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Spanish Empire - 1542

The original basis of the Imperial organization was the division of the American territories made by the Emperor Charles V in 1542, between two great Viceroyalties which he created, one in Mexico and the other in Peru, names which synthetize the conquests of Spain. "We order and decree," says Law 1, Title 3, Book III, of the Compilation, "that the Kingdoms of Peru and New Spain (Mexico) be ruled over and governed by the Viceroys who represent our royal person, who shall exercise superior power, do and admini - justice equally to all our subjects and vassals, and apply themselves to all that will promote the tranquillity, repose, ennoblement and pacification of those provinces * * *"

The Viceroyalties were divided into royal audiencias, considered as "major provinces," which embraced the gobernaciones, the alcaldias mayores, the corregimientos and the alcaldias ordinarias,' provided for in Law 7, Title 2, Book II;' Law 1, Title 15, of the same Book, and Law 1, Title 1, Book V.

The Audiencia was a superior judicial tribunal, which, in addition under the ancient colonial regime, was a governing body exercising administrative functions and having civil jurisdiction over one or more provinces; also the name given to the territory over which its jurisdiction extended (Diccionario rasonado de Legislation y Jttrisprudencia, by Escrichc). The names Gobernacion and Gobierno are used interchangeably to denote the civil, as distinguished from the military, branch of the colonial governmental entities lesser in extent than the audiencias.

The Alcaldia mayor was the jurisdiction of the Alcalde mayor, who, as mayor, governed a town of lesser importance than the capital of a province. Though not necessarily a lawyer, he exercised judicial functions similar to those of a justice of the peace (Escriche). The Corregimiento was the district governed by a Corregidor, a correctional magistrate, who, in colonial times, exercised administrative functions over a district (Escriche). The Alcaldia ordinaria, or jurisdiction of the Alcalde ordinario, was similar to the alcaldia mayor, but of lesser extent.

In accordance with Law 3, Title 3, Book III, the viceroys were captains-general of the provinces in their districts; but captaincies general were also formed for certain determinate territories, whether audiencias or not. These possessed, in greater or less degree, the attributes of government and bore distinct relations of subordination to the Viceroys. The Viceroys were presidents of the audiencias at the capitals of their Viceroyalties, the other audiencias being presided over by 'the captains-general, or persons called "presidents togados" (gowned presidents).

From that system of territorial division sprang the terms Viceroyalties, Ciptaincies-general and Presidencies, to designate the different constituents composing the colonial empire .of Spain, and which afterwards formed independent States, although with certain variations effected by the towns that united or separated upon their emancipation

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Page last modified: 10-03-2016 20:02:27 ZULU