The Council of the Indies; officially, the Royal and Supreme Council of the Indies (Spanish : Real y Supremo Consejo de las Indias, pronounced [reˈal i suˈpɾemo konˈsexo ðe las ˈindjas] ), was the most important administrative organ of the Spanish Empire for the Americas and the Philippines. The crown held absolute power over the Indies and the Council of the Indies was the administrative and advisory body for those overseas realms. It was established in 1524 by Charles V to administer "the Indies," Spain's name for its territories. Such an administrative entity, on the conciliar model of the Council of Castile, was created following the Spanish conquest of the Aztec empire in 1521, which demonstrated the importance of the Americas. Originally an itinerary council that followed Charles V, it was subsequently established as an autonomous body with legislative, executive and judicial functions by Philip II of Spain and placed in Madrid in 1561. The Council of the Indies was abolished in 1812 by the Cortes of Cádiz, briefly restored in 1814 by Ferdinand VII of Spain, and definitively abolished in 1834 by the regency, acting on behalf of the four-year-old Isabella II of Spain.
Queen Isabella had granted extensive authority to Christopher Columbus, but then withdrew that authority, and established direct royal control, putting matters of the Indies in the hands of her chaplain, Juan Rodríguez de Fonseca in 1493. The Catholic Monarchs (Isabella and Ferdinand) designated Rodríguez de Fonseca to study the problems related to the colonization process arising from what was seen as tyrannical behavior of Governor Christopher Columbus and his misgovernment of Natives and Iberian settlers. Rodríguez de Fonseca effectively became minister for the Indies and laid the foundations for the creation of a colonial bureaucracy. He presided over a committee or council, which contained a number of members of the Council of Castile (Consejo de Castilla), and formed a Junta de Indias of about eight counselors. Emperor Charles V was already using the term "Council of the Indies" in 1519.
The Council of the Indies was formally created on August 1, 1524.The king was informed weekly, and sometimes daily, of decisions reached by the Council, which came to exercise supreme authority over the Indies at the local level and over the Casa de Contratación ("House of Trade") founded in 1503 at Seville as a customs storehouse for the Indies. Civil suits of sufficient importance could be appealed from an audiencia in the New World to the Council, functioning as a court of last resort. There were two secretaries of the Council, one in charge of Peru, Chile, Tierrafirme (northern South America), and the Kingdom of New Granada; the other was in charge of New Spain, encompassing Mexico, Guatemala, Nueva Galicia, Hispaniola, and the Philippines. The name of the Council did not change with the addition of the indias orientales of the Philippines and other Pacific territories claimed by Spain to the original indias occidentales.
Internecine fighting and political instability in Peru and the untiring efforts of Bartolomé de las Casas on behalf of the natives' rights resulted in Charles's overhaul of the structure of the Council in 1542 with issuing of the "New Laws," which put limits on the rights of Spanish holders of encomiendas, grants of indigenous labor. Under Charles II the Council undertook the project to formally codify the large volume of Council and Crown's decisions and legislation for the Indies in the 1680 publication, the Laws of the Indies ( es:Recopilación de las Leyes de Indias ) and re-codified in 1791.
The Council of the Indies was usually headed by an ecclesiastic, but the councilors were generally non-clerics trained in law. In later years, nobles and royal favorites were in the ranks of councilors, as well as men who had experience in the high courts (Audiencias) of the Indies. A key example of such an experienced councilor was Juan de Solórzano Pereira, author of Política Indiana, who served in Peru prior to being named to the Council of the Indiesand led the project on the Laws of the Indies. Other noteworthy Presidents of the Council were es:Francisco Tello de Sandoval; es:Juan de Ovando y Godoy; Pedro Moya de Contreras, former archbishop of Mexico; and Luis de Velasco, marqués de Salinas, former viceroy of both Mexico and Peru.
Although initially the Council had responsibility for all aspects of the Indies, under Philip II the financial aspects of the empire were shifted to the Council on Finance in 1556-57, a source of conflict between the two councils, especially since Spanish America came to be the source of the empire's wealth. When the Holy Office of the Inquisition was established as an institution in Mexico and Lima in the 1570s, the Council of the Indies was removed from control. The head of the Supreme Council of the Inquisition, es:Juan de Ovando y Godoy became president of the Council of the Indies 1571-75. He was appalled by the ignorance of the Indies by those serving on the Council. He sought the creation of a general description of the territories, which was never completed, but the Relaciones geográficas were the result of that project.
The height of the Council's power was in the sixteenth century. Its power declined and the quality of the councillors decreased. In the final years of the Habsburg dynasty, some appointments were sold or were accorded to people obviously unqualified, such as a nine-year-old boy, whose father had rendered services to the crown.
With the ascension of the Bourbon dynasty at the start of the eighteenth century, a series of administrative changes, known as the Bourbon reforms, were introduced. In 1714 Philip V created a Secretariat of the Navy and the Indies (Secretaría de Marina e Indias) with a single Minister of the Indies, which superseded the administrative functions of the Council, although the Council continued to function in a secondary role until the nineteenth century. Fifty years later Charles III set up a separate Secretary of State for the Indies (Secretarío del Estado del Despacho Universal de Indias).In the late eighteenth century, the Council became powerful and prestigious again, with a great number of well qualified councillors with experience in the Indies. In 1808 Napoleon invaded Spain placed his brother, Joseph Napoleon on the throne. The Cortes of Cádiz, the body Spaniards considered the legitimate government in Spain and its overseas territories in the absence of their Bourbon monarch, abolished the Council in 1812. It was restored in 1814 upon Ferdinand VII's restoration, and the autocratic monarch appointed a great number of Councillors with American experience. The Council was finally abolished in 1834, a year after Ferdinand VII's death and after the loss of most of Spain's empire in the Americas.
The archives of the Council, the Archivo General de Indias one of the major centers of documentation for Spanish, Spanish American, and European history, are housed in Seville.
The Spanish colonization of the Americas began under the Crown of Castile and spearheaded by the Spanish conquistadors. The Americas were invaded and incorporated into the Spanish Empire, with the exception of Brazil, British America, and some small regions in South America and the Caribbean. The crown created civil and religious structures to administer this vast territory. The main motivations for colonial expansion were profit through resource extraction and the spread of Catholicism through indigenous conversions.
Bartolomé de las Casas was a 16th-century Spanish landowner, friar, priest, and bishop, famed as a historian and social reformer. He arrived in Hispaniola as a layman then became a Dominican friar and priest. He was appointed as the first resident Bishop of Chiapas, and the first officially appointed "Protector of the Indians". His extensive writings, the most famous being A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies and Historia de Las Indias, chronicle the first decades of colonization of the West Indies. He described the atrocities committed by the colonizers against the indigenous peoples.
The Spanish Empire, historically known as the Hispanic Monarchy and as the Catholic Monarchy, was one of the largest empires in history. From the late 15th century to the early 19th, Spain controlled a huge overseas territory in the New World, the Asian archipelago of the Philippines, what they called "The Indies" and territories in Europe, Africa and Oceania. It was one of the most powerful empires of the 16th and 17th centuries. The Spanish Empire became known as "the empire on which the sun never sets" and reached its maximum extent in the 18th century.
The New Laws, also known as the New Laws of the Indies for the Good Treatment and Preservation of the Indians, were issued on November 20, 1542, by Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor and regard the Spanish colonization of the Americas. Following complaints and calls for reform from individuals such as the Dominican friar Bartolomé de Las Casas, these laws were intended to prevent the exploitation and mistreatment of the indigenous peoples of the Americas by the encomenderos, by strictly limiting their power and dominion over groups of natives. The text of the New Laws has been translated into English.
The Spanish treasure fleet, or West Indies Fleet Spanish: Flota de Indias, was a convoy system of sea routes organized by the Spanish Empire from 1566 to 1790, which linked Spain with its territories in the Americas across the Atlantic. The convoys were general purpose cargo fleets used for transporting a wide variety of items, including agricultural goods, lumber, various metal resources such as silver and gold, gems, pearls, spices, sugar, tobacco, silk, and other exotic goods from the overseas territories of the Spanish Empire to the Spanish mainland. Spanish goods such as oil, wine, textiles, books and tools were transported in the opposite direction.
The Political Constitution of the Spanish Monarchy, also known as the Constitution of Cádiz and as La Pepa, was the first Constitution of Spain and one of the earliest constitutions in world history.
The Casa de Contratación or Casa de la Contratación de las Indias was established by the Crown of Castile, in 1503 in the port of Seville as a crown agency for the Spanish Empire. It functioned until 1790, when it was abolished in a government reorganization. Before the establishment of the Council of the Indies in 1524, the Casa de Contratación had broad powers over overseas matters, especially financial matters concerning trade and legal disputes arising from it. It also was responsible for the licensing of emigrants, training of pilots, creation of maps and charters, probate of estates of Spaniards dying overseas. Its official name was La Casa y Audiencia de Indias.
A Real Audiencia, or simply an Audiencia, was an appellate court in Spain and its empire. The name of the institution literally translates as Royal Audience. The additional designation chancillería was applied to the appellate courts in early modern Spain. Each audiencia had oidores.
The Spanish East Indies were the overseas territories of the Spanish Empire in Asia and Oceania from 1565 to 1901 governed from Manila in the Spanish Philippines. The seat of government was in the Spanish Philippines and it encompassed the Marianas, Carolines, Palaos and Guam, as well as parts of Formosa (Taiwan), Sulawesi (Celebes) and the Moluccas (Maluku). The King of Spain traditionally styled himself "King of the East and West Indies".
The Archivo General de Indias, housed in the ancient merchants' exchange of Seville, Spain, the Casa Lonja de Mercaderes, is the repository of extremely valuable archival documents illustrating the history of the Spanish Empire in the Americas and the Philippines. The building itself, an unusually serene and Italianate example of Spanish Renaissance architecture, was designed by Juan de Herrera. This structure and its contents were registered in 1987 by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site together with the adjoining Seville Cathedral and the Alcázar of Seville.
Juan Rodriguez de Fonseca (1451–1524) was a Spanish archbishop, a courtier and bureaucrat, whose position as royal chaplain to Queen Isabella enabled him to become a powerful counsellor to Ferdinand and Isabella, the Catholic Monarchs. He controlled the Casa de Contratación, an agency which managed expeditions to the New World on behalf of the Spanish crown. He later served as the president of the Council of the Indies, when it was founded in 1521. He managed the administration of a number of significant Spanish expeditions including voyages by Christopher Columbus and Magellan's circumnavigation of the earth.
The Council of Castile, known earlier as the Royal Council, was a ruling body and key part of the domestic government of the Crown of Castile, second only to the monarch himself. It was established under Queen Isabella I in 1480 as the chief body dealing with administrative and judicial matters of the realm. With the 1516 ascension of King Charles I to the throne of both Castile and Aragon, the Royal Council came to be known as the Council of Castile because Charles was king of many dominions other than Castile, while the Council retained responsibility only over Castile.
The Spanish West Indies or the Spanish Antilles were Spanish colonies in the Caribbean. In terms of governance of the Spanish Empire, The Indies was the designation for all its overseas territories and was overseen by the Council of the Indies, founded in 1524 and based in Spain. When the crown established the Viceroyalty of New Spain in 1535, the islands of the Caribbean came under its jurisdiction.
The Laws of the Indies are the entire body of laws issued by the Spanish Crown for the American and the Philippine possessions of its empire. They regulated social, political, religious, and economic life in these areas. The laws are composed of myriad decrees issued over the centuries and the important laws of the 16th century, which attempted to regulate the interactions between the settlers and natives, such as the Laws of Burgos (1512) and the New Laws (1542).Throughout the 400 years of Spanish presence in these parts of the world, the laws were compiled several times, most notably in 1680 under Charles II in the Recopilación de las Leyes de los Reins de las Indias. This became considered the classic collection of the laws, although later laws superseded parts of it, and other compilations were issued.
The New Kingdom of Granada, or Kingdom of the New Granada, was the name given to a group of 16th-century Spanish colonial provinces in northern South America governed by the president of the Audiencia of Santa Fe, an area corresponding mainly to modern-day Colombia. The conquistadors originally organized it as a captaincy general within the Viceroyalty of Peru. The crown established the audiencia in 1549. Ultimately the kingdom became part of the Viceroyalty of New Granada first in 1717 and permanently in 1739. After several attempts to set up independent states in the 1810s, the kingdom and the viceroyalty ceased to exist altogether in 1819 with the establishment of the United Provinces of New Granada.
The Real Audiencia de Manila was the Real Audiencia of the Spanish East Indies, which included modern-day Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Palau, Micronesia and the Philippines. Similar to Real Audiencias throughout the Spanish Empire, it was the highest tribunal within the territories of the Captaincy General of the Philippines, a dependency of the Viceroyalty of New Spain.
The Royal Audience and Chancery of Panama in Tierra Firme was a governing body and superior court in the New World empire of Spain. The Audiencia of Panama was the third American audiencia after the ones of Santo Domingo and Mexico. It existed three times under various guises since it first creation in 1538 until its ultimate abolition in 1751.
Protector of the Indians was an administrative office of the Spanish colonies, that was responsible for attending to the well being of the native populations, including speaking on their behalf in courts and reporting back to the King of Spain. The King of Spain during the period of the Protector of the Indians was King Charles V. The King of Spain throughout this era gained the information of the treatments through Bartolomé de las Casas. Bartolomé de las Casas was one of the first Europeans to set foot into the new hemisphere and he later dedicated his life to the desire of ending harsh treatment of Indians.
Juan Bautista Muñoz was an 18th-century Spanish philosopher and historian.
Historia general de las Indias is the account by Francisco López de Gómara of the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire. The first printing was in December 1552, in the workshop of Agustín Millán in Zaragoza, published under the title La istoria de las Indias