The title of intendant (French: intendant [ɛ̃.tɑ̃.dɑ̃],
Portuguese and Spanish: intendente) has been used in several countries
through history. The intendancy system was a centralizing
administrative system developed in France. When France won the War of
the Spanish Succession and the
House of Bourbon
House of Bourbon was established on the
throne of Spain, the intendancy system was extended to Spain and the
Spanish Empire. Regions were divided into districts administered by
the intendant. The title continues to be used in Spain and parts of
Spanish America for particular government officials.
1 Development of the system in France
1.3 Notable intendants
1.4 New France
2 Spain and Spanish Empire
3 Current offices in Iberia
4 Current use in Latin America
6 Russia and Soviet Union
8 United States
9 Other uses
10 See also
12 Further reading
Development of the system in France
Intendants were royal civil servants in France under the Old Regime. A
product of the centralization policies of the French crown, intendants
were appointed "commissions," and not purchasable hereditary
"offices," which thus prevented the abuse of sales of royal offices
and made them more tractable and subservient emissaries of the king.
Intendants were sent to supervise and enforce the king's will in the
provinces and had jurisdiction over three areas: finances, policing
Their missions were always temporary, which helped reduce favorable
bias toward a province, and were focused on royal inspection. Article
54 of the Code Michau described their functions as "to learn about all
crimes, misdemeanors and financial misdealings committed by our
officials and of other things concerning our service and the
tranquility of our people" ("informer de tous crimes, abus et
malversations commises par nos officiers et autres choses concernant
notre service et le soulagement de notre peuple").
In the 17th and 18th centuries, the intendants were chosen from the
noblesse de robe ("administrative nobility") or the upper-bourgeoisie.
Generally, they were masters of requests in the Conseil des parties.
They were chosen by the
Controller-General of Finances who asked the
advice of the Secretary of State for War for those who were to be sent
in border provinces. They were often young: Charles Alexandre de
Calonne became an intendant at the age of 32, Turgot and Louis
Bénigne François Berthier de Sauvigny at the age of 34, and
Louis-Urbain-Aubert de Tourny
Louis-Urbain-Aubert de Tourny at the age of 40.
A symbol of royal centralization and absolutism, the intendant had
numerous adversaries. Those nostalgic for an administration based on
noble lineage (such as Saint-Simon) saw intendants as parvenus and
usurpers of noble power. Partisans of a less absolute monarchy (such
as Fénelon) called for them to be abolished. Jacques Necker, the only
Minister of Finances since 1720 who had not himself been an intendant,
accused them of incompetence because of their youth and social
aspirations. The cahiers de doléances of 1789 depicted them as over
zealous agents of fiscal policies which weighed heavily on the people.
The term intendant was also used for certain positions close to the
Controller-General (see this term for more information):
intendants of finance
intendants of commerce
intendants of the sovereign council
In the same way, the term intendant général was used for certain
commissioned positions close to the State Secretaries of War and of
As early as the 15th century, the French kings sent commissioners to
the provinces to report on royal and administrative issues and to
undertake any necessary action. These agents of the king were
recruited from among the masters of requests, the Councillors of State
and members of the Parlements or the Court of Accounts. Their mission
was always for a specific mandate and lasted for a limited period.
Along with these, there were also commissioners sent to the army, in
charge of provisioning the army, policing and finances; they would
supervise accountants, providers, merchants, and generals, and attend
war councils and tribunals for military crimes. Such commissioners are
Corsica as early as 1553, in
Bourges in 1592, in
1594, and in
Limoges in 1596.
When Henry IV ascended the throne in 1589, one of his prime focuses
was to reduce the privileges of the provincial governors who, in
theory, represented "the presence of the king in his province" but
had, during the civil wars of the early modern period, proven
themselves to be highly intractable; these positions had long been
held by only the highest ranked noble families in the realm. The
Intendants to the provinces —- the term "Intendant" appears around
1620 during the reign of Louis XIII – became an effective tool of
Under Louis XIII's minister Cardinal Richelieu, with France's entry
Thirty Years' War
Thirty Years' War in 1635, the Intendants became a permanent
institution in France. No longer mere inspectors, their role became
one of government administrators. During the
Fronde in 1648, the
Parlement of the Chambre Saint-Louis demanded that the
Intendants be suppressed; Mazarin and
Anne of Austria
Anne of Austria gave in to these
demands except in the case of border provinces threatened by Spanish
or Imperial attack. At the end of the Fronde, the Intendants were
When Louis XIV (1643–1715) was in power, the Marquis of Louvois, War
Secretary between 1677 and 1691, further expanded the power of the
provincial intendants. They monitored Louis's refinements of the
French military, including the institution of a merit promotion system
and a policy of enlistment limited to single men for periods of four
years. After 1680, Intendants in France had a permanent position in a
fixed region (or "généralité"); their official title is intendant
de justice, police et finances, commissaire départi dans les
généralités du royaume pour l'exécution des ordres du roi.
The position of
Intendant remained in existence until the French
Revolution. The title was maintained thereafter for military officers
with responsibility for financial auditing at regimental level and
Appointed and revoked by the king and reporting to the
Controller-General of Finances, the
Intendant in his "généralité"
had at his service a small team of secretaries. In the 18th century,
the "généralité" was subdivided into "subdelegations" at the head
of which was placed a "subdelegate" (having also a team of
secretaries) chosen by the Intendant. In this way, the
relatively understaffed given his large jurisdiction.
Claude-François Bertrand de Boucheporn, in
Corsica then Pau, Bayonne
Paul Esprit Marie de la Bourdonnaye in Poitiers
Charles Alexandre de Calonne
Charles Alexandre de Calonne in Metz, then in Lille, future
Controller-General of Finances
Nicolas-François Dupré de Saint-Maur in Bordeaux
Antoine-Martin Chaumont de La Galaizière
Antoine-Martin Chaumont de La Galaizière in
Soissons then in Lorraine
Jean-Baptiste Antoine Auget de Montyon in Poitiers
Louis-Urbain-Aubert de Tourny
Louis-Urbain-Aubert de Tourny in Limoges, then in Bordeaux
Anne-Robert-Jacques Turgot in Limoges, future Controller-General of
The French North American colony of New France, which later became the
Canadian province of Quebec, also had a senior official called an
intendant, who was responsible to the French King. New France's first
intendant was Jean Talon, comte d'Orsainville in 1665, and the last
one, at the time of the British conquest of
Quebec was Pierre
François de Rigaud.
Spain and Spanish Empire
Intendants were introduced into Spain and the
Spanish Empire during
the eighteenth-century Bourbon Reforms. The reforms were designed by
the new dynasty to make political administration more efficient and to
promote economic, commercial, and fiscal development of their new
realms. An intendente was in charge of a Spanish administrative
unit, called an intendencia, which could include one or more
provinces. The intendente was appointed directly by the Crown and had
responsibility to oversee the treasury, the collection of taxes, and
to promote agriculture and economic growth in general. With fiscal
powers that gave them a say in almost all administrative,
ecclesiastical and military matters, intendentes were conceived by the
Bourbon kings to be a check on other local officials (who in the past
couple of centuries had come to gain their position through the sale
of offices or inheritance), just as the intendants had been in France
a century earlier. Throughout the 18th century the Bourbons
experimented with the powers and duties of the intendants, both in
Spain and overseas, so what follows is only a general description of
the Spanish intendancy. In any given area at any given time, the
duties of the intendant would have been specified by the laws that
established that particular intendancy.
The first intendencias were established in Spain after 1711, during
War of the Spanish Succession
War of the Spanish Succession on the advice of Jean Orry, who had
been sent by
Louis XIV of France
Louis XIV of France to help his young grandson Philip V
set up his new government. The first intendants (superintendentes
generales del ejército) oversaw the finances of the army and of the
territories conquered by the Bourbons, and after the war, they were
made permanent (intendentes de ejército y provincia). (After 1724,
most intendancies lost their military character except in areas with a
captaincy general and in Navarre.) In 1749 an intendancy was
established in every province, with the intendant also holding the
office of corregidor of the capital city. (The offices were separated
again in 1766). District alcaldes mayores or coregidores were
subordinated to the provincial intendente-corregidor and assisted him
in managing the province and implementing reforms.
As a result of the
Seven Years' War
Seven Years' War an intendancy was set up in Cuba
in 1764. The Cuban intendant had oversight of the army's and the
royal treasury's finances. (Two new intendancies with oversight only
over the treasury were established in 1786 in
Camagüey and Santiago
de Cuba.) After a two years of experimentation with the new office, an
intendancy was introduced in Louisiana (1764).
That same year Visitador General
José de Gálvez
José de Gálvez created a plan to
set up intendancies in
New Spain (Mexico). The first one was set up in
central Mexico in 1786, followed in 1787 by Veracruz, Puebla,
Valladolid in Michoacan, Guadalajara, Oaxaca, Guanajuato, Zacatecas,
San Luis Potosí, Durango, Sonora, and in 1789 Mérida, the main city
in Yucatán. These administrative changes codified existing regional
divisions of Center (Mexico, Veracruz, Puebla, Michoacan), South
(Oaxaca, Mérida), and North (Zacatecas, Guanajuato, San Luis Potosí,
Durango, and Sonora).
In 1776 Gálvez, now Minister of the Indies, established an intendancy
(superintendencia) for all of Venezuela in 1776, and several in the
Río de la Plata in 1783. Most of the overseas intendants were
assisted by officials (subdelegados) who replaced the old corregidores
or alcaldes mayores. Initially intendancies were held by a separate
person from the viceroy or the governor, but eventually in many places
the offices were granted to one person due to conflicts that emerged
between these two.
More intendancies were established in Quito, Peru, Philippines, Puerto
Rico (1784), Guatemala, more areas of New Spain,
Chile (1786) and
Cuenca (1786). The Revolt of the Comuneros prevented their
installation in New Granada.
Current offices in Iberia
Rank insignia of an intendant of the Portuguese Public Security
In Portugal, historically, the title "intendant" (intendente in
Portuguese) has been mainly associated with police roles.
From 1760 to 1832, the head of the Police of the Kingdom of Portugal
had the title of "
Intendant General of the Police of the Court and of
the Kingdom". A similar title - that of "
Intendant General of the
Public Security" - was used from 1928 to 1932 to designate the head of
the Portuguese Civil Police.
Presently, intendant is a rank of officer in the Public Security
Police, roughly equivalent to the military rank of lieutenant-colonel.
Analogously, the police rank of sub-intendant corresponds to the rank
of major, while the police rank of superintendent corresponds to the
rank of colonel.
The rank insignia of an intendant consists in a dark blue epaulet with
two crossed horsewhips inside a laurel wreath and two PSP stars. Each
PSP star consists in a six points silver star with the "SP" monogram
in the center. The rank insignia of a sub-intendant is similar but
with only a single PSP star.
Nowadays in the Spanish armed forces, the title
Intendant refers to a
Colonel in the Supply Branch either in the Navy, Army or Air Force. It
is also used in some branches of the administration such as the
Catalan 'Autonomic' Police, (Mossos d'Esquadra in Catalan) or in some
Autonomous Communities (Comunidades Autónomas in Spanish).
Current use in Latin America
In Argentina, city mayors are referred to as intendentes. This meaning
is not at all connected to the usage in other countries.
Spanish-language media in countries other than
Argentina tend to refer
to Argentine city mayors as alcaldes, which is the most common Spanish
word for mayor.
Chile is administratively divided in 15 regions. Each region is headed
by an intendant, appointed by the president. The intendants of Chile
by region with political parties are:
Arica and Parinacota Region: Gladys Acuña Rosales (PS)
Tarapacá Region: Claudia Rojas Campos (PS)
Antofagasta Region: Arturo Molina Henríquez (PDC)
Atacama Region: Alexandra Núñez Sorich (PDC)
Coquimbo Region: Claudio Ibáñez González (PPD)
Valparaíso Region: Gabriel Aldoney Vargas (PS)
Santiago Metropolitan Region:
Claudio Orrego Larraín (PDC)
O'Higgins Region: Pablo Silva Amaya (PS)
Maule Region: Pablo Meza Donoso (PPD)
Biobío Region: Rodrigo Díaz Wörner (PDC)
Araucanía Region: Nora Barrientos Cárdenas (PS)
Los Ríos Region: Ricardo Millán Gutiérrez (PS)
Los Lagos Region: Leonardo de la Prida Sanhueza (PPD)
Aisén Region: Karina Acevedo Auad (PRSD)
Magallanes and Antartica Chilena Region: Jorge Flies Añón (Ind.)
Republic of Paraguay
Republic of Paraguay is administratively divided into 17
departamentos (departments), each of which is headed by an gobernador
departamental (departmental governor). These departamentos are divided
into 236 distritos (districts) (plus the capital district), districts
are headed by an intendente municipal (municipal intendant), these
intendants are popularly elected, and serve a term of five years.
Uruguay is divided administratively into 19 departamentos
(departments). The executive power of each department is the
intendencia (intendancy), headed by an intendente departamental
(departmental intendant). The intendants are popularly elected, and
serve a term of five years.
A daikan was an intendant or magistrate in historical Japan. The
office he held was called the Daikansho. The daikan was responsible
for overseeing a range of governmental functions, including
infrastructure, tax collection, and judicial matters.
Russia and Soviet Union
The position of intendant was part of the tsarist Russian army from
1812 to 1868; intendants were responsible for supplies, finances, etc.
in the field. After the 1935 rank reform that established 'personal
ranks' in the Soviet military, it was reintroduced as the rank title
for administrative and supply officers. The specific ranks, their
collar insignia, and their line equivalents were:
technician-intendant second class, two rectangles, lieutenant
technician-intendant first class, three rectangles, senior lieutenant
intendant third class, one rectangle, captain
intendant second class, two rectangles, major
intendant first class, three rectangles, colonel.
brigindendant (i.e., brigade intendant), one diamond, kombrig (brigade
divintendant (i.e., division intendant), two diamonds, komdiv
korindendant (i.e., corps intendant), three diamonds, komkor (corps
armintendant (i.e., army intendant), four diamonds, komandarm (army
commander) second class.
On 7 May 1940, the rank title system for all Soviet Army senior
officers was changed to bring it closer in line with standard European
practice, and the ranks of major general of the intendant service,
lieutenant general of the intendant service, and colonel general of
the intendant service were introduced. Senior officers from
brigintendant to armintendant rank underwent a re-attestation process
and were given a general rank.
On 30 March 1942, the 'intendant' ranks equivalent to those between
lieutenant and colonel were abolished, and officers holding those
ranks also underwent a re-attestation process and received ranks
ranging from lieutenant of the intendant service to colonel of the
Scotland intendant is an archaic title meaning "supervisor" or
"curator". The senior officer of the
City of Glasgow Police
City of Glasgow Police was called
Intendant in the document establishing the force in 1800.
For much of its history, the chief magistrate of the city of
Charleston, South Carolina
Charleston, South Carolina was the
Intendant of the City, roughly
corresponding to a mayor. The title
Intendant was also used in other
Lowcountry towns, where the office was assisted by "wardens," a system
which may have derived from earlier ecclesiastical administration
under colonial rule.
It is also commonly found today in many theaters and opera houses in
Europe, where it is the equivalent to General Director, a title given
to an individual in a managerial position, generally having control
over all aspects of the company.
In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,
Intendant was a title in the mirror
universe. The mirror universe version of
Kira Nerys held the position
Intendant of Bajor.
List of governors and intendants in the Viceroyalty of New Spain
List of intendants in the Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata
Portions of the section on France are a translation of the article
Intendant (Ancien Régime) from the French, accessed on 13
^ Jacquelyn Briggs Kent, "Intendancy System" in Encyclopedia of Latin
American History and Culture, vol. 3, pp. 286-87. New York: Charles
Scribner's Sons 1996.
^ James Lockhart and Stuart Schwartz, Early Latin America, New York:
Cambridge University Press 1983, pp. 352.
^ Artola, Miguel. Enciclopedia de Historia de España, Tomo V. Madrid:
Alianza Editorial, 1991. Pgs. 678–679. ISBN 84-206-5294-6
^ Excerpts of the Cuban intendancy regulations can be found at
"Establishment of the Intendancy in Cuba" in Charles Gibson, ed. The
Spanish Tradition in America (Columbia, University of South Carolina
Press, 1968), 223–228.
Barbier, Jacques. Reform and Politics in Bourbon Chile, 1755-1796.
Ottawa, University of Ottawa Press, 1980. ISBN 978-2-7603-5010-6
Fisher, John R. Government and Society in Colonial Peru: The Intendant
System, 1784-1814. (1970)
Fisher, Lillian Estelle. The
Intendant System in Spanish America.
Berkeley, University of California Press, 1929.
Haring, Clarence H., The
Spanish Empire in America. New York: Oxford
University Press, 1947.
Lynch, John. Spanish Colonial Administration, 1782-1818: the Intendant
System in the Viceroyalty of Rio de la Plata (1958)