Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Jesuit Expulsion and Legacy

Jesuit protection of slaves and natives was unfortunately short lived, only lasting only a little over 200 years, before their expulsion by the Marquês de Pombal.  Marquês de Pombal was the head authority within the Portuguese-Brazil empire, in the name of José I, from 1750-1777.[1] Up until this point the Catholic Church and its monastic branches had not truly felt the power the crown held over them, until his rise to power. The Marquês held a special hostility towards the church, particularly the Jesuits, and quickly turned his sights on ending their power in the Portuguese colonies. He condemned them for acts of smuggling, as well as being foreign spies and causing the unrest that was currently plaguing Portugal.  Finally, he accused the Jesuits of attempting an attack on José I life, and by 1759 he had a royal decree removing them from all of Portugal’s lands. This held a heavy price for the Jesuits as their lands, schools, slaves, and all other property was confiscated by the crown.  In the end the Marquês de Pombal succeeded in removing not only Jesuits from the Brazilian lands but also amassing wealth from other monastic orders in the Portuguese territory as well[2].
A painting of the Marquês de Pombal, 
depicting his expulsion of the Jesuits from the Portuguese territories.
The Jesuit expulsion from the Portuguese colonies left lasting effects on the lives of the Africans and Indians enslaved and living in Brazil. Up until their expulsion they had been running some of the finest schools within Brazil, and education of not only blacks and Indians suffered after their departure. Along with that, Indian villages were now left without protection and organization. The Marquês de Pombal  was then able to step in amplifying the governments control over their education and care[3].  The number of aldeias shrank under Pombal’s orders and exploitation of the Indian’s continued.  The lives of African slaves were not improved with the expulsion of the Jesuits either; instead they were forced under the monarchy’s control and to colonialist owners[4].  The Jesuits played an important role in the lives of Brazilian colonist, and their removal from the area had detrimental effects on those who depended on their protection and guidance.

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