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Leonardo Santoyo

by Alberto Francisco Pradeaufrom Alberto Francisco Pradeau, The Mexican Mints of Alamos and Hermosillo, NNM, No 63, American Numismatic Society, New York, 1934

After the separation of Mexico from Spain, copper was not coined in large amounts by either the national or state governments. The quantity coined was restricted to a minimum sufficient for commercial transactions. At this time the states were authorized by the national government to issue their own coinage. From 1833 to 1837 the copper coinage of the Republic reached the huge sum of seven million dollars, which, added to an almost equally large sum of counterfeits and to various large amounts being daily added to the overburdened market, made a total of fourteen million pesos in copper money.

The Mexican government could not fail to recognize the necessity of withdrawing the copper money from circulation, but nothing was done until 1841 at which time Santa -Anna became the chief magistrate of the nation. He proposed to remedy this evil by recalling all of the copper that had been minted up to that time, and in this way put an end to counterfeiting. Thus on 4 (sic) November 1841, the following decree was published:

Article One. A new coin of an eighth of a "real " shall be minted weighing one half ounce; the figure of liberty to be on the obverse and on the reverse a wreath with the value of the coin in the center. Around the margin REPUBLICA MEXICANA.
Article Two. The secular and regular clergy, brotherhoods, chaplains, pious workers, executors, etc., must deliver immediately to the treasury department, revenue tax offices, state or municipal tax collectors, all of the copper money in their possession.
Article Three The amounts turned in will be returned in new money within six months of the time received, unless arrangements have been made to the contrary.
Article Four. Private interests, be they individuals or corporations, will deposit for exchange in the offices named in Article Two all of their copper coins.
Article Five. As soon as the mint has a sufficient amount of the new copper money it will proceed to reimburse the amounts deposited for exchange in compliance with the foregoing articles , and it will also remit to the national treasury the part belonging to the government.
Article Six The copper money, which by virtue of this decree, is to be withdrawn from circulation, will cease to be legal tender thirty days after the publication of this decree in the Department of Mexico and sixty days after publication in the other departments (states ). After this period, holders of the old copper coins cannot claim indemnity for the loss that they might suffer for not having availed themselves of the opportunity offered in Articles Three, Four and Five of this decree, and it is hoped that the interested parties, for the public good as well as their own, will assist the government in carrying out these measures.
Article Seven. The penalties prescribed by the existent laws to punish counterfeiters will continue in effect , but shall be more rigidly enforced.

While this law was timely and desirable, it created untold hardships on the poor, and the interests of honest merchants suffered greatly, as all were deprived of a certain quantity of money at a time when the country was in narrow straits. The government's credit was not very good, the people distrusted the measure, and the result was that the majority preferred to take a chance with the old money rather than with the promises of a bankrupt and unstable government. It would have been much better to have coined previous to the publication of the above decree a sufficient amount of the new copper coins to take care of the exchanges upon presentation without waiting six months and causing confusion among all parties concerned.

This law did away with the coinage issued by Mr. Santoyo in Sonora, which in my estimation amounted to 540,000 pieces of "cuartillas " or $16,875.00 pesos. As Mr. Santoyo did not have machinery, he had to stamp his coins by means of hand punches. His coining activities covered a period of six years, from 1832 to 1837 inclusive. Figuring a year at 300 days, we find he had 1,800 working days and during each day with the primitive methods used to make the planchets, cut the disks and stamp them, I judge Mr. Santoyo was able to finish approximately three hundred. This will give us an estimate of 540,000 pieces coined, at three and one eighth cents a piece, giving the total value coined as $ 16,875.00. In the State of Sonora, as well as in other states of the union, copper had been coined in large quantities, more with the idea of obtaining personal gain than to provide for the need of commercial transactions.

Leonardo Santoyo coined "cuartillas " or "cuartos de real " in Alamos and HermosilloSantoyo made a contract[text needed] on 24 November 1831 to lease a “mint” in Hermosillo. This contract included the obligation to build the building and assemble the machinery. The construction was completed on 27 May 1835, and on 20 June of the same year the contract was renewed. Santoyo’s sons, Luis and Mariano, also worked in the mint from 1828 to 1837 and no record is to be found of the amount coined. The mint at Hermosillo was established in 1851 and no record of its coinage in any metal is to be found anywhere until 1861. During the year of 1861, $ 35,228.86 was struck in copper coins in the mint at Hermosillo, and the following year $38,220.98 was coined in the same mint of the same metal, a total of $73,449.84 in “cuartillas."

The copper coins in circulation in the state of Sonora (of its own mintage as well as of neighboring states) had well nigh reached the limit of the district's capacity for absorption. The amounts known to have been coined in these two years in a state having 130,000 population (mostly Indians) made the average per head excessive and burdensome. Merchants were compelled to retail their goods for copper coins which they could not dispose of except at a heavy discount, as the law limited the amount acceptable as legal tender. By 1867 this state of affairs had become a serious problem, and to solve it two steps were taken by the governor and military commander, Ignacio Pesqueira, one of the most colorful characters of the state's history.

The first step was to stop coinage of copper until such a time as commercial transactions justified its resumption. This was a healthy measure that helped all classes. The poor with a meagre income of a few cents a day , seldom earned more than seven dollars a month and had practically nothing else to use as medium. of exchange. The rich were safeguarded from becoming the sole and unwilling hoarders of this undesirable and unwanted currency. The price of commodities was stabilized and an era of freedom from copper money worries ensued and this lasted until the Republic was able to establish the sound monetary laws of Finance Minister Limantour in 1905.

In only two instances did it become necessary to resort to copper coinage between 1862 and 1905. The mint at Hermosillo coined copper during the year of 1880 amounting to $1,024.00, and during the year of 1881, $ 4586.00 - both amounts in one centavo pieces. In the Alamos mint copper was coined from 1874 to 1876, $495.00 in one centavo pieces, and again in 1880-81, $1,250.00 in the same denomination, for a total amount of $1,745.00. Thus the total amount coined in both places reached the moderate figure of $7,355.00.

The second measure consisted in declaring illegal the circulation of copper coinage in the state. This was accomplished without creating a hardship upon the holders of such coinage in the following manner:

Ignacio Pesqueira , Governor and Military Commander of the free and sovereign State of Sonora , to his constituents, be it known that:
WHEREAS the copper currency has been a source of constant speculation in the state, and has drained the fountains of public wealth, and impoverished to an alarming degree the agricultural, industrial, commercial and mining interests, and last but not least the working people, most deserving of the solicitous consideration of the existent government;
WHEREAS previous regulations have not been sufficient to prevent stock-jobbing, scalping and monopoly;
WHEREAS it is absolutely essential to remove by its roots the evil that has wrought havoc to the farms, villages and towns of this state:
Therefore by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and by special prerogatives granted by the federal government , I, Ignacio Pesqueira , Governor and Military Commander of the State , prescribe the following regulations for the relief of the above mentioned calamity:
Article One. This government imposes a forced loan of forty five thousand dollars , upon the following individuals to provide for a sinking fund, with which it will be possible to withdraw from circulation the copper currency in existence in the state. This loan is to be proportioned by counties. (Here follows a list of names and the amounts assessed against each of them showing a grand total of $45,000.00.)
Article Two. This loan will be payable in three installments; the first being due eight days after the publication of this decree in the district affected, the second is to be paid eight days after the first installment has become due and the third, eight days after the second installment becomes due.
Article Three. The payments as mentioned in the second article will be payable to the respective committee named to function in each district. The committees will extend to the payers a receipt which will be exchanged later for one issued by the secretary of the treasury. (Here follow the names of the respective members of each of the county committees.)
Article Four. In case of delay in the payment of this loan, the committee shall notify the collector of internal revenue, who in turn shall apply the penalty prescribed by law.
Article Five In the time and form judged the most appropriate, the government will transfer these funds to adequate points to begin rendering inalienable and permanently out of circulation the copper coinage.
Article Six. To reintegrate this loan one fourth of the revenue of the Guaymas Custom House is hereby pledged and assigned.
Article Seven. The exchange of copper coins for gold or silver shall cease within forty days after the publication of this decree, and after that time copper coinage will cease to be legal tender.
Article Eight. The respective committees in charge of collecting the assigned amounts in the counties of Hermosillo and Ures are hereby authorized to exchange copper coinage paying two -thirds of its face value in silver or gold.
The only compensation authorized for the committees shall be one and a half per cent of the total sum of gold and silver collected by the respective committee.
Article Nine. The committees shall render accurate accounts of the amounts of gold and silver collected and also of the copper coins exchanged to the collector of customs of the state, said accounts to be certified by the sheriff and military commander of the county.
Article Ten. The government shall order the melting of the copper coins so exchanged into bars for its disposal as bullion.
Article Eleven. The persons and private or municipal corporations that by virtue of a previous agreement are bound to pay a debt in copper coin, at a time when the circulation of this type of coin has been prohibited and declared illegal, shall make such payment in gold or silver at the rate specified by article eight of this decree.
This decree shall be proclaimed, printed and circulated for its due observance. Issued at Hermosillo, the nineteenth of June of the year 1867.
Signed: I. Pesqueira.

Thus from 1862 to 1880, excepting $495.00 coined in Alamos during the years of 1874 , 75 and 76, the State of Sonora was free of copper coinage.

Copper Sonora image 1The "tlacos " or tokens were brought into existence when commercial transactions made it necessary, but in Sonora, where all business firms resorting to this form of script were usually quite trustworthy and responsible, this phase did not cause the hardships and tribulations more frequently experienced in the larger cities of states not so isolated.