The Colonial Era, 1500-1815
Frontier Expansion That Shaped Brazil
Under the Treaty of Tordesillas, everything to the east of the line that ran from pole to pole 370 leagues west of the Cape Verde Islands was to be Portugal's to exploit. The exact reason for Portugal's interest in having the line so far to the west is debatable, but the Portuguese may have been trying to keep the Castilians away from the sure route to the East. Very practically, the line's placement gave Portuguese vessels en route to India ample room to pick up winds and currents that took them around the southern end of Africa, a feat carried out by Vasco da Gama on his voyage of 1497-99. The Portuguese also may have known that western lands or islands lay on their side of the line. On the modern map of Brazil, in the north the line cuts across the eastern end of the Ilha de Marajó, and in the south it passes through Laguna on the coast of Santa Catarina. Because most of present-day Brazil lies to the west of the line, clearly the Portuguese expanded successfully on this initial division.
The territorial aggrandizement, which is one of the main themes of Brazilian history, was both accidental and a matter of state policy. Uncertainty as to the detailed geography of South America persisted into the twentieth century, so it is understandable that Portuguese officials professed to believe into the eighteenth century that the estuaries of both the Amazon and the Río de la Plata were on their side of the Tordesillas Line. The two river systems were, in the words of the Jesuit Father Simão de Vasconcellos, "two keys that lock the land of Brazil . . . two giants that defend it and demarcate between us [Portuguese] and Castille." Several centuries of penetration along these river systems gave Brazil its distinctive shape. It could be said that today's Brazil owes its vast territory to the native Indians who served as skilled trackers, warriors, porters, food suppliers, and paddlers for the Portuguese expeditions, and to the Indians whose potential as slaves lured the Portuguese inland.
The Portuguese empire at the outset was a commercial rather than a colonial one. Portugal lacked sufficient population to establish colonies of settlers throughout its maritime empire. The Portuguese practice was to conquer enough space for a trading fort and a surrounding enclave from which to draw on the wealth and resources of the adjacent country. A map of this maritime commercial domain would show a series of dots connected by sealanes rather than continuous stretches of territory. French competition forced the Portuguese shift to colonialism in Brazil. This shift involved the gradual move from trading for brazilwood to cultivating sugarcane, which required control of great expanses of land and increasing numbers of slaves. The first to burst past the Tordesillas Line were the slave hunters. The shift to colonialism was also facilitated by the union of the Spanish and Portuguese crowns between 1580 and 1640. Although the two governments on the Iberian Peninsula and in the Americas were kept separate, trade and travel controls became lax. An active contraband trade developed between Brazilian settlements and Buenos Aires, and Portuguese moving overland appeared in Asunción, Potosí, Lima, and even Quito.
Expansion along the Atlantic coast had been gradual. Using the model of the Atlantic islands, the crown in 1536 divided the Brazilian coast into fifteen donatory captaincies (donatários ). To induce settlement, the crown offered ten leagues of coastline as personal property, a percentage of the dyewood trade, control over trade of enslaved natives, as well as the exclusive right to build mills. In 1580 Brazil comprised the area from Pernambuco in the north to São Vicente in the south. With Spanish assistance thereafter, the Portuguese expanded north to Paraíba, then west through Ceará and Maranhão against the natives and the French, until they founded Belém in 1616. Beginning in 1621, these possessions were divided into the state of Maranhão (embracing the crown captaincies of Ceará, Maranhão, and Pará) and the state of Brazil, centering on Salvador, Bahia. The reassertion of Portuguese independence under the Braganças in 1640 led to sporadic conflict in frontier areas and to policies seeking to hold back Spanish advances. In the Amazon and Río de la Plata river basins, the Spanish rather than the Portuguese had been first on the scene. The Spaniards included Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, who journeyed from the coast of Santa Catarina to Asunción in 1540, and Francisco de Orellana, who descended the Amazon in 1542.
The most important Spanish advances were the mission settlements, where the Jesuits Christianized native peoples. Two areas of particular importance lay adjacent to the river systems that delimit Brazil in the south and in the north: the Paraná-Paraguay Basin in the south and the Mamoré-Guaporé Basin in the north. From 1609 to 1628, the Jesuits founded eight missions among the Guaraní peoples between the Paraná and Paraguai rivers in what is now southern Paraguay. They pressed deep into what is today the state of Paraná, between the Ivaí and Paranapanema rivers, to establish fifteen more in what was called Guairá Province.
From 1629 to 1631, the Guairá missions were attacked by slave hunters, known as bandeirantes, from the Portuguese town of São Paulo. According to the governor of Buenos Aires, these attacks resulted in the enslavement of more than 70,000 Guaraní. Consequently, the Jesuits decided to evacuate some 10,000 survivors downriver and overland to sites between the Rio Uruguai and the Atlantic, in what became the state of Rio Grande do Sul. Other Jesuits fleeing the Guairá missions set up missions among the Itatín people on the eastern bank of the Rio Paraguai in what is now Mato Grosso do Sul, only to be destroyed brutally by bandeirantes in the 1630s and 1640s. By 1650 only twenty-two of forty-eight missions remained in the whole region. The Jesuits stopped the slave hunters in the south by arming and training the Guaraní, who dealt a significant blow to their oppressors in the Battle of Mbororé in 1641. This victory ensured the continued existence of the southern Spanish missions for another century, although they became a focal point of Portuguese-Spanish conflict in the 1750s. Broadly speaking, the Battle of Mbororé stabilized the general boundary lines between the Portuguese and the Spanish in the south.
In the north, the Spanish had established the town of Santa Cruz de la Sierra in 1561 and from there planted missions in the Mamoré-Guaporé Basin in about 1682. Called the Mojos and Chiquitos, these mission provinces were in what is now lowland Bolivia fronting on the states of Mato Grosso and Rondônia. By 1746 there were twenty-four mission towns in the Mojos and ten in Chiquitos. The bandeirantes again carried the flag of Portugal into the region, first attacking the Chiquitos missions for slaves and then discovering gold in Mato Grosso (1718-36). Unsure where these gold discoveries were in relation to the Spanish territories, the members of the Lisbon-based Overseas Council, which administered the colonies, ordered a comprehensive reconnaissance and the drawing of accurate maps. In 1723 Francisco de Melo Palhêta led an expedition from Belém to the Guaporé, reporting to Lisbon the startling news about the numerous prosperous Jesuit missions. Moreover, the question of fixing borders had become more urgent in 1722, when a respected French cartographer placed the mouths of the Amazon and the Río de la Plata on the Spanish side of the Tordesillas Line.
Because the Guaporé rises in Mato Grosso and flows into the Mamoré, which enters the Madeira, and then into the Amazon, these rivers formed a natural border. Moreover, the headwaters of the Paraguai were close and offered the possibility of linking the Amazonian and La Plata systems. In 1748 Lisbon created the Captaincy of Mato Grosso as its rampart on the Peruvian side and later in the century erected Fort Príncipe de Beira on the Guaporé. In northern Amazônia, in what were then the royal states of Maranhão and Pará, the Portuguese, worried about Dutch traders from Guiana (modern Suriname) and Spaniards from Venezuela, built fortifications at Óbidos, Manaus, Tabatinga, and on the Rio Branco and Rio Negro during the eighteenth century, thereby solidifying their claims. As it turned out, it was easier to secure the vast North region than it was the South.
In 1680 the Portuguese had built a fort at Colônia do Sacramento on the eastern La Plata shore opposite Buenos Aires to guard their claim and to capture a share of the contraband trade with silver-rich Potosí. According to the Overseas Council, Lisbon adopted the policy of fortifying and settling the coast below Santa Catarina, because "the continuation of these settlements will be the best means of deciding the question of limits . . . between the two crowns."
By the mid-eighteenth century, the Iberian powers were ready to admit the fiction of Tordesillas and to redraw their lines in South America on the basis of uti possidetis (that is, ownership by occupation rather than by claim). The Portuguese gave up Colônia do Sacramento, and in return received the lands of the Jesuit order's seven missions in western Rio Grande. This exchange led to the Guaraní War of 1756, which destroyed the missions and contributed to the Jesuit expulsion from Portuguese (1759) and Spanish (1763) possessions. With the Treaties of 1750, 1761, and 1777, Brazil took on its modern shape. The lines were drawn for the nineteenth-century struggles over the East Bank (Banda Oriental, or present-day Uruguay) of the Rio Uruguai and the Río de la Plata, the war with the United Provinces of the Río de la Plata (1825-28), and the Paraguayan War, also known as the War of the Triple Alliance (1864-70).
Thus, as a result of slave hunting, gold prospecting, and Portuguese royal policy, the Tordesillas Line became obsolete, and Portugal obtained more than half of South America. When Brazil became independent in 1822, its huge territory was comparable in size with the Russian and Chinese empires.
On April 22, 1500, the thirteen-ship fleet under Pedro Álvares Cabral anchored off the mouth of the Rio Buranhém (sweet bark in Tupí) on the Bahian coast. The chronicler of the discovery, Pêro Vaz de Caminha, wrote that immediately they saw men walking on the beach, and by the time a longboat reached the shore twenty or so had assembled. Entirely naked and dark skinned, they laid down their bows and arrows as a sign of peace, while responding to offers of Portuguese hats by giving over a parrot-feathered headdress and a long string of white seed pearls. Thus did the cultural exchange begin that would evolve over the next five centuries into the distinctive Brazilian culture.
In the nine days that the Portuguese stayed at the anchorage they called Porto Seguro, the natives were fascinated by the Catholic Mass, the iron tools, and alcoholic drink. Their seeming receptivity and lack of religious symbols that the Portuguese could understand caused Caminha to predict that these people quickly would turn Christian.
The natives helped fill a ship with fine-grained timber, dyewood, and presumably some of the buranhém wood or bark that gave the river its name. Cabral sent the ship back to Lisbon with Caminha's oft-quoted letter to the king, the first report on Brazil to reach Europe. As the rest of the fleet set sail from what Cabral called the Island of Vera Cruz for the Cape of Good Hope, two male convicts were left on the shore. Rather than execute such degredados (outcasts; see Glossary), the Portuguese were instinctively creating an advance guard that would learn the local language and via intermarriage would give them in another generation the means to penetrate both the indigenous societies and the Brazilian land mass.
After so many years of remarkable contacts with newly discovered lands, the Portuguese were a bit blasé about the news of this land of parrots, naked people, and brazilwood. At that time, peppers, spices, and silks were worth more than such exotica, and those products came from India and lands farther east.
With the exception of the New Christian (Jewish converts) investors, Brazil received little attention from Lisbon for three decades. The investors scouted and defended the coast and shared with the crown their monopoly contracts to harvest the brazilwood. The Portuguese monarchs followed the practice of holding legal title to lands and to certain commodities but issuing to others licenses to profit from these lands and commodities at their own expense, or with the backing of other investors. The custom was akin to the Castilian practice of adelantado that developed during the reconquest of the Iberian Peninsula from the Moors, whereby the crown commissioned an agent to conquer a certain area at his own expense in return for rights to land, booty, and labor. The combination of royal licenses and private initiative that worked so well for Portugal along the African coast and in India was reshaped for Brazil.
But soon other Europeans were challenging Portugal's claims to exclusivity. Spanish captains edged their ships down the coast and up the Río de la Plata. From 1504 onward, French vessels from Brittany, Flanders, and Normandy were active in the dyewood trade. The reddish-purple dyes made from the wood brought good prices from tapestry and textile makers, and the French court ignored Portuguese protests. The Portuguese sent out naval expeditions to destroy French vessels and outposts, but by 1530 it was clear that mounting an effective coast guard along thousands of kilometers with countless coves, anchorages, and bays would be impossible; Portugal either had to take active possession or lose out to more interested rivals. Portugal took two steps, one immediate and the other long term. It dispatched a strong fleet under the command of Martim Afonso de Sousa, who was instructed to clear the coast of interlopers and to establish a permanent settlement. The result was Brazil's first European town, São Vicente, established in 1532.
The crown also may have wanted to follow up on the adventure in 1524 of Aleixo Garcia, a Portuguese shipwrecked on the southern coast who led about 2,000 Guaraní on a raid against Inca border towns in what is now Bolivia. Sousa sent a government-sponsored expedition (entrada ) back over Garcia's route, only to meet death at the hands of the Carijó tribe of Indians. Such feeble results did little to attract investors, so the crown turned to the hereditary donatory captaincy system that had succeeded on the islands of Madeira and the Azores. Under this system, each donee was responsible for colonizing his own captaincy at his own expense. To help the lord proprietor attract settlers, he was given permission to issue land grants (sesmarias ). This step was significant because it twisted a medieval Portuguese practice that placed conquered lands in the hands of peasants into one that gave some families holdings larger than Portugal's provinces. This practice in part led to the establishment of latifundia in Brazil.
Nonetheless, the nobles were not interested in risking their lives or fortunes in a land of "naked savages," and most of those who received the grants were too ill-prepared, ill-financed, and ill-connected to succeed. The northern four captaincies never went beyond the planning stage, and the rest flourished or failed depending on the management skills and competence of the donatário in dealing with the native Brazilians. Sousa, who obtained the grant to São Vicente, prospered because he took advantage of João Ramalho, a castaway who had married the daughter of the chief of the Goiana Tupiniquin. Because of Ramalho, who lived until 1580, the Portuguese were able to obtain Indian labor, foodstuffs, and women. With his help, it was possible to establish a town at the village of Piratininga, which in time would grow into the metropolis of São Paulo. He was the key player in the Portuguese alliance with the Tupiniquin, who protected the colony from other Indians and who formed the basis for the future military power of the bandeirantes . The lack of European women facilitated assimilation and acculturation with the Indians. With the steady miscegenation, a substantial population of Tupí-speaking mestizos came into being.
Also important for São Vicente's success was Sousa's ability to attract investors for sugar mills, including an investor from Antwerp, which became the center of the European sugar market. Although Pernambuco in later years surpassed São Vicente in sugar production, its early success fixed Portuguese control on what centuries later would be the agricultural and industrial core of Brazil.
Similarly, the affluence of Pernambuco Province centering on Olinda resulted from successful interaction with the natives, the ability to draw investment capital (often from Italian merchants), and capable settlers. The donatário , Duarte Coelho Pereira, had married into the well-connected Albuquerque family, which helped him attract colonists and financial support to set up sugar mills. But he was especially fortunate because his brother-in-law, Jerônimo de Albuquerque, had married the daughter of chief Arcoverde (Green Bow) of the Tobajara, thereby sealing an alliance that gave the Portuguese supplies of food and workers. The alliance also gave Coelho Pereira the military superiority to eventually defeat the French and their Indian allies. As the brazilwood stands were cut down, they were replaced with sugarcane plantations, which by 1585 were served by more than sixty mills or engenhos . The captaincy was so successful that there was reputedly more luxury in Pernambuco than in Lisbon. This strong beginning would make it the northern focal point of Portuguese America.
Porto Seguro failed to prosper as a captaincy. The constant fighting with the local Aimoré people may have been related to the presence of many married Portuguese couples and, consequently, little intermarriage with the natives. Likewise, Bahia failed at this stage because its donatário lacked managerial skills. Many of the Portuguese there were veterans of India, where abuse of the natives was routine. The Tupinambá finally tired of the mistreatment, and many of the Portuguese at Bahia, including the donatário , were captured and ceremonially killed and eaten. Ilhéus, Espírito Santo, São Tomé, Santo Amaro, and Santa Anna also failed because of poor management and hostile relations with the natives. The coast was now exposed to French incursions.
Such an outcome was not what the crown had in mind, and it decided wisely to listen to warnings. Rather than replace inept donatários with others, the king established direct royal control, except over Pernambuco and São Vicente. The crown may have acted at this juncture for several reasons: the Spanish discovery of the famed silver mountain at Potosí (1545), the decline of the Asian spice trade, and the crown's practice of reclaiming royal control after some years of leasing its rights. The enhancement of royal power was part of the general Iberian pattern of establishing royal control over the sprawling colonial ventures. In a larger sense, renewed royal control appears to have been linked to a new conservatism in Catholic Europe. The Council of Trent (1545-63) defined church dogma and practice, religious tolerance faded, and the Inquisition was emplaced in Portugal in 1547.
The king named Tomé de Sousa the first governor general of Brazil (1549-53). He ordered Sousa to create a capital city, Salvador, on the Bahia de Todos os Santos (Bay of All Saints) and to spread the royal mantle over the captaincies, defending the weaker ones and reestablishing the failed ones. Because Indian attacks were blamed for the failures, Sousa's orders amounted to a declaration of war on the indigenous peoples of Brazil. If they could be defeated, the French would have no allies and so would be less of a threat. In addition, Sousa was to increase royal revenues. The twin objectives of control and revenue were characteristic of royal policy for the rest of the colonial era.
Bahia, as the city and province would be known, was selected for its central location and its fine bay, and because the crown had purchased it from the heirs of the donatário . Sousa built fortifications, a town, and sugar mills. His knottiest task was forming a policy on the Indians, whose status remained unclear. Although he had treasury and coast guard officials with him, their roles were oriented toward Portuguese colonists and European interlopers.
As early as 1511, the crown had placed the Indians under its "protection," and it ordered Sousa to treat them well, as long as they were peaceful, so that they could be converted. Conversion was essential because Portugal's legal claims to Brazil were based on papal bulls requiring Christianization of the Indians. However, those who resisted conversion were likened to Muslims and could be enslaved. In fact, as historian Sergio Buarque de Holanda showed, by identifying Brazil as a destination of the wandering Apostle St. Thomas the Portuguese settlers were able to argue that all natives had their chance to convert and had rejected it, so they could be conquered and taken captive legitimately. Thus, a distinction was made between peaceful, pliable natives who as wards deserved crown protection and those resisters who wanted to keep their independence and on whom "just war" could be made and slavery imposed.
The dual mission of the governors was contradictory; how could they stimulate the economy using slave labor while converting the natives? To carry out the pacification and conversion of the natives, the crown chose the new Jesuit order of the Society of Jesus, which was international in membership and military in structure and which had the task of defending and spreading the Catholic Counter-Reformation. The Jesuits had a major impact on Brazil, despite their small numbers--128 by 1598. The Indians responded to the Jesuits with initial acceptance, then regression, evasion, and enmity. The objective of the Jesuits was to Europeanize the Indians by resettling them in Indian villages (aldeias) . In a recurring pattern, the first aldeia near Bahia (1552) soon disintegrated as the Indians who survived the European-born diseases faded into the interior beyond the Jesuits' reach.
Europeanization was overcome by a sort of Brazilianization, as the Jesuits blended Indian songs, dances, and language into the liturgy and as the colonists adopted native foods, women, language, and customs. However, the first bishop of Brazil (1551), Dom Pêro Fernandes Sardinha, objected to the Jesuit accommodation with indigenous culture. He threw the weight of his authority behind subjugation and enslavement. At issue was the nature of the future of Brazilian society. The bishop, who had served in Goa and ironically had taught Ignatius Loyola, the Jesuit founder, insisted that Europeanization must precede baptism. He believed Brazil, like India, should have a dual society made up of heathen natives ruled by a small number of Portuguese.
The conflict between the Jesuits and the bishop had far-reaching significance for Brazil's future. To get away from his direct grasp, the Jesuits shifted their attention to the south, where they formed, in 1554, the aldeia of São Paulo de Piratininga on the plateau at the headwaters of the Rio Tietê high above São Vicente. Father José de Anchieta's mission village later became known as the city of São Paulo. The crown seemingly favored the Jesuit approach because it recalled Bishop Sardinha. En route back, Sardinha was shipwrecked and then killed and reportedly eaten by Caeté people.
In 1557 the crown sent out a new bishop and a new governor to consolidate royal control and to bring organization to the far-flung settlements on the verge of collapse. The new crown representatives supported Jesuit methods and returned the Jesuits to Bahia. By protecting the Indians who lived in aldeias from enslavement, the crown representatives made the Jesuit towns more attractive. The pool of slaves available to the colonists dwindled, causing such protests that Mem de Sá (governor, 1558-72) approved a "just war" against the Caeté to punish them for killing Brazil's first bishop. However, the "just war" soon got out of hand as the closer and undefended aldeias were raided for slaves. The conflict damaged native trust in the missions, and the epidemics of influenza, smallpox, and measles in 1562 and 1563 decimated the Indian population and increased colonist competition for laborers. The famine that followed the waves of disease prompted starving Indians to sell themselves or their relatives in order to survive.
This situation led to a policy under which the Indians were considered free but could be enslaved in a sanctioned "just war," or for cannibalism, or if rescued from being eaten or enslaved by other natives. Government-sponsored expeditions (entradas ) into the interior, sometimes ironically called rescues (resgates ), became slave hunts under the guise of "just war." The Paulista expeditions (bandeiras ), one of the major themes of Brazilian history in the 1600s and 1700s, would develop out of this practice. The eventual exploitation of the interior and the development of gold and gem mining in Minas Gerais, Goiás, and Mato Grosso have roots in the voracious appetite of coastal plantations for slave labor.
As Indian resistance, social disintegration, and flight into the interior increased in the last quarter of the sixteenth century, the Portuguese began to import more African slaves. In 1570 there were 2,000 to 3,000 such slaves in Brazil; by 1587 there were 14,000. Considering that the European population in 1570 was 20,760 and in 1585 was 29,400, the growth of African slaves from 14 percent of the number of whites to 47 percent is striking. Much of the commentary on native slavery holds that the Indians were unfit physically to be slaves, when actually it was their strong resistance to slavery and the colonial competition for their labor that led to the African slave trade. Also, the focus of many historians on Bahia and Pernambuco has left readers with the impression that Indian slavery gave way to African slavery throughout Brazil by 1600. This was not the case. Indians continued to be enslaved in Pará, which caused the depopulation of much of Amazônia by the mid-eighteenth century.
French and Dutch Incursions
In addition to dealing with labor supply, Mem de Sá, who was the consolidator of Portuguese Brazil, dealt successfully with the French threat. The French had continued to attack Portuguese shipping and to maintain interest in a permanent colony. Noting that Rio de Janeiro's Guanabara Bay had not been occupied, Vice Admiral Nicolas Durand de Villegaignon, a French navigator, led a mix of Huguenots and Catholics there in 1555 to establish a colony, France Antarctique, on Ilha de Sergipe. After a decade, his utopian dream of finding a religious refuge for Protestants and Catholics failed. Despite their good relations with the Indians, the French could not withstand the Portuguese assaults that began in 1565. That year, to ensure future control of the bay, Mem de Sá founded the city of Rio de Janeiro, which became the second royal captaincy. Expelled from Guanabara Bay in 1567, the French turned their efforts to the northern coast. They made alliances with the Indians and settled themselves on Ilha São Luís do Maranhão in 1612, where fierce fighting led to their expulsion in 1615. They kept active north of the Amazon delta, maintaining claims to Amapá.
By 1580 the Portuguese had overcome French threats and most indigenous resistance to their command of key ports. At this point, a more profound Spanish threat appeared with the passing of the crown of Portugal to King Philip II of Spain. This event had immediate and long-range consequences. Now Europe's two greatest empires were united under a single ruler and could well have been joined permanently, save for the determination of the Portuguese to maintain their identity. The Iberian union gave the Portuguese easier access to the Spanish domains. For Brazil, however, the most important result was that it made enemies of Portugal's former business associates, the Dutch. Portugal's commerce was more open than Spain's and perhaps more practical. Portugal recognized its need for shipping and for access to markets, both of which the Dutch provided for Brazilian sugar. The spirit of cooperation faded with the union of the crowns as the Dutch, long struggling for independence from the Spanish Habsburgs, were shut out officially from the Portuguese domains. This exclusion led to the formation of the Dutch West India Company in 1621 and the seizure of Brazilian sugar lands. After being unsuccessful in holding Salvador in 1624-25, the Dutch captured Pernambuco in 1630 and eventually extended their sway from the Rio São Francisco to São Luís do Maranhão until finally being forced out in 1654.
The Dutch incursion was the longest and most serious challenge to Portuguese control by a major maritime power. The struggle to drive out the Dutch had devastating effects on the sugar plantations and sugar mills. The Dutch, particularly Governor Johan Maurits, Count of Nassau, had worked to build good relations with the Portuguese planters in the interior, supplying them with credit, slaves, merchandise, and European markets. Nassau encouraged religious tolerance, constructed buildings and canals in the style of Amsterdam, and brought in artists, engineers, and scientists to embellish, record, and study the local flora, fauna, and peoples.
Portugal and its Brazilian subjects had divergent interests in responding to the Dutch. When the Duke of Bragança took the throne as João IV in 1640, his government faced the determination of Philip IV to reconquer Portugal, and he therefore needed to maintain peace with the rest of Europe. As much as the Portuguese economy needed the revenues from the sugar trade, the court had to face the reality that in Europe the Dutch dominated a good portion of that trade. Thus, if Por-tugal attacked Dutch-held Pernambuco, it would earn an enemy in Europe and lose access to the market. At the same time, the king understood the importance of Brazil when he called it his milk cow (vaca de leite ). Indeed, historian Charles Boxer asserted that Portugal's independence depended chiefly on the Brazil trade, which centered on sugar and slavery.
The Dutch did not show the same hesitation. In 1641 they seized Luanda, an important source of African slaves, in violation of a truce with Portugal. Holland now held sugar and slave ports in the South Atlantic and the distribution system in Europe. Although Lisbon could not merely abandon its subjects in Brazil, it realized that it would be foolhardy to fight for the sugar area without also regaining the source of African slaves.
The colonists in the Dutch-occupied area played their own game of deception. They borrowed Dutch money to restore their war-torn plantations and engenhos and to buy slaves, but they realized that their long-term interests lay in expelling the Dutch and with them their indebtedness. After 1645, together with the governor general in Bahia, they conspired, rebelled, and fought against the Dutch. Their victories of 1648 and 1649 at the Battle of Guararapes in the Recife area of Pernambuco are commemorated today. However, after nine years of war the scorched-earth tactics had ravaged the region. Although sugar prices rose in Europe, Brazilian planters could not respond and permanently lost their leading market position. The Dutch and English set up plantations in Suriname and Barbados, taking advantage of the techniques developed in Brazil and their better access to capital, merchant fleets, and the northern European market. Although there were years of recovery (1665-80, 1698-1710), sugar was no longer the foundation of the Brazilian economy. Northeastern Brazil entered into a long stagnation, and Portugal, which now depended heavily on Brazil after its losses to the Dutch in the East Indies, watched its economy deteriorate.
Gold Mining Displaces Cane Farming
The decline in the sugar economy cut off the smaller Northeastern cane farmers from the customary paths to higher socioeconomic status, producing a situation in which this potentially powerful segment of the population no longer had reasons to support the traditional colonial society. The cane farmers had the same social origins as the wealthier planter and mill-owner class but generally were less independent financially, and now their future was darkened. As sugar prices fell, the planters and mill owners' response was vertical integration; stages of production were consolidated under the control of fewer firms. Purchases from independent cane farmers were reduced and their lands acquired. The situation was potentially explosive. Historian Stuart Schwartz commented that "at no time in Brazilian history had the conditions for a profound social upheaval been more suitable." But it did not occur for two reasons: the cane farmers did not rebel against the sugar barons for fear of encouraging a slave rebellion, and in addition, newly discovered gold fields to the south soon beckoned to free and slave populations. The removal of pressures for change solidified the hold of the great landowners on the coastal plantations.
Small deposits of alluvial gold had been exploited quietly for decades in São Paulo and to the south. The Paulistas likely found more than they revealed, fearing that the greed of the Portuguese authorities would soon strip them of their semi-independence. The discovery of gold by Paulistas in various parts of what is now Minas Gerais (General Mines), between the Serra de Mantiqueira and the headwaters of the Rio São Francisco, probably occurred between 1693 and 1695, but word filtered out slowly. The greatest concentration of deposits was along Brazil's oldest geological formation, the Serra do Espinhaço, lying in a north-south direction, throughout which it seemed that every river, stream, and brook glittered with gold. Mining camps that turned into the cities of Ouro Prêto, Mariana, and Sabará soon located in its southern end, and by 1730 diamonds were coming out of the northern reaches around Diamantina.
Word of the discoveries set off an unprecedented rush, the likes of which would not be seen again until the California gold rush of 1849. The Paulistas soon found themselves competing for control with adventurers from the Northeast who streamed down the Vale São Francisco, from Portugal, and from elsewhere. By 1709-10 the Vale São Francisco had become a lawless region filled with the dregs of the Portuguese world. Considerable violence broke out between the original Paulista bandeirantes , who considered the mines theirs, and the outsiders (emboabas ). This fighting gave the crown authorities a reason for asserting royal control and arranging a settlement of the War of the Outsiders (Guerra dos Emboabas, 1708-09). Many Paulistas moved on to new gold discoveries in Goiás and Mato Grosso.
The discoveries shifted Brazil's center of gravity away from the Northeastern coast and toward the South and West. The loser would be Bahia, which in 1763 lost the viceregal capital to Rio de Janeiro, as power followed wealth. The population also shifted, as would-be miners and those who would profit from the mines arrived with their native or African slaves. The Jesuit Father André João Antonil (whose Italian name was Giovanni Antonio Andreoni) wrote the best contemporary study of Brazilian economic and social conditions. He said that by 1709 some 30,000 people were in Minas Gerais. In the next decades, the population swelled. The 1735 tax records showed a total of 100,141 slaves, among whom there were numerous natives. By 1782 Minas Gerais's population of 319,769 included 166,995 blacks, 82,110 mulattoes, and 70,664 whites. The state had the largest concentration of population in the viceroyalty of Brazil: 20.5 percent of Brazil's 1,555,200 people.
The early population consisted predominantly of unruly males, who knew no law but their own whims and who drove their slaves hard in an existence that historian Charles Boxer tagged as "nasty, brutish, and short." Many African slaves reacted by running away to form hiding places called quilombos and were pursued by roughneck "bushwhacking captains" (capitães do mato ). However, during the first decades life could not have been easy for anyone. Items such as meat, corn, flour, and rum were rare and costly. The first local supply of hogs and chickens appeared only in 1723, and a flask of salt could cost as much as half a pound of gold.
By the last decades of the eighteenth century, however, the cities of Minas Gerais were graced with impressive baroque and rococo churches, multistoried homes and shops, and grand public buildings. Poets and musicians enlivened the cultural scene. Some 3,000 musicians, mostly mulattoes, played fine baroque pieces, often in churches built by architect Antonio Francisco Lisboa (also known as "O Aleijadinho") and under ceilings painted by Manuel da Costa Ataíde.
The overland trails from São Paulo and from Paratí were superseded by ones connecting to Rio de Janeiro. The new viceregal capital sent African slaves and European merchandise to Minas Gerais and received the heavily laden chests of gold and diamonds en route to Lisbon. Rio de Janeiro also served as the supply base for the newly created captaincies of Santa Catarina and Rio Grande de São Pedro, passing their livestock products on to Portugal. Those captaincies were linked overland to São Paulo and Minas Gerais via the livestock trails that ran northeast from the pampas of what was later called Rio Grande do Sul to Sorocaba in São Paulo Province.
Ranching had developed in the Northeastern interior as an adjunct to the sugar economy and in the South as the legacy of the Jesuit missions. In the eighteenth century, ranching was an increasingly important part of the overall colonial economy. The moving frontiers that it created drew the interior into effective relationships with European-oriented Brazil. From the interior of Maranhão, southeast through Piauí, Ceará, Pernambuco, and Bahia, then west into Goiás, and on down to Rio Grande do Sul, a set of cowboy (vaqueiro ) subcultures evolved that still mark local traditions. It was an age of leather in which the horse was the center of life. Many, perhaps most, of the vaqueiros were native Indians, mestizos, African slaves, and mulattoes. In the northern and central areas, slaves and free men worked together unsupervised for months at a time. In the South, the gaucho culture, mixing native, Spanish, and Portuguese bloodlines and traditions, took hold throughout the pampas of the Río de la Plata up into Rio Grande do Sul. In the latter state, by the mid-1820s cattle had driven out wheat farming, and the mounted gaucho with his bolas, knife, maté tea, and open-fire barbecued beef became characteristic.
Although gold mining weakened the dominance of sugar and seemingly stimulated the cattle industry, it did not totally supersede export agriculture. It displaced sugar as the colony's leading economic activity, but during the eighteenth century the value of gold exports never surpassed the value of sugar-led agricultural exports. Even so, gold did have serious long-term effects on Portugal. The fall in the value of Portugal's colonial products in the seventeenth century had made it difficult to obtain sufficient currency to purchase merchandise from northern Europe. In response, Portugal had begun to develop industries to meet its local and colonial requirements. The discovery of gold provided needed currency.
In 1703 Portugal signed the Methuen Treaty with England, giving English woolens preference in Portuguese markets in return for a favorable tariff on Portuguese wines. This seemingly simple arrangement ended the move toward industrial development, drained Brazilian gold out of Portugal, and gave England its increasing dominance over Portugal and Brazil. The gold and diamond chests arriving at the royal treasury in Lisbon immediately were dispatched north to pay for imported cloth and manufactured goods. Local Portuguese producers could not compete with cheaper foreign prices. Furthermore, English vessels anchored in the Tagus River in the Iberian Peninsula snatched large quantities of gold from under the noses of Portuguese authorities. Instead of Brazil's wealth being used to develop Portugal and its colonies, it helped finance the English industrial revolution and Portugal's eighteenth-century struggles to secure Brazilian boundaries.
Even though an immense amount of wealth was sent abroad, much stayed in Brazil to build urban public works, such as fountains, bridges, buildings, and churches; to endow some charitable foundations, such as hospitals; and to finance the elaborate contraband trade with the Río de la Plata and Alto Perú (Upper Peru, or present-day Bolivia). However, it did not improve the condition of the poor; generate a prosperous middle class; improve agriculture, education, or industry; or produce lasting reform.
In 1732 António Rodrigues da Costa, a member of the Overseas Council, warned the crown that the heavy colonial taxes would one day lead the colonists to cast off their loyalty. It was obvious to Rodrigues da Costa that the "larger and richer" would not accept forever being ruled by the "smaller and poorer." In 1738 royal adviser Dom Luís da Cunha suggested secretly to King João V that he take the title "emperor of the west" and move his court to Rio de Janeiro, which he argued was better situated than Lisbon to control the Portuguese maritime and commercial empire. Rather than heed such advice, however, the monarchy tried at mid-century to gain more control, stop the massive outflow of gold, and contain the British. Beginning in 1755, Marquês de Pombal (Count Sebastião José de Carvalho e Melo), as secretary of state for overseas dominions, shaped a series of reforms that gave chartered companies a monopoly of the Brazil trade, encouraged national manufacturers, and worked to make commercial relations with Britain less dependent and more reciprocal. His goal was to revitalize the state and to break the stranglehold of British credit. He closed Brazilian ports to all foreign ships and hired foreign military experts to organize Brazil's defenses. To promote agricultural growth, Pombal distributed coffee and mulberry seedlings and also advocated production of indigo, flax, cotton, cocoa, and rice. Iron mining and smelting got underway in São Paulo, and shipbuilding and its attendant trades in Bahia and Rio de Janeiro increased. With the British seizure of Havana and Manila during the Seven Years' War (1756-63), the Portuguese wondered if Rio de Janeiro would be next. The crown responded with four goals: secure the borders, populate them for self-defense, defend the ports, and make the mines profitable.
Pombal distrusted the Jesuits, who controlled vast areas in the interior of South America. He suspected commercial links between their prosperous missions and the British, and in September 1759 expelled them from Brazil. The expulsion of the Jesuits caused the missions to fall to ruin and eliminated the strongest educational institutions in Brazil. Crown policy forbade any university or even a printing press in the colony, and modern Brazilian universities date only from the 1930s.
The crown's education policy was based on the idea that colonial and metropolitan elites would blend to shape an imperial elite united by ideology in support of the crown. During the colonial era, 3,000 Brazilians studied at Portugal's University of Coimbra, which in 1772 Pombal reformed with Enlightenment perspectives. Between 1772 and 1785, 300 Brazilians, many from Minas Gerais, were at Coimbra. Pombal placed these graduates and other members of the colonial plutocracy in judicial, administrative, and military posts. However, policy intention and outcome often clashed. Some of these students and officials would begin to think in terms of independence.
The production of gold began to decline about 1750 as the Minas Gerais society was solidifying and as the international situation was becoming more complicated. The more the Portuguese squeezed and tried to reduce the contraband in gold and diamonds, the more the divergence of interests grew. In the 1770s, as less gold reached royal coffers, the crown reacted by imposing a per capita tax (derrama ) to make up the difference between the amounts expected and those received. Meanwhile, competition from British, French, and Dutch colonies pushed the price of Brazilian sugar down lower on the Amsterdam market, reducing still more Portuguese revenues. Moreover, the decline in available gold affected the contraband trade that the Brazilians had carried on with the Río de la Plata area, where they exchanged their illicit gold for Andean silver. The Brazilians then used the silver to buy illegal British goods, which they smuggled back into the Spanish domains. The elimination of the Jesuit missions, Spain's creation of the Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata (1776), and the opening of direct trade between Spain and Buenos Aires further reduced the profitable trade in smuggled goods. The decline in smuggling reduced transshipments of British goods through Portugal, reducing that country's overall level of trade with Britain catastrophically. The ensuing recession made it difficult to pay for the military expeditions sent to the southern borders during the 1770s, and the crown was unable to adjust expenditures in the face of declining revenues.
In Minas Gerais, landowners had manufacturing establishments on their properties turning out cotton, linen, and woolen items, and most of the other captaincies had "workshops and manufactories" that lessened the need to import from Portugal. The basis for a more complex textile industry was being laid.
Then, in February 1777, José I (king of Portugal, 1750-77) died, and with him went Pombal's hold on power and his common sense approach of encouraging industrial development. Pombal's successor as secretary of state for overseas dominions, Martinho de Melo e Castro, was alarmed that the nascent Brazilian factories could make the colony independent and warned that "Portugal without Brazil is an insignificant power." In January 1785, he ordered that they all be "closed and abolished."
In the early 1780s, Brazilian students at Coimbra had pledged themselves to seek independence. They were influenced greatly by the success of the North American British colonies in forming the United States of America. In 1786 and 1787, José Joaquim Maia e Barbalho of Rio de Janeiro, a Coimbra graduate studying medicine at Montpelier and a critic of the colonial relationship, approached Ambassador Thomas Jefferson in France. He told Jefferson that the students intended to break with Portugal and requested the aid of the United States. One of the Coimbra graduates was José Bonifácio de Andrada e Silva, the patriarch of Brazilian independence.
The failed Minas Conspiracy (Inconfidência Mineira) of 1789 involved some of the leading figures of the captaincy: tax collectors, priests, military officers, judges, government officials, and mine owners and landowners. Some had been born in Portugal, several had their early education with the Jesuits and later studied at Coimbra, a number wrote poetry that is still read and studied. But what they had most in common were financial problems caused by crown policies that required them to pay their debts, or that cut them out of lucrative gold and diamond contraband trade. They argued that Brazil had all it needed to survive and prosper and that Portugal was a parasite. They pledged to lift restrictions on mining; exploit iron ore; set up factories; create a university, a citizens' militia, and a Parliament; pardon debts to the royal treasury; free slaves born in Brazil; and form a union with São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro similar to that of the United States.
The history of the Minas Conspiracy is full of heavy drama. Revelation of the conspiracy turned brothers, friends, clients, and patrons against each other in an unseemly scramble to escape punishment. In one sense, the affair foreshadowed the nature of future Brazilian revolutionary movements in that it was a conspiracy of oligarchs seeking their own advantage, while claiming to act for the people. In the end, Lisbon decided to make an example of only one person, a low-ranked second lieutenant (alferes ) of the Royal Mineiro Dragoons named Joaquim José da Silva Xavier ("Tiradentes"). His execution in 1792 in Rio de Janeiro might well have been forgotten if the nineteenth-century republicans had not embraced him as a symbolic counterpoise to Dom Pedro I, who declared Brazilian independence from Portugal in 1822. Later, with the establishment of the republic in 1889, every town and city in Brazil built a Tiradentes square, and the day of his execution, April 21, became a well-commemorated national holiday. Nonetheless, because the Minas Conspiracy was marked more by skulduggery than nobility and clarity, its value as a national symbol required selective interpretation and presentation.
Portugal resolved to watch Brazilians more carefully and reacted forcefully to a nonexistent but suspected plot in Rio de Janeiro in 1794, and to a real, mulatto-led one in Bahia in 1798. Meanwhile, the French Revolution, the resulting slave rebellion in Haiti, and the fear of similar revolts in Brazil convinced the Brazilian elites that the dream of a United States-style conservative revolution that would leave the slave-based socioeconomic structure intact and in their hands was impossible. The crown separated the residents of Minas Gerais from the revived coastal sugar producers through policies that set their interests at odds. Lisbon diverted Brazilian nationalism with greater imperial involvement.
The Transition to Kingdom Status
With the onset of the Napoleonic Wars, some Portuguese officials again raised the idea of moving the crown to the safety of Brazil. Dom Luís da Cunha's prophetic suggestion in 1738 that Rio de Janeiro was "safer and more convenient" made great sense as the French army approached Lisbon in November 1807. The British in 1801 had recommended transfer to Brazil in the event of an invasion and had promised to provide protection for the voyage and assistance in extending and consolidating Portuguese territory in South America. In 1803 the Lisbon government, faced with the increasingly deadly struggle between France and Britain, had reconsidered the idea. The choice was between losing Portugal to the French and having the British seize Brazil, or moving the crown to Brazil, from which the struggle for Portugal could be resumed. In any case, the royal government did not move until Portugal was actually invaded in late 1807.
At the time, the monarch was Queen Maria I, but because of mental illness triggered by her horror at the regicide in Paris, her son Dom João ruled as regent. His wife was Dona Carlota Joaquina, a Spanish princess and mother to their nine children, among whom the most important for Brazilian history was Pedro de Alcântara de Bragança e Bourbon. Dom João opened Brazilian ports to world commerce, allowing British goods to stream in, and eliminating the Portuguese middlemen. Rio de Janeiro substituted for Lisbon in a centralized system that placed the various captaincies in subservient positions to the new center. For the Brazilian elites, the transfer of the court meant that they could have conservative political change without social disorder. And best of all, depending on their proximity to the court, they had the chance to obtain the titles and honors that they felt their wealth had earned them. However, the pleasure of the elites was mixed with some frustration because now the monarch was close enough to keep an attentive watch on how they conducted their affairs. And with the court in Rio de Janeiro, the demands of international politics were more keenly felt.
Portugal and the Bragança dynasty were obligated deeply to the British. The British not only saved the royal family and some 15,000 courtiers but also lent US$3 million in 1809 to keep the government functioning. The British also liberated Portugal from the French and reorganized the Portuguese army. In addition, one of their officers ruled as regent in Lisbon. The Portuguese therefore had little with which to bargain when negotiating treaties. In 1810 Dom João signed agreements not only giving the British trade preferences and allowing them privileges of extraterritoriality but also promising to abolish the African slave trade. The last cut directly at the interests of the propertied classes, on whom the crown depended.
The crown had to duplicate, mostly from scratch, the government institutions it had left behind in Lisbon. It set up a Supreme Military Council (Conselho Militar Superior); boards of treasury, trade, agriculture, and industry; a Court of Appeals; a royal printing press and official newspaper; and the Bank of Brazil (Banco do Brasil). It created medical schools in Bahia and Rio de Janeiro, a school of fine arts, a museum of natural history, a public library, and the Botanical Garden (Jardim Botânico) in Rio de Janeiro. It also set up specialized courses of study in the Minas Gerais towns of Ouro Prêto and Paracatu. Most of the fleet had been transferred, but a new army was organized, naval and military academies were established, and arsenals created. The crown built a powder factory and an ironworks. It dealt with public safety by forming the Royal Police Guard, which brutalized slaves, sailors, drunks, gamblers, and prostitutes into submission. The crown also opened Brazil to European travelers, naturalists, scientists, and artists, who left a detailed picture of its life and landscape.
Curiously, by staying in Brazil after the British liberated Portugal from the French in 1811, the crown was keeping British influence under some control, because here it was removed both from Britain and the British-commanded Portuguese army. In 1815 the crown, determined to set its own course, raised Brazil to a kingdom equal with Portugal and acclaimed João as king when his mother died in 1816. The crown gained further maneuverability by arranging marriages between the two princesses and the Spanish King Fernando VII and his brother, and more important, between Crown Prince Pedro and the daughter of Franz I of Austria, the Archduchess Leopoldina.
SOURCE: Area Handbook of the US Library of Congress