Published: August 8, 2011
Since the beginning of the galleon trade, merchants from Cadiz and Seville continually protested against its restrictions. As a government monopoly, it seriously hampered the growth of the Philippine overseas commerce.
In 1765, Francisco Leandro de Viana, the Royal Fiscal of Manila, asked the Spanish crown to abolish the galleon trade.
In 1810 Governor Manuel Gonzales Aguilar proposed the suppression of the galleon trade because of its restrictiveness and the adoption of a policy of freedom to engage in trade. But nothing came of these proposals.
The War of Spanish Independence (1803-1813), caused by the invasion of Spain by Napoleon Bonaparte, led the end of the monopolistic galleon trade. Taking advantage of Spain’s need for colonial loyalty and support, the Manila merchants clamored for the restoration of free trade between the Philippines and Mexico–a situation existing before 1593.
In 1813, the Spanish Cortes, upon the sponsorship of Ventura de los Reyes, the first Philippine delegate to that Spanish legislature, voted to suppress the monopolistic galleon trade. But the following year, the galleon trade was restored by King Ferdinand VII when he was returned to the Spanish throne.
Upon de los Reyes’ request, however, the king reconsidered this decision and issued the Royal Decree of April 23, 1815, which definitely abolished the galleon trade and opened the ports of Mexico, California, Ecuador, and Chile to Philippine commerce.
The last government -owned galleon, the Magallanes, returned from Acapulco to Manila in 1815. It left Manila in 1811 but was delayed in Acapulco harbor for four years because the Mexicans were then fighting Spain for their independence.
Mexico won its independence in 1821. Spain cut off all Philippine ties with Mexico, including commercial ties. Thus the abolition of the government monopoly of the galleon trade gave no economic benefit to the Philippines. The royal concession came too late.