Though Spain did not acquire the property of any of the spice islands, by the enterprising labours of Magellan (related in our tenth volume, to which we refer,) yet the discovery made in his expedition to the Philippine Islands, was thought too considerable to be neglected; for these were not far distant from those places which produced spices, and were very well situated for the Chinese trade, and for the commerce of other parts of India; and therefore a communication was soon established, and carefully supported between these islands and the Spanish colonies on the coast of Peru: So that the city of Manilla, (which Was built on the island of Luconia, the chief of the Philippines) soon became the mart for all Indian commodities, which were brought up by the inhabitants, and were annually sent to the South-Seas to be there vended on their account; and the returns of this commerce to Manilla being principally made in silver, the place by degrees grew extremely opulent and considerable, and its trade so far increased, as to engage the attention of the court of Spain, and to be frequently controlled and regulated by royal edicts.
[Footnote 1: Much of the original in this section is omitted, as either unimportant now; or elsewhere given in the work.]
In the infancy of this trade, it was carried on from the port of Callao to the city of Manilla, in which voyage the trade-wind continually favoured them; so that notwithstanding these places were distant between three and four thousand leagues, yet the voyage was often made in little more than two months: But then the return from Manilla was extremely troublesome and tedious, and is said to have sometimes taken them up above a twelvemonth, which, if they pretended to ply up within the limits of the trade-wind, is not at all to be wondered at; and it is asserted, that in their first voyages they were so imprudent and unskilful as to attempt this course. However, that route Was soon laid aside by the advice, as it is said, of a Jesuit, who persuaded them to steer to the northward till they got clear of the trade-winds, and then by the favour of the westerly winds, which generally prevail in high latitudes, to stretch away for the coast of California. This has been the practice for at least a hundred and sixty years past, (1740-4:) For Sir Thomas Cavendish, in the year 1586, engaged off the south end of California a vessel bound from Manilla to the American coast. And it was in compliance with this new plan of navigation, and to shorten the run both backwards and forwards, that the staple of this commerce to and from Manilla was removed from Callao, on the coast of Peru, to the port of Acapulco, on the coast of Mexico, where it continues fixed at this time.
This trade to Acapulco is not laid open to all the inhabitants of Manilla, but is confined by very particular regulations, somewhat analogous to those by which the trade of the register ships from Cadiz to the West-Indies is restrained.