Asiento

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The island of Cadiz by Blaeu in 1662. Insula Gaditana.jpg
The island of Cádiz by Blaeu in 1662.

The asiento was the license issued by the Spanish crown, by which a set of merchants received the monopoly on a trade route or product. [1] They were included in some peace treaties. An example of it was the payment of a fee, granting legal permission to sell a fixed number of enslaved Africans in the Spanish colonies. They were usually sold to foreigners, mainly Portuguese. They were also considered a tangible asset, comparable to tax farming, and a source of profit for the Spanish crown. [2] The original impetus to import enslaved Africans was to relieve the indigenous inhabitants of the colonies from the labor demands of the Spanish colonists. [3] Dutch merchants became involved in the slave trade. In 1713, the British were awarded the right to the asiento in the Treaty of Utrecht, which ended the War of the Spanish Succession. The British government passed its rights to the South Sea Company. [4] The British asiento ended with the 1750 Treaty of Madrid between Great Britain and Spain.

Monopoly Market structure with a single firm dominating the market

A monopoly exists when a specific person or enterprise is the only supplier of a particular commodity. This contrasts with a monopsony which relates to a single entity's control of a market to purchase a good or service, and with oligopoly which consists of a few sellers dominating a market. Monopolies are thus characterized by a lack of economic competition to produce the good or service, a lack of viable substitute goods, and the possibility of a high monopoly price well above the seller's marginal cost that leads to a high monopoly profit. The verb monopolise or monopolize refers to the process by which a company gains the ability to raise prices or exclude competitors. In economics, a monopoly is a single seller. In law, a monopoly is a business entity that has significant market power, that is, the power to charge overly high prices. Although monopolies may be big businesses, size is not a characteristic of a monopoly. A small business may still have the power to raise prices in a small industry.

Trade route series of roads, pathways and stoppages for commercial trade on land; excludes rail

A trade route is a logistical network identified as a series of pathways and stoppages used for the commercial transport of cargo. The term can also be used to refer to trade over bodies of water. Allowing goods to reach distant markets, a single trade route contains long distance arteries, which may further be connected to smaller networks of commercial and noncommercial transportation routes. Among notable trade routes was the Amber Road, which served as a dependable network for long-distance trade. Maritime trade along the Spice Route became prominent during the Middle Ages, when nations resorted to military means for control of this influential route. During the Middle Ages, organizations such as the Hanseatic League, aimed at protecting interests of the merchants and trade became increasingly prominent.

In marketing, a product is an object or system made available for consumer use; it is anything that can be offered to a market to satisfy the desire or need of a customer. In retailing, products are often referred to as merchandise, and in manufacturing, products are bought as raw materials and then sold as finished goods. A service is also regarded to as a type of product.

Contents

In Spain the asientos of the Genoveses (enemies of the Crown of Aragon) and later of the so-called Marranos or Portuguese Jews stand out.

Genoa Comune in Liguria, Italy

Genoa is the capital of the Italian region of Liguria and the sixth-largest city in Italy. In 2015, 594,733 people lived within the city's administrative limits. As of the 2011 Italian census, the Province of Genoa, which in 2015 became the Metropolitan City of Genoa, counted 855,834 resident persons. Over 1.5 million people live in the wider metropolitan area stretching along the Italian Riviera.

Crown of Aragon Composite monarchy which existed between 1162–1716

The Crown of Aragon was a composite monarchy, also nowadays referred to as a confederation of individual polities or kingdoms ruled by one king, with a personal and dynastic union of the Kingdom of Aragon and the County of Barcelona. At the height of its power in the 14th and 15th centuries, the Crown of Aragon was a thalassocracy controlling a large portion of present-day eastern Spain, parts of what is now southern France, and a Mediterranean "empire" which included the Balearic Islands, Sicily, Corsica, Sardinia, Malta, Southern Italy and parts of Greece. The component realms of the Crown were not united politically except at the level of the king, who ruled over each autonomous polity according to its own laws, raising funds under each tax structure, dealing separately with each Corts or Cortes. Put in contemporary terms, it has sometimes been considered that the different lands of the Crown of Aragon functioned more as a confederation than as a single kingdom. In this sense, the larger Crown of Aragon must not be confused with one of its constituent parts, the Kingdom of Aragon, from which it takes its name.

In many cases, intra-nationally, a seat in the form of financing in the case of economies of scale resulted in a chartered company, which was a commercial company whose activities enjoyed the protection of the State by means of a special privilege, which, although it did not always constitute a total monopoly. Its existence dates back to 14th century in Italy, highlighting the British East India Company, the Dutch West India Company or the Casa de la Contratación de Indias in Seville.

Economies of scale Cost advantages obtained via scale of operation

In microeconomics, economies of scale are the cost advantages that enterprises obtain due to their scale of operation, with cost per unit of output decreasing with increasing scale. At the basis of economies of scale there may be technical, statistical, organizational or related factors to the degree of market control.

Chartered company Company created to colonize and trade

A chartered company is an association with investors or shareholders and incorporated and granted rights by royal charter for the purpose of trade, exploration, and colonization.

State (polity) Organised community living under a system of government; either a sovereign state, constituent state, or federated state

A state is a polity that is typically established as a centralized organisation. There is no undisputed definition of a state. Max Weber's definition of a state as a polity that maintains a monopoly on the use of violence is widely used, as are many others.

Spanish Asiento

San Juan de Ulua, Spanish fort in Veracruz, Mexico (2008) San juan ulua1.JPG
San Juan de Ulúa, Spanish fort in Veracruz, Mexico (2008)

The general meaning of asiento (from the Spanish verb sentar, to sit, and this from Latin sedere) in Spanish is "consent" or "settlement, establishment". In a commercial context it means "contract, trading agreement." In the words of Georges Scelle, it was "a term in Spanish public law which designates every contract made for the purpose of public utility…between the Spanish government and private individuals." [5]

Georges Scelle was an international jurist and member of the United Nations International Law Commission.

The asiento system was established following Spanish settlement in the Caribbean, when the indigenous population was undergoing demographic collapse and the Spanish needed another source of labor. Initially a few Christian Africans born in Iberia were transported to the Caribbean. But as the indigenous demographic collapse was ongoing and opponents of Spanish exploitation of indigenous labor grew, including that of Bartolomé de Las Casas, the young Habsburg king Charles I of Spain allowed for the direct importation of slaves from Africa ( bozales ) to the Caribbean. The first asiento for selling slaves was drawn up in 1518, granting a Flemish favorite of Charles, Laurent de Gouvenot, a monopoly on importing enslaved Africans for eight years with a maximum of 4,000. Gouvenot promptly sold his license to Genoese merchants in Andalusia for 25,000 ducats. [6] The crown controlled both trade and immigration to the New World, excluding Jews, conversos, Muslims, and foreigners. African slaves were considered merchandise, and their import regulated by the crown. [7] Spain had neither direct access to the African sources of slaves nor the ability to transport them, so the asiento system was a way to ensure a legal supply of Africans to the New World, which brought revenue to the Spanish crown. [8]

For the Spanish crown, the asiento was a source of profit. "The asiento remained the settled policy of the Spanish government for controlling and profiting from the slave trade." [4] In Habsburg Spain, asientos were a basic method of financing state expenditures: "Borrowing took two forms – long-term debt in the form of perpetual bonds (juros), and short-term loan contracts provided by bankers (asientos). Many asientos were eventually converted or refinanced through juros." [9]

Habsburg Spain Reigning dynasty in Spain in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries

Habsburg Spain refers to Spain over the 16th and 17th centuries (1516–1700), when it was ruled by kings from the House of Habsburg. The Habsburg rulers reached the zenith of their influence and power. They controlled territory that included the Americas, the East Indies, the Low Countries and territories now in France and Germany in Europe, the Portuguese Empire from 1580 to 1640, and various other territories such as small enclaves like Ceuta and Oran in North Africa. This period of Spanish history has also been referred to as the "Age of Expansion".

Initially, since Portugal had unimpeded rights in West Africa via its 1494 treaty it dominated the European slave trade of Africans. Before the onset of the official asiento in 1595, when the Spanish monarch also ruled Portugal in the Iberian Union (1580-1640), the Spanish fiscal authorities gave individual asientos to merchants, primarily from Portugal, to bring slaves to the Americas. For the 1560s most of these slaves were obtained in the Upper Guinea regions, especially in the Sierra Leone region where there were many wars associated with the Mande invasions.

San Felipe, Spanish fort in Cartagena (Colombia). Cartagena - Fortaleza San Felipe de Barajas - 20050430bis.jpg
San Felipe, Spanish fort in Cartagena (Colombia).

Following the establishment of the Portuguese colony of Angola in 1575, and the gradual replacement of São Tomé by Brazil as the primary producers of sugar, Angolan interests came to dominate the trade, and it was Portuguese financiers and merchants who obtained the larger scale, comprehensive asiento that was established in 1595 during the period of the Iberian Union. The asiento was extended to importation of African slaves to Brazil, with those holding asientos for the Brazilian slave trade often also trading slaves in Spanish America. Spanish America was a major market for African slaves, including many of whom exceeded the quota of the asiento license and illegally sold. Most smuggled slaves were not brought by freelance traders. [10]

Angolan dominance of the trade was pronounced after 1615 when the governors of Angola, starting with Bento Banha Cardoso, made alliance with Imbangala mercenaries to wreak havoc on the local African powers. Many of these governors also held the contract of Angola as well as the asiento, thus insuring their interests. Shipping registers from Vera Cruz and Cartagena show that as many as 85% of the slaves arriving in Spanish ports were from Angola, brought by Portuguese ships. The earlier asiento period came to an end in 1640 when Portugal revolted against Spain, though even then the Portuguese continued to supply Spanish colonies.

Cover of the English translation of the Asiento contract signed by Britain and Spain in 1713 as part of the Utrecht treaty that ended the War of Spanish Succession. The contract granted exclusive rights to Britain to sell slaves in the Spanish Indies. 1713 Asiento contract.png
Cover of the English translation of the Asiento contract signed by Britain and Spain in 1713 as part of the Utrecht treaty that ended the War of Spanish Succession. The contract granted exclusive rights to Britain to sell slaves in the Spanish Indies.

In the 1650s after Portugal achieved its independence from Spain, Spain denied the asiento to the Portuguese, whom they considered rebels. [11] Spain sought to enter the slave trade directly, sending ships to Angola to purchase slaves. It also toyed with the idea of a military alliance with Kongo, the powerful African kingdom north of Angola. But these ideas were abandoned and the Spanish returned to Portuguese and then Dutch interests to supply slaves. The Spanish awarded large contracts for the asiento to the Dutch West India Company in 1675 rather than Portuguese merchants in the 1670s and 1680s. [12] In 1700, with the death of the last Habsburg monarch, Charles II of Spain, his will named the French House of Bourbon as the successor to the Spanish throne. The asiento was granted in 1702 to the French Guinea Company, for the importation of 48,000 African slaves over a decade. The Africans were transported to French Caribbean colonies of Martinique and Saint Domingue.

Britain disputed the Bourbon inheritance of the Spanish throne and fought in the War of the Spanish Succession. Although Britain did not prevail, it did receive the asiento as part of the Treaty of Utrecht. The asiento became a conduit for British contraband trade all kinds, which undermined Spain's attempts to keep a closed trading system with its colonies. [13] The asiento agreement with the British survived until 1750, when Spain was implementing a number of administrative and economic reforms. The crown bought out the South Sea Company's right to the asiento in 1750. The crown sought another way to supply African slaves, attempting to liberalize its traffic, trying to shift to a system of the free trade in slaves by Spaniards and foreigners in particular colonial locations. These were Cuba, Santo Domingo, Puerto Rico, and Caracas, all of which used African slaves in large numbers. [14]

Europeans' enslavement of Africans was not not challenged, but in 1688 Aphra Behn published Oroonoko , one of the first pieces of antislavery literature. [15]

British South Sea Company

At the conclusion of the War of the Spanish Succession, the Treaty of Utrecht gave to Great Britain a thirty-year asiento or contract, to send one merchant ship to the Spanish port of Portobelo, furnishing 4800 slaves to the Spanish colonies. This provided British traders and smugglers with inroads into the supposedly closed Spanish markets in America. Disputes connected with it led to the War of Jenkins' Ear (1739). [16] Britain gave up its rights to the asiento after the war, in the 1750 Treaty of Madrid.

Similar patents in the English system were the Virginia Company, the Levant Company and the Merchant Adventurers' patent of trade with the United Provinces (essentially concurrent with the modern day Netherlands). A detailed and well written overview of the English system is given by Robert Brenner in "Merchants and Revolution".

Holders of the Asiento

Joseph Coymans, with coat of arms, three oxheads, by Frans Hals in (1644). He and his brother, & two cousins named Balthasar and Joan were financing slave trade. Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Connecticut. Frans Hals 1644 Portrait of Joseph Coymans.jpg
Joseph Coymans, with coat of arms, three oxheads, by Frans Hals in (1644). He and his brother, & two cousins named Balthasar and Joan were financing slave trade. Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Connecticut.
The Dutch merchant in Cadiz Joshua van Belle, involved with his brother Pedro in slave trade, by Murillo in 1670, National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin. Retratodejosuavanbellers8.jpg
The Dutch merchant in Cadiz Joshua van Belle, involved with his brother Pedro in slave trade, by Murillo in 1670, National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin.
Jean Baptiste du Casse, 1700 Jean Baptiste du Casse.JPG
Jean Baptiste du Casse, 1700

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Related Research Articles

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Dutch West India Company was a chartered company of Dutch merchants as well as foreign investors. Among its founders was Willem Usselincx (1567–1647). On 3 June 1621, it was granted a charter for a trade monopoly in the Dutch West Indies by the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands and given jurisdiction over Dutch participation in the Atlantic slave trade, Brazil, the Caribbean, and North America. The area where the company could operate consisted of West Africa and the Americas, which included the Pacific Ocean and the eastern part of New Guinea. The intended purpose of the charter was to eliminate competition, particularly Spanish or Portuguese, between the various trading posts established by the merchants. The company became instrumental in the largely ephemeral Dutch colonization of the Americas in the seventeenth century. From 1624 to 1654, in the context of the Dutch-Portuguese War, the WIC held Portuguese territory in northeast Brazil, but they were ousted from Dutch Brazil following fierce resistance.

Thirteen Colonies British American colonies which became the United States

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European colonization of the Americas settlement and establishment of control of the continents of the Americas by most of the naval powers of Europe

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Portuguese Empire Global empire centered in Portugal

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Dutch Gold Coast Dutch possession in Western Africa between 1598-1872

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History of slavery aspect of history

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First wave of European colonization aspect of history

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Real Asiento de Inglaterra was the name in Spanish of the subsidiary in Buenos Aires of the South Sea Company. In 1713, the British Crown established the Asiento in the current Plaza San Martín, neighborhood of Retiro.

References

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  2. Blackburn, Robin, The Making of New World Slavery, London: Verso 1997, pp. 135, 141-2.
  3. Haring, Clarence. The Spanish Empire in America, New York: Oxford University Press 1947, p. 219.
  4. 1 2 Haring, The Spanish Empire in America, p. 220.
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  8. Shelly, Cara. "Asiento" in Encyclopedia of Latin American History and Culture, vol. 1, p. 218. New York: Charles Scribner's and Sons 1996, p. 218.
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