The Former Philippines thru Foreign Eyes
By Fedor Jagor et al
Public Domain Books
[Competition of foreign merchants.] Against a measure of this kind it would be useless to allege, that, “by the exclusive privilege to introduce spirits and European effects into the colony, the Company has contracted the obligation of always keeping it properly supplied; that their very institution had for the basis the general improvement of the Islands, and in order duly to comply with these duties, it becomes indispensably necessary to keep up the present expensive establishment;” for, in the first place, in order, to render it incumbent on the company to introduce an indefinite quantity of European articles, it previously would be necessary to provide a vent for them, and this can never be the case, unless the exclusion of all competitors in the market is rigorously carried into effect. As things now are, the North Americans, English, French, and every other nation that wishes, openly usurped this privilege, by constantly inundating the Islands with spirits and all kinds of effects, and it is very evident that this same abuse which authorizes the infraction of the above privilege, if in that light it could in any way be considered, totally exonerates the company from all obligations by them contracted under a different understanding. Besides, the circumstances which have taken place since the publication of the royal decree, creating the above establishment into a corporate body, in the year 1785, have entirely changed the order established in this respect. In the first place, the port of Manila has been opened to foreign nations, in consequence of the distinterested representations of the company itself, and for the direct advantage of general trade; nor was it necessary to prevent our new guests from abusing the facilities thus granted to them, and much less to confine them to the mere introduction of Asiatic goods, the original plea made use of. In the second, as soon as the inhabitants of the Philippine Islands became familiar with the more useful and elegant objects of convenience and luxury, which they were enabled to purchase from foreigners, at reasonable prices, it was natural for them to pay little regard to the superfluous aid of the company, more particularly when the latter were no longer able to sustain the competition, either in the sale or supply of a multitude of articles, which, thanks to our own national simplicity, are scarcely known in Spain, whence their outward-bound cargoes are divided. Hence it follows that, far from the importation and supplies of the company being missed, it may with great reason be presumed, that this formal renunciation of this ideal privilege of theirs, must rather have contributed to secure, in a permanent manner, adequate supplies for all the wants and whims of the inhabitants of the colony; and that the publicity of such a determination would act as a fresh allurement successively to bring to the port of Manila a host of foreign speculators, anxious to avail themselves of a fresh opening for commercial pursuits.
[Company not a philanthropy.] The other objection, founded on the mistaken notion of its being inherent in, and belonging to, the very essence of the company, to promote the general improvement of the Philippine Islands, if well considered, will appear equally unjust. It is, in fact, a ridiculous, although too generally received, a prejudice to suppose, that the founders of this establishment proposed to themselves the plan of sinking the money of the shareholders in clearing the lands, and perfecting the rude manufactures of these distant Islands. To imagine this to have been one of the principal objects of the institution, or to suppose that, on this hard condition, their various privileges and exemptions were granted to them, is so far from the reality of the fact, that it would only be necessary to read with attention the 26th article of the quoted royal decree of creation, in order more correctly to comprehend the origin and constitutive system of this political body.
“The latter,” says the Duke de Almodovar, “is reduced to two principal points: the first of which is the carrying of the trade of Asia with that of America and Europe; and the second, the encouragement and improvement of the productions and manufacturing industry of the Islands. The one is the essential attribute of the company, constituting its real character of a mercantile society; and, in the other respect, it becomes an auxiliary of the government, to whom the duties alluded to more immediately belong.” If to the above we add the preamble of the 43rd article of the new decree of 1803, the recommendation, made to the company, to contribute to the prosperity of the agriculture and manufacturing industry of the Islands, will appear as a limited and secondary consideration; for even if the question were carried to extremes, it could never extend to any more than the application of four per cent of the annual profits of the company indistinctly to both branches. If, however, any doubts still remained, the explanation or solution recently given to this question would certainly remove them; because, by the simple fact of its being expressed in the latter part of the aforesaid 43rd article, [Profit percent to go to Spain.] “That the above-mentioned four per cent was to be laid out, with the king’s approbation, in behalf of the agriculture and manufacturing industry of Spain and the Philippine Islands,” it is clear that the king reserves and appropriates to himself the investment of the amount to be deducted from the general dividends, in order to apply it where and how may be deemed most advisable. Consequently, far from considering the company in that respect under an obligation to contribute to the improvement of the Philippines exclusively, the only thing that can be required of them, when their charter is withdrawn, is, the repayment to the royal treasury of the four per cent on their profits, for a purpose so vaguely defined. In following up this same train of argument, it would seem that, in order to render the amount to be deducted from the eventual profits of the company, in the course of time, a productive capital in the hands of the sovereign, the funds of the society not only ought not to be diverted to the continuation of projects which consume them, but, on the contrary, it is necessary to place at their disposal the direct means by which these funds can be increased, in order to make up to the company in some measure the enormous losses experienced of late years, and at once free their commerce from the shackles with which it has hitherto been obstructed.
[Need of special privileges] Finally, after twenty-four years of impotent and gratuitous efforts in the Philippines, and of the most obstinate opposition on the part of their rivals, it is now time for the company, by giving up the ungrateful struggle, to reform in every respect their expensive establishment in Manila, and to direct their principal endeavors to carry into effect the project so imperfectly traced out in the new decree of 1803. The opinion of the most vehement enemies of the privileged bodies tacitly approves this exception in their favor. Adam Smith, avowedly hostile to all monopolies, feels himself compelled to confess that, “without the incentives which exclusive companies offer to the individuals of a nation carrying on little trade, possibly their confined capitals would cease to be destined to the remote and uncertain enterprises which constitute a commerce with the East Indies.”
[Spanish commerce in its infancy.] Our commerce, compared with that of other nations, notwithstanding what may be said on this subject, is most assuredly yet in a state of infancy. That with Asia, more especially, with the exception of the Royal Company, is almost unknown to all other classes. If it is, therefore, wished to exclude our many rivals from so lucrative a branch of trade as that which constitutes supplies for the consumption of the Peninsula and its dependencies, the means are obvious. The most material fact is in fact already done. The navigation to the various ports of Asia is familiar to the company’s navy; their factors and clerks have acquired a practical knowledge of that species of trade, essential to the undertaking, as well as such information as was at first unknown; but, after the great misfortune this body has experienced, it will be indispensably necessary to aid and invigorate them with large supplies of money, following the example of other governments in similar cases; in order that the successful issue of their future operations may compensate their past losses, and worthily correspond with the magnitude of the object.
[Philippines a burden to Spain.] This Asiatic colony, although considered as conferring great lustre on the crown and name of our monarch, by exhibiting the vast extent of the limits of his dominions, has in reality been, during a long series of years, a true burden to the government, or at least, a possession whose chief advantages have redounded in favor of other powers, rivals of our maritime importance. Notwithstanding all that has been said on the score of real utility, certain it is, that the Philippine establishment has cost the treasury large sums of money; although, within the last twenty-five or thirty years, it must be confessed that the public revenues has experienced a considerable increase, and, of itself, has become an object of some consequence to the state.
[Profit from tobacco monopoly and foreign trade.] Among the various causes which have contributed to produce so favorable an alteration, the chief one have been the establishment of the tobacco monopoly, on behalf of the crown, and the opening of the port of Manila to the flag of other nations, at peace with Spain. The first has considerably increased the entries into the public treasury, and the second has tended to multiply the general mass of mercantile operations, independent of the other beneficial effects this last measure must have produced in a country, whose resources, trade and consumption had, from the time of the conquest, experienced the fatal shackles imposed by jealousy and ignorance.
[Improvement in public finances.] The improved aspect the colony soon assumed, by the introduction of this new system, as was natural, awakened the attention of ministers, and induced them more easily to consent to the measures subsequently proposed to them, principally intended to place those distant dominions on a footing of permanent security, so as to enable them to repel any fresh attempts on the part of an enemy. As, however, the productions of the country increased, the public expenses also became greater, although always in a much smaller proportion, with the exception of the interval between the years 1797 and 1802, when the government, fearful of a second invasion, was compelled, at its own expense, to provide against the danger with which these Islands were then threatened. If, therefore, as appears from the official reports of the treasurer-general, Larzabal, in my possession, the receipts at the treasury, in 1780, amounted only to $700,000 including the situado, or annual allowance for the expenses of government sent from New Spain, and after the ordinary charges of administration had been paid, a surplus of $170,000 remained in the hands of the treasurer; at present we have the satisfaction to find that the revenue is equal to $2,625,176.50 and the expenses do not exceed $2,179,731.87 by which means an annual surplus of $445,444.62 is left, applicable to the payment of the debt contracted during the extraordinary period above mentioned, now reduced to about $900,000 and afterwards transferable to the general funds belonging to the crown.
[Economy over Spanish-American colonial administration.] With regard to the administrative system, it is in every respect similar to the one observed in our governments of America, with this difference only, that, in the Philippine Islands, greater economy prevails in salaries, as well as in the number of persons employed. In former times, the establishment of intendencies, or boards of administration, was deemed expedient in Manila, Ilocos, Camarines, Iloilo, and Cebu; but they were soon afterwards reformed, or rather laid aside, on account of their being deemed superfluous. I would venture to state the grounds on which this opinion was then formed; but, as the sphere in which the king’s revenue acts in these Islands increases and extends, which naturally will be the case if the plans and improvements dictated by the present favorable circumstances are carried into effect, I do not hesitate to say that it will be necessary again to appeal to the establishment of a greater number of boards for the management and collection of the various branches of the revenue, whether they are called intendencies, or by any other name; as it will be extremely difficult for the administration to do its duty, on the confined and inadequate plan under which it is at present organized.
[Fiscal system.] Under its existing form, it is constituted in the following manner: The governor of the Islands, in his quality of superintendent or administrator general, and as uniting in himself the powers of intendent of the army, presides at the board of administration of the king’s revenue, which is placed in the immediate charge of a treasurer and two clerks. The principal branches have their respective general directors, on whom the provincial administrators depend, and the civil magistrates, in the quality of sub-delegates, collect within their respective districts, the tributes paid by the natives in money and produce, and manage everything else relating to the king’s revenue. In ordinary cases, the general laws of the Indies govern, and especially are the ordinances or regulations of the Intendents of New Spain (Mexico) ordered to be observed in the Philippines. It ought further to be observed, that, in these Islands, the same as in all the vice-royalties and governments of America, there is a distinct body of royal decrees in force, which, in themselves, constitute a code of considerable size.
[Opposition to tobacco monopoly.] The process of converting the consumption of tobacco into a monopoly met with a most obstinate resistance on the part of the inhabitants, and the greatest circumspection and constancy were necessary for the governor, Don José Basco, to carry this arduous enterprise into effect. Accustomed to the cultivation of this plant without any restriction whatever, and habituated to its use from their infancy, it appeared to the people the extreme of rashness to seek simultaneously to extirpate it from the face of the greatest part of the Island of Luzon, in order to confine its culture within the narrow limits of a particular district. They were equally revolted at the idea of giving to a common article a high and arbitrary value, when, besides, it had become one of the first necessity. Every circumstance, however, being dispassionately considered, and the principle once admitted that it was expedient for the colony to maintain itself by means the least burdensome to the inhabitants, it certainly must be acknowledged that, although odious on account of its novelty and defective in the mode of its execution, a resource more productive and at the same time less injurious, could not have been devised. Hence was it that the partisans of the opposite system were strangely misled, by founding their calculation on false data, when they alleged that a substitute, equivalent to the increased revenue supposed to arise out of the monopoly of tobacco, might have been resorted to by ordering a proportionate rise in the branch of tributes. In fact, no one who had the least experience in matters of this kind, can be ignorant of the open repugnance the natives have always evinced to the payment of the ordinary head-tax (cedula), and the broils to which its collection has given rise. Besides, if well examined, no theory is more defective and more oppressive on account of the disparity with which it operates, than this same wrongly-boasted impost; for, however desirous it may be to simplify the method of collecting the general revenue of a state, if the best plan is to be adopted, that is, if public burdens are to be rendered the least obnoxious, it is necessary preferably to embrace the system of indirect contribution, in which class, to a certain degree, the monopoly of all those articles may be considered as included which are not rigorously of the first necessity, and only compel the individual to contribute when his own will induce him to become a consumer.
[Doubling of insular revenue thru tobacco.] Let this be as it may, certain it is, that to Governor Basco we are indebted for having doubled the annual amount of the revenue of these Islands, by merely rendering the consumption of tobacco subservient to the wants of the crown. It was he who placed these Islands in the comfortable situation of being able to subsist without being dependent on external supplies of money to meet the exigencies of government. It ought, however, to be remarked that, although they have been in the habit of receiving the annual allowance of $250,000 for which a standing credit was opened by the government at home on the general treasury of New Spain, considerable sums have, nevertheless, on various occasions, been remitted from the Philippines to Spain, through the channel of the Captain-General. * * * If these remittances have been suspended for some years past, it has evidently been owing to the imperious necessity of applying the ordinary proceeds of the revenue, as well as other extraordinary means, to unforeseen contingencies arising out of peculiar circumstances.
[Tobacco belt.] The planting and cultivation of tobacco are now confined to the district of Gapan, in Pampanga Province, to that of Cagayan, and to the small Island of Marinduque. The amount of the crops raised in the above three points and sold to the king, may, on an average, be estimated at fifty thousand bales, grown in the following proportion: Gapan, forty-seven thousand bales; Cagayan, two thousand, and Marinduque, one thousand. This stock, resold at the monopoly prices, yields a sum equal to about one million of dollars, and deducting therefrom the prime cost and all other expenses, legally chargeable on this branch, the net proceeds in favor of the revenue amount to $550,000 or upwards of one hundred twenty-two per cent. This profit is so much more secure, as it rests on the positive fact that, however great the quantity of the article sold furtively and by evading the vigilance of the guards, as the demand and consumption are excessive and always exceed the stock on hand, a ready sale cannot fail to be had for all the stock placed in the hands of the agents of the monopoly. From this it may also be inferred how much the net proceeds of this branch would be increased, if without venturing too far in extending the plantations and consequent purchases, care was taken to render the supplies more proportionate to the consumption; for, by a clear profit of one hundred twenty-two per cent, falling on a larger capital, it follows that a corresponding result would be obtained. In a word, the sales, far from declining or being in any way deemed precarious, are susceptible of a great increase, consequently this branch of revenue merits the serious attention of government beyond all others.
[Defective sales system.] It is, however, to be lamented that, instead of every facility being given to the sale of tobacco and the consumption thus encouraged, the public meet with great difficulties and experience such frequent obstacles and deficiencies in the supplies, that with truth it may also be said, the sales are affected in spite of the administrators themselves. In the capital alone it is a generally received opinion that a third part more would there be consumed, if, instead of compelling the purchaser to receive the tobacco already manufactured or folded, he was allowed to take it from the stores in its primitive state; and if the minor establishments in the provinces were constantly supplied with good qualities, an infinitely larger quantity might be sold, and by this means a great deal of smuggling also prevented. Such, however, is the neglect and irregularity in this department, that it frequently happens in towns somewhat distant from Manila, no other tobacco is to be met with than what the smugglers sell, and if, perchance, any is to be found in the monopoly stores, it is usually of the worst quality that can be imagined.
[Loss from preventable causes.] I pass over, in silence, the other defects gradually introduced, as evils, in a greater or lesser degree, inseparable from this part of public administration in every country in which it has been deemed necessary to establish monopolies; but I cannot refrain from again insisting on the urgency with which those in power ought to devote themselves, firmly and diligently, to the destruction of abuses which have hitherto paralyzed the progress of the branch in question, because I am well persuaded, that, whenever corresponding means are adopted, it will be possible in a short time to double the proceeds. What these means are, it is not easy, nor indeed essential, to particularize in a rapid sketch, like this, of the leading features and present state of the Philippine Islands. I shall, therefore, merely remark, that it will be in vain to wish the persons engaged in the management of this department to exert their real zeal and sincerely co-operate in the views of government, as long as they are not placed beyond the necessity of following other pursuits and gaining a livelihood in another way; in a word, unless they have a salary assigned them, corresponding to the confidence and value of the important object entrusted to their charge, no plan of reform can be rendered efficient.
[Abuses by revenue officers.] At the same time steps are taken to augment the revenue arising out of tobacco, it would be desirable, as much as possible, to improve the methods used with regard to those who gather in the crops, by endeavoring to relieve them from the heavy conditions imposed upon them; conditions which, besides exposing them to the odious effects of revenue-laws, by their very nature bring upon them many unpleasant consequences, and often total ruin. In order that a correct opinion may be formed of these defects, it will suffice to observe that, under pretext of preventing smuggling, the guards and their agents watch, visit, and, if I may use the expression, live among the plantations from the moment the tobacco-seedlings appear above ground, till the crops are gathered in. After compelling the Filipino planter to cut off the head of the stem, in order that the plant may not become too luxurious, the surveyors then proceed to set down, not only the number of plants cultivated on each estate, but even the very leaves of each, distinguishing their six qualities, in order to call the farmers to account, respectively, when they make a defective delivery into the general stores. In the latter case, they are compelled to prove the death of the plants and even to account for the leaves missing when counted over again, under the penalty of being exposed to the rigor of the revenue laws.
[Burdensome and unprofitable inspection.] It cannot indeed be denied that by this means two important objects are attained, at one and the same time; the one, the gradual improvement of the tobacco, and the other, the greater difficulty of secreting the article; but, on the other hand, how great are the inconveniences incurred? Independent of the singularity and consequent oppression of a regulation of this kind, as well as its too great minuteness and complication, it is attended with very considerable expenses, and renders it necessary to keep on foot a whole army of guards and clerks, who tyrannize over and harass the people without any real motive for such great scrupulosity and profusion. I make this observation because I cannot help thinking that the same results might nearly be obtained, by adopting a more simple and better regulated system. I am not exactly aware of the one followed in the Island of Cuba, but as far as I understand the matter, it is simply reduced to this: the growers there merely present their bales to the inspectors, and if pronounced to be sound and good, the stipulated amount is paid over to them; but if the quality is bad, the whole is invariably burnt. Thus all sales detrimental to the public revenue are prevented, and I do not see why the same steps could not be taken in the Philippine Islands. It must not, however, be understood, that I presume to speak in a decisive tone on a subject so extremely delicate, and that requires great practical information, which, I readily acknowledge, I do not possess. I merely wish by means of these slight hints, to contribute to the commencement of a reform in abuses, and to promote the adoption of a plan that may have for basis the relief of the growers, and at the same time advance the prosperity of this part of the royal revenue.
[Coco and nipa wine monopoly.] The monopoly of coco and nipa, or palm-wine, is a branch of public revenue of sufficient magnitude to merit the second place among the resources rendered available to the expenditure of these Islands, converted into a monopoly some years ago. In like manner as the consumption of tobacco, it has experienced several changes in its plan of administration, this being at one time carried on, for account of the king, at others, by the privilege being let out at auction; till at length the Board of Control, convinced of the great profit gained by the contractors, resolved at once to take the direction of this departure under their own charge, and make arrangement for its better administration. Having with this view established general deposits and licensed houses for the sale of native wine, with proper superintending clerks they soon began to reap the fruits of so judicious a determination. In 1780, the privilege of selling the coco and nipa wine was farmed out, to the highest bidder, for no more than $45,200 and subsequently the increase has been so great, owing to the improvements adopted, that at present net proceeds equal to $200,000 on an average may be relied upon. In proof of this, the proceeds of this branch, in the year 1809, may be quoted, when the total balances received at the Treasury, after all expenses had been paid, amounted to $221,426, in the following manner:
Administration of Manila and district $201,250 Administration of La Pampanga and district 12,294 Administration of Pangasinan and district 7,882 –– $221,426
The prime cost and other expenses that year amounted to no more than $168,557 by which means, on the whole operation, a net profit of thirteen and one-half per cent. resulted in favor of the treasury.
[Wine monopoly district.] The monopoly of native wine comprehends the whole of the Island of Luzon, excepting the Provinces of Cagayan, Zambales, Nueva Ecija, Camarines and Albay, and is under the direction of three administrators, who act independently of each other in their respective districts, and have at their disposal a competent number of guards. These administrators receive in the licensed establishments the coco and nipa wines, at prices stipulated by the growers. That of the coco is paid for at the rate of two dollars per jar, containing twenty gantas, equal to twelve arrobas, seven azumbres and half a cuartillo, Castilian measure, and at fourteen reals in the places nearest the depots. The nipa wine is laid at six and one-half reals the jar, indistinctly; prices which, although extremely low, are still considered advantageous by the Filipinos themselves, more particularly when it is besides understood, that, from the circumstance of their being growers of this article, they are exempted from military service, as well as several other taxes and public charges.
[Coco-wine.] The coco-wine is a weak spirit, obtained in the following manner: The tree that produces this fruit is crowned by an assemblage of large flowers or corollas, from the center or calix of which issues a fleshy stem, filled with juice. The Indian cuts the extremity of this stem, and inclining the remainder in a lateral manner, introduces it into a large hollow tube which remains suspended, and is found full of sweet and sticky liquor, which the tree in this manner yields twice in every twenty-four hours. ["Tuba”.] This liquid, called tuba, in the language of the country, is allowed to ferment for eight days in a large vessel, and afterwards distilled by the Indians in their uncouth stills, which are no other than large boilers, with a head made of lead or tin, rendered tight by means of clay, and with a pipe frequently made out of a simple cane, which conveys the spirit to the receiving vessels, without passing, like the serpentine tube used in ordinary stills, through the cooling vats, which so greatly tends to correct the vices of a too quick evaporation. The tuba, obtained in level and hot situations, is much more spirituous than that produced in cold and shady places. In the first, six jars of juice are sufficient to yield one of spirit, and in the latter, as many as eight are requisite; a much greater number, however, would be wanted to rectify this spirit so as to render it equal to what is usually known by Hollands proof. I am not positively certain what degree of strength the coco-brandy, or as it is usually called coco-wine, possesses, but it is evidently inferior to the weakest made in Spain from the juice of the grape. The only circumstance required for it to be approved of, and received into the monopoly-stores, is its being easily ignited by the application of a lighted candle.
[Nipa brandy.] The nipa is a small tree of the class of palms, which grows in a very bushy form, and multiplies and prospers greatly on the margins of rivers and watery tracts of land. The tuba, or juice, is extracted from the tree whilst in its flowering state, in the same way as that of the coco, and afterwards distilled by a similar process; but it is more spirituous, from six to six and a half jars being sufficient to yield one of wine. The great difference remarked in the prices of these two species of liquor, arises out of the great number of uses to which the fruit of the cocal or coco tree is applicable, and the increase of expense and labor requisite to obtain the juice, owing to the great height of the plant, and the frequent dangers to which the caritones, or gatherers, are exposed in passing from one tree to another, which they do by sliding along a simple cane (bamboo).
[Little drunkenness.] The impost on, or rather monopoly of, native wine, is in itself little burdensome to the community, as it only falls on the lower and most dissipated orders in society, and for this reason it is not susceptible of the same increase as that of tobacco, of which the use is more general, and now become an object of the first necessity. The native of the Philippine Islands is, by nature, so sober, that the spectacle of a drunken man is seldom noticed in the streets; in the capital, where the most corrupt classes of them reside, it is admirable to see the general abstinence from a vice that degrades the human species. The consumption of the coco and nipa wine is, nevertheless, considerable, for it is used in all their festivities, cockfights, games, marriages, etc. Accordingly if it is desired to augment the annual sale of these liquors, no way could be more efficient than to increase the number of their festive meetings, and seek pretexts to encourage public diversions, so long as these do not go contrary to the well-regulated order of society, and conflict with the duties of those who are intrusted with its superintendence.
[Extension of monopoly urged.] I am still of opinion, however, that, without resting the prosperity of this branch of the public revenue on principles possessed of so immoral a tendency, it might be rendered more productive to the treasury, if the monopoly could be introduced into the other districts adapted to its establishment. By this I mean to say that, as hitherto the monopoly has been partial, and enforced more in the way of a trial than in a general and permanent manner, much remains to be done, and consequently great scope is left for improvement in this department of the public revenue. This most assuredly may be attained, if all the local circumstances and impediments, more or less superable, which the matter itself presents, are only taken into due account, and proper exertions made to study and discover the various indirect means of increasing the total mass of contributions, by applying a system more productive and analogous to the nature of the Philippine Islands. With regard to the revenue of the two particular articles above treated on, I merely wish to make it understood that, far from introducing by means of the monopoly, a new vice into the provinces in which I recommend its establishment, it would rather act, in a certain degree at least, as a corrective to pre-existing evils, and the government would derive advantages from an article of luxury, by subjecting its consumption to the same shackles under which it stands in the northern provinces, where its administration is established and carried on for account of the royal treasury.
[Former customs usage.] In former times, when only vessels belonging to the Asiatic nations visited the port of Manila, with effects from the coast of Coromandel, or the China junks, and now and then a Spanish vessel coming from or going to the Island of Java, with spices for account of Philippine merchants, the receipt of duties was left in charge of a single royal officer, and the valuations of merchandise made by him, in concert with two merchants named by the government; but with the knowledge and assistance of the king’s attorney-general. The modifications and changes which have subsequently taken place in this department have, however, been frequent, as is evidently shown by the historical extract from the proceedings instituted before the Council of the Indies, by the merchants of Seville and Cadiz, in opposition to those of the Philippine Islands, printed in Madrid, 1736, in folio, by order of the said council; but as it does not enter into my views to speak of times so remote, I shall confine my remarks to this branch considered under its present form.
[Custom house.] In conformity to royal orders of March 15 and May 5, 1786, the Royal Custom House of Manila was definitively organized on its new plan; and from 1788, was placed under the immediate charge of an administrator-general, a controller, a treasurer, aided by a competent number of guards, inspectors, etc., and in every respect regulated on the plan established in the other custom houses. The freedom of the port being granted to foreign nations, a privilege before enjoyed only by those purely Asiatic, and a new line of trade commenced by the company, the competition in merchandise soon began to increase, as well as the revenue arising therefrom, in such manner that, although the exportation of goods was limited to the cargo of the Acapulco ship, of which the duties are not payable till her arrival there; notwithstanding also the property imported by the company from China and India, and destined for their own shipments, was exempt from duties, and above all, the continual interruptions experienced by the maritime commerce of the Islands within the last fifteen or twenty years, the net proceeds of the custom house, from the period above mentioned of its establishment, till the close of 1809, have not been less than from $138,000 to $140,000, on an average, independent of the amount of the king’s fifth on the gold of the country, which is collected by the same administrator, in consequence of its being trivial; as well as the two per cent. belonging to the Board of Trade, and by them collected under that title, and afterwards separately applied to the average-fund and which usually may be estimated from $20,000 to $25,000.
The general duties now levied in the custom house, are the following:
[Port charges and duties.] Six per cent. almojarisfago is on all kinds of merchandise imported in foreign bottoms, under a valuation made by the surveyors, in conformity to the respective prices of the market at the time on importation; it usually is regulated by an increase of 50% on the prime cost of India goods, and of 33 1/3% on those from China. This duty may be considered as, in fact, equal to nine per cent on the former, and eight on the latter.
Six per cent, or the same duty, on all foreign goods, although imported in national bottoms.
Three per cent on Spanish goods, imported under the national flag, equal, according to the above estimate to 4 and 4 1/2%.
Two per cent Board of Trade duty, indistinctly on all foreign property, equivalent to 2 1/2 or 3%.
Twenty-five per cent anchorage dues, levied on the total amount of the almojarisfago duty.
An additional of two and one-half per cent, a new and temporary duty, called subvencion, appropiated to the payment of the loan made to the king by the Cadiz Board of Trade, and leviable on all kinds of imported goods, and, of course, equal, according to the usual mode of valuation, to about three per cent.
Three per cent on the exportation of coined silver and gold of the country, in dust and, ingots.
An additional or duty of subvencion, or temporary duty on the above, equal to one-half per cent.
One and a half per cent under the same rate, on all kinds of goods, and equal to two or two and one half per cent.
One and one-half per cent on the amount of the cargo of the Acapulco ship, on leaving the port of Manila, equal to 3/4% on the real prime cost.
[Slight concession to the Company.] The company are considered in the same light as the rest of the merchants, in the graduation and payment of duties, on such goods as they sell out of their own stores for local consumption, to the Company, with the exemption only of the Board of Trade rate of 2% and 3%, on the exportation of silver, according to a special privilege, and in conformity to the 61st Article of the new royal decree of 1803.
Besides the duties above enumerated, there is another trifling one established for local purposes of peso merchante, being a rate for the use of the king’s scales, levied according to an extremely equitable tariff, on certain articles only of solid weight, such as iron, copper, etc. The raw materials as well as all kinds of manufactured articles, belonging to the Islands, are exempt from duties on their entry in the port and river of Manila; but some of the first are subject to the most unjust of all exactions, that is, to an arbitrary tax and to the obligation of being retailed out on board the vessels in which they have been brought down, and deliverable only to persons bearing a written order, signed by the sitting members of the municipal corporation. Among this class of articles may be mentioned the coco of Cebu and the wax and oil of the Bisayas, which are rated as objects of the first necessity.
[Undervaluation of galleon goods.] With regard to the respective duties on the cargo annually dispatched by the merchants of Manila to New Spain, the practice of galleon is tolerably well regulated. An extreme latitude is given to the moderate rates at which it is ordered to value the goods contained in the manifest, by which means these are frequently put down at only one-half of their original prime cost; the commission to frame the scale of valuations which is to be in force for five years, after which time it is renewed, being left to three merchants, and made subject to the revision of the king’s attorney-general (fiscal) and the approbation of the governor; consequently, such being the nature of the tariff on which these operations are founded, the 33 1/3% to which the royal duties amount on the $500,000 stipulated in the permit, does not, in fact, affect the shipper beyond the rate of 15 per cent, in consequence of the great difference between the prime cost and valuation of the articles corresponding to the permit; or, what is the same thing, between the $500,000 nominal value, and $1,100,000 or $1,200,000, the real amount of the cargo in question. The most remarkable circumstance, however, is, that the officers of the revenue in Acapulco collect the above-mentioned 33 1/3% in absolute conformity to the Manila valuation, and not according to the value of the goods in America, and without any other formality than a comparison of the cargo with the ship’s papers. In honor of truth, it ought to be further observed that, although the Manila merchant by this means seeks to exempt himself from the part of the enormous duties with which it has been attempted to paralyze the only commercial intercourse he carries on with New Spain, in every other respect connected with this operation, he acts in a sufficiently legal manner, and if at their return those vessels have been in the habit of bringing back near a million of dollars in a smuggled way, it must be acknowledged that it is the harshness of the law which compels the merchant to become a smuggler; for according to the strange regulation by which he is thwarted in the returns representing the proceeds of his outward operation, he must either bring the money to the Philippine Islands without having it declared on the ship’s papers, or be obliged to leave the greatest part of it in the hands of others, subject to such contingencies as happen in trade. As long, therefore, as the present limitations subsist, which only authorize returns equal to double the value of the outward-bound cargo, this species of contraband will inevitably continue. The governors also, actuated by the principles of reason and natural justice, will, as they have hitherto done, wink at the infraction of the fiscal laws; a forbearance, in fact, indirectly beneficial to them, inasmuch as it eventually contributes to the general improvement of the colony. Indeed, without this species of judicious condescension, trade would soon stand still for the want of the necessary funds to carry it on.
[Unbusinesslike custom ways.] .... It will readily be acknowledged that, in like manner as the good organization of custom houses is favorable to the progress of general commerce, so nothing is more injurious to its growth and the enterprise of merchants, than any uncertainty or arbitrary conduct in the levying of duties to be paid by them. This arises out of the circumstance of every merchant, entering on a new speculation, being anxious to have, as the principal ground work of his combinations, a perfect knowledge of the exact amount of his disbursements, in order to be enabled to calculate the final result with some degree of certainty. Considered in this point of view, the system adopted in the Islands is certainly deplorable, since it must be acknowledged that the principles and common rules of all other commercial countries, are there unknown. For example; this year a cargo arrives from China or Bengal, and the captain turns in his manifest. The custom-house surveyors then commence the valuation of the goods of which his cargo is composed: I say they commence, because it is a common thing for them not to have finished the estimate of the scale and amount of corresponding duties, till the expiration of two, four, and not unfrequently six months. The rule they affect to follow, in this valuation, is that of the prices current in the market, and in order to ascertain what these are, they are seen going round inquiring in the shops of the Sangleys (Chinese), till at length, finding it useless to go in search of correct and concurrent data, in a place where there are neither brokers nor public auctions, they are forced to determine in an arbitrary manner, and as the adage goes, always take good care to see their employers on the right side of the hedge. The grand work being ended, with all this form and prolixity, the sentence of the surveyors is irrevocable. The bondsman of the captain, who, in the meanwhile, has usually sold his cargo and departed with a fresh one for another destination, pays in the amount of the duties, thus regulated by law.
[Variations in valuations.] The practical defects and injurious consequences of such a system as this, it would be unnecessary to particularize. It would, however, be less intolerable, if, once put in force, it could serve the merchant as a guide in the valuations of his property for a determined number of successive years. What, however, renders this assessment more prejudicial, is its instability and uncertainty, and the repetition of the same operation I have just described every year, and with every cargo that arrives; but under distinct valuations, according to the reports or humor of the day. Besides these great defects and irregularity, the Philippine custom house observes the singular practice of not allowing the temporary landing of goods entered in transitu and for re-exportation, as is done on the bonding system in all countries where exertions are made by those in authority for the extension and improvement of commerce in every possible way. Of course, much less will they consent to the drawback or return of any part of the duties on goods entered outwards, even though they are still on board the very vessels in which they originally came shipped. Beyond all doubt, the wrongly understood severity of such a system, has, and will, continue to prevent many vessels from frequenting the port of Manila, and trying the market, unable to rely on the same liberal treatment they can meet with in other places.
[The areca-nut.] The bonga, or areca-nut, is the fruit of a very high palm-tree, not unlike the one that bears the date, and the nuts, similar to the latter, hang in great clusters from below the protuberance of the leaves or branches. Its figure and size resemble a common nut, but solid, like the nutmeg. Divided into small pieces, it is placed in the center of a small ball made of the tender leaves of the buyo or betel pepper, lightly covered with slacked lime, and this composition constitutes the celebrated betel of Asia, or, as it is here called, the buyo, the latter differing from that used in India, inasmuch only as it contains cardamomom.
[Buyo monopoly unsatisfactory.] The government, anxious to derive advantage in aid and support of the colony, from the great use the inhabitants make of the buyo, many years ago determined to establish the sale of the bonga, its principal ingredient, into a monopoly, either by hiring the privilege out, or placing it under a plan of administration, in the form in which it now stands. Both schemes have been tried, but neither way has this branch been made to yield more than $30,000; indeed the annual proceeds usually have not exceeded $25,000. In 1809, the total amount of sales was $48,610, and deducting from this sum the prime cost and expenses of administration, the net profit in favor of the treasury was equal to no more than $27,078 or upwards of 125 1/2%. In 1780, the privilege of selling the bonga was let out at public auction for the sum of $15,765 and this, compared with the present proceeds, clearly shows that, although the increase has not advanced equally with the other branches of the revenue, it is far from having declined. It must nevertheless be confessed, that on the present footing on which it stands, the smallness of the proceeds is not worth the trouble required in the collection, and even if the amount were still greater, it could never serve as an excuse for the oppression and violence to which this monopoly frequently gives rise.
[Hardships on areca-nut planters.] As the trees producing the bonga are not confined to any particular grounds, and indiscriminately grow in all, the plan has been adopted of compelling the Filipinos to gather and bring in the fruit, raised on their lands, to the depot nearest the district in which they reside. There they are paid from two, two and one-half, three and three and one-half reals per thousand, according to the distance from which they come: and, in order to prevent frauds, the surveyors belonging to the revenue go out, at certain times of the year, to examine the bonga plantations, and the trees being counted, they estimate the fruit, that is, oblige the proprietor to undertake to deliver in two hundred nuts for each bearing tree, whether or not, hurricanes deteriorate or destroy the produce, or thieves plunder the plantations, as very frequently happens. In case deficiencies are proved against him, he is compelled to pay for them in money, at the rate of twenty-five reals per thousand, the price at which the king sells them in the monopoly-stores. Besides, the precise condition of delivering in two hundred bonga nuts, according to the stipulations imposed upon him, presupposes the previous exclusion of all the injured or green ones; and although the ordinary trees usually yield as many as three hundred nuts each, great numbers are nevertheless spoiled. If, to the adverse accidents arising out of the storms and robberies, we add the effects of the whims or ill-humor of the receivers, it is not easy to imagine to what a length the injuries extend which befall the man who has the folly or misfortune to become a planter of this article.
[Folly of monopoly plan.] On the other hand, as in the conveyances from the minor to the larger depots, frauds are frequently committed, and the heaping together of many millions of nuts inevitably produces the fermentation and rapid putrefaction of a great number of them, it consequently follows that the waste must be immense; or if it is determined to sell all the stock laid in, without any distinction in quality and price, the public must be very badly served and displeased, as in fact too often happens. Since, therefore, the habit of using the buyo is still more prevailing than that of tobacco, when suitable supplies cannot be had in the monopoly stores, the consumer naturally resorts to the contraband channels, although he encounters some risk, and expends more money. It is also very natural that the desire of gain should thus lead on and daily expose a number of needy persons, anxious by this means to support and relieve the wants of their families. Returning, however, to what more immediately concerns the grower, I do not know that the oppressive genius of fiscal laws has, in any country of the globe, invented one more refinedly tyrannic, than to condemn a man, to a certain degree at least, as has hitherto been the case, to the punishment of Tantalus; for the law forbids the Filipino to touch the fruit of the tree planted with his own hands, and which hangs in tempting and luxuriant abundance round his humble dwelling.
[Its modification desirable.] It would be easy for me to enumerate many other inconveniences attending this branch of public revenue, on the footing on which it now stands, if what has already been said did not suffice to point out the necessity of changing the system, as those in authority are anxious that the treasury should gain more, and the king’s subjects suffer less. The strong prejudice entertained against this source of revenue, the inconsiderable sum it produces, and the complicated form of its organization, have in reality been sufficient motives to induce many to become strenous advocates for the total abolition of the monopoly. I do not, however, on this account see any reasons for altogether depriving the government of a productive resource, as this might soon be rendered, if it was placed under regulations less odious and more simple in themselves. I nevertheless agree, that the perfect monopoly of the areca fruit, or bonga, is impracticable, till the trees, indiscriminately planted, are cut down, and, in the same way as the tobacco plantations, fresh and definite grounds are laid out for its cultivation, on account of the revenue. I am further aware that this measure is less practicable than the first; for, independent of all the other obstacles, it would be necessary to wait till the new plantation yielded fruit, and also that the public should consent to refrain from masticating buyo in the meanwhile, a pretension as mad as it would be to require that the eating of salt should be dispensed with for a given number of years. But what difficulty would there be, for example, in the proprietors paying so much a year for each bonga tree to the district magistrate, the governor of the nearest town, or the cabeza de Barangay, or chiefs of the clans into which the natives are divided, in the same manner as the Filipino pays his tribute? [Tree-tax preferable.] The only one I anticipate is that of fixing the amount in such way that, at the same time this resource is made to produce an increased income of some moment, it may act as a moderate tax on an indefinite property, the amount of which, augmented in the same price, may be reimbursed to the proprietor by the great body of consumers. It is not in fact easy to foresee or estimate, by any means of approximation, the alteration in the current price of the bonga, that would result from the indefinite freedom of its cultivation and sale, especially during the first years. Although, for this reason, it would be impossible to ascertain what proportion the impost on the tree would then bear with regard to the value of the fruit, the error that might accrue would be of little moment, as long as precautions were taken to adopt a very low rate of comparison, and a proportionably equitable one as the basis of taxation. Supposing then that the price of the bonga should decline from twenty-five reals, at which it is now sold in the monopoly stores, to fifteen reals per thousand, in the general market, and a tax of one-fourth real should be laid on each tree valued at two hundred bonga nuts, it is clear that this would be equal to no more than 8 1/2%; or, what is the same, the tax would be in the proportion one to twelve with the proceeds of each tree, and the more the value of the fruit was raised, the more would the rate of contribution diminish. It ought at the same time to be observed that, under the above estimate, that is, supposing the price of the article to remain at fifteen reals, the 8 1/2% at which rate the tax is regulated, would not perhaps exceed five or six per cent on a more minute calculation; in the first place, because at the time of making out the returns of the trees, [Exception of immature and aged trees.] those only ought to be set down which are in their full vigor, excluding such as through the want or excess of age only yield a small proportion of fruit; and in the second, because in the numbers registered, the trees would only be rated at two hundred although it is well known they usually yield three hundred, in order by this means the better to avoid all motives of complaint. In this point of view, and by adopting similar rules of probability, it seems to me that the government would not risk much by an attempt to change the present system into a tax levied on the tree itself, on a plane similar to the one above proposed; more particularly by doing it in a temporary manner, and rendering it completely subservient to the corrections subsequent experience might suggest in this particular.
[Difficulty of estimating probable revenue.] The difficulty being, in this manner, overcome, with regard to the prudent determination of the rate at which the proprietor of the bonga plantations ought to contribute, let us now proceed to estimate, by approximation, the annual sum that would thus be obtained. As, however, this operation is unfortunately complicated, and in great measure depends on the previous knowledge of the total number of trees liable to the tax proposed, details with which we are at not present prepared, it is impossible to come at any very accurate results. All that can be done is to endeavor to demonstrate, in general terms, the great increase the revenue would experience by the adoption of the new plan, and the real advantage resulting from it to the contributors themselves, all which may be easily deduced from the following calculation.
Let us, in the first instance, suppose that the consumers of buyo, in the whole of the Islands, do not exceed one million of persons, and that each one makes use of three bongas per day, this consumption, at the end of the year, would then amount to 1,095,000,000 nuts. We will next divide this sum by two hundred, at which the product of each tree, one with another, is rated, and the result will be 5,475,000 trees. [Greater, however, than at present.] This number being taxed at the rate of one-fourth real, would leave the sum of $171,093.75 and deducting therefrom the $25,000 yielded by this branch under its present establishment, together with $5,132 equal to three per cent paid to the district magistrates for the charges of collection, we should still have an annual increase in favor of the, treasury equal to $140,961.75.
It might perhaps be objected that, in this case, the proprietor, instead of receiving, as before two and one-half reals for every thousand bongas, would have to disburse one and one-fourth reals in the mere act of paying one-fourth real for each tree; a circumstance which, at first sight, seems to produce a difference not of one and one-fourth, but of three and one-fourth reals per thousand against him; though in reality far from this being the case, if we take into consideration the deficiencies the sworn receiver usually lays to his charge, the fruit he rejects, owing to its being green or rotten, and the many and expensive grievances he is exposed to in his capacity of grower; it will be seen that his disbursements under these heads frequently exceed the amount he in fact has to receive. [Tax only a surcharge ultimately paid by consumer.] If, in addition to this, we bear in mind that, on condition of seeing himself free from guards and a variety of insupportable restrictions, constituting the very essence of a monopoly, he would in all probability gladly pay much more than the tax in question, all the doubts arising on this point will entirely disappear. Finally, considered in its true light, we shall not find in the measure above described anything more than a very trifling discount required of the proprietor from the price at which he sells his bonga, and which, as already noticed, ultimately falls on the consumer alone.
[Estimate conservative.] The moderate estimate I have just formed ought to inspire the more confidence from its being well known that the use of the buyo is general among the inhabitants of these Islands. The calculation, as it now stands, rests only on one million consumers, for each of whom I have only put down three bongas per day, whereas it is customary to use much more; nor have I taken into account the infinite number of nuts wasted after being converted into the buyo, a fact equally well known. Indeed, as the object proposed was no other than to prove the main part of my assertions, and I trust this is satisfactorily done, I have not deemed it necessary to include in the above calculation a greater number of minute circumstances, nor attempt to deduce more favorable results, which, with the scope before me, I was most assuredly warranted in doing.
[Advantages.] In a word, from the concurrence of the facts and reasons above adduced, the following propositions may, without any difficulty, be laid down. First, that the increase of revenue produced by the reform in question, would in all probability exceed $150,000 per annum; secondly, that the Filipinos would soon comprehend, and gladly consent to a change of this kind in the mode of contributing of which the advantages would be apparent; thirdly, that the persons employed in the old establishment, might, with greater public utility, be applied to other purposes; and lastly, that the civil magistrates would not be harassed with so many strifes and lawsuits, and so many melancholy victims of the monopoly, and its officers would cease to drag a wretched existence in the prisons and places of hard labor in these Islands.
[Cockpit licenses.] The cock-pit branch of the revenue is hired out by the government, and the license is separately set up at auction for the respective provinces. Its nature and regulations are so well known that they do not require a particular description, the general obligations of the contractors being the same as those in New Spain. Perhaps the only difference observed in this public exhibition in the Philippine Islands consists in its greater simplicity, owing to its being frequented only by the natives, the whites who are present at this kind of diversion being very few, or indeed none.
[Inconsiderable income.] The cock-pits are open two days in the week, and the lessees of them receive half a real from every person who enters, besides the extra price they charge those who occupy the best seats, the owners of the fighting cocks, for the spurs, stalls for the sale of buyo, refreshments, etc. Notwithstanding all this, and although cockfighting is so general and favorite an amusement among these people (the rooster may justly be considered as the distinctive emblem of the Filipino) the annual proceeds of this branch are inconsiderable; although it must be acknowledged that it has greatly increased since the year 1780, when it appears the license was let at auction for only about $14,000 owing, no doubt, to the exclusive privilege of the contractors not having been extended to the provinces, as was afterwards gradually done.
[Provincial cockpit revenue.] The total sum paid to the government by the renters of this branch, according to the auction returns in 1810, amounted to $40,141 in the following order for the provinces:
Tondo $18,501 Cavite 2,225 La Laguna 2,005 Pampanga 3,000 Bulacan 6,900 Batangas 2,000 Pangasinan 1,200 Bataan 1,050 Iloilo 1,600 Ilocos 600 Tayabas 400 Cebu 360 Albay 300 Total $40,141
[Possibilities of increase.] The causes, to which the increase that has taken place within the last twenty-five or thirty years is chiefly to be attributed, have already been pointed out, and for this reason it would appear that, by adopting the same plan with regard to the fourteen remaining provinces, of which this captaincy-general is composed, hitherto free from the imposition of this tax, an augmentation might be expected, proportionate to the population, their circumstances, and the greater or lesser taste for cock-fights prevailing among their respective inhabitants. At the commencement, no doubt, the rentals would be low, and, of course, the prices at which the licenses were let out, would be equally so; but the experience and profits derivable from this kind of enterprises would not fail soon to excite the competition of contractors, and in this way add to the revenue of the government. This is so obvious that I cannot help suspecting attempts have, at some period or other, been made to introduce the establishment of this privilege, in some of the provinces alluded to; at the same time I am persuaded that, owing to the affair not having been viewed in its proper light, seeking on the contrary to obtain an immediate and disproportionate result, the authorities have been too soon disheartened and given up the project without a fair trial. All towns and districts murmur, and, at first object, to taxes, however light they may be; but, at length, if they be not excessive, the people become reconciled to them. The one here proposed is neither of this character, nor can it be deemed odious on account of its novelty. The natives are well aware that their brethren in the other provinces are subject to it, and that in this nothing more is done than rendering the system uniform. I, therefore, see no reason why the establishment of this branch of revenue should not be extended to all the points of the Islands. At the commencement, let it produce what it may, since constancy and time will bring things to the same general level.
[Indian tributes.] The too great condescension and mistaken humanity of the government on the one hand, and the fraud and selfishness of the provincial sub-delegates or collectors, on the other, have concurred to change a contribution, the most simple, into one of the most complicated branches of public administration. The first cause has been owing to a too general acquiescence to receive the amount of tributes in the produce peculiar to each province, instead of money; and the second, because as the above officers are the persons intrusted with the collection, whenever the sale has held out to them any advantage, they have been in the habit of appropriating the several articles to themselves, without allowing any benefit to the treasury. If the prospective sales of the produce appear unfavorable, it is then forwarded on to the king’s store in Manila, surcharged with freights, exposed to many risks, and the value greatly diminished by waste and many other causes. No order or regularity being thus observed in this respect, and the sale of the produce transmitted to the king’s stores being regulated by the greater or lesser abundance in the general market, and a considerable stock besides left remaining, from one year to another, and eventually spoiled, it is impossible to form any exact estimate of this branch. If to these complicated matters we add the radical vices arising out of the infidelity of the heads of clans (cabezas de barangay), the difficulty of ascertaining the defects of the returns made out by them, the variations annually occurring in the number of those exempted either through age or other legal motives, and above all, the frequently inevitable tardiness with which the district magistrates send in their respective accounts, it will be readily acknowledged, that no department requires more zeal in its administration, and no one is more susceptible of all kinds of frauds, or attended with more difficulties.
[A conservative estimate.] In this state of uncertainty, with regard to this particular branch, I have guided myself by the last general return of tributes, made out in the accountant-general’s office, on the best and most recent data, and calculating indistinctly the whole value in money, I have deemed it proper afterwards to make a moderate deduction, on account of the differences above stated, and arising out of the collection of the tributes in kind, the expenses of conveyance, shipwrecks, averages, and other causes already enumerated.
[Fixed charges.] In conformity to this calculation, the total proceeds of this branch of revenue amount to $505,215 from which sum are deducted, in the primitive stages of the accounts, the amount of ecclesiastical stipends, the pay of the troops under the immediate orders of the chief district magistrates in their quality of war-captains, together with all other extraordinary expenses incurred in the provinces by orders of the government, the remainder being afterwards forwarded to the king’s treasury. It ought, however, to be observed, that the above aggregated sum is more or less liable to deficiencies, according to the greater or lesser degree of punctuality on the part of the sub-collectors in making up accounts, and the solidity of their respective sureties; the failure of this kind experienced by the revenue being so frequent, that, according to the returns of the accountant-general, those which occurred between the years 1762 and 1809, were no less than $215,765 notwithstanding the great precautions at all times taken to prevent such considerable injuries, by every means compatible with the precarious tenure of property possessed by both principals and sureties in this country. All the above circumstances being therefore taken into due consideration, and the ordinary and extraordinary discounts made from the total amount of tributes, the real sum remaining, or the net annual proceeds of the above branch, have usually not been rated at more than $190,000 and $200,000; a sum respectively extremely small, and which possibly might be doubled, without the necessity of recurring to any other measure than a standing order for the collecting of the tributes in money, as by this means the variety of expenses and complications above enumerated, would be avoided, and the king’s revenue no longer exposed to any other deficiencies than those arising out of the insolvency of the sub-collectors and their sureties, or casual risks, and the trifling charges paid for the conveyance of the money. If in opposition to this it should be alleged that it would be advisable to except some of the provinces from this general rule, owing to the advantages the government might derive from certain tributes being paid in kind, I do not hesitate to answer that I see no reason whatever why this should be done, because, if, for example, any quality of rigging or sail cloth is annually required, it would be easy to obtain it either by early contracts, or by laying in the articles at the current market price. Indeed, all supplies which do not rest on this footing, would be to defraud the natives of the fruits of his industry, and in the final result this would be the same as requiring of him double or triple tribute, contrary to the spirit of the law, which unfortunately is too frequently the case under the existing system.
[Preferability of tribute in money.] Considering this affair in another point of view, it would be easy for me to demonstrate, if it were necessary, the mistaken idea that the native is benefited by receiving in kind the amount of the tribute he has to pay, at the low prices marked in the tariff used as a standard, by showing the extortions and brokerage, if I may so term it, to which the practice gives rise on the part of the district collectors. It will, however, suffice to call the attention of my readers to the smallness of the sum constituting the ordinary tribute, when reduced to money, in order for them to be convinced that it would be superfluous, as well as hazardous, to attempt to point out how this branch might be rendered more productive to the state and at the same time less burdensome to the contributors, more particularly when the rate assessed does not exceed ten reals per year, a sum so small, that generally speaking, no family can be found unable to hoard it up, if they have any inclination so to do. The prevailing error, however, in this respect, I am confident arises out of a principle very different from the one to which it is usually attributed. The tributary native is, in fact, disposed to pay the quota assigned to him into the hands of the chief of his clan, in money, in preference to kind; because, independent of the small value at which the articles in kind are rated in the tariff, he is then exposed to no expenses, as he now is for the conveyance of his produce and effects; nor is he liable to so many accidents. But as the chief of each clan has to deliver in his forty or fifty tributes to the head magistrate, who is answerable for those of the whole province, it is natural for him to endeavor to make his corresponding payments in some equivalent affording him a profit; at the same time the provincial magistrate, speculating on a larger scale, on the produce arising out of his jurisdiction, seeks to obtain from the government a profitable commutation in kind for that which the original contributor would have preferred paying in money. In order the better to attain his purpose, he asserts, as a pretext, the impossibility of collecting in the tribute under another form, alleging, moreover, the relief the native derives from this mode, whereas, if only duly examined, such a pretence is founded on the avarice, rather than the humanity of the magistrate.
Leaving to one side the defects attributable to the present mode of collection, and considering the tribute as it is in itself, the attentive observer must confess, that in no part of our Indies is this more moderate; and, indeed, it is evident that the laws generally relating to the natives of these Islands seem to distinguish them with a decided predilection above those of the various sections of America.
[Items in tribute.] The tribute in its origin was only eight reals per family; but the necessity of providing for the increased expenses of the government gave rise to this rate being afterwards raised to ten. The Sangley mestizos pay double tribute, and the Sangleys contribute at the rate of $6 per head. Besides this, all pay a yearly sum, applicable to the funds belonging to the community, and the above two casts pay three reals more, as a church rate, and under the name of the Sanctuary, the whole being in the following form:
Entire Native Tribute Tribute of Mestizos Sangleys
8 Reals, original tribute 16 Reals. $6 each. 1 1/2 Reals for expenses of troops 3 1/2 Reals to tithes 1 10 Reals, amount of tribute 20 Reals. $6.75 1 Real, community funds 1 3 Reals, sanctuary rate 3 14 Reals, total annual disbursement. 24 Reals. $6.75
The males commence paying tribute at twenty years of age and the females at twenty-five, if before they have not entered the matrimonial state, and in both the obligation ceases at the age of sixty. The chiefs of clans, or cabezas de barangay and their eldest sons, or in default of children, the person adopted in their stead, that is, an entire tribute and a half, are exempt from this tax, as a remuneration for the trouble and responsibility they may have in collecting in the forty or fifty tributes, of which their respective clans are composed. Besides these there are various other classes of exempted persons, such as the soldiers who have served a certain number of years, those who have distinguished themselves in any particular manner in the improvement of industry or agriculture, and others who have received special certificates, on just and equitable grounds. In summing up the total number of exempted persons, on an average in the whole of the provinces, they will be found in the proportion of fifty to every thousand entire tributes.
[Chinese tax.] The head-tax of the Sangleys has usually been attended with so many difficulties in its collection, owing to the facilities with which they absent or secrete themselves, and the many stratagems this cunning and artful race employ to elude the vigilance of the commissioners, that the government has at length found itself compelled to let out this branch, as was done in 1809, when it was disposed of in the name of one of them for the moderate sum of $30,000; notwithstanding it is a generally received opinion, that the number of this description of Chinese, constantly residing in the Islands, is above 7,000, which, at the rate of $6 per head, would raise this proportion of the tax as high as $42,000.
[Community funds.] The Community funds belonging to each town, have, in conformity to the regulations under which they are administered, a special, or I might say, local application; but collected together into one stock, as is now the case, and directly administered by the government, they produce a more general utility. The head town of the province A, for example, requires to rebuild the public prison or town-hall, and its own private funds are not sufficient to defray the expenses of the work in question. In this case, therefore, the government gives orders for the other dependent towns to make up the deficiency by taking their proportions from their respective coffers, as all have an equal interest in the proposed object being carried into effect. The king’s officers, in consequence thereof, draw the corresponding sums from these funds, the whole of which is under their immediate superintendence. And in order that the surplus of this stock may not stand still, but obtain every possible increase in a country where the premium for money is excessive, when let out at a maritime risk, it is ordered that some part shall be appropriated in this way, and on the same terms as those observed by the administrators of the charity funds belonging to the Misericordia (Charity) establishment, and the third order of St. Francis, which is another of the great advantages of assembling this class of property.
In consequence of this judicious regulation, and the success with which this measure has hitherto been attended, the Community fund has gone on increasing in such a way that, notwithstanding the sums drawn from it for the purpose of constructing causeways, bridges, and other municipal objects, at the commencement of 1810, the stock in hand amounted to no less than $200,000; and it is natural to suppose when the outstanding premiums due shall have been paid in, a considerable augmentation will take place. This branch, although not exactly comprehended in those which constitute the revenue of the government, has so obvious an analogy with that of tributes, that I have not deemed it any essential deviation from the order and method I have hitherto observed in this work, to introduce it in this place, as in itself it did not deserve to be classed under a distinct head.
[Tribute burdensome.] Notwithstanding the truth of what has been said with regard to the moderate rate of the tribute imposed on the native of the Philippine Islands, it would be extremely desirable if he could be altogether exonerated from a charge which he bears with great repugnance, by some other substitute being adopted, indirectly producing an equivalent compensation. In the first place, because the just motives of complaint would cease, caused not only by the tribute, but also the manner of its collection; and an end would then be put to those intrigues and extortions the district magistrates commit, under the title of zealous collectors of the king’s revenue, and the power of a multitude of subaltern tyrants, comprehended under the denomination of chiefs of native clans (cabezas de barangay) would then also fall to the ground; a power which, if now employed for the purpose of oppressing and trampling on the liberties of inferiors, might some day or other be converted into an instrument dangerous and subversive of our preponderance in the country. In the second place, if, among all the civilized nations a head-tax (poll-tax) is in itself odious, it must incontestably be much more so among those whose unlettered state, far from allowing them to know that the social order requires a certain class of sacrifices for its better preservation, makes them attribute exactions of this kind to an abuse of superiority. Hence are they led to consider these restraints as the symbols of their own slavery and degradation, as in fact the natives in these Islands have ample reasons for doing, when the legal exemption of the whites is considered, without any other apparent reason than the difference in color. Independent of this, the substitute above alluded to would be extremely expedient, inasmuch as it would greatly simplify the plan of administration, the accountant’s department would be freed from the most painful part of its labors, and the district magistrates and sub-collectors would not so frequently be entangled in their accounts, and exposed to expensive and interminable lawsuits, as now so often happens.
[Possible Revenue substitutes.] The difficulty, however, of finding out this compensation or substitute is a matter of some consideration. On the one hand, if it was attempted to distribute the proceeds arising out of the tributes on other branches, such as tobacco, native wine, bonga, and custom house, it would, at first sight, appear possible, through the medium of an almost invisible augmentation in the respective sale prices and in the king’s duties, that this important object might easily be attained; but, on the other, it might be apprehended that the additional value put on the articles above-mentioned, would produce in their consumption a diminution equal to the difference in prices, in which cases no advantage would be gained. The practicability of the operation, in my opinion, depends on the proportion in which the means of obtaining the articles in question respectively stand with the probability of their being consumed. I will explain myself. If, for example, the annual stock of tobacco laid in should be insufficient to meet the wants of the consumers, as constantly occurs, it is clear that this article, when monopolized, will bear a small augmentation of price, not only without any inconvenience or risk, but with the moral certainty of obtaining a positive increase of revenue, the necessary effect of the total consumption of the tobacco laid in and sold. But as this does not happen with the branch of native wines, of which the stock usually exceeds the demand, and as the bonga also is not susceptible of this improvement, owing to the small place it occupies among the other resources of the revenue, no other means are left than to add to the duties of export on silver, and of import on foreign merchandise, a percentage equivalent to the deficiency not laid on tobacco, unless it should be deemed more advisable to levy a sumptuary contribution on coaches, horses and servants, and especially on all kinds of edifices and houses built of stone and mortar, situated both within and without the capital.
[Objection to tribute-paying.] However this may be, whatever the king loses in revenue by the abolition of the native tributes, no doubt, could be made up by an appeal to other ways and means. It is well-known that many of the Indian tribes refuse to become subjects of the crown and object to enter into general society on account of the odious idea they have formed of paying tribute; or, as they understand it, the obligation of giving something for nothing, notwithstanding those who voluntarily submit themselves to our laws, are exempt from tribute, and this charge falls only on their descendants. But of this they must either be ignorant, or they regret depriving their posterity of that independence in which they themselves have been brought up, and thus transmit to them slavery as an inheritance. As soon, therefore, as a general exemption of this kind, without distinction of casts, should be made public, the natives would quit their fastnesses and secluded places, and satisfied with the security offered to them, would be seen coming down to the plains in search of conveniences of civilized life, and all gradually would be reduced to Christianity. Hence the increase of productions and their consumption, as well as the extension of agriculture, industry and internal commerce. The diminution of smuggling tobacco would soon follow, progress would be made in the knowledge of the mines and natural riches of the country, and financially, greater facilities would present themselves in gradually carrying into effect its entire conquest and civilization.
Advantages of such great and extraordinary importance deserve to be seriously weighed, and to this valuable department of public administration the early attention of those in authority ought to be called. Let due inquiries be made, and soon shall we discover the substantial benefits which would be derived to the treasury from the adoption of this measure, as popular as it is just, and also conformable to the liberal spirit of the times. In support of the preceding arguments, it ought further to be observed, that when all the branches constituting the king’s revenue are well organized, brought to their most productive state, and the public debt contracted under unforeseen exigencies paid off, as long as present circumstances do not vary, an annual surplus of revenue, equal to more than $500,000, will be left; and as the proceeds of the particular branch of tributes do not amount to this sum, it is evident their abolition may take place, not only without any derangement or onerous consequences to the administration, but even without any deficiency being experienced, or any necessity to recur to the treasury of New Spain for extraordinary aid. These reasons acquire still greater force when it is remembered that, as things now are, all the branches of public revenue are in a progressively improving condition, and as the whole are still susceptible of a much more productive organization, the annual surplus of receipts will rapidly become greater, and consequently also the necessity will diminish of continuing to burden this portion of His Majesty’s dominions with contributions in order to meet the expenses of their defence and preservation.
Finally, well convinced of the advantageous results which, in every sense, would emanate from the revision and reforms proposed, I abstain from offering, in support of my arguments, a variety of other reflections which occur to me, not to be too diffuse on this subject; trusting that the hints I have already thrown out will be more than sufficient to excite an interest and promote a thorough and impartial investigation of concerns, highly important to the future welfare and security of this colony.
[Subaltern branches.] Besides the six preceding branches which constitute the chief mass of the public revenue in these islands, there are several smaller ones of less consideration and amount; some having a direct application to the general expenses of the local government, and the others, intended as remittances to Spain; a distinction of little import and scarcely deserving of notice, since the object of the present sketch is to convey information on a large scale respecting the King’s revenue in these Islands. As some of them, however, yield proceeds more regular than the others, I have classed together the receipts of the Pope’s Bulls, or “Bulas de Cruzada,” playing-cards, tithes, stamps and gunpowder, under the head of Subaltern Branches, with regard to the rest, to the general statement already quoted.
In conformity to the returns with which I have been favored from the public offices, these five branches produced, in the year 1809, $45,090.75 in the following proportions:
Sales. Expenses. Net Proceeds. Pope’s bulls $15,360.75 $4,422.25 $10,938.50 Playing cards 11,539.125 932.625 10,606.50 Tithes 12,493.00 –– 12,493.00 Stamps 4,467.50 321.50 4,146.00 Gunpowder 7,307.625 401.125 6,905.375 –– –– –– $51,168.125 $6,077.75 $45,090.375
[Tithes.] The scanty proceeds of the tithes will naturally appear remarkable; but it ought to be remembered that, besides the ordinary tribute, the natives pay half a real under this denomination, without any distinction of person, or any reference whatever to their respective means, the total amount of which is already added to the tributes, and for this reason not repeated in this place. In addition also no tithes are levied, except on lands belonging to Spaniards, churches, regular clergy, ecclesiastical corporations, etc., and even then the articles of rice, wheat, pulse indigo and sugar, are alone liable. The above branches are all in charge of administrators, and from this plan it certainly would be advisable to separate the tithes and farm them out at public auction, as was proposed by the king’s officers of the treasury, in their report on this, as well as other points, concerning the revenue, and dated October 24, 1792. From the net proceeds of the gunpowder the expenses of its manufacture, confided to the commandant of artillery, ought seemingly to be deducted; but, as they cannot be ascertained with any degree of certainty, and as besides they are comprehended in the general expenses of that department, a separate deduction may be dispensed with.
[Disbursements and general expenses.] In order to form a correct idea of the annual amount of the expenditure incurred by the administration and defence of the Philippine Islands, it is not necessary in this place to distinguish each item, separately; or to enumerate them with their respective sums or particular denominations. Some general observations on this subject ought, nevertheless, to be made, with a view to point out the reforms of which this important department of the public revenue is susceptible.
In the part relating to the interior administration or government, ample room is certainly left for that kind of economy arising out of the adoption of a general system, little complicated; but it is besides indispensably necessary that, at the same time the work is simplifed and useless hands dismissed, the salaries of those who remain should be proportionally increased, in order to stimulate them in the due performance of their duties. It might also be found advisable to create a small number of officers of a superior order, who would be enabled to co-operate in the collection of the king’s revenue, and the encouragement of agriculture, commerce and navigation, in their respective departments. The additional charges in this respect cannot be of any great consequence; although, in reality, by the receipts increasing through the impulse of an administrative order more perfect, and the expenses being always the same, the main object, so anxiously sought for in another way, would be thus attained.
[Defence expenses.] The reverse, however, happens with regard to the expenses of defence, as I have called them, the better to distinguish them from those purely relating to the interior police or administration. Every sacrifice, most assuredly, ought to appear small, when the object is to preserve a country from falling into the hands of an enemy, and it ought not to excite surprise, if, during the course of the last fifteen years, several millions of dollars have been expended in the Philippines, in order to shield them from so dreadful a misfortune. But the late memorable revolution in the Peninsula has given rise to so great a change in our political relations, and it is extremely improbable that these Islands will be again exposed to the same danger and alarm, that the government may now, without any apparent risk, dispense with a considerable part of the preparations of defence, at one time deemed indispensably necessary. A colony that has no other strong place to garrison than its capital, and on the loyalty of whose inhabitants there are sufficient motives to rely, ought, in my opinion, to be considered as adequately provided against all ordinary occurrences in time of peace, with the 4,000 regulars, more or less, of all arms, the usual military establishment. In case any suspicions should arise of an early rupture with the only power whose forces can inspire the governors of these Islands with any kind of apprehensions, means will not be wanting to an active and provident minister, of giving proper advice, so as to allow sufficient time for the assembling of the battalions of provincial militia and all the other necessary preparations of defence, before the enemy is in an attitude to effect an invasion of a country so far distant from his own possessions on the coasts of Malabar and Coromandel. Consequently, by disbanding the corps of provincial infantry, cavalry and artillery, which continue uselessly to be kept on foot, an annual saving of from $220,000 to $250,000 would take place, an amount too great to be expended unless imperiously called for by the evident dread of a premeditated attack from an hostile quarter.
[Shipping reform.] The navy is another of the departments in which reforms may be introduced, of no small moment to the treasury. Of course by the government merely dispensing with the policy of keeping in readiness two large ships to convey to Acapulco the cargos, for which the Manila merchants enjoy an annual licence, and leaving to the latter the full liberty of following up their speculations on their own account and risk, in vessels of their own, individually or with joint stock, a saving would result in favor of the crown equal to $140,000 to $150,000 per annum, and without preventing the receipt in Acapulco of the customary duties of $160,000 or $166,000 corresponding to the said licenses. This will evidently be the case, because as long as the large disposal of funds of the charitable institutions are employed in maritime risks, and the private property of others is besides added to them, the amount of the operations undertaken by the merchants of the Philippines to New Spain, when divested of all restraint, will always exceed $500,000 per annum. Nor is there now any further occasion for the government to continue granting this species of gratuitous tutelage to a body of men possessed of ample means to manage their own affairs, and who demand the same degree of freedom, and only seek a protection similar to that enjoyed by their fellow-countrymen in other parts of the king’s dominions.
[Galleon graft.] In case the above reform should be adopted, it might be deemed requisite for the government to undertake the payment of some of the charges under the existing order of things, defrayed out of the freights to which the merchandise shipped in the Acapulco traders is liable; because, calculating the freight at the usual rate of $200 for each three bales, or the amount of one ticket, out of the one thousand constituting the entire cargo, and of which one-half, or $100,000 more or less, is appropriated to the ecclesiastical chapter, municipality, officers of the regular army (excluding captains and the other higher ranks) and the widows of Spaniards, who in this case would be losers, independent of the remaining $100,000 or 500 tickets distributed among the 200 persons having a right to ship to Acapulco, it would, at first sight, appear reasonable for the treasury to indemnify the above description of persons by a compensation equivalent to the privation they experience through the new arrangement of the government. But as the practice of abuses constitutes no law, and what is given through favor is different to that which is required by justice, there are no reasons whatever why the treasury should be bound to support the widows of private persons, from the mere circumstance of their deceased husbands having been Spaniards; more particularly if it is considered that, far from having acquired any special merit during their lifetime, most of them voluntarily left their native country for the purpose of increasing their fortunes, and others were banished from it, owing to their bad conduct. Neither can it be said that the municipality have a legal right, in the case before stated, to receive any equivalent for the value of their respective annual tickets, which, when disposed of, usually amount to about $20,000 in the first place, because it is well-known that the eleven aldermen’s seats, of which that body is composed, seats which can either be sold or resigned, originally did not cost as much as $50,000 and clearly the principal invested is out of all kind of proportion with the enormous premium or income claimed. In the second place, although the above municipal situations were originally purchased with a view to obtain some advantages, these formerly were very different to what they are at present, when the great increase of shippers to Acapulco, or in more plain terms, of purchase of tickets competing to obtain them, has given to these permits a value more than triple to that they possessed thirty years ago.
[Indemnifying the aldermen.] In order, therefore, to do away with all motives of doubt and dispute, as well as for many other reasons of public utility, the best plan, in my opinion, would be, to return to each alderman his money, and the present municipal constitution being dissolved, the number of members might be reduced to four, with their corresponding registrar, and like the two ordinary “alcaldes," elected every year without any other reward than the honor of presiding over and representing their fellow-citizens. Under this supposition, the only classes entitled to compensation, strictly speaking, would be the ecclesiastical chapter and the subaltern officers, whose respective pay and appointment are not in fact sufficient for the decency and expenses of their rank in society. Of course it would then be necessary to grant them more adequate allowances, but, according to reasonable calculations, the sum total annually required would not exceed $30,000; consequently, the reform projected with regard to the Acapulco ships would still eventually produce to the treasury a saving of from $60,000 to $70,000 in the first year of its adoption, and of $110,000 to $120,000 in every succeeding one.
[The navy.] It is, on the other hand, undeniable that, if the royal navy and cruising vessels, or those belonging to the Islands and under the immediate orders of the captain-general, were united into one department, and placed under one head, considerable economy would ensue, and all motives of discord and emulation be moreover removed. Such would be the case if the change was attended with no other cirumstances than the consequent diminution of commanders, subaltern officers, and clerks; but it would be also proper to unite the arsenals, and adopt a more general uniformity in the operations and dependences of this part of the public services. It is equally certain that, during peaceful times, the two schooners and sixty gunboats, constituting the number of the above-mentioned cruising vessels, would be in great measure useless; whilst in case of a rupture, they are not sufficient to protect the trade of these Islands from the attacks of an enemy, notwithstanding they now cost the government considerable sums in repairs, etc., in order to keep them fit for service. The government ought therefore to guard against this waste of public money, without, however, neglecting the defence of the Islands, objects which, in my opinion, might easily be reconciled. Intelligent persons have judged that by reducing the naval forces to two frigates, two schooners, and about a dozen gunboats, the essential wants of the colony would be duly answered, in ordinary times; and some of the vessels might then be destined to pursue hydrographical labors in the Archipelago, which, unfortunately, are in a most backward state, whilst others could be sent on their periodical cruises against the Moros. By this means, at least, the navy department would be greatly simplified, and cease to be eternally burdensome to the government. With regard to the superfluous gunboats, it would be expedient to distribute them gratuitously among the marine provinces and Bisayan Islands, on the only condition of their being always kept fit for service; as, in one sense, the great expenses of maintaining them would be thus saved by the treasury, and, another, the inhabitants of those portions of the coast would be in possession of means sufficiently powerful to repel the aggressions of the Moros, who commit great ravages on their settlements. Finally, if besides the reforms of which the army and navy are susceptible, it is considered that the public works, such as prisons, schools, bridges, and causeways, so expensive in other countries, in the Philippines are constructed by the natives on the most reasonable terms, out of the community funds; that there is no necessity to build fortifications, and maintain numerous garrisons; that the clergy, to whose zeal and powerful influence the preservation of these Islands is chiefly due, do not cost the treasury annually above $200,000 and that the geographical situation of the colony in great measure shields it from the attacks of external enemies, it will readily be confessed, that a wise and firm government might undertake, without the dread of having to encounter any great obstacles, an administrative system, in a general point of view, infinitely more economical than the one hitherto followed; might be able to extirpate numerous abuses, and by calling forth the resources of the country gradually raise it to a flourishing condition, and cause it hereafter to contribute largely to the other wants of the crown. Hence was it that the distinguished voyager, La Pérouse (Chap. 15), contemplating these Islands with a political eye, did not hesitate to affirm “that a powerful nation, possessed of no other colonies than the Philippines, that should succeed in establishing there a form of government best adapted to their advantageous circumstances, would justly disregard all the other European establishments in Africa and America.”
[Objectionable office-holders.] In our colonies, appointments and command far from being sought as a means to obtain a good reputation, or as affording opportunities of contributing to public prosperity, are, it is too well known, only solicited with a view to amass wealth, and then retire for the purpose of enjoying it. Commercial pursuits being besides attended with so many advantages that those only decline following them who are divested of money and friends; whilst the situation in the revenue are so few in number, compared with the many candidates who solicit them, that they are consequently well appointed, it follows that the excess left without occupation, besides being considerable, is generally composed of needy persons, and not the most suitable to exercise the delicate functions of collectors and magistrates in the provinces. From this class nevertheless the host of officers are usually taken who, under the name of collectors, surveyors and assessors of tributes, intervene in, or influence the public administration. Owing to the variety and great number of persons emigrating to America, ample field, no doubt, is there left for selection, by which means the viceroys may frequently meet with persons suitable and adequate to the above trusts, if prudent steps are only taken; but in this respect the case is very different in the Philippines, where chance alone occasionally brings over a European Spaniard, unemployed or friendless. In these remote Islands, also, more than in any other quarter, people seek to live in idleness, and, as much as possible, without working, or much trouble. As long as hopes are entertained of doing something in the Acapulco speculations, every other pursuit is viewed with indifference, and the office of district or provincial magistrate is only solicited when all other resources have failed, or as a remedy against want. As the applicants for these situations are therefore not among the most select classes, it very frequently happens that they fall into extremely improper and unworthy hands.
It is in fact common enough to see a hairdresser or a lackey converted into a governor; a sailor or a deserter transformed into a district magistrate, collector, or military commander of a populous province, without any other counsellor than his own crude understanding, or any other guide than his passion. Such a metamorphosis would excite laughter in a comedy or farce; but, realized in the theatre of human life, it must give rise to sensations of a very different nature. Who is there that does not feel horror-struck, and tremble for the innocent, when he sees a being of this kind transferred from the yard-arm to the seat of justice, deciding, in the first instance, on the honor, lives, and property of a hundred thousand persons, and haughtily exacting the homage and incense of the spiritual ministers of the towns under his jurisdiction, as well as of the parish curates, respectable for their acquirements and benevolence, and who, in their own native places, would possibly have rejected as a servant the very man whom in the Philippines they are compelled to court and obey as a sovereign.
In vain do the laws ordain that such offices shall not be given away to attendants on governors and members of the high court of justice, for under pretext of the scarcity of Europeans experienced in the colony, means are found to elude the statute, by converting this plea into an exception in favor of this description of persons. By such important offices being filled in this manner, it is easy to conceive the various hardships to which many of the provinces and districts are exposed; nor can any amelioration be expected as long as this plan is persisted in and the excesses of the parties go without punishment.
[Evils from officials in trade.] Independent, however, of the serious injuries and great errors persons of the class above described cannot fail to commit in the exercise of their functions, purely judicial, the consequences of their inordinate avarice are still more lamentable, and the tacit permission to satisfy it, granted to them by the government under the specious title of a licence to trade. Hence may it be affirmed, that the first of the evils, and the one the native inmmediately feels, is occasioned by the very person the law has destined for his relief and protection. In a word, he experiences injuries from the civil magistrates presiding over the provinces, who, at the same time, are the natural enemies of the inhabitants, and the real oppressors of their industry.
It is a known and melancholy fact that, far from promoting the felicity of the provinces intrusted to their care, the magistrates attend to nothing else but their own fortunes and personal interests; nor do they hesitate as to the means by which their object is to be attained. Scarcely are they seated in the place of authority, when they become the chief consumers, purchasers, and exporters of every thing produced and manufactured within the districts under their command, thus converting their licence to trade into a positive monopoly. In all lucrative speculations the magistrate seeks to have the largest share; in all his enterprises he calls in the forced aid of his subjects, and if he deigns to remunerate their labor, at most it is only on the same terms as if they had been working on account of the king. These unhappy people bring in their produce and crude manufactures to the very person who, directly or indirectly, is to fix upon them an arbitrary value. To offer such and such a price for the articles is the same as to say, another bidding shall not be made. To insinuate is to command–the native is not allowed to hesitate, he must either please the magistrate, or submit to his persecutions. Being besides free from all competition in the prosecution of his traffic, since he is frequently the only Spaniard resident in the province, the magistrate therein acts with unbounded sway, without dread, and almost without risk of his tyranny ever being denounced to the superior tribunals.
[Speculating in tributes.] In order, however, that a more correct idea may be formed of the iniquitous conduct of many of these public functionaries, it is necessary to lay open some part of their irregular dealings in the collection of the Indian tributes. It is well known that the government, anxious to conciliate the interests of the tributary classes with those of the revenue, frequently commutes the pecuniary capitation tax into an obligation to pay the amount in produce or manufactures. A season comes when, owing to the failure of the crops, the productions have risen to an excessive price, and consequently infinitely above the ordinary rates affixed by law, which are generally the lowest, and the natives, unable to keep their bargains without considerable injury or endangering the subsistence of their numerous families, implore the favor of the magistrate, petitioning him to lay their calamitous situation before the superior government, in order to have the payment of their tribute in kind remitted, and offering to pay it in money. This is the precise moment when, as his own profits depend on the misery of the province under his command, he endeavors to misuse the accidental power with which he is invested. Hence it happens that, instead of acting as a beneficent mediator, and supporting the just solicitations of the natives, he at first disregards their petition, and then all at once transforming himself into a zealous collector, issues his notifications, sends his satellites into the very fields to seize on the produce, and in a most inexorable manner insists on collecting till necessity compels him to suspend the measure. The principal object being attained, that is, having now become master of the gleanings and scanty crops of his bereft subjects, on a sudden his disposition changes, he is moved to pity, and in the most pathetic language describes to the government the ravages done to the plantations by the hurricanes, and the utter impossibility of collecting in the tributes that year in kind. On such a remonstrance he easily obtains permission to change the standing order, and proceeding on to collect in some of the remaining tributes in money, merely to save appearance, with perfect impunity he puts the finishing stroke to the wicked act he had commenced, by applying to himself all the produce his collectors had gathered in, and places to the credit of the treasury the total amount of the tributes, corresponding to his jurisdiction, in money.
Supposing, for example, that this has happened in the province of Antique, where the payment of the capitation-tax generally takes place in the unhusked rice, rated at two reals per cavan, and, through the effects of a bad season, this article should rise as high as ten or twelve reals. It is clear that the magistrate, by accounting for the tributes with the revenue office in money, and collecting them in kind at the rate fixed by law, would by the sales gain a profit of 400 or 500 per cent; at the same time the native, by the mere circumstance of then paying in kind, would have paid the tribute corresponding to five or six years in a single one, without, on that account, having freed himself from the same charge in the following seasons.
[No check on extortion.] When the extortionate acts as these are practised, to what lengths may it not be expected the other excesses and abuses of authority are carried? To the above it ought moreover to be added, that the provincial magistrates have no lieutenants, and are unprovided with any other auxiliaries in the administration of justice, except an accompanying witness and a native director; that the scrutinies of their accounts, to which they formerly were subject, are now abolished, and, in short, that they have no check upon them, or indeed any other persons to bear testimony to their irregularities, except the friendless and miserable victims of their despotism and avarice.
Notwithstanding, however, what is above stated, it sometimes happens that a magistrate is to be met with, distinguished from the rest by his prudence and good conduct; but this is a miracle, for by the very circumstance of his being allowed to trade, he is placed in a situation to abuse the wide powers confided to him, and preferably to attend to his personal interests; in fact, if the principle is in itself defective, it must naturally be expected the consequences will be equally baneful. The lamentable abuses here noticed are but too true, as well as many others passed over in silence; and the worst of all is, that there is no hope of remedying them thoroughly, unless the present system of interior administration is altogether changed. In vain would it be to allege the possibility of removing the evil by the timely and energetic interposition of the protector of the natives; for although this office is in itself highly respectable, it cannot in any way reach the multitude of excesses committed, and much less prevent them; not only because the minister who exercises it resides in the city, where complaints are seldom brought in, unless they come through the channel of the parish curates; but also on account of the difficulty of fully establishing the charges against the magistrates, in the way the natives are at present depressed by fear and threats, as well as restrained by the sub-governors and other inferior officers of justice, who, being dependent upon, and holding their situations from the magistrates, are interested in their monopolies and extortionate acts being kept from public view.
[Less complaisant laws needed.] If, therefore, it is not possible entirely to eradicate the vices under which the interior administration of these Islands labors, owing to the difficulty of finding persons possessed of the necessary virtues and talents to govern, in an upright and judicious manner, let us at least prevent the evils out of the too great condescension of our own laws. In the infancy of colonies, it has been the maxim of all governments to encourage the emigration and settlement of inhabitants from the mother-country, without paying much attention to the means by which this was to be done. It was not to be wondered at that, for reasons of state, defects were overlooked,–at such periods were even deemed necessary. Hence the relaxation in the laws in favor of those who, quitting their native land, carried over with them to strange countries their property and acquirements. Hence, no doubt, also are derived the full powers granted to those who took in charge the subjection and administration of the new provinces, in order that they might govern, and at the same time carry on their traffic with the natives, notwithstanding the manifest incompatibility of the two occupations; or rather, the certainty that ought to have been foreseen that public duties would generally be postponed, when placed in competition with private interests and the anxious desire of acquiring wealth.
Subsequently that happened which was, in fact, to be dreaded, viz., what at first was tolerated as a necessary evil, sanctioned by the lapse of time has at length become a legitimate right, or rather a compensation for the supposed trouble attached to the fulfillment of the duties of civil magistrates; whilst they, as already observed, think of nothing but themselves, and undergo no other trouble or inconvenience than usually fall on the lot of any other private merchant. In the Philippines, at least, many years having elapsed since the natives peaceably submitted to the dominion of the king, every motive has ceased that could formerly, and in a certain degree, justify the indulgence so much abused, at the same time that no plausible pretext whatever exists for its further continuation.
Although hitherto the number of whites, compared to that of the people of color, has not been great, as the whole of the provincial magistracies, collectorships, and subaltern governments, do not exceed twenty-seven, the scarcity of Spaniards ought not to be alleged as a sufficient reason; nor can it be doubted these situations might at any time be properly filled, if the person on whom the choice should fall were only certain of living with decency and in a suitable manner, without being carried away with the flattering hopes of withdrawing from office, with ten, twenty, and even as high as fifty thousand dollars of property, as has heretofore been the case, but satisfied with a due and equivalent salary they might receive as a reward for the public services they perform.
I do not therefore see why the government should hesitate in resolving to put a stop to evils which the people of the Philippines have not ceased to deplore from the time of the conquest, by proscribing, under the most severe penalties, the power of trading, as now exercised by the provincial magistrates. The time is come when this struggle between duty and sordid interest ought to end, and reason, as well as enlightened policy, demand that in this respect our legislation should be reformed, in order that the mace of justice, instead of being prostituted in search of lucre, may henceforwards be wholly employed in the support of equity and the protection of society.
[Urgence of reform.] The only objection which, at first sight, might be started against the suggestions here thrown out is the increased expense which would fall on the treasury, owing to the necessity of appropriating competent salaries for the interior magistrates under the new order of things. Independent, however, of the fact that the rapid improvements the provinces must assume, in every point of view, would superabundantly make up this trifling difference; yet supposing the sacrifice were gratuitous, and even of some moment, it ought not, on that account, to be omitted, since there is no public object more important to the sovereign himself, than to make the necessary provision for the decorum of the magistracy, the due administration of justice, and the maintenance of good order among his subjects.
The position being established, that a number of whites more than sufficient might be obtained, eligible and fit to perform the duties of civil magistrates, which they would be induced to undertake, if adequate terms were only proposed, it would seem that no ill consequences might be expected from at once assimilating the regulations of these provincial judicatures to those of the corregimientos, or mayoralties of towns in Spain, or in making out an express statute, on a triple scale, for three classes of magistrates, granting to them emoluments equivalent to the greater or lesser extent of the respective jurisdictions. As far as regards the pay, it ought to be so arranged as to act as a sufficient stimulus to induce European colonists to embrace this career, in a fixed and permanent way, which hitherto they have only resorted to as a five years’ speculation. Conformably to this suggestion, and owing to the lesser value attached to money in India, compared with Europe, on account of the greater abundance of the necessaries of life, I am of opinion that it would be expedient to affix an annual allowance of $2,000 to each of the appointments of the six principal and most populous provinces, $1,500 for the next in importance, and for the twelve or thirteen remaining, at the rate of $1,000 each; leaving to the candidates the option of rising according to their length of services and good conduct, from the lowest to the highest, as is the case in Spain.
[Objects to be gained.] The first part of the plan above pointed out embraces two objects. The one is to prevent the provincial magistrates from carrying on traffic, thus depriving them of every pretext to defraud the natives of what is their own; and the other, to form, in the course of a few years a class of men hitherto unknown in the Philippine Islands, who, taught by practice, may be enabled to govern the provinces in a more correct and regular manner, and acquire more extended knowledge, especially in the judicial proceedings of the first instance, which, owing to this defect, frequently compel the litigants to incur useless expenses, and greatly embarrass the ordinary course of justice. Although the second part at first seems to involve an increased expense of $36,000 or $37,000 annually, when well considered, this sum will be found not to exceed $20,000, because it will be necessary to deduct from the above estimate the amount of three per cent. under the existing regulations allowed to the magistrates for the collection of the native tributes, in their character of subdelegates, generally amounting to $16,000 or $17,000; besides only taking into account such real and effective disbursements or extraordinary expenses as in fact they may legally have incurred in the performance of their duties.
Should it, however, be deemed expedient, from causes just in their nature, hereafter to exonerate the natives from the obligations of paying tributes, by which means the amount deducted for the three per cent. commission could not then be brought into account, let me be allowed to ask what enlightened government would hesitate submitting to an additional expense of so trifling an import, in exchange for beholding more than two millions of men forever freed from the extortionate acts of their old magistrates; and, through the effects of the new regulations, the latter converted into real fathers of the people over whom they are placed? How different would then be the aspect these fine provinces would present to the eyes of the philosophical observer who would, in that case, be able to calculate to what an extent the progress of agriculture and industry in these islands might be carried.
[Demoralization of over-seas service.] Nevertheless, I do not wish to insinuate that by the better organization of the provincial governments, the present irregularities and abuses of authority would entirely cease; because I am aware, more especially in the Indies, that the persons who hold public situations usually have too exaggerated ideas of their own personal importance, and easily mistake the gratification of their own whims for firmness of character, in the necessity of causing themselves to be respected. Still it is an incontestable fact that, by removing the chief temptation, and rescinding altogether the license to trade, the just complaints preferred by the native against the Spaniard would cease; the motives of those continual disputes which arise between the magistrates and the ministers of the gospel exercising their functions in the same provinces, and the zealous defenders of the rights of their parishioners, would be removed, and the inhabitants of Manila, extending their mercantile operations to the interior, without the dread of seeing them obstructed through the powerful competition of the magistrates in authority there, would be induced to settle in or connect themselves with the provinces, and thus diffuse their knowledge, activity and money among the inhabitants, the true means of encouraging the whole.
What has already been said will suffice to convince the lover of truth and the friend of general prosperity, how urgent it is to introduce as early as possible, the reform proposed into the interior administration of this important, although neglected colony; and it is to be hoped that the government, guided by these same sentiments, will not be led away by those narrow-minded people, who predict danger from every thing that is new; but, after due and mature deliberation, resolve to adopt a measure dictated by reason, and at the same time conformable to the best interests of the state.
Of little avail would have been the valor and constancy with which Legaspi and his worthy companions overcame the natives of these islands, if the apostolic zeal of the missionaries had not seconded their exertions, and aided to consolidate the enterprise. The latter were the real conquerors; they who, without any other arms than their virtues, won over the good will of the islanders, caused the Spanish name to be beloved, and gave to the king, as it were by a miracle, two millions more of submissive and Christian subjects. These were the legislators of the barbarous hordes who inhabited the islands of this immense Archipelago, realizing, by their mild persuasion, the allegorical prodigies of Amphion and Orpheus.
[Pioneer Philippine government a theocracy.] As the means the missionaries called in to their aid, in order to reduce and civilize the Indians, were preaching and other spiritual labors, and, although scattered about and acting separately, they were still subject to the authority of their prelates, who, like so many chiefs, directed the grand work of conversion, the government primitively established in these colonies must necessarily have partaken greatly of the theocratical order, and beyond doubt it continued to be so, till, by the lapse of time, the number of colonists increased, as well as the effective strength of the royal authority, so as to render the governing system uniform with that established in the other ultramarine dominions of Spain.
This is also deduced from the fragments still remaining of the first constitution, or mode of government introduced in the Batanes Islands and missions of Cagayan, administered by the Dominican friars in a spiritual and temporal manner; as well as from what may frequently be observed in the other provinces, by any one who bestows the smallest attention. Although the civil magistracies have since been regulated, and their respective attributes determined with due precision, it has not hitherto been possible, notwithstanding the pains taken to make the contrary appear, to do without the personal authority and influence the parish curates possess over their flocks. The government has, in fact, constantly been obliged to avail themselves of this aid, as the most powerful instrument to insure respect and a due subordination, in such manner that, although the parish curates are not at present equally authorized to interfere in the civil administration, in point of fact, they are themselves the real administrators.
[Standing of parish priests.] It happens that, as the parish curate is the consoler of the afflicted, the peacemaker of families, the promoter of useful ideas, the preacher and example of every thing good; as in him liberality is seen to shine, and the Indians behold him alone in the midst of them, without relatives, without traffic, and always busied in their care and improvement, they become accustomed to live satisfied and contented under his paternal direction, and deliver up to him the whole of their confidence. In this way rendered the master of their wishes, nothing is done without the advice, or rather consent, of the curate. The subaltern governor, on receiving an order from the superior magistrate, before he takes any step, goes to the minister to obtain his sanction, and it is he in fact who tacitly gives the mandate for execution, or prevents its being carried into effect. As the father of his flock, he arranges, or directs, the lawsuits of his parishioners; it is he who draws out their writings; goes to the capital to plead for the Indians; opposes his prayers, and sometimes his threats, to the violent acts of the provincial magistrates, and arranges every thing in the most fit and quiet manner. In a word, it is not possible for any human institution to be more simple, and at the same time more firmly established, or from which so many advantages might be derived in favor of the state, as the one so justly admired in the spiritual ministry of these islands. It may therefore be considered a strange fatality, when the secret and true art of governing a colony, so different from any other as is that of the Philippines, consists in the wise use of so powerful an instrument as the one just described, that the superior government, within the last few years, should have been so much deluded as to seek the destruction of a work which, on the contrary, it is, above all others, advisable to sustain.
In this, as well as many other cases, we see how difficult, or rather how absurd it is, to expect to organize a system of government, indistinctly adapted to the genius and disposition of all nations, however great the discordance prevailing in their physical and moral constitutions. Hence it follows that, by wishing to assimilate the administrative plan of these provinces to the one adopted in the sections of America, inconveniences are unceasingly met with, evidently arising out of this erroneous principle. Whatever may be asserted to the contrary, there is no medium. It is necessary to insure obedience either through dread and force, or respect must be excited by means of love and confidence. In order to be convinced that the first is not practicable, it will only be necessary to weigh well the following circumstances and reflections.
The number of the whites compared to that of the natives is so small, that it can scarcely be estimated in the proportion of 15 to 25,000. These provinces, infinitely more populous than those of America, are entirely delivered up to the charge of provincial [Friars only check on officials.] magistrates, who carry with them to the seats of their respective governments, no other troops than the title of military commandants, and their royal commission on parchment. Besides the friars, it sometimes happens that no other white person is to be found in an entire province, but the presiding magistrate. It is the duty of the latter to collect in the king’s revenue; to pursue robbers; appease tumults; raise men for the regiments in garrison at Manila and Cavite; regulate and head his people in case of an external invasion, and, in short, it is he who is to do everything in the character of magistrate and in the name of the king. Considering, therefore, the effective power required for the due performance of so great a variety of duties, and the want of that species of support experienced by him who is charged with them, can it be denied that it would be risking the security of these dominions too much, to attempt forcibly to control them with means so insufficient? If the inhabitants become tumultuous and rise up, on whom will the magistrate call for aid to repress and punish them? In such a predicament, is any other alternative left him than to fly or die in the struggle? If among civilized nations, it is deemed indispensable that authority should always appear accompanied with force, how can it be expected, among Indians, that the laws will otherwise be respected, when left naked and unsupported?
[Missionaries’ achievements.] Evidently, it is necessary to appeal to aid of another kind, and to employ means, which, although indirect ones, are, beyond all dispute, the best adapted to the peculiar circumstances of the country,–means which, by influencing the mind, excite veneration, subdue the rude understanding of the inhabitants, and incline them to bear our dominion without repugnance. It is well understood what these means are, how much they are at hand, and how greatly also they have always been envied by other European nations, who have sought to extend and consolidate their conquests in both the Indies. Let us listen to La Pérouse, if we wish to know and admire the army with which our missionaries subdued the natives of both Californias; let us read, dispassionately, the wonderful deeds of the Jesuits in other parts of America, and, above all, let us visit the Philippine Islands and, with astonishment, shall we there behold extended ranges, studded with temples and spacious convents; the Divine worship celebrated with pomp and splendor; regularity in the streets, and even luxury in the houses and dress; schools of the first rudiments in all the towns, and the inhabitants well versed in the art of writing. We shall there see causeways raised, bridges of a good architecture built, and, in short, all the measure of good government and police, in the greatest part of the country, carried into effect, yet the whole is due to the exertions, apostolic labors and pure patriotism of the ministers of religion. Let us travel over the provinces, and we shall there see towns of 5000, 10,000, and 20,000 Indians, peacefully governed by one weak old man, who, with his doors open at all hours, sleeps quiet and secure in his dwelling, without any other magic, or any other guards, than the love and respect with which he has known to inspire his flock. And, when this is contemplated, can it be deemed possible, through foolish jealousy and vain wish for those persons only pointed out by the general laws in ordinary cases, to intervene in the government of the natives, that the fruit of so much time constancy are not to be lost, but also by hereafter disregarding and rejecting a co-operation, as efficient as it is economical, that attempts should purposely be made to destroy the mainspring of the whole of this political machine?
[Curtailing priestly authority.] Such, nevertheless, are the mistaken ideas which, within the last few years, have unhappily led to the adoption of measures, diametrically opposed to the public interest, under the pretext of curtailing the excessive authority of the parish-curates. The superior government, not satisfied with having deprived the ministers of the faculty of personally prescribing certain correctional punishments, which although of little moment, when applied with discretion, greatly contributed to fortify their ascendency, and consequently, that of the sovereign; but, in order to exclude and divest them of all intervention in the civil administration, a direct attempt has also been made to lower the esteem in which they are held, by awakening the distrust of the Indian, and, as much as possible, removing him to a greater distance from them. In proof of this, and in order that what has been said may not be deemed an exaggeration, it will suffice to quote the substance of two regulations, remarkable for their obvious tendency to weaken the influence and credit of the spiritual administrators.
By one of these, it is enacted that in order to prevent the abuses and notorious malversation of the funds of the sanctuary, specially applicable to the expenses of the festivities and worship of each parish, and arising out of the real and half for this purpose contributed by each tributary person, and collected and privately administered by the curate, the same shall hereafter be kept in a chest with three keys, and lodged in the head-town of each province. The keys are to be left, one in possession of the chief magistrate, another in the hands of the governor of the respective town, and the remaining one with the parish-curate. By the other measure it is declared, as a standing rule, that no Indian, who may lately have been employed in the domestic service of the curate, shall in his own town be considered eligible to any office belonging to the judicial department.
On measures of this kind, comments are unnecessary; their meaning and effect cannot be mistaken. I shall, therefore, merely observe, that no untimely means could have been devised more injurious to the state, to the propagation of religion, and even to the natives themselves. It is, in fact, a most strange affair, that such endeavors should have been made to impeach the purity, by at the same time degrading the respectable character of the parish-curates, more particularly at a period when, owing to partality and the scarcity of religious men, it would have seemed more natural to uphold, and by new inducements encourage the zeal and authority of the remaining few. This step appears the more singular, I repeat, at a moment when, neither by suspending the sending out of missionaries to China, and the almost entire abandonment of the spiritual conquest of the Igorots and other infidel tribes, inhabiting the interior of these islands, have the above Spanish laborers been able to carry on the ordinary administration, nor prevent entire provinces from being transferred, as is now the case, into the hands of Indians and mestizo clergymen of the Sangley race, who, through their great ignorance, corrupt morals, and total want of decorum, universally incur the contempt of the flocks committed to their care, and, in consequence of their tyrannical conduct, cause the people to sigh for the mild yoke of their ancient pastors.