Why was it harder for Spain to remove the church from economic power in 18th century California than it was in 18th century Spain? This was a question I pulled on during my sabbatical year 2013-14. So often California has been analyzed without looking at Spain or Mexico. A trip to Mexico in August helped me to right that wrong by meeting Carlos Marichal at the Colegio de Mexico and Guillermina del Valle Pavon at the Instituto Mora. A paper presented in Lisbon in December permitted me to meet Spanish historians of the economic thought of the 18th century like Luis Perdices. A presentation at St. Augustine, Florida in March introduced me to Andy Galvan and Kent Lightfoot and put my head back into the US concerns of indigenous culture and survival during the Spanish conquest. Now, to put these three strands together and answer the question.
In Spain, anger was rising at property in church hands, and my guess is that it was because the church got tax reductions on agricultural produce (and in effect on land) in return for providing social services. The social services were provided. The problem was that the church shared its tax privileges with wealthy donors, an alliance which unbalanced the effects of market competition toward big business in agrarian Spain. I’m guessing again that expelling the Jesuits in 1767 from the Spanish Empire was an extra-legal attempt to remove a large chunk of property from church hands in Spain for transfer to small-holders. I submitted an article using this interpretation to make sense of the writings of 18th century Spanish economic thinkers Campomanes, Jovellanos and Sempere y Guarinos.
Moving on to Mexico, the Jesuits colonized Baja California starting in 1697. The government refused to fund the project, but the Jesuits figured they could bring food over the Gulf of California from their missions in Sonora on the other side. Furthermore, they got private philanthropy. Every time a 10,000 estate was donated, the Jesuits used the 500 annual income to found a mission. The missionaries lived frugally, expanded agriculture among Indians–basically, everything they said they would do. The problem for the emerging agrarian market was that the nobility who donated the sheep ranch estates to the Jesuits still harvested the mutton from them for sale to Mexico City’s large market–but now at a 10% discount since the Jesuits were eligible for exemption from the tithe, a 10% tax. The battle over this tax exemption only ended with the Jesuit expulsion in 1767. I hope to go back to Mexico City in February 2015 to present this idea to the Asociedad Mexicana de Historia Economica, and we’ll see if it passes muster.
Enter Alta Californiain 1769. King Carlo Borbone didn’t trust an alliance between church and private sector, so he funded the conquest of California directly, and gave 80% of the funds to soldiers who reported to him directly, and only 20% to missions. The soldiers were hoping there would be no missions at all, so they could take Indian land directly and use Indian people as laborers directly, but my guess is that missions were just too cost effective at keeping Indians quiet for Carlo Borbone to give up that age old-ally, the church. He replaced independent Jesuits with Franciscans he thought would be pliable. He did not count on Serra, who turned out to be very good at winning bureaucratic battles in Mexico City, so that the non profit Franciscans retained control of land rather than for-profit settlers. I’m going to sort out the mission Indian vs. settler property rights by looking at Los Angeles 1769 to 1860 in my course American Property Rights in Spring 2015.
Franciscan-Indian relations are an emotional topic for us Californians (I grew up near San Francisco in what was once the territory of the Huchiun, and was later Rancho San Antonio). I want to make sure I understand the institutional set-up correctly before I give my answer. So right now I’m estimating contraband trade in the Pacific–not just trade with the British after 1800, but also trade with Spanish American ships from 1769 to 1800. It’s probably no accident that Spain’s Philippine business got reorganized in 1769 on one side of the Pacific, and California was taken over on the other. And maybe there is a link between Pacific Rim commerce and the well-being of California peoples such as the Kumeyaay, Chumash, Esselen, and Ohlone. David Igler argued in 2013 that British ships may have brought disease, and I’m reading about all these sick sailors put ashore by Spanish ships at San Quentin, Los Cabos, Todos Santos in Baja and Monterey and San Diego much earlier than that. If I saw a way that these commercial ties influenced mortality rates, then I might see how this economist could weigh in on the debates so central to Californians.
Books by the following were deeply appreciated this year: Campomanes, Jovellanos, Sempere y Guarinos, Richard Herr, Vicent Llombart, Regina Grafe, Luis Perdices, Harry Crosby, H.E. Priestley, Carlos Marichal, Guillermina del Valle, Deni Trejo, Mariano Bonialian, Carmen Yuste. Without moral support, no project gets anywhere, so thank you John Johnson, Gavin Wright, Bill Taylor, Luis Perdices, Richard Salvucci, Bob Senkewicz, and Richard Herr. Thank you Linda Madden for working that ILL in overdrive! Thank you to Keene State and Mary Kay Duggan for financing travel. Now may my children have patience as I revise and resubmit and keep on writing.