The Caracas Company, the Crown, and Commercial Control
Chapter 3 examines the creation and administration of the Caracas Company as an organization designed to increase trade to Venezuela but also to police its coastline. Although realizations of Spanish commercial vulnerabilities predated the Bourbon period, bureaucrats in the new dynasty singled out contraband trade as an especially troubling defect. Venezuelan commercial rejuvenation represented one of the earliest Bourbon reform projects. Crown ministers conceived of the Caracas Company as a solution to the province’s commercial dysfunction. Madrid allowed the Caracas Company to maintain its commercial privileges in Venezuela despite prickly relations with the colony’s subjects because it was a profitable enterprise. This reality delayed the implementation of comercio libre reforms in Venezuela until 1789, long after every Spanish American colony aside from New Spain had been permitted trade liberalization. Essentially, an early Bourbon reform had overpowered the designs of later ones. Continued Company control assured that the province would remain a conflict zone. As this chapter emphasizes, imperial reformers were not ignorant or inflexible where smuggling was concerned. Rather, their plans miscalculated how deeply it was stitched into the fabric of Venezuelan life.
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