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The mission of the Mercedes

As a consequence of the military conflict with Great Britain, maritime traffic between Spain and her overseas dominions was interrupted and the despatching of funds was temporarily suspended.

Taking advantage of the period of peace that resulted from the signing of the Peace of Amiens in March 1802, the first ships to transport remittances from America set sail. Both frigates, the Santa Rufina and the Asunción, managed to reach Cadiz before the conflict between France and Great Britain was re-ignited.

In October 1802, the Secretary of State and the Treasury gave orders to the Viceroys of Peru, New Spain and Rio de la Plata to gather all the funds possible to meet the needs of the public purse that had been decimated by the recent wars.

The State machinery was set in motion. and the Viceroyalty of Peru was sent three warships: the Asunción from Cadiz, and the frigates Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes and the Santa Clara from El Ferrol. Their mission was to take mercury – necessary to amalgamate silver – to the mines of Almadén, and return with gold and silver – in the form of coins and ingots – to fatten the depleted coffers of the Royal Treasury.


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