Colonial Roots of Modern Brazil: Papers of the Newberry Library Conference

By Dauril Alden | Go to book overview

FRANCIS A. DUTRA:


Centralization vs. Donatorial Privilege: Pernambuco, 1602-1630

"He made his public entrance under a canopy, bore the title of 'His Lordship', aspired to free himself from the authority of the governor [-general] and attempted to exempt himself from the jurisdiction and regulations under which his predecessors had served. . . . So absolute is his authority in that captaincy that not even the governor- general can enter it. . . . So great is his sovereignty that no one dares to antagonize him."1 During the early 1620s these and similar charges were hurled at Matias de Albuquerque, governor and capitão-mor of Pernambuco and younger brother of the captaincy's lord-proprietor (donatário), by D. Luis de Sousa, Brazil's twelfth governor-general. Although similar complaints would be bandied about in Portuguese America for the remainder of the colonial period, as more and more governors and capitães-mores attempted to assert their independence from the Crown's chief officials in Bahia or (after 1763) Rio de Janeiro, the Albuquerque-Sousa charges were given a special flavor because Pernambuco was a proprietary colony trying to defend and expand its prerogatives at a time when the king and his governors-general were trying to exert greater control over all of Brazil.2 The result was tension between the powers of centralization and of donatarial privilege. The stage was set for a series of bitter confrontations.

Perhaps it was inevitable that the extensive privileges and large tracts of land granted by D. João III to twelve lord-proprietors or donatários (between 1534 and 1536), in an attempt to colonize Brazil, would one day have to be restricted. In exchange for settling and defending these new territories at their own cost, the donatários received from the Portuguese Crown substantial administrative,

____________________
1
Livro primeiro do govêrno do Brasil, 1607-1633 ( Rio de Janeiro, 1958), pp-341, 335-336.
2
For a discussion of some of the conflicts between governors of Brazil's captaincies and the governors-general and viceroys, see Dauril Alden, Royal Government in Colonial Brazil ( Berkeley, 1968), pp. 35-43 and 447-472.

-19-

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