Unfortunately, there are no seigneurial account books similar to those of the royal bailiffs from which a detailed study of seigneurial taxation of the Mudejars might be made. The few cartas pueblas studied by Miguel Gual Camarena provide some information on the various taxes demanded from Muslims who resided on seigneurial lands, but reveal nothing about the ability of the Muslims to pay them. Blanket generalizations regarding a seigneurial fiscal regime cannot be offered, since the situation seems to have varied from one barony to another. Still, on the basis of the cartas pueblas a few general comments are possible.
To a large extent the seigneurial fiscal regime was quite similar to that of the Crown. Like royal vassals, seigneurial vassals were obliged to use the public utilities and workshops—ovens, mills, taverns, ironworks, saddleworks, and the like—owned by their lord, and they, too, had to pay a fee for the privilege. They were likewise liable for the rents of their homes and land, the tithe (terç de delme ), and property taxes (peyta [or almagram , as it was sometimes called on seigneurial lands]). However, there seems to be little doubt that seigneurial vassals bore a heavier tax burden. In addition to the annual rent on their land, they were also obliged to give their lord a certain percentage of their harvest (these percentages varied from seigneury to seigneury), and sometimes a certain number of chickens or a certain amount of honey each year. On some baronies vassals were required to sell agricultural and pastoral products to their lord at a price lower than the market price.
In most cases it seems that the lords exacted more from their Muslim vassals than from the Christians (in contrast to royal towns, where taxation was relatively equitable). Thus, in his efforts to attract Mudejars to his new morería in Ayora Don Rodrigo de Mendoza promised the Muslims that he would "not demand from them any tax other than those the Christians are obliged to pay." And in 1526 the recently converted Moriscos specifically requested of Carlos I "that they not be pressed to pay more or less [taxes] than the Christians." Sometimes the Mudejars had to give the lord a higher percentage of their harvest, but usually their heavier tax burden consisted of the sofras , a series of personal services they owed to their lord. Such services might include working in
the lord's vineyards and huerta , provisioning the lord's house with wood and charcoal, transporting crops to the lord, maintenance and repair of the lord's utilities, and weaving linen and silk for the lord. The Mudejars were paid a low daily wage for their labors. That most Mudejars chose to remain on seigneurial lands despite an option to move to royal morerías suggests that the Mudejars had other noneconomic reasons for doing so, and that perhaps life there was not as difficult as the preceding list of taxes and services would indicate. In the previous chapter it was pointed out that some seigneurial Muslims were able to prosper, in part through pursuing a strategy of renting or purchasing land outside of their seigneuries, where they were not liable for the heavy seigneurial dues. In the sixteenth century the Moriscos living on seigneurial lands probably felt their lord's exactions much more keenly, since prevailing conditions deprived them of the options available to their fifteenth-century predecessors.
The picture of relative financial stability that has been drawn regarding the royal aljamas of the kingdom of Valencia cannot easily be extended to include their seigneurial counterparts. There is evidence that a number of seigneurial aljamas had financial difficulties, which in part derived from the insolvency of their lords. This royal-seigneurial dichotomy mirrors that which seems to have existed between the prosperity of the capital and perhaps of other towns and the economic stagnation of at least some rural areas. While agrarian productivity seems to have declined between 1410 and 1518, textile production and commerce in the capital experienced growth until the final decades of the fifteenth century. The agrarian decline was a consequence of the plagues that swept over the kingdom throughout the fifteenth century (1411, 1428, 1439, 1450, 1459, 1475, 1478, 1489, 1508, 1519) and left many areas seriously underpopulated. Although urban areas also suffered greatly from the plagues, their populations, or at least that of the capital, were replenished by immigration from Castile. Such conditions, although allowing individual Muslim and Christian farmers to take more land under cultivation and thereby prosper, were detrimental to the finances of the landed nobility and the corporate universitates and aljamas of their Christian and Muslim vassals.
The reduction in the amount of land being farmed resulted in decreasing revenues for the nobility. Lords could not easily increase the productivity of their estates, for even when their enterprising vassals tilled idle land they tended to do so in areas outside of the seigneury. Furthermore, the progressive substitution of rents in kind for rents in cash seems to have stimulated greater expenditure on the part of the nobility, who found, however, that their diminishing monetary income was insufficient to support the lifestyle to which they had grown accus-
tomed. Thus many nobles entered into a state of indebtedness and raised more money through the sale of pensions to prosperous urban merchants or to other lords who possessed the funds to invest.
Seigneurial aljamas and universitates were implicated in the lords' debts, because when the lords sold pensions they normally mortgaged their properties and the rents they received from their vassals as security for the payment of the pensions. Consequently, if a lord defaulted on his pension payment, the creditor could initiate executions against the property and rents of the lord's vassals. Or, in what amounted to the same thing, as a lord's monetary resources dwindled he might compel his universitates and aljamas to take on ("cargasen") the responsibility of the pension payment themselves. In both cases, either through the lord's default or through formal assumption of the responsibility of payment, the vassals found themselves paying their rents to their lord's creditors. The creditors in effect replaced the lord as rent collector.
As long as the pensions owed by the lord did not exceed the amount of rent the lord normally received the vassals could tolerate the demands of the creditors, for it made little difference whether the creditor or the lord's tax farmer collected the rent. However, when the rents proved insufficient to liquidate outstanding pensions, the vassals were then faced with the attempts of the creditors to confiscate and auction off the properties and possessions remaining to them, as a corporation or as individuals, after tax payment. For those vassals who barely met the fiscal demands of their lords, additional exactions on the part of the creditors might prove disastrous.
The aljamas and universitates of Benaguacil, Paterna, and la Pobla (collectively called the antich patrimoni ), whose lord was the Infante Enrique, were burdened with numerous pension obligations that, Fernando admitted, had been taken on by his royal predecessors and other lords (e.g., the 1,480s annual pension sold by the Count de Luna to a knight). Because the rents were insufficient to meet all the pension payments, Fernando took measures to excuse the aljamas and universitates from all superfluous payments and expenses, and therefore relieved them of the responsibility of paying the 500s salary of the advocate of the antich patrimoni . However, that such a measure would have provided only minimal relief is clear from subsequent claims against the Infante and his vassals by the Count of Oliva (1495), the Count of Trivento (1501), and Joan Ferrando, a lawyer (1502), for 5,107s, 8,400s, and 166s 8d, respectively.
The powerful Duke de Cardona and his aljamas—Benicanena, Beniopa, Alcarea Nova, Benipeixcar, and el Real, all located in the huerta of Gandía, and those of the valleys of Guadalest and Confrides and the town of Ondara—were constantly engaged in legal battles with
their creditors over outstanding pensions. One document from 1486 lists no less than nineteen creditors, among whom were noblemen, urban citizens, and the Hospital of Holy Innocents in Valencia. For instance, at least 180s were owed to Dona Yolant de Aragon, 8,000s to the knight Françi Crespi de Valldaura, and 500s to Luis de Vilanova. It seems that during the period covered by this study only a few of these debt cases were resolved. The Duke de Cardona would argue that excessive executions against the property of his vassals would cause them to abandon their lands. Or if the king actually commanded that executions be made, the Duke would see to it that they were carried out moderately and according to strict guidelines he himself had set. The success of the Duke and his aljamas in evading their creditors may be attributed to the fact that the Duke was, as the knight Françi Crespi complained in frustration, a "potent person."
The Infante Enrique and the Duke de Cardona certainly were not alone in endangering the financial stability of their aljamas and universitates through their own excessive borrowing. One also finds creditors harrying the Count of Cocentaina and his vassals in the town of Elda, or the lords and aljamas of Dos Aguas, Alacuás, and Novelda. It is difficult todetermine from the debt litigation just how much of a threat was posed to the solvency of seigneurial aljamas by having to satisfy their lords' creditors. Presumably, some lords had the good sense not to overextend themselves to the point that their debts could not be covered by the rents they received from their vassals. The aljamas of such lords would not have been placed in any jeopardy. However, other lords were not so concerned about maintaining a balanced budget. They eventually were forced to plead with their creditors to renegotiate their pension payments, for they feared that execution against their vassals' mortgaged property—beyond the normal rent payments—would force the vassals to flee and settle elsewhere. And these fears were not exaggerated in some cases. Many Muslim vassals abandoned the seigneuries of Dos Aguas and Olocau rather than endure the confiscation of their goods by their lords' creditors. In such cases the lords and the remaining vassals were left in even direr straits, for with fewer vassals less land could be cultivated, and with the consequent smaller harvests there would be even less revenue available for satisfying the creditors. And, as has been seen, new vassals were difficult to come by.
However, the financial difficulties experienced by some seigneurial aljamas cannot always be attributed to the imprudent spending of their lords, for many aljamas sold pensions to raise money on their own account. An aljarna might need to borrow money for any number of reasons, such as purchasing grain after a poor harvest or a flood, or buying materials for repairing the local irrigation system. Apparently,
aljamas had been borrowing money in this fashion since the late fourteenth century. Thus Francesch Vilar, a priest beneficed in the church of Santa María del Mar in Barcelona, sued the aljamas of the Vall de Uxó for 81 pounds 10s in outstanding pensions. This pension had been sold by the aljamas in 1383 to a citizen of Barcelona, Arnau Alos, who subsequently bequeathed it to the church of Santa María. The same aljamas also owed 216s 8d in pensions to the heirs of one Bartholomeu Ros. The aljama of Elda sold numerous pensions in its own behalf, distinct from those which had been sold by their lord, the Count of Cocentaina. In 1497 the aljama concluded an agreement with eighteen of its creditors, among whom were noblemen, merchants, and clergymen, including the cardinal-bishop and chapter of Zaragoza and the monastery of Poblet. Realizing that the aljama's goods and rents were sufficient for little more than to pay the salaries of the officials sent to confiscate them for the payment of outstanding pensions, the creditors decided to stay the order of execution and renegotiate the aljama's debt, so that the aljama would be left with some means of paying future pensions. Other aljamas involved in suits with their creditors were those of Ribarroja, Villamarchante, and Mislata, although none of these seems to have had debt burdens like that of the aljama of Elda.
It is probably wise to refrain from making any general conclusions as to the widespread financial difficulties of seigneurial aljamas. The evidence is too scanty and scattered, and it is not at all clear from the documents that the creditors' claims were always valid and acted upon or that the aljamas were unable to pay the pensions. In any case, it is certain from the study of Eugenio Císcar Pallarés that the problem of seigneurial insolvency was far more serious in the latter half of the sixteenth century. At that time considerable inflation devalued the lords' cash rents (prices were, in contrast, relatively stable in the late fifteenth century) to such an extent that not even the huge population increase—50.9 percent between 1563 and 1609—and the consequent growth in agrarian production could close the gap between expenses and income and relieve the lords' financial troubles. The situation of the vassals also worsened. Unable to change vassalage because of an overabundance of labor, and left with less land to farm owing to the progressive subdivision of family properties, they were hard-pressed to meet the increasing fiscal demands of their lords. Therefore, a more modest conclusion may be offered: during Fernando's reign there are evident signs of the later crisis of the seigneurial regime.