Salt Tax Revolt

The Salt Tax Revolt took place in Biscay between 1631 and 1634, rooted in an economic conflict concerning the price and the ownership of salt stored in the domain of Biscay.

The origin of the rebellion was the Royal Decree of January 3, 1631, which raised the price of salt by 44%, while also ordering the requisition of all of the stored salt, which could from that point on only be sold by the royal treasury. The motive of this measure, which contravened the chartered privileges of the domain and its tax exemption, was due to the need by the Habsburg monarchy to maintain the costly army in the wars in northern Europe.

To this measure, which was joined with others approved earlier — like the application of fees to commerce in wool or woolen cloth — the peasants and bourgeoisie reacted against the representatives of royal authority, even going so far as to assassinate the procurator of the Court of Corregidor in October 1632. The revolt also came to block the meeting of the General Assemblies of Guernica in 1633, demanding that all of the abusive taxes be revoked, according to the mariners and farmers, and the restoration of the tax exemption recognized in the Privileges. At this point, the question of the embargo and the price of salt had practically been forgotten.

The rebellion, which lasted on-and-off for more than three years, was definitively crushed in the spring of 1634, when the main ringleaders were arrested and executed. To soothe their minds at last, however, the king opted to pardon the rest of the rebels and to suspend the original order concerning the price of salt.

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