CASTRO, Francisco de Melo e
Governor and General-Governor of Mozambique (1750-1758).
Natural born son of the 4th Count of Galveias, André de Melo e Castro, Francisco de Melo e Castro was born in Estremoz in 1702. He was appointed Groom-in-Waiting of the Royal Household by an edit of 22 February 1718, under the obligation of travelling to India on that same year. In an edit of the following day, he was knighted and appointed squire.
He embarked to India as infantry captain of Nossa Senhora da Luz carrack ship, and assumed the position of infantry captain of the Goa?s regiment. From here, he moved to the Northern Province as Bassein?s cavalry captain and, later on, became Major-General of the cavalry of the same Province. Subsequently, he was appointed Field-Marshal with the position of Assistant ?General of the Viceroy.
In the Northern Province, he participated in the frequent operations against the Marathas. In 1721 ? 1722, he was part of the Portuguese-British army formed to attack Culabo, Angria?s stronghold. The expedition, which was stationed at Chaul, ended up suspending the operations, as the Marathas arrived and a peace treaty was signed in 1722. In 1731, already as the North?s Major-General of the cavalry and island governor of Salcette, he commanded the attack on Chandavari?s mountain range (Santa Maria), in the jurisdiction of Bassein. In 1732, as plenipotentiary minister, he was sent to negotiate the treaty of Bombay with the Marathas of Galiana. This treaty established free commerce in the Northern Province, and included the construction of a Maratha trading post in Bassein and the restitution of the remnants of war.
Meanwhile, in Goa, he got married to Dona Maria Antonia Pereira de Lacerda, daughter of Antonio Coelho da Rocha, member of an important family from Daman. From this marriage, four children were born: Andre Jose de Melo e Castro, Dinis Xavier de Melo e Castro, Antonio Manuel de Melo e Castro and his twin sister, Dona Ana, who died at birth along with their mother.
In 1740, he was appointed lieutenant-general and governor of Rios de Sena. This position was considered to be one of the most profitable in the State of India, because of the business opportunities it offered to its holders. Although his administration was not target of criticism, Melo e Castro managed to gather ?quite a few interests?, according to the Viceroy, Marquis of Castelo Novo. During Melo e Castro?s government, the Portuguese forces got involved in the succession wars of the Kindgdom of Mutapa. The support provided by the Portuguese, in 1743, to the defeated party led emperor (mutapa) Debwe to retaliate. In 1745, the Portuguese administration lost part of the prazos da coroa territory in the Tete region, which they only managed to recover in the 19th century. Melo e Castro?s experience allowed him to write one of the most remarkable 18th century descriptions of that region. A Descripção dos Rios de Sena desde a barra de Quelimane até ao Zumbo (1750) was published twice in the 19th century and it remains as one of the most quoted sources of the region?s historiography.
In 1745, he returned to Goa only to go back to Eastern Africa as governor ? general of Mozambique and Rios de Sena, a nomination dated from 21 February 1750. On that same year, the Viceroy, Marquis of Tavora, stopped at the Island of Mozambique on his way to India. At his request for information on the captaincy, Melo e Castro delivered him A Descripção dos Rios de Sena. From this work, which the Viceroy sent to the kingdom, derived his nomination as governor, by royal letter on 4 May 1752, when King Dom Jose decided to separate the administration of Mozambique from the one of the State of India. This was the high point of a career which had granted him the reputation of a highly educated man, much keener on studies than on military activities.
The letter of instruction given to Melo e Castro set the boundaries of the captaincy from the coastline between the bay of Lourenço Marques (Maputo) and the archipelago of Cabo Delgado, places where trading stations where set, to the whole inland under the Portuguese crown ruling, as well as to all the other territories to be conquered. The governor also selected and mediated all the captaincy positions and assured the tithes of new missionaries. Melo e Castro was directly accountable to the Overseas Council and to the Overseas Affairs Office, instead of reporting to Goa. However, the government of Mozambique remained accountable to the Viceroy in what concerned the superintendence of the royal monopoly of commerce, which was then administered by the Treasury Council of the State of India. Such monopoly included several products and was based on the region of Rios de Sena, Sofala and Inhambane. Still, the royal letter gave the governor jurisdiction over the commerce factors in Mozambique, which allowed him to make them accountable for their actions, to fire and to replace them.
Royal instructions were restricted to brief matters related to the administration, defence and settlement of the territory. In the absence of further regulations from the Overseas Council, which did not participate in the autonomy?s decision process, Melo e Castro took several measures regarding the captaincy?s organisation, what granted him the accusation of having exerted a ?despotic power?. He was deeply dedicated to the restructuring of the Royal Treasury, in an attempt to strengthen the revenues to support the increasing expenses, especially the ones deriving from the large number of military personnel ? 376 men ? which had been sent to reinforce the defence and settlement of Mozambique. This was done in 1753 with the introduction of new taxes, namely for the shops on the island and over commercial transactions, something which ultimately required articulation with the taxes already applied in India. Having as reference the Island of Mozambique, the only place with Customs, rights over trade were introduced: slave import (5 cruzados) and export (3 cruzados for adults and 2 for children); gold import from the harbours (4%); Terra Firme and Quirimbas Islands? ivory export (4%); import of fabrics (4%). Some of these taxes, the ones which tolled slave trade and gold, were later on rejected by the crown. Still on that same year, Melo e Castro leased the Customs, except for the gold rights. Finally, on 10 February 1754, he published a new customs tariff, along with a new customs law, which required the taxation of checked unloaded goods, instead of just confirming the cargo manifest. This set of measures allowed the increasing of revenues, but it created divergences with the Treasury Council and with the region?s merchants.
Due to the lack of coin, and in an attempt to prevent its exit to India, Melo e Castro had the gold ducats from a Dutch shipwreck, sunk near Angoche in 1753, marked. These coins were worth 10 cruzados, and were the first of a series of marked coins which became quite common in Mozambique.
As for commercial exchanges, Melo e Castro reinstated the trips south of the captaincy with the goal of checking the possibility of establishing a trading post in the bay of Lourenço Marques (Maputo), which the Portuguese had not visited for 30 years. Still, the project was a failure.
Following royal directions, the captaincy?s defence was another of his assignments. He promoted studies on the fortification of several points of the captaincy with the help of 2 engineers: Gregorio Taumaturgo de Brito and Antonio Manuel de Melo. He ended up not doing the planned construction work in Sao Sebastiao?s fortress, on the island, but he managed to do several others: the reconstruction of the fortress? gate and quarters, as well as the creation of an arsenal. On the coastline, he ordered the construction of Sao Jose?s stronghold with feeble materials, in order to prevent the progress of the Makua people over the Portuguese settlement of Mossuril. This was the answer to the defeat and significant loss of Portuguese lives that happened in 1753, at the hands of Chief Murimuno. He also reinforced the fortification of Quelimane?s harbour by building Nossa Senhora da Conceicao?s Fort, in Tangalane (1753-1757). This construction process required the gathering of vast resources. Ruined by the Zambezi floods, this structure did not last long. Finally, Melo e Castro initiated the construction of a fort on Ibo Island, in the archipelago of Cabo Delgado.
Still under his government, the crown extinguished the tutelage of India?s Treasury Council over Mozambique?s commerce. A royal edit dated from 29 March 1755, decreed the end of the royal monopoly of commerce, making trade available for all the subjects of the State of India. The only exception was for wakes, which were under the management of the Royal Tresury from 1756, a proposal which circulated in India before Mozambique?s autonomy. Melo e Castro himself had presented it to the crown as means to obtain revenues to finance the captaincy?s budget. As a defender of the monopoly of commerce by a company, he did not follow the royal edit and was deposed from his position by a royal decree on 29 March 1757. Still, he implemented the order that led to the end of his government and added an addendum to the customs tariff (1757), which targeted the commerce done in the areas previously under the royal monopoly. This customs tariff, which was in effect for 30 years, made a distinction between the harbours of Rios de Sena, Sofala and Inhambane, and the others in the captaincy, setting taxes of 41% over the fabrics exported to those harbours. In this tax were also included the rights of returned goods, except for slaves and gold. When his successor arrived, on 8 March 1758, Melo e Castro handed him the government, and left for Goa, during August monsoon.
After his father?s death, and due to his services, Melo e Castro succeeded his progenitor in the commandries of Santiago de Lanhoso and Santa Maria de Ribeira de Pena, from the Order of Christ, on 5 March 1755. Both commandries were situated in the district of Guimaraes.
There is the possibility of his return to the kingdom, following his request during the stay in Mozambique. However, in 1765, it was still his relative Dom Francisco Almeida Portugal who acted as his legal representative in Lisbon. Melo e Castro died (date unknown) before March 1777.
CASTRO, Francisco de Melo e, Descripção dos Rios de Sena desde a barra de Quelimane até ao Zumbo, Nova Goa, Imprensa Nacional, 1861 e Boletim do Estado da Índia, nº 72 a 82, 1861; Arquivo Histórico Ultramarino, Avulsos, Índia e Moçambique. FORJAZ, Jorge e NORONHA, José Francisco de, Os luso-descendentes da Índia Portuguesa, Lisboa, Fundação Oriente, 2003. HOPPE, Fritz, A África Oriental Portuguesa no tempo do Marquês de Pombal 1750-1777, Lisboa, Agência Geral do Ultramar, 1970. LOBATO, Alexandre, Colonização senhorial da Zambézia e outros estudos, Lisboa, Junta de Investigações do Ultramar, 1962.
Author: Eugénia Reodrigues
Translated by: Marília Pavão