What was Spain's policy on resident foreigners in California?

Sep 2018
101
transitory
By other side about the thread.. Spanish Empire had not restrictions to foreigners always foreigners:

1st: they must be Catholic
2nd: They must swear allegiance to the Catholic King.

In fact, the Spanish Florida from 1783 onward had more British than Spaniards!!! (but all of them had to swear and all of them had to become Catholic!

In the year 1810, the Population in Alta California was 20.871 inhabitants between them 0,2% Peninsulares and 17,9% Criollos (so it is means 18,1% Spaniards... but only 0,2% from Peninsula). In Texas, in 1810, 0,6% people were Spaniards from Peninsula.

About New Spain Population 1793 to 1810 (in Spanish).
Thanks for those figures. I am not surprised to see such small numbers of Peninsulares; I had the impression that the main reason for Peninsulares to be in Alta California in those days would be as governors or other colonial administrators. As for criollos, it's just a guess, but I assume at least a portion of them were in California as part of the Spanish army. I imagine there were far more mestizos and Christianized indios in the region than Spaniards, whether Criollos or from Spain itself...

I had wondered, given the relatively small number of Spaniards in Alta California, if Spain had ever attempted to entice other Catholic European settlers to the region to help colonize it? I know, for example, that the British allowed Huguenots (fellow Protestants obviously) to settle in their North American colonies.

EDIT: I've just been having a read through this article (https://www.jstor.org/stable/25161670?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents) which seems to indicate that Spanish policy (at least officially, but not always in practice) was quite restrictive regarding foreigners in Alta California.

From page 299:
"In establishing Alta California as a colony, Spain imposed on it certain restrictive policies. The province was forbidden to trade with any foreign vessels; foreigners were strictly prohibited from taking up permanent residence".

Page 302-303 says that an American vessel, the Otter, visited Carmel beach in 1796, where the captain dumped eleven stowaways from Australia at gunpoint. When the Spanish colonial governor discovered them, he was "irate", but put them to work as blacksmiths and carpenters. The new arrivals proved to be good workers, but the governor was ordered to send them to Spain the following year, along with an Irish deserter named Joseph Burling who had jumped ship at Santa Barbara.

Page 303 does mention that, despite official Spanish restrictions on foreign vessels, American ships increasingly visited California to participate in the fur trade, which apparently was welcomed by many Spanish settlers, who were often short of supplies and welcomed the chance to barter with the ships for foreign and luxury goods. However, the article does say that: "Any Yankee trader caught in this illegal coastal trafficking faced stiff penalties, ranging from incarceration in poorly maintained prison cells to confiscation of ship and cargo."

Page 303 also mentions an "increase in the number of maritime deserters who opted for life in Alta California, bringing with them their labor skills and knowledge of commerce." Because Spain was unable to continue payments for local soldiery or continue to finance supply ships to California after France invaded Spain in 1808, the local Spanish colonists increasingly turned to illicit trade with American ships, which also began "the growing presence of Yankee maritime traders, many of whom became permanent residents."

Page 304 mentions that, on September 19, 1814, a Russian hunting party was captured and imprisoned by Spanish authorities. However, four Aleuts (who were among these prisoners) converted to Catholicism and married local women, becoming permanent residents in California.

Overall, the article gives two impressions regarding foreigners in Spanish California: the official Spanish policy being quite prohibitive against foreigners coming to Alta California, while the position of Spanish settlers on the ground seems to have been a bit more welcoming, at least in regards to trade with foreign ships. Regarding Russian presence at Fort Ross, the article points out that, due to Spain's preoccupations with the Napoleonic Wars and Latin-American independence movements, they could do little else against the Russians other than official protests.

Regarding naturalisation of foreigners in California, page 305 says that citizenship for foreigners was "forbidden under Spanish rule."
 
Last edited:

johnincornwall

Ad Honorem
Nov 2010
7,849
Cornwall
Spain spent huge efforts trying to get settlers to their North American Empire (as Martin describes above) with little success. Ultimately that was the reason it was all lost - there was nobody to occupy the space and take control of the lands. In the case of the USA later expanding of course it became comopletely different and we know that settler expansion led to military expansion and the large populations later developed.

Have you read this?:

https://www.amazon.es/Banderas-Lejanas-Clio-Crónicas-Historia/dp/8441421196

It might answer a lot of your questions
 

Tulius

Ad Honorem
May 2016
6,116
Portugal
Thanks for those figures. I am not surprised to see such small numbers of Peninsulares; I had the impression that the main reason for Peninsulares to be in Alta California in those days would be as governors or other colonial administrators. As for criollos, it's just a guess, but I assume at least a portion of them were in California as part of the Spanish army. I imagine there were far more mestizos and Christianized indios in the region than Spaniards, whether Criollos or from Spain itself...

I had wondered, given the relatively small number of Spaniards in Alta California, if Spain had ever attempted to entice other Catholic European settlers to the region to help colonize it? I know, for example, that the British allowed Huguenots (fellow Protestants obviously) to settle in their North American colonies.

EDIT: I've just been having a read through this article (https://www.jstor.org/stable/25161670?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents) which seems to indicate that Spanish policy (at least officially, but not always in practice) was quite restrictive regarding foreigners in Alta California.

From page 299:
"In establishing Alta California as a colony, Spain imposed on it certain restrictive policies. The province was forbidden to trade with any foreign vessels; foreigners were strictly prohibited from taking up permanent residence".

Page 302-303 says that an American vessel, the Otter, visited Carmel beach in 1796, where the captain dumped eleven stowaways from Australia at gunpoint. When the Spanish colonial governor discovered them, he was "irate", but put them to work as blacksmiths and carpenters. The new arrivals proved to be good workers, but the governor was ordered to send them to Spain the following year, along with an Irish deserter named Joseph Burling who had jumped ship at Santa Barbara.

Page 303 does mention that, despite official Spanish restrictions on foreign vessels, American ships increasingly visited California to participate in the fur trade, which apparently was welcomed by many Spanish settlers, who were often short of supplies and welcomed the chance to barter with the ships for foreign and luxury goods. However, the article does say that: "Any Yankee trader caught in this illegal coastal trafficking faced stiff penalties, ranging from incarceration in poorly maintained prison cells to confiscation of ship and cargo."

Page 303 also mentions an "increase in the number of maritime deserters who opted for life in Alta California, bringing with them their labor skills and knowledge of commerce." Because Spain was unable to continue payments for local soldiery or continue to finance supply ships to California after France invaded Spain in 1808, the local Spanish colonists increasingly turned to illicit trade with American ships, which also began "the growing presence of Yankee maritime traders, many of whom became permanent residents."

Page 304 mentions that, on September 19, 1814, a Russian hunting party was captured and imprisoned by Spanish authorities. However, four Aleuts (who were among these prisoners) converted to Catholicism and married local women, becoming permanent residents in California.

Overall, the article gives two impressions regarding foreigners in Spanish California: the official Spanish policy being quite prohibitive against foreigners coming to Alta California, while the position of Spanish settlers on the ground seems to have been a bit more welcoming, at least in regards to trade with foreign ships. Regarding Russian presence at Fort Ross, the article points out that, due to Spain's preoccupations with the Napoleonic Wars and Latin-American independence movements, they could do little else against the Russians other than official protests.

Regarding naturalisation of foreigners in California, page 305 says that citizenship for foreigners was "forbidden under Spanish rule."
The article is interesting, still didn’t analyse it all but what comes to me immediately on the first page (p. 299) is the part of the sentence that you quoted “foreigners were strictly prohibited from taking up permanent residence".

This isn’t exactly common knowledge and yet the author, Doyce B. Nunis, Jr., doesn’t provide any reference, any primary source there. Like tin the p. 305, he mentions the Spanish law, without referencing the law. Unusual lack of references in an academic paper. It would be interesting to see those references.

As for the lack of colonists there, it isn’t surprising. Spain had a low population and controlled almost half of the continent, so the influx of migrants was quite dispersed, while other colonial powers concentrated much more their colonists.
 
Sep 2018
101
transitory
Spain spent huge efforts trying to get settlers to their North American Empire (as Martin describes above) with little success. Ultimately that was the reason it was all lost - there was nobody to occupy the space and take control of the lands. In the case of the USA later expanding of course it became comopletely different and we know that settler expansion led to military expansion and the large populations later developed.

Have you read this?:

https://www.amazon.es/Banderas-Lejanas-Clio-Crónicas-Historia/dp/8441421196

It might answer a lot of your questions
No I haven't, unfortunately I am not fluent in Spanish, so all I can do for now is rely on English-language materials (like the article above), and the information supplied by Spanish speakers on forums like this...

The article is interesting, still didn’t analyse it all but what comes to me immediately on the first page (p. 299) is the part of the sentence that you quoted “foreigners were strictly prohibited from taking up permanent residence".

This isn’t exactly common knowledge and yet the author, Doyce B. Nunis, Jr., doesn’t provide any reference, any primary source there. Like tin the p. 305, he mentions the Spanish law, without referencing the law. Unusual lack of references in an academic paper. It would be interesting to see those references.

As for the lack of colonists there, it isn’t surprising. Spain had a low population and controlled almost half of the continent, so the influx of migrants was quite dispersed, while other colonial powers concentrated much more their colonists.
Yes, unfortunately not all of the author's claims like this are referenced by footnotes. If anyone here knows more about Spanish California and has information which might contradict anything I quoted from that article, please feel free to chip in. As I said in response to Johnincornwall, all I can do is read through whatever material I can find in my own languages. Primary documentation from this period is beyond my reach, since most would be written in Spanish.
 

johnincornwall

Ad Honorem
Nov 2010
7,849
Cornwall
No I haven't, unfortunately I am not fluent in Spanish, so all I can do for now is rely on English-language materials (like the article above), and the information supplied by Spanish speakers on forums like this...
.
I can understand the economics of booksellers, but there is a lamentable shortage of Spanish historical material that gets translated into English. Only one or two of the great historians of the last century (now sometimes outdated). I was lucky in that, having always had a love of history, I combined learning Spanish history with learning Spanish language many years ago
 
Sep 2018
101
transitory
I can understand the economics of booksellers, but there is a lamentable shortage of Spanish historical material that gets translated into English. Only one or two of the great historians of the last century (now sometimes outdated). I was lucky in that, having always had a love of history, I combined learning Spanish history with learning Spanish language many years ago
It is a shame, and Spanish is not the only language to fall into this void of translations. You would think, given how many countries in the world speak Spanish, there might be enough people on the planet who could help translate this stuff :p

I too have always had a love of history, but I had my hands full trying to learn less widely-spoken languages, so unfortunately Spanish never went beyond secondary school for me :/
 

martin76

Ad Honorem
Dec 2014
6,790
Spain
It is a shame, and Spanish is not the only language to fall into this void of translations. You would think, given how many countries in the world speak Spanish, there might be enough people on the planet who could help translate this stuff :p

I too have always had a love of history, but I had my hands full trying to learn less widely-spoken languages, so unfortunately Spanish never went beyond secondary school for me :/

Hello Acix,

John is right (ane he knows a lot about Spain´s history (specially Medieval History). I think you are right. I´ve been looking for information... but not much.

According with my research... Spanish weak demography power made the Spanish government brought French Acadian to Lousiana and British Royalist to Florida (the latter after converting to Catholicism) but Texas and California were different. It was closed to foreign inmigration. For Gálvez (one Spanish hero in 1779-1783), California, well exploited, would become the Jewel of the Crown... In the period 1780-1810.. as it was impossible to bring Spanish settlers (because Spain only had 9 million inhabitants) the project was the own Indians were the "instrument of Colonization"...as they had been in other places in Peru, New Spain or New Grenada.

Finally, on June 18th, 1821, the Spanish Courts proved a "Ley General de Colonización" (Law of Colonization) open Texas and California to anglo-american settlers with the condition of adopting Catholicism and swearing to the King. I´ve been looking for the Law but I can´t find. But according with internet sources.... the 1824 Mexican Law is copied from the 1821 Spanish Law.

The main trouble was Spain had too much land and so short number of people! (In North America... from Cordova in Alaska to San Agustin in Florida... half of Brazil .. that never was colonized and the Spanish sovereingty was only theorical and nominal).

However, as Johincornwall well know... IN what today are the USA... Spain built cities, villages, missions and forts in 24 States...some of them as "strange" to imagine as North Dakota or Michigan (not very much people know the Spaniards arrived to the Great Lakes).

So, I think it was impossible to colonize everything.... the main factor to colonization were Indians, Mestizos, Mulattoes... and Criollos... Peninsulares almost nothing....as you wrote... Chiefs, officers, some priest, soldiers, etc
 
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Oct 2014
1,260
California
Hi ACIX, sorry to not get back to this thread sooner!
One of the books in my collection is on topic to your quest:

English Privateers at Cabo San Lucas
The Descriptive Accounts of Puerto Seguro by Edward Cooke (1712) and Woodes Rogers (1712),
with Added Comments by George Shelvocke (1726) and William Betagh (1728)

Introduced and edited by Thomas F. Andrews

This was published in 1979 by Dawson Book Shop of Los Angeles (#41 of 51 volumes)

I would check Amazon or AddAll.com or other rare book sites for a copy. It is filled with 116 pages of text of their journey and illustrations of the native Indians and animals and fish with the observations of these Englishmen in Spanish California (the southern tip of the peninsula now called Baja California).

Here is a sample from inside this book:

 
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