COSTA, Dom Duarte
Dom Duarte da Costa, son of Alvaro da Costa and of Dona Beatriz de Paiva, was Dom João III´s milk brother and groom of the Privy Chamber. A nobleman of the Royal House, Knight Commander of the Order of Avis and the Order of Christ, he was a royal counselor and chief ship manager, as his father had been for King Dom Manuel, and as his son, Dom Alvaro da Costa, would be for King Dom Sebastião.
On 1 March, 1553, he was nominated to the position of Governor-General of Brazil for three years, with an annual salary of four hundred thousand reais, taking office on 13 July of the same year, as long as the King did not order otherwise.
Army commander with administrative powers (responsible for civil government, for the relationship with the governors of the captaincies, and for oversight of treasury activities), judiciary powers (Supervisor of the High Court of Justice and the right to name substitutes and commute sentences), and ecclesiastical powers (oversight of the religious authorities and proposing to bishops and archbishops names for chapels and parishes), the government of Dom Duarte da Costa was marked by institutional conflict with the Bishop of Baía, Dom Pero Fernandes Sardinha, with Rodrigo Freitas, Treasury Registrar, with António Cardoso de Barros, Head Superintendent, with the physician Jorge da Costa, with the Registrar of the General Magistrate, and with the municipal officials of Baía. The disagreement would end only with the death of the first, at the hand of the Caeté Indians in 1556, and with the return of Dom Duarte da Costa to the Kingdom in 1557, the year that marked the end of his government.
The dispute started with personal quarrels and mutual accusations about the arbitrary and abusive use of power, first between the Bishop and Dom Alvaro da Costa, son of Dom Duarte da Costa, and became generalized, giving rise to a conflictual situation which could weaken Portuguese presence in the territory at the service of the King as well as justice being served. The denunciations came from the supporters on both sides and were based on various excesses. The insubordination of the men and the difficulties in executing Royal Orders were to Dom Duarte da Costa a novelty of the territory, a problem that was aggravated by distance from the Kingdom. In order to end this situation, he took harsher measures, which were covered under the jurisdictional powers of his administration. The end of the social and institutional conflict was urgent, as this was a serious situation that dispersed the forces needed to respond to the intensification of attacks by the French and the natives. With few people concentrated in a territory as vast as the places where military intervention was necessary, avoiding fragmentation and the desintegration of Portuguese power was a must; therefore, people, money, and provisions were sent to feed and pay officials. People and resources were lacking to defend the land and fight the French, whose presence was confirmed by Father Manuel da Nóbrega in 1552 and, three years after that in Rio de Janeiro, in Tutuapera, Cabo Frio, and São Vicente, where boats and ships were stolen and brazilwood was harvested fifteen to twenty leagues into the sertão [backlands].
There was no money to pay officials, to guarantee the support of the Jesuits, as ordained by Dom João III in 1551, or to construct the college in Baía. In addition to this problem, in the climate of war that prevailed, the feeling of insecurity was generalized. To prevent the villages from being abandoned, to protect and preserve the settlers´ lives, homes, and sugar mills, assuring them access to the largest possible area of cultivatable land for fields and breeding, and to return to them the cattle and herdsmen that the Indians had taken, Dom Duarte da Costa, in the War of Itapuã, utilized all the people and force that were required to achieve these objectives. With his victory, the area of Portuguese dominion in the city of Baía was increased, and the governor established peace and defined his grant. In order to prevent the natives from attacking the sugar mills and estates, he made a pact with their leaders, according to which they would be condemned and expelled from his lands if they disobeyed; however, their cooperation would afford them Portugal´s friendship and military favor.
The political and economic priorities of Dom Duarte da Costa´s government were to populate the territory and to defend its inhabitants, assuring their means of subsistence and guaranteeing economic profitability for the Royal Treasury. To achieve this, he had to manage and control the existing human and material resources, and to have the capacity to respond rapidly to the local tribes´ attacks to the sugar mills. The success of Portugal´s action, both by land and by sea, as well as guaranteeing the territory´s economic profitability, which was threatened each time that the Indians burnt or stole the sugar mills, depended on the alliance of these prerogatives.
Indigenous labor was relied upon so that the settlers could maintain the productivity of the land, a solution that worsened social instability due to the issue of the freedom of the Indians, which Dom Duarte da Costa opposed, in order to protect their work in the fields and mills because, in his opinion, this was in the King´s service, and for the good of the inhabitants.
The moving into the sertão of settlers and Jesuit priests was also problematic, as the question of territorial demarcation between Portuguese and Castillian dominions in South America was not resolved, and the human and military means to offer the needed protections were lacking. Thus, on 23 July, 1554, Dom João III barred these entries, unless previously authorized by the governor. The search for precious metals had also become a strong incentive, even though in 1555 it resulted in the death of some men, who were in villages far from the city of Baía without authorization.
Thus settlers and Jesuit priests were prohibited from entering the sertão; however, the governor´s response to them was that the King would authorize such entries later. Until given orders to the contrary, Jesuit priests could evangelize the Christians in the captaincies, but were prohibited from going to villages near sugar mills as well as from selecting locations to build houses because, as Dom Duarte da Costa stated, this was up to the King and would be done as the King ordered.
In light of the atmosphere of great social instability, Dom Duarte da Costa asked Dom João III to authorize his return to the Kingdom, because he thought he deserved it, even asking to shorten his time, if it were not near the end. Succeeded by Chief Judge Mem de Sá, who would consolidate the Crown´s policy in the new territory relatively to matters of defense, economic profitability, evangelization, and colonization, Dom Duarte da Costa was named for the office of Chief Judge of Casa da Suplicação [House of Pleading, a second instance court], after returning to the kingdom.
BOSHI, Caio César, O Brasil nos Tempos Coloniais, Lisboa, David Corazzi, 1984. CORTESÃO, Jaime, A colonização do Brasil, Lisboa, Portugália, 1969. COSTA, João Paulo Oliveira e, «A Política Expansionista de D. João III (1521-1557. Uma Visão Global», in D. João III e o Mar. Ciclo de Conferências, Lisboa, Academia de Marinha, 2003, pp. 7-37. COUTO, Jorge, «Os Modelos de Colonização no Brasil na Primeira Metade de Quinhentos», in A Universidade e os Descobrimentos, Lisboa, CNCDP e Casa da Moeda, 1993, pp. 149-173. SCHWARTZ, Stuart B., Da América Portuguesa ao Brasil, Algés, Difel, 2003. WEHLING, Arno, «Governo-Geral», in Dicionário da História da Colonização Portuguesa do Brasil, dir. Maria Beatriz Nizza da Silva, Lisboa, Verbo, 1994, pp. 370-380.
Author: Marisa Pires Marques
Translated by: Maria João Pimentel