Extraordinary Taxes and Aljama Finance
In the realm of regular taxation royal policy was only mildly discriminatory against the Mudejars. Muslims and Christians both paid for the use of utilities, and both were liable to the annual peyta and cena and the commercial tariffs and agricultural tithes. That Muslim and Christian taxpayers are often indistinguishable in royal account books, and that Muslims participated freely in the collection machinery as lessees of utilities and tithe collectories indicates a rough parity of Muslim and Christian before the fiscal bureaucracy. The annual payment of the besant singled out the Muslims, although the tax had greater significance as a symbol of the Mudejars' subject status than as a source of royal revenue. The share of Mudejar inheritances demanded by the Crown was another expression of its ultimate authority over a conquered population and its property.
The extent of the religious minorities' fiscal servitude to the Crown becomes clear only upon consideration of the extraordinary taxes that burdened them. Fernando's descriptions of the Mudejars as "our coffers" and "servants of our chamber" were not empty rhetoric but were firmly rooted in the king's understanding that he could freely impose new taxes—servicios graciosos or donativos —on his Muslim (and Jewish) subjects with or without their consent. Whereas the local laws of his individual kingdoms limited the demands Fernando could make on his Christian subjects, and the representative Cortes at times rejected these
demands outright, there were not institutional restraints on his taxation of the Mudejars. That the Muslims' very raison d'être in a Christian society was founded on their economic usefulness had as its logical conclusion a royal policy that would seek from them maximum fiscal benefits. Long-term fiscal considerations, however, advised against rapacity in the short term, for a consistent and reliable income from the aljamas was the preferable state of affairs. Nevertheless, political and economic urgencies sometimes resulted in a less cautionary policy, with the consequence that aljamas were financially devastated by extraordinary royal exactions. Aljamas were often forced to borrow funds in order to meet the Crown's demands, and this, combined with subsequent interest payments and regular taxes, could cripple an aljama's finances, leaving it in a state of indebtedness for years at a time. Aljamas that were not deep "in the red" struggled to maintain solvency. The wealth of individual Mudejars notwithstanding, the financial troubles of Muslim communities were symptomatic of their corporate dependence on the needs of the royal treasury.
Fernando's numerous military campaigns and foreign adventures were a constant drain on the resources of the royal treasury, and it was necessary to tap all available sources of funds. The royal Muslim aljamas of the kingdom of Valencia were, of course, called on to contribute what they could, although they were burdened less frequently by royal servicios than were the aljamas of Aragon. Considering the greater prosperity of the kingdom of Valencia and the greater financial stability of its Muslim aljamas, the heavier taxation of the Aragonese aljamas seems a bit illogical. However, the determinant of royal fiscal policy vis-à-vis the Mudejars was not so much what the aljamas could give—as for what they would give, they had little choice—as what the Christians and their Cortes were able and willing to concede. It seems that the number of extraordinary taxes exacted from the aljamas of a particular kingdom related inversely to the amount of funds provided by the Christians of that kingdom. In other words, what Fernando could not procure from the kingdom as a whole he tried to compensate for with servicios imposed on royal aljamas. The kingdom of Valencia, particularly its capital city, granted to the king a number of generous "aids," whereas the kingdom of Aragon, less wealthy than Valencia, exceedingly parochial in its interests, and highly uncooperative, gave much less toward royal enterprises, conceding funds only for the campaigns to recover Roussillon, and for those in Navarre and, belatedly, in North Africa (1510).
One extraordinary tax collected from all of Fernando's subjects, Muslim, Christian, and Jew, in all of his kingdoms was the maridatge , used to defray the expenses of the weddings of the king's children. The
maridatge was imposed four times, on the occasion of the marriages of the Infantas Isabel (1491), Juana (1496), Maria (1500), and Caterina (1502). The amount of maridatge collected from each community was determined by the number of its households and its wealth. Judging by the maridatges paid by Muslim aljamas in Valencia on the occasion of the marriage of Juan II's daughter Elionor (1477), the maridatge could be quite burdensome. At that time the aljama of Játiva contributed 4000s, that of Alcira 220s, and a large seigneurial aljama like that of Bétera 550s. The imposition of the maridatge was capable of disrupting an aljama's precarious financial affairs. Thus, in 1502 the aljama of Castellón de la Plana was compelled to take out a loan in order to do its part for the weddings of María and Caterina.
Apart from the maridatges the Valencian aljamas were obliged to contribute other servicios . Still pending from the previous reign was a servicio of 40,000s which the military estate had promised Juan II in 1463. Fernando ordered that this sum be collected from the nobles and from the universitates and aljamas of their Christian and Muslim vassals. In 1482 the Muslim aljamas were asked to make a donation (donatiu ) of 15,041s on the occasion of Queen Isabel's entry into the kingdom. The sums paid by certain aljamas were 3,900s by that of Paterna, 260s by that of Castellón de la Plana, 650s by that of Monforte, and 91s by that of Murviedro. In 1485, when the king needed further funding to press his campaign against Granada, he turned to his Muslim and Jewish vassals. The Jews of Murviedro and the Muslim aljamas, particularly that of Játiva, on account of its size and relative wealth, were to give to the king as large a servicio as they could afford. The convoking of the Corts in Orihuela in 1488 occasioned another servicio to which the entire kingdom was liable. The aljama of Alcira alone was required to pay 40 pounds.
For the kingdom of Aragon the list of servicios demanded of its Muslim and Jewish aljamas was considerably longer, although, as we shall see below, the resources at their disposal to pay them were, in the case of the Muslims, decidedly less. In 1481 all Muslim and Jewish aljamas were asked to provide a servicio of an unspecified sum. In 1484 all royal Muslims were expected to contribute as much as they could spare to the king's effort to capture Roussillon. Furthermore, from 1484 through 1487 the Jews and Muslims were paying "some quantities" for the Granadan campaigns, when, in contrast, the Cortes of Aragon refused to provide aid for a royal enterprise so far beyond the kingdom's frontiers. In 1494 and 1495 the Mudejars were asked to pay still more servicios in amounts potentially devastating for aljama finances. The king sought 8,000s from the aljama of Zaragoza and 6,000s from that of
Borja, although these sums perforce were reduced to 6,000s and 5,400s, respectively.
On two occasions Fernando displayed a definite canniness in the tack he took when demanding servicios from the Mudejars. In Aragon in 1484 and again in Valencia in 1485, instead of requesting lump sums from each aljama, the king ordered his officials to obtain from individual Muslims servicios consonant with their personal wealth. Because aljamas normally divided servicio payments equally, the inability of impoverished Muslim families to contribute reduced the servicio the aljama could offer, even if the aggregate wealth of aljama members could well support the full servicio requested. By taxing Muslims on an individual basis Fernando spared the poor, many of whom would not have paid in any case, and exacted from the wealthier families as much as possible and likely much more than these families would have otherwise contributed. Consequently, the king probably received via individual assessment a larger total servicio . Furthermore, by approaching Muslim families individually, much of the wrangling and quarreling that plagued aljamas in their own internal tax collection was avoided. When the collection of lump servicios was left to aljama officials some Muslims were emboldened to avoid payment, claiming that they possessed a royal exemption, or, conversely, aljama officials might create tension by taxing certain families in excess. However, individual Muslim families were less likely to evade the royal bureaucracy, and, since with individual assessment the equal apportionment of servicio contributions per household was rendered inoperative, wealthier Muslims who found themselves being more heavily taxed than their poorer fellows could not cry foul.
Although the account books; do not reveal how much of the servicios requested were actually deposited in the royal treasury, it is probable that the king usually received from his Muslim subjects the desired sums. At times Fernando was quite insistent, indicating to his officials that the Muslims should be compelled to pay if they did not do so voluntarily. When preoccupied with pressing international concerns, the king was not likely to pay much heed to the grievances of his Muslim subjects.
The apparently harsh and unrelenting attitude of the king when demanding extraordinary servicios , induced by the pressing needs of the moment, such as the campaigns in Roussillon and Granada, was by necessity tempered with the application of more far-sighted and benign measures. As Boswell has demonstrated for the reign of Pedro IV, the Crown's judicious granting of remissions and deferments of tax payments was essential in alleviating an aljama's sometimes insupportable
tax load, in effect striking a balance between its needs and those of the aljama.
Although it was preferable to receive from the king a remission or a deferment, the aljamas had a means of raising capital in order to pay taxes: they could, with the permission of the king, borrow money through the sale of annuities, or pensions de censals . The creditor purchasing the censal delivered a sum of capital to the aljama at an annual interest rate of 6.6 to 10 percent, and, in return, the aljama paid annual pensions to the creditor (censalista ) until the price of the censal was paid off. Normally, as part of the censal contract, the aljamas, and their individual members, had to mortgage their property. Default of the payment of a pension resulted in the confiscation and sale of an aljama's property. In the fifteenth century the censal was an instrument of credit of central importance in the financing of the debts of cities, aljamas, and individuals, especially the nobility. Belenguer Cebrià has shown how Fernando wreaked havoc on the city of Valencia's finances: by exacting such large "loans" from the city, he forced the municipality to sell increasing numbers of pensions, which created an unwieldy public debt. On a much smaller scale, Fernando's permission to his aljamas to sell pensions, although providing them with ready capital to make tax payments, in the long run sometimes encumbered them with crushing public debts and made the rentier or censalista class a Mudejar nemesis.
For the most part Valencia's royal aljamas managed to pay their taxes, both ordinary and extraordinary, without having to sell pensions or to ask the king for remissions. However, that this was not always the case suggests that some aljamas, even when meeting fiscal demands, did so only with difficulty. As has been mentioned, the additional burden of the maridatges for the Infantas Maria and Caterina compelled the aljama of Castellón de la Plana to sell a censal in order to raise 870s. Extraordinary taxes also put the aljama of Alcira into financial straits, causing it to take on a censal of 600s, probably to pay the maridatge of the Infanta Juana, and two years later another censal of 800s in order to make the contribution occasioned by the convocation of the Corts (1488). In addition, Fernando allowed the aljama to defer its payment of the peyta in 1497 and again in 1503. In both cases the aljama was able to pay its outstanding peyta the following year, which indicates that its financial troubles were not especially grave.
The poverty of the aljama of Valencia, which had only partially recovered from the destruction of the morería in 1455, was atypical. The reduction of the aljama's taxes to an annual lump sum of 25 pounds (500s) was alone insufficient to cure its financial ills. In 1481 and in 1483 Fernando remitted the aljama's annual payment, on account of "the poverty that is in it." These remissions, combined with the orders of
Juan II and Fernando that the aljama's creditors (censalistas ) reduce the debts burdening it, enabled the aljama to attain sufficient stability to pay its lump tax from 1484 through 1503. The king further aided the aljama by commanding Christians who had purchased property within the morería to pay the property taxes for which the Muslims were liable, and by obstructing the effort of the butchers' guild to impose restrictions on the Muslim butcher shop, inasmuch as the aljama derived essential revenue from the sale of meat.
Royal regulation of Mudejar finances extended beyond the level of the corporate aljama to that of the individual Muslim family. The king's intervention in the financial affairs of Muslim families consisted of granting them licenses to sell annuities (table 15). The licenses stipulated the maximum sum of money that could be borrowed through the censal , and these sums ranged from as little as 10 pounds to as much as 75 pounds. The Mudejars invested the funds mainly in the purchase of land and homes or in home improvements. It was expected that the debts thus incurred would be liquidated within four years. The Mudejars granted such licenses by Fernando's bailiff general were all royal vassals in the morerías of Valencia and Alcira. Such financial paternalism on the part of the Crown ultimately worked in favor of its own treasury. By ensuring that Mudejar vassals borrowed and invested money wisely, at the same time often bettering the physical plant of the royal morerías , the king hoped to foster their prosperity and, indirectly, that of the aljamas. Wealthier aljamas, of course, meant that the king would have a more reliable source of servicios .
The much graver financial situation of many Aragonese and Catalan aljamas presented a greater test to royal benevolence. The Aragonese aljamas, it seems, had never fully recovered from the effects of the fourteenth-century wars between Aragon and Castile, and throughout the fifteenth century were often on the verge of ruin. Catalonia's Muslims probably suffered during the wars that ravaged the province during Juan II's reign. Neither Aragon nor Catalonia could boast of an economic growth such as Valencia enjoyed from which the Mudejars might have benefited. At the outset of his reign Fernando was faced with the prospect of taxing Muslim communities whose resources were already dwindling. His initial zeal to recover revenues relinquished by his father was quickly dampened. For instance, in 1480 Fernando annulled Juan II's partial reduction of the peyta ordinaria paid by Borja's aljama (from 3,000s to 2,000s), but in the following year, after having permitted the aljama to sell a censal of 15,000s in order to pay its diverse debts, he realized his error and extended the reduction of the aljama's peyta obligation until 1498. Indeed, the king responded to the aljamas' complaints of poverty and declining population with a fiscal policy
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marked largely by realism and restraint. The numerous demands of extraordinary servicios from the aljamas were balanced by remissions of the payment of regular taxes. During the years 1480–1485 and 1490–1495 (the documentation is unclear about 1485–1490) Fernando exempted Huesca's Muslims from paying their peyta of 1,450s; and later he ordered an investigation of the extent of the aljama's population decline and of its poverty so as to ascertain whether its taxes needed to be further reduced. Fernando maintained throughout his reign Juan II's reduction of the Tortosa aljama's peyta obligation from 160 pounds to a mere 50 pounds. Daroca's Muslims were granted a twenty-year remission of their annual peyta payment. Even with a lighter regular tax load, some aljamas still insisted that the servicios were onerous and had to be reduced. The aljama of Huesca sought a reduction of its maridatge obligation, and the aljamas of Zaragoza and Borja were conceded reductions of their 1495 servicios . The king took additional measures to ameliorate the situation of aljama finances. He allowed the Mudejars of Albarracín to open their own store for the sale of staples and to use the profits for defraying communal expenses. The aljama of Darcoa was similarly permitted to turn to its own account the proceeds from the sisa on meat and butchery rental. Fernando made sure that Muslim masons of Zaragoza were paid proper wages for their labors on the royal aljafería , so that the resources of the aljama for sustaining its tax burden were not depleted.
Royal taxation formed only one part, albeit the most important part, of the Mudejars' financial dilemma. The necessity of raising capital induced the aljamas to sell annuities, which, while in the short-term providing them with immediate funds, in the long term compounded their debt problems. Scarcely possessing the financial resources to pay royal taxes, much less to pay annual pensions to censalistas , aljamas were compelled to sell more annuities just to make other pension payments. Consequently, the public debt of Aragonese and Catalan aljamas spiraled, often becoming quite unmanageable. Much of the responsibility for this state of affairs must be placed on the shoulders of Fernando and his predecessors, since the Mudejars could not sell pensions without royal license. The remission or reduction of taxes, therefore, solved only part of the problem; the Mudejars still had to deal with the censalistas waiting to foreclose on their mortgages.
Fernando dealt with the problem of the censals weighing on Mudejar aljamas in two ways. First, he permitted the aljamas to sell more pensions, a not especially prudent course of action. The aljama of Albarracín sold a censal of 4,000s in order to pay other pensions, and the aljama of Zaragoza sold a censal of 6,800s for the same purpose. The public debt of Borja's aljama mounted ruinously: in 1480 it sold a censal of
15,000s to liquidate diverse debts; in 1496 it took on another censal of 80,000s in order to pay other pensions; and in the same year the king permitted it to sell a censal of 4,000s so that it could meet its sisa obligations. The second approach was to order the creditors harrying the aljamas to reduce the pensions owed them, that is, to renegotiate the aljamas' debts. In this manner Fernando provided temporary relief to the aljamas of Albarracín, Teruel, Huesca, and Tortosa. However, there were limits to the losses the creditors were willing to sustain, and, inasmuch as the aljamas were bound by contract to pay the pensions, Fernando could only briefly delay the inevitable. Thus, although the king was able to shield Albarracín's Muslims from the censalistas in 1484, by 1488 he had little choice but to allow for the foreclosure on their mortgaged property. Nor should it be imagined that Fernando was the staunch defender of Mudejars against grasping creditors, for in the case of pensions owed by aljamas to Conversos condemned by the Inquisition he did not act in the aljamas' best interests. Here Fernando had an ideal opportunity to assist struggling aljamas significantly by simply waiving the pensions payable to the condemned. Instead, he rewarded a royal servant with the pensions owed to a Converso by the aljama of Teruel, and, after a six-year deferment, allowed the Inquisition to collect from the aljama of Huesca a pension owed to one of its victims.
The king's exercise of some moderation in his fiscal policy did not achieve the reinvigoration of the finances of the Aragonese and Catalan aljamas. Given the desperate situation in which some aljamas entered Fernando's reign, it is unlikely that anything less than complete and long-term remission of regular taxes and servicios would have been a suitable remedy. In both Tortosa and Teruel, despite royal efforts to provide relief, Muslims were selling their property and leaving the morerías because they lacked the means to meet their tax obligations. Fernando responded by having all Muslim property sequestered and inventoried so as to ensure that at least some royal taxes would be paid. At best, by alternating tax remissions and reductions with the exaction of needed servicios , Fernando enabled the aljamas to make some contribution to the royal treasury while maintaining a precarious financial existence.
Fernando's treatment of the Mudejars of Aragon-Catalonia did not differ significantly from his handling of his Muslim vassals in Valencia. In both cases royal fiscal policy was characterized by a limiting of the Crown's voracity to demands that the aljamas could reasonably afford to meet. Aragonese and Catalan aljamas suffered more as a result of factors largely extrinsic to royal policy; their difficulties in supporting their tax burdens stemmed primarily from their integration in local econo-
mies that still had not recovered from the traumas of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. If the Valencian Mudejars' share in their kingdom's greater prosperity allowed them to bear royal taxes with more ease, the king was no less keen to exact his due from the Muslim servants of his Valencian treasury.