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Trade Control, Law and Flexibility: Merchants and Crown Interests in Panama, 1700–1750

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Chapter Summary

This chapter examines specific trade legislation issued by the crown to control the trade in Panama between 1700 and 1750. The crown's main objective was to reduce contraband and increase tax collection. The Panamanian cases discussed in the chapter shows that local authorities and others referred to different bodies of law to defend their own interests, which were not always the 'just' resolution of the dispute. Moreover, the cases also show that the crown was, at least until 1739, ready to be flexible and agree with some of the Spanish-American claims, relegating their own interests, as long as there was some revenue coming in. After that date, the crown and its representative in Panama, the governor, became more successful in controlling trade by maintaining flexibility but being more assertive and insistent.

Keywords: contraband; legal flexibility; Panama city merchants; Spanish-American claims; tax collection; trade control; trade legislation



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