The Former Philippines thru Foreign Eyes
By Fedor Jagor et al
Public Domain Books
State of the Philippines in 1810
By Tomas de Comyn
[Population.] The enumeration of the natives for the assessment of tributes, in the manner ordained by the standing regulations of the Intendants of New Spain, is not observed in the Philippine Islands; nor indeed would this be an easy task. The wide extent of the twenty-seven provinces of which they are composed, scattered, as they are, through the great space comprehended between the southern part of Mindanao, and the almost desert islands known by the name of Batanes and Babuyanes, to the north of that of Luzon, presents almost insurmountable obstacles, and in some measure affords an excuse for the omission. Among these obstacles may be mentioned the necessity of waiting for the favorable monsoon to set in, in order to perform the several voyages from one island to the other; the encumbered state of the grounds in many parts, the irregular and scattered situations of the settlements and dwellings, the variety among the natives and their dialects, the imperfect knowledge hitherto obtained of the respective limits and extent of many districts, the general want of guides and auxiliaries, on whom reliance can be placed, and, above all, the extreme repugnance the natives evince to the payment of tributes, a circumstance which induces them to resort to all kinds of stratagems, in order to elude the vigilance of the collectors, and conceal their real numbers.
[Estimates.] The quinquennial census, as regularly enjoined, being thus found impracticable, no other means are left than to deduce from the annual lists, transmitted by the district magistrates to the superintendent’s office, and those formed by the parish curates, a prudent estimate of the total number of inhabitants subject to our laws and religion; yet these data, although the only ones, and also the most accurate it is possible to obtain, for this reason, inspire so little confidence, that it is necessary to use them with great caution. It is evident that all the district magistrates and curates do not possess the same degree of care and minuteness in a research so important, and the omission or connivance of their respective delegates, more or less general, renders it probable that the number of tributes, not included in the annual returns, is very considerable. If to this we add the leged exemptions from tribute, justly granted to various individuals for a certain number of years, or during the performance of special service, we shall easily be convinced of the imperfection of results, derived from such insecure principles. * * * I have carefully formed my estimates corresponding to the year 1810, and by confronting them with such data as I possess relating to the population of 1791, I have deduced the consoling assurance that, under a parity of circumstances, the population of these Islands, far from having diminished, has, in the interval, greatly increased.
[Ratio to tributes.] From the collective returns recently made out by the district magistrates, it would appear that the total number of tributes amounts to 386,654, which multiplied by six and one-half produces the sum of 2,515,406, at which I estimate the total population, including old men, women and children. I ought here to observe, that I have chosen this medium of six and one-half between the five persons estimated in Spain and eight in the Indies, as constituting each family, or entire tribute; for although the prodigious fecundity of the women in the latter hemisphere, and the facility of maintaining their numerous offspring, both the effects of the benignity of the climate and their sober way of living, sufficiently warrant the conclusion, that a greater number of persons enter into the composition of each family, I have, in this case, been induced to pay deference to the observations of religious persons, intrusted with the care of souls, who have assured me that, whether it be owing to the great mortality prevailing among children, or the influence of other local causes, in many districts each family, or entire tribute, does not exceed four and one-half persons.
[Foreigners and wild tribes.] To the above amount it is necessary to add 7,000 Sangleys (Chinese), who have been enumerated and subjected to tribute, for, although in the returns preserved in the public offices, they are not rated at more than 4,700, there are ample reasons for concluding, that many who are wandering about, or hidden in the provinces, have eluded the general census. The European Spaniards, and Spanish creoles and mestizos, do not exceed 4,000 persons, of both sexes and all ages, and the distinct castes or modifications known in America under the name of mulattos, quadroons, etc., although found in the Philippine Islands, are generally confounded in the three classes of pure natives, Chinese mestizos, and Chinese. Besides the above distinctions, various infidel and independent nations or tribes exist, more or less savage and ferocious, who have their dwellings in the woods and glens, and are distinguished by the respective names of Aetas, Ingolots, Negrillos, Igorots, Tinguianes, etc., nor is there scarcely a province in Luzon, that does not give shelter to some of those isolated tribes, who inhabit and possess many of the mountainous ranges, which ramificate and divide the wide and extended plains of that beautiful island.
[Origin of race.] The original race by which the Philippines are peopled, is beyond doubt Malayan, and the same that is observed in Sumatra, Java, Borneo, and the other islands of this immense archipelago. The Philippine Islanders, very different from the Malabars, whose features possess great regularity, sweetness, and even beauty, only resemble the latter in color, although they excel them in stature, and the good proportion of their limbs. The local population of the capital, in consequence of its continual communication with the Chinese and other Asiatics, with the mariners of various nations, with the soldiery and Mexican convicts, who are generally mulattos, and in considerable numbers sent to the Islands yearly in the way of transportation, has become a mixture of all kinds of nations and features, or rather a degeneration from the primitive races.
[Manila’s population.] Manila, the capital of the Philippine Islands, at present contains a population of from one hundred forty to one hundred fifty thousand inhabitants, of all classes; but it ought, however, to be understood, that in this computation are included the populous suburbs of Santa Cruz, San Fernando, Binondo, Tondo, Quiapo, San Sebastian, San Anton, and Sampaloc; for although each is considered as a distinct town, having a separate curate, and civil magistrate of its own, the subsequent union that has taken place rather makes them appear as a prolongation of the city, divided into so many wards and parishes, in the center of which their respective churches are built. Among the chief provincial towns, several are found to contain a population of from twenty to thirty thousand souls, and many not less than ten to twelve thousaad. Finally, it is a generally received opinion that, besides the Moros and independent tribes, the total population of the Philippine Islands, subject to the authority of the king, is equal to three millions.
[Cotton.] Among the varied productions of the Philippines, for many reasons, none is so deserving of attention as cotton. Its whiteness and find staple give to it such a superiority over that of the rest of Asia, and possibly of the world, that the Chinese anxiously seek it, in order pereferably to employ it in their most perfect textures, and purchase it thirty per cent dearer than the best from British India. Notwithstanding this extraordinary allurement, the vicinity of a good market, and the positive certainty that, however great the exportation, the growth can never equal the consumption and immense demand for this article, it has, nevertheless, hitherto been found impossible to extend and improve its cultivation, in such a way as to render it a staple commodity of the country. Owing to this lamentable neglect, is it, that the annual exportation does not exceed five thousand “arrobas” (125,000 lbs.) whereas the British import into China at the annual rate of 100,000 bales, or 1,200,000 “arrobas," produced in their establishments at Bombay and Calcutta, and which, sold at the medium price of fifteen “taels,” for one hundred thirty pounds, yield the net amount of $4,800,000.
[Its advantages.] This want of attention to so important a branch of agriculture is the more to be regretted, as the Islands abound in situations peculiarly adapted for the cultivation of cotton, and the accidental failure of the crops in some provinces, might easily be made up by their success in others. The culture of this plant is besides extremely easy, as it requires no other labor than clearing the grounds from brush-wood, and lightly turning up the earth with a plough, before the seeds are scattered, which being done, the planter leaves the crop to its own chance, and in five months gathers abundant fruit, if, at the time the bud opens, it is not burnt by the north winds, or rotted with unseasonable showers.
[Restricted cultivation.] The provinces of Ilocos and Batangas are the only ones in which the cultivation of cotton is pursued with any degree of zeal and care, and it greatly tends to enrich the inhabitants. This successful example has not, however, hitherto excited emulation in those of the other provinces; and thus the only production of the Philippine Islands, of which the excellence and superior demand in trade are as well known as its culture is easy, owing to strange fatality and causes which will be hereafter noticed, is left almost in a neglected state, or, at most, confined to the narrow limits of local consumption.
[Indigo.] Pangasinan, Pampanga, Bataan, La Laguna, Tayabas and Camarines produce indigo of various classes, and, although its preparation or the extraction of the dye, is in most of the above provinces still performed in an equally imperfect manner, several small improvements have recently been made, which have bettered the quality, more particularly in La Laguna, the only district in which attempts have been made to imitate the process used in Guatemala, as well with regard to the construction and number of vats necessary, as the precipitation of the coloring particles–detached from the plant by the agitation of the water. In the other places, the whole of the operations are performed in a single vat, and the indigo obtained is not unfrequently impregnated with lime and other extraneous substances.
[Increasing culture.] Whatever may have been the causes of this evident backwardness, from the period of the establishment of the Philippine Company in these Islands, and in consequence of the exertions of some of the directors to promote the cultivation of indigo, at that time very little known, the natives have slowly, though gradually, been reconciled to it; and discovering it to be one of the most advantageous branches of industry, although accompanied with some labor and exposed to the influence of droughts and excessive heats, as well as to the risks attendant on the extraordinary anticipation of the rainy seasons, have of late years paid more attention to it. The quintal of indigo of the first class costs the planter from $35 to $40 at most; and in the market of Manila it has been sold from $60 to $130, according to the quality and the greater or lesser demand for the article at the season. As, however, everything in this colony moves within a small circle, it is not possible to obtain large quantities for exportation; not only because of the risk in advancing the Indian sums of money on account of his crop, but also owing to the annual surplus seldom exceeding from two to two thousand five hundred distributed in many hands, and collected by numerous agents, equally interested in making up their return-cargoes.
[Sugar.] The cultivation of the sugar-cane is more or less extended to all the provinces of these Islands, owing to its consumption among the natives being both great and general; but those of La Pampanga and Pangasinan are more particularly devoted to it. These two provinces alone annually produce about 550,000 arrobas (13,750,000 lbs.) of which one-third is usually exported in Chinese and other foreign vessels. In extraordinary seasons, the amount exported greatly exceeds the quantity above stated, as, for example, happened in the monsoon of 1796, when the planters came down to the port of Manila, and by contract exported upwards of nine millions weight, of the first and second qualities. The price of this article has experienced many variations of late years; but the medium may be estimated at $6 for one hundred twenty-five pounds of the first quality, and $5 for the second.
[Method of Manufacture.] The superior quality of the sugar of the Philippines is acknowledged, when compared to that produced in the Island of Java, China, or Bengal; notwithstanding in the latter countries it may naturally be concluded that greater pains and care are bestowed on its manufacture. The pressure of the cane in the Philippine Islands is performed by means of two coarse stone cylinders, placed on the ground, and moved in opposite directions by the slow and unequal pace of a “carabao,” a species of ox or buffalo, peculiar to this and other Asiatic countries. The juice is conveyed to an iron caldron, and in this the other operations of boiling, skimming and cleansing take place, till the crystallization or adhering of the sugar is completed. All these distinct parts of the process, in other colonies, are performed in four separate vessels, confided to different hands, and consequently experience a much greater degree of care and dexterity. After being properly clayed, the sugars acquire such a state of consistency that, when shipped in canvas bags, they become almost petrified in the course of the voyage, without moistening or purging, as I understand is the case with those of Bengal.
[Silk.] Among the useful objects to which the Patriotic Society of Manila (Amigos del Pais) directed their attention, from the very moment of their formation, the planting of mulberry trees seems to have met with peculiar encouragement. The society rightly judged that the naturalization of so valuable a commodity as silk in these Islands would materially increase the resources of the colony, and there was reason to hope that, besides local consumption, the growth might in time be so much extended as to supply the wants of New Spain, which are not less than 80,000 lbs., amounting to from $350,000 to $400,000, conveyed there in the galleon annually sent to the port of Acapulco, by the Manila merchants, which article they are now compelled to contract for in China.
[Mulberry trees.] The Society gave the first impulse to this laudable project, and then the governor of the Islands, Don José Basco, anxious to realize it, with this view sent Colonel Charles Conely on a special commission to the province of Camarines. This zealous officer and district magistrate, in the years 1786-1788 caused 4,485,782 mulberry trees to be planted in the thirty districts under his jurisdiction; and incalculable are the happy results which would have attended a plan so extensive, and commenced with so much vigor, if it could have been continued with the same zeal by his successor, and not at once destroyed, through a mistaken notion of humanity, with which, soon after the departure of Governor Basco, they proceeded to exonerate the Filipinos from all agricultural labor that was not free and spontaneous, in conformity, as was then alleged, to the general spirit of our Indian legislation. As it was natural to expect, the total abandonment of this valuable branch followed a measure so fatal, and notwithstanding the efforts subsequently made by the Royal Company, in order to obtain its restoration, as well in Camarines as the Province of Tondo, all their exertions were in vain, though it must be allowed that at the time several untoward circumstances contributed to thwart their anxious wishes. Notwithstanding this failure, the project, far from being deemed impracticable, would beyond all doubt succeed, and, under powerful patronage, completely answer the well-founded hopes of its original conceivers and promoters. The natives themselves would soon be convinced of the advantages to be derived from the possession of an article, in so many ways applicable to their own fine textures, and besides the variety of districts in the Islands, proved to be suitable to the cultivation of this interesting tree, it is a known fact that many of the old mulberry groves are still in existence.
[Beeswax.] The Bisayas, Cagayan, and many other provinces, produce wax in considerable abundance, which the Indians collect from the natural hives formed in the cavities of the trees, and it is also brought down by the infidel natives from the mountains to the neighboring towns. The quality certainly is not the best, and notwithstanding attempts have been made to cleanse it from the extraneous particles with which it is mixed, it always leaves a considerable sediment on the lower part of the cakes, and never acquires an entire whiteness. Its consumption is great, especially in the capital, and after supplying the wants of the country, an annual surplus of from six hundred to eight hundred quintals is appropriated for exportation.
[Neglected market.] This certainly might be converted into an article of extreme importance, especially for the kingdom of Peru, which in peaceable times receives its supplies from Spain, and even from the Island of Cuba; but for this purpose it would be necessary to adopt the plan recommended by the enlightened zeal of the Patriotic Society and previously encourage the establishment of artificial hives and the plantation of aromatic and flowering shrubs, which so easily attract and secure the permanency of the roving swarms, always ready to undertake fresh labors. This, as well as many other points, has hitherto been entirely overlooked.
[Black pepper.] The production is cultivated in the Provinces of Tayabas, Batangas, and La Laguna, but in such small quantities, that, notwithstanding the powerful allurements of all kinds constantly held out by the Royal Company during the long period of twenty years, their agents have never been able to collect in more than about 64,000 lbs. annually. After every encouragement, the most that has been attained with the natives, is confined to their planting in some districts fifty to one hundred pepper-vines round their huts, which they cultivate in the same way as they would plots of flowers, but without any other labor than supporting the plant with a proportioned stake, clearing the ground from weeds, and attending to daily irrigation.
[A possibility.] This article therefore scarcely deserves a place amongst the flourishing branches of agriculture, at least till it has been raised from its present depressed state, and the grounds laid out in regular and productive pepper-groves. Till this is done, to a corresponding extent, it must also be excluded from the number of productions furnished by these Islands to commerce and exportation; more particularly if we consider that, notwithstanding the great fragrance of the grain, as well as its general superiority over the rest of Asia, so great a difference exists in the actual price, that this can never be compensated by its greater request in the markets of Europe, and much less enable it to compete with that of the British and Dutch, till its abundance has considerably lowered its primitive value.
[Not popular.] Finally, although an infinity of grounds are to be found adapted to the rapid propagation of pepper-vines, as may easily be inferred from the analogy and proximity of the Philippine Islands to the others of this same archipelago, so well known for their growth of spices, it must be confessed that it is a species of culture by no means popular among the Philippine natives, and it would be almost requiring too much from their inconstancy of character, to wish them to dedicate their lands and time to the raising of a production which, besides demanding considerable care, is greatly exposed to injury, and even liable to be destroyed by the severity of the storms, which frequently mark the seasons. With difficulty would they be induced to wait five years before they were able to gather the uncertain fruits of their labor and patience. If, therefore, it should ever be deemed a measure of policy to encourage the growth of black pepper, it will be necessary for the government to order the commons belonging to each town, and adapted to this species of plantation, to be appropriated to this use, by imposing on the inhabitants the obligation of taking care of them, and drawing from the respective coffers of each community the necessary funds for the payment of the laborers, and the other expenses of cultivation. If this cannot be done, it will be necessary to wait till the general condition of the country is improved, when through the spirit of emulation, and the enterprises of the planters being duly patronized and supported, present difficulties may be overcome, and the progressive results of future attempts will be then found to combine the interests of individuals with the general welfare of the colony.
[Coffee.] So choice is the quality of the coffee produced in the Island of Luzon, especially in the districts of Indang and Silang, in the province of Cavite, that if it is not equal to that of Mocha, I at least consider it on parallel with the coffee of Bourbon; but, as the consumption and cultivation are extremely limited, it cannot with any propriety be yet numbered among the articles contributing to the export-trade.
[Cocoa.] Cocoa is something more attended to, in consequence of the use of chocolate being greatly extended among the natives of easy circumstances. That of the Island of Cebu, is esteemed superior to the cocoa of Guayaquil, and possibly it is not excelled by that of Soconusco. As, however, the quantity raised does not suffice for the local consumption, Guayaquil cocoa meets a ready sale, and is generally brought in return-cargo by the ships coming from Acapulco, and those belonging to the Philippine company dispatched from Callao, the shipping port of Lima.
The cultivation of these two articles in the Philippines is on the same footing as that of pepper, which, as above stated, is rather an object of luxury and recreation than one of speculation among the Filipinos. The observations and rules pointed out in the preceding article, are, in a general sense, applicable to both these branches of industry.
[Cinnamon.] Cinnamon groves, or trees of wild cinnamon, are to be found in every province. In Mindanao, a Dutchman, some years ago, was employed by orders of the government, in examining the forests and making experiments, with a view to discover the same tree of this species that has given so much renown to Ceylon; but, whether it was owing to a failure in the discovery, or, when the plant was found, as at the time was said to be the case, the same results were not produced, from the want of skill in preparing, or stripping off the bark; certain it is, that the laudable attempt totally failed, or rather the only advantage gained, has been the extracting from the bark and more tender parts of the branches of the tree, an oil or essence of cinnamon, vigorous and aromatic in the extreme.
[Experiment in Laguna.] About the same time, a land-owner of the name Salgado, undertook to form an extensive plantation of the same species in the province of La Laguna, and succeeded in seeing upwards of a million cinnamon trees thrive and grow to a considerable size; but at last, he was reluctantly compelled to desist from his enterprise, by the same reasons which led to the failure of Mindanao.
[Need of experienced cultivators.] These facts are of sufficient authority for our placing the cinnamon tree among the indigenous productions of the Philippine Islands and considering their general excellence above those of the same nature in the rest of Asia, it may reasonably be concluded that, without the tree being identically the same, the cinnamon with which it is clothed will be found finer than that yielded by the native plant of the Island of Ceylon, and this circumstance, consequently, holds out a hope that, in the course of time, it may become an article of traffic, as estimable as it would be new. In order, however, that this flattering prospect may be realized, it will be requisite for the government to procure some families, or persons from the above island, acquainted with the process of stripping off the bark and preparing the cinnamon, by dexterously offering allurements, corresponding to the importance of the service, which, although in itself it may probably be an extremely simple operation, as long as it is unknown, will be an insuperable obstacle to the propagation of so important an agricultural pursuit.
[Nutmeg.] Two species of nutmeg are known here, the one in shape resembling a pigeon’s egg, and the other of a perfectly spherical form; but both are wild and little aromatic, and consequently held in no great esteem.
[Rice.] Rice is the bread and principal aliment of these natives, for which reason, although its cultivation is among the most disagreeable departments of husbandry, they devote themselves to it with astonishing constancy and alacrity, so as to form a complete contrast with their characteristic indifference in most other respects. This must, however, be taken as a certain indication of the possibility of training them up to useful labor; whenever they can be led on in a proper manner.
[High yield.] The earth corresponds with surprising fertility to the labors of the Filipino, rewarding him, in the good seasons, with ninety, and even as high as one hundred per cent; a fact I have fully ascertained and of which I besides possess undoubted proofs, obtained from the parish-curates of La Pampanga. As, however, the provinces are frequently visited with dreadful hurricanes (called in the country, baguios), desolated by locusts, and exposed to the effects of the great irregularities of nature, which, in these climes, often acts in extreme, the crops of this grain are precarious, or at least, no reliance can be placed on a certain surplus allowing an annual exportation to China. On this account, rice cannot be placed in the list of those articles which give support to the external trade.
[Dye and cabinet woods.] The “sibucao,” or logwood, and ebony, in both which these islands abound, are the only woods in any tolerable request. The first is sold with advantage in Bengal, and the other meets a ready sale in the ports of China, in the absence of that brought from the Island of Bourbon, which is a quality infinitely superior. Both are however, articles of no great consumption, for, being bulky and possessing little intrinsic value, they will not bear the high charges of freight and other expenses, attendant on the navigation of the Asiatic seas, and can only suit the shipper, as cargo, who is anxious not to return to the above countries in ballast. Hence, as an object of export trade, these articles cannot be estimated at more than $30,000 per annum.
[Timber.] I deem it superfluous to dwell on a multitude of other good and even precious woods in timber, with which the Philippine Islands are gifted, because this is a subject already suficiently well understood, and a complete collection of specimens, as well as some large blocks, were besides transmitted some years ago to the king’s dockyard. It may, however, be proper to remark, that the establishment near the capital for shipbuilding and masts, are much more expensive than is generally supposed, as well on account of the difficulties experienced in dragging the trees from the interior of the mountains to the water’s edge, as the want of regularity and foresight with which these operations have been usually conducted. Besides these reasons, as it is necessary that the other materials requisite for the construction and complete armament of vessels of a certain force, should come from Europe, it is neither easy, nor indeed, would it be economical, as was erroneously asserted, to carry into effect the government project of annually building, in the colony, a ship of the line and a frigate. It ought further to be observed, that no stock of timber, cut at a proper season and well cured, has been lain in, and although the wages of the native carpenters and caulkers are moderate, no comparison whatever can be made between the daily work they perform, and that which is done in the same space of time in our dock-yards of Spain.
[Ship building advantages.] Notwithstanding, however, the impediments above stated, as it is undeniable that abundance of suitable timber is to be obtained, and as the conveyance of the remainder of the necessary naval stores to the Philippine Islands is shorter and more economical than to the coast of California, it possibly might answer, at least, many mariners are of this opinion, in case it is deemed expedient to continue building at San Blas the brigs and corvettes necessary for the protection of the military posts and missions, situated along the above coasts, to order them preferably to be built in Cavite giving timely advice, and previously taking care to make the necessary arrangements.
[Gold.] Gold abounds in Luzon and in many of the other islands; but as the mountains which conceal it are in possession of the pagan tribes, the mines are not worked; indeed it may be said they are scarcely known. These mountaineers collect it in the brooks and streamlets, and in the form of dust, offer it to the Christians who inhabit the neighboring plains, in exchange for coarse goods and fire-arms; and it has sometimes happened that they have brought it down in grains of one and two ounces weight. The natives of the province of Camarines partly devote themselves to the working of the mines of Mambulao and Paracale, which have the reputation of being very rich; but, far from availing themselves in the smallest degree of the advantages of art, they content themselves with extracting the ore by means of an extremley imperfect fusion, which is done by placing the mineral in shells and then heating them on embers. A considerable waste consequently takes place, and although the metal obtained is good and high colored, it generally, passes into the hands of the district-magistrate, who collects it at a price infinitely lower than it is worth in trade. It is a generally received opinion that gold mines are equally to be met with in the Province of Caraga, situated on the coasts of the great Island of Mindanao, where, as well as in other points, this metal is met with equal to twenty-two karats. The quantity, however, hitherto brought down from the mountains by the pagan tribes, and that obtained by the tributary Filipinos, has not been an object of very great importance.
[Copper.] Well-founded reasons exist for presuming that, in the Province of Ilocos, mines of virgin copper exist, a singular production of nature, or at least, not very common, if the generality of combinations under which this metal presents itself in the rest of the globe, are duly considered. This is partly inferred from the circumstance of its having been noticed that the Igorots, who occasionally come down from the mountains to barter with the Christians, use certain coarse jars or vessels of copper, evidently made by themselves with the use of a hammer, without any art or regularity; and as the ignorance of these demi-savages is too great for them to possess the notions necessary for the separation of the component parts which enter into the combination of minerals, and much less for the construction of furnaces suitable to the smelting and formation of the moulds, it is concluded they must have found some vein of copper entirely pure, which, without the necessity of any other preparation, they have been able to flatten with the hammer and rendered maleable, so as to convert it into the rough vessels above spoken of.
[Cinnabar.] The district-magistrate of Caraga, Don Augustin de Ioldi, received a special commission from the government to explore and obtain information respecting a mine of cinnabar, which was said to be situated under his jurisdiction; and I have been informed of another of the same species in the Island of Samar, the working of which has ceased for a considerable time, not because the prospect was unfavorable, but for the want of an intelligent person to superintend and carry on the operations. The utility of such a discovery is too obvious not to deserve, on the part of government, the most serious attention and every encouragement to render it available; and it is to be hoped that, as the first steps have already been taken in this important disclosure, the enterprise will not be abandoned, but, on the contrary, that exertions will be made to obtain aid and advice from the Miners’ College of Mexico, as the best means of removing doubt, and acting with judgment in the affair.
[Iron.] Iron in mineral form is to be found at various points on Luzon, and those engaged in working it, without the necessity of digging; collect the iron-bearing stones that constitute the upper stratum, these, when placed in fusion, generally yield about forty per cent clear metal. This is the case in the mountains of Angat, situated in the Province of Bulacan, and also in the vicinity of the Baliwag River. In Morong, however, belonging to the Province of La Laguna, where the cannon-ball factory is established, the ore yields under twenty-two per cent. Its quality is in general better than the Biscayan iron, according to formal experiments and a report, made in 1798 to Governor Don Rafael Maria de Aguilar, by two Biscayan master-smiths from the squadron of Admiral Alava. Witnesses to this test were the Count de Aviles and Don Felix de la Rosa, proprietors of the mines of Morong and Angat, and the factor of the Philippine Company, Don Juan Francisco Urroroz. Notwithstanding its advantages, this interesting branch of industry has not yet passed beyond the most rude principles and imperfect practice, owing to the want of correct information as to the best process, and scarcity of funds on the part of the proprietors to carry on their works. Without the aid of rolling or slitting mills, indeed unprovided with the most essential instruments, they have hitherto confined themselves to converting their iron into plow shares, bolos, hoes, and such other agricultural implements; leaving the Chinese of Amoy in quiet possession of the advantages of being allowed to market annual supplies of all kinds of nails, the boilers used on the sugar plantations, pots and pans, as well as other articles in this line, which might easily be manufactured in the Islands.
[Sulphur.] In the Island of Leyte, abundance of sulphur is met with, and from thence the gunpowder works of Manila are supplied at very reasonable prices. Jaspers, cornelians and agates, are also found in profusion in many of these provinces; everything, indeed, promises varied mineral wealth worthy of exciting the curiosity and useful researches of mineralogists, who, unfortunately, have not hitherto extended their labors to these remote parts of the globe.
[Pearls.] Pearl fisheries are, from time to time, undertaken off the coast of the Island of Mindanao, and also near smaller islands not far from Cebu, but with little success and less constancy, not because there is a scarcity of fine pearls of a bright color and considerable size, but on account of the divers’ want of skill and their just dread of the sharks, which, in great numbers infest these seas. Amber is frequently gathered in considerable lumps in the vicinity of Samar and the other Visayan Islands as well as mother-of-pearl, tortoise-shell, and red and black coral, of the latter kind of which, I have seen shafts as thick as my finger and six or eight feet long.
[Estates.] The proprietors of estates in the Philippines are of four classes. The most considerable is that of the religious orders, Augustinians and Dominicans, who cultivate their respective lands on joint account, or let them out at a moderate ground-rent, which the planters pay in kind; but far from living in opulence, and accumulating the immense revenues some of the religious communities enjoy in America, they stand in need of all they earn and possess for their maintenance, and in order to be enabled to discharge the various duties and obligations annexed to the missions with which they are entrusted.
[Spanish planters.] The second class comprehends the Spanish proprietors, whose number possibly does not exceed a dozen of persons, and even they labor under such disadvantages, and have to contend with so many obstacles, under the existing order of things, that, compelled to divide their lands into rice plantations, in consequence of this being the species of culture to which the natives are most inclined, and to devote a considerable portion of them to the grazing of horned cattle, no one of them is in a situation to give to agriculture the variety and extent desired, or to attain any progress in a pursuit which in other colonies rapidly leads to riches.
[Filipino farmers.] The third consists of the principal mestizos and natives, and is in fact that which constitutes the real body of farming proprietors. In the fourth and last may be included all the other natives, who generally possess a small strip of land situated round their dwellings, or at the extremities of the various towns and settlements formed by the conquerors; besides what they may have obtained from their ancestors in the way of legal inheritance, which rights have been confirmed to them by the present sovereign of the colony.
[Aids to agriculture.] It will beyond doubt, in some measure dissipate the distrust by which the Filipino is actuated, when the new and paternal exertions of the superior government, to ameliorate his present situation, are fully known, and when that valuable portion of our distant population is assured that their rights will henceforth be respected, and those exactions and compulsory levies which formerly so much disheartened them, are totally abolished. On the other hand, a new stimulus will be given by the living example and fresh impulse communicated to the provinces by other families emigrating and settling there, nurtured in the spirit and principles of those reforms in the ideas and maxims of government by which the present era is distinguished. A practical participation in these advantages will, most assuredly, awaken a spirit of enterprise and emulation that may be extremely beneficial to agriculture, and as the wants of the natives increase in proportion as they are enabled to know and compare the comforts arising out of the presence and extension of conveniences and luxuries in their own towns, they will naturally be led to possess and adopt them.
[Plans for progress.] So salutary a change, however, can only be the work of time, and as long as the government confines itself to a system merely protecting, the effects must consequently be slow. As it is therefore necessary to put in action more powerful springs than the ordinary ones, it will be found expedient partly to relax from some of those general principles which apply to societies, differently constituted, or rather formed of other perfectly distinct elements. As relating to the subject under discussion, I fortunately discover two means, pointed out in the laws themselves, essentially just, and at the same time capable of producing in this populous colony, more than in any other, the desired results. The legislator, founding himself on the common obligation of the subject to contribute something in return for the protection he receives, and to co-operate in the increase of the power and opulence of the State, proscribes idleness as a crime, and points out labor as a duty; and although the regulations touching the natives breathe the spirit of humanity, and exhibit the wisdom with which they were originally formed, they nevertheless concur and are directed to this primary object. In them the distribution of vacant lands, as well as of the natives at fair daily wages to clear them, is universally allowed, and these it seems to me, are the means from an equitable and intelligent application of which the most beneficial consequences may be expected.
[Confiscating unused lands.] The first cannot be attended with any great difficulty, because all the provinces abound in waste and vacant lands, and scarcely is there a district in which some are not to be found of private property completely uncultivated and neglected, and consequently susceptible, as above stated, of being legally transferred, for this reason alone, to the possession of an active owner. Let their nature however, be what it may, in their adjudication, it is of the greatest importance to proceed with uniformity, by consecrating, in a most irrevocable manner, the solemnity of all similar grants. Public interest and reason, in the Philippine Islands, require that in all such cases deference only should be paid to demands justly interposed, and formally established within a due and fixed period; but after full and public notice has been given by the respective judicial authorities, of the titles about to be granted, the counter claims the natives may seek to put in after the lapse of the period prefixed, should be peremptorily disregarded. Although at first sight this appears a direct infringement on the imprescriptible rights of property, it must be considered that in some cases individual interests ought to be sacrifced to the general good, and that the balance used, when treating of the affairs of State, is never of that rigid kind as if applied to those of minor consideration. The fact is, that by this means many would be induced to form estates, who have hitherto been withheld by the dread of involving themselves, and spending their money in law suits; at the same time the natives, gradually accustoming themselves to this new order of things, would lay aside that disposition to strife and contention, which forms so peculiar a trait in their character, and that antipathy and odium would also disappear with which they have usually viewed the agricultural undertakings of Spaniards.
[Compulsory labor.] Proceeding to the consideration of the second means of accelerating the improvement of agriculture, viz., the distribution of the natives, it will suffice to say that it would be equally easy to show that it is absolutely necessary rigorously to carry into effect, in the Philippine Islands, whatever the laws on this subject prescribed, otherwise we must give up all those substantial hopes entertained of the felicity of the colony. We are no longer in a situation to be restricted to the removal of ordinary obstacles, and the season is gone by in which, as heretofore, it entered into our policy to employ no other than indirect stimulants–in order to incline the Filipino to labor. It is evident that admonitions and offers of reward no longer suffice; nor indeed have the advantageous terms proposed to them by some planters, with a view to withdraw the lower orders of the natives, such as the timauas and caglianes plebeians, from the idle indifference in which they are sunk, been of any avail. Their wants and wishes being easily supplied, the whole of their happiness seems to depend on quiet and repose, and their highest enjoyment on the pleasure of sleep. Energy, however, and a certain degree of severity must be employed, if permanent resources are to be called forth, and if the progressive settlement of European families and the formation of estates proportioned to the fertility of the soil and capabilities of the country are to enter into the views of government. In vain would grants and transfers of vacant and useless lands be made to new and enterprising proprietors, unless at the same time they can be provided with laborers, and experience every other possible facility, in order to clear, enclose, and cultivate them. Hence follows the indispensable necessity of appealing to the system of distributions, as above pointed out; for what class of laborers can be obtained in a country where the whites are so few, unless it be the natives? Should they object to personal service, should they refuse to labor for an equitable and daily allowance, by which means they would also cease to be burdens to the State and to society, are they not to be compelled to contribute by this means to the prosperity of which they are members; in a word, to the public good, and thus make some provision for old age? If the soldier, conveyed away from his native land, submits to dangers, and is unceasingly exposed to death in defence of the State, why should not the Filipino moderately use his strength and activity in tilling the fields which are to sustain him and enrich the commonwealth?
[The undeveloped Philippines.] Besides, things in the Philippine Islands wear a very different aspect to what they do on the American continent, where, as authorized by the said laws, a certain number of natives may be impressed for a season, and sent off inland to a considerable distance from their dwellings, either for the purpose of agriculture, or working the mines, provided only they are taken care of during their journeys, maintained, and the price of their daily labor, as fixed by the civil authorities, regularly paid to them. The immense valleys and mountains susceptible of cultivation, especially in the Island of Luzon, being once settled, and the facilities of obtaining hands increased, such legal acts of compulsion, far from being any longer necessary, will have introduced a spirit of industry that will render the labors of the field supportable and even desirable; and in this occupation all the tributary natives of the surrounding settlements can be alternately employed, by the day or week, and thus do their work almost at the door of their own huts, and as it were in sight of their wives and children.
[No legal obstacle to forced labor.] If, after what has been above stated, the apparent opposition obstacle to which at first sight strikes the eye, in Law 40, Title 12, Book 6, speaking on this subject, and expressly referring to the Philippine Islands, should be alleged, no more will be necessary than to study its genuine sense, or read it with attention, in order to be convinced of its perfect concordance with the essential parts of the other laws of the Indies, already quoted in explanation and support of the system of distributing the laborers. The above-mentioned law does indeed contain a strict recommendation to employ the Chinese and Japanese, not domiciliated, in preference to the natives, in the establishments for cutting timber and other royal works, and further enjoins that use is only to be made in emergencies, and when the preservation of the state should require it. It has, however, happened that, since the remote period at which the above was promulgated, not only all contracts and commerce have ceased, but also every communication with Japan has been interrupted, and for a number of years not a single individual of that ferocious race has existed in the Philippine Islands. With regard to the Chinese, who are supposed to be numerous in the capital, of late years they have diminished so much, that according to a census made by orders of the government in the year 1807, no more than four thousand seven hundred are found on the registers; and, if in consequence of their secreting themselves, or withdrawing into the interior, a third more might be added to the above amount, their total numbers would still remain very inconsiderable, and infinitely inferior to what is required, not only for the tillage of the estates, but even for the royal works.
[Substitute laborers wanting.] As, therefore, the Japanese have totally disappeared, and the number of Chinese is evidently inadequate to the wants of agriculture, it almost necessarily follows that the practice of distributing the Filipino laborers, as allowed by the aforesaid laws of the Indies, under all circumstances, is the only alternate left. Even if, against the adoption of this measure, it should be attempted to urge the ambiguous sense of the concluding part of the second clause, it would be easy to comprehend its true intent and meaning, by referring to Law 1, Title 13, Book 5, which says:
“That, considering the inconveniences which would arise from doing away with certain distributions of grounds, gardens, estates, and other plantations, in which the Indians are interested, as a matter on which the preservation of those distant dominions and provinces depends, it is ordained that compulsory labor, and such distributions as are advantageous to the public good, shall continue.”
After so pointed an explanation, and a manifestation so clear of the spirit of our legislation in this respect, all further comments would be useless, and no doubt whatever can be any longer entertained of the expediency, and even of the justice of putting the plan of well-regulated distributions in practice, as a powerful means to promote the agriculture, and secure to Spain the possession of these valuable dominions of the Indian Seas. ....
[Manufactures.] .... It would be impossible to gainsay Don Juan Francisco Urroz, of the Philippine Company, in his detailed and accurate report to the managing committee in 1802, when he observes:
“That the Philippine Islands, from time immemorial, were acquainted with, and still retain, that species of industry peculiar to the country, adapted to the customs and wants of the natives, and which constitutes the chief branch of their clothing. This, although confined to coarse articles, may in its class be called perfect, as far as it answers the end for which it is intended; and if an attempt were made to enumerate the quantity of mats, handkerchiefs, sheeting, and a variety of other cloths manufactured for this purpose only in the Provinces of Tondo, Laguna, Batangas, Ilocos, Cagayan, Camarines, Albay, Visaya, etc., immense supplies of each kind would appear, which give occupation to an incalculable number of looms, indistinctly worked by Indians, Chinese, and Sangleyan mestizos, indeed all the classes, in their own humble dwellings, built of canes and thatched with palm leaves, without any apparatus of regular manufacture.”
[Native cloth weaving.] With equal truth am I enabled to add, that the natural abilities of these natives in the manufacture of all kinds of cloths, fine as well as coarse, are really admirable. They succeed in reducing the harsh filaments of the palm-tree, known by the name of abaca, to such a degree of fineness, that they afterwards convert them into textures equal to the best muslins of Bengal. The beauty and evenness of their embroideries and open work excite surprise; in short, the damask table-cloths, ornamental weaving, textures of cotton and palm-fibres, intermixed with silk, and manufactured in the above-mentioned provinces, clearly prove how much the inhabitants of the Philippine Islands, in natural abilities and dexterity, resemble the other people of the Asiatic regions. It must nevertheless be allowed, that a want is noticed of that finish and polish which the perfection of art gives to each commodity; but this circumstance ought not to appear strange, if we consider that, entirely devoid of all methodical instruction, and ignorant also of the importance of the subdivision of labor, which contributes so greatly to simplify, shorten, and improve the respective excellence of all kinds of works, the same natives gin and clean the cotton, and then spin and weave it, without any other instruments than their hands and feet, aided only by the course and unsightly looms they themselves construct in a corner of their huts, with scarcely anything else than a few canes and sticks.
[Aptitude for, but no development of, manufacturing.] From the preceding observations it may easily be deduced that, although the natives succeed in preparing, with admirable dexterity, the productions of their soil, and therewith satisfy the greatest part of their domestic wants, facts which certainly manifest their talents and aptitude to be employed in works of more taste and delicacy, manufacturing industry is nevertheless far from being generalized, nor can it be said to be placed with any degree of solidity on its true and proper basis. Hence arise those great supplies of goods annually imported into the country, for the purpose of making up the deficiencies of the local manufactures.
[Improved methods and machinery needed.] The regular distribution or classification of the assemblage of operations which follow each other in graduation, from the rough preparation of the first materials, till the same have arrived at their perfect state of manufacture, instead of being practiced, is entirely unknown. The want of good machinery to free the cotton from the multitude of seeds with which it is encumbered, so as to perform the operation with ease and quickness, is the first and greatest obstacle that occurs; and its tediousness to the natives is so repugnant, that many sell their crops to others, without separating the seeds, or decline growing the article altogether, not to be plagued with the trouble of cleaning it. As the want of method is also equal to the superabundance or waste of time employed, the expenses of the goods manufactured increased in the same proportion, under such evident and great disadvantages; for which reason, far from being able to compete with those brought from China and British India, they only acquire estimation in the interior, when wanted to supply the place of the latter, or in cases of accidental scarcity.
[Scanty exports.] In a word, the only manufactured articles annually exported from the Philippine Islands are eight to twelve thousand pieces exports of light sail cloth, two hundred thousand pounds of abaca cordage assorted, and six hundred carabao hides and deer skins, which can scarcely be considered in a tanned state/ for, although the Royal Company, from the time of their establishment, long continued to export considerable quantities of dimities, calicos, stripes, checks, and coverlids, as well as other cotton and silk goods, it was more with a view to stimulate the districts of Ilocos to continue in the habit of manufacturing, and thus introduce among the inhabitants of that province a taste for industry, than the expectation of gain by the sale of this kind of merchandise either in Spain or any of the sections of America. At length, wearied with the losses experienced by carrying on this species of mercantile operations, without answering the principal object in view, they resolved, for the time being, to suspend ventures attended with such discouraging circumstances.
[Need of encouragement.] Notwithstanding so many impediments, it would not, however, be prudent in the government entirely to abandon the enterprise, and lose sight of the advantages the country offers, or indeed, to neglect turning the habitual facilities of the natives to some account. Far from there existing any positive grounds for despairing of the progress of manufacturing industry, it may justly be presumed that, whenever the sovereign, by adopting a different line of policy, shall allow the unlimited and indistinct settlement of all kinds of foreign colonists, and grant them the same facilities and protection enjoyed by national ones, they will be induced to flock to the Philippine Islands in considerable numbers, lured by the hope of accumulating fortunes in a country that presents a thousand attractions of every kind. Many, no doubt, will preferably devote themselves to commerce, others to agricultural undertakings and also to the pursuits of mining, but necessarily some will turn their attention and employ their funds in the formation of extensive manufactures, aided by intelligent instructors and suitable machinery. The newly-introduced information and arts being thus diffused, it is natural to expect they will be progressively adopted by a people already possessing a taste and genius for this species of labor, by which means manufacturing industry will soon be raised from the state of neglect and unprofitableness in which it is now left.
[Internal commerce handicapped.] The circulation of the country productions and effects of all kinds among the inhabitants of the provinces, which, properly speaking, constitutes their internal commerce, is tolerably active and considerable. Owing to the great facilities of conveyance afforded by the number of rivers and lakes, on the margins of which the Filipinos are fond of fixing their dwellings, this commerce might be infinitely greater, if it was not obstructed by the monopoly of the magistrates in their respective districts and the unjust prerogative, exercised by the city, of imposing rates and arbitrary prices on the very persons who come to bring the supplies. Nevertheless, as the iniquituous operations of the district magistrates, however, active they may be, besides being restricted by their financial ability, regularly consist of arrangements to buy up only the chief articles, and those which promise most advantage, with least trouble; as that restless inquietude which impels man on, under the hope of bettering his condition, acts even amidst rigor of oppression, a certain degree of stimulus and scope is still left in favor of internal trade.
[Inter-island traffic.] Hence it follows, that there is scarcely an island or province, that does not carry on some traffic or other, by keeping up relations with its neighbors, which sometimes extend as far as the capital; where, in proportion as the produce and raw materials find a ready market, returns suitable and adequate to the consumption of each place, respectively, are obtained. If, however, it would be difficult to form an idea, even in the way of approximation, of the exchanges which take place between the various provinces, a task that would render it necessary to enumerate them, one by one, it is equally so to make an estimate of the total amount of this class of operation carried on in Manila, their common center. Situated in the bottom of an inmense bay, bathed by a large river, and the country round divided by an infinite number of streams and lakes descending from the provinces by which the capital is surrounded, the produce and effects are daily brought in and go out of suburbs so extended in a diversity of small vessels and canoes, without its being possible to obtain any exact account of the multiplicity of transactions carried on at one and the same time, in a city built on so large a scale.
[Local markets.] Besides the traffic founded on ordinary consumption, the necessity of obtaining assortments of home-manufactured as well as imported goods, in order to supply the markets, known by the name of tianguis, and which are held weekly in almost every town, there is another species of speculation, peculiar to the rich natives and Sangley mestizos, an industrious race, and also possessed of the largest portion of the specie. This consists in the anticipated purchase of the crops of indigo, sugar, rice, etc., with a view to fix their own prices on the produce thus contracted for, when resold to the second hand. A propensity to barter and traffic, in all kinds of ways, is indeed universal among the natives, and as the principal springs which urge on internal circulation are already in motion, nothing more is wanting than at once to destroy the obstacles previously pointed out, and encourage the extension of luxury and comforts, in order that, by the number of the people’s wants being increased, as well as the means of supplying them, the force and velocity of action may in the same proportion be augmented.
[External commerce.] Under “External Commerce” generally are comprised the relations the Philippine Islands keep up with other nations, with the Spanish possessions in America, and with the mother country; or, in other words, the sum total of their imports and exports.
[Outside deterrents.] Many are the causes which, within the last ten or twelve years, have influenced the mercantile relations of these Islands, and prevented their organization on permanent and known principles. The chief one, no doubt, has been the frequent and unforeseen changes, from peace to war, which have marked that unhappy period, and as under similar circumstances merchants, more than any other class of persons, are in the habit of acting on extremes, there have been occasions in which, misled by the exaggerated idea of the galleon of Acapulco, and anxious to avail themselves of the first prices, generally also the highest, foreign speculators have inundated Manila with goods, by a competition from all quarters; and others, owing to the channels being obstructed, when this market has experienced an absolute scarcity of commodities, as well as of funds necessary to continue the usual and almost only branch of commerce left. The frequent failure of the sugar and indigo crops, has also in many instances restrained the North Americans and other neutrals from coming to these Islands with cargoes, and induced them to prefer Java, where they are at all times sure of finding returns. Besides the influence of these extraordinary causes on the uncertainty and irregularity of external commerce, no small share must also be attributed to the strangeness of the peculiar constitution of the country, or the principles on which its trade is established.
[Domestic discouragements.] Scarcely will it be believed, in the greater part of civilized Europe, that a Spanish colony exists between Asia and America, whose merchants are forbidden to avail themselves of their advantageous situation, and that, as a special favor only are they allowed to send their effects to Mexico, once a year, but under the following restrictions. It is a necessary condition, that every shipper shall be a member of the Board of Trade (Consulado), and therein entitled to a vote, which supposes a residence of some years in the country, besides the possession of property of his own to the amount of $8,000. He is compelled to join with the other members, in order to be enabled to ship his goods in bales of a determined form and dimensions, in one single vessel, arranged, fitted out, and commanded by officers of the royal navy, under the character of a war ship. He has also to contribute his proportion of $20,000, which, in the shape of a present, are given to the commander, at the end of every round voyage. He cannot in any way interfere in the choice or qualities of the vessel, notwithstanding his property is to be risked in her; and what completes the extravagance of the system, is, that before anything is done he must pay down twenty-five or forty per cent for freight, according to circumstances, which money is distributed among certain canons of the church, aldermen, subalterns of the army, and widows of Spaniards, to whom a given number of tickets or certified permits to ship are granted, either as a compensation for the smallness of their pay, or in the way of a privilege; but on express conditions that, although they themselves are not members of the Board of Trade, they shall not be allowed to negotiate and transfer them to persons not having that quality. In the custom house nothing being admitted unless the number of bales shipped are accompanied by corresponding permits, and as it besides frequently happens that there is a degree of competition between the parties seeking to try their fortune in this way, the original holders of the permits very often hang back, in such a manner that I have seen $500 offered for the transfer of a right to ship three bales, which scarcely contained goods to the amount of $1,000. Such, nevertheless, is the truth, and such the exact description of the famous Acapulco ship, which has excited so much jealousy among the merchants of Seville and Cadiz, and given rise to such an infinite number of disputes and lawsuits.
[Business irregularities.] So complete a deviation from the rules and maxims usually received in trade, could not fail to produce in the Philippine Islands, as in fact it has, effects equally extraordinary with regard to those who follow this pursuit. The merchant of Manila is, in fact, entirely different from the one in Cadiz or Amsterdam. Without any correspondents in the manufacturing countries and consequently possessed of no suitable advices of the favorable variations in the respective markets, without brokers and even without regular books he seems to carry on his profession on no one fixed principle, and to have acquired his routine of business from mere habit and vague custom. His contracts are made out on stamped paper, and his bills or promissory notes no other than long and diffuse writings or bonds, of which the dates and amounts are kept more in the shape of bundles than by any due entry on his books; and what at once gives the most clear idea of this irregularity is the singular fact that, for the space of twenty-five and possibly fifty years, only one bankrupt has presented the state of his affairs to the Board of Trade, in conformity to the regulations prescribed by the general Statutes of Bankruptcy, whereas, numbers of cases have occurred in which these merchants have wasted or secreted the property of others with impunity. Hence have arisen those irregularities, subterfuges and disputes, in a word, the absence of all mercantile business carried on in a scrupulously punctual and correct manner. Hence, also, have followed that distrust and embarrassment with which commercial operations are attended, as well as the difficulty of calculating their fluctuations. On the other hand, as in order to send off an expedition by the annual ship to Acapulco, the previous consent of the majority of the incorporated merchants is necessary, before this point is decided, months are passed in intrigues and disputes, the peremptory period arrives, and if the articles wanted are in the market, they are purchased up with precipitation and paid for with the monies the shippers have been able to obtain at an interest from the administrators of pious and charitable funds. In this manner, compelled to act almost always without plan or concert, yet accustomed to gain in the market of Acapulco, notwithstanding so many impediments and the exorbitant premiums paid for the money lent, these merchants follow the strange maxim of risking little or no property of their own; and unaware, or rather, disregarding the importance of economy in the expenses and regularity of their general method of living, it is not possible they can ever accumulate large fortunes, or form solid and well-accredited houses.
[Merchants discouraged.] Thus oppressed by a system, as unjust as it is absurd, and conducting their affairs in the way above described, it is not strange that these gentlemen, at the same time yielding to the indolence consequent on the climate, should neglect or behold with indifference all the other secondary resources which the supplying the wants of the country and the extensive scope and variety of its produce offer to the man of active mind. Hence it follows, as already observed, that the whole of the interior trade is at present absorbed by the principal natives, the Sangley mestizos of both sexes, and a few Chinese peddlers.
[The outlook brightening.] Notwithstanding, however, the defective manner in which the generality of the merchants act, some already are beginning to distinguish themselves by the prudence of their conduct, by forwarding, in time, their orders to the manufacturers of India and China, and, in other respects guiding themselves by the principles which characterize the intelligent merchant. Finally, it is to be presumed that, as soon as the government shall have thrown down this singular and preposterous system that has been the cause of so many disorders, and proclaimed the unlimited freedom of Philippine commerce, the greater part of these people will rise up from the state of inaction in which they now live, and the relations of the colony will then assume the course and extent corresponding to its advantages of position. At least, if our national merchants should not act up to the impulse given to all kinds of mercantile enterprises by the beneficial hand of the sovereign, foreigners will not be wanting, who, relying on due toleration, will be induced to convey their fortunes and families to the Philippine Islands, and, vigorously encouraging the exportation of their valuable productions, amply secure the fruits of their laudable activity and well-combined speculations.
[Capital employed in commerce.] Were a person, judging from the numbers constituting the body of registered merchants, and supposing all of them to possess the essential requisites prescribed by our commercial regulations, to form a prudent estimate of the amount of capital employed by them, his calculations would turn out extremely erroneous, for besides the case with which regulations of this kind are eluded, many are merely nominal traders, and there are others whose mercantile existence is purely artificial for they are sustained in a temporary manner, by means of a forced species of circulation peculiar to this country. This consists in obtaining the acquiescence of the administrators of pious and charitable funds, let out at interest, to renew the bonds they hold during other successive risks, waiting, as it were, till some fatal tempest has swallowed up the vessel in which these merchants suppose their property to be embarked, and at once cancel all their obligations. On the other hand, neither excessive expenses nor the shipment of large quantities of goods to Acapulco can in any way be taken as a just criterion whereby to judge of the fortunes of individuals; because, in the first, there is great uniformity, every one, more or less, enjoying, exteriorly, the same easy circumstances, notwithstanding the disparity of real property; and in the second, considerable fiction prevails, many persons shipping under the same mark, and even when the shipper stands alone, he might have been provided with the necessary funds from the pious and charitable establishments, possibly without risking a dollar of his own in the whole operation. Under circumstances so dubious, far from presuming to give a decided opinion on the subject, I am compelled to judge from mere conjectures, and guided only by the knowledge and experience I have been able to acquire during my long residence there. In conformity thereto, I am inclined to believe, that the total amount of capital belonging to and employed in the trade of the Philippine Islands, does not at present exceed two and a half million dollars, with evident signs of rapid decline, if the merchants do not in time abandon the ruinous systems of chiefly carrying on their speculations with money obtained at interest.
[Large sums hoarded.] The two and a half million dollars thus attributed to the merchants, form, however, the smaller part of the funds distributed among the other classes, and the total amount of the circulating medium of the colony might be considered an object sufficiently worthy of being ascertained, owing to the great light it would throw on the present state of the inhabitants; but it is in vain to attempt any calculation of the kind, at least without the aid of data possessing a certain degree of accuracy. The only thing that can be affirmed is, that during the period of more than two hundred and fifty years which have elapsed since the conquest, the ingress of specie into the Philippine Islands has been constant. Their annual ships have seldom come from New Spain without bringing considerable sums in return, and if some of them have been lost, many others, without being confined to the one million of dollars constituting the ordinary amount of the permit, have not unfrequently come back with triple that sum; for which reason there are ample grounds of judging the estimates correct, which fix the total importation of dollars, during the whole of that long period of years, to be equal to four hundred millions. It may further be observed that, as in the Sangley mestizos economy and avarice compete with intelligence and activity in accumulating wealth and as they are scattered, among the principal islands, and in possession of the best lands and the most lucrative business of the interior, there are ample motives for presuming that these industrious and sagacious people have gradually, although incessantly, amassed immense sums in specie; but it would be impossible to point out their amount, distribution, or the secret places in which they are hoarded.
[Pious and charitable funds’ capital.] The assemblage of pious legacies, temporalities, and other funds and property placed under the care of several administrative committees, for purposes as well religious as charitable, constitute the chief capital employed in external trade; and notwithstanding the failures, which from time to time occur, the subsequent accumulation of the enormous premiums obtained for funds laid out in maritime speculations, both in time of peace and war, not only suffices to make up all losses of the above kind, but also to secure the punctual payment of such charitable pensions and other charges as are to be deducted from the respective profits of this species of stock, its total amount, according to an official report made by order of the head committee of the sinking fund, including temporalities, and Queen Maria of Austria’s endowment for the College of Las Marianas, together with other funds of the same kind, not comprehended in the decree of abolition, at the commencement of the year 1809, amounted to $2,470,390, and as the sea-risks of that and the following year were successful, and the outstanding amounts punctually recovered, the aggregate sum, arising out of the above description of property, may now be estimated at more than three millions. Of these funds three distributions are generally made, viz., one part is appropriated to the China risks, at from twelve to eighteen per cent. premium, according to circumstances, and also those to Madras, Calcutta and Batavia, at from sixteen to twenty-two per cent. The second, which generally is in the largest proportion, is employed in risks to Acapulco, at various premiums, from 27 to 45 per cent.; and the third is left in hand, as a kind of guarantee of the stability of the original endowments.
[Coveted by Spanish treasury.] In the great exigencies of the Royal Treasury, experienced during the last years of the administration of Sr. Soler, the royal decree of Consolidación was extended to the Philippine Islands, under the pretext of guarding the funds belonging to public charities and religious endowments ... sea-risks, the income of which, when secured on good mortgages, does not generally exceed five per cent, many in Spain not yielding above four; but the remarkable difference between this plan and the one above described, together with various and other weighty reasons alleged by the administrators, caused the dreaded effect of this new regulation to be suspended, and whilst the head committee of Manila were consulting their doubts and requesting fresh instructions from the court at home, orders came out not to make any alteration in measures relating to this description of property.
[Easy capital but lessened profits.] Accustomed, in their limited calculations, to identify the resources, offered by the funds belonging to this class of establishments, with the very existence of the colony, the needy merchants easily confound their personal with the general interest; and few stop to consider that the identical means of carrying on trade, without any capital of their own, although they have accidentally enriched a small number of persons, eventually have absorbed the principal profits, and possibly been the chief cause of the unflourishing state of the colony at large. Without fearing the charge of rashness, it may, in fact, be asserted, that if these charities and pious endowments had never existed, public prosperity in the Philippine Islands would, as in other parts, have been the immediate effect of the united efforts of the individual members of the community and of the experience acquired in the constant prosecution of the same object. As, however, a progress of this kind, although certain, must necessarily have been at first extremely slow, and as, on the other hand, the preference given to mercantile operations undertaken with the funds belonging to public charities, has its origin in the assemblage of vices so remarkable in the very organization of the body of Philippine merchants, any new measure on this subject might be deemed inconsistent, that at once deprived them of the use of resources on which they had been accustomed to rely, without removing those other defects which excuse, if not encourage, the continuation of the present system. Without, therefore, appealing to violent remedies, it is to be hoped that, in order to render plans of reform effectual, it will be sufficient, under more propitious circumstances, to see property brought from other countries to these Islands, as well as persons coming to settle in them, capable of managing it with that intelligence and economy required by trade. The competition of those who speculate at random would then cease, or what is the same, as money obtained at a premium could not then be laid out with the same advantages by the merchants as if it was their own, it will be necessary to renounce the fallacious profits held out by the public charities, till at least they are placed on a level with existing circumstances, and brought in to be of real service to the honorable planter and laborious merchant, in their accidental exigencies, ceasing to be, as hitherto, the indirect cause of idleness, dissipation, and the ruin of an infinite number of families.
[Mercantile shipping.] The vessels which the district magistrates of the provinces employ in carrying on their trade with the capital and those belonging to some of the richer merchants, together with such as are owned by the natives and mestizos, on an approximate calculation, amount to twelve thousand tons, including ships, brigs, schooners, galleys, barges, etc. For the want of better data, this estimate is founded only on reasonable conjecture, aided by the advice of experienced persons, for although the greatest part of these vessels are built by the natives in the neighborhood of their own towns, no register is kept of their number and dimensions, nor do they carry with them the usual certificates. Those belonging to the merchants, that is, ships and brigs of a certain size, have already begun to frequent the ports of China, Java, the coast of Coromandel, Bengal, and the Isle of France, availing themselves of the lucrative freights which formerly enriched and encouraged foreign shipping. The other class of vessels, although perfectly adequate to the coasting trade, cannot in general be applied to larger enterprises, on account of their not being sufficiently strong and capacious. The seamen are not apprenticed, or as it is usually called, matriculated, but their frequent crossing from island to island, their familiarity with regional tempests, voyages to various parts of America, and the occupation of fishing followed by the inhabitants of the coast, serve to train up a large body of dexterous and able mariners who at all times can be had, without any compulsion, to complete the crews.
[Need of nautical school.] The want of a public school for the teaching of navigation, is, however, sensibly felt, as well as great inconvenience from the scarcity of persons capable of being trusted with the command of vessels, and the ignorance that prevails of the waters of this dangerous Archipelago. Repeated royal orders have been sent over for the board of trade to proceed to the institution of so useful an establishment, and in the meantime, a medium has been resorted to in order to supply the deficiency, by allowing the free admission of foreign mates, provided they exhibit proofs of their acquaintance with navigation, and profess the Catholic worship. Shipowners nevertheless experience great difficulties, particularly at times when the Acapulco ship is fitting out, for although she is considered as a vessel of war, and commanded by officers of the royal navy, the plan of her equipment is so singular, that in addition, she requires the extra aid of one chief mate, and three under ones.
[Royal Phillipine company.] The various modifications this corporate body has successively experienced, have, in great measure, changed the essence of its original constitution, and the remonstrances of its directors, founded on the experience of a long series of years, at length induced the government at home to sanction alterations dictated by existing circumstances. The project of raising these Islands from the neglected state in which they were, and in some measure to place them in contact with the mother country, accompanied by a wish to give a new and great impulse to the various branches of industry which constitute the importance of a colony, could not have been more laudable; but, as was afterwards seen, the instrument employed was not adequate to the object in view. At the same time that the company were charged to promote, and, by means of their funds, to vivify the agriculture and industry of these provinces, the necessary powers and facilities to enable them to reap the fruits of their sacrifices were withheld. The protection granted to this establishment, did not go beyond a general recommendation in favor of its enterprises, and, in short, far from enjoying the exclusive preponderance obtained at their commencement by all the other Asiatic companies, that of the Philippine Islands labored under particular disadvantages.
[Local progress under adverse conditions.] Notwithstanding an organization so imperfect, scarcely had the agents of the new Company arrived at Manila, when they distributed through the country their numerous dependents, commissioned to encourage the natives by advances of money. They established subaltern factories in the Provinces of Ilocos, Bataan, Cavite, and Camarines; purchased lands; delivered out agricultural implements; founded manufacturies of cotton cloths; contracted for the crops of produce at very high prices; offered rewards and, in short, they put in motion every partial resources they were able to avail themselves of and their limited means allowed. It would be extremely easy for me, in this place, to enter a particular enumeration of the important services of this kind rendered by the company, and to exhibit, in the most evident point of view, the advantages thence derived to these Islands, if, besides being slightly touched upon in the preceding articles, this task had not been already ably performed by the Factor Don Juan Francisco Urroz, in his accurate report on this subject, addressed to the governing committee of the company, in 1803. In justice I will nevertheless observe, that this establishment, anxiously resolved to attain the end proposed, in spite of so many obstacles, constantly followed up its expensive system without being disheartened; nor did the contrarieties with which the Royal Audiencia, or High Court of Justice, frequently paralyzed its plans, the indifference of the governors, or the general opposition and jealousy of the other classes, in any way tend to relax its efforts, till at length, convinced of the impossibility of successfully contending, alone and without any other arms than its own reduced capital; and, on the other hand, well aware that a political body of this kind in vain seeks to unite within itself the triple and opposite characters of agriculturalist, manufaturer, and merchant, a determination was taken to alter the plan, and withdraw the factories established in the provinces, and by adopting a rigid economy and confining the operations in future to the purchase of such produce and manufactured articles as suited their trade, and were voluntarily brought by the natives to their stores, the expenses of the Company were curtailed, and a plan of reform introduced into all their speculations. By this means also they always secured an advantageous vent for the productions of the country, after having been the chief spring by which agriculture was promoted and encouraged in a direct manner.
[Handicapped in outside trade] The most beneficial reform, however, introduced by this establishment into its system, has, in reality, been derived from the variation or rather correction of its plans and enterprises, purely maritime. The government being desirous to increase the relations of this colony by every possible means, and to convert it into a common center of all the operations of the new company, at first required of the agents that the purchases and collection of goods from the coast of Coromandel, Bengal, and China, destined for Spain, should take place at Manila, either by purchasing the articles in that market, or through the medium of previous contracts to deliver them there. From this it is easy to infer, that the company was infallibly exposed to the harsh terms the respective contractors sought to impose upon them, as well with regard to prices as qualities, unless, in many cases, they preferred being left without the necessary assortments. Hence may it, without the smallest exaggeration, be affirmed, that, summing up all the surcharges under which the shipments left the port of Manila, and comparing them with those which might have been sent direct from the above-mentioned points, and without so extraordinary a détour as the one prescribed by law, the difference that followed in the prime cost of the cargos was not less than 80 per cent. The urgent manner, however, in which the directors of the company did not cease to deplore and complain of so evident a hardship, at length had the desired effect, and after existing ten or twelve years, so preposterous a system was successfully overthrown, and permission obtained from the king for the establishment of Spanish factories in the neighborhood of the China and India manufactures, as well as the power of addressing shipments direct to those foreign dominions. The enlightened policy of their respective governments did not allow them to hesitate in giving a favorable reception to our factors and vessels, and the purchases and shipments of Asiatic goods being thus realized without the old obstructions, the Company was reasonably led to hope being able soon to increase its operations, and progressively present more satisfactory results to the shareholders, when those political convulsions succeeding soon after, which have unhinged or destroyed all the ordinary relations of trade, compelled them to abandon their hopes, till the wished-for calm should be again restored.
[Temporary expedient of 1803.] In consequence of the new character and route given to the commercial enterprises of the Company, as authorized by a royal decree of July 12, 1803, the functions of the Manila factors were reduced to the annual shipment of a cargo of Asiatic goods to Peru, valued at $500,000, but only as long as the war lasted, and till the expiration of the extraordinary permits granted through the goodness of the king, and also to the transmitting to China and Bengal of the specie brought from America, and the collecting of certain quantities of indigo, sugar, or other produce of the Islands, with a view to gain by reselling it in the same market. Consequently, the moment things return to their pacific and ordinary course, will be the period when the necessity of the future existence of this establishment will cease, or at least, when the propriety will be evident of its reform or assimilation to the other commission houses, carrying on trade in Vera Cruz, Mexico, etc., which, not being hired establishments, do not create expenses when they cease to transact business.