CASTRO, António Manuel de Melo e (1740-1795)
Born in Goa, in 1740, António Manuel de Melo e Castro was the third son of Francisco de Melo e Castro and of Dona Maria Antónia Alves Pereira de Lacerda. He was also grandson of the 4th Count of Galveias, André de Melo e Castro. After acquiring the positions of squire and knight, he was nominated groom ? in ?waiting of the Royal Household, by royal decree, on 15 March 1749.
He was registered as a soldier in 1756, became a crown?s Lieutenant ? commander in 1759, and soon after Captain of the fleet of the State of India. In this position, he was part of the southern and northern coasts? fleet, joined in the kingdom?s ship-trains, and took part in several fights against the Marathas. He became a member of the Order of Christ on 23 April 1762, with a pension of 12 000 reis.
In 1767, after the shipwreck of Nossa Senhora da Conceição, which was under his command, and where he lost the majority of his assets, António Castro asked to be exempted from feeding his garrison. This was a benefit which had already been granted to other Captains by the Governor of India, Dom João José de Melo. However, by that same time, conflict between these two members of the Goan nobility broke out. In 1769, Melo e Castro was accused of subversion and disobedience to royal orders, and the charge sent to Lisbon. As a consequence, a Governor?s proclamation, dated from 7 November 1770, destitutes António Castro of his position as Captain, deprives him of his nobility title, disables him from royal service and exiles him to Angola, with death penalty hanging over his head if he ever left. In 1770, and before leaving for exile, he was elected Brother of Goa?s Santa Casa da Misericórdia. He arrived in Angola in 1772, and there he had a natural born son, named after him, with Isabel Ventura.
As Dona Maria I of Portugal arrived to the throne, António Castro was rehabilitated, probably due to the influence of a relative, Martinho de Melo e Castro, Secretary of State for the Navy and Overseas Affairs. It was the recognition of his ever honourable and faithful services, along with the acknowledgement of the falsehood of the accusations. A royal decree of 15 March 1779 not only restored his position as Captain and his other titles, as it awarded him his lost remunerations, and banned the proclamation, which had exiled him, from all written records.
Soon after, on 18 March 1779, he was appointed Lieutenant ? general and Governor of Rios de Sena, where he ruled between March 1780 and 2 February 1786. A subordinate to the Governor of Mozambique, he revealed great determination and zeal in showing his loyalty to the crown. He wrote a remarkable set of letters on the region, with descriptions and reform proposals, addressed to Martinho de Melo e Castro. He collected news and specimens of the natural history of the Zambezi valley to send to Lisbon. He promoted several public works in the towns of Rios de Sena, as the building of the warehouses and barracks of the Tete fort (1785). In 1784, he created a primary school in Sena. In what relates to local politics, he negotiated with mutapa (emperor) Ganyambadzi the treaties of 6 April 1781 and of June 1783, with the goal of releasing the territory of Tete and the trading routes from the pressure of the karangas. Nevertheless, this goal was never achieved.
On 16 February 1785, he was nominated Governor and Lieutenant ? general of Mozambique, and by a letter from 14 March 1785, he became a member of the State Council of India. His government, which started on 11 March 1786, was marked by reforms in taxing and commerce. Following a royal order from 14 April 1784, he instituted a treasury council (Junta da Fazenda) on 1 July 1787.
In 1786, he was responsible for implementing the Plan for the Regulation of Commerce from Goa to Mozambique (Plano e Regulação do Comércio de Goa para Moçambique), elaborated by the Governor of India, Dom Frederico Guilherme de Sousa. With the purpose of developing commerce, this programme stipulated the reduction of custom rights and direct links between the ports of both territories. Such stipulations meant the end of monopoly for the merchants of the Island of Mozambique, who dominated the trade with the subsidiary ports. The new directives deprived them of their revenues as intermediaries and ship owners. In 1787, Melo e Castro agreed to create a custom house in Ibo, in the Quirimbas Islands.
The reform of custom tariffs, ordered by an instruction dated from 19 April 1785 and included in the Goa Plan, predicted the reduction of rights paid in Mozambique, to face British and French competition. Due to the rising opposition in the captaincy, including from the Governor himself, in the new tariffs from 15 June 1787, the decrease was not severe. On the contrary, there was a larger uniformity in taxing, as the high export taxes for Rios de Sena were drawn closer to the ones over goods sent to other ports of the captaincy.
In view of the growth of slave trade by the French, especially to the islands of France and Bourbon, the crown took measures to restructure the business and add new custom revenues. On 19 April 1785, the Secretary of State instructed the Governor to authorize and regulate the activity of the French, which until then had been illegal. Melo e Castro should insinuate that it had been his initiative, keeping the royal orders secret. On 20 June 1787, but to be applied fully in 1789, the conditions for the French trade were set: exclusivity of the Port of the Island of Mozambique, limits to the export of slaves, and custom rights twice the value of the ones charged to Portuguese traders.
Set in developing commercial cultures in the Zambezi valley, and requiring manpower for that, Melo e Castro published a proclamation, dated from 5 October 1791 and to be applied in the following year, which forbade the departure of slaves through the port of Quelimane. Nonetheless, slave trade continued by means of authorizations granted to traders, which were issued by the Governor himself and in a continuous process by its successors.
In an attempt to keep European competitors away, Melo e Castro built a prison (1787 ? 1789) in the bay of Lourenço Marques (today?s Maputo), as a result of initiatives that had begun in 1782. He also promoted several other public works, such as the conclusion of the new customhouse in the Island of Mozambique (1791), the construction of a customhouse and of São João?s Fort (1791) in Ibo Island, the final works of the church dedicated to Nossa Senhora do Livramento (1787), and the building of a trading post in stone at Quelimane. During his government, also took place the ?philosophical journeys? to Rios de Sena, led by naturalist Manuel Galvão da Silva (1786 ? 1788).
Having ruled until 19 March 1793, António de Melo e Castro died in São Salvador da Baía (Brazil), on 24 November 1795, when travelling to Lisbon. Through a will written in that same city, on 12 October 1795, he recognised his natural born son and made him his heir.
Arquivo Histórico Ultramarino, Avulsos, Índia e Moçambique; Biblioteca Nacional, Reservados, Fundo Geral. FORJAZ, Jorge e NORONHA, José Francisco de, Os luso-descendentes da Índia Portuguesa, Lisboa, Fundação Oriente, 2003. LOBATO, Alexandre, História do presídio de Lourenço Marques, Lisboa, JIU, 1960. RODRIGUES, Eugénia, Portugueses e Africanos nos Rios de Sena. Os Prazos da Coroa nos Séculos XVII e XVIII, Dissertação de Doutoramento em História, Universidade Nova de Lisboa, 2002.