Maintaining the Department of San Bias, 1775-1777 261
DIFFICULTIES OF MAINTAINING THE DEPARTMENT
OF SAN BLAS, 1775-1777
CIIARLES E. CHAPMAN
In a recent article the writer endeavored to show how important
the supply ships from San Blas were in maintaining the early
Spanish settlements of Alta California, and how ably the viceroy
of New Spain performed the difficult task of getting supplies and
ships to the northern establishments in time to prevent abandon-
ment of the province.1 The difficulties of Viceroy Bucarely and
the precarious existence of the new colonies will be even better
understood when it appears that maintenance of the Department
of San Blas was in itself no small problem. The period covered
by this article has been selected because it was long enough after
the founding of the department to avoid the effect of abnormal
conditions, and also because it was before permanence of the Alta,
California settlements had become assured by development from
within. First, however, a review of the department's history to
1775 will be attempted.2
The founding of the Department of San Blas grew out of the
need for a port as a base of supplies in conducting wars against
the Seris of Sonora, but it would seem to have been associated
from the outset in the mind of Visitador Gilvez with conquests in
the Californias as well. As early as December, 1767, we learn that
Galvez was ardently at work on plans for formation of the depart-
ment, having charged one Rivero with the duty of establishing a
port there." The official objects of the department are stated in
Viceroy Croix's instruction of January 11, 1768, for settlement
'Chapm-an, "The Alta California Supply Ships, 1773-76," in TiEm QUAR-
TERLY, XIX, 184-94. "Alta California" is used, as also in the present
article, for what is now California of the United States to distinguish
the more clearly from Baja California of Mexico, or from "California"
or "Californias," which formerly included both. Names of individuals
appearing in this account have been identified for the most part, where
they were important enough to require it, in the above article.
'I have relied wholly on materials of the Archivo General de Indias
(A. G. I.) of Seville, Spain. Copies of some of the documents used are
now in the Academy of Pacific Coast History, Berkeley.
'Rada to Arriaga, Dec. 27, 1767. A. G. I., Estado Aud. Mex. 1, Doc. 99.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 19, July 1915 - April, 1916. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101067/. Accessed May 25, 2015.