NEVES, José Acúrsio da [Knights of Baixo, Fajão, Coimbra, 14/12/1766-Sarzeda, Arganil 6/5/1834)
Son of António das Neves, Bachelor in Canon Law, and of Josefa da Conceição, he was a magistrate, politician, writer, and highly regarded intellectual, who was deemed one of the most notable personages of Portuguese life at the end of the Old Regime and one of the foremost contributors to economic thinking in Portugal. He studied in Coimbra (1782-1787) and, after reading at Mesa do Desembargo do Paço court, he started his career as a magistrate. He was named juíz de fora of Angra (1795-1799) [magistrate nominated by the King who had greater authority than ordinary district judges] and, after, corregidor of the shire of Angra (1799-1802), a position whose duties he would fulfill in pronounced separation from the Count of Almada, who was Captain General at the time. During his stay in Terceira Island, José Acúrsio das Neves married Dona Delfina Maria das Neves, the widow of one of his uncles.
José Acúrsio das Neves´ more theoretical and reform-oriented texts reflect his admiration for Colbert and for the Marquis of Pombal, defending the promotion of economic activities. This political tendency is present in some of the administrative texts produced by José Acúrsio das Neves during his stay in the Azores, as well as in the concept of ?ordem de Polícia? [police power of the state] and other ideas that we find in the political treatises and works of economic memorialism of this period. The magistrate sought the favor of Dom Rodrigo de Sousa Coutinho, Minister and Secretary of the Navy and Overseas Dominions, writing Memória Geográfica, Política, Económica da Ilha Terceira, possibly in 1798, which has been lost. Another significant text is also of this period (1800) ? Memória Económico-Política sobre a liberdade do comércio dos grãos com a sua aplicação às Ilhas dos Açores ? a booklet in which José Acúrsio das Neves defended a ?liberal? perspective of the economy, namely the free exportation of cereal grains.
José Acúrsio das Neves returned to Lisbon on 10 October, 1807. In 1810, he was nominated deputy of the Real Junta do Comércio, Agricultura, Fábricas e Navegações, serving also as director of the Real Fábrica das Sedas and Chief Judge of the High Court of Porto. In 1814 and 1817, he published his Variedades sobre Objectos Relativos às Artes, Comércio e Manufacturas, Consideradas Segundo os Princípios da Economia Política, a study that was cited by João da Rocha Ribeiro, an important and well-informed businessman from Angra, during his 25 June, 1817 presentation in which he defended the principles of free-trade, relying on the ideas of José Acúrsio das Neves, who defended freedom of commerce as a solution to prevent hunger.
After 1820, José Acúrcio das Neves proved himself to be politically conservative, opposing Vintismo [political situation in Portugal 1820-1823 which was marked by radical liberal solutions]. With a political course marked by turmoil, he supported Dom Miguel, while continuing to follow the principles of freedom of commerce in economic matters. In 1833, he left Lisbon and politics, but remained a supporter of the Miguelist cause. In 1834, he was found dead in a hayloft that served as a hideout for the supporters of Dom Miguel.
ALMODOVAR, António (s. d.), ?O pensamento político-económico de José Acúrsio das Neves: uma proposta de leitura? in Obras Completas de José Acúrsio das Neves, 1: História Geral da Invasão dos Franceses em Portugal e da Restauração deste Reino, Tomos I e II, Porto, Edições Afrontamento, s. d., pp. 15-60. CASTRO, Armando de, ?José Acúrsio das Neves, um doutrinador da sua época historicamente atrasado? in Obras Completas de José Acúrsio das Neves, 1: História Geral da Invasão dos Franceses em Portugal e da Restauração deste Reino, Tomos I e II, Porto, Edições Afrontamento, s. d., pp. 61-136. RODRIGUES, José Damião, ?Percursos de um magistrado nos Açores: a etapa açoriana de José Acúrsio das Neves? in O Liberalismo nos Açores: do Vintismo à Regeneração. O Tempo de Teotónio de Ornelas Bruges (1807-1870), Angra do Heroísmo, Instituto Açoriano de Cultura, 2008, pp. 147-160.
Author: José Damião Rodrigues
Translated by: Maria João Pimentel