generated by the tithe, parish fees and other sources, it gave church institutions considerable financial independence from the crown and a substantial base of funds to support charitable activity.
Reformers, however, did not believe that the church's control of these assets served any productive economic purpose and were convinced that the tithe and other taxes, as well as the church courts' absolute control over litigation arising out of these matters, limited entrepreneurial activity. Thus, between the 1750s and 1800, Bourbon ministers took a number of steps to deal with these issues. They subjected church property to regular taxes, made the solicitation of loans and 'gifts' to the state from church institutions a routine practice, and severely limited the ability of ecclesiastical courts to handle economic litigation involving church-controlled assets.
As important as these legal and fiscal measures were, however, they merely set the stage for the most important assault on church resources. In 1804, the crown issued a decree requiring that practically all assets belonging to ecclesiastical institutions be liquidated and transferred to the state to be invested in royal bonds paying 4.5 per cent interest. This measure, the Consolidación de Vales Reales, required that owners of property subject to liens redeem them within a brief period of time, and that all debtors repay their loans when they came due. Despite enormous local protest and resistance, it is estimated that between 1804 and 1809, royal officials successfully collected 10.5 million pesos from Mexico alone.
It appears that the immediate economic impact of this appropriation of capital was not as severe as contemporaries argued. Private capital quickly took the place of ecclesiastical capital in the credit markets. But its impact on religious functions was enormous. In the short term, ecclesiastical organizations in Mexico saw their income reduced by 10 per cent, and after 1811 they lost their incomes entirely. The long-term consequences were even more devastating. The crown seizure of such funds greatly reduced the practice of pious bequests and severed the economic ties that had bound political and economic elites to the church throughout the Colonial period. Thus, the Bourbon measures prepared the way for the increasing secularization of society in nineteenth-century Mexico and the church-state conflicts that plagued the country. Whether or not the Consolidación had the same impact on the rest of Latin America remains to be tested, but enough evidence exists to suggest that many other parts of the Spanish Empire had a similar experience.
A second area where Bourbon policy had a major impact on the institutional life of the church concerned the changing role given to the religious orders in the New World. During the Habsburg era, the Franciscans, Dominicans,
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