The Politics of Empire
(Week 9, November 12 , 2013)
Politics in the New World:
Royal administration in Spanish colonies.
Local interpretation of the laws.
Royal government in New France.
Administration of the laws.
Politics in Virginia.
The town hall meetings.
No sense of democracy.
Little political participation by people in the colonies.
In British colonies beginning of democracy (colonies develop political independence).
Voting rights to approximately 50% of the population (depending on wealth).
From 1492-1524 conquistadors held political power over territories they conquered.
1524 Spain creates Council of the Indies (nominates all colonial officials, coded and
interpreted laws, gathered reports on history, geography, resources and population of
Spanish colonies divided into two Viceroyalties (New Spain with capital Mexico City and
Peru with capital at Lima).
No political structure.
Cortes held too much power because he took over theAztecs, and theAztec people
became his personal slaves.
Massive territory in the Viceroyalty, southern to central NorthAmerica, and southern,
central and western.
These were massive areas for political control.
Each Viceroyalty was led by a Viceroy (increase royal revenues, defend colony, relations
Viceroy’s power was theoretically limited by the Council of the Indies but it was
thousands of miles away.
Local affairs were run by theAudiencias-local councils appointed by the Spanish
Both Viceroy andAudiencias could create and enforce laws.
Don’t have standing armies within colonies (hard to call for help).
All positions appointed by the Crown.
Fear of creating own army because there may be an attempt of independence.
Viceroy’s represent the Crown, they must report to the Council of the Indies (journey to
report), created more power for the Viceroy’s because they were physically there.
Viceroy’s like federal government. ProvincialAdministration:
Only form of provincial administration was the town councils (Cabildos).
Cabildos were notoriously corrupt.
Dominated by wealthy landowners who used their position to further enrich themselves
(bought Crown lands cheap, assigned themselves large numbers of Repartimento
Born in the colony, like a region government, no one thought it was wrong to make
yourself rich from your political standing.
Cabildos were only form of government which was dominated by colonial born
Cabildos were aided by bureaucracy of tax collectors, police officers, secretaries-all these
job positions were sold to the highest bidder.
Collected no salary received fees for services performed which led to abuses.
Example: paid $150 to become police officer who gets $5 for each person arrested.
Corruption is the basis of these systems, becomes part of the political culture in
Local Interpretation of the Laws:
Because of the vast distance between the Council of the Indies in Spain and colonies,
laws were widely evaded.
No laws were more evaded than those dealing with Native labour (laws were passed to
end slavery and protect Natives yet enslavement continued).
No one paid attention to the law.
Enforcement of the Laws:
Yet, the Council of the Indies laws requiring Native tribute collection, sale of goods to
Natives only through Spanish licensed traders, prohibition against Native land
ownership were rigorously enforced.
Crown was able to hold on to its colonies despite their growing wealth because Spain was