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José de Gálvez, marqués de Sonora, Visitador in New Spain.

José de Gálvez y Gallardo, marqués de Sonora (1720, Macharavialla, Spainmarker—1787, Aranjuezmarker, 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.

Early career

José de Gálvez was a lawyer in the French embassy in Madrid and secretary of Marqués Jerónimo Grimaldi at the time of the Family Compact of 1761. He was alcalde de casa y corte when King Charles III named him visitador (inspector) to New Spain, with the special charge of monitoring the administration of Joaquín de Montserrat, marqués de Cruillas, viceroy of the colony at the time. The Crown had lost confidence in Montserrat because of a perceived reduction in the collection of royal rents.

Visitador in New Spain

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 Veracruzmarker and Acapulcomarker. (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 Franciscans to concentrate on founding new missions in Alta California. Charles III was very anxious to establish a strong Spanish presence to forestall Russian expansion from Alaska. He established a naval base at San Blasmarker and later, in 1769, sent the expedition of Junípero Serra and Gaspar de Portolá to California. Serra founded the mission at San Diegomarker in 1769, and Portolá the presidio at Montereymarker in 1770. Near the end of 1771 the Portolá Expedition arrived in San Francisco Baymarker.

Return to Spain

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. Charles III made him Marqués de Sonora, and in 1775 Minister of the Indies (Secretarío del Estado del Despacho Universal de Indias). In that position he continued to work reorganizing the northern parts of New Spain. His original vision was to create a whole new "Viceroyalty of Nueva Vizcaya." 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 Nueva Vizcaya, Nuevo Santander, Sonora y Sinaloa, Las Californias, Coahuila y Texas and Nuevo México. Chihuahuamarker 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 Indiasmarker, bringing together documents about the Indies from Simancasmarker, Sevillemarker and Cádizmarker. 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. In 1786 he undertook another major reshuffling of the colonial administration with the introduction of intendancies through out most of the Americas.



  • "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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