José de Gálvez

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This article is about an 18th century official of New Spain. For the football club named for him, see José Gálvez FBC. For the district in Peru, see José Gálvez District. For the photojournalist, see José Galvez (photojournalist).
José de Gálvez, marqués de Sonora, Visitador in New Spain.

José de Gálvez y Gallardo, marqués de Sonora (1720, Macharavialla, Spain – 1787, Aranjuez, Spain) was a Spanish lawyer, a colonial official in New Spain (1764-1772) and ultimately Minister of the Indies (1775-1787). He was one of the prime figures behind the Bourbon Reforms. He belonged to an important political family that included his brother Matías de Gálvez and nephew Bernardo de Gálvez.

Visitador in New Spain[edit]

Jose de Galvez portrait.

Gálvez arrived in New Spain in 1761 in the capacity of a minister of the Council of the Indies. However, he did not take up his duties as visitador until 1764, when he received unlimited authority. Among his governmental actions were the creation of a state monopoly in tobacco and the imposition of new taxes on pulque and flour. He also took measures to combat contraband and reformed the system of customs collection in Veracruz and Acapulco Mexico. (He ended the farming of customs.) He also established general accounting offices in the municipal governments. Government revenues went from 6 million pesos in 1763 to 8 million in 1767 and 12 million in 1773.

In 1765 Gálvez also assisted in the reorganization of the army, a project of Viceroy Montserrat under the direction of General Juan de Villalva. The viceroy, however, was not pleased with Gálvez's intervention in the project. Montserrat was soon replaced by a new viceroy, Carlos Francisco de Croix.

In 1767 Charles III decreed prison and expulsion for the Jesuits. In New Spain, this decree led to riots and other disturbances. Gálvez suppressed these by summary trials and sentences of perpetual imprisonment, principally in San Luis Potosí, Guanajuato and parts of Michoacán.

With the expulsion of the Jesuits from Baja California, Gálvez engaged the Franciscan Order to take over the administration of the missions there. This plan, however, was changed within a few months after Gálvez received the following orders: "Occupy and fortify San Diego and Monterey for God and the King of Spain." It thereupon was decided to call upon the priests of the Dominican Order to take charge of the Baja California missions in order to allow the Franciscan Order to concentrate on founding new missions in Alta California of Las Californias. Charles III was concerned to establish a strong Spanish presence to forestall Russian Empire expansion from Alaska.

Gálvez established a naval base at San Blas and, in 1769, organized and dispatched an expedition to Alta California, commanded by Captain Gaspar de Portolà. The Portolà expedition also included a group of Franciscan missionaries, led by Junípero Serra. The expedition founded the Mission San Diego de Alcalá and the Royal Presidio of San Diego in July of 1769 at San Diego. Portolà then continued north to explore the Alta California coast and re-establish the Port of Monterrey visited in 1602 by Sebastian Vizcaíno. At the beginning of November, the Portolá expedition discovered San Francisco Bay before returning to San Diego. A second trip in 1770 resulted in establishment of the Presidio of Monterey and Mission San Carlos Borromeo at today's Monterey, California.

Return to Spain[edit]

Archive of the Indies in Seville, founded by Gálvez in the reign of Charles III.

José de Gálvez returned to Spain in 1772, where he was a member of the General Council on Commerce, Coinage and Mining, a governor in the Council of the Indies, and a councilor of state. Instead he was authorized to set up a Commandancy General of the Provincias Internas, which was to be independent of the viceroy of New Spain. The new political unit included the Provincias Internas of Nueva Vizcaya, Nuevo Santander, Sonora y Sinaloa, Las Californias, Coahuila y Tejas (Coahuila and Texas), and Nuevo México. Chihuahua was the capital, and Teodoro de Croix, nephew of the former viceroy, was named the first Commandant General.

Gálvez's zeal to more effectively organize the overseas administration lead him to also establish the Viceroyalty of Rio de la Plata (1776) from territories of the Viceroyalty of Peru, and the Captaincy General of Venezuela (1777) from parts of the Viceroyalty of New Granada. Both these new governments were intended to expand areas of settlement and stimulate the economy. He also established the Real Compañía de Filipinas and in 1778 founded the Archivo General de Indias, bringing together documents about the Indies from Simancas, Seville and Cádiz. Also in 1778 he established limited free trade among the colonies. As Minister of the Indies he was able to secure the appointment of his brother Matías as governor-captain general of Guatemala. Matías went on to serve as viceroy of New Spain.

In 1780, he sent a royal dispatch to Teodoro de Croix, Commandant General of the Internal Provinces of New Spain, asking all subjects to donate money to help the American Revolution. Millions of pesos were given. In 1784 he established a uniform excise tax on the importation of African slaves into the Indies.[1]

In 1786 he undertook another major reorganizing of the colonial administration with the introduction of the intendencia (intendancy) administered by an Intendente (Intendant) throughout most of the Americas.


  1. ^ Andrew, N. and Cleven, N. (May 1921) "Ministerial Order of José de Gálvez Establishing a Uniform Duty on the Importation of Negro Slaves into the Indies; and Convention between Spain and the United Provinces Regulating the Return of Deserters and Fugitives in Their American Colonies", The Hispanic American Historical Review 4(2): pp. 266-276


  • (Spanish) "Gálvez, José de," Enciclopedia de México, v. 6. Mexico City, 1996. ISBN 1-56409-016-7.
  • Priestley, H.I., José de Gálvez, Visitor-General of New Spain, 1765-1771. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1916.

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