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The Smugglers' WorldIllicit Trade and Atlantic Communities in Eighteenth-Century Venezuela$
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Jesse Cromwell

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781469636887

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: September 2019

DOI: 10.5149/northcarolina/9781469636887.001.0001

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“Men of Good Will Who Will Harm No One”

“Men of Good Will Who Will Harm No One”

Venezuelan Officials

Chapter:
(p.197) 6 “Men of Good Will Who Will Harm No One”
Source:
The Smugglers' World
Author(s):

Jesse Cromwell

Publisher:
University of North Carolina Press
DOI:10.5149/northcarolina/9781469636887.003.0008

This chapter examines local and provincial Spanish imperial officials as the facilitators of illicit commerce on the Venezuelan coast. Administrators’ tolerance of and personal enrichment through smuggling was unintentionally important for the Spanish Empire in maintaining control over a contented colonial population. Authorities could be active smugglers themselves, invest in the smuggling ventures of others, or earn steady income by purposefully ignoring illegal transactions in exchange for a fee. They created elaborate conglomerations of both foreign and domestic smugglers through their personal and professional connections. This chapter emphasizes that officials and colonial subjects reached a social compact regarding smuggling and corruption. Instead of absolutes of “right” and “wrong,” both royal officials and provincial inhabitants assessed personalistic government on a spectrum of reprehensibility. Venezuelan subjects tolerated administrative graft related to smuggling when, as a by-product, it opened ports and markets to mutually beneficial trade from abroad. By contrast, when officials attempted to monopolize the black market or harmed community values in defending their own interests, locals used all means at their disposal to expel these offending functionaries.

Keywords:   Bureaucratic History, Corruption, Moral Economy, Imperial Management, Legal History, Networks

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