MENESES, António de Sousa
25th governor-general of Brazil.
António de Sousa Meneses was the son of Francisco de Sousa Meneses (chief vine master to the king, chief alcaide of Guarda and Knight Commander of Bornes in the Order of Christ) and of his wife, Dona Antónia de Noronha.
In 1634, he served in a fleet which waited for the ships returning from India and, in 1635, he served in Bahia as infantry captain. His return to the Kingdom was followed by a trip back to Brazil, in the armada of the Count of Torre, which explains why he participated in the naval engagement which the latter had with the Dutch.
When he lost an arm in Pernambuco he replaced it by a silver one, having been thenceforth known as the Silver Arm (Braço de Prata).
Dom João IV appointed him captain of an infantry regiment for the district of Entre Douro e Minho. Later, in 1642, he rose to district governor of Estremoz and of Elvas. In 1645, he was appointed district governor of Olivença. Ten years later, he joined the armada that was to take the Viceroy Count of Sarzedas to India, as commodore of the fleet. In 1658 he was appointed governor of Campo Maior.
Finally, on 18 March, 1682, came his nomination as governor-general of Brasil, where he lived until 1684.
The governor was a friend of Francisco Teles de Menezes who had been sent to Lisbon under arrest during the rule of the Count of Óbidos, Dom Vasco Mascarenhas, but who came back to Brazil as chief alcaide of Bahia. The friendship links with the governor enabled Francisco Teles de Meneses to take revenge on his enemies. He was behind António de Sousa Meneses?s decision to resign some office holders for the benefit of relatives and followers.
Francisco Teles de Meneses ended being murdered in an ambush set by António de Brito, the brother of the former Customs House?s superintendent, André de Brito e Castro, who had been a target of the governor?s (and his ally?s) despotism.
António de Sousa Meneses, unable to accept his friend?s death, sent the Secretary of State, Bernardo Viera Ravasco, Father António Vieira?s brother, to prison.
During his rule an epidemic of gall-bladders caused a shortening of labourers and, as a consequence, of goods.
The several complaints against the governor?s deeds forced the King to replace him in the government of Brazil.
According to Varnhagen, the governor was remembered as a valiant and rude soldier, capable of any arbitrariness. He was also a preferential target in the local satirical poetry of the time, namely in the verses of Gregório de Matos.
CAMPO BELO, Conde de, Governadores Gerais e Vice-Reis do Brasil, Lisboa, Agência Geral das Colónias, 1935. Nova história da expansão portuguesa, dir. Joel Serrão e A. H. Oliveira Marques, vol. VII, O império Luso- Brasileiro: 1620-1750, coord. de Fréderic Mauro, Lisboa, Estampa, 1991. VARNHAGEN, Francisco Adolfo de, História Geral do Brasil: antes da sua separação e independência de Portugal, São Paulo, Ed. Melhoramentos, 4ªed., 1948.
Author: Rita Domingues
Translated by: Leonor Sampaio da Silva