Jose Basco

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A portrait of José Basco y Vargas, Governor-General of the Philippines (1778-1787) (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/Filipinas Heritage Library)

José Basco y Vargas was the Governor-General of the Philippines from July 1778 to November 1787.[1]

Biography

Basco was from Málaga in Granada, Spain.[2] He was a son of Francisco José Basco y Valderrama, de Ronda and Josefa de Vargas y Rivera.[3] His brothers were Joaquín (a politician), Alonso, and Pedro (both are naval officers).[4] Like his other brothers, he was an officer of the Spanish navy.[5]

As Governor-General

He was appointed as the new Governor-General in 1778, replacing Simón de Anda.[6] Before his appointment, Pedro de Sarrio (Soriano) served as acting Governor-General. His appointment was vehemently opposed by the officials of the Real Audiencia, saying that they do not want to be subordinated to a man whose rank "gave him only the right to be addressed as 'you' while each one of the magistrates enjoyed the title of 'Lordship'."[7] They asked the royal government for the revocation of Basco's appointment, but this was refused.[8] Some oidores even conspired to make charges against Basco, have him arrested, and make Sarrio the Governor-General.[9] However, Sarrio reported this to Basco, who then had all the conspirators arrested and deported to Spain in 1779.[10]

Economic reforms

Basco created a general economic plan for the archipelago, containing his plans to promote and develop the archipelago's agriculture, commerce, and industries.[11] He offered rewards and distinctions to those who will excel in the following: planting of cotton, mulberry trees, and spices such as cloves, cinnamon, pepper, and nutmeg; manufacturing of silk, porcelain, and fabrics such as hemp, flax, and cotton; mining of gold, iron, copper, and tin; making discoveries that are useful to the archipelago; and specializing in the sciences, the liberal arts, and mechanics.[12] He also circulated instructions on how to cultivate and prepare cotton, silk, sugar, among others.[13] He then ordered the planting of more than four million mulberry trees in Camarines, which yielded numerous products.[14]

He also worked for the establishment of the Sociedad Económica de los Amigos del País or the Economic Society of Friends of the Country in 1781.[15] The organization was formally inaugurated on 6 May 1781.[16] Aided by Basco, it took steps to promote the cultivation of indigo, cotton, cinnamon; and the silk industry in the archipelago.[17]

Perhaps his most well-known economic measure was the establishment of a government monopoly in the cultivation of tobacco. This was proposed by Basco to the royal government in order to: (1) free the mother country from its annual obligation of sending cash to the archipelago (situado); and (2) improve the economic conditions of the archipelago.[18] Eventually, a royal decree was promulgated on 9 February 1780 which established a monopoly of tobacco in the archipelago.[19] Basco issued two proclamations on 13 and 25 December 1781 respectively, which prohibited the sale, traffic, and manufacture of tobacco.[20] He also issued an instruction on 16 February 1782 which commands the prevention of smuggling of tobacco products.[21] Even amidst opposition from various individuals and groups, the monopoly was finally organized on 1 March 1782.[22]

Basco also ordered the monopoly of other products in the archipelago. A monopoly on gunpowder was issued on 4 November 1786, while a monopoly on wine was issued on 11 December in the same year.[23]

Legal reforms

In order to ensure peace and order in roads in the provinces near Manila, he appointed judges, who were accompanied by a counsellor and an executioner, with the power of condemnation.[24] This ensured that the administration of justice is carried out in a very short span of time, which led to peace and order in many areas.[25] However, the Audiencia was against this measure and appealed to the royal government to rescind this order.[26] The royal government then issued a decree notifying Basco that the measure that he introduced must be stopped.[27] Basco obeyed this decree, but remarked that "it had arrived too late" because the measure that he introduced has done its purpose.[28]

Military reforms and actions

He repaired the fortifications in Manila and Cavite, and reorganized the Army.[29] He repaired the forts in Visayas in Mindanao, and ordered the construction of small vessels which were stationed in Cebu, Iloilo, Zamboanga, and Calamianes in order to thwart Moro pirates.[30] As a result, trade between Manila and other islands resumed.[31]

He also sent expeditions in various areas of the archipelago, including the Cordilleras and Mamburao in Mindoro.[32] His well-known expedition was the one organized in Batanes, which became successful and led to the inclusion of the islands as part of the colony on 26 June 1783.[33] The success of the expedition led to Basco being granted the title Count of the Conquest of Batanes Islands.[34]

Other reforms and actions

He improved the schools, and promoted the teaching of the Spanish language.[35]

He and the royal government implemented measures concerning the Chinese in the archipelago. He revoked the 1778 order which expelled the Chinese from the archipelago.[36] A royal decree on 25 February 1785 ordered the immediate expulsion of the Chinese in Manila, which gave Basco the opportunity to fix a place outside of its walls where a small number of Chinese can reside.[37] A royal decree on 1 April 1785 approved the establishment of a colony of 200 Chinese in Pampanga.[38]

Events during his term

It was during his term that a revolt in Ituy and Paniqui broke out in 1785.[39] This was led by Lagutao, who assembled a force of 1,200 men. The Spaniards eventually quelled the revolt.[40]

End of his term

Throughout his term, Basco was opposed by the Audiencia. He was even fined in 1787 by the oidor of the Audiencia, but this was reversed by the Council of the Indies.[41] Soon, he became impatient, and he offered his resignation to the King.[42] At first, his resignation was not accepted.[43] However, upon his insistence, he was allowed to resign.[44] He ended his term in November 1787, and Sarrio assumed the position of acting Governor-General once again.

After his term

Basco's exceptional merits were recognized that after his term as Governor-General of the Philippines, he was appointed as governor of Cartagena and promoted to the rank of rear admiral.[45]

References

  1. Carlos Quirino, Old Manila, ed. María Eloísa G. Parco-de Castro, 2nd ed. (Quezon City: Vibal Foundation, 2016), 294.
  2. Quirino, Old Manila, 295.
  3. Real Academia de la Historia, "Joaquín Basco y Vargas," accessed 4 February 2021, http://dbe.rah.es/biografias/63305/joaquin-basco-y-vargas
  4. Real Academia de la Historia, "Joaquín Basco y Vargas."
  5. Quirino, Old Manila, 295; José Montero y Vidal, "Events in Filipinas, 1764-1800," in The Philippine Islands 1493-1898, trans. Emma Helen Blair and James Alexander Robertson, vol. 50 (Cleveland: The Arthur H. Clark Company, 1906), 47.
  6. Montero y Vidal, "Events in Filipinas," 47.
  7. Montero y Vidal, "Events in Filipinas," 47.
  8. Montero y Vidal, "Events in Filipinas," 47.
  9. Montero y Vidal, "Events in Filipinas," 47; Charles Henry Cunningham, The Audiencia in the Spanish Colonies As Illustrated by the Audiencia of Manila (1583-1800) (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1919), accessed 5 February 2021, http://www.gutenberg.org/files/41443/41443-h/41443-h.htm, 281.
  10. Montero y Vidal, "Events in Filipinas," 47; Quirino, Old Manila, 295.
  11. Montero y Vidal, "Events in Filipinas," 48.
  12. Montero y Vidal, "Events in Filipinas," 48.
  13. Montero y Vidal, "Events in Filipinas," 48.
  14. Montero y Vidal, "Events in Filipinas," 47.
  15. Quirino, Old Manila, 295.
  16. Montero y Vidal, "Events in Filipinas," 51.
  17. Montero y Vidal, "Events in Filipinas," 52.
  18. Montero y Vidal, "Events in Filipinas," 52-3.
  19. Montero y Vidal, "Events in Filipinas," 54.
  20. Montero y Vidal, "Events in Filipinas," 54.
  21. Montero y Vidal, "Events in Filipinas," 54-5.
  22. Montero y Vidal, "Events in Filipinas," 55.
  23. Montero y Vidal, "Events in Filipinas," 57.
  24. Montero y Vidal, "Events in Filipinas," 49-50.
  25. Montero y Vidal, "Events in Filipinas," 50.
  26. Montero y Vidal, "Events in Filipinas," 50.
  27. Montero y Vidal, "Events in Filipinas," 50.
  28. Montero y Vidal, "Events in Filipinas," 50.
  29. Montero y Vidal, "Events in Filipinas," 50.
  30. Montero y Vidal, "Events in Filipinas," 55.
  31. Montero y Vidal, "Events in Filipinas," 55.
  32. Montero y Vidal, "Events in Filipinas," 55-6.
  33. Montero y Vidal, "Events in Filipinas," 56.
  34. Quirino, Old Manila, 295.
  35. Montero y Vidal, "Events in Filipinas," 48-9.
  36. Montero y Vidal, "Events in Filipinas," 50.
  37. Montero y Vidal, "Events in Filipinas," 57.
  38. Montero y Vidal, "Events in Filipinas," 57.
  39. Montero y Vidal, "Events in Filipinas," 57.
  40. Montero y Vidal, "Events in Filipinas," 57.
  41. Cunningham, The Audiencia, 140.
  42. Montero y Vidal, "Events in Filipinas," 57.
  43. Montero y Vidal, "Events in Filipinas," 58.
  44. Montero y Vidal, "Events in Filipinas," 58.
  45. Cunningham, The Audiencia, 140.

Citation

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