Chapters of Brazil's Colonial History, 1500-1800

By Capistrano De Abreu; Arthur Brakel | Go to book overview
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Hereditary Captaincies

The capture of La Pélerine, the French trading post in Pernambuco, and the news of preparations for building more trading posts jolted the king's inertia. In a letter to Martim Afonso de Sousa dated 28 September 1532, the king announced that he had decided to demarcate Brazil's coast from Pernambuco to the River Plate and award it to people in captaincies, i.e., in 50-mile's ections. 1 Martim Afonso would have 100 miles of coastline, and his brother, Pero Lopes, would be one of the donataries.

The victorious young warrior's arrival in Pernambuco once more had shown how imminent the danger was. This may be the reason why certain measures were immediately taken, or at least discussed. Among them were ample freedom to emigrate to Brazil and the preparation of a fleet of three caravels, each of which would carry 10 to 12 men condemned to death. These convicts would be "made to go ashore and tame that country so as not to subject decent men to danger," assured a Venetian by the name of Pietro Caroldo in a letter dated 16 June 1533. 2 Did this fleet actually come?

Its coming would explain many obscure details.

The oldest documents on the awarding of captaincies date from 1534.

The delay between the project's inception and its realization can be explained by the king's wish to wait for Martim Afonso's return, or by the difficulty in composing the captaincies' charters and their accompanying


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Chapters of Brazil's Colonial History, 1500-1800


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