view. He observed that
since the time of his cousin not one governor had extended a con-
quest or made a discovery: all had gone about gratifying the Indians
at the expense of His Majesty. This was not totally true, but it should
not have been surprising. It must have been more pleasant to sail up
the Inland Waterway, as Governor Ybarra did in 1604, distributing
blankets, felt hats, mirrors, beads, and knives, than to burn houses
and trample crops.13
In 1615 the Indian allowance was set at 1,500 ducats, but little
effort was made to stay within it. Governor Rojas y Borja made 3,400
ducats' worth of gifts in a single year to the Indians, who called it
tribute. Governor Salazar Vallecilla and the royal officials who substi-
tuted for him distributed an average of 3,896 ducats' worth, and in
one year 6,744.14 Unquestionably, part of this was used for trade, but
when the Indian allowance was reduced or withheld, the chiefs
attached to the Spanish by that means became surly. Eventually, the
fund was used for purposes far from its original intention. Two
hundred ducats and two rations of flour were assigned in 1698 from
the "chiefs' fund" to the organist of the parish church and two altar
boys respectively.15
The base figure of the situado was not necessarily the amount of
money supplied. Superimposed upon it were the yearly variations.
Occasionally funds were allocated for some special purpose: 26,000
pesos to rebuild the town after the 1702 siege of Colonel James


The Situado

Moore; a full year's situado to replace the one stolen by Piet Heyn,
and one lost in a shipwreck; 1,600 pesos to pay the Charles Town
planters for runaway slaves the king wished to free.16 Additional
money was sometimes sent for fortifications: commonly 10,000
ducats or pesos, delivered in installments.17 It was characteristic of
these special grants that they were seldom used for the intended
purpose. A greater emergency would intervene; the governor and
royal officials would divert the fund to that, explain their reasons, and
demand replacement.18 When it was possible the crown obliged.
In the sixteenth century the officials of the supporting treasury
were supposed to ask for a muster of the garrison and deduct the
amount for vacant plazas from the situado. During the seventeenth
century it was more common to use the surplus (sobras) from inactive
plazas as a separate fund.19 In 1600, encouraged by the presence of a
royal auditor; the officials volunteered that funds were accumulating
in the treasury from the reserve for munitions, the freight on presidio
vessels, and royal office vacancies. The surplus amounted to around
60,000 pesos by 1602-almost a whole year's situado. They sug-
gested that as it was difficult to find the revenues locally to cover the
unpaid half of their salaries, they could draw on these reserves.20 The
king's financial advisors, greatly interested, told the officials of the
Mexico City treasury to send the next Florida situado to Spain and to
reduce future situados to reflect effective rather than authorized
strength. From the Florida royal officials they asked an accounting of
all unused monies to date. Much later; other officials received permis-
sion to collect the rest of their salaries from reserves, but the reserves
no longer existed.21
The crown had its own opinions on likely surpluses and what to
do with them. The soldiers evacuated from Santa Elena in 1587 were
reimbursed for their lost property by 1,391 ducats from the surpluses
of the situado. In 1655, the year the English tookJamaica, the treasury
officials were ordered to use the unpaid wages of deserters and the
deceased to improve the presidio's defenses. Accountant Santos de las
Heras objected that deserters forfeited their wages, the back wages of
the deceased without heirs went to purchase masses for their souls,
and, with situados three years behind, nobody was being paid any-
way. The king's advisors replied that the accountant was to pay the
living first and let the dead wait. Twenty years later a royal order
arrived to use the unclaimed wages of deserters and deceased to


The King's Coffer

provide plazas to crippled noncombatants.22 Not long afterward the
royal officials were told to report on the funds from vacant plazas. It
was the governor's prerogative to allocate the surplus, not theirs, the
crown pointed out-a moot point, since a separate cedula of the same
date instructed the governor to use the money on the castillo. At the
end of the Habsburg period the viceroy of New Spain was instructed
to send the surplus of the 1694 subsidy to Spain. It amounted to a
third of the sum earmarked for plazas.23
There were many problems with the situado, part due to un-
avoidable shortages and part to venality and graft. From the begin-
ning there was a scarcity of currency. Both the Vera Cruz and the
Mexico City officials were instructed to deliver the situado to its
commissioned collectors in reales, since that was the coin in which to
pay soldiers. Yet in spite of repeated injunctions to pay in coined
reales (reales acuiados) the officials preferred to keep their specie at
home. Instead they supplied silver in crudely shaped and stamped
chunks calledplanchas or even in assayed ingots (plata ensayada) which
the soldiers chopped into pieces. In 1601 Accountant Juan Menendez
Marquez acting as situador could collect only 37 percent of the total
in coin.24
Throughout the Habsburg period hard specie continued to be
scarce in the provinces. In 1655 Auditor Santa Cruz estimated that in
twenty years not 20,000 pesos in currency had entered the presidio. In
place of money the creoles used such expediencies as yards of cloth or
fractions of an ounce of amber.25 Wages were paid either in imported
goods at high prices, in obsolete or inappropriate things the governor
wanted to be rid of, or in libranzas or wage certificates that declined
drastically in value and were bought up by speculators with inside
knowledge.26 Although two resourceful Apalaches were caught
passing homemade coins of tin, Indians ordinarily used no money,
but bartered in beads, blankets, weapons, twists of tobacco, baskets,
horses and other livestock, chickens, pelts and skins, and cloth. Great
piles of belongings were gambled by the players and spectators at the
native ball games. The Spanish governors begged for some kind of
specie to be sent for small transactions and suggested 7,000 or 8,000
ducats in coins of silver and copper alloy (vellon) to circulate in the
Florida provinces. Where there was no money, they explained,
people were put to inconvenience.27
The quality of silver was another problem. In 1612 the Florida


officials sent over 1,000 reales' worth of miscellaneous pieces to the
House of Trade for the receptor of the Council to buy them presidio
weapons. The silver from Florida turned out to be of such low
fineness that no one would accept it at more than 43 reales the mark.
The crown demanded to be told the source of such degraded bullion
and specie. In reply, the royal officials admitted that part of the
consignment was in adulterated silver and clipped coins, but they had
sent it as it had been received in fines, which the crown, in order to
retire what was debased, allowed to be paid in any silver bearing the
royal mark. They protested, however, that most of the offending
silver had come from New Spain and could not be used in Florida,
where the soldiers were supposed to be paid in reales. Certainly the
base alloy had not been added to the silver while it was at their
Over the seventeenth century the viceroy and royal officials of the
Mexico City treasury allowed the situados to fall seriously behind.
By 1642 the drafts against unpaid situados amounted to 250,000
pesos, four times the yearly subsidy. Four years later the situador was
forced to ask for a cedula ordering the Mexico City officials to turn
over the current situado to him instead of to Florida's creditors. In
1666 the situados were seven years behind, or some 461,000 pesos. In
1703 they were again 457,000 pesos in arrears.29 Although something
was applied to these arrearages from time to time, the case seemed
hopeless to the unpaid soldiers and to the local men and women who
made their shoes and did their laundry. The crown set guidelines for
paying back salaries in a fair manner, then circumvented its own
instructions by giving out personal cedulas for some individuals to
collect their wages ahead of the rest.30 The officials at St. Augustine
treated payments toward back situados as a totally fresh and unex-
pected revenue. They inquired in writing whether such money
might not be used to build a stone fort or to found Spanish towns.31
The practice of letting some subsidies fall into arrears created new
expenses to consume the other ones. Some of these expenses were for
servicing the presidio's loans. A loan was taken out at the Mexico
City treasury as early as 1595. Governor Salinas, in an effort to
consolidate the treasury's debts, asked in 1621 for another loan of
30,000 or 40,000 pesos to be paid off in installments of 2,000 pesos
from every situado. The crown was unhelpful about retiring this
debt. A representative of the Council, making a grant of 150 ducats in

The Situado


The King's Coffer

1627 to Florida's sergeant major observed that the money was to
come from the situado surpluses as soon as there were any, "which
will not be for many years because it is so far in debt now."32 In 1637
Governor Horruytiner inquired about yet another loan to pay the
soldiers, who had had no wages in six or seven years. 33 The Francis-
cans, dependent like the garrison on the situado, did their borrowing
separately. In 1638 they were given permission to take out a travel
loan from a fund at the House of Trade. Twenty years later they took
out another, and in 1678 they were again forced to borrow, probably
against their subsidy, paying 8 percent on a loan for 3,567 pesos.34
When the cost of credit was built into a bill of exchange to circumvent
usury restrictions, the-price could be steep. The spice merchants
(mercaderes en drogas) who exchanged the notes against unpaid
situados discounted them 18 to 75 percent. Soldiers trying to spend
their certificates for back wages were obliged to pay higher prices and
accept inferior goods.35
Collection charges were nothing new. In 1580, when the subsidy
came in care of the governor of Cuba, he kept out 530 ducats for
himself, and the collectors charged an exorbitant 1,000 ducats. In the
new system initiated by the proprietors who took office that year; one
of them went for the situado, receiving an expense allowance of 1,000
maravedis (rounded to 30 reales) a day, double the per diem for a
procurador or envoy to Spain. In the six or seven months that a
situado trip was supposed to last, the per diem came to 500 or 600
ducats. The largest collection expense was probably for the bribes in
the viceregal capital. Accountant-Situador Santos de las Heras said
ruefully that to get anything accomplished there cost "a good pair of
gloves. "36
Transportation costs varied according to whether the ships were
chartered or presidio-owned. In 1577 it cost 2,000 ducats to bring a
year's worth of supplies from New Spain in two hired frigates; the
governor said that owning the ships would have saved three-fourths
of it. Yet in 1600, Juan Menendez Marquez as situador had to charter
three boats in San Juan de Ulua and a fourth in Havana.37
Auditor Santa Cruz, who wanted the Florida situado to pass
through his hands, declared that the governor of Florida once had
seven different situadores in Mexico City simultaneously, suing one
another over who was to make which collections and receiving 30,
40, or 50 reales a day apiece while their boat and crew expenses


The Situado

mounted in Vera Cruz. A single trip cost the treasury nearly 30,000
pesos, he said, out of a subsidy of 65,000. Ten years later the auditor
added that the bribes at the Mexico City treasury came to 20,000
pesos, of which 18,000 went to the greater officials and 2,000 to the
lesser Any situador could make a profit of 26,000 pesos, Santa Cruz
insisted, by borrowing money to buy up Florida wage certificates
and libranzas at a third to a half of their face value, then redeeming
them at face value with situado funds. The rest of the money he could
invest in clothing to be resold to the soldiers at high prices.38 Parish
priest Leturiondo's accusations were vehement on a smaller and
perhaps more accurate scale. The situador discounted 15 or 16 percent
collection expenses from the priest's small stipend, he said, and took
up to two years to deliver the items ordered.39
Partly because of the shortage of currency and the inadequate
harbor-but also because Florida's east coast had little to export, once
the sassafras boom ended-St. Augustine was not a regular port of
call. This meant that whoever was chosen collector of the situado
must double as garrison purchasing agent. Wine and flour produced
in New Spain and sold in Havana cost over twice as much there, in
1577, as the same provisions in Spain. Governor Menendez Marquez
found it necessary to exchange situado silver for gold at a loss and
send it to Spain by a light, fast frigate, to buy meat and olive oil. In
1580 the presidio obtained permission to send two frigates a year to
the mother country or the Canaries, but as prices and taxes rose there,
flour and other foodstuffs had to be found increasingly in the col-
The rare accounts written by situadores en route describe the
difficulties of collection, purchasing, and transportation from their
point of view. After giving bond and receiving his instructions and
power of attorney, the situador was issued a boat and crew. He left
them in the harbor of San Juan de Ulia and journeyed up the road
past Puebla de los Angeles to Mexico City. There he paid the appro-
priate bribes and waited for his report on presidio strength to be
checked, his supply ship's tonnage approved, and the situado deliv-
ered. All of this took time. The situador executed private commis-
sions, saw friends, and enjoyed a taste of big-city life. Perhaps he put a
portion of the king's money out at interest or made other imaginative
use of it. By the early seventeenth century, household items, coarse
fabrics, and Indian trade goods were available at the workhouses of


The King's Coffer

Mexico City and Puebla. In Vera Cruz there was flour of question-
able quality. The paperwork for this large-scale shopping took more
time, for local fiscal judges had to supply affidavits that Florida was
not being charged an inflated price. Loading at San Juan de Ulhia
proceeded relatively undisturbed by port authorities: presidio
supplies were exempt by royal order from either sales tax or customs.
With his ship loaded, the situador waited with his counterparts from
other Caribbean presidios for a warship to escort them and carry their
registered money as far as Havana.41 Floridians preferred to avoid
this stop if they could, for creditors lay in wait at the Havana harbor
and Cuban officials acting in the best interests of their island would
attempt to attach part or all of the situado. The crown, which had
interests of its own, might have sent them instructions to impound
the situado for use in Spain.
With creditors and crown outfoxed, the situador might still face a
long wait until the coast guard reported the seaways clear of corsairs
and the fleet was ready to sail northward through the Bahama Chan-
nel. There is no telling how much of the Florida situado in both
supplies and specie was lost en route.42 Buccaneers grew so bold in
the late seventeenth century that they sometimes waited at anchor
outside the St. Augustine harbor. To elude the enemy, Floridians
crossed their bar at low tide; or they sailed in September and October
under great danger of storms. The likelihood of disaster was com-
pounded by defective ships. The Nuestra Seiora del Rosario capsized in
the very harbor of San Juan de Ulia with 3,000 pesos' worth of
supplies aboard. Another vessel, apparently being bought on time,
was lost off Key Largo and the crown strongly advised that payment
be stopped on it.43 A lost subsidy might be ordered replaced, but the
sum could only be added to the arrears the Mexico City treasury
already owed to the presidio.
Safely unloaded in St. Augustine, the situador faced a personal
obstacle: the rendering of his accounts. The royal officials checked his
purchase invoices against goods delivered, comparing prices with
affidavits; they examined his expense receipts and counted the money
he turned over. The total ofinvoices, receipts, and cash must equal the
amount of situado in his notarized papers of transmittal. For any
shortage he was personally liable. The closing ofa situador's accounts
might be delayed years waiting for all papers to arrive and be in order
When the situador was expected, the officials went into action.


The Situado

The public and governmental notary presented an up-to-date mus-
ter; the master of construction turned in the number of days' labor
owed to soldiers. From these and his own records the accountant
certified the gross amount due each person on plaza. The factor or his
steward (later, the treasurer-steward) supplied the total each soldier
had drawn from the royal warehouse against his wages. The ac-
countant deducted this figure, plus the compulsory contributions to
service organizations and the notes presented by preferred creditors,
to arrive at the net wages the treasurer should count out from the
coffer Merchant Antonio de Herrera once brought the royal officials
a list of 182 men in his debt for clothing and small loans. Although
Governor Salinas authorized payment via payroll deduction Herrera
was exiled shortly afterward. A few years later he reappeared by
special, unexplained permission of the Council, and the soldiers were
soon in debt to him again. Salinas, pleading their poverty, paid him
with surplus situado funds. Governor-elect Rojas y Borja, of a more
accommodating temperament, before he ever left Spain advanced
Herrera directly from ensign to sergeant major of the garrison-an
unlikely promotion for which the loan shark must have paid hand-
Any time a situador brought actual cash, St. Augustine became a
busy place. Tables were set up in front of the guardhouse, and as the
roll was called each man came by, picked up his wages, and took them
to the next table under the eyes of his officers to pay his debts to local
merchants, artisans, and farmers, whose order in line reflected their
current favor with the administration.45 For the next few nights,
while the soldiers had money in their purses, there was exuberant
gambling in the guardhouse.46 The influx of currency threw the
town into a short-lived flurry of economic activity during which St.
Augustine resembled Jalapa during the fair, or opening day at the
silver smeltery.
Everyone on the payroll was supposed to get food and clothing at
cost, but the original price became encrusted with surcharges.47
From time to time the crown ordered that the soldiers not be charged
import or export duties, nor the cost of supplies for the situador's
vessel, nor the cost of ship repairs and replacements.48 They were not
to absorb the expense of supplies spoiled or mislaid, nor the 15 or 16
percent for handling, which may or may not have included the two
reales per mark (nearly 8 percent) charge for changing silver.49


The King's Coffer

Neither were they to have passed on to them the cost of loss and
leakage, given in the form of percentages called mermas to the ship-
master the steward, and presumably anyone else who transported or
stored crown merchandise. According to Pilot Andres Gonzalez, the
Council of the Indies allowed mermas of 3 percent on flour 4 percent
on biscuit, 4 percent on salt, and 10 percent on maize. Given the
density of rat population on the ships of the time, such allowances to a
shipmaster may not have been excessive. Vazquez de Espinosa esti-
mated that more than 4,000 rats were killed aboard his ship during a
transatlantic crossing in 1622, not counting those the sailors and
passengers ate.50
If there was any substance behind the prohibitions against add-on
charges-and there is no reason to think otherwise-then prices "at
cost" were costly indeed. Ex-Governor Hita Salazar; who had been
governor of Vera Cruz before coming to Florida and who remained
in St. Augustine as a private citizen after his term, once gave his
experienced view of the situado. In spite of all the funds it
contained-and he listed them: the 350 plazas for soldiers, the subsidy
for friars, the allotment for administrative salaries, the 1,500-ducat
Indian allowance, and the 1,500 ducats for bonuses-the common
soldier still paid twice what he should have for shoddy goods he did
not want, bought by profiteers with his own money.51 If private
merchants could obtain no foothold in town, and no one could leave
who was in debt to the exchequer then it is no wonder that by the
1680s garrison strength in Florida was being filled with sentenced
malefactors and persons regarded as racial inferiors.52 The entire
garrison below officer level was existing under the most inexorable
debt peonage.



The Royal Revenues

HE royal revenues that treasury officials in the Indies gathered
C were varied. The Mexico City coffer; from which Florida
received the situado, provides a good example. In 1598 its major
accounts receivable were, in order of descending value: tribute, taxes
on bullion, the monopoly of mercury, import and export taxes, sales
tax, the tax of the crusade, the monopoly of playing cards, and the
sale of offices. Grouped by category, the revenues of mines supplied
the largest share of that treasury's yearly income, tribute came next,
and commerce third. The impecunious crown soon exploited further
sources of revenue: the clearing of land titles, the legitimizing of
foreigner and mixed blood status, and voluntary contributions.1
On an infant colony such taxes were imposed lightly if at all, yet
after a reasonable length of time a normal treasury was expected to
begin producing revenue.2 This did not happen in Florida, where all
the royal revenues put together were not enough for regular for-
warding to the king. Still, the funds generated were sufficient to
cover a number of ecclesiastical and provincial expenses, to aid in
provisioning the garrison, and to occupy the royal officials' time. The
crown's incomes fell into five categories: J
1. Ecclesiastical: tithes and indulgences.
2. Crown properties: lands, productive enterprises, slaves and
convicts, royal offices and monopolies.
3. Shipping: freight charges and customs duties.
4. Barter salvage, and booty: the king's treasure taxes.
5. Personal levies: tribute and donations.


The King's Coffer

In the Indies the tithes (diezmos) were meticulously divided.
One-quarter of the revenue went to the bishop, one-quarter to the
cathedral chapter Of the remainder; two-ninths went to the crown,
four-ninths to local clerics, and three-ninths to the construction of
churches and hospitals. Therefore, although the tithes were collected
and administered by the treasury officials, they were of little or no
profit to the crown.3
In theory, Indians had been legally exempt from tithing since
1533, but in practice this varied. Florida missionaries argued that even
a native owed his tithes and firstfruits-to them, not to the crown or
the bishop.4 We will return to the subject of Franciscan exactions
under the heading of tributes. The legitimate tithes administered by
the royal officials in St. Augustine came from Spanish Christians.
To encourage production, new settlements of Spaniards in the
Indies were usually free from tithing for the first ten years. While the
adelantado's contract did not specify this, it probably held true for
Florida.5 The tithes first gathered were so minimal that they enjoyed
a certain independence-by-neglect. At the end of the sixteenth cen-
tury the royal officials mentioned that they were collecting them in
kind, auctioning the produce like any other royal property and using
the proceeds to pay their own salaries. As can be seen in Table 4, the
tithes of 1600 amounted to 840 pesos, three-fourths of which came
from sales of maize, and the remainder from miscellany (menudos),
probably other preservable produce. If the tithes of this period were
collected at the rate of 212 percent, as they were later in the century,
this suggests a titheable production worth over 33,000 pesos. Treas-
urer Juan Menendez Marquez noted in 1602 that the tithes of 1600
had been auctioned immediately after harvest; the tithes of 1601
(which he did not disclose) only appeared to be higher because he and
the other officials had stored the maize until its price had risen by half,
then had the presidio buy it to ration slaves and soldiers.6
Around this time the crown ordered that the tithes go for four
years toward construction of a parish church, a disposition that was
gradually extended to twenty years. After that, church construction
and maintenance were subsidized by 2,000 ducats from the vacancies
of New Spain bishoprics, and the Florida officials were permitted to
f use 516 ducats of the local tithes to pay secular clergy salaries, letting
the remainder accumulate. Whenever the fund reached 4,000 or 5,000
reales the crown sent instructions on how to spend it. In the early




Arrobas Tithes Misc. Tithes
Year of from Tithes from Total Titheable
Maize Maize (Menudos) Livestock Tithes Production
1600 -651 189 -840 33,600
1631 [569 166 -735 29,400
1632 2,691/2 569 135 -704 28,160
1633 569 167 -736 29,440
1648 847 847 70 220 1,137 45,480
1649 881 881 146 227 1,254 50,160
1650 1,468 1,468 120 265 1,853 74,120
1651 1,469 1,469 304 250 2,023 80,920
1652 1,391 1,391 116 152 1,659 66,360
1653 1,012 1,012 130 135 1,277 51,080
1654 1,024 1,024 142 176 1,342 53,680
1655 802 802 100 224 1,126 45,040
1656 743 743 150 193 1,086 43,440
1657 1,0431/2 1,043'/2 141 171 1,355 2 54,220
NOTE: Of the 2,691 '2 arrobas of maize from 1631 to 1633, 40612 were sold at 5 2 reales and 2,285 at 5 reales. The total of 1,707/2 pesos has been
averaged on a yearly basis and rounded off to 569 pesos. From 1648 to 1657 the tithes of maize were bought at 1 peso the arroba.

The King's Coffer

1620s and again in 1635 the bishop of Cuba inquired about his fourth
of the Florida tithes. The crown, which was making up the difference
in his income, referred his query to the Florida governor and royal
officials, asking them whether their provinces were not suffragan to
that bishop. They replied that don Juan de las Cabezas Altamirano
had brought credentials as the bishop of Florida and Cuba when he
made his visitation in 1605, but he had not asked for tithes, nor had
any been sent to Cuba since.7 Orders must have followed to send the
bishop his fourth, for several years later the royal officials mentioned
that tithes were no longer being administered as a royal revenue.8
In 1634, before this happened, Accountant Nicolas Ponce de Le6n
summarized what the tithes had been amounting to. The tithes of
maize collected between 1631 and 1633 had come to 2,691 /2 arrobas,
or about 897 arrobas a year Of this, 406 1/2had been sold at 5 /2 reales
the arroba and the rest at 5 reales, making a three-year total of 1,707 /2
pesos in tithes of maize, which averaged to 569 pesos a year For the
tithes from miscellaneous sources the accountant gave yearly figures,
which totaled 468 pesos for the same period. Total tithes averaged 725
pesos a year indicating a titheable production of around 29,000 pesos
a year between 1631 and 1633, less than in 1600.9
In the 1640s there were great expectations from a wheat farm
started by Governor Salazar Vallecilla on the Apalache-Timucua
border. There would be other farms and much revenue, he and the
royal officials thought, enough to establish an abbacy in St. Au-
gustine similar to the one in Jamaica and keep all the tithes at home.
Ponderous inquiries were set in motion, without result. Governor
Rebolledo, in 1655, joined the campaign. Florida tithes now
amounted to 2,000 pesos annually, he said, exaggerating, and if that
sum was not adequate to support an abbot, he would gladly dispense
with his sergeant major No Cuban bishop had visited Florida in fifty
years.10 The crown responded by asking for a report on the tithes of
the previous ten years. Tithes of maize from 1648 to 1657 came to an
average of 1,068 arrobas a year; which at 1 peso the arroba brought in
1,068 pesos. The increase in value over the average of 569 pesos a year
between 1631 and 1633 was mainly due to the higher price per arroba.
For the first time livestock (ganado mayor) appeared as a separate
category. The average total tithes for the ten-year period came to
1,411 pesos. If tithes were 2/2 percent of both crops and calves-
something of which we cannot be sure-this indicated a titheable


The Royal Revenues

ranching and agricultural production of some 56,000 pesos a year."11
This was evidently insufficient to support an abbot, for that idea was
When don Gabriel Diaz Vara Calderon came on episcopal visit in
1674-75, he arrived in St. Augustine four days after a flood and
charitably devoted the tithes laid up for him to relieving the hungry.12
Soon after the bishop's visit, the treasury officials were ordered to
begin sending the canons of the cathedral chapter their designated
fourth of the tithes and explain why this had been neglected. They
Protested that no one had ever asked for them, and that anyhow tithes
in Florida were grossly overvalued. When the livestock was auc-
tioned, soldiers bid four or five times what it was worth, charging the
amount to the back salaries they never expected to see. In this way
cattle worth less than 1,000 pesos had been sold for 4,400, giving a
false impression of the provinces' resources. In order to correct this
overpricing, the treasurer and accountant meant in future to purchase
the tithes of livestock as they did the tithes of maize, for rationing the
soldiers. They would pay the local clerics, the bishop, and the cathe-
dral chapter in drafts against the situado. The three ecclesiastics
serving the parish church and the soldiers' chapel were paid around
900 pesos a year.13 If half of the tithes were sent to Cuba, the total
revenue must come to 1,800 pesos a year in order to cover clerical
salaries, necessitating an annual titheable production of somewhere
near 72,000 pesos.
This level of production Florida's Spanish population was unable
to maintain. In 1697 the crown inquired why the bishop was not
receiving his tithes. The royal officials answered briefly that in
Florida the tithe was paid in the form of grain and was distributed to
the soldiers. The year 1697 had been one of famine, when even the
parish priest's private store of maize had had to be requisitioned, to
his great indignation. As the bishop himself said, in times of hunger
all men quarreled and all had reason.14
The crown's other ecclesiastical revenue in Florida came from the
cruzada, or bulls of the crusade, which Haring has called "the queerest
of all taxes."15 This was a semicompulsory indulgence whose pro-
ceeds had been granted by the popes to the Spanish crown in recogni-
tion of its crusading activities. Royal officials and other dignitaries in
the Indies paid two pesos a year; regular Spanish subjects one peso,
and Indians and blacks two reales.16 The cruzada must have been


The King's Coffer

permitted to go for local purposes in Florida, for the indulgences
were independently requested by the royal officials, a priest, and
perhaps a governor. Governor Marques Cabrera once received 5,000
of them, neatly divided between bulls for the living and for the
dead.17 A cleric known as the minister or subdelegate of the Tribunal
of the Holy Crusade did the preaching, and another cleric served as
the notary. 18 By the end of the seventeenth century the market was
glutted. The royal officials asked that no more indulgences be sent to
Florida, where the people were poor and the last two shipments were
sitting unsold in the warehouse. Ignoring pressure from the parish
priest and the Council of the Indies, they refused to publicize the bulls
any further 19
The second category of treasury income was provided by crown
properties. Aside from the presidio's ships, which are treated later in
this chapter; crown properties producing income consisted of lands,
productive enterprises, slaves and convicts, royal offices, and
Wherever Spaniards settled in the Indies they first recognized the
lands belonging to pacified Indian towns, then founded their own
municipalities, each of which was provided with several square
leagues for the use of its vecinos. Other grants of land were personal.
Pedro Menendez, as part of his contract with the king, was entitled to
claim an immense area 25 leagues on a side-more than 5,500 square
miles, by Lyon's calculation.20 He was also privileged to give out
large tracts (caballerias) to gentlemen and smaller ones (peonias) to
foot soldiers. Although many of these grants were in Santa Elena,
when the two presidios were combined the settlers from Santa Elena
were given lands in and near St. Augustine as though they had been
J there from the start.21 All of the remaining, unused lands (tierras
baldias) in the ecumene became part of the royal demesne (realengo).
Anyone wishing to use a portion of it for some productive purpose,
such as a cattle ranch estanciaa de ganado or hato), applied to the
governor. If the center or the headquarters of the proposed ranch was
no nearer than 3 leagues from any native village and did not encroach
upon another holding, the petitioner might be issued a provisional
title.22 Possession was conditional: land lying vacant reverted to the
For over a century whatever taxes were paid on these lands held in
usufruct went unreported. Treasury officials later claimed that the


The Royal Revenues

governors had collected fifty Castilian pesos per ranch. In the 1670s
Governor Hita Salazar instituted a regular quitrent along with an
accelerated land grants program to raise money for the castillo.
Hacienda owners were charged four reales per yugada, which was the
area a yoke of oxen could plow in one day, with a minimum of five
Spesos.23 The governor also offered to legitimize earlier land titles and
make them permanent. A clear title to a ranch cost fifty pesos per
legua cuadrada, though it is not certain whether this was a square
league, a league on the side ofa square, or a radial distance in a circular
grant.24 The chiefs of native towns followed suit, selling their extra
fields or leasing them to Spaniards.25
As it was a royal prerogative to grant lands in perpetuity, the
government in Madrid annulled all titles issued by chiefs or gover-
nors, at the same time inviting more regular applications. Between
S1677 and 1685 land sales and title clearances (confirmaciones) in Florida
brought in 2,500 pesos to be applied to castillo construction.26 The
crown also disallowed part of the governor's new taxation schedule.
Lands granted at the foundation and still held by the heirs were not to
be taxed, ever. Land distributed after then could be taxed, but at no
more than Hita Salazar's 4 reales the yugada, later reduced to 1 real.27
Disposition of the revenues from lands beyond the confines of St.
Augustine was a royal prerogative as much as granting the lands was.
For several years the income was assigned exclusively to castillo
construction, but starting in 1688 a modest sum was allowed for the
expenses of holy days.28
In some parts of the Indies another kind of title clearance was
going on: foreigners could legitimize their presence by a payment
(composicion). Several times the crown asked the officials in St. Au-
gustine for a list of resident foreigners, including Portuguese, but as
there is no evidence that the aliens paid anything extra into the
treasury, this was probably for reasons of military and anti-
schismatic security.29
The crown made one brief foray into agricultural production in
Florida. In 1650 Governor Salazar Vallecilla's experimental wheat
farm had been in operation for five years. Six square leagues were
under cultivation; buildings, granaries, and corral were complete;
and the property inventory included two experienced slaves, eight
horses and mules, eleven yokes of draft oxen, and the necessary
plows and harrows. The governor had even sent to the Canaries for


The King's Coffer

millstones and a miller Accountant Nicolas Ponce de Le6n thought
that in New Spain such an hacienda would be worth over 20,000
pesos. Unfortunately Governor Salazar Vallecilla died in the
epidemic of 1649-50. When his son Luis, anxious to leave Florida,
tried to sell the wheat farm, either no one wanted it or no one could
afford it. Ponce de Le6n, as interim governor; bought the hacienda for
the crown at a cost of 4,259 pesos in libranzas that he estimated to be
worth one-third less. He predicted that the farm would pay for itself
within three years. The fiscal of the Council of the Indies, reading of
the purchase, noted that even if the hacienda took longer than that to
show a profit it would be valuable if it encouraged the production of
flour in Florida. The Council sent word for the royal officials to
administer this royal property without intervention from governors,
making yearly reports on its progress.30
Before word got back of the crown's approval, the hacienda had
vanished. Ponce de Le6n had survived his friend Salazar Vallecilla
only a short time. Locally elected Interim Governor Pedro Benedit
Horruytiner had been persuaded by the Franciscans that Spanish
settlement in the provinces had provoked the Apalache rebellion of
1647. At their request he had dismantled the wheat farm and sold off
its inventory without waiting for the due process of auction. Wheat
continued to be grown in Apalache and Timucua, as well as rye and
barley, but not for the presidio. Most of the grain was shipped out by
the chiefs and friars to Havana.31
In 1580 the crown gave permission for the treasury officials to
obtain thirty able-bodied male slaves left over from the building of a
stone fort. From time to time these were replenished.32 When there
was disagreement among the officials as to which of them was to
manage the slaves, they were informed that the governor should do
it, while they kept track of expenses. Their complaints that the
governor used the slaves for personal purposes were ignored. When
the slaves were not needed on the fortifications they were hired out
and their earnings paid for their rations.33 The same policy applied to
the convicts sentenced to Florida: their labor bought their food. One
illiterate black convict who had become a skilled blacksmith during
his term in St. Augustine elected to stay on as a respected member of
the community.34 Native malefactors were sent to some other pre-
sidio unless there was a labor shortage in Florida. Whether in Havana
or St. Augustine, their sentence lengths were often forgotten and


The Royal Revenues

their prison service then became indistinguishable from slavery.35
Slaves and convicts not only saved the crown money but were
themselves a source of income. The timber they logged and sawed,
the stones they quarried and rafted across the harbor from Anastasia
Island, the lime they burned from oyster shells, the nails and the
hardware they fashioned-not all was used in the construction of the
castillo and government houses. Some was sold to private persons
and converted into a revenue of the crown.36
Royal offices were a form of property expected to produce in-
come every time they changed hands. Treasury offices became venal
for the Indies in the 1630s; other offices already being sold were
ecclesiastical benefices and military patents, which at least once
included the Florida captaincy general.37 In many of its overseas
realms the crown sold municipal offices as well, but not in Florida.
When a royal cedula dated 1629 arrived asking for a list of the offices
it might be possible to fill in that land, Accountant Juan de Cueva
responded that there were no new settlements; the only town of
Spaniards was the one at the presidio.38 One office frequently sold or
farmed out in the Indies was that of tribute collector (corregidor de
indios). For reasons that will be seen, this office did not exist in
Florida. The St. Augustine treasury received revenue from the auc-
tion of lesser posts such as public and governmental notary or toll
collector on the Salamototo ferry, but this income was inconsequen-
tial and almost certainly never reached the crown.39
The half-annate (media anata) was a separate revenue derived from
offices and other royal grants: the return to the crown of half the
salary of one's first year of income. Except in the case of ecclesiastics,
it superseded the earlier mesada, or month's pay paid by a new ap-
pointee. Presented as an emergency measure following Piet Heyn's
seizure of the treasure fleet, the half-annate was decreed in 1631,
empire-wide, for every beneficiary of the king's grace, from a minor
receiving a plain soldier's plaza, to the royal infants, the king's sons.
According to the Recopilacidn, the half-annate was increased by half
(making it actually a two-thirds-annate) from 1642 through 1649.40
But Governor Luis de Horruytiner coming to Florida in 1633, paid
the two-thirds amount, not the half. It was permitted to pay the tax in
two installments, signing a note at 8 percent interest for the second
half, due one year later This is what Horruytiner did.41
For the rather complicated bookkeeping of this tax the St. Au-


The King's Coffer

gustine treasury was authorized to hire a clerk of the half-annate, but
collection of the royal kickback did not proceed evenly. The auditor
who came to Florida in 1655 found that three-fourths of those liable
for the half-annate still owed on it.42 In 1680 it was decreed that the
governors of Florida were exempt from the tax because His Majesty
had declared their post to be one like Chile, known for active war
(guerra viva). Four years later the treasury officials were included
under this exemption because of valor shown during a pirate attack.
What half-annate those in office had already paid was refunded.43
The tax was not reinstated for this category of officials until 1727.
Regular officers, however; in spite of a 1664 law exempting those on
hazard duty, continued to owe the half-annate on their original
appointments and for every promotion.44
One more revenue from royal offices was the unpaid salary
money vacanciess) due to the death or suspension of royal appointees.
As we have seen, the vacancies of bishoprics in New Spain formed a
regular fund upon which the crown drew for extraordinary ex-
penses. The same held true for Florida, except that the money was
absorbed locally the way vacant plazas were. Surplus salaries due to
vacancies were sent to the crown one time only, in 1602.45
A final type of revenue-producing royal property was the
monopoly. The king had a tendency to alienate his monopolies by
giving them out as royal favors (mercedes). Pedro Menendez's con-
tract, for example, promised the adelantado two fisheries in Florida,
of fish and of pearls. Since the pearl fishery did not materialize, this
clause meant, in effect, that only the governor or his lieutenants had
the right to fish with a drag net or a seine, and this privilege was
enforced. When the dispute over the Menendez contract came to a
formal end in 1634, the family's one remaining property in Florida
was this fishery.46
Another monopoly which produced no revenue for the crown
was gambling. To the official circular extending the monopoly of
playing cards in the Indies, Governor Ybarra responded that people
in Florida did not use them.47 Some years later Sergeant Major
Eugenio de Espinosa was granted the right to run a gaming table in
the guardhouse, a monopoly he passed on to his feckless son-in-
law. 48
Beginning in 1640, paper stamped with the royal coat-of-arms
(papel sellado) was required for legal documents in the Indies. A


The Royal Revenues

governor's interim appointment, for instance, must be written up on
twenty-four-real paper for the first page and one-real for each page
thereafter. Ordinary notarized documents began on six-real paper.
Indians and indigents were entitled to use paper costing a quarter-
real, or omit the stamp altogether. Perhaps this was why St. Au-
gustine notaries seldom bothered to keep a supply of stamped paper;
although when they used the unstamped they were supposed to
collect an equivalent fee.49
One further crown revenue from a monopoly came from the
three reales per beef charged at the royal slaughterhouse. Governor
Marques Cabrera instituted this fee in the 1680s to pay for construc-
tion of the slaughterhouse and raise money for the castillo. It was one
of his little perquisites to be given the beef tongues.50
The third category of royal revenues in Florida came from ship-
ping. In St. Augustine, founded as the result of a naval action, ships
were highly important. The townspeople were descendants of sea-
farers, and their only contact with the outside world was by sea. The
bar at the entrance to their harbor was shallow at low tide, especially
after the great hurricane of 1599, which altered many coastal features.
Use of the harbor was consequently restricted to vessels under 100
tons or flat-bottomed flyboats on the Flemish model.51 Some of the
galliots, frigates, barges, pirogues, launches, shallops, and tenders
belonging at various times to the presidio were purchased in Spain,
Vera Cruz, or Havana, but a surprising number were constructed
locally, perhaps in the same San Sebastian inlet where present-day
inhabitants build shrimp boats. The people of St. Augustine referred
to their boats fondly by name (Josepfe, Nuevo San Agustin) or
nickname (la Titiritera, la Chata). Storms, shallows, and corsairs
guaranteed that no vessel would last forever; but woe to the master
who by carelessness or cowardice lost one!
One source of the crown income from shipping was freight
(fletes). Freight charges in the Caribbean were high. Gillaspie esti-
mates that between 1685 and 1689 shipping costs on flour repre-
sented 35 percent of its cost to the presidio. Whenever possible, the
royal officials and the governor would buy a boat to transport the
supplies rather than hire one. And since it cost 300 ducats a year to
maintain the presidio boats whether they were in use or not, and the
seamen had to be paid and rationed in any case, the vessels were kept
in service as much as possible.52 In them the chief pilot and other


The King's Coffer

shipmasters carried loads of supplies out to the missions and maize
back to the town. They patrolled the coast, putting out extra boats
after a storm to look for shipwrecks, survivors, and salvage. They
also made trips to Havana, Vera Cruz, Campeche, and across the
On any of these trips the shipmasters might execute private
commissions and carry registered goods for those willing to pay the
freight. Governor Mendez de Canzo's first report to the crown from
St. Augustine suggested that the mariners be paid from these ship
revenues. The crown responded by requesting the governor to
report on all the presidio vessel income, what it was converted to, and
on what spent. Accountant Bartolome de Argiielles replied on his
own. The governor, he said, saved himself 1,000 ducats a year in
freight by the use of His Majesty's flyboat.53
A second crown revenue from shipping was the import and
export duty on trade: the almorifazgo, which later officials would
write "almojarifazgo." It was a complicated tax whose rate could be
varied in numerous ways: by the class of goods, by their origin, by
whether or not they were being transshipped, by the port of exit or
entry (colonial or Indies), by special concessions to the seller carrier
or consignee, and, perhaps most, by the individual interpretations of
corrupt or confused officials. The year after St. Augustine was
founded the duties on Spanish imports were doubled from 2 V2 to 5
percent ad valorem on articles leaving port in Spain, and from 5 to 10
percent on the same articles at their increased value in the Indies. The
tax on wine more than doubled, changing from a total of 7/2 percent
to 20. Products of the Indies leaving for Spain paid 22 percent at the
port of origin and 5 percent upon arrival.54 At the time, all this was
theoretical as far as Florida was concerned. The adelantado and his
lieutenants had been exempted from the almorifazgo for the three
years of his contract, and the first settlers for ten years.55
The export tax apparently began in 1580, the year the Florida
provinces were given permission to send two ships a year to the
Canaries or Seville. At the same time the crown granted up to 300
ducats from the situado to build a customs house on the wharf in St.
Augustine-a suggestion that became a command three years later.56
The governor and royal officials used the proceeds of the export
almorifazgo to pay their own salaries until 1598, when the crown
assigned that income for the next four years to the parish church. The


The Royal Revenues

rate at which the tax was then being collected is unknown. In 1600 the
auditor set it at 21/2 percent. Export almorifazgo revenue came
mostly from the sassafras and peltry of the Georgia coast. Realizing
that St. Augustine was not a convenient shipping point, the royal
officials sent a representative to San Pedro (Cumberland Island) to
record cargoes, collect the tax, and see that the Indians were not
Several general exemptions from the almorifazgos operated to
the benefit of people in Florida. The belongings of royal appointees
going to the Indies were exempt up to an amount stated in their travel
licenses. Everything for divine worship and educational purposes
was shipped tax-free, including the supplies and provisions for friars,
and any kind of book. Colonially produced wheat flour and similar
staples paid no tax in the port of origin. In 1593 a specific exemption
was provided for the Florida presidio: nothing consigned to it from
Vera Cruz was to be charged customs.58
A reduction in expense was not a revenue. The royal officials at
the treasury in St. Augustine were supposed to be charging import
almorifazgos of their own: 10 percent ad valorem on cargoes direct
from Spain, 5 percent on the increase in value of Spanish goods
transshipped from another colonial port, and 5 percent ad valorem on
any colonial goods, even from another port in Florida. During the
sixteenth century this almorifazgo was haphazardly applied. Ac-
countant Argiielles reported that Governor Mendez de Canzo did
not pay taxes on half of what the presidio boats brought him, yet it is
evident that the royal officials did not know what percentage to
Auditor Pedro Redondo Villegas, coming to Florida in 1600,
ordered that almorifazgos be collected on all imports regardless of
point of origin, seller; carrier consignee, or kind of goods. In his view,
supplies bought with situado funds were as liable to entry duties as
the goods purchased by individuals. The treasury officials in St.
Augustine, as purchasing agents for the garrison, were accustomed to
buy naval supplies tax-free from the skippers of passing ships. Their
defense was that if the treasury charged the skipper an almorifazgo,
he added the amount of it to his price and the cost was passed on to
the soldiers, which they could ill afford. But when the auditor insisted
that even naval supplies were subject to import duties, the treasury
officials acceded without further protest; the revenue was to be


The King's Coffer

applied to their salaries.60 At San Juan de Ulia, the port for Vera
Cruz, the officials imposed an import almorifazgo of 10 percent on
Spanish goods, based on the appraised value of the goods in their
port. The Florida officials assumed that their own import tax on the
same goods should be 10 percent of the increase in value between the
appraisal at San Juan de Ulua and the appraisal they made in St.
Augustine. Redondo Villegas, rummaging about in Juan de
Cevadilla's old papers, found what was probably the tax schedule of
1572-74 saying that the proper percentage was 5 if the goods had paid
10 percent already.61 Presumably this was the rate the royal officials
adopted for Spanish merchandise that did not come directly from
Spain. They collected it in a share of the goods, which they ex-
changed preferably for cash at auction.
Auditor Redondo Villegas had gone too far In 1604 the crown
repeated the presidio's 1593 exemption with clarifications for his

Because they are needy and prices are high and their salaries
are small I order that they not pay taxes of almorifazgo in
those provinces even when it is a contract with some private
person, and this goes for what may be loaded in Seville also, or
in another part of these kingdoms, on the situado account.62

In other words, goods charged against the situado were not to have
export duties levied on them at the point of origin, or import duties in
Florida. The royal exchequer was not so distinct from the presidio
that the one should tax the other
The strong position taken in this cedula lasted for two years. In
1606 the crown ordered that the export tax be paid on all wine
shipped to the Indies, even that going as rations for soldiers. The
royal officials in St. Augustine, for their part, levied the import
almorifazgo on all merchandise brought in by private persons to sell
to the soldiers, over the protests of the company captains, the gov-
ernor and at times, the crown.63
The first customs house was evidently destroyed in the fires or
flood of 1599. To replace it, the officials asked for and received an
addition to the counting house. They also were allowed a customs
constable on salary and a complement of guards when there were
goods on hand for registration or valuation.64 The people of St.


The Royal Revenues

Augustine put their ingenuity to work getting around the hated tax.
By law, no one was supposed to board or disembark from an incom-
ing ship ahead of the official inspection, under pain of three months in
prison. Interim Accountant Sinchez Siez, syndic and close friend of
the Franciscans, may have been the one who suggested that the friars
board vessels ahead of the royal officials. In the name of the Holy
Office of the Inquisition they could seal boxes of books containing
schismatic material, and only they could reopen these sealed boxes.
Books were nontaxable items, and the friars, secure against inspec-
tion, could introduce high-value goods in the guise of books, un-
taxed. This was a common practice in the Indies. Governor Ybarra
put a quick stop to the friars' presumption.65
Due to a shortage of ships, the crown was often forced to allow
trade to foreign vessels. The earliest reinforcements ever to arrive in
the new Florida colony, in the Archiniega expedition of 1566,
shipped out in Flemish ships whose owners refused to embark from
San Luicar without licenses to load return cargoes of sugar and hides
in Cuba and Santo Domingo.66 The Flemish operated legally; other
visitors did not. A foreign-owned ship coming to trade without
registration was subject to seizure and confiscation, yet most of the
merchant ships visiting St. Augustine may have been foreign. In 1627
the treasury officials accused Governor Rojas y Borja of being in
collusion with Portuguese merchant Martin Freile de Andrada and of
allowing open trade with the French.67 By 1683 the crown, totally
unable to supply its colony on the North Atlantic seaboard, was
forced to approve Governor Marques Cabrera's emergency pur-
chases from a New York merchant he called Felipe Federico. This
Dutchman first gained entrance to the harbor as an intermediary
returning the governor's son and another lad captured by pirates.
Captain Federico and his little sloop, The Mayflower, became regular
callers at St. Augustine. Others followed suit.68
The penalty for bringing in contraband goods even in Spanish
bottoms was confiscation. The law provided that after taxes a sixth of
the value went to the magistrate, a third of the remainder to the
informer; and the rest to the king's coffer.69 In many parts of the
Indies this inconvenience was circumvented by the sloop trade in
out-of-the-way harbors. In Florida, which had operated outside the
mercantile law from the start, such evasions were necessary only
when someone important was out of sorts. While Governor Salazar


The King's Coffer

Vallecilla was under suspension, a ship he had sent to Spain came back
with a largely unregistered cargo of dry goods and wine. His confed-
erates hid what they could before the return of Treasurer and Interim
Co-Governor Francisco Menendez Marquez, who was out in the
provinces pacifying Indians, but the treasurer was able to locate
30,000 pesos' worth and apply price evaluations retroactively to what
had been sold. For doing this, he declared, his honor and his very life
were in danger. The governor and his henchmen were all Basques,
Francisco said meaningfully, and the accountant behaved like one.70
Francisco was probably disgruntled at having been left out of the
distribution. He was not ordinarily so solicitous of the king's coffer.
He and the same accountant, Ponce de Le6n, had been jointly over-
drawn 960 ducats from the almorifazgo account between 1631 and
1640, and during most of that time Ponce de Le6n was not in
The legal trade with Spain suffered as much from overregulation
as from taxes. A cedula of 1621 had licensed the presidio's two little
ships-of-permission to export pelts up to a value of 3,000 ducats a
year-1,000 ducats above the former limit. By 1673 the Floridians
did not find this small a cargo worth their while, yet the crown
refused to raise the limit further 72
The royal bureaucracy, rigid about rules, was capricious in en-
forcement. In 1688 Accountant Thomas Menendez Marquez, Fran-
cisco's son, reported that Captain Juan de Ayala y Escobar was
bringing in unregistered goods and evading duties and that the
governor, Quiroga y Losada, refused to take action. Unwittingly,
Thomas brought down on himself the royal displeasure. If he and the
other officials ever let this happen again, the crown warned, they
would be punished severely. When they had knowledge of fraud they
were to act independently of viceroys, presidents, and governors;
how to do so was left unexplained. The governor escaped without
reproof, and Ayala y Escobar was commended for his willingness to
make dangerous voyages on behalf of the presidio.73
The royal officials complained that they could not be present at all
the ports in Florida. Governor Vega Castro y Pardo allowed them to
station subordinate customs officials at the San Marcos harbor in
Apalache, but these did not stay. The governors' deputies in Apalache
were directed to collect duties from visiting ships; in 1657 the friars of
that province claimed that this directive had not produced a single


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