Mexico, as it was and as it is/Letter 31

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Mexico, as it was and as it is  (1847)  by Brantz Mayer
LETTER XXXI.

LETTER XXXI.


THE REVENUE AND RESOURCES OF MEXICO. ARMY. NAVY. PRODUCE OF
MINES. TOTAL GOINAGE. THE CHURCH, ITS WEALTH AND INFLUENCE.


The income of the Mexican Government is derived from revenues on foreign commerce, imposts on internal trade, imposts on pulqué, export duty on the precious metals, lotteries, post-office, stamped paper, taxes, tobacco, powder, salt-works, and several other sources of trifling importance.

In 1840, these revenues are stated in the Report of the Minister of the Treasury as follows:

Nett proceeds after deducting expenses of collection
Imposts on Foreign Commerce, $7,115,849
 " Interior " 4,306,585
 " On property, income, &c. 466,061
Exchanges, &c. 307,427
Creditos activós, 3,309
Balances of accounts, 355
Enteros de productos liquidos, 452,146
Extraordinary subsidy, 103
Arbitrio estraordinario, 78,177
Capitacion, 483
Donations, 13,662
$12,744,157

In 1839, the revenues amounted to $11,215,848. The income from the post-office department, (which is not included in the statement for 1840,) was $178,738, in 1839. In 1840, the lotteries produced the gross sum of $215,487—but as the expenses connected with their management, amounted to $158,485, it left a balance of but $56,952, for the Government. The "sealed paper" or stamp tax, produced $110,868, but as this impost has been nearly doubled during 1842, the revenue must at present be proportionally greater.

I have been unable to obtain any of the official documents of 1841 and 1842, (in consequence of the disturbed condition of the country,) with the exception of the Custom House returns, for the former year.

Custom-House   Tonnage Duty.   Net proceeds after deducting
costs of collections.
East Coast. \scriptstyle{

\left\{

\begin{matrix}
\ \\ \\\ \ 
\end{matrix}

\right. } Vera Cruz, $31,032 $3,374,528
Tampico, 7,363 1,019,046
Matamoras, 3,525 279,627
West Coast. \scriptstyle{

\left\{

\begin{matrix}
\ \\ \\\ \\\ \\\ \ 
\end{matrix}

\right. } Mazatlan, 6,245 397,213
Guaymas, 2,002 46,189
Monterey, 810 85,962
Acapulco, 573 7,193
San Blas, 2,719 190,270
$55,259 $5,399,948


It will be perceived that the Custom Houses of Tabasco, Campeché, Sisal, Isla de Carmen, and Bacalar, are not included in the preceding statement, in consequence of the separation of the first (during the period,) from her allegiance to the Republic, and on account of the rebelious condition of the rest. At the date of the statement, reports from Goatzacoalco, Alvarado, Tuxpan, Huatulco, Manzanillo, La Paz, Pueblo Viejo, Altata, Loreto, San Diego, San Francisco, Soto la Marina, and from the frontier posts of Paso del Norte, Comitan, Tonalá, Santa Fé de N. Mexico, y Presidio del Norte, had not been yet received at the Treasury Office in the Capital. The costs of the collection of this revenue amounted to $52,886, and the salaries of officers to $295,404.

I regret that I was unable to obtain any very accurate date of the Santa Fé Trade, which, under judicious management, might no doubt be very advantageously conducted for the interest of both countries. In the present distracted state, however, of Texas and the Northern Provinces of Mexico, little is to be hoped, until better feelings and better regulations are firmly established. Santa Fé, and Chihuahua divide the trade; the latter, since the year 1831. The subjoined rough estimate has been given me of the value of our trade at both places since that period:

Years. Total at cost. Taken to Chihuahua. Men. Wages.
1831 $250,00  $40,000  320  130 
1832 150,099  45,000  150  80 
1833 145,000  50,000  140  75 
1834 160,000  68,000  160  80 
1835 135,000  55,000  140  70 
1836 122,000  55,000  120  60 
1837 150,000  75,000  150  86 
1838 90,000  50,000  100  59 
1839 260,000  150,000  250  135 
1840 50,000  10,000  60  30 
1841 100,000  50,000  150  80 
1842 200,000  60,000  200  120 

No one who has resided any length of time in Mexico, either connected or unconnected with commerce, can fail to have heard of the extent to which smuggling has been and still is carried on in the Republic. This infamous system, alike destructive of private morals and public integrity, has become a regular business in portions of the country, and, after having been, to a great extent, suppressed on the Eastern coast, has for several years occupied the attention of numbers on the West. Mr. McClure[1] calculated that the Republic possesses "a frontier of five thousand miles, including the sinuosities, windings, and turnings of bays, gulfs and rivers on the Pacific; three thousand miles on the United States of America and Texas; and above two thousand five hundred on the Gulf of Mexico; making, in all, ten thousand five hundred miles of frontier to guard against illicit trade, without an individual on the one thousand two hundredth part of the space to give notice of any depredations that may happen.

Now, although the estimate of this philanthropist may appear rather fanciful, when we remember, that wherever there are smugglers to introduce it is probable that there are individuals to receive, and consequently that the Government might be protected; still it is undeniable that the territory is vast, the population sparse, and the corruption of government agents has been as shameful as it was notorious. Facts came to my knowledge, while a resident in Mexico, which proved, beyond question, this immoral tampering, and went far to implicate men of rank and capacity in the country. I forbear to detail these occurrences here, but I have the documents, in writing, under the attestation of an individual who was approached by one of the vile instruments in the deed of shame, and I feel perfectly satisfied of their unexaggerated accuracy. I do not mention this circumstance, for the purpose of reflecting on the existing Government; but simply to direct the attention of such Mexicans as may read these letters, to a frightful evil, the extirpation of which will at once increase the financial resources of the country and improve the morals of their people. It may be urged, perhaps, that it is impossible to correct this mal-administration; and, I confess, there appears to be much force in the remarks which I subjoin, from the author I have just quoted. At page 292, of his "Opinions," Mr. McClure observes:

"In the comparatively limited frontiers, and crowded population of the European monarchies, with their hundreds of thousands of soldiers and officers of the customs, it has been found impossible to prevent smuggling, with all its attendant crimes and corruptions. What hopes, then, can a small population scattered over so extensive a surface, have, that a revenue will be collected, even if it were probable in the present state of morals to find honest collectors! It would be contrary to all former experience and analogy, to expect anything else, in the country, than a gradual diminution of the revenue, in the ratio of the organization of smuggling. All additional guards or officers of the customs, would certainly increase the quantity of bribery and corruption, but would not add to the revenue a sum equal to their pay!"


NATIONAL DEBT.


The national debt of Mexico is one of very considerable importance, and may be divided into the two great classes of Foreign and Internal debt.

The Internal Debt amounts to $18,560,000; and in 1841 the customs were mortgaged to pay this sum, in the following subdivisions:

17  per cent. of the Customs devoted to a debt of $2,040,000
15   " " " " 410,000
12   " " " " 2,100,000
10   " " " " 3,100,000
8   " " " " 1,200,000
10   " " " Tobacco fund debt. 9,700,000
16½  " " " Interest on English debt.
10   " " " Garrison fund.
98½ $18,550,000
Balance clear of lien, for the Government!
100 


Foreign Debt is still larger than this; and (including the above,) I will state the entire national responsibility, as it existed at the end of last year:

Internal debt,   $18,550,000
Debt to English creditor, 60,000,000
United States claims and interest, say 2,400,000
Cooper to be redeemed, 2,000,000
Claims for Hilazo, 700,000
Bustamante loan, 500,000
$84,150,000


Until 1841, the whole of the revenue, except 11½ per cent, was appropriated to the payment of $18,550,000, while the remaining claims were entirely unprotected by securities. Shortly after the accession of Santa Anna to power, he suspended (by a decree of the 16th of February) the payment of the first five funds charged upon the customs, as stated in a preceding table, but reserved the active appropriation for the Tobacco and English interest debts. This, as may be well imagined, created great dissatisfaction among the mercantile classes, and among numbers of persons who had invested their capital in Government loans, with a reliance upon the revenues as a solemn pledge for their redemption. Santa Anna, however, withstood the torrent manfully. He was assailed by legations, newspapers, and individuals, but nothing could induce him to yield the pressing wants of the Government to their importunities. He was, in fact, forced to the measure. The national credit was irremediably impaired, and he found it impossible to obtain loans. The consequence was, the seizure of the customs by the suspension of their prior appropriation until he was enabled to relieve his Treasury.

Independently of the English and the American debt, the claims upon the Mexican Government have usually been created by means of loans of the most usurious character. In order to illustrate this system, and to show the enormous rates at which lenders endeavored to assure themselves against loss by depreciation, I will recount some transactions which were partly effected in 1841.

On the 20th of September, fifteen days before the treaty of Estansuela, the administration of President Bustamante offered the following terms for a loan of $1,200,000. It proposed to receive the sum of $200,000 in cash, and $1,000,000 represented in the paper or credits of the Government. These credits or paper were worth, in the market, nine per cent. About one-half of the loan was taken, and the parties obtained orders on the several maritime Custom Houses, receivable in payment of duties.

The revenues of the Custom House of Matamoras, have been always hitherto appropriated to pay the army, on the northern frontier of the Republic. During the administration of General Bustamante, the commandant of Matamoras issued bonds or drafts against that Custom House for $150,000, receivable for all kinds of duties as cash. He disposed of these bonds to the merchants of that port for $100,000—and, in addition to the bonus of $50,000, allowed them interest on the $100,000, at the rate of three per cent, per month, until they had duties to pay which they could extinguish by the drafts.

Another transaction, of a singular nature, developes the character of the Government's negotiations, and can only be accounted for by the receipt of some advantages which the act itself does not disclose to the public.

The mint at Guanajuato, or the right to coin at that place, was contracted for, in 1842, by a most respectable foreign house in Mexico, for $71,000 cash, for the term of fourteen years, at the same time that another offer was before the Government, stipulating for the payment of $400,000 for the same period, payable in annual instalments of $25,000 each. The $71,000 in hand, were, however, deemed of more value than the prospective four hundred thousand! This mint leaves a net annual income of $60,000!

With such a spendthrift abandonment of the resources of the country, continued, for a series of years, in the midst of the pressure of foreign claims and domestic warfare, it is, indeed, wonderful that Mexico has so long survived the ruin which must inevitably overtake her with a debt of $84,000,000 and an annual expenditure (as will be seen from the succeeding statement,) of $13,000,000, independent of payment of interest, balances, and loans. Yet with all these incumbrances, created under the most usurious exactions, it is greatly to her honor that she has not repudiated the claims of her creditors;—a moral and political firmness in which she may well be emulated by some of those very States that hare been loudest in their thoughtless abuse of a sister Republic.

A late Mexican paper states, that the Minister of the Treasury of Mexico has published a decree, by which the President directs twenty-five per cent, of all the receipts of the Custom Houses of the Republic to be set apart as a "sinking fund", to pay the public debt. This fund is to be inviolable. The decree provides for the consolidation and funding of the debt at the rate of a six per cent, stock, for which it will be exchanged by such as choose. Those who do not embrace this arrangement with the Government are to have their claims liquidated, only, when out of the sinking fund now created, those who accede to the exchange of stock, shall have been first of all paid!

If we exclude the American debt, now in the course of payment, (an exclusion nevertheless improper, as the Government has but changed her responsibility from a foreign creditor to a domestic one,) the debt of Mexico may still be fairly estimated at $82,000,000, which, at six per cent., bears an annual interest of $4,920,000. The actual income from cutoms and all resources may be set down at $13,000,000—25 per cent, on which will produce a fund of $3,250,000, or $1,670,000 less than the interest on the whole debt! It may well be asked whence is to proceed the "sinking fund" so long as such a deficiency exists?


TABLE OF THE EXPENSES OF THE MEXICAN GOVERNMENT IN 1840.

SUPREME POWERS. Dollars Total
Poder Conservador, 30,000 
Legislature, 319,550 
Executive, Ministers, Council, Secretary, Archives, &c. 230,930 
Supreme Court, 79,300 
$650,780 
DIPLOMACY.
Legations, Consuls, Commissions, &c.
140,000 
TREASURY.
National Treasury, Almacenes Generales,
Direccion de rentas, Heads of Treasury,
and Departamental treasuries,
251,758 6 
Pensions to retired officers, 174,942 
Pensions to the Mont de Piets, 160,554 
587,254 6 
JUDICIARY.
Salaries for Departamental Magistrates, Judges and Sub-alterns
1,207,376 
POLITICAL.
Governors, Secretaries, Departamental Juntas, Prefects, their Secretaries and sub-Prefects
847,467 
ECCLESIASTICAL.
Bishoprice of Sonora and Yucatan, 15,200 
Missions, 31,930 
47,130 
INSTRUCTION, BENEVOLENCE, AND PUNISHMENT.
Academy of San Carlos, 13,000 
Museum, 5,600 
Conservatory of Chapultepec, and Proffesor of Botany, 2,200 
Colleges of St. Juan Lateran, Ildefonso, Espiritu Santo at Puebla 20,000 
Professors in University at Mexico, 7,613 
School of Surgery, 1,500 
Professors of Medical School or College, 10,800 
Director of Institution of Medical Sciences, &c. &c. 2,160 
Hospitals, Prisions, Fortresses, 180,000 
260,409 
SALARIES OF VARIOUS OFFICERS OF PALACE.
Concierge, 420 
Architect, 200 
Chaplain, 600 
Two Porters, 1,200 
Gardener, 1,000 
3,490 
RENTS, PENSIONS, ETC.
26,391 4 9
70,178 
96,596 4 9
Sundries, Printing, &c. &c.
87,596 5 3
WAR OFFICE.
Salaries of Officers—(active,) 357,397 3 6
 " " " (on leave,) 28,759 7 0
 " " " (retired,) 718,399 2 0
Military Mont de Piete, 291,079 3 9
Army, privates, and all other military, expenses 6,604,379 7 9
8,000,000 
DIVIDENDS ON FOREIGN DEBT, 1,155,922 2 5
$13,155,922 2 5
 Exclusive of the payment of loans and balances.
 Mexico, 29th July, 1841


The deficiencies to which I have alluded, on the page preceding the last tabular statement, must be still more apparent and lamentable after an examination of a document which exhibits an expenditure of $8,000,000 (in a time of peace with all the rest of the world,) for a War Department, the active officers of which receive $357,397 a year, while the retired are paid more than double that amount; at the same time that the whole Civil Administration of the country costs but about four millions! This statement would appear to indicate a degree of necessary coercion and corruption, which are but slender promises of the growth of peace, glory, and prosperity. The feeble support given to public instruction by direct contributions of the Government I have already alluded to, and the reader may, at a glance, see how much is expended for punishment, and how little for instruction and benevolence. The army is constantly the fondling of the rulers of the day. By it they are elevated to power; by it they are sustained or defeated, and, relying on its bayonets rather than the hearts and intellects of the great masses of their countrymen, they are obliged to pay both well and promptly the masters they pretend to rule.

The cost of this branch of the service must have greatly increased in 1842 and 1843, in consequence of the meditated attack upon Texas and the actual conflict with Yucatan. I regret that I have no data upon these subjects; but it may fairly be calculated, that if the expenses were $8,000,000 in 1840, in a period of comparative tranquillity, (with the exception of a short revolution in the Capital,) they must have been swelled in 1842 and the present year, by the purchase of steamers and munitions of war, to near 10 or $12,000,000.


ARMY AND NAVY.


In regard to the numbers of the Army, I am equally without information since 1840; but I may state that the forces have been considerably augmented, and in all probability amount to 40,000 men. In 1840, the Mexican army was composed of

14 Generals of Division $500 per month.
26  " of Brigade, 375  " "
ARTILLERY.
3 Brigades, (on foot),
1  " mounted,
5 Separate Companies.
ENGINEER CORPS.
1 Director General,
3 Colonels, 235  " "
6 Lieutenent Colonels, 141  " "
1 Adjuntant, 104  " "
14 Captains, 84  " "
16 Lieutenants, 62  " "
10 Sub-lieutenants, 39  " "
SAPPERS.
1 Batallion.
PLANA MAYOR DEL EJÉRCITO.
This was composed of the General-in-Chief and a number of Colonels, Lieutenant-Colonels, Captains, &c. &c.
PERMANENT INFANTRY.
8 Regiments of 2 batallions each, each batallion of 8 companies, each company of 112 men, officers included—or in all 14,336 persons: each soldier is paid $11 93¾ per month
ACTIVE INFANTRY.
9 Regiments. This body differs from the preceding, or Permanent Infantry, in being liable to service only when required by Government; or, in other words, it is a sort of national militia, well drilled—Total number, 16,128.
PERMANENT CAVALRY.
8 Regiments, each regiment composed of 2 squadrons, each squadron of 2 companies, each regiment composed in all, of 676 men,— or the 8 of 4,056, at, 12 50   " "
35 Separate Companies in various places throughout the Republic.
ACTIVE CAVALRY.
6 Regiments of 4 squadrons, each squadron of 2 companies.
NAVY.
The Navy of Mexico consists at present of 3 Steam Frigates, 2 Brigs, 3 Schooners, 2 Gunboats.[2]


MINES AND COINAGE.


In treating of the resources of men and money of Mexico, it will not be uninteresting (after knowing that the production of the mines amounts in value annually to about twenty-two millions, of which twelve find their way to the mints,) to present a statement of the total coinage of the country, derived from the records of the earliest periods to which access could be had.

TABLE OF THE COINAGE OF MEXICO FROM THE EARLIEST PERIODS TO THE PRESENT DAY.

The Mint of the City of Mexico was established in 1535, but there are no returns for the first 155 years, until 1690. If we take the average of the coinage of these years to have been $1,000,000, we shall have $155,000,000
From 1690 to 1803, inclusive, 1,353,452,020
 " 1803 to 1821, inclusive, 261,354,022
 " 1822 5,543,254
 " 1823 3,567,821
 " 1824 3,503,880
 " 1825 6,036,878
 " 1825 to 1831, (on an average three millions per annum,) 15,000,000
 " 1831 13,000,000
 " 1832 12,500,000
 " 1833 12,500,000
 " 1834 12,040,000
 " 1835 12,000,000
 " 1836 12,050,000
 " 1837 11,610,000
 " 1838 to 1843 (averaging twelve millions,) 60,000,000
To this must be added the coinage of State mints not included in the above:
Guanajuato, from 1812 to 1826 3,024,194
Zacatecas, " 1810 to 1826 32,108,185
Guadalaxara, " 1812 to 1826 5,569,159
Durango, " 1811 to 1826 7,483,625
Chihuahua, " 1811 to 1814 3,603,660
Sombrerete, " 1810 to 1811 1,561,249
All these for the five years (after 1826) since which they have been calculated in the general coinage, 60,000,000
Total $2,068,597,948

This amount, you will see, is less than it has been made by several other writers.


THE CHURCH OF MEXICO— ITS WEALTH AND INFLUENCE.


The Church of Mexico is the next and last topic to which I shall direct your attention, and I am compelled again to regret the want of an accurate account of the convents, properties, members, and wealth of the Religious Orders in 1842. I diligently sought information from individuals who should have been au fait on these subjects, yet I could gain from them but little knowledge of an authentic character. I am satisfied, that this arose neither from a narrow distrust of foreigners, nor a Chinese dislike of divulging the secrets of their country. The want of a general work of reference on statistics is denounced, as " shameful and lamentable," by Señor Otero in his treatise on the social and political condition of Mexico.

"In 1842," says this writer, "we possess no publication upon Mexican statistics except the work of Baron Humboldt, written in 1804. That work, precious as it is, has become useless as a guide, in consequence of the immense changes during the intervention of a long and revolutionary period. A complete statistical treatise might be easily compiled without expense to the National Treasury, by merely obliging the functionaries of the Government to make regular and minute returns, which should be digested and edited by competent persons in the Capital. Without such a work it will be impossible to understand the complicated interests of this vast country, or to keep the machinery of its Government in successful operation."[3]

It is, indeed, difficult to imagine how the administrations carried on the affairs of the nation as long as they have done, without a system of statistical book-keeping, which is as necessary for them as a ledger is for the prudent merchant.

"The Ministers of State have occasionally presented reports to the National Congresses upon the condition of their several Departments; but these productions have been brief, unsatisfactory, without detail, and rather involving the matters of which they treat in doubt and uncertainty, by their vague generalization, than clearly illustrating the interests, wants, and resources of the Republic.

Of all branches of the national administration, none has suffered more obscuration by this diplomatic rhetoric than the question of the Church, which properly belonged to the portfolio of the Minister of Public Justice and Instruction. It was a subject that men seemed fearful to approach. They admitted that there were abuses in the body;—that many of its members were corrupt, idle, ignorant, and vicious;—and that it enjoyed large revenues, flowing in a narrow stream, which, if suffered to diverge into smaller rivulets, would nourish the parched land and improve the condition of suffering multitudes. But wealth and property were banned and sanctified. The establishment was the religion; and he who ventured to assail the one must necessarily attack the other. Thus, even patriots who were not ordinarily affected by nervous dread, stood appalled at the first frown of priestly indignation, and trembled for their fate in a conflict between the temporal power and that tremendous spiritual influence which slept like an electric fire in the hearts of the people, ready, on the slightest impulse, to be kindled into a destructive flame. It would be unjust, however, to leave you under the impression that the ministers of this church have been solely engaged in enriching themselves, and scandalizing the cause of true faith, as has been so often proclaimed by European travellers. Although many of them are unworthy persons, and notwithstanding their rites and ceremonies are often rather accommodated to a population scarcely emerged from the forests, than to intellectual man;—yet the wealth of the church has not been at all times devoted to base and sordid purposes, or used to corrupt its possessors and the people. Throughout the Republic no persons have been more universally the agents of charity and ministers of mercy, than the rural clergy. The village curas are the advisers, the friends and protectors, of their flocks. Their houses have been the hospitable retreats of every traveller. Upon all occasions they constituted themselves the defenders of the Indians, and contributed toward the maintenance of institutions of benevolence. They have interposed in all attempts at persecution, and, wherever the people were menaced with injustice, stood forth the champions of their outraged rights. To this class, however, the wealth of the church was of small import.

These virtues and devotion have served to fix the whole priesthood deeply in the hearts of the masses, and to attach the poor to their persons and enlist them in defence of their property. The priest, the creed, the church and its revenues, seemed to be one and indivisible in the notions of the people; and, in turn, the priesthood became jealous and watchful of the power which this very affection had created. Avarice was not wanting to increase their gains from dying penitents, pious bequests, holy offerings and lavish endowments. And thus (often grossly human while humbly good,) they have contrived, upon the same altar, to serve God and Mammon.

It is now quite natural, that they should desire to preserve the property which has been collected during so many years of religious toil and avaricious saving, and they dread the advance of that intellectual march which, in the course of time, will consign their monastic establishments to the fate of those of England and Spain. The combination of large estates, both real and personal, in the hands of a united class acting by spiritual influence, under the direction of one head, must be powerful in any country, but certainly is most to be dreaded in a Republic, where secret ecclesiastical influence is added to the natural control of extraordinary wealth.

It is difficult to say with accuracy, for the reasons I have already assigned, what this wealth at present is,—but I think the number of Convents, devoted to about two thousand Nuns in the Republic, is fifty-eight; for the support of which, (in addition to a floating capital of rather more than four millions and a half with an income therefrom of two hundred and fifty thousand dollars,) they possess some seventeen hundred estates or properties, producing an annual revenue of about five hundred and sixty thousand dollars.

There are about three thousand five hundred Secular Clergymen and seventeen hundred Monks.

The latter possess one hundred and fifty Conventual establishments, divided as follows:

The Dominicans,   25
Franciscans, 68
Augustines, 22
Carmelites, 16
Mercedarios, 19
150
 
Nuns, 2,000
Monks, 1,700
Secular Clergy, 3,500
7,200

A number certainly inadequate to the spiritual wants of a population of seven millions, and yet too small to be proprietors of estates worth at least ninety millions of dollars, according to the annexed valuation:

Real property in town and country, $18,000,000
Churches, houses, convents, curates, dwellings, furniture, jewels, precious vessels, &c. 52,000,000
Floating capital—together with other funds—and the capital required to produce the sum received by them annually in alms, 20,000,000
$90,000,000

The real property is estimated to have been worth at least 25 per cent, more, previous to the Revolution, and, to this enhanced value must be added about $115,000,000 of capital, founded on contribuciones and "derechos reales," or imposts to which they were entitled, on the property of the country.[4]

The value of their churches, the extent of their city property, the power they possess as lenders, and the quantity of jewels, precious vessels, and golden ornaments, will raise the above statement, I am confident, to nearer $100,000,000 than ninety, or to a sum about eighty-eight millions less than it was before the outbreak of the war of Independence; at which period, the number of ecclesiastics is estimated to have been 10,000 or 13,000, including the lay-brotherhood and the subordinates of the church.

During the royal Government, the influence of these rich proprietors must necessarily have been exceedingly great. It was the policy of the Spanish cabinet to cherish the temporalities of the Mexican Church. The mayorazgos or rights of primogeniture, forced the younger sons either into the profession of arms or of religion; and it was requisite that ample provision should be made for them in secure and splendid establishments. Thus, all the lucrative and easy benefices came into the hands of Spaniards or their descendants, and by far the greater portion of the more elevated ecclesiastics were persons of high birth or influential connections.

But the rights of primogeniture have been abolished. The laws of the Republic have taken away the power to collect tithes by compulsory processes. And the consequence is, that the church has become unpopular with the upper classes as a means of maintenance, while a comparatively democratic spirit has been infused into its members, who now spring from the humbler ranks. Still, however, the remaining wealth and the forces of clanship have preserved in their body a most powerful influence.

While this change has occurred in the church, the army has become equally unpopular with the upper ranks as a profession, and as its command is consequently intrusted to men who have arisen immediately from the people, or, in other words, as the same classes of society furnish both the church and the army, the church and the army will, in all probability, (while forming aristocracies in themselves,) sustain each other against the aristocracy of landed proprietors, and all who live upon their income without the necessity of labor.

Between these two classes there will be a constant war of opinion, while the only real democracy of the nation is left to reside in individuals, who have neither estates to despoil nor wealth to confiscate. The fellow feeling between the church and the army, arising from the kindred origin of their numbers, is, however, no protection to the riches of the former. The Government, pressed by its wants, is beginning to encroach gradually on its resources, and, within the last two years, has appropriated parts of the real estates of the clergy to replenish an empty treasury. That such is an honest and patriotic devotion of ecclesiastical means, no one can deny, and the doctrine is sustained by legal writers of the highest authority.[5] The church has no need of possessions, except for purposes of beneficence and charity. The vow of its members is for chastity and poverty. It receives, only to become an almoner for more extensive benevolence. And as the State, in the hour of need, must ever be the chief pauper, she has an unquestioned right to call upon the ministers of God, in the spirit of the religion they teach, to open their coffers freely for the public good. With its ninety or one hundred millions of property and money, it might extinguish the national debt of eighty-four millions, and still leave an ample support for its seven thousand members, or, at least, for its Secular Clergy, who would be cherished and sustained more liberally by the masses for an act of such Christian sacrifice and benevolence.


  1. Vide McClure's "Opinions."
  2. A paper published at Vera Cruz in 1843, furnishes the following list of the Mexican Navy:—Steamer Guadalupe of 778 tons, mounting two 68-pounders amidships, four 12-pound cannonades, and one mortar.— Steamer Montezuma, 1100 tons, one 68-pounder amidships, two 23 pound cannonads.—Brio Mexicano, one 12-pounder amidships, and fourteen 18-pound cannonades.—Brio Vera Cruzano Libra, one 33-pounder amidships, six 18-pound cannonades, and two 12 pound cannonades.— Schooner Aguila, one 32-pounder amidships, and eight cannonades.—Schooner Librtad, one 12-pounder amidships.— Gafftopsail Schooner Morelos, one 12 pounder amidships; and five Gun boats, each carrying a 14-pounder amidships. All these vessels want repairs.

    In December, 1844, the Mexican Army (as per statement made to Congress) consisted of 1,840 Artillery; 21,557 Infantry; 9,539 Cavalry; making a total of near 33,000 men. This force is shown by official documents to have been reduced to less than 30,000. Since then the two Steamers have been sold.

  3. Vide Otero, Cuestion Social y Politica, p. 30-81.
  4. Vide Otero, p. 38,39, 42
  5. Vide Vattel. Book 1. Chapter 12, §158
    "The State," says this high legal authority, "has unquestionably the power to exempt the property of the church from all imposts, when the property is not more than adequate to the support of the ecclesiastics. But the priesthood has no right to this favor except by the authority of the State, which has always the right to revoke it when the public good requires. One of the fundamental and essential laws of society is, that on all occasions of need the goods of all its members ought to contribute proportionally to the wants of the community. Even the prince himself cannot, by his authority, grant an entire exemption to a numerous and wealthy body of persons, without committing an extreme injustice to the rest of his subjects, upon whom the burden would altogether fail by this exemption.
    Far from the goods of the church being exempted because they are consecrated to God,—it is for that very reason that they should be the first taken for the welfare of the State. There is nothing more agreeable to the Common Father of men, than to preserve a nation from destruction. As God has no need of property, the consecration of goods to Him, in their devotion to such usages as are pleasant to him. Besides, the property of the church by the confession of the clergy themselves, is chiefly destined for the poor. Now when the State is want, it is, doubtless, the first pauper and the worthiest of succor. We may extend the reasoning to the most ordinary cases, and say that to impose a part of the current expenses on the church property in order to relieve the people to that extent, is really to give those goods to the poor, according to the spirit of their original destination."