MELO, João de
Captain of São Tomé Island between 1517 and 1522. He was the oldest son of Fernão de Melo and his wife, Violante de Carvalhal and, after his father´s death, succeeded him in the captaincy. His performance as donatary captain was a continuation of his predecessor´s policies in almost every way. Investing little in agriculture, he favored the slave trade (the first ?Regimento do trato de São Tomé? is, after all, from 1519), and his relations with the ntotela of Congo were conflictual as well. He, too, engaged in several illegal practices, which would result in his being compelled to board a ship to Lisbon under arrest.
Even during the trip, into which he had been coerced, he nevertheless continued to accumulate infractions, as he permitted four expatriates to travel with him, who had been deported to the island for life. Additionally, on the high seas, when he ran into a ship headed for São Tomé, he signaled to it, with the pretext of wanting to send mail. When he found out that a Gil Gois, who had been exiled to São Tomé due to ?the murder of some men,? was aboard, he demanded that the captain turn over to him not only the killer but also one of his servants. Next, the authorities lost track of the expatriates and of the captain, who irreparably violated the terms of his ?arrest and knighthood.? Tried without appearing in court, on 19 December, 1522, he was sentenced by the High Court to perpetual exile on Principe Island (as he was a knight of the Order of Christ, he could not be punished with a heavier sentence). Furthermore, the king ordered that ?he lose the aforementioned captaincy in order that we can dispose of it as best fits our service,? which resulted in the incorporation of São Tomé Island into the crown´s possessions in 1522.
As of 1521, when the legal proceedings related to João de Melo commenced, the functions of captain and Chief-Alcaide of the island were fulfilled by Gabriel Martins, in the capacity of Procurator for João de Melo. After the ownership of the captaincy was transferred to the crown, its administration would be handed over in 1523 to Bernardo Segura, who had been Corregidor of São Tomé Island since 1516.
Nova História da Expansão Portuguesa, vol. III, A Colonização Atlântica, coordenação de Artur Teodoro de Matos, Lisboa, Editorial Estampa, 2005. As gavetas da Torre do Tombo, introd. A. da Silva Rego, Lisboa, Centro de Estudos Históricos Ultramarinos, 1960-1977, vol. 3º, Gav. XIII-XIV.
Author: Arlindo Caldeira
Translated by: Maria João Pimentel