# 38350

Viana, Francisco Leandro de (1730-1804)

[MANUSCRIPT] Demostración del mísero deplorable estado de las Islas Filipinas,

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de la necesidad de abandonarlas o mantenerlas con fuerzas respetables: de los inconvenientes de lo primero, y ventajas de lo segundo; de lo que pueden producir a la Real Hacienda, de la navegación, extensión, y utilidad de su Comercio: con reflexiones que convencen la utilidad de formar una Compañía vajo Real Protección … … Manila, 10 February 1765. Small folio (280 x 210 mm), modern limp vellum; manuscript in ink in a neat late eighteenth-century hand, being a fair copy of a mid eighteenth-century document; ff [1], 125; front fly leaf with later pencilled notes erased; contents clean and fresh, in fine condition; housed in an elaborate half crushed morocco and cloth protective box, morocco title pieces with gilt lettering and ornament to front and spine.

Vindel states (in his Catálogo of 1896, p. 94) that the printing of this memorial by Francisco Leandro de Viana was forbidden by the Council of the Indies; hence it was not published in the eighteenth or nineteenth century. The present copy, however, is one of a small number of extant manuscript examples (Museo Naval, Madrid; Archivo General de Indias, Seville; Newberry Library, et al.). The memorial has subsequently been published in English translation in Blair and Robertson XLVIII (pp. 197 ff).

‘A near contemporary manuscript copy of an important secret report on the conditions, needs, and potential of the Philippine Islands in 1765, originally written by Francisco Leandro de Viana, fiscal of the Manila Audiencia. The report analyses the Spanish mismanagement of the Philippines, but also reflects upon conditions in Spain and the country’s relations with its colonies and with other European nations. Viana’s plans for implementing changes in order to establish a major Spanish trading centre in the Philippines were proposed after the conclusion of the two-year British occupation of the islands from 1762 to 1764, following the end of the Seven Years’ War. The author writes that the Spanish must either withdraw completely or strengthen their position in the region to take advantage of the commercial possibilities offered by the islands. Viana advocates the latter, proposing immigration from Spain, fiscal and military reforms, increased trade, expansion of the haciendas, and taking advantage of the geographical location of the islands for shipping routes either around the Cape of Good Hope or by way of Panama. The British capture of Manila in 1762 was a bitter blow to Spain, although the city was not thriving at the time. Since the Spanish conquest, Manila had developed to include a great fort and a trading post; it was also a centre of missionary activity in the region. By the mid-18th century, however, the urban centre was stagnating. The anticipated trade of Mexican silver for Chinese silk never came to fruition, half of the Spanish population of the islands belonged to religious orders, and Spanish laws forbade non-Spanish Europeans from trading there. In the text Viana contrasts the stagnant development of the Philippines to the success of the commercially-minded Dutch in the Moluccas.

In March 1764, following the Treaty of Paris ending the Seven Years’ War, Philippine governor Francisco Xavier de la Torre reached the island of Luzon, bearing orders from London for the English to surrender Manila to him. Viana, a well-educated and able man who had served as a college rector of the University of Salamanca and a member of the royal council, addresses the prologue of the Demostracion, and by extension the report itself, to de la Torre in the latter’s capacity of representing the Spanish king Charles III. Later in 1765, de la Torre was replaced by José Raon, whose unscrupulous rule made Viana’s position, and his proposals, untenable. Viana appears to have returned to Spain in 1767, where he wrote to the King that his desire to serve the Crown and enact reforms had antagonized those in the Philippines who wished to continue plundering the treasury. The Demostracion, with its outspoken criticisms of both religious and secular authorities, was regarded as inflammatory and its publication forbidden….’ (William Reese Company)