Manuel Abad y Queipo

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Manuel Abad y Queipo
Bishop elect
Diocese Michoacán, México
Installed 1810 (not confirmed)
Term ended 1824
Predecessor Marcos de Moriana y Zafrilla
Successor Juan Cayetano Gómez de Portugal y Solís
Personal details
Born August 26, 1751
Villarpedre, Asturias
Died 1824
Toledo, Spain
Nationality Spanish
Denomination Roman Catholic

Manuel Abad y Queipo (August 26, 1751, Villarpedre, Asturias – 1824, Toledo) was a Spanish Roman Catholic Bishop of Michoacán in the Viceroyalty of New Spain at the time of the Mexican War of Independence.

Education and early career[edit]

Born in Asturias in the 18th century, Manuel Abad y Queipo was the natural son of an Asturian nobleman.[1] He obtained his baccalaureate in law and canon law from the University of Salamanca. Thereafter he went to Guatemala with Bishop Monroy. In Guatemala he was ordained a priest. Beginning in 1784 he resided in Valladolid (now Morelia), where Bishop Antonio San Miguel made him a judge in a canon law court. In that position he gained considerable knowledge about church wealth in terms of capital and credit. In 1805 he obtained a doctorate in canon law from the University of Guadalajara. In 1810 he was nominated as Bishop-elect of Michoacan, but was never confirmed in the post.[2] On the death of Bishop San Miguel, the Council of the Indies named him canon of the cathedral of Valladolid, a position which he held until 1815.

Political activity in New Spain[edit]

Abad y Queipo had some strong views about New Spain and its place within the Spanish empire,saying that the crown gave Mexico's indigenous equal rights with the conquering Spaniards and that Spain despite its decline had "made the American possessions flourish until they were the envy of Europeans."[3] He considered the decline of Spain could be attributed to emigration to the overseas territories.[4] He critiqued economic inequality in New Spain, "in America there is no graduation or middle ground: everyone is either rich or poverty striken, noble or infamous" leading to conflict.[5]

In 1799 he wrote to King Charles IV a report entitled Representación al rey, sobre immunidades del clero (Description to the King, of the Immunities of the Clergy). In this document he outlined the social and political situation in New Spain and explained the symptoms of discontent. He proposed the general abolition of tribute levied on the Indigenous; the free distribution of royal lands; agrarian land reform in Mexico that would permit poor people to obtain 20- or 30-year "leases" on uncultivated land belonging to the large landowners, but without paying rent; and the right to establish cotton and woolen mills.

In 1804 he opposed Godoy's Cédula de la Caja de Consolidación. The Act of Consolidation sought to transfer wealth from the church to the crown by calling in all mortgages that were held by the church, which was a direct attack on the elite land holders in New Spain whose wealth was invested in haciendas and whose mortgages held by the church. This order was the equivalent of disentailment of the church because it ordered the transfer of income from the religious estates and foundations to the government, but its attack on the land holding elites' source of wealth did not shore up their loyalty to the crown. Abad y Queipo's memorial to the crown "pointed out that the withdrawal of the vast loans of the Church would paralyze agriculture and business."[6] In 1805 and 1807 he forwarded two other reports to the king.

His writings critiquing society in New Spain influenced Alexander von Humboldt, who spent a year in the viceroyalty 1803-04. Abad y Queipo presented Humboldt with his published writings when the cleric visited Paris in 1806.[7] Humboldt's Political Essay on the Kingdom of New Spain was one of his first publications from him five-year sojourn to Spanish America and drew heavily on Abad's memorials.[8] Humboldt took Abad y Queipo's argument about the low condition of Mexico's indigenous population as impeding progress in the viceroyalty, which Abad had first directed in a 1799 memorial to Bishop Antonio de San Miguel. Their multiple languages, ties to their home communities, collective land tenure which the crown had protected now were their chains preventing individual advancement.[9] Although Abad y Queipo deplored the situation of the Indians, he did not blame them for it, viewing it not due to inherent racial or character flaws but to crown protectionism. Abad y Queipo drew on the writings of reformist Spaniard Gaspar Melchor de Jovellanos's Informe de ley agraria.[10] Abad y Queipo was also influenced by Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations and drew on the writings of Montesquieu.[11] The replication of Abad y Queipo's arguments in Humboldt's work doubtless gave them a larger audience than they previously garnered.

Bishop-elect of Michoacán[edit]

In 1807 he traveled to Spain to seek his habilitation, since his status as a natural child prohibited his promotion to the higher levels of the ecclesiastical hierarchy. He returned to New Spain in the position of vicar general.

In 1810 the Regency (the Spanish government fighting the French invasion) named him bishop-elect of Michoacán. He took over the diocese before the arrival of the pontifical bull confirming his position. The pope did not approve his nomination, and thus the bull never arrived.

During the insurrection against Spain[edit]

The Bourbon Reforms had resulted in the virtual exclusion of American-born Spanish men, from attaining high office and increasing alienation between peninsular-born Spaniards and American-born. Abad y Queipo recognized the criollos' resentment and suggested that the rift be softened by sending criollos to Spain for education and that the crown appoint elite criollos to high positions in Spain in government, the military, and the Catholic Church as well as allowing those in New Spain be appointed to high office in Peru and vice versa.[12] The increasing alienation of criollos from the Spanish crown flared into open rebellion in 1810 with the revolt of secular priest Miguel Hidalgo.

Abad y Queipo strongly and energetically opposed the movement for Mexican independence from Spain. He had been, however, a friend of Father Hidalgo, leader of the Revolutionary army that began in 1810, and he sought the friendship of members of the revolutionary juntas of Valladolid (now Morelia) and San Miguel el Grande (now San Miguel de Allende).

On 24 September 1810, Abad y Queipo published the decree excommunicating insurgents Hidalgo, Ignacio Allende, Juan Aldama and Mariano Abasolo. Hidalgo's excommunication was Hidalgo's having "raised a standard of rebellion and seduced a number of innocent people," but it was for rebellion against the crown's authority not the Church's.[13] The insurgents disputed the legality of the excommunication, based on the lack of papal approval of Abad y Queipo's appointment, which he disputed, and Archbishop Lizana confirmed the order of ex-communication.[14]

There were some prominent parish priests among the insurgents, most especially Hidalgo and José María Morelos. Abad y Queipo claimed in September 1812 that the majority of priests were loyal to the crown and few were insurgents, saying "even among Jesus's disciples there was a Judas."[15] Contemporaries, including Lucas Alamán and later scholars have emphasized priests' participation in the insurgency, and evidence shows that they participated in larger numbers than Abad y Queipo estimated, but in fewer numbers than contemporaries thought.[16]

In 1815 Abad y Queipo sent another report to the king (Ferdinand VII now), denouncing the mistakes of Viceroy Félix María Calleja and the lack of prudence of Lardizábal, minister of the Indies. After this he was recalled to Spain, on the pretext of giving information about the independence movement, but really to respond to the complaints against him concerning his "liberal and beneficent ideas in favor of the Americas and their inhabitants".[citation needed]

Return to Spain[edit]

He obtained an interview with Ferdinand VII, who not only pardoned him, but named him Minister of Grace and Justice in the royal government. This occurred on 24 June 1816, but on 27 June the Inquisition brought its case again, accusing Abad y Queipo of being a friend of the insurgents, living an irreligious life, and holding revolutionary ideas. He was imprisoned two months in the jail of the Inquisition.

The Spanish revolution of 1820 designated him a member of the provisional junta, charged with overseeing the conduct of King Ferdinand. Later he was a deputy to the Cortes for the province of Asturias. Even later he was named bishop of Tortosa, but once again the papal bull confirming his position did not arrive.

In 1824 came the absolutist reaction, after Ferdinand was again restored to the throne. Abad y Queipo was now old and deaf, but he was imprisoned again, this time in the monastery of Sisla, in Toledo. He died a prisoner in 1824.


Many of his writings were published in Semanario Político y Literario (Political and Literary Seminar) and in Observador de la República Mexicana (Observer of the Mexican Republic). The Colección de escritos más importantes (Collection of the Most Important Writings) was published in Mexico City in 1813. His "Testamento político" ("Political Testament") was published in the Historia of Lucas Alamán. An important collection of his writings is Colección de los escritos mas importantes que en diferentes épocas dirigió al gobierno D. Manual Abad Queipo, obispo electo de Michoacán.[17] Historian D.A. Brading notes that Abad y Queipo's writing are notable for "the complete absence of any material dealing with religion."[18]

Further reading[edit]

  • Fisher, Lillian Estelle. Champion of Reform, Manuel Abad y Queipo. New York: Library Publishers 1955


  1. ^ D.A. Brading, The First America: The Spanish Monarchy, Creole Patriots, and the Liberal State, 1492-1867. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1991, p. 565.
  2. ^ D.A. Brading, The First America, p. 565.
  3. ^ quoted in Lillian Fisher, The Background of the Revolution for Mexican Independence. Boston: Christopher Publishing House 1934, pp. 15-16.
  4. ^ Fisher, The Background of the Revolution for Mexican Independence, p. 23.
  5. ^ quoted in D.A. Brading, The First America, p. 567.
  6. ^ J. Lloyd Mecham, Church and State in Latin America, second edition. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press 1966, p. 40.
  7. ^ D.A. Brading, Church and State in Bourbon Mexico: The Diocese of Michoacán 1749-1810. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1994, p. 228.
  8. ^ D.A. Brading, The First America: Spanish Monarchs, Creole Patriots, and the Liberal State, 1492-1867. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1991, 527.
  9. ^ D.A. Brading, The First America, p. 530.
  10. ^ D.A. Brading, The First America, p. 568.
  11. ^ D.A. Brading, The First America, p. 565.
  12. ^ Fisher, The Background of the Revolution for Mexican Independence, p. 24.
  13. ^ Mecham, Church and State in Latin America, p. 52.
  14. ^ Mecham, Church and State in Latin America, p. 52.
  15. ^ quoted in William B. Taylor, Magistrates of the Sacred: Priests and Parishioners in Eighteenth-Century Mexico. Stanford: Stanford University Press 1996, p. 453.
  16. ^ Taylor, Magistrates of the Sacred, p. 453.
  17. ^ Mexico 1813, AGI 2571 (96-4-26). Audiencia de Méjico.
  18. ^ D.A. Brading, The First America, p. 565.

External links[edit]