Church of Mercy, at the island of Mozambique, where Baltazar Pereira do Lago is buried. Photo from Eugénia Rodrigues
LAGO, Baltazar Manuel Pereira do (?-1779)
Governor and Captain-General of Mozambique (1765-1779)
Knight of the Order of Christ and nobleman of the Royal House, Baltazar Manuel Pereira do Lago was the son of Gaspar Pereira do Lago and Dona Luísa Teresa de Mendonça. He married Dona Joaquina Tomásia de Almeida, with whom he had a daughter, Dona Francisca Maria Paula de Almeida Pereira do Lago. As a widower, he had an illegitimate son, Gaspar Manuel Pereira do Lago, with Dona Leonor Inês Bersane Leite, whose husband had taken refuge in Spain to escape justice. He assured his son´s education, whom he destined for a career in the humanities. He initiated the process of legitimization in 1778, but did not see its conclusion in the following year. In Mozambique, Dona Josefa Maria de Mendonça, who was four years old at the time of Pereira do Lago´s death, was known publicly as his daughter. He also included her in his will, referring to her always as ?the minor.?
Before his departure to Mozambique, he was a cavalry sargent in Count Sampaio´s Regiment of the Cais, in Lisbon. He was one of the officers who was involved in the arrest of the individuals charged with attempting to kill King Dom José, serving under High Court Judge, Joaquim de Oliveira Brandão. Little is known about his life during that period, but he himself summarized it as: ?women, gambling, pleasure, and luxury,? a lifestyle that ended when he went to East Africa. On 6 April, 1765, he was nominated Governor and Captain-General of Mozambique, Rios de Sena, and Sofala, obtaining his Charter on 10 April and taking over on 17 August. For the most part, his lengthy government which lasted nearly fourteen years, coincided with the implementation of the Pombaline reforms, whose introduction in 1763 had been torturous. He performed duties in all spheres of government.
When he first arrived in Mozambique, he established agriculture as one of the principal directions for his administration, issuing orders to stimulate its development. He invested mainly in the vast region of Rios de Sena, which he wanted to transform into the granary of Mozambique, in order to free the territory from its dependence on supplies from India and St. Lawrence (Madagascar). The inhabitants were to produce wheat, rice and vegetables, according to regulations monitored by the municipal councils. With the goal of diversifying and increasing agricultural production, he promoted the dissemination of several crops, especially in the continent across from Mozambique Island. In 1767, he published public announcements requiring cultivation of cotton and mandioca, which had been discovered in the same year in the Terra Firma of the island. Endeavoring to bring European agricultural techniques to Mozambique, he took up the hoe in order to teach to plant trees. To introduce animal traction to transportation and agricultural work, he imported cattle from St. Lawrence. Finally, he publicized methods to open and pave wells. Despite the intense conflicts that were fueled and the meager short-term results, his leadership resulted in the growth of agriculture, hand in hand with growing occupation of the coastal areas by the inhabitants of Mozambique Island.
Another one of his great objectives was increasing commerce as a basis for the formation of a colonial elite, in accordance with the Pombaline project. Pereira do Lago endorsed the formation of the Companhia de Comércio with the Mujaus and the Macuas (1766), an initiative of the most important businessmen on the island, in order to exclude merchants from other territories and, particularly, competition from India. The company intended to monopolize commerce of slaves, ivory, and rhinoceros horns, which occurred in the littoral across from Mozambique Island. The complaints of Damão and Diu merchants were heard by the Crown, leading to the termination of the company in 1769, on the basis that it went against the freedom of commerce, which had been established during the prior decade. Pereira do Lago defended the company as a means of aggrandizing Mozambique businessmen and freeing them from debt to the merchants from India.
Initially he opposed the slave trade, which was practiced in Mozambique by the French, because the Crown prohibited it. In the end, however, as had been the case with the governors who preceded him, he allowed it, even encouraged it, alleging shortage of provisions. In a way, he began the institutionalization of the slave traffic, when he instituted the payment of customs duties by the French in the amount of six cruzados per slave. He admitted receiving financial contributions from the French, alleging he used the funds for the numerous public works undertaken by him, for the development of agriculture in the coastal areas, and for works of charity.
With the goal of increasing the security of Rios de Sena, whose territory and commercial routes were threatened by the armies of the Monomotapa lineages, he transferred the capital from Sena to Tete in 1767. He garrisoned the town fortress with a company of cipaios brought in from India, also moving the Sena company to Tete. After the separation of the State of India, he was the only governor of the captaincy who traveled to Rios de Sena (1771). During his stay, he organized the conquest of the Marave territory, north of the Zambezi River, while promoting policies to ameliorate relations with the Monomotapa King. The safety of Rios de Sena was also reinforced by Portuguese presence in the region, as he promoted additional occupation by settlers by granting prazos da coroa.
He also took action in the social arena. Given the nonexistence of educational establishments, after the expulsion of the Jesuits in 1759, he founded a public primary school on the island of Mozambique in 1766 and, in São Domingo Convent, a school of Christian Doctrine for the slaves, employing a teacher of local languages. He intended to set-up a seminary in the old Jesuit College, in accordance with previous royal orders, but this project was not authorized by the Crown. His goal was to compensate for the dearth of qualified officials, to ?civilize? the elite of the colony, and to christianize the Africans. He openly protected the Misericórdia of Mozambique Island and was its Superintendent, increasing the income of the brotherhood and patronizing its activities. Likewise, in 1771, he restored the Misericórdia of Sena, which had been extinct since 1720, granting it lands.
He promoted a wide range of public works throughout the captaincy, particularly on Mozambique Island and in the coastal area across from the island. He started with transforming part of the Jesuit College of St. Francis Xavier, into a residence for governors; today it is Saint Paul´s Palace. He erected a new infirmary at the royal hospital, as well as a convalescent home for the patients. He pushed for the restoration of Misericordia Church, to which he added a porch and adornments. There he also built a hospital for the poor. On the Island, he rebuilt St. Sebastian Parish within the fortress, and Santo António Church.
During his administration, the elite of Mozambique Island grew as a result of dynamic economic activities. This growth was translated into increased urban space, particularly with the construction of São João neighborhood, as it was known then, between the ?stone city? limits and São João Convent. There, the Governor himself bought houses and a plot for a vegetable garden, the Palmarinho of São João.
At the end of the 1760 decade, in order to erect a church and a country house, he acquired a palm plantation in Mossuril, in the coastal zone across from the Island. The church of Nossa Senhora da Conceição was built of stone and whitewashed, to replace the local church, which was made of wood. It was financed by the residents of the entire colony and richly endowed with gold and silver adornments. The residence built by Pereira do Lago which is known today as ?The Governor´s Palace,? functioned as the governors´ vacation residence, where illustrious visitors to the Island were received. In 1767, in Cabaceira Grande, he promoted the restoration of the 16th century church, Nossa Senhora dos Remédios and, in Cabaceira Pequena, he ordered the construction in stone of the church of São João, whose erection had been initiated decades before he became involved.
Because of the exacerbation of the conflicts with the Macuas of Terra Firma due to increased slave traffic, in 1766 he had São José Fortress in Mossuril rebuilt in stone. Surrounded by a moat, the fortress harbored soldiers quarters, a storehouse, a prison, and a small church, which had the same patron saint. This did not prevent the 1776 attack on Mossuril by the Macuas of Iticulo, who plundered the church and slaughtered the entire population.
In the Quirimbas Archipelago, he ordered the construction of São João Church, on the island of Ibo. During his trip to Rios de Sena, he started public works in the Zambezi towns, such as division into streets, construction of buildings for the newly appointed municipal councils as well as of storehouses for the trading posts, and reconstruction of the walls in Tete as well as of those of the Sena and Quelimane mother churches.
The energy of the early years gave way to a more reserved approach to administration, when his requests to return to the Kingdom were not responded to. Teixeira Botelho viewed Pereira do Lago´s nomination to the government of Mozambique, which was followed by a lengthened stay on the Island, as an ?exile,? while Eduardo Noronha described it as ?political banishment.? F. Castelo Branco suggested that, during the imprisonment of the individuals accused of attempting to kill the king, Pereira do Lago became aware of secret information, thus was kept away from the court. Similar cases are found in the history of the administration of the Portuguese Empire.
Baltazar Pereira do Lago passed away on Mozambique Island June 2, 1779. In Accordance with the wishes recorded in his will, he was buried in Misericordia Church, which he had greatly protected during his lifetime. He left valuable assets, which he clarified had been accumulated from wages, gifts from Diu merchants and captains, and interest from loans to Mozambique businessmen. He is likely to have mentioned the financial contributions from the French and profits from commerce. His estate was seized by the Mozambique Magistrate due to alleged debts to the Royal Treasury; specifically, the duties paid illegally by the French. The case dragged on for decades. During his lifetime he had critics and enemies, but his government was recalled as one of the most influential in the history of Mozambique. In the following decades, members of the colonial elite referred to him as ?Father of the Motherland,? and the governors who followed after him were unanimous in extolling his leadership.
BOTELHO, José Justino Teixeira, História Militar e Política dos Portugueses em Moçambique da descoberta a 1833, Lisboa, Centro Typografico Colonial, 1934; BRANCO, Fernando Castelo, ?O enigma da nomeação de Baltazar Pereira do Lago para governador de Moçambique?, in Boletim Geral do Ultramar, Ano XXXIV, nº 396, 1958; NORONHA, Eduardo de, Baltazar Pereira do Lago, o Marquez de Pombal de Moçambique, Lisboa, Editorial Cosmos, s/d; HOPPE, Fritz, A África Oriental Portuguesa no tempo do Marquês de Pombal, 1750-1777, Lisboa, AGU, 1970; AHU, Avulsos, Moçambique; Códices: Conselho Ultramarino.
Translated by: Maria João Pimentel