III. POMBAL THE REFORMER

Meanwhile the dictator had left his mark upon the economy, administration, and cultural life of Portugal. With the help of English and German officers he reorganized the army, which turned back a Spanish invasion in the Seven Years’ War. Like Richelieu in seventeenth-century France, he reduced the disruptive power of the aristocracy, and centralized the government in a monarchy that could give the nation political unity, educational development, and some protection from ecclesiastical domination. After the execution of the Tavoras the nobles ceased to plot against the king; after the expulsion of the Jesuits the clergy submitted to the state. During the alienation from the Vatican Pombal appointed the bishops, and his bishops ordained priests without reference to Rome. A royal decree curtailed the acquisition of land by the Church, and restrained Portuguese subjects from burdening their estates with bequests for Masses.28 Many convents were closed, and the rest were forbidden to receive novices under twenty-five years of age. The Inquisition was brought under government control: its tribunal was made a public court, subject to the same rules as the courts of the state; it was shorn of censorship powers; its distinction between Old Christians and New Christians (Christianized Jews or Moors, and their descendants) was abolished, for Pombal took it for granted that most Spaniards and Portuguese had now some Semitic strain in their blood.29 A decree of May 25, 1773, made all Portuguese subjects eligible to civil, military, and ecclesiastical office.30 There was no burning of persons by the Portuguese Inquisition after that of Malagrida in 1761.31

In that year Pombal abolished three quarters of the petty offices that had hampered the administration of justice; the law courts were made more accessible, litigation was made less expensive. In 1761 he reorganized the Treasury, required it to balance its books every week, ordered yearly audits of municipal revenues and expenditures, and made some progress in the most difficult reforms of all—the reduction of personnel and extravagance at the royal court. The eighty cooks that had fed John V and his entourage were weeded out; Joseph I had to content himself with twenty. An edict of May 25, 1773, in effect abolished slavery in Portugal, but allowed it to continue in the colonies.

The reformer’s hand moved everywhere. He gave governmental support to agriculture and fisheries, and introduced the silkworm into the northern provinces. He established potteries, glassworks, cotton mills, woolen factories, and paper plants, to end the dependence of Portugal upon the importation of such products from abroad. He abolished internal tolls in the movement of goods, and established free trade between Portugal and her American colonies. He founded a College of Commerce to train men for business management. He organized and subsidized companies to take over Portuguese trade from foreign merchants and carriers; here he—or the Portuguese—failed, for in 1780 the commerce of Portugal was still mostly in foreign, chiefly in British, hands.

The expulsion of the Jesuits necessitated a thorough reconstruction of education. New elementary and secondary schools, to the number of 837, were scattered over the land. The Jesuit college at Lisbon was transformed into a College of Nobles under secular administration. The curriculum at Coimbra was enlarged with additional courses in science. Pombal persuaded the King to build an opera house and to invite Italian singers to lead the casts. In 1757 he founded the Arcadia de Lisboa for the stimulation of literature.

For an exciting half century (1755-1805) Portuguese literature enjoyed a relative freedom of ideas and forms. Liberating itself from Italian models, it acknowledged the spell of France, and felt some zephyrs of the Enlightenment. Antonio Diniz da Cruz e Silva won national fame by a satire, O Hissope (1772), describing in eight cantos the quarrel of a bishop with his dean. João Anastasio da Cunha translated Pope and Voltaire, for which he was condemned by the Inquisition (1778) soon after Pombal’s fall. Francisco Manoel do Nascimento, son of a longshoreman, took passionately to books, and became the center of a group that rebelled against the Arcadian Academy as a drag on the development of national poetry. In 1778 (again taking advantage of Pombal’s fall) the Inquisition ordered his arrest as being addicted “to modern philosophers who follow natural reason.” He escaped to France, where he spent nearly all his remaining forty-one years; there he wrote most of his poems, ardent for freedom and democracy, including an ode “To the Liberty and Independence of the United States.” His followers ranked him as second only to Camões in Portuguese poetry.—The most elegant and melodious verse of the age was in a volume of love poems, A Marilia, bequeathed by Tomaz Antônio Gonzaga, who suffered imprisonment (1785-88) for political conspiracy, and died in exile.—José Agostinho de Macedo, an Augustinian friar unfrocked because of his dissipated life, boldly took for the subject of his epic, O Oriente, the same subject as Camões—the voyage of Vasco da Gama to India; he judged his poem superior to the Lusiads and the Iliad, but we are assured that it is a dreary performance. More interesting was a satire in six cantos, Os Burros, in which Macedo pilloried by name men and women of all ranks, living or dead.—His favorite enemy was Manuel Maria Barbosa de Bocage, who was imprisoned by the Inquisition (1797) on a charge of spreading Voltairean ideas in his verse and plays. The execution of Marie Antoinette turned him back to conservatism in religion and politics; he recaptured his youthful piety, and saw in the mosquito a proof of the existence of God.32

The great event in the art history of Pombal’s regime was the statue raised to Joseph I, which still stands in Lisbon’s Black Horse Square. Designed by Joaquim Machado de Castro, cast in bronze by Bartolommeo da Costa, it represented the King riding a steed victoriously over serpents symbolizing the evil forces overcome during his reign. Pombal made the inauguration of the monument (June 6, 1775) a celebration of his triumphant ministry. Troops of soldiery lined the square; the diplomatic corps, the judiciary, the Senate, and other dignitaries were assembled in full costume; then came the court, then the King and the Queen; finally Pombal came forward and unveiled the figures and the massive pedestal, on which a medallion pictured the minister wearing the Cross of Christ. Everyone but the King understood that the real subject of the celebration was Pombal.

A few days after the unveiling he sent to Joseph I a rosy-colored description of the progress made by Portugal since 1750: the spread of education and literacy, the growth of manufactures and trade, the development of literature and art, the general rise in the standard of living. Truth must make many deductions from his account: industry and trade were growing, but very slowly, and were in financial difficulties; the arts were stagnant, and half of Lisbon still lay (1774) in the ruins caused by the earthquake of 1755. The natural piety of the people was restoring ecclesiastical power. Pombal’s lordly manners and dictatorial methods were making new enemies every day. He had enriched himself and his relatives; he had built for himself an extravagantly costly palace. There was hardly a noble family in the kingdom that did not have a beloved member wasting away in jail. Everywhere in Portugal there were secret hopes and prayers for Pombal’s fall.

If you find an error please notify us in the comments. Thank you!