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This neglect suddenly ceased about the year 1530,
when the rumour spread throughout Portugal that
Brazil abounded in gold, silver, and precious stones.
The natives had made no attempt to work mines, for
they attached no value to these commodities, but the



knowledge that the precious metals abounded in Peru
caused people to believe that they also existed in
other parts of the South American continent. The
discovery of gold in small quantities, and the rumours
of an El Dorado in the interior, soon attracted crowds
of adventurers from all parts of Europe ; many
families from Portugal were then encouraged to
emigrate in order to counterbalance these adventurers,
and the settlement of the new country was thus
commenced in earnest. King John III. was as much
excited by the news of the discovery of gold as his
courtiers and people, and he sent over to Brazil in
1 53 1 the first royal governor, Martim Affonso de
Sousa, with instructions to assert the royal power
over the rapidly increasing population of colonists
and adventurers, and to arrange for the future govern-
ment of the country. Martim Afifonso de Sousa,
who was afterwards Governor- General of Portuguese
India, was a wise and prudent statesman ; though
unsupported by any soldiers he made a sort of royal
progress through Brazil, and he strongly advised the
king to let the country develop by itself without
interference from home. For government, he advised
that the form of administration which had sprung up
in the various settled districts should be confirmed
and not interfered with. This form of government
was simply the combination of all the inhabitants of
each settlement into a sort of little state, which
elected an officer called captain, who exercised a sort
of patriarchal authority, and superintended measures
of defence against either natives or other colonies of
settlers. These captains held no royal commission,


and imposed no taxes ; every man was able to dc
pretty much what he liked in his own house, and
each settlement was ruled not by law, but by the
general sentiment of the community. These captains
had no authority but what they derived from the
willing obedience of the settlers, and every captain
exercised more or less authority according to his
personal character. Martim Affonso de Sousa saw
the advantages of such a system for a new colony,
and he advised the king not to send out royal officials
from home whose authority would probably be
ignored, but to confirm these captains in their
authority, and that the settlements already made
should be recognized as " captainships." This was
accordingly done ; the king was only too glad not to
have to despatch soldiers to America as he wanted
all he could raise for Asia, and he sanctioned the
measures taken by his representative. But he further
subdivided the country into three vast "chief captain-
ships," which he granted to Joao de Barros, the
Portuguese Livy and historian of the Portuguese in
Asia, Ayres da Cunha, and Fernao Alvares de
Andrade, with instructions to search for gold mines
and to exercise a general supervision over the
government of the country.

The colonists, who flocked to Brazil from Portugal
at this time, were of a very different type to the
Portuguese who were sent to Asia. The latter were
chiefly soldiers, sailors, and officials, despatched to
India and the settlements in the East in royal fleets
as servants of the Crown, who, while acknowledging
themselves servants of the king, yet went to the East


with the idea of makinij their own fortunes, and even-
tually returning home to Portugal, while the Brazilian
colonists went out at their own expense with their
wives and families, and made their homes in their
adopted country. These men were invaluable to a
new country ; they went out with no intention of ever
returning home, and with the power and will to
labour with their hands. Throughout the sixteenth
century a steady succession of Portuguese emigrants
made their way to Brazil, either on account of the
favourable report of its climate and resources, which
they received from their friends or relations already
settled there, or in order to escape the misfortunes
impending on their own country, and more especially
the heavy hand of the Inquisition. Mention has
been made of the vast importation of slaves into
Portugal ; this employment of negro labour threw a
number of agricultural labourers out of work, who
did not care to enlist as soldiers for the East, and
could not make a livelihood in cities, and from this
class many of the first colonists to Brazil came. Some
weight, too, must be attached to the adventurous
nature of the Portuguese people ; and this side of
their character, which showed itself in individuals in
the East, made men who loved a family life better
than fighting find their way to the western continent.
The colonization of Brazil was essentially popular ; it
was not initiated by king, priests, or nobles ; and
illustrates the extreme self-reliance and daring which
made Portugal so great at this period. The one
blot upon the careers of these early settlers was their
treatment of the natives. Accustomed to the exis-



tence of slavery at home, they tried to make the
natives work for them, and this attempt brought about
a bitter hatred between the aboriginal races and the
immigrants, which showed itself in murder and
massacre. The steady tide of emigration to Brazil
did not at this time contribute to the wealth of the
mother country ; on the contrary, it must be noted
as one of the chief causes of that depopulation of
Portugal, which has been spoken of as the germ of the
decadence of the Portuguese power.

It has been said that some of the emigrants from
Portugal to Brazil were moved by a fear of the Inqui-
sition, and hoped to escape from it by going to the
New World. Especially was this the case with num-
bers of the "novaes Christiaos," or half- converted
Jews. This class comprised many families of wealth
and influence, who, when they saw the rapid approach
of persecution, removed en masse to Brazil, In the
new country they thought themselves free, and were
joined by many of their unconverted brethren, who had
been expelled by King Emmanuel. As usual, even it
not wealthy, these people were able to raise money, and
they brought into the new colony, what it most needed,
capital. Many of the greatest families in Brazil trace
their descent from these laborious and hard-working
colonists, who, as in every other place, gave an impulse
to trade and industrial development unfelt before. It
was owing to their perspicacity that the sugar-cane,
the greatest source of Brazilian wealth, was intro-
duced into the colony from Madeira in the year 1 548,
and they started the direct slave trade with the
Guinea Coast, recognizing both the impossibility of


reducing the aboriginal races into a state of servitude,
and the advantages of negro labour. From all these
causes, Brazil was growing a wealthy colony by the
middle of the sixteenth century, possessing many
well-populated and well-cultivated districts upon the
sea coast, surrounding the various ports and harbours,
where prosperous towns had sprung up, of which may
be noted at this time Pernambuco, Tamacara, Ilheos,
Porto Seguro, and St. Vincent.

The prosperity of Brazil attracted the attention of
John III., and he at last decided to establish a vice-
royalty there, instead of leaving the colonists to
govern themselves, and for the first governor-general
he selected a nobleman of talent and experience, Dom
Thomas de Sousa. At the same time the king re-
voked his decree forming the three "chief captain-
ships," and granted his representative full powers to
arrange for a new system of administration. In 1549
Dom Thomas de Sousa arrived in Brazil with a fleet
of six ships of war, many officials for the new govern-
ment, a strong force of soldiers, and the first contingent
of Jesuits, who were despatched with the especial
purpose of converting the natives. Fortunately for
Brazil, Thomas de Sousa was a great statesman ; he
made no attempt to enforce his powers unduly ; he
carefully avoided interfering with the subordinate
captainships, and left the s\stem of local government
established in each without modification ; he made no
attempt to levy taxes or to interfere with the liberties
of the people, and even avoided quartering his soldiers
in any of the existing towns. He perceived that the
weak point of the existing administration was that


the captainships were too independent of each other,
scattered as they were down the coast like little states,
and he therefore determined to found a capital, and to
establish a central government, which, without inter-
fering with local liberties, should become a court of
appeal, and regulating power over them. The place
he selected for his capital was at the head of All
Saints Bay, better known as the Bay of Bahia, where
he erected the city of San Salvador. This town he
made the headquarters of his troops, and the seat of
the central government, and the Jesuit fathers also
made it their point of departure. The most impor-
tant question that Thomas de Sousa had to face was
the treatment of the aboriginal tribes. The attempts
of the Portuguese settlers to reduce them to slavery
had been met with stubborn resistance, and a chronic
war raged along all the landward boundaries of the
captainships. The natives did not often attack the
settlements of the Europeans, but they resisted any
advance towards the interior, and small parties of
Portuguese attempting to settle in the interior
were often massacred. Dom Thomas de Sousa
determined to check this continuous guerilla war-
fare by both warlike and peaceful measures. He
sent his troops, and led them himself, against tribes
which had committed any particular act of atrocity,
and punished them severely, and at the same time he
gave all the help in his power to the measures of the
Jesuits for civilizing them.

The history of the Jesuits in Brazil is far more
glorious if less interesting than that of the Jesuits
in India. In America they had not to contend with


the trained and subtle intellects of the Hindus, who
were able and ready to meet them in the most
abstruse philosophical arguments, but with simple-
minded savages willing to be taught. The success of
the famous Society was unbounded ; the teachings of
Christianity did far more to quiet the aboriginal
inhabitants than the swords of De Sousa's soldiers, and
in a comparatively short space of time, either Jesuits,
or native emissaries trained and taught by them, had
penetrated many miles into the interior of the conti-
nent. The rapid conversion and civilization of the
native tribes produced many fortunate results : the
great domain of Portugal in South America was saved
much of the terrible warfare with savages, which
marks the history of the English settlers in North
America ; but, on the other hand, peace between the
two races brought ^bout intermarriage, and produced
a class of mestizos, or half-breeds, which now includes
about a quarter of the population. This conversion
to the Christian religion was not hastened or in any
way assisted by the terrible power of the Inquisition.
That institution, which did so much to weaken the
influence of Christianity in India, by its aiito-da-Jes
and its persecution of the Nestorian Christians was
never allowed to take root in Brazil, and the atrocities
of Goa were not imitated at San Salvador or Rio de
Janeiro. Many reasons have been given for the non-
establishment of the Inquisition, but the chief credit
is undoubtedly due to Dom Thomas de Sousa, who
was well aware of the services rendered to Brazil
by the " novaes Christiaos " and other persons, whose
orthodoxy could be impeached, and who urged at the

i . ^



























Court of Lisbon, that it would be impossible to estab-
lish such a hated institution as the Inquisition against
the will of the people of the captainships without the
assistance of a powerful army, and as the king wanted
all his soldiers for India, he gave up the idea of setting
up an offshoot of the Holy Office in America.

The establishment of the Jesuits in Brazil, the
foundation of a central authority to superintend but
not harass the captainships, and the pursuance of a
steady and uniform policy towards the natives, are the
points which mark the government of Dom Thomas
de Sousa. That of his successor, Duarte da Costa,
was less important than his predecessor's. He
followed De Sousa's example, and the prosperity of
Brazil became so obvious that emigration from un-
happy and declining Portugal continued to such an
extent that the Europeans in the colony doubled in
number during his administration. One point of his
administration deserves notice, namely, that he super-
seded the old earthen fortifications round the principal
towns by walls, and erected forts to guard the most
important harbours, mounted with artillery. These
precautions show that there was fear of foreign aggres-
sion ; other European nations heard of the wealth and
fertility of Brazil, and coveted its possession, and a
systematic attempt to oust or conquer the Portuguese
was made in the next century by the Dutch. During
the sixteenth century, however, only one nation, the
French, attempted to make a settlement in Brazil,
and their effort deserves a brief r.oticc.

France, it is well known, was torn by religious wars
during the sixteenth century, and it was one of the


Huguenot leaders, Nicolas Durant, Sieur de Villegagnon
and Vice- Admiral of Brittany, who first conceived the
idea of expatriating himself and founding a colony
with his co-religionists in the fertile country of Brazil.
The Admiral de Coligny warmly supported this scheme,
and obtained leave from Henry H. to put it into
execution. Three large vessels were accordingly
chartered, and a number of intending colonists set sail
from Havre for Brazil in May, 1555, under the com-
mand of Villegagnon. They reached South America
in November, and, without even attempting to obtain
the consent of either of the King of Portugal or of
the authorities of the captainship in which they landed,
deliberately settled in an eligible spot, and for pro-
tection alike against the natives and the Portuguese,
they built Fort Coligny. Villegagnon immediately
reported his success to the admiral, who sent on
his letter to Calvin at Geneva, Calvin expressed his
satisfaction at the notion of a Protestant colony in
that quarter of the New World, and with his appro-
bation a Genevese named Dupont, and two ministers,
Richer and Chartier, collected together three hundred
more French Huguenots and joined the original
settlers in 1557 at Fort Coligny. Violent religious
quarrels soon broke out between Villegagnon and
Richer, and the newly-arrived colonists first removed
to the banks of the Rio de Janeiro, and then returned
to France, where they vehemently reviled Ville-
gagnon. He returned to France to meet their accu-
sations, and the Portuguese, under their governor,
Emmanuel de Sa, took advantage of his withdrawal
to demolish Fort Coligny and expel the French


settlers. Thus ended the first attempt of the French
to settle in Brazil.

The Portuguese possession of Brazil was to be far
more dangerously disputed by the Dutch in the follow-
ing century, and the only reason why they did not lose
their American, as they did their Asiatic dominion
is to be found in the method by which the colony had
been settled. What was best in old Portugal, not
necessarily what was bravest, but what was best and
most industrious had gone to Brazil ; the colonists there
had been most wisely and prudently governed ; they
had been allowed to develop free from all restrictions
by the wise policy of prudent governors ; and the
result of this free development was that the
Brazilians remained Portuguese at heart. They re-
pulsed the attempts of the Dutch, and even, when
able to stand alone, they preferred to cling to the
mother country. Therefore it was that when in the
eighteenth century the Portuguese possessions in Asia
were only a drain on the exchequer of the kingdom,
Brazil became the main source of the wealth of the
Portuguese Crown. Little did Cabral, or King
Emmanuel, think that Brazil would be a far more
valuable possession to Portugal than Cochin, or Goa,
or Malacca, and that it was so was due to the manner
in which it was settled ; for colonies, whose prosperity
rests on stout hearts and industrious hands, are of a
lasting value to their mother country, while possessions,
won and held by force of arms, are only of fictitious
advantage and of transient value to the conquer-
ing race.



The germs of the rapid decline of Portugal have
been already noticed in discussing the reigns of
Emmanuel and John III. ; the country, exhausted
by its efforts to conquer Asia and colonize Brazil, and
deprived of liberty of thought by the deadly influence
of the Inquisition, was fast losing its old vitality ; and
what Portuguese were left in Portugal were either
enervated by luxury in the upper classes and slaves to
the Court, or in the lower beggars upon the charity of
the King and the Church. The Portuguese of the
upper classes, who preserved the old Portuguese
spirit of daring were in Asia ; the sturdiest peasantry
of the lower classes had found their way to Madeira or
Brazil. Cultivated mainly by slaves, subject to an
absolutist and bigoted court, and chiefly inhabited by
slaves, priests, and beggars, it was no wonder that
keen observers, like the Dutchman Cleynaerts,
perceived that beneath its appearance of seeming
prosperity, the Portuguese kingdom was rotten to the
core. Lisbon was indeed the centre of the trade of


the East ; it was from the Tagus that the ships from
the rest of Europe came to fetch the musHns of
Bengal, the brocades of Gujarat, the " calicos " of
Calicut, the spices of the " Spice Islands," the pepper
of the Malabar coast, and the teas and silks of China.
Lisbon was the commercial capital of the world ; the
King of Portugal was the richest sovereign in Europe.
But in spite of wealth and luxury and universal
consideration Portugal was a decaying power, and a
single shock was sufficient to strike the country from
its place, as the leading nation of Europe, the nation
of heroes, and leave it defenceless against foreign foes.
This shock was supplied by the African expedition
of Dom Sebastian and its disastrous result, and
Portugal was then an easy prey to the ambition of
Philip II. of Spain. The reign of Dom Sebastian has
therefore a pathetic interest to posterity : the romantic
character of the young king ; his gallantry, and his
death on the field of battle ; and the sudden end of
the house of Aviz, which had seemed so powerful,
have contributed to make this reign one of the best
known to students of general history in the whole
annals of Portugal. To contemporaries this sudden
collapse of the kingdom, which a few years before had
seemed so great, appeared nothing short of marvellous,
and political philosophers were never weary of dwell-
ing on this extinction and finding reasons for it.
Rabid Protestants argued that it was all due to the
Inquisition ; humanitarians agreed that it was a
punishment for the high-handed conduct of the
Portuguese " conquistadores " in the East ; short-
sighted historians attributed it entirely to the defeat


of Dom Sebastian in Africa. But more careful inquiry
has shown that the seeds of decHne had long been
planted, and that the fall of Portugal from her high
estate was due to the exhaustion of her vital energies
and to the rapid depopulation of her territory in
Europe. No country can continue to exist and be
a power, which sends forth all its best energies to
foreign lands and foreign continents, and becomes
exhausted at home ; it might as well be expected
that a man should be vigorous when his heart is
hopelessly diseased.

Portugal was thus already rapidly decaying, when
an infant of three years old became its monarch.
Three times before in its history minors had
succeeded to the throne, but in each case wise regents
had governed the country, and the minorities had
been marked by advance not retrogression. The first
King of Portugal, Afifonso Henriques, was but three
years old, when he succeeded to his county ; but the
wisdom of his mother, Donna Theresa, during his
minority paved the way for his subsequent success.
Sancho II. was but a boy when he became king ; but
the great Bishop of Lisbon, by his self-abnegation,
made his minority a triumph. Affonso V. had also
been a child sovereign ; but his uncle, the great Duke
of Coimbra, ruled so wisely, that the king's coming of
age proved to be a disaster, not an advantage, to
the country. But there were no such regents for the
minority of Dom Sebastian : his grandmother was
Spanish to the core, and loved Spain more than Por-
tugal ; his heir-presumptive was his great-uncle Dom
Henry, Cardinal and Grand Inquisitor of the kingdom.


The youthful king had none to help him. His
father Dom Joao, the only son of John III., had died
fifteen days before the birth of his only child, and his
mother. Donna Joanna, the daughter of the Emperor
Charles V , had immediately retired to Spain, leaving
the child to the care of his grandparents. On the
death of John III. in 1557, his queen, Donna
Catherine, the sister of Charles V., assumed the
regency in the name of her grandson. From the
very first, the Portuguese people, from the highest to
the lowest, disapproved of her rule ; she was so ag-
gressively Spanish in speech, bearing, and appearance,
and had so persistently refused to identify herself
with her adopted country, in spite of her long residence
there, that every one believed her to be plotting to
secure the eventual succession of her favourite nephew,
Philip II. of Spain, to the crown of Portugal. Her
bigotry and encouragement of the Inquisition did not
tend to make her popular, and national prejudice
declared itself strongly against her. Yet she was not
a bad ruler ; she maintained the old servants of John
HI., and the machinery of administration though in
many places clogged by corruption, went on smoothly,
and she even managed to despatch a sufficiently
powerful army to relieve Mazagon, when it was
besieged by the Moors. Yet throughout her five
years' tenure of power the queen-regent found herself
hampered by the intrigues of the Cardinal Henry,
who, as heir to the throne, thought he ought to be in
her place, and at last she decided to give up the
struggle, and in 1562 she retired to Spain.

The Cardinal Henry then satisfied his ambition


and became regent of the kingdom, of which he was
to be for a short time the unfortunate monarch, and
during his rule the government of the country fell
entirel}- into the hands of two brothers, who had
made themselves very conspicuous in the intriguesj
which had led to the retirement of Queen Catherine.
Of these brothers, the elder, Luis Goncalves da Camara,!
was an able Jesuit, who had been appointed confessor]
and tutor to the young king, while the younger,
Martim, was prime minister, and carried on the work
of administration during the regency of the Cardinal
Henry. The two brothers were both men of con-
siderable ability, and, though they made no attempt
to initiate reforms or to check the decay of Portugal,
they managed to conceal her rottenness as much as
possible from the eyes of Europe. In 1568 Dom
Sebastian was declared of age by the Camaras,
though only in his fifteenth year, and from that time
they excluded their former master, the Cardinal, from
even a semblance of power. This behaviour did not
ensure their continuance in -oftice, for as soon as the
young king began to take an active interest in affairs,
he dismissed the brothers, and placed the chief power

Online LibraryH. Morse (Henry Morse) StephensPortugal → online text (page 15 of 29)