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Unión de Armas

Unión de Armas

Unión de Armas, Spain's plan to tax its colonies in the Indies to finance Spain's war in seventeenth-century Europe during the reign of King Philip IV. The most ambitious of several taxation plans, it was championed by the king's valido (chief minister), the conde-duque de Olivares, in 1625. According to the plan, each province of the empire would contribute to the support of a common military reserve. Since the Indies could not easily provide manpower for imperial defense, in 1627 the crown assessed Peru 350,000 ducats and Mexico 250,000 ducats, payable annually from the viceregal treasuries for an initial period of fifteen years.

This plan, a thinly disguised attempt to integrate the fiscal institutions of the empire, prompted much opposition in the Indies. In Mexico the cabildos (town councils) of the realm debated the matter until 1632 before registering their reluctant approval. Opposition to the unión de armas was even stronger in Peru, where an acceptable compromise plan to raise the revenues—doubling the alcabala (sales tax) and the avería (fleet tax) and imposing a levy of two reales on each bottle of domestic wine—did not emerge until 1638. In the end, crown revenues from the unión de armas raised substantial sums in the Indies but never approached the 600,000 ducats demanded annually by the crown.

See alsoSpanish Empire .


The principal work on the unión de armas in Spain is J. H. Elliott, The Count-Duke of Olivares: The Statesman in an Age of Decline (1986), pp. 244-277. For the Indies, see Fred Bronner, "La unión de armas en el Perú: Aspectos políticos-legales," in Anuario de Estudios Americanos 24 (1967): 1133–1176, and Jonathan I. Israel, Race, Class, and Politics in Colonial Mexico, 1610–1670 (1975), pp. 178-180. For a discussion in the context of seventeenth-century fiscal reform see Kenneth J. Andrien, Crisis and Decline: The Viceroyalty of Peru in the Seventeenth Century (1985), pp. 133-164.

Additional Bibliography

Rivarola Paoli, Juan Bautista. La Real Hacienda: La fisca-lidad colonial, siglos XVI al XIX. Asunción, Paraguay: [s.n.], 2005.

                                      Kenneth J. Andrien

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