TREASURE FLEETPHILIP II, KING OF SPAIN. 1527-1598.
Manuscript Document Signed ("Yo El Rey"), 1 p, small folio, Madrid, 14 October 1572, in Spanish, addressed to the Royal Officers of the Royal Revenues in the "Provincia do Popayán," Colombia, docketed on the verso, ordering that the all-important gold and silver shipments should be packed and recorded in such a way that the practice of pilfering the treasure in transit will be eliminated. Old folds with small splits, lower right blank corner with small section torn away.
AN IMPORTANT ROYAL DOCUMENT CONCERNING THE SECURITY OF TRANSFER OF THE GOLD AND SILVER COMING THROUGH COLOMBIA ON ITS WAY TO SPAIN. The gold and silver that flowed from and through the New World were essentially the life blood of the Spanish empire, and, unsurprisingly, King Philip was closely concerned with all aspects of the transfer of this treasure to its final destination in the Casa de Contratación in Seville, Spain. The present document acknowledges that it had come to be usual for a proportion of every shipment of gold and silver to be "lost at sea," i.e. pocketed by the people who were in charge of the transport. To prevent this practice, Philip lets officials in Popayán know that the ship's masters ("los maestres de las naos") have been told that they will be held personally responsible for any losses, and will have to make up any losses out of their own pockets. To increase security even further, the King here orders the Royal Officers to pack and record each shipment in a manner that will make theft difficult if not impossible. The document is addressed to the officials in Popayán, a significant mining area for precious metals, which was also a vital link between Lima, Quito and Cartagena: it served as a transfer point for the gold and other riches going to Cartagena on their way to Spain.