SILVA, Pedro da (1580-1639)
Viceroy of India (1635 ? 1639).
Pedro da Silva was born circa 1580, and was the son of Fernao da Silva, Chief ? Alcaide of Silves and treasurer of the Royal Treasury, and of Dona Madalena de Lima. His grandfather on his father?s side, Dom Aires da Silva, was the Bishop of Oporto. The matrimony?s second child was his brother, Rui Pereira da Silva, who inherited the position of Chief-Alcaide from his father. All his other siblings married with untitled members of nobility, except for Dona Luisa da Silva Pereira, who married to another Dom Pedro da Silva, 1st Earl of Sao Lourenço and Governor of Brazil at about the same time his brother-in-law assumed the position of Viceroy of India. Member of the Royal Council, he left to Asia for the first time at an unknown date, and the only fact known from that period is that he was the donatory captain of Malacca. Upon his return, he was appointed governor of the island of Madeira. At the time of his nomination as Viceroy of India by a royal letter, dated 28 February 1635, he was in spiritual retreat at the monastery of the Secular Franciscan Order, in Monchique. Despite some resistance on his part, Pedro da Silva left Lisbon on 13 April and arrived to Goa on 8 December, where he immediately received the government from the hands of the 4th Earl of Linhares, Dom Miguel de Noronha. One of his journey companions was Dom Antonio Teles de Meneses e Silva, who would later become his successor and 1st Earl of Vila Pouca de Aguiar.
The 4-year administration of Dom Pedro da Silva was marked by his complete inability to fight the different attacks inflicted upon the Portuguese India by its enemies. Dom Pedro started his viceroyalty with this admission, ?May God forgive the one who appointed me to this position because I do not befit it.? In fact, the most significant figure of his government ended up being his successor, Dom Antonio Teles de Meneses e Silva. In March 1636, the latter left Goa with a fleet to search for the Dutch one which usually moored near Surat. In a successful opening battle, two Dutch ships were defeated. However, the others escaped and, in November, when Dom Antonio found them again, his fleet?s captains did not let him go into battle. Noteworthy is the fact that, when Dom Antonio found the Dutch fleet, this was blocking Goa, a rather frequent event during Dom Pedro da Silva?s administration. Despite difficulties in disrupting this blockage, Goa?s new Archbishop, Frei Francisco dos Martires (Franciscan friar), managed to assume his position, after travelling on that year?s fleet of India. The Archbishop was one of the other nominees for the position of Viceroy in case something happened to the latter. The year of 1636 did not end without battles in Madagascar which opposed the Portuguese from Mozambique to the former king of Mombasa, who had been expelled from his kingdom after leading an armed rebellion during the viceroyalty of the 4th Earl of Linhares. The persecutions and battles headed by Roque Borges, throughout the whole of 1636, were fruitless in what concerns the capture of the sovereign and were limited to the plunder of the supporters of that king in Madagascar.
The following years (1637 to 1639) were even more problematic, as the two alliances that would sentence the Portuguese expulsion from Malacca (1641) and from Ceylon (1658) were set. In the Far East, Japan?s internal situation continued to be especially unsettled, forcing the Portuguese to leave the Japanese archipelago in 1639. Meanwhile, the Viceroy did not have the chance to intervene in this situation due to the emergent problems in India. In effect, in January and February 1637, Dom Antonio Teles de Meneses? victory over a Dutch fleet near Goa was a short-term remedy as in the following year the Viceroy was informed of the divergences between the donatory captain of Malacca and the region?s general. Taking advantage of this situation, the sultan of Aceh immediately imprisoned the Portuguese ambassador to his court, Francisco de Sousa e Castro, and ordained the execution of some other Portuguese. By this time, Goa was already aware of the alliance between the sultan of Aceh and the Dutch, which would dictate the Portuguese eviction from Malacca. Pedro da Silva tried to organize some sort of aid to that stronghold as a new siege was imminent, but this effort had to be divided as Daman?s general died and Dom Pedro had to send help, once again through Dom Antonio Teles de Meneses. It was the latter who also confirmed the end of the truce with the Mongol Empire in Bassein. Similarly, new problems started happening in Ceylon, but here there is no record of an intervention from the Viceroy. Having firmly opposed to the Portuguese presence on the island for years, the newly acclaimed sovereign of Candia firmed an alliance with the Dutch in May 1638. This pact anticipated the expulsion of the Portuguese from the island and total European monopoly from the Dutch. The situation became even more critical when General Diogo de Melo e Castro was defeated and killed by Candia?s troops in the beginning of 1638. Goa?s inability to react encouraged the coalition VOC ? Candia to move on several other Portuguese strongholds. Consequently, as soon as 1640, Negombo and Gale fell into their hands. Dom Pedro da Silva?s viceroyalty ended with his death, on 24 June 1639, and was strongly marked by controversy. Before dying, he asked the Senate of Goa for a loan, under the claim that he did not wish to die poor. However, after his death, an inventory of his belongings was made and a huge number of assets was found, resulting from his savings during the four years of his administration.
SOUSA, Manuel de Faria e, Ásia Portuguesa, volume VI, tradução de Maria Vitória Garcia Santos Ferreira, vol. VI, 4º Parte, cap. XVI, Porto, Livraria Civilização, 1947. SUBRAHMANIAN, Sanjay, ?Uma década desastrosa: a Ásia Portuguesa na década de 1630? in O Império Asiático Português 1500-1700 - Uma História Política e Económica, Lisboa, Difel, 1993, pp. 232-245. ZÚQUETE, Afonso, Tratado de Todos os Vice-Reis e Governadores da Índia, Lisboa, Editorial Enciclopédia, 1962.
Author: Nuno Vila-Santa
Translated by: Marília Pavão