Showing the Truth to the Judge: The Role of Proofs in the Consulate of Seville during the Late 16th Century

Autor:Ana B. Fernández Castro
Cargo:Paris 1, Panthéon-Sorbonne
Páginas:481-497
RESUMEN

This paper examines the role played by the proofs in the jurisdiction of the consulate of Seville during the last years of the 16th century. Its purpose is to challenge the historiographical assumption that mercantile justice was summary, based on the principle of good faith among merchants that presupposed a simplified procedure free from long proving periods. Through the study of litigation in... (ver resumen completo)

 
EXTRACTO GRATUITO
AHDE, tomo LXXXVII, 2017
Showing the Truth to the Judge: The Role of Proofs
in the Consulate of Seville during the Late 16th
Century
ABSTRACT
This paper examines the role played by the proofs in the jurisdiction of the consu-
late of Seville during the last years of the 16th century. Its purpose is to challenge the
historiographical assumption that mercantile justice was summary, based on the princi-
ple of good faith among merchants that presupposed a simplified procedure free from
long proving periods. Through the study of litigation in the consulate I am going to
show how mercantile good faith coexisted with the judicial model of the ius commune,
in which proofs were at the core of the judicial decision making. Even if this jurisdic-
tional model affected trial’s shortness and simplicity, sources show that in some cases
litigants preferred it instead of a summary jurisdiction since it offered them enough
legal certainty to invest and negotiate in long distance trade.
KEY WORDS
Trade, Consulate, Litigation, Proofs, Ius Commune.
In early modern Spain, consulates were commerce institutions created and
administered by merchants in order to give unity to the regulation of commer-
cial transactions, as well as for resolving conflicts between merchants via their
own rules and customs. The principle Spanish commercial cities were host to
these institutions. In contrast with the Aragonese crown, which had maintained
consulates in cities like Barcelona, Valencia and Mallorca since the 13th and 14th
482 Ana B. Fernández Castro
AHDE, tomo LXXXVII, 2017
centuries 1, consular institutions appeared later in the Kingdom of Castile. It
was not until 1494 that a consulate was founded in Burgos, using as a model the
institutions existing in the Kingdom of Aragon; some years later, in 1511, a
consulate was also founded in Bilbao 2.
The city of Seville, at the heart of the commerce with the New World, was
no exception. In a report presented in April of 1543 to the Council of the Indies
by the merchant Cebrián de Caritate, the merchants of Seville requested the
creation of a consulate after the fashion of those existing in Valencia, Barcelo-
na, Bilbao and Burgos. They gave one reason for this: The Sevillian merchants
needed a summary jurisdiction that could quickly resolve their lawsuits and
help them avoid greater harm to their assets:
«Because we have no consulate for dealing with things by way of a corpo-
ration of prior 3 and consuls, we have suffered and continue to suffer serious
problems, losses and disorder in carrying out our business, and many lawsuits
have caused major delays that have harmed our merchandise in detriment to its
worth, all of which would cease if our businesses were ruled and governed by a
consulate» 4.
After months of negotiations, the then-Prince Philip dictated a Royal Provi-
sion on August 23rd, 1543, ordering that a consulate be founded in Seville 5.
1 R. S, Historia de los Consulados de Mar (1250-1700), Barcelona 1978, pp. 20-24; T.
M E, El Llibre del Consolat de Mar y el ordenamiento jurídico del mar, in
«Anuario de Historia del Derecho Español», 67 (1997), pp. 201-217; J. C F, Con-
sols de mar y consols d’ ultramar en Cataluña (siglos XIII-XV), in R. R (ed.), Le genti del
mare mediterraneo, Napoli 1981, Vol. I, pp. 397-425.
2 F. B C, H. C A, A. C. I P, S. E D
(eds.), Simposio Internacional «El consulado de Burgos», Actas del V Centenario del Consulado
de Burgos: 1494-1994, (Burgos 28-30 de septiembre de 1994), Burgos 1994, pp. 527; J. P. P-
, Bilbao y sus mercaderes en el siglo XVI. Génesis de un crecimiento, Bilbao 2005, pp. 35-69.
3 The prior was a merchant in charge of the direction of the consulate. He had the same facul-
ties and obligations of the consuls but exercised a casting vote in all the institutional decisions
according to the Law 7 of the 1556 ordinances of the consulate of Seville. Transcribed in A. H
H, Las Ordenanzas del Consulado de Sevilla, in «Archivo Hispalense», 171 (1973), p. 157.
4 «A causa de no tener consulado para tratar sus cosas por vía de la Vniuersidad de Prior y
Consules se avian seguido e siguian grandes ynconuenientes e diminuçion e desorden en el dicho
trato y comerçio y se mouian muchos pleitos y con ellos dilaçiones grandes en daño de las dichas
mercaderías y en detrimento de sus créditos, lo cual todo çesaria si se rrigiesen y gouernasen por
consulado». J. J. R D, El Consulado de cargadores a Indias: su documento fundacional, in
«Archivo Hispalense», 147 (1968), p. 286.
5 There was a long delay between the founding of the consulates of Burgos and of Bil-
bao— which were created shortly after Columbus’s discoveries—and that of Seville. The presence
of the Casa de la Contratación (House of Trade), which acted as a consulate up until the founda-
tion of the consulate of Seville, may go some way to explaining this delay. A. H H,
Apuntes para la Historia del Consulado de la Universidad de Cargadores a Indias en Sevilla y en
Cádiz, in «Anuario de Estudios Americanos», 27 (1970), p. 219; R. L. W, Merchant
Guilds (Consulados de Comercio) in the Spanish World, in «History Compass», 5 (2007),
pp. 1576-1584; M. S M, Los consulados de comercio en Castilla e Indias: su esta-
blecimiento y renovación (1494-1795), in «Anuario Mexicano de Historia del Derecho», 2 (1990),
pp. 227-250.

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