The King's Coffer: Proprietors of the Spanish Florida Treasury, 1565-1702

The King's Coffer: Proprietors of the Spanish Florida Treasury, 1565-1702

The King's Coffer: Proprietors of the Spanish Florida Treasury, 1565-1702

The King's Coffer: Proprietors of the Spanish Florida Treasury, 1565-1702

Excerpt

The historiography of Spanish Florida has traditionally concentrated on Indians, friars, and soldiers, all dependent on the yearly situado, or crown subsidy. Other Floridians, poor and common, appear to have had no purpose beyond witless opposition to the royal governor This was so unusual for a Spanish colony that I was sure the true situation must have been more complex. In the imperial bureaucracy, ecclesiastical, military, magisterial, fiscal, and judicial functions of government were customarily distributed among a number of officials and tribunals with conflicting jurisdictions. I believed that research would reveal an elite in Florida, encouraged by the crown as a counterweight to the governor, and that this elite was pursuing its own rational economic interests.

I began by studying a branch of the Menéndez clan, the Menéndez Marquez family, correlating their ranching activities to the determinants of economic expansion in Florida. Governors came and went, but the Menéndez Marquezes exercised power in the colony and held office in the treasury from 1565 to 1743. It became apparent that the way to identify and study a Florida elite was prosopographically, through the proprietors of the royal treasury. Such an investigation would serve a second purpose of wider interest and value: revealing how a part of the Spanish imperial bureaucracy operated on the local level. On the small scale of Florida, imperial organization and crown policies would leave the realm of the theoretical to become the problems of real people.

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