Transition of California from Monastico-Missionary Regime to Empresario System

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66. [CALIFORNIA PIOUS FUND]. MEXICO (Republic). LAWS. [Decree of May 25, 1832, on the Pious Fund, commencing] El Escmo. Sr. ha servido dirigirme el decreto que sigue. Art. 1. El gobierno procederá al arrendamiento de las fincas rústicas pertenecientes al fondo piadoso de Californias, por término que no pase de siete años.... Mexico, May 25, 1832. [2] pp., with conjugate blank (watermark Parrata and escutcheon). Folio (30 x 21 cm). One horizontal fold, minor wrinkling, and small hole touching no letters. Otherwise, very good. Signed in type José María Ortiz Monasterio.

     First edition. Streeter Sale 2465. Not in Cowan.This decree authorizes the Mexican government to proceed with liquidation of the great properties belonging to the California Pious Fund over a seven-year period. The Pious Fund had been created in 1697 to fund the work of Jesuit missions in the Californias by Fathers Kino and Salvatierra and their successors. With the expulsion of the Jesuits, the Spanish government became administrator of the Fund. When Mexico achieved its independence in 1821, the newly formed government took control of the Fund. This 1832 decree ordered the rural properties to be rented and the proceeds to be placed in the Mexican national treasury for the sole benefit of the California missions. In 1842 Santa-Anna sequestered the principal. After California was ceded to the United States in 1848, the Pious Fund was disputed for decades, landing in international arbitration in the Hague Tribunal in 1902. The matter was not settled until 1967 when a final lump sum of $719,546 was paid to the United States.

     “The Pious Fund of the Californias is a story disclosing a strange mingling of lofty missionary zeal and mundane materialism; a story which, taking its beginning in spiritual idealism, winds its way through a bewildering tangle of political revolutions and clash of armies, claims commissions and international tribunals”—William E. McDonald, “The Pious Fund of the Californias” in The Catholic Historical Review, Vol. 19, No. 4 (January, 1934), p. 436.

     Secularization of the missions radically changed California. The seizure of the rich, cultivated monastery lands resulted in the empresario system, which allowed Mexican and Anglo colonizers to settle on Native American lands. Mexican authorities, by regulations such as this, intended to replace the old monastico-missionary regime in California. W. Michael Mathes (The Daniel G. Volkmann Jr. Collection of Rare Californiana 140): “The transfer of the fund to the Mexican government upon secularization of the California missions not only initiated their rapid decline and abandonment of the Indian population, but subjected the fund to manipulation and corruption.”


Sold. Hammer: $250.00; Price Realized: $306.25.

Auction 23 Abstracts

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