Provedor Mor da Fazenda

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Provedor Mor da Fazenda

Provedor Mor da Fazenda, the superintendent of the treasury who, together with the governor-general and superior crown magistrate (ouvidor geral), formed one of the three highest administrative positions in colonial Brazil. It remains, however, the least studied of all the major governmental or administrative colonial offices. The regimentos (statutes) of 17 December 1548 summarized the duties of the provedor mor and the officers who served under him. They included organizing Brazil's primary alfândega (customhouse) in Bahia, supervising crown monopolies and tax farms, maintaining account books pertaining to crown revenues and expenditures, and overseeing treasury officials in Brazil's other captaincies. In the colony's early history, a single individual frequently held both the offices of provedor mor and ouvidor geral, but conflicting responsibilities ended such practices. Ambiguous jurisdictions brought the provedor mor into recurring controversy with other high officials. In addition to his treasury duties, the provedor mor became part of the government in the absence of the governor-general. Brazil's vast size together with the office's extensive responsibilities presented provedores mor with insolvable problems and kept the colonial treasury in constant disarray.

By the early eighteenth century, lower-ranking provedores had gained considerable independence from the provedor mor, causing problems for the royal government. In 1731, for example, the provedor mor of Maranhão absconded with treasury funds. The marquês de Pombal's administrative reforms substantially reduced the office's power and prestige by creating juntas da fazenda (treasury boards) that reported directly to Portuguese administrators and by installing junta presidents who outranked the provedor mor.

See alsoBrazil: The Colonial Era, 1500–1808 .


The 1548 regimentos are in Marcos Carneiro De Mendonça, ed., Raizes de formação administrativa do Brazil, vol. 1 (1972). See also Rodolpho Garcia, Ensaio sôbre a historia política e administrativa do Brasil, 1500–1810 (1956), pp. 187-190; Dauril Alden, Royal Government in Colonial Brazil (1968); Stuart B. Schwartz, Sovereignty and Society of Colonial Brazil: The High Court of Bahia and Its Judges, 1609–1751 (1973).

Additional Bibliography

Fragoso, João Luís Ribeiro, Maria Fernanda Bicalho, and Maria de Fátima Gouvêa. O Antigo Regime nos trópicos: A dinâmica imperial portuguesa, séculos XVI-XVIII. Rio de Janeiro: Civilização Brasileira, 2001.

                                       William Donovan