86. Registry book of the licences that Pedro Gomes Reynel sold in Lisbon on the asientos of slaves transported to the Indies of Castile

Archivo Simón Ruiz
ASR, CC, L 167
SENDER: Pedro Gomes Reynel
ADDRESSEE: Cosme Ruiz Envito
PLACE OF DEPARTURE: Lisbon
GENERAL INFORMATION: Manuscript in Portuguese on paper, bound in leather/127 leaves. Lisbon, 14 September 1595 to 1 April 1601.

Faced with the dwindling indigenous population in Spanish America, merchants – especially the Portuguese – pushed for the introduction of slave labour since they had the African sources for this traffic to the Indies via Castile. The highly indebted Hispanic monarchy found a means of raising funds through the sale of these rights of transportation by directly granting licences to private individuals. In the long run, however, this practice proved ineffective and, from 1595 onwards, it was replaced by the asiento system, in which the asentista was in charge of selling the licences on an exclusive basis. In the same year of 1595, Pedro Gomes Reynel, who was at the time a contractor in Angola and lessee of the almojarifazgo (i.e., customs tax) of Seville, took over the asiento of Africans in Spanish America for nine years, offering 100,000 ducats in exchange for the transportation of a maximum of 4,250 slaves per year. The purchasers of the licences were to pay 30 ducats each plus the cost of damages, freight and insurance. Reynel was accused of fraud when it was discovered that he sold above the allowed price and was imprisoned, accepting a rather dishonourable agreement that included the premature termination of the contract in 1601 and the payment of 250,000 ducats plus an interest-free credit to the Crown. To settle these accounts and the conditions imposed, Reynel resorted between 1602 and 1606 to a loan from Cosme Ruiz Envito (nephew and only heir to Simón Ruiz, who had died in 1597), using his revenues from the almojarifazgo of Seville as collateral. But Cosme himself was also highly indebted to other businessmen, and when Gomes Reynel closed the Seville almojarifazgo he was unable to pay off the debts, which were automatically transferred to Cosme. The latter, unable to revive the estate he had inherited from his uncle, ended up in prison, leading him to bankruptcy with a sentence of execution to seize 106 million maravedís.

(Fernando Ramos González)