Rare Broadside Reorganizing Ecclesiastical Divisions in the Borderlands

including Texas Missions

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51. [BORDERLANDS]. [TEXAS MISSIONS]. SPAIN. LAWS, STATUTES (February 14, 1779). [Laws establishing new bishopric to include Texas, with heading] Don Eusebio Bentura Beleña, del Consejo de S.M. y su Alcalde del Crimen de la Real Audiencia de esta Nueva España.[text begins] Desvelado siempre nuestro Rey y Señor Don Carlos Tercero...en proporcionar á sus amados Vasallos, expecialmente á los mas distantes.... [Original order signed and dated in type in first column] Pardó á catorze de Febrero de mil setecientos setenta y nueve.... [Ventura Beleña’s order dated in type in second column] Dado en dicha Ciudad de México á dos de Setiembre de mil setecientos setenta y nueve. [at bottom] Vando dirigido á declarar, y publicar el Territorio que han de componer el Obispado del Nuevo Reyno de Leon. Mexico, 1779. Broadside printed in two columns: 57 x 41.5 cm on two joined sheets of laid paper variously watermarked with an escutcheon, a horse, and an equestrian figure. Creased where formerly folded, left lower margin irregularly trimmed, several small worm holes touching some letters but not affecting legibility, faint offsetting at bottom; overall very good. With contemporary ink docket in upper left corner in legible hand summarizing contents, one contemporary ink notation in right margin, two contemporary wood sello quarto stamps on verso. Very rare.

     First edition. Not in Medina, Palau, or Wagner’s Spanish Southwest; no copies on OCLC. Bancroft, Mexico, Vol. III, p. 693: “In 1777, the pope issued a bull for the erection of the see of Nuevo Leon. In February, 1779, Oidor Beleña defined its territory, which was detached from other dioceses. From that of Guadalajara, the towns in Nuevo Santander, Nuevo Leon, Coahuila, and Texas, the villa de Saltillo; from that of Michoacan, the towns of Jaumave, Palmillas, Real de los Infantes, and Tula; from that of Mexico, the town of Santa Bárbara. This edict was proclaimed in an edict of September 2, 1779. The first bishop of this diocese was Juan Antonio Sanchez de Alonzen, who on becoming a Franciscan had taken the name of Antonio de Jesus Sacedon.” Up until this time, the local priests were basically independent, and this was the first bishopric that gained widespread recognition and obedience in the area along the Rio Grande and in Texas. One difficulty that faced the establishment of the new diocese was the inability to define its northern boundary because the area was under the control of Native Americans, as is mentioned in the text.

     In the first part, after taking into account the detriment caused to the piety of his subjects in far-flung areas of New Spain because of the remoteness of the nearest bishop, Carlos III orders that the bishoprics be rearranged to render them more suitable to ministering to the populace’s needs. One provision requires that the province of Coahuila y Texas be separated from the Audiencia de Guatemala and incorporated into the new jurisdiction of Nuevo León, which diocese existed until 1922. The second part of the text comprises Ventura Beleña’s order describing the boundaries of the new jurisdictions and naming them (among the Texas sites mentioned is the beleaguered San Sabá presidio). In the British Library is a September 17, 1779, manuscript map by Miguel Constansó reflecting these divisions, which is probably one of the “cinco Mapas o Planos citados en la precedente Diligencia.”

     This is another of the various political, military, and religious efforts to reduce the isolation of Spain’s far-flung Texas colonies, inter alia. Despite this effort at reform, Texas residents remained isolated with little access to the Catholic Church. Even at the outbreak of the Texas Revolution, no more than a handful of Catholic priests were in the area. In some ways, this decree parallels Carlos III’s 1772 Reglamento e instrucción para los presidios (Wagner, Spanish Southwest 159), which was intended to produce in military terms what this decree sought in religious ones, a natural pairing since the missions and presidios went hand in hand. Both laws were basically failures.

     Eusebio Ventura Beleña (1736-1794) was a progressive archbishop who addressed many societal and legal problems in New Spain, such as the decline of mining and how best to regulate taverns. Some of his writings have been lost. He served as Viceroy of Mexico from 1786-1787, succeeding the Conde de Gálvez, for whom he accomplished several assignments.


Auction 23 Abstracts

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