“Padroado” was an arrangement that consisted in the right, by the crown, to
collect the “tenth”, settle dioceses and name bishops. In return, the catholic
church would be assured as the kingdom’s official religion at the metropolis and
its colonies. The way in which state and church relates has changed from state
to state. In Portugal, there was a clear submission of the church to the crown.
Priests were state officials and church buildings were state proprieties.
Secular organizations were the exception. Rebel priests founded their own
fraternities trying to break free from both state and church. A major example
is Companhia de Jesus, an autonomous group that had large influence over the
Portuguese court. They had their own policies and participated in almost every
rebellious movement in Brasil from the 18th to the 19th century. It was their
lobby that assured the 1570 law prohibiting the enslavement of indians.
The absolutist state does not separate public and private life. Everything is
public, as the person has no individual rights and the state powers are not
limited. Executive and Judiciary activities where not defined. The colony
administration was organized around capitania governors, dictated by a general-
governor. Besides the crown’s efforts to administrate Brazil directly, the distance
and the unfamiliarity of the situations gave the new found land an indisputable
autonomy. Governors had to deal with the challenge of balancing the settler’s
needs with the crown’s desires. The state would only regain strict control of the
colony by the time gold and diamonds were found in the region of minas gerais.
The capital was Salvador until the year 1763, when it was transferred to Rio
de Janeiro. From then on, the “Vice-King” title became popular. The Vice-King
was a representative of the Portuguese monarch in Brazil, and had powers over
the ensemble of the armies. No one voluntarily wanted to join to the army, so
recruitment was mandatory. It also didn’t work as planned, given that when the
population was forced to join the army, famine struck the colony as there were
no arms left to work the land.
Câmaras Municipais were largely successful organs that survived colony
times. With the independence of Brasil, it became one of the most important
administrative organs of the country. They were formed by “born members”,
who were not elected, and of elected members. The voting people were known
as “good man”, because they owned land and slaves. The câmaras had their
own finances and property. They collected taxes, named judges, took care of
fountains, streets and bridges, etc. They fought commercial monopolies and
negotiated debts the settlers had with the crown.
Martim Afonso de Souza arranged the first expedition to Brasil in 1530. Together
with a 1000 man, he also brought sugar experts from Holland and Italy. Before
the capitanias system was elaborated, there were already sugar mills working in
São Vicente and Pernambuco., Until the XVIII, Rio de Janeiro’s main product was
cachaça, used as a trade coin in the slave commerce with Angola.
The traders had a special relationship with the mill lords. They financed
buildings and lent resources. They accepted sugar as a payment. The closeness
of the farms and the docks made the mill lords a highly aware class, with an eye
in the city and the farm and another in the international commerce.
The Spanish crisis also contributed to the mill lord’s success. The massive
income of gold and silver from Spanish America caused some exaggerated
inflation that affected Spanish economy as a whole. If not, Spain would have
probably entered the sugar mill business and concurred with Portugal for
markets and American lands. Also, Spain was busy in an expensive war against
the Dutch for the control of the sugar distribution business.
The sugar commerce saw ups and downs in the last 500 years. The growth of
the mining activities in the XVIII century did not suffocate it. In fact, it never quit
being the main exportable good of the colony until the invention of beat sugar. In
1630, English, French and Dutch competition (most of the dutch immigrating to
the Antilles were leaving Brazil, as the Portuguese crown expelled Nassau from
the north-east.) started in the Antilles Islands. Marques de Pombal protective
barriers favored another wave of expansion in 1760 and in 1791, the slave
rebellion that led to the independence of Haiti was another impulse to the sugar
Tobacco and livestock were also important. Livestock was responsible for the
clearing of new territories. Cattle raisers penetrated Piauí, Maranhão, Rio Grande
do Norte, Paraíba, etc. They used immense amounts of land. African slaves and
poor free man were the laboring force.
External competition caused a drop on sugar price and resulted in a depreciation
of the Portuguese coin that benefited the colony, as most of the sugar profits
were in the hands of the Portuguese. Manufactured goods coming from the
metropolis became lots cheaper. Manufacturers also benefited from the
exchange rate drop. The English northern settlements supplied the Antilles with
wheat, taking advantage from the establishment of sugar mills in that region as
The rise of Holland, France and England happened simultaneously to the
decadence of the Spanish empire. France and England were too busy fighting
each other to closely control their colonies of the north or to seize the
Portuguese possessions in America. They focused their energy in the Antilles.
England had in the XVII century a surplus population that Portugal would
only have in the XIX century. This surplus allowed England to start settlement
colonies in the north. Religious and political matters were the factors that moved
settlers to this part of the world.
Portugal left the Iberic Union in a weak position. During that period, it lost
its oriental commerce and didn’t have the strength to hold its neutrality in
face of the imperial powers. In order not to lose its colonies, it had to give
up its sovereignty. The 1642/1654/1661 agreements start a new era of
Portuguese and Brazilian political and economic life. English privileges included
extraterritorial jurisdiction, free trade and English freedom to define tariffs. The
Bombaim colony was now under direct administration of England. In the other
hand, England would defend Portugal and the Colonies from any invasor.