Queen Isabella of Spain (1451–1504) considered the natives of the Americas, from the start of Spanish colonization, as free vassals with certain rights and duties. In exchange for the crown's promise of fair rule, protection, and access to resources, native vassals were expected to serve Spain. This service took the form of tribute, first levied as labor and goods, and then gradually commuted to specie (money in the form of coins).
Crown representatives—first Christopher Columbus (1451–1506) and subsequently governors, viceroys, and other royal officials—assigned the right to exact tribute from the natives to Spaniards whom the crown rewarded for their service with grants of encomienda. Called encomenderos, these beneficiaries promised to protect and Christianize the natives in return for taking their labor and goods. During the first generation or two, the encomenderos, unfettered by peninsular controls, forced the natives to work on personal or public construction projects and in their homes, fields, and mines.
The precipitous fall of the native population from the combined effects of disease, overwork, abuse, and flight led to increasing government control. Early efforts took the form of laws, often observed in the breach. Later, tribute lists (tasas) specified the type and duration of labor service and the types and quantities of items to be delivered on given dates. The problem with these tribute lists was that the population decreased faster than tasas could be revised downward, often leaving the natives overcharged and in arrears. This untenable situation brought eventual reforms. The crown abolished personal service as a form of tribute. Officials restricted tribute items to a limited number of goods produced locally. Quotas were set on an individual basis, not by community. Finally, goods were commuted to silver.
In the second half of the sixteenth century the encomienda came under increasing attack, the crown became a stronger presence in America with the appointment of royal officials, and the native population continued its disastrous decline. Eventually, the crown mandated that scattered native families be moved into new native villages, patterned after the Spanish villas. This concentration of the native population facilitated more effective evangelization and increased Spanish control over native labor, as continued commutation of high tribute quotas into silver forced the natives into the money economy.
Bouysse Cassagne, Thérèse. "Tributo y etnias en Charcas en la epoca del virrey Toledo." Historiay cultura (La Paz, Bolivia) 2 (1976): 97-113.
Hampe Martínez, Teodoro. "Notas sobre población y tributo indígena en Cajamarca." Boletin del Instituto Riva-Agüero 14 (1986–1987): 65-81.
Mansilla, Ronald Escobedo. El tributo indígena en el Perú Siglos XVI y XVII. Pamplona, Spain: Ediciones Universidad de Navarra, 1979.
Ramírez, Susan Elizabeth. The World Upside Down: Cross-Cultural Contact and Conflict in Sixteenth-Century Peru. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1996. See especially chapter 4.
Sempat Assadourian, Carlos. "De la renta de la encomienda en la decada de 1550." Revista de Indias 48 (182-183) (1988): 109-146.
Tord Nicolini, Javier. "El corregidor de indios del Perú Comercioy tributos." Historiay cultura (Lima) 8 (1974): 173-214.
Tribute is payment made to a ruling or conquering nation by subjugated people in acknowledgment of submission or as a price for protection from other countries. Derived from the Latin word tributum, referring to property tax paid by Roman citizens, the term evolved to mean taxes levied on conquered peoples. Nations increased their wealth through these taxes.
After Cortez conquered the Aztec in 1521, the American Indians had to pay a special tax called a tribute to the Spaniards. Two slightly different perspectives on tribute existed in China for centuries. The Chinese used tribute to solidify political and trade ties with neighboring nations. China also received tribute from less powerful princes in Central and Southwest Asia and Korea, but returned to those countries gifts of equal value to the tribute.
In U.S. history, tribute is associated with U.S. shipping and the Barbary States of Northern Africa, including Morocco, Algiers, Tunis, and Tripoli. The Barbary States are part of modern-day Algeria, Libya, Morocco, and Tunisia. The Barbary Coast pirates had, since the 16th century, accepted payments or valuable presents in exchange for allowing merchant ships passage through the Mediterranean Sea. American ships ventured into the Barbary waters in the late eighteenth century. Refusing to comply with these demands, many U.S. ships were captured and their sailors enslaved. The U.S. government was too poor to buy its citizens' freedom and too weak to prevent such hostilities. The United States negotiated treaties with Morocco, Tripoli, and Tunis, and by 1802 had paid over $2 million in tributes. The piracy governments continued demanding higher tributes. Under President Thomas Jefferson (1801–1809) the United States fought against Tripoli in the Barbary Wars (1801–1805). In 1815 with warfare renewed against Algiers, a stronger United States demanded abandonment of all tribute claims. Although official payment of tribute ended in the mid-1810's, the United States occasionally paid tribute until the mid-nineteenth century.
See also: Barbary States
TRIBUTE. Thomas Jefferson's new administration faced a crisis regarding the Barbary pirate nations of North Africa. For years, European nations and the United States had paid tribute, or ransom, to these rogue nations to ensure protection of commercial vessels and keep sailors from being captured and sold into slavery. But the practice was expensive. From 1795 to 1802, the United States had paid more than $2 million in tributes. Nevertheless, this sum did not prevent the North African nation of Tripoli from declaring war against the United States; Tripoli wanted a larger share of the money. From 1801 to 1805, American naval operations against the pirates proved inconclusive. On February 16, 1804, U.S. naval officer Stephen Decatur's ship destroyed a captured American ship, denying the enemy the benefits of the capture. Military operations on land were successful enough to force Tripoli's government to sue for peace. It was a temporary solution. During the Napoleonic Wars, the pirates resumed their attacks. Finally, in 1815, Decatur's navy forced Tripoli to renounce the practice of paying tribute. The extended campaign against the Barbary states was over and no tribute was paid after 1815. In an indirect fashion, the United States had also helped Europe, since paying a tribute became a relic of the past for both.
Allen, Gardner Weld. Our Navy and the Barbary Corsairs. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1905. An old and factual account.
Irwin, Ray Watkins. The Diplomatic Relations of the United States with the Barbary Powers, 1776–1816. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1931. A close, informative narrative.
trib·ute / ˈtribyoōt/ • n. 1. an act, statement, or gift that is intended to show gratitude, respect, or admiration: the video is a tribute to the musicals of the '40s | a symposium organized to pay tribute to Darwin. ∎ [in sing.] something resulting from something else and indicating its worth: his victory in the championship was a tribute to his persistence.2. hist. payment made periodically by one state or ruler to another, esp. as a sign of dependence: the king had at his disposal plunder and tribute amassed through warfare.3. hist. a proportion of ore or its equivalent, paid to a miner for his work, or to the owner or lessor of a mine.
So tributary adj. paying tribute XIV; paid in tribute XVI; subsidiary, auxiliary XVII; sb. one who pays tribute XIV; tributary stream XIX. — L. tribūtārius.
Tribute ★★ 1980 (PG)
A dying man is determined to achieve a reconciliation with his estranged son. Adapted by Bernard Slade from his play. 125m/C VHS . CA Jack Lemmon, Robby Benson, Lee Remick, Kim Cattrall; D: Bob (Benjamin) Clark.