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Pombal, Sebastião José de Carvalho e Mello


Portuguese prime minister; b. Soure, near Coimbra, Portugal, May 13, 1699; d. Pombal, May 8, 1782. The Marquis of Pombal, the title granted in 1770 by which Carvalho is generally known, was the son of Manuel de Carvalho, a cavalry captain and landowner. Pombal served in the army and was later a lawyer. In 1733 he secured a position at the Academy of History. It was at this time that he eloped with Dona Theresa Noronha, niece of Count Arcos, in a marriage opposed by the exclusive Portuguese aristocracy. In 1739, aided by Marc António de Azevedo Coutinho, an important relative, Pombal was sent as minister to London, where he tried to adjust Anglo-Portuguese differences over India, as well as problems arising from Portuguese neutrality during the War of the Austrian Succession. In 1744 he returned to Lisbon, but within a year was sent by King John V to act as Portuguese minister at Vienna and as mediator in a dispute between the King's niece, Empress maria theresa, and Pope benedict xiv. At Vienna he received news of his wife's death. Pombal, a childless widower, married the poor but noble Countess Leonor Ernestina Daun. Two children were born of the second marriage. His mediation successfully concluded, Pombal was recalled to Lisbon (1749), where his diplomatic experience and skill were to be employed by King Joseph I (175077), the successor of John V. Pombal, at first minister of foreign affairs and war, and later prime minister, dominated the Portuguese political scene for the entire reign of Joseph I.

Jesuit Controversy. Pombal was called upon to settle a dispute arising from the Colonial Boundary Treaty of 1750, which had settled rival Spanish-Portuguese claims in South America. Under the treaty seven of 30 Jesuit reductions (missions) of Paraguay, where the Jesuits had attempted to set up a federation of Christian communities, were placed under Portuguese control. It was an area where 200 priests ruled 140,000 natives. The treaty of 1750 had called for Jesuit and native evacuation and emigration. The resulting resistance led to a series of revolts that lasted for three years. Pombal blamed the Jesuits for this turmoil and opposition. In 1755 Pombal issued an edict freeing the natives, denying civil authority to Jesuits and all priests, and establishing the Gran Pará

Trading Company to carry out all commercial transactions under civilian rule.

That year (Nov. 1, 1755) Lisbon was practically destroyed by a great earthquake and tidal waves. For three days the city was in chaos. Pombal efficiently organized the relief and rebuilding of the stricken city and reestablished law and order with remarkable skill and courage. The destruction of the city made a tremendous impact on all of Europe. A noted Jesuit preacher, Gabriel malagrida blamed the catastrophe on Pombal and his policies and described the earthquake as God's retribution, a work of divine wrath. Pombal attributed it to scientific causes and a royal edict condemned Malagrida's denunciation. The nobles, however, backed Malagrida against the ambitious and powerful minister.

Jesuit Expulsion. The Jesuit refusal to accept the boundary changes, their opposition to Pombal's scheme to reorganize colonial administration and trade, and their opposition and ill feeling toward him at Lisbon increased tension and led him into his campaign against them. In 1757 Joseph I ordered all Jesuit confessors to leave the court. In February of 1758 a Portuguese protest was filed at the Vatican, enumerating many charges against the Jesuits. Benedict XIV was prevailed upon to appoint Cardinal Saldanha, Patriarch of Lisbon, as Visitor and Reformer of the Society of Jesus. The Jesuits were forbidden by the patriarch to preach or hear confessions (June 1758). Their Portuguese superior was banished from Lisbon and the society stripped of all power and privileges.

A few months later, an effort to assassinate Joseph I (Sept. 3, 1758) gave Pombal another pretext for expelling the Jesuits. The assassination plot was organized by José de Mascarenhas, eighth Duke of Aveiro, and his brother-in-law, Francisco de Assis, third Marquis of Távora, whose wife was a fervent disciple of Malagrida. It was not until December that the plot and assassination attempt were publicly denounced. A decree called for the arrest of the principal conspirators, including Malagrida and 12 prominent Jesuits who were also accused of aiding the plot. In January of 1759 Aveiro and the Távora family were tried and condemned. The Jesuits were imprisoned and many accused nobles were racked, strangled, burned, or beheaded. Pending an appeal to Pope clement xiii, all Jesuit property in Portugal was to be sequestered. By this time all Jesuits, by order of Saldanha, were confined to their colleges and forbidden to communicate with anyone outside their walls. Pombal's policy was inspired in part by his hatred of the Jesuits and by his "rationalist" policy of establishing royal supremacy and independence in all ecclesiastical matters within Portugal and its colonies.

On Aug. 18, 1759, Clement XIII issued Exponi nobis, a brief granting the Portuguese government the

right to put the accused priest conspirators on trial, but the decree did not authorize future trials. A month later Pombal issued a decree of expulsion (Sept. 3, 1759). The Jesuits were accused of crimes against God and King. Those Jesuits not solemnly professed who asked for release were permitted to leave the society. All others were removed without possessions and transported to the Papal States. Nearly 1,100 destitute and half-starved Jesuits were brought to Civitavecchia. Jesuits in Portuguese colonies were brought to Lisbon, where after imprisonment and interrogation they were deported to Rome. Pombal never put any imprisoned Jesuits on trial save Malagrida. Most of them were left in solitary confinement, where they died. The King's scruples probably prevented him from executing them. The unfortunate Malagrida, accused of heresy, blasphemy, and false prophecy, was condemned by the Inquisition and was executed by strangulation, and his body was burned (Sept. 21, 1761). At the time of their expulsion the Jesuits conducted 20 colleges and three seminaries in Portugal, 20 colleges in the islands of West Africa, 13 in Goa, ten in Malabar, and five in China.

Religious and Political Aftermath of the Expulsion. Pombal continued his attack on the Church, ordering the papal nuncio to leave Lisbon and breaking diplomatic relations with Rome. Portuguese bishops were also compelled to exercise powers independent of Rome. In 1761 the former Jesuit schools were secularized, and free schools, as well as a College of Nobles for the children of the aristocracy, were established in their place. An abortive attempt at reconciliation with the papacy in 1767 was followed by further antireligious legislation limiting the amount of money that could be willed for Masses for the dead. Many convents were suppressed and those remaining forbidden to accept novices under 25 years of age. Bishops were appointed without papal approval. Pombal also inspired the publication of Chronological Deductions, a three-volume attack on the nefarious influence of the Jesuits on Portuguese history. Chief author of this masterpiece of vindictive indictment was José Seabra de Silva, later Pombal's secretary of state.

Pombal's expulsion of the Jesuits demonstrated the weakness of the society, and the governments of France, Spain, and Naples were quick to follow the Portuguese example. All the powers clamored for the suppression of the society. At first clement xiv resisted, but by degrees he modified his opposition. From 1769 to 1770 Pombal and the Pope negotiated an agreement in which Pombal's power over the Church was acknowledged. His brother Paul was given a cardinal's hat, although he died before it arrived at Lisbon. Pombal in return promised to restrain his campaign against the Jesuits. In June 1770 a nuncio returned to Lisbon. By 1773, however, Clement XIV had weakened so much that he issued Dominus ac redemptor, suppressing the Society of Jesus.

In 1756 Pombal had become minister of internal affairs and first minister. In this capacity he attempted to introduce many agricultural and commercial reforms. In his efforts to strengthen the depressed and faltering Portuguese economy, he established and encouraged printing, manufacturing, wine monopolies, and trading companies, and introduced and expanded widespread coffee, sugar, rice, cocoa, and indigo cultivation in Brazil. He reorganized the Portuguese army, rebuilt fortifications, and established a censorship board that, although it licensed or suppressed all books written or imported into Portugal, nevertheless encouraged the distribution of the works of Voltaire, Rousseau, and the Encyclopedists.

His Fall from Power. Pombal exercised almost absolute power over Portugal despite his advanced age. His ruthless methods included torture, bribery, espionage, and terror. He accumulated millions through gifts, pensions, properties and investments. His purchase of confiscated estates and the advantageous marriages of his children to grandees increased his family fortune. His power, however, also depended on the King's cooperation. By 1777 Joseph I was dying, and after Feb. 1, 1777, no edicts appeared under Pombal's name. Queen Maria I succeeded her father on his death (Feb. 24, 1777). Pombal, who had always taken the legal precaution of having the King countersign his edicts, was allowed to resign, but the Queen forbade him to reside within 20 leagues of the court. Pombal lived to see much of his work undone. Prisoners, including 60 surviving Jesuits, were freed; offenses were pardoned. The Távora verdict of 1759 was declared null and void (1780). The clergy persecuted by Pombal were restored. The Gran Pará Company was abolished (1778) and the Treason Tribunal dissolved (1777). Pombal himself was sued by a number of his victims, and despite his poor health he was accused of fraud and murder and stood trial. It ended with Pombal pleading for the mercy of the court (1780). In 1781 he was labeled an infamous criminal, but he was permitted to spend his declining years at his estate. The bishop of Coimbra, whom he had persecuted and imprisoned, consoled him at his death.

Bibliography: m. cheke, Dictator of Portugal: A Life of the Marquiz of Pombal, 16991782 (London 1938). a. weld, The Suppression of the Society of Jesus in the Portuguese Dominions (London 1877). t. d. kendrick, The Lisbon Earthquake (London 1956). e. g. jacob, j. hÖfer and k. rahner Lexicon für Theologie und Kirche, 10 v. 8:600601.

[p. s. mcgarry]

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