The Spanish Succession and Tubac


The impact of social sciences upon historical interpretation has led to downgrading estimates of individual effect on social processes. This tendency is well and good as long as the historian deals with countries where decision making is by and large a popular process. It is not such a good idea when the historian deals with nations where decisions are or were made primarily by key individuals.  Then he had better keep in mind the social structure of decision making by "gatekeepers" which modern sociology is just now rediscovering.

A case history of the key role of an individual in a gatekeeper's position was the reign of King Charles III of Spain. Charles of Bourbon became in November of 1759 King 401Carlos III of Spain (Bancroft 1833:III:364). Usually the accession of a new Spanish monarch did not produce much alteration in the even tenor of colonial administration which was firmly in the hands of long-established bureaucratic agencies in which most Spanish rulers took little interest. Charles III pro ved to be an exception. Ho was relatively young and abundantly energetic. Most important of all, he was convinced that the crown of Spain required considerable refurbishing and he channeled his energy and considerable abilities toward making it shine brightly once again.

Charles III quickly turned his attention to his colonial possessions in contrast to most Spanish kings who were content to play their roles in Spanish society, spending the money remitted from the colonies but not much concerning themselves about colonial administration or welfare. The bureaucrats found themselves greatly shaken up by royal directives and even by-passed. Charles III was quite capable of cutting through the accumulated red tape of centuries of bureaucratic accretion and formalization. He simply used a modified form of the viceregal system. The viceroys of New Spain and other New World kingdoms had always been just what their names implied, Vice-kings, the personal representatives of the reigning king. The quality of personal representation tended to disappear over the years. Charles III decided that he needed truly personal investigators and representatives to inspect his colonial possessions and come402back to tell him exactly what their situation was, and to act with royal authority to make pressing decisions in the colonies, to institute obviously needed reforms along the lines of Charles' own thinking, and generally to shape up the lax colonial administrators and tighten up the reins of colonial administration to cut costs and increase the revenue sorely needed in Spain.

The man Charles III sent to investigate and reform New Spain was Francisco Armona, but he died en route. Then José de Galvez, a veteran army officer who had won his rank the hard way and not through friends at court, took over. Galvez was a fairly rough-hewn soldier from outside the ranks of courtiers and that was precisely what Charles III needed.

Galvez arrived in New Spain in 1761, but had to wait until 1764 for confirmation of his powers (Bancroft 1883:III:367). Than he proceeded to study its administration from the top down, beginning with the uncomfortable viceroy and ending out in the frontier provinces. While still in the City of Mexico, Charles' personal representative helped to carry out one of the startling orders by which Charles III reformed his empire. Triple-sealed dispatches arrived in the City of Mexico from the court for the new viceroy the Flemish Marqués de Croix. When he opened them in utmost secrecy, he discovered that his king had decreed nothing less than the expulsion of every member of the Society of Jesus from all Spanish dominions (ibid.,III:438). Visitor-General 403José de Galvez took charge of executing the royal edict in the capital city with a minimum of resistance and as complete secrecy and surprise as could be achieved (Dunne 1937:6-7). Although the Jesuits were quite popular in New Spain-particularly when their expulsion became public knowledge-Galvez succeeded in carrying out the king's orders. Although he has been criticized for executing them with unnecessary severity, the responsibility for a high death rateamong expelled priests was that of underlings in the provinces rather than Galvez.

When the order of expulsion reached Captain Lorenzo Cancio in Sonora, he notified the Jesuit Rector Juan Nentvig, who ordered all the priests to assemble at the order's headquarters at Matape. There on July 25, 1767, the priests heard read to them the royal order (ibid., p. 21). The Sonoran Jesuits remained under arrest from that moment on.  They were marched to the port of Guaymas, where they had to wait until their Franciscan replacements arrived for shipping to carry them southward. Many fell ill in that none-too-healthy seaport. After an overcrowded sea voyage and a forced sojourn in Lower California (ibid., p. 22-23), they landed at San Blas and rode to Guadalajara, many dying at Tepic, Ixtlan and farther on theroad (ibid., p. 24-25).  Finally the remnant reached the capital city and was sent on to Vera Cruz for shipment to Cadiz, where many were held in house arrest for some years (ibid., p. 26).

404The fort of Tubac lost its acting chaplain, of course, in this expulsion. The incumbent Jesuit at Guebavi was Custodio Ximeno as already discussed.

In the course of his inspection of the Kingdom of New Spain, Visitor-General Galvez learned of the Indian problems in the frontier province of Sonora and heard of the grave difficulties posed to economic development by the presence of hostile Indians on the western and northeastern flanks of the province. Galvez assessed the threat posed by the Seri Indians on the western flank and decided that a determined large-scale military expedition including regular army troops could dislodge these pestiferous Indians from the Gulf Coast and either exterminate or capture them and force them to settle down as agriculturalists at mission stations far inland from their desert coastal refuges. To this end Galvez ordered a huge expedition mounted under the command of Colonel Domingo Elizondo. This was the largest armed force used in Sonora during colonial times but the extermination or capture of the hostile coastal Indians proved beyond its capabilities until a yellow favor epidemic came to its aid by carrying off many of the hostile Indians.

Another personal emissary of King Charles III was also touring northern New Spain at this period. Field Marshal Calletano María Pignatelly y Rubí, Marqués de Rubí assessed the menace of the Apaches quite differently. Gaining a frontier-wide view of the incursions of southern Athapascans, 405he knew that a single massive campaign would hardly make a dent in the problem, and that basic long-range planning was required in order to contain the Apaches. In his general report, the Marqués de Rubí recommended a wholesale re-alignment of existing frontier posts. These had been established just like Tubac and Altar in response to specific and temporary local emergencies such as the pacification of the northern Pimans in 1752. Such local needs had, on the whole, been met and the frontier presidios were, like Tubac, engaged primarily in containing Apache incursions inside the frontier and launching retaliatory campaigns into Apache territory. Therefore the Marqués proposed that the frontier forts be relocated so that they formed a continuous straight line from the Gulf of California to the Gulf of Mexico, within helping distance of one another and close enough together to make it very difficult for raiding Apaches to sneak between them. His vision was one of a giant holding operation on the Maginot Line principle. Carrying out his inspection in 1766 and 1767, the Marqués de Rubí submitted his final report in 1768. His recommendations and those of Visitor-General Galvez were embodied in the New Regulations for the Governing of Presidios issued by King Charles III in September of 1772.

Among the frontier forts scheduled for relocation in the New Regulations was Tubac. The Marqués de Rubí had viewed it as being placed too far north to fit into his straight-line 406concept of Apache defense and too far removed from tho western post of Altar. Pignatelly y Rubí wanted Tubac pulled back slightly and moved westward toward Altar, the western anchor of the line.

The execution of the New Regulations insofar as they dealt with fort locations was placed in the energetic hands of a displaced Irishman, Hugo O'Conor, who had made a brilliant record fighting Apaches in Texas. There he was known respectfully to the Indians as El Capitán Colorado or "The Red Captain" because of his bright red hair and military leadership. Jumped to Inspector-General of Frontier Forts, O'Conor began to work himself to death by combining staff duties with field enterprises-trying to fight Apaches while he inspected forts and chose new sites, and made high policy decisions. As a result he did neither as well as he should have. The rapid rise of a foreigner to a high command position did not endear O'Conor to the Peninsular and creole officers on the frontier. Having begun his work of fort realignment in that eastern frontier provinces, O'Conor did not even reach Sonora until 1775. There he inspected the Tubac company under Lt. Oliva and was very unfavorably impressed (see discussion above).

Meanwhile O'Conor had commissioned Adjutant Inspector Antonio Bonilla to inspect likely sites for the realignment of the Sonoran posts. Following the New Regulations, Bonilla chose a new site for the royal fort of Altar west of Caborca407and selected the Aribaca Valley for Tubac (Thomás 1941:169) to bring it into alignment and proper distance between relocated Altar and Terrenate. This proposed arrangement of posts would have defects, Bonilla warned his superiors-Altar would be too far from the rest of the line and Tubac and Terrenate would have to be relocated in poor spots for wood and water and grazing (ibid., p. 170).

The trails into the new sites would be considerably exposed to Apache attack, Bonilla warned, and the situation was already bad enough, with two detachments traveling between Terrenate and Tubac just having been attacked with some lossof life, horses and goods (ibid., p. 171).

Bonilla accurately predicted the reaction of the Tubac citizenry to removal of the military post-it would emigrate as soon as the garrison was moved (ibid., p. 172). His immediate superior, Comandant-Inspector Hugo O'Conor, madethe same prediction after his inspection of the Tubac company. Most of the civilian settlers around the post were sons, brothers, nephews and other near relatives of soldiers in the garrison, therefore they would go where the troop was posted (O'Conor Aug. 18, 1775).

By 1774 the conditions existing at the time of the inspections by the Marqués de Rubí seven years previously no longer obtained. The Spanish military frontier at the western end of his envisioned line had not remained stable, but had advanced. That advance was the work of Father Francisco 408Hermenegildo Garcés and Captain Juan Bautista de Anza, taking advantage of prevailing Spanish concern over the Russian threat to the Pacific Coast. When Garcés had explored the routes to Upper California and Anza took his exploring expedition overland to the Pacific Ocean, the defense requirements of the western frontier changed radically. A static, straight-line alignment of forts would not furnish adequate protection to pack trains on the new land route to Upper California.

Antonio Bonilla quickly realized that the situation had changed since the visit of the Marqués de Rubí on which the New Regulations were based. He therefore advanced the suggestion that the line of frontier posts would have to be moved forward on its western flank to cover the new trail. He envisioned making the Gila River the effective frontier as far east as the junction of the San Pedro, moving a fort to the Gila-Colorado junction and another to the San Pedro-Gila junction to anchor the new frontier, and transferring the Tubac garrison, Fronteras and Terrenate into the San Pedro River Valley to hold the side of the salient exposed to Apache attack (Thomás 1941:172-173).

Bonilla assessed the military requirements of the situation very well, but he could not conjure up new troops where none existed. Neither could Commandant-Inspector O'Conor. In the end, O'Conor had to settle for half a loaf, finding a new more advanced site for the Tubac company. Apparently Bonilla 409looked at the Tucson area late in 1774 or early in 1775 and recommended it as the best new site for the Tubac company-probably in May of 1774 when he wrote the note he left there for Captain Anza (Bolton 1930:I:184). The new site had already been chosen when Commandant-Inspector O'Conor inspected the Tubac company in August of 1775 (O'Conor Aug. 18, 1775). After reviewing the Tubac garrison, O'Conor went on north down the Santa Cruz Valley to check the country at the Indian village at Tucson in person. There he found adequate pasturage, wood, water and arable land (O'Conor Aug. 20, 1775). This location lay many miles in advance of Tubac on the new trail to Upper California, so the Commandant-Inspector approved the choice and ordered the company moved from Tubac to Tucson. This order sealed the immediate fate of the settlement at Tubac. The ultimate effect of the accession to the throne of King Charles III was thus to terminate Tubac as a royal fort and reduce it to a civilian pueblo not long to endure.

In another sense, however, the ultimate effect of this series of events was to ensure the permanent European settlement of southern Arizona. The location of the garrison at Tucson in 1776 began the unbroken history of European occupation there which has continued to the present day with progressive increase in population. By losing its own military garrison, Tubac contributed to the foundation of Tucson, acting as nucleus for expansion of European settlement and permanent colonization of southern Arizona.

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