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in addition, both the ship from the Canaries and the permit to dispatch, for once only, two ships of five hundred tons, the Elizabeth and the Bedford, which were to serve for the transport of their agents, and which sold a considerable quantity of merchandise in America. Opportunities for fraud were, on the other hand, manifold, the English having had granted to them the freest access to Spanish ports, the right of internment, and, in general, all of the facilities of trade which the French Assientists had enjoyed : general storehouses, auxiliary commerce, vessels in the South Sea, the opening of Buenos Aires with concession of an important extent of ground, etc.
This combination of privileges gave, an exceptional situation in the two oceans to British commerce, and, if one considers the length of time which the contract had to run, one begins to regard it no longer as a momentary advantage, but rather as a permanent statute granted to the English nation in the West Indies. The most striking thing in this bargain is the lack of balance between the condition of the two contracting parties: one is openly sacrificed to the other. This situation would be only imperfectly understood if one confined oneself to examining it in itself; but in order to appreciate it justly it is necessary to put back the Assiento in the general policy where it serves as a counter-poise to the important concessions of a political nature made by England to Philip V. The latter bought, in fact, for the commercial advantages which the monopoly of the slave-trade carried, the right to maintain himself upon the throne of Spain.
The Assiento was signed at Madrid by Lexington and the Marquis of Bedmar, March 26, 1713. We have this time no doubt regarding its legal character, for we are in the presence of a true treaty. The evolution of the institution is definitely achieved. The two sovereigns not only associate themselves together each for a quarter in the operations to be undertaken, but again the Assiento is not concluded directly with the future Assientists, but with Her British Majesty. It is Queen Anne who offers, in the name of persons whom she shall later designate, to execute the forty-three articles of the treaty. The personality of the Assientist disappeared in the
presence of her own. If, therefore, any difficulty rises with regard to the interpretation or the execution of this Assiento, it can be decided only between Crown and Crown, just as negotiations are carried on from Crown to Crown between plenipotentiaries provided with instructions and with regular powers. The Spanish Government has therefore bound its hands more than it had ever done; it is no longer the master of an enterprise so essential to its colonial life; the contractor which it must accept can treat with it from power to power, and the greatest difficulties did not cease to result from it.
The Assiento was approved and ratified by His Catholic Majesty, countersigned by the secretary of the Council of the Indies, approved and accepted in an official interview by Lexington, in the name of Her Brittanic Majesty, before the royal notary. If doubt could arise regarding the international value of this document, the mention which is made of it in the treaties of London, Madrid, and Utrecht, with insertion of its most important clauses, suffices to assure to it all its scope, for it was considered as making an integral part of these treaties themselves.
It appears, however, that Philip kept a considerable advantage by maintaining his participation in the affairs of the company. This participation implied that the Assientist should submit to his verification and give the accounts to his royal partner. Ilis Catholic Majesty had to appoint two directors at London, one at Cadiz, and two in the Indies, to interpose in the commercial operations; but the English had taken care to specify that they could " only interpose and could not decide. As to the accounts, they were to be every five years approved and liquidated by the ministers of Her Britannic Majesty and those of His Catholic Majesty. It was easy to foresee, being given the independence of future Assientists, that these accounts would never be furnished. The Assiento was confided by Her Britannic Majesty to the South Sea Company whose creation had caused so great anxiety at Seville. It need not be said that this company promised to confine its activity to the role which was confided to it and gave up every establishment in the Pacific. It played a most important role in England. Conceived as
organism destined to liquidate the debts contracted by the nation during the war and whose capital was represented by its shares, having the High Treasurer at its head and numbers of political men among its directors, its management raised the most violent criticism in the press of the United Kingdom. It was able at first to obtain from the Government the relinquishment of the privileges that it had reserved to itself in the treaty, it claimed even, without succeeding in it, that the king of Spain should also cede to it the quarter interest which he had in the enterprise and put in tutelage William Eon, the first director whom His Catholic Majesty sent to London to represent his interests.
But soon the affairs of the company were in jeopardy. In 1720, a great crash, due in part to embezzlements and especially to the political hatred of the Whigs, who returned to power at that time, caused the failure of its financial designs. The commercial development of the Assiento was apparently no more successful. The directors cared little for the slave traffic whose profits, however considerable, appeared a small matter in comparison with the incredible profits from the contraband trade. They devoted themselves almost exclusively to the commerce of merchandise, to the great detriment of the shareholders, whose dividends were always insignificant.
They could not, in fact, carry on the account the proceeds of the contraband trade, and the whole result of this vast enterprise was changed into private profits; but, in fact, these were distributed throughout the whole English nation: London commerce shared in the whole of it in such a manner that in spite of libels and pamphlets the company resisted and maintained itself. It was forced. however, to struggle against its own countrymen; the English colony of Cadiz saw its total of affairs diminishing, and the inhabitants of Jamaica, whose fortune had been formerly in the smuggling trade, saw themselves in part dispossessed of it. They soon perceived at Madrid that the English Assiento would be the ruin of the commerce of Seville. Galleons and fleets no longer found an outlet for their merchandise, and the economic decadence of the Peninsula was accentuated with frightful rapidity. Moreover, they promptly enough forgot that the Assiento had been the ransom of the monarchy and only thought of reducing the advantages granted. During the whole of the first half of the eighteenth century Spanish diplomacy struggled in this sense, suspending the Assiento to bring the English to terms when complications of European policy made the latter fear a diplomatic rupture, and not hesitating to have recourse to force to rid themselves of a ruinous economic yoke. The war of 1739 between Spain and England was brought about by Spanish pretensions to exclude English merchant vessels from its territorial waters and the seizure in the port of Havana of the annual vessel of license, the Prince Frederick. There is not a diplomatic negotiation in the course of these forty years (1710-1750) in which difficulties between the Spanish Government and the South Sea Company are not taken up and discussed interminably. Thus it happened at the Congress of Soissons where the Spanish plenipo tentiaries acquired convincing proofs of the smuggling trade of the directors, and, at the time of the treaty of Seville, when the commissioners, appointed on both sides, devoted long sittings to the examination of the counterclaims of the company and of the Council of the Indies.
Although upheld in this incessant struggle by France and other maritime powers who suffered from English absorption of the trade with America, Spain had to deal with too strong an adversary and could not extricate herself from the shackles which she had accepted. Geraldino, the successor of William Eon at London in the office of director of the company for the interests of His Catholic Majesty, displayed an activity and capacity which later procured for him the post of ambassador. He succeeded in considerably cramping the contraband trade of the directors and even obtained some embryonic accounts. Comptrollers sent to America denounced alike the frauds of the Assientists and of their agents; but it was too late. The agencies had become genuine storehouses of merchandise, at the same time they were bureaus of information for the city traders and counting houses for the London bankers. The entire trade of America lay in the hands of the English nation; there was no agglomeration of the new continent whose productions, needs, and means of satisfying them, it did not know better than the corporation of the merchants of Seville had ever known them.
At the time of the treaties of Aix-la-Chapelle in 1748 and of Madrid in 1750, England gave up the possession of the Assiento which she had enjoyed for more than forty years; for, in spite of interruptions and suspensions, she had never ceased her contraband trade, even during the war. This relinquishment was esteemed as a diplomatic victory by the Spaniards, although they had consented to pay the English company an indemnity of one hundred thousand crowns. It was much for them indeed to regain their commercial liberty, but one may be permitted to doubt whether the English would have consented in reality to a very great sacrifice. They had diverted to their advantage the trade of the two Americas, and nothing is more difficult than to change an established commercial current. They remained the usual furnishers of manual labor and manufactured products in the Spanish colonies.
Moreover at this time they had scarcely any more need of the Assiento, for another reason. The colonies of North America began to play, and more easily, the part of Jamaica. They had a merchant marine and land communications with the Spanish domains. Lastly, commercial liberty was gradually being established. The Assiento became, therefore, even for England, a useless point of friction, in its relations with Spain, and certain signs tend to prove that she gained rather than that she lost by relinquishing it.
The Spanish administration, taught by the difficulties of an international character which it had encountered for nearly a century, came back, after Aix-la-Chapelle, to the decision already taken in 1701, viz., to restore the slave-trade to the sphere of internal law from which it should never have issued. It was resolved to contide the enterprise only to Spaniards and, to avoid the disappointments formerly experienced in contracting with too audacious Assientists, the exploitation was divided among several partial Assientos, each one assigned to a particular region of its domains. It is proper to add that foreigners, English especially, French sometimes, often