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GOA, PORTUGUESE INDIA - PIRACY - POMBALINE LEGAL REFORMS – COLLECTION OF 4 ROYAL DECREES Zoom



GOA, PORTUGUESE INDIA - PIRACY - POMBALINE LEGAL REFORMS – COLLECTION OF 4 ROYAL DECREES

 


A collection of 4 important Portuguese royal decrees announcing sweeping legal reforms in Goa, including the ‘Alvará’ that established the state’s new code for combatting piracy in the Indian Ocean; all part of the Marquis de Pombal’s radical Enlightenment agenda for the Portuguese Empire – all the pamphlets are very rare and in stellar condition.


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Code: 67532

A. Carta de Lei, por que Vossa Magestade, ocorrendo aos grandes, e deformes abusos, que de longo tempo se haviam introduzido na Forma do Governo do Estado da India: é servido dar-lhe huma nova Forma, cassando, e abolindo todas as Leis, e Ordens, pelas quais se governava o mesmo Estado; com a Excepção de algumas, que Vossa Magestade Manda ficar na sua inteira observancia até nova Ordem Sua; na Fórma assima declarada.
 
Lisbon: na Regia Officina Typografica, January 15, 1774.
 
4°: 6 pp., bound in modern marbled paper (Excellent condition, clean and crisp).
 
B. Alvará com força de Lei, por que Vossa Magestade, occorendo aos poderosos, e nocivos inconvenientes até agora praticados na Administração da Justiça no Estado da India: Ha por bem as Diposições, com qu daqui em devem ser adminsitrados, e regidos, no mesmo Estado, os Governos Politicos, Civil, e Econmico; na forma assima declarada. 
 
Lisbon: na Regia Officina Typografica, January 15, 1774.
 
4°: 28 pp., bound in modern marbled paper (Excellent condition, clean and crisp).
 
C. Alvará, por que Vossa Magestade, pelos motivos nelle declarados, Ha por Bem, que o Senado da Camera da Cidade de Goa seja conservado no uso dos Provilegios, de que até agora usava, em quanto pela Junta das Confirmações Geraes não tomar Resolução sobre elles: Ordenando a Fórma, com que se deve proceder na Eleição do Presidente, Vereadores, Procurador, Mesteres, e mais Officiaes, que devem servir annualmente na mesma Camera; tudo na Fórma assima declarada.
 
Lisbon: na Regia Officina Typografica, January 15, 1774.
 
4°: [4 pp.], bound in modern marbled paper (Excellent condition, clean and crisp).
 
 
D. Alvará com força de Lei, por que Vossa Magestade ha por bem abolir o abusivo estylo, e costume dos antigos Cartezas, que se practicavam no Estado da India; e Ordenar, que as Prezas feitas sobre os Piratas, e Cosarios pertençam aos Commnadantes, Officiaes, e Equipagens das Embarcações de Guerra, que as aprezarem; tudo na forma assima declarada.
 
Lisbon: na Regia Officina Typografica, January 16, 1774.
 
4°: [4 pp.], bound in modern marbled paper (Excellent condition, clean and crisp).
 

 
This is a collection of four very rare and important Portuguese royal decrees relating to the Prime Minister Marquis de Pombal’s radical changes to the administrative, legal and economic systems of the Estado da Índia, which included Goa and her dependencies, part of the grander Pombaline Reforms that modernised Portugal and her empire during the period from 1755 to 1777.   

By the mid-18th Century, Goa, while historically a source of great wealth for Metropolitan Portugal, was in a doldrum, hamstrung by its extremely corrupt and archaic political and legal systems.  Seeking to recharge Goa’s economy and its trade with Portugal, Pombal had King José I sign the Carta de Lei (Royal Charter) of April 10, 1769, which ordained a complete reordering of the colony’s governance and economic systems.   However, as the charter only proscribed broad outlines for the reforms, specific pieces of legislation addressing numerous elements of administration and life in Goa needed to be devised, a process that took five more years. 
The present four royal decrees (here designated A, B, C, and D) were all issued in Lisbon in January 1774, and were devised by Pombal, but made in the name of King José I, and are all important pieces of legislation following up on the 1769 mandate.  Pamphlet A is a Carta de Lei that orders the immediate dismissal of Goa’s entire judicial body (considered by Pombal to be hopelessly corrupt), to be replaced by judges and magistrates appointed by the King’s handpicked governor, who were expected to apply the law in a professional, liberal-Enlightenment fashion.  Item B is an Alvará (legal license, or edict) directly relating to the former in that it explains, in great detail, the roles of specific elements of the new judicial system.   

Pamphlet C is an Alvará that orders the dismissal of the main civil officers of Goa and articulates a new system by which elections were to be held for their replacements, but only admitting with candidates of fine qualifications who were pre-approved by the Governor.  It was hoped that this would expel corrupt local figures from all positions of power.  

Last, but certainly not least is D, an intriguing Alvará which outline’s Pombal new system for combatting piracy off the coast off India while cracking down on the Portuguese Navy and coastguard’s penchant for harassing and shaking down foreign merchant vessels.  While this new order encourages the Portuguese authorities to redouble their efforts to combat the notorious Konkan and Malabar pirates, it proscribes severe penalties for interfering with legitimate commercial trade.  It also provides a schedule for how legitimate prizes seized from pirates should be divided amongst Portuguese officials in Goa, while banning the dissemination of confiscated arms.
By the custom of the Portuguese court of time, each new piece of legation was initially printed as a separate quarto pamphlet by the Regia Officina Typografica in Lisbon; additionally, the same text was sometimes (but not always) printed as a broadside.  Afterwards the text of the pamphlet was included in the court’s large, regularly-printed law books.  Also true to custom, all the pamphlets commence with the King listing his titles, starting with ‘Eu El Rey’ [I the King], to be immediately followed by the text body of the legislation in question.  The titles of each pamphlet are found at the conclusion of the text, below the signatures of the King and Pombal. 

All the 18th Century Portuguese pamphlets featuring royal decrees are today very rare, including the present examples.  They were made to be circulated and their survival rate is very low.  The present examples not only concern important pieces of legislation relating to a prize colony, Goa, but are also in unusually stellar condition.
 
The Royal Decrees in Focus 

The first item in the collection, A, is an important Carta de Lei, dated January 15, 1774, which commands a dramatic overhaul of Goa’s notoriously corrupt justice system, enacting a key (but as yet unrealized) provision of the Carta de Lei of April 10, 1769.   This act calls for all members of the current judicial system to be immediately dismissed, accusing them of “cumbersome abuses” and for all laws that are not consistent with the 1769 charter to “cease to exist as of they never existed before”.  In their place the Junta da Real Fazenda was to become the supreme legal body in Goa, whereupon the Governor was to henceforth act as the colony’s Chief Justice, with the Ombudsman serving as his first deputy (notably these officials were directly appointed by the King, i.e. Pombal).  The Governor and Ombudsman would appoint their subordinates from figures supposedly clean from corruption, and who bore professional qualifications.  It also calls for the reform of laws to fit what we would consider today to be liberal-Enlightenment standards.  As the courts had long been used to legitimize the corrupt and arbitrary measures of the local elite, far from being an academic exercise, this Carta did much to professionalise the judiciary, dealing a severe blow to the clique that had traditionally ruled Goa.  

The second item, B, is a lengthy and meticulously detailed Alvará, dated January 15, 1774, which fleshes out what is ordained in A above, the Carta de Lei of the same date.  In Title I, it establishes the Governor as the supreme regulator of justice in Goa, while Title II details the precise role of the Ouvidor Geral (Ombudsman, the Governor’s deputy chief justice).  Title III details the role of the Dos Juizes de Fóra (the judges in the Goa’s dependencies).  Title IV, Ordem Judicial dos Feitos Civeis, articulates the new orders for the administration of Civil Law, while Title V, Ordem Judicial dos Feitos Crimes, codifies the new regulations for Criminal Law.  Title VI, Meza do Paço, explains how Goa’s new legal framework fits into the grander legal sphere of the Portuguese empire.  Finally, Title VII, Disposições Gerais (General Provisions) outlines the overall liberal-Enlightenment sprit in which the new regulations should be carried out, citing various precedents and overriding laws that should be observed.  

Pamphlet C is an important Alvará, dated January 15, 1774, ordering the reformation of Goa’s civil government, enacting another key (but unrealized) provision of the Carta de Lei of April 10, 1769.  Hitherto the civilian administration had been dominated by corrupt local officials who tended to ignore or circumvent the Lisbon-appointed Governor.  This new order calls for all the incumbent officials to be dismissed and replaced with those approved by the Governor, who would be given augmented powers.  The Council President, the head of government (below the Governor, who was Viceroy), would serve a 3-year term.  He would be elected by the colony’s landowners; however, only candidates approved by the Governor and of noble rank would be eligible to run (so weeding out corrupt local figures).  The Governor would likewise appoint suitable candidates (with appropriate professional qualifications) who were eligible for election as town councillors, civil magistrates, procurers, ward masters, writers, and weight & measures inspectors, etc.  Any existing laws that interfered with this new order were hereby rendered null and void.  This decree struck at the heart of the old corrupt system by literally banishing the culprits from power. 

The fourth work, D, is clearly of the greatest interest to a wider modern audience, even if items A, B, and C were more fundamentally more important.  This Alvará, dated January 16, 1774, features Pombal’s new code for regulating Goa’s anti-piracy efforts against the Konkan and Malabar pirates; creating a formal system for the dispersal of legitimate prizes; while preventing abuses on the part of Portuguese officials (i.e. the looting ships that were not actual pirate vessels).
The document commences by castigating the “abusive style of the old customs”, referring to the chaotic and rapacious nature of the Portuguese navy, coastguard and customs officials operating out of Goa.  It must be noted that during much of the 18th Century, the world’s greatest pirate problem arguably existed off the West Coast of India, whereupon well-organized bands of Konkan and Malabar pirates (often backed by the powerful Maratha Confederacy or various local Indian rulers) created havoc for all manner of shipping.  While the British Royal Navy and the EIC Navy cooperated with the Portuguese Navy and coastguard to control the scourge, this proved difficult, as the Indian pirates were clever and persistent.  The high rate of loss from pirate attacks was driving European shipping insurance premiums through the roof, while the cost of providing naval escorts for merchant convoys was immense.  Piracy was proving a major drag upon trade, greatly affecting the economies of both Goa and British India.   

Pombal knew that the anti-piracy campaign was being hindered as Portuguese officers and officials seemed to be ‘distracted’ with other matters.  Finding it difficult to seize actual Indian pirate vessels, the Portuguese Navy and coastguard operating out of Goa took to interdicting merchant ships of neutral (and sometimes even friendly) nations, unfairly accusing their captains of ‘smuggling’, and confiscating their valuable cargo.  This was tantamount to state-sponsored banditry, if not piracy, on the high seas!  The Portuguese officers would then proceed to squabble over the division of the loot with civilian officials onshore.  This arbitrary abuse of power was making Goa into a ‘no go zone’ for legitimate foreign traders, further dampening the colonial economy.  This situation was also upsetting EIC officials in Bombay, which was worrying, as Britain was the guarantor of Goa’s military security. 

Specifically, this Alvará makes it pain that Portuguese naval and coastguard officers were henceforth not to harass foreign vessels for any reason, except those from nations currently at war with Portugal, or, of course the vessels of “armed Infidels”, meaning Indian pirates.  Moreover, not only must Portuguese marine officials refrain from hindering merchant vessels, they must actively assist any and all ships from allied and neutral nations that enter Portuguese waters while fleeing pirates, or otherwise in distress.  It is here made crystal clear that Portugal must protect commerce on the seas.  Failure to respect these orders would result in the immediate dismissal and criminal prosecution.  

At the same time, efforts must be redoubled to interdict actual pirate vessels; greater resources would be given to the navy and coastguard for this purpose.  Importantly, as an incentive to this end, and to provide a structure to prevent squabbling between Portuguese officials, a strict schedule for dividing prizes legitimately seized from pirates was proscribed.  

Here the King remarks that he considers it improper for him to take any part of the prizes.  Rather, the proceeds would be divided amongst the Portuguese officials in Goa who were responsible for seizing the pirate vessels.  The haul for each seizure should be divided into eights: 2/8 should be shared amongst the officers of the relevant Portuguese ships; 2/8 ought to be split amongst the Goa Armoury officials; 2/8 should be divided amongst the pilots, carpenters and other technical support staff; while 2/8 should be given to the crew of the relevant vessel.  Any other system of disbursing prize money and treasure would be considered illegal and tantamount to theft, with the requisite punishments.  This schedule notably cuts out Goa’s famously corrupt customs officials, who did little to suppress piracy, but profited mightily from state-sponsored banditry.   

As arms captured from pirate vessels had often traditionally been sold on the black market, sometimes to entities with designs contrary to the Portuguese state, the new system orders that henceforth all captured arms should be given to the Goa Armoury (which was supposedly to be overseen by new, incorruptible officials).  As such, this is an early example of ‘gun control’.  Finally, it commands that copies of the Alvará must be prominently displayed in public places in Goa and that every ship leaving its port must display a copy affixed to its mast, such that crew members will not be ignorant of its directives. 

Goa and the Pombaline Reforms


Sebastião José de Carvalho e Melo (1699 - 1782), better known as the Marquis of Pombal (a title he gained in 1770), was one of the greatest statemen of the European Enlightenment, who utterly transformed Portugal (and its empire) following a period of national crisis.  Hailing from a very low place in the aristocracy, he always bitterly resented Portugal’s establishment, which consisted of the great noble families and the Church; he considered them decadent and corrupt, and it followed that their sloth was holding Portugal back.   

Pombal was a brilliant diplomat, who served with unusual distinction in the important roles as Ambassador to London and Vienna.  Upon the ascension of King José I (1750-77), who condsidered himself a reformer, Pombal was appointed Foreign Minister.  He was despised by the majority of the Royal Court, who found his ‘extreme’ liberal views and forceful personality unsettling.  However, they were somewhat relieved that he seemed preoccupied with external affairs, having little power to threaten their traditional privileges. 

The Great Earthquake of Lisbon (November 1, 1755), which virtually destroyed the city and much of Portugal’s domestic economy, changed everything.  While others dithered, Pombal confidently took control of the situation, gaining José’s complete confidence.  He was appointed Prime Minister and, given the king’s weak nature, became the autocrat of Portugal.   

In what became known as the Pombaline Reforms, he acted with alacrity and boldness to transform the country and its overseas possessions.  He quickly rebuilt Lisbon on a rational, modern plan, and radically overhauled the country’s economy to stimulate the manufacturing sector, international trade and to raise government revenues.  He tackled corruption and inefficiency, unlocking the potential of manyindustries.  He encouraged Enlightenment education and science, abolished slavery, ended the Inquisition and removed the prohibition on Jews.

Pombal was met with extreme blowback from members of the establishment; however, he managed to ruthlessly bulldoze his opposition.  In 1758, he had the entire Távora Family (a leading noble house and his arch-nemesis) either executed or exiled on flimsy evidence that they attempted to assassinate the King; and in 1759, on Pombal’s designs, Portugal became the first country to abolish the Jesuit Order (which he despised).  In 1762, he solidified his power when Portugal defeated a Spanish invasion, a victory due to Pombal’s’ reinvigoration of the military and his excellent diplomatic rapport with London (which yielded timely British military assistance). 
With Metropolitan Portugal back on track, Pombal turned his attention to reforming its overseas empire, such that it could once gain economically benefit Lisbon.  He supported Brazil to expand its boundaries into new, resource-rich parts of the South American Interior, while imposing much needed reforms to the administration of Angola and Mozambique. 

In the late 1760s, Pombal turned his attention to Goa and its dependencies.  Goa had been the main Portuguese base in Asia since 1510.  Described as the “Rome of Asia” for the next century and a half, it was inarguably the most important European centre in Asia, controlling a vast maritime empire of trading ports that extended from Mozambique to Japan.  Made vastly wealthy through spices, precious metals and other treasures, Goa was the largest single source of wealth for the Portuguese crown.  
However, during the mid-17th Century, Portugal lost most of its Asian possessions following a series of conflicts with the Dutch East India Company (the VOC).  It also came to lose much of its market share of the European-Asian trade to the VOC, as well as English and French competition.  
By the beginning of the 18th Century, the Estado da Índia was a shadow if its former self, being limited to Goa and few minor dependencies along the west coast of the subcontinent.  

Goa was, however, still a great entrepôt of commerce generating significant revenues for Portugal, which had itself suffered economic decline.  That being said, the colony’s government and economy were blighted by corruption.  While graft and inefficiency were common in all colonies (not to mention the mother countries themselves), it was especially serious in Goa.  While the colonial Governor was directly appointed by Lisbon, many of the other officials, including judges, custom officials and civil administrators were chosen locally.  Moreover, the Church, especially the Jesuit Order exercised immense power far beyond its religious mandate.  The colony came to be completed controlled by a sophisticated syndicate of corruption and nepotism, managed by the Jesuits and local officials that was so powerful and resilient that it defied the efforts of honest governors to set it strait.   

By 1750, corruption was dramatically weighing down the colony’s economy.  A large percentage of the annual revues that Goa was meant to remit to Lisbon was being taken by graft, while the colony’s mariners, merchants and farmers suffered terribly by having to pay enormous bribes to a variety of ever greedier officials and prelates.  While an exact accounting is hard to measure, by this time it seemed that Goa was becoming a net drag upon Portugal.   

Pombal was determined to take a sledgehammer to the established power network in Goa through an elaborate process of legal reforms that would take five years to enact, between 1769 and 1774.  The abolition of the Jesuit Order had already dealt a major blow to the colonial establishment; however, Pombalmoved to enforce the end of the Inquisition in Goa, which was done in 1774.  This, and other reforms dramatically reduced the Church’s influence upon the colony.  

The Carta da Lei of April 10, 1769 gave Pombal the mandate to reshape Goa’s administrative system, granting Lisbon greater direct powers of the colony’s day-to-day governance.  This charter was brought into life over the next five years by a series of separate legal acts, including the present four royal decrees, that triggered transformative changes to Goa’s civil establishment, economy, and its religious and social affairs.  By 1774, these embraced virtually every aspect of the colonial life, with the view to making the colony less corrupt, less clerical, and more subject to Pombal’s centralizing liberalEnlightenment agenda.  

In 1777, upon the death of José I, Maria I ascended the throne.  She was a conservative reactionary who personally despised Pombal; he was immediately sacked and banished to his country estates, where he lived in retirement until his death in 1782.  In 1778, Maria I attempted to roll bank many of Pombal’s reforms in both Metropolitan Portugal and the colonies (including Goa).  She reinstated the Inquisition and whatever she could of the traditional network of cronyism.  However, this regressive agenda was only partially successful, as Pombal’s new ways had taken on a life of their own, giving rise to a new generation of industries, business leaders and civil servants who were able to avoid entrapment in the old system.  In Goa, while some of the old problems of corruption returned, for many years the colony functioned far more efficiently that it did before Pombal, such that the reforms announced in the present royal decrees had an enduring legacy. 

Metropolitan Portugal suffered terribly during the Napoleonic Wars, which also placed severe burdens upon the economies of her colonial domains.  Perhaps not surprisingly, after the wars, Maria I’s reforming successor, João VI (reigned 1816-26), revived many of the Pombaline concepts to get the Portugal’s economy back on track. 


References: An example of Item A:  Bibl. Mun. de Elvas: JHT2172CCXCIX; Items B, C, D with no other examples traced in bibliographical databases, including Porbase (Portuguese Bibliographical database). Cf. [Background:] Instrucções com que el-rei D. José I. mandou passar ao Estado da India o governador, e capitão general, e o arcebispo primaz do oriente, no anno de 1774 (Panjim, Goa: na Typographia Nacional, 1841), passim.; Kenneth Maxwell, Pombal, Paradox of the Enlightenment (London, 1995), passim.

€1,500.00