The Spanish treasure fleet, or West Indies Fleet from Spanish Flota de Indias, also called silver fleet or plate fleet (from the Spanish plata meaning "silver"), was a convoy system of sea routes organized by the Spanish Empire from 1566 to 1790, which linked Spain with its territories in America 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 West Indies fleet was the first permanent transatlantic trade route in history. Similarly, the Manila galleons were the first permanent trade route across the Pacific.
Spanish ships had brought goods from the New World since Christopher Columbus's first expedition of 1492. The organized system of convoys dates from 1564, but Spain sought to protect shipping prior to that by organizing protection around the largest Caribbean island, Cuba and the maritime region of southern Spain and the Canary Islands because of attacks by pirates and foreign navies.The Spanish government created a system of convoys in the 1560s in response to the sacking of Havana by French privateers. The main procedures were established after the recommendations of Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, an experienced admiral and personal adviser of King Philip II. The treasure fleets sailed along two sea lanes. The main one was the Caribbean Spanish West Indies fleet or Flota de Indias, which departed in two convoys from Seville, where the Casa de Contratación was based, bound for ports such as Veracruz, Portobelo and Cartagena before making a rendezvous at Havana in order to return together to Spain. A secondary route was that of the Manila Galleons or Galeón de Manila which linked the Philippines to Acapulco in Mexico across the Pacific Ocean. From Acapulco, the Asian goods were transhipped by mule train to Veracruz to be loaded onto the Caribbean treasure fleet for shipment to Spain. To better defend this trade, Pedro Menéndez de Avilés and Álvaro de Bazán designed the definitive model of the galleon in the 1550s.
Spain controlled the trade through the Casa de Contratación based in Seville, southern Spain. By law, the colonies could trade only with the one designated port in the mother country, Seville.Maritime archaeology has shown that the quantity of goods transported was sometimes higher than that recorded at the Archivo General de Indias . Spanish merchants and Spaniards acting as fronts (cargadores) for foreign merchants sent their goods on these fleets to the New World. Some resorted to contraband to transport their cargoes untaxed. The Crown of Spain taxed the wares and precious metals of private merchants at a rate of 20%, a tax known as the quinto real or royal fifth.
Spain became the richest country in Europe by the end of the 16th century.Much of the wealth from this trade was used by the Spanish Habsburgs to finance armies to protect its European territories in the 16th and 17th centuries against the Ottoman Empire and most of the major European powers.
The flow of precious metals also made many traders wealthy, both in Spain and abroad. The increase in gold and silver on the Iberian market sometimes caused high inflation in the 17th century, affecting the Spanish economy.As a consequence, the Crown was forced to delay the payment of some major debts, which had negative consequences for its lenders, mostly foreign bankers. By 1690 some of these lenders could no longer offer financial support to the Crown. The Spanish monopoly over its West and East Indies colonies lasted for over two centuries.
The economic importance of exports later declined with the drop of production of the American precious metal mines, such as Potosí.However, the growth in trade was strong in the early years. Numbering just 17 ships in 1550, the fleets expanded to more than 50 much larger vessels by the end of the century. By the second half of the 17th century, that number had dwindled to less than half of its peak. As economic conditions gradually recovered from the last decades of the 17th century, fleet operations slowly expanded again, once again becoming prominent during the reign of the Bourbons in the 18th century.
The Spanish trade of goods was sometimes threatened by its colonial rivals, who tried to seize islands as bases along the Spanish Main and in the Spanish West Indies. However, the Atlantic trade was largely unharmed. The English acquired small islands like St Kitts in 1624; expelled in 1629, they returned in 1639 and seized Jamaica in 1655. French pirates established themselves in Saint-Domingue in 1625, were expelled, only to return later, and the Dutch occupied Curaçao in 1634. In 1739, British Admiral Edward Vernon raided Portobello, but in 1741 his campaign against Cartagena de Indias ended in defeat, with heavy losses of men and ships. Temporary British seizures of Havana and Manila (1762–4), during the Seven Years' War, were dealt with by using more, smaller fleets visiting a greater variety of ports.
Charles III began loosening the system in 1765. In the 1780s, Spain opened its colonies to free trade.In 1790, the Casa de Contratación was abolished, bringing to an end the great general purpose fleets. Thereafter small groups of naval frigates were assigned specifically to transferring goods or bullion as required.
Despite the general perception that many Spanish galleons were captured by foreign privateers, few fleets were actually lost to enemies in the course of the flota's two and a half centuries of operation. Only Piet Hein managed to capture the fleet in 1628 and bring its cargo to the Dutch Republic.In 1656 and 1657 Robert Blake also attacked the fleet in Cadiz and Tenerife, but the Spanish officers saved most of the silver and the English admiral managed to capture only a single galleon. The 1702 West Indies fleet was destroyed in the Battle of Vigo Bay during the War of the Spanish Succession, when the fleet was surprised at port unloading its goods, but the Spanish sailors had already unloaded most of its cargo. None of these attacks took place in open seas. In the case of the Manila galleons, only four were ever captured by British warships in nearly three centuries: the Santa Anna by Thomas Cavendish in 1589, the Encarnación in 1709 by Woodes Rogers, the Covadonga by George Anson in 1743, and the Santísima Trinidad in 1762. Two other British attempts were foiled by the Rosario in 1704 and the Begonia in 1710. These losses and those due to hurricanes were important economic blows to trade when they occurred. The fleets, however, must be counted as among the most successful naval operations in history. Moreover, from a commercial point of view, some key components of today's world economic system were made possible by the success of the Spanish West and East Indies fleets.
Every year, two fleets left Spain loaded with European goods in demand in Spanish America, which were guarded by military vessels. The silver from Mexico and Peru were the valuable cargo from the Americas. Fleets of fifty or more ships sailed from Spain to the Mexican port of Veracruz and other to Panama and Cartagena.From the Spanish ports of Seville or Cádiz, the two fleets bound for the Americas sailed together down the coast of Africa, and stopped at the Spanish territory of the Canary Islands for provisions before the voyage across the Atlantic. Once the two fleets reached the Caribbean, the fleets separated. The New Spain fleet sailed to Veracruz in Mexico to load not only silver and the valuable red dye cochineal, but also porcelain and silk shipped from China on the Manila galleons. The Asian goods were brought overland from Acapulco to Veracruz by mule train. The Tierra Firme fleet, or galeones, sailed to Cartagena to load South American products, most especially silver from Potosí. Some ships went to Portobello on the Caribbean coast of Panama to load Peruvian silver that had been shipped from the Pacific coast port of Callao. The silver had then been transported across the isthmus of Panama by mule. Other ships went to the Caribbean island of Margarita, off the coast of Venezuela, to collect pearls which had been harvested from offshore oyster beds. After loading was complete, both fleets sailed for Havana, Cuba, to rendezvous for the journey back to Spain. In Mexico in 1635, there was an increase of the sales tax levied to finance the fleet, the Armada de Barlovento.
Between 1703 and 1705 began the participation of Spanish corsair Amaro Pargo in the West Indies Fleet. In this period in which he was the owner and captain of the frigate El Ave María y Las Ánimas, a ship with which he sailed from the port of Santa Cruz de Tenerife to that of Havana. He reinvented the benefits of the Canarian-American trade in his estates, mainly destined to the cultivation of the vine of malvasía and vidueño, whose production (mainly the one of vidueño) was sent to America.
Wrecks of Spanish treasure ships, whether sunk in naval combat or by storms (those of 1622, 1715, 1733 and 1750being among the worst), are a prime target for modern treasure hunters. Many, such as the Nuestra Señora de Atocha , and the Santa Margarita have been salvaged. In August 1750, at least three Spanish merchantmen ran aground in North Carolina during a hurricane. The El Salvador sank near Cape Lookout, the Nuestra Señora De Soledad went ashore near present-day Core Banks and the Nuestra Señora De Guadalupe went ashore near present-day Ocracoke.
The wreck of the cargo ship Encarnación , part of the Tierra Firme fleet, was discovered in 2011 with much of its cargo still aboard and part of its hull intact. The Encarnación sank in 1681 during a storm near the mouth of the Chagres River on the Caribbean side of Panama. The Encarnación sank in less than 40 feet of water.The remains of the Urca de Lima from the 1715 fleet and the San Pedro from the 1733 fleet, after being found by treasure hunters, are now protected as Florida Underwater Archaeological Preserves.
The Capitana (El Rubi) was the flagship of the 1733 fleet; it ran aground during a hurricane near Upper Matecumbe Key, then sank. Three men died during the storm. Afterward, divers recovered most of the treasure aboard.
The Capitana was the first of the 1733 ships to be found again in 1938. Salvage workers recovered items from the sunken ship over more than 10 years. Additional gold was recovered in June 2015. The ship's location: is 24° 55.491' north, 80° 30.891' west.
Walton billion pesos produced during the period would come to $530,000,000,000 or €470,000,000,000 (based on silver bullion prices of May 2015). Of the 4 billion pesos produced, 2.5 billion was shipped to Europe, of which 500 million was shipped around Africa to Asia. Of the remaining 1.5 billion 650 million went directly to Asia from Acapulco and 850 million remained in the Western Hemisphere. Little of the wealth stayed in Spain. Of the 11 million arriving in 1590, 2 million went to France for imports, 6 million to Italy for imports and military expenses, of which 2.5 went up the Spanish road to the Low Countries and 1 million to the Ottoman Empire. 1.5 million was shipped from Portugal to Asia. Of the 2 million pesos reaching the Dutch Republic in that year, 75% went to the Baltic for naval stores and 25% went to Asia. The income of the Spanish crown from all sources was about 2.5 million pesos in 1550, 14 million in the 1590s, about 15 million in 1760 and 30 million in 1780. In 1665 the debts of the Spanish crown were 30 million pesos short-term and 300 million long-term. Most of the New World production was silver but Colombia produced mostly gold. After about 1730 Brazil began producing gold. The following table gives the estimated legal production and necessarily excludes smuggling which was increasingly important after 1600. The crown legally took one fifth (quinto real) at the source and obtained more through other taxes.gives the following figures in pesos. For the 300-year period the peso or piece of eight had about 25 grams of silver, about the same as the German thaler, Dutch rijksdaalder or the US silver dollar. A single galleon might carry 2 million pesos. The modern approximate value of the estimated 4
Sir Thomas Cavendish was an English explorer and a privateer known as "The Navigator" because he was the first who deliberately tried to emulate Sir Francis Drake and raid the Spanish towns and ships in the Pacific and return by circumnavigating the globe. While members of Magellan's, Loaisa's, Drake's, and Loyola's expeditions had preceded Cavendish in circumnavigating the globe, it had not been their intent at the outset. His first trip and successful circumnavigation made him rich from captured Spanish gold, silk and treasure from the Pacific and the Philippines. His richest prize was the captured 600 ton sailing ship the Manila Galleon Santa Ana. He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth I of England after his return. He later set out for a second raiding and circumnavigation trip but was not as fortunate and died at sea at the age of 31.
Galleons were large, multi-decked sailing ships first used by the Spanish as armed cargo carriers and later adopted by other European states from the 16th to 18th centuries during the age of sail and were the principal fleet units drafted for use as warships until the Anglo-Dutch Wars of the mid-1600s. Galleons generally carried three or more masts with a lateen fore-and-aft rig on the rear masts, were carvel built with a prominent squared off raised stern, and used square-rigged sail plans on their fore-mast and main-masts.
The Manila Galleons were Spanish trading ships which for two and a half centuries linked the Philippines with Mexico across the Pacific Ocean, making one or two round-trip voyages per year between the ports of Acapulco and Manila, which were both part of New Spain. The name of the galleon changed to reflect the city that the ship sailed from. The term Manila Galleons is also used to refer to the trade route itself between Acapulco and Manila, which lasted from 1565 to 1815.
The Battle of Vigo Bay, also known as the Battle of Rande, was a naval engagement fought on 23 October 1702 during the opening years of the War of the Spanish Succession. The engagement followed an Anglo-Dutch attempt to capture the Spanish port of Cádiz in September in an effort to secure a naval base in the Iberian Peninsula. From this station the Allies had hoped to conduct operations in the western Mediterranean Sea, particularly against the French at Toulon. The amphibious assault, however, had proved a disaster, but as Admiral George Rooke retreated home in early October, he received news that the Spanish treasure fleet from America, laden with silver and merchandise, had entered Vigo Bay in northern Spain. Philips van Almonde convinced Rooke to attack the treasure ships, despite the lateness of the year and the fact that the vessels were protected by French ships-of-the-line.
In the context of Spain's New World Empire, its mainland coastal possessions surrounding the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico were referred to collectively as the Spanish Main. During the 16th and 17th centuries, the southern portion of these coastal possessions was known as the Province of Tierra Firme, or the "mainland province".
San Pedro Underwater Archaeological Preserve State Park is a Florida State Park located in 18 feet (5.5 m) of water, approximately 1.25 nautical miles (2.32 km) south of Indian Key. It became the second Florida Underwater Archaeological Preserve when it opened to the public in 1989. The heart of the park is the San Pedro, a submerged shipwreck from a 1733 Spanish flotilla, around which visitors can dive and snorkel. The wreck was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places on May 31, 2001.
Fernando de Alencastre Noroña y Silva, 1st Duke of Linares, GE, KOS was a Spanish nobleman and military officer. He also served as Viceroy of New Spain, from January 15, 1711 to August 15, 1716.
Urca de Lima is a Spanish shipwreck near Fort Pierce, Florida, United States. She was part of the 1715 Treasure Fleet, herself, one of the numerous Spanish treasure fleets sailing between Spain and her colonies in the Americas. The wreck is located north of Fort Pierce Inlet, 200 yards off the shore from Jack Island Park. It became the first Florida Underwater Archaeological Preserve when dedicated in 1987. This was followed on May 31, 2001 with its addition to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.
The Battle in the Bay of Matanzas was a naval battle during the Eighty Years' War in which a Dutch squadron was able to defeat and capture a Spanish treasure fleet.
Juan Niño de Tabora, was a Spanish general and colonial official. From June 29, 1626 until his death on July 22, 1632, he was governor of the Philippines.
Wager's Action was a naval confrontation on 8 June 1708 N.S, between a British squadron under Charles Wager and the Spanish treasure fleet, as part of the War of Spanish Succession.
The McLarty Treasure Museum is located at 13180 North A1A on Orchid Island, north of Windsor and Vero Beach, Florida, on the barrier island at the north end of Indian River County. The museum occupies part of the former site of the Survivors' and Salvagers' Camp - 1715 Fleet, and is part of Sebastian Inlet State Park. It houses exhibits on the history of the 1715 Spanish treasure fleet, and it features artifacts, displays, and an observation deck that overlooks the Atlantic Ocean. An A&E Network production, The Queen's Jewels and the 1715 Fleet, is shown, telling of the fleet's attempt to return to Spain when a hurricane struck off the Florida coast 300 years ago.
Santísima Trinidad was a galleon destined for merchant shipping between the Philippines and México. She was one of the largest of the Manila galleons; officially named Santísima Trinidad y Nuestra Señora del Buen Fin, and was familiarly known as The Mighty. She is not to be confused with Nuestra Señora de la Santísima Trinidad, the biggest warship in the world in its time, which sank at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.
The Battle of Cádiz (1656) was an operation in the Anglo–Spanish War (1654–1660) in which an English fleet destroyed or captured the ships of a Spanish treasure fleet off Cádiz.
The Action of 30 October 1762 was a minor naval battle that was fought in the San Bernardino Strait off the coast off British occupied Manila in the Philippines between two Royal Navy ships and a Spanish ship; the 60 gun ship of the line HMS Panther under Captain Hyde Parker and the frigate HMS Argo under Richard King captured the heavily armed Spanish treasure galleon Santisima Trinidad.
The Raid on Manila of January 1798 was a Royal Navy false flag military operation during the French Revolutionary Wars intended to scout the strength of the defences of Manila, capital of the Spanish Philippines, capture a Manila galleon and assess the condition of the Spanish Navy squadron maintained in the port. Spain had transformed from an ally of Great Britain in the War of the First Coalition into an enemy in 1796. Thus the presence of a powerful Spanish squadron at Manila posed a threat to the China Fleet, an annual convoy of East Indiaman merchant ships from Macau in Qing Dynasty China to Britain, which was of vital economic importance to Britain. So severe was this threat that a major invasion of the Spanish Philippines had been planned from British India during 1797, but had been called off following the Treaty of Campo Formio in Europe and the possibility of a major war in India between the British East India Company and the Kingdom of Mysore.
Encarnación, was an armed Spanish merchant ship of the Nao class, which was built in Veracruz, Viceroyalty of New Spain, likely sometime in the mid-1600s. The ship sank in a storm in 1681 at the mouth of the Chagres River and was discovered by archaeologists from the Texas State University in 2011.
El Salvador alias El Henrique was a Spanish treasure ship that ran aground near present-day Beaufort Inlet, North Carolina during a hurricane in August 1750. She was traveling with six other Spanish merchantmen including the Nuestra Señora De Soledad which went ashore near present-day Core Banks, NC and the Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe which went ashore near present-day Ocracoke, NC.
Peru–Philippines relations refers to the diplomatic relations between Peru and the Philippines. The Philippines and Peru are both predominantly Roman Catholic countries and were ruled by the Spanish Empire for hundreds of years.
On October 19, 1596, the Spanish ship San Felipe was shipwrecked in Urado on the Japanese island of Shikoku en route from Manila to Acapulco. The local daimyō Chōsokabe Motochika seized the cargo of the richly laden Manila galleon, and the incident escalated all the way up to Toyotomi Hideyoshi, ruling taikō of Japan. The pilot of the ship incautiously suggested to Japanese authorities that it was Spanish modus operandi to have missionaries infiltrate a country before an eventual military conquest, as had been done in the Americas. This led to the crucifixion of 26 Christians in Nagasaki, the first lethal persecution of Christians by the state in Japan. The executed were later known as the Twenty-Six Martyrs of Japan.