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Religious life in the colonial trenches: the role of the Pai dos Christaos in seventeenth century Portuguese India, c. 1640-1683.

Christians and Spices

When Vasco da Gama and his crew reached the pepper-rich Malabar coast of India in May 1498, they were confronted by two Castilian speaking Muslims from Tunis who demanded to know why they had come. They answered: "vimos buscar christaos e especiaria". (1) From that time on, the twin motivation of economic gain and the desire to spread Christianity to the infidels and gentios of Asia was at the heart of the Portuguese presence in the Indian Ocean basin. (2) Initially, the quest for "spices" had dominated over the quest for souls, as Goa became the first bishopric in Asia only in 1534. By 1540 there were perhaps 100 priests in Goa, but these Franciscans, Dominicans and others were often ignorant of native languages "and most interested in their trade and their concubines"; and thus hardly effective agents for a "new" religion on a largely hostile continent of Hindus and Muslims. (3) This lack of missionary zeal had been matched by flexibility in dealing with Hindu religious practices. In seeking allies against Islam, it was logical for the Portuguese to give the Indians every opportunity to demonstrate that they were practicing the religion of some strange or lapsed Christian sect. Vasco da Gama, after viewing the temples and icons of Malabar for three months was still willing to consider the inhabitants Christian. (4)

This flexibility in dogma came to an abrupt end in the 1540's with the arrival of the zealousness of the Counter-Reformation Church and its talented shock troops: the Jesuits. Over the next century, an aggressive campaign of proselytizing the Hindu population took place. The siren call for this new policy came in 1540 when all Hindu temples on the island of Goa were destroyed; an act which was soon thereafter repeated in the surrounding "Old Conquests" of Bardes (1573) and Salcete (1584-7). In 1542, the great Jesuit Francisco Xavier reached India and gave a notable impetus to these efforts, making sizable conversions in India, Ceylon, Japan, Melaka, and Indonesia. To complement this work, Xavier wrote to king D. Joao III in May 1545 calling for the establishment of the Inquisition in Goa. (5) In 1560, the Regent Cardinal Henrique dispatched Aleixo Diaz Falcao with orders to establish the Holy Office in Portugal's Asian empire. The final step in entrenching this Counter-Reformation mentalite in the Estado da India came with the work of the first Ecclesiastical Council celebrated at Goa in 1567. The Council declared that all religions other than the orthodox Catholic faith as defined by the Council of Trent were "intrinsically wrong and harmful in themselves"; acknowledged that the Portuguese Crown had the "inescapable duty of spreading the faith and should use the secular power of the church to do so"; and assured that conversions "must not be made by force, nor threats of force", since no one came to Christ by faith "unless he is drawn by the Heavenly Father with voluntary love and prevenient grace". (6)

By the early seventeenth century, the Jesuits, Dominicans, Franciscans, Augustinians were all well entrenched ecclesiastically, financially and socially throughout the possessions of the Estado da India. Goa had at least 7 parish churches with another 60 or so scattered throughout the tropical countryside of the old conquest. The first major Christian convent of Santa Monica (1606-27) had over 100 nuns. The College of St. Paul's was the largest Jesuit educational institution in Asia with "70 religious and in theory 2000 students". The most impressive shrine to Christendom in Goa was the Se or Cathedral of St. Catherine, begun in 1562 and only completed in 1652 with a length of nearly 250 feet. Built on a plinth of local laterite this Portuguese-Gothic style masterwork has eight chapels, six altars in the transept, as well as a main altar dedicated to St. Catherine. (7) And what was the cost of spreading the Catholic Faith in Asia? According to Antonio Bocarro's Livro das plantas de todas as fortalezas (1635) the Crown was responsible for providing salaries and provisions for nearly 900 religiosos in Goa alone by that time. This yearly financial outlay of c. 60,000 xerafns was significant especially when these religious orders frequently utilized such subsidies, as well as their favored position in the Asian hierarchy, to expand their own property holdings in the Estado. (8)

The period c. 1540-1640 also witnessed the enactment of strict antiHindi laws in the campaign toward achieving religious conformity within the Estado. These laws can be broadly defined in two functional groups:


those that sought to make continued adherence to Hindu religious practices impossible within Portuguese held territory and those that offered implicit incentives to convert to the Catholic faith. (9) In the wake of the destruction of Hindu temples in Goa, the Viceroys D. Constantino de Braganza and D. Francisco Coutinho issued orders in 1560 and 1563 banishing large numbers of Brahmins. In February 1575, Governor Antonio Moniz Barreto mandated that if any of these Brahmins made an "unauthorized entry" into the Estado, their estates would be confiscated and utilized to provide clothing for the New Christians. In March 1613, Viceroy D. Hieronimo de Azevedo issued an order that no "infidel" would be able to marry at times of the year prohibited by the Church. At other times they would be able to do so only outside of their native villages and according to the laws of the Concilio Provincial under the pain of a 1000 xerafins fine, one-third paid to the accuser and two-thirds to cover the expenses of the High Court. In January 1620 this policy to discourage Hindu marriages was made even more strident: "As from the date of publication of this order, no Hindu, of whatever nationality or status he may be, can or shall perform marriages in this city of Goa, nor the islands or adjacent territories of His Majesty, under pain of a fine of 1000 xerafins." (10)

Throughout this long campaign, the Portuguese sought to decapitate the rival indigenous religion by banning Hindu priests from Goa. One of the key provisions of a December 1567 law by D Sebastiao stated that in his dominions "there should not exist any Muslim kajis or Hindu preachers, Joshis, Joguis, Sorcerers, Curous, of temples or any other person who held a religious office among the Hindus or were the heads or supporters of the religions of the Hindus". Those who failed to depart would be held as captives for service at the Ribeira, the royal dockyards of Goa along the Mandovi River. This 1567 law inter alia also mandated that Hindus who were resident in Goa and certain other cities of the Estado should be forced to attend the preaching of Catholic dogma by a priest especially selected for that duty. (11) As early as 1585, the third Concilio Provincial recommended that Hindus should be forbidden to wear the sacred thread or to initiate their sons into this practice. Other decrees toward discouraging the practice of Hinduism were economic in nature. A June 1557 law by the Governor Francisco Barreto declared: "no officials of mine, controllers of revenues, commissioners of customs, treasurers, receivers of customs, accountants, lessees of my customs or other revenues, judges, scriveners, and notaries and other officials of revenue and justice should utilize the services in any way whatsoever of any Brahmin or other infidel." Orders of 1573 and 1634 also sought to deprive the Hindus of Salcete and Bardez of political dominance over the traditional gauncares or "village communities" in those areas and to prevent those who migrated to neighboring territories to escape religious persecution from receiving their annual share of the income of the gauncares, the jono. (12)

The successes of this conversion campaign, however, were limited. By 1600, there were perhaps 175,000 Christians in India out of a total population of some 140 million. Of this number, perhaps 100,000 "were the low-caste fishers and pearl divers of the Manar coast", where Xavier and the later Jesuits had been so successful. In Goa itself including the surrounding "Old Conquests", there were perhaps 50,000 Christians or 25 per cent of a population of c. 200,000 in 1600. Nevertheless, the harsh measures outlined above did ensure that nearly two-thirds of the population in the city of Goa itself was Christian. (13) The resiliency of the indigenous religion can be attributed to the strong opposition of the Hindus to this foreign faith; and the ease with which indigenous religious temples and icons could be relocated to the lands of the neighboring Reis Vizinhos like the king of Bijapur. Additionally, the local business acumen and capital of Hindu merchants in Goa and elsewhere also tempered the de jure zealousness of the campaign. It was inevitable that a de facto tolerance and intermingling occurred from the outset between the two religions. Many Viceroys and other secular officials, as well as Archbishops and clerics, for example, utilized Hindu doctors. Nevertheless, this campaign ensured that the Religiosos continued to play a vital role in the social, economic, cultural, and political life in the Estado far out of proportion to their actual numbers. (14)

The "Father of the Christians'"

In many ways, spearheading this assault on the Hindu religion in Goa was the Pai dos Christaos or "Father of the Christians", an office unique to Portugal's Asian empire. This appointed official, almost always a cleric, was charged with the overall welfare of the converts in Goa and the other main fortresses of Portuguese Asia including Bacaim (Bassein), Chaul, Cochin, Melaka and Macau. (15) According to the French adventurer Francois Pyrard who visited Goa early in the seventeenth century: "There [was] another house ... called Cathecumenos and is for catechizing and teaching the new Christians; they are fed and supplied with clothing there, until such time as they are instructed and baptized: over these the Father of the Christians has charge, as over the whole house." (16) The Pai dos Christaos also monitored infractions of the plethora of anti-Hindu laws, he kept records on the times and dates of the main indigenous festivals, and noted and punished those who attended; he sought to prevent pilgrimages to neighboring temples; and to prevent the celebration of Hindu marriages. He also played a notable role in recommending local Christian converts for government positions. Among all of the religiosos operating in the Estado da India, this cleric truly operated "in the trenches" of the religious struggle that the Portuguese waged over centuries in the quest for souls in Asia. (17)

Perhaps the most controversial and acrimonious duty of the Father of the Christians related to enforcement of a March 1559 decree of D. Sebastiao on the forcible conversion of Hindu orphans. According to this decree, children of Hindus in Goa, who were left "without father, mother, grandfather, grandmother or other ascendant lineals and are not of an age at which they can have understanding and judgment, as soon as the last of such relatives is dead", were to be put in the care of the Judge of Orphans and handed over to the Jesuit College of St. Paul, "for being baptized, educated and indoctrinated", in the Catholic faith. The Pai dos Christaos was charged with "ferreting out Hindu orphans if necessary by force", and then turning them over to the Judge of Orfaos and eventually the College of St. Paul. As time went on, interpretation of this 1559 law became increasingly flexible, causing much controversy within the Estado. Besides the religious affront inherent in this law, there were various cases where Hindu children were taken and forcibly converted after the death of their father alone with the parent's property being confiscated in the process. As a result, increasing numbers of Hindu merchants decided to protest this measure by seeking asylum in the lands of the Reis Vizinhos instead of risking the harsh religious and financial penalties inflicted with enforcement of this law. (18) A second important duty of the Father of the Christians related to recording the manumission of slaves in Goa based on their conversion to the Catholic faith. Manumission for conversion had been promised as early as a royal decree of 4 April 1533, reconfirmed by the Viceroy D. Constantino de Braganza in 1558. The First Ecclesiastical Council of 1567 in its 16th Decree prohibited non-Christians from possessing Christian slaves, while a 1593 decree by the Viceroy Mathias de Albuquerque formally declared that the slaves of "infidels" who converted would be freed without compensation for their owners. (19)

"God vs. Mammon" in an Age of Reform

By the 1660's, the Braganza dynasty confronted a "law of diminishing returns" with respect to the religiosos in the Estado da India. Conversions lagged, while Crown expenditures on supporting the spate of religious orders remained high. Moreover, the Archbishop of Goa and the Inquisitor-General exerted significant political power, at times frustrating Crown initiatives at reform due largely to the realities inherent in the Goan jingle: Vice-rei va, vice-rei vem, Padre Paulista sempre tem. (20) More damaging to the Crown's interest was the continuing zealousness of the Pai dos Christaos, as well as abuse of existing anti-Hindu laws, which served to alienate many indigenous Hindu and Jain families. These families frequently sought relief by leaving Portuguese-held territories. As the Viceroy Antonio de Mello de Castro wroten in January 1666: "Among the great miseries that have existed for many years in this State of India, none is of less weight than the multitude of Religiosos that there are in it, because they are rich, they are making themselves Masters of everything, and those that are poor, sustain themselves with the alms of those that are even poorer than themselves." (21) The most glaring example of such abuses remained the taking and forcible conversion of Hindu orphans. (22)

A fundamental shift in Crown policy to balance sound financial and religious policy in the Estado da India took place in the seventeenth century following the entrance of significant European competition not only in economic matters, but in religious matters as well. From c. 1510-1610, the Portuguese Crown had the luxury of recognizing that Hindu and Jain merchants who abandoned the Estado could only take their fazendas to the lands of the Reis Vizinhos, most notably those of the Mughal emperor or the king of Bijapur. After 1600 and the arrival of the Dutch, English, and French into the Indian Ocean trade in force, however, this luxury vanished (23). Such merchants henceforth took their capital, business acumen, and networks to coastal enclaves controlled by Portugal's European competitors, decidedly another matter in the quest to dominate the rich Asian trade. As time went on, and especially after 1663, the Crown was increasingly forced to consider a reformation of traditional religious excesses which had cost the Estado dearly in terms of indigenous population and capital. (24) It is in this climate that one should consider the role and importance of the Pai dos Christaos.

Antonio de Mello de Castro (1662-6) believed that the overweening economic, social, and intellectual power of the religiosos was one of the primary obstacles the Crown faced in its quest to rehabilitate what remained of the Estado after the grievous losses of 1640-63 to the Dutch. (25) Ironically his successor as Viceroy, Joao Nunes da Cunha, the first count of Sao Vicente, was the greatest friend the religiosos would find in that office during the late seventeenth century. Sao Vicente, who reached Goa in September 1666, devoted most of his energies for the next two years waging a religious crusade against the Omani Arabs near the Straits of Hormuz and seeking to further entrench the power of the religiosos into the fabric of the Asian empire. This goal was admirably reflected in letters to the Crown of January 1667. In them, he staunchly defended the right of the Jesuits to involve themselves in political affairs in the empire, arguing that it was always "convenient" to have these talented Padres involved in some administrative capacity, since in all places where they were not, administrative thefts were notable. The Viceroy also complained about the great corruption of the Governors of Mozambique, who despite the constant complaints of the Jesuits, had enriched themselves at the expense of the povo. For their trouble, the clerics had been "martyred" and "men without God, and without Faith, and with money were those who triumphed!" (26) Sao Vicente also sought to increase the powers of the Pai dos Christaos by extending his jurisdiction further into the surrounding countryside. In the midst of this twin campaign on behalf of the religious orders, the Viceroy died in November 1668. (27)

Reforms of the 1670s

Events, meanwhile, were transpiring in Lisbon that would help fundamentally alter the nature of church-state relations in the Asian empire. The palace coup of late 1667 which deposed D. Afonso VI and installed the king's brother D. Pedro as Prince Regent had far reaching consequences in defining the exact role of the religiosos in the imperial structure of absolutist Portugal. This process began with D. Pedro's first Viceroy, Luis de Mendonca Furtado (1671-7), and culminated with the work of his immediate successors: D. Pedro de Almeida (1677-8) and Antonio Paes de Sande (1678-81). Mendonca Furtado's May 1671 arrival in Goa signaled a notable escalation in the campaign to extend royal authority over the religiosos, to curb the most glaring abuses of the Inquisition, the Father of the Christians, and the religious orders, and to resolve the inherent trade-off of economic advancement vis-a-vis religious zealotry in favor of the former.

Mendonca Furtado soon confronted the most damaging problem relating to the religiosos: the taking and forcible conversion of Hindu "orphans" in which the Pai dos Christaos played a prominent role. In a letter of June 1671, the new Viceroy received greetings from 35 of the leading gentio merchants of Bacaim (Bassein). These merchants then listed problems with the rendas (tax-farms) and alfandegas (customs revenues) in the rich Portuguese "Province of the North" due to the "oppression that we are presently enduring". Foremost among these abuses was the taking of Hindu orphans in violation of "ancient laws of the Kings of Portugal", which had permitted such actions only when both parents and grandparents were dead. Instead, the religiosos in the North and elsewhere had over time come to define "orphan" in an extremely loose fashion when merely the father had died, but child still had a mother, grandparents, and great-grandparents alive. Because of this abuse, many indigenous merchants had fled to the lands of the neighboring kings. Many of these Hindus and Jains had also gone to the burgeoning English enclave of Bombay, attracted by the beacon of de facto "freedom of religion". This exodus to Bombay was of "such rigor" that this port, "whose tobacco renda in other times was 3000 pardaos per year, today yields to the English more than 13,000, and it may soon reach 24,000, after yielding in our time less than 3,000, and that port is improving itself every day for merchants, since they are safe from the assaults we suffer". The letter concluded by asking that Mendonca Furtado do his utmost to remedy such abuses by ensuring that the original decrees on this matter were henceforth observed. (28)

Even before Mendonca Furtado received this petition, D. Pedro had begun to debate the question of the proper role of the religiosos in a rehabilitated Estado. As early as March 1671, the Prince Regent reconsidered the rigorous campaign that Sao Vicente had authorized in Bardez and the Province of the North in search of new converts. His decrees in favor of Christianity and the extension of the territory under the jurisdiction of the Pai dos Christaos had already resulted in additional complaints about the taking and forced conversions of Hindu orphans. The Prince Regent instructed Mendonca Furtado to "execute the orders of the Viceroys, your predecessors", in matters of spreading Christianity but, unlike Sao Vicente, to do so using "the most suave methods possible", to avoid alienating the indigenous subjects of the Estado. Should problems arise, the Prince was to be * informed immediately. Moreover, under no circumstances should the new Viceroy seek to make "converts by force, if they are not voluntarily, and above all do not take children from Hindu parents by force in order to baptize them, only orphaned children in the form that had traditionally been observed in this State, conforming to the extant orders". (29)


In October 1671, Mendonca Furtado championed the calls to curb the abuses of the religiosos out of economic considerations: "I am obliged by the position I hold to tell Your Majesty the truth, and this is that the order of the Count of Sao Vicente relating to the land holders in the countryside presenting certification to the Pai dos Christaos has been extremely damaging to the Service of Your Majesty." Sao Vicente's decrees in favor of the faith and the extension of the powers of the Pai dos Christaos had caused great damage to the royal rendas, especially harmful to the interest of the State was the increased number of "orphans" that had been taken "in violation of the ancient laws of your royal predecessors". Echoing the language of the petition from Bassein, the Viceroy pointed out that this practice had forced the indigenous merchants of the Estado "to live under oppression without Reason", and forced many of them to emigrate to the lands of the Reis Vizinhos and especially to Bombay, dramatically increasing the trade of that port and the level of the tobacco renda there. (30)

In August 1672, Mendonca Furtado elaborated on the great damage being done to the economic interest of the Estado by this practice. After complaining of the "insolent" and vexing behavior of the English officials in Bombay, the Viceroy admitted that a good deal of the credit "for making that island a great and opulent city", resided in the practice of allowing a freedom of conscience in the enclave. He warned that unless drastic measures were soon taken, the rendas generated in the English settlement would soon outstrip those produced in the Province of the North. "If Your Majesty does not order a prompt and appropriate remedy to this great evil, all the rendas that Your Majesty possesses there will soon be extinguished, and the trade [and prosperity] of the said pracas will be reduced to great poverty." (31)

Nevertheless, as the Viceroy admitted in January 1674, reform was bound to be complicated. He had initially broached the issue with the Goa Council of State in December 1673. This body, usually comprised of several leading noblemen along with the Archbishop of Goa and the Inquisitor-General, had determined that the issue should be resolved by the letrados in Portugal in consultation with the religiosos in Goa. Mendonca Furtado had also gauged the response of the religious community to reform by calling the leading Franciscans and Augustinians together and asking their views on a number of issues including whether a Hindu child who had simply lost his father could be considered an "orphan". To his chagrin, both Francisco de Barcelor, the comissario-geral of the Franciscans and Augusto da Piedade, the Provincal of the Augustinians, indicated that legal precedents in Portugal and ecclesiastical precedents in the Estado indeed supported such a stance. Since the office of Archbishop was then vacant, the Viceroy had also polled the Inquisitor-geral to very little result. (32) Francisco Delgado e Matos, the Inquisitor general had little interest in even responding to such requests from the secular authorities in Goa. "This minister is so absolute in his replies that even the Viceroys of Your Majesty are not treated with the respect that is due to them." (33) Delgado e Matos maintained that his officers and other religiosos were merely operating according to the long-standing orders of the Crown. (34)

The Junta of 1677-1678

In late 1676, D Pedro received a document from the povo gentio of Goa which finally convinced him to address the crucial issue of the Hindu orphans. This formal petition from the "officials, nobles, and others of the Brahmanic Nation assisting in that City and its environs ... complain[ed] against the Pai dos Christaos taking from the possession of their mothers, children orphaned by their father together with the property that his death bestows upon them, in order to oblige them by force to receive the baptism water against formal laws and provisions that defends them". In the Prince Regent's words, this matter was of "such importance" that he ordered a formal Junta to be held to resolve the matter. This grand meeting would include the opinions of the newly arrived Archbishop Primaz, D. Antonio Brandao, the Inquisitor general Francisco Delgado de Matos, the Chancellor Francisco Cabral d'Almeida, Antonio Paes de Sande (recently appointed Vedor da Fazenda) with "three or four" other leading citizens, along with Manuel Themudo, the Pai dos Christaos, the Procurador of the Crown, and significantly the procurador of the povo gentilico of Goa. This assemblage would examine all the relevant documentation and resolve the matter, "by the means that seem most convenient to pacify and quiet the indigenous Hindu population". The Prince Regent stated that he would immediately endorse their resolutions, even if one or two dissenting votes were cast. (35)

This Junta met initially in the Viceroy's palace on 17 December 1677, two months after D. Pedro de Almeida assumed office. After a discussion of the issues and an examination of the relevant documentation, there was nearly unanimous support for reaffirming D. Sebastiao's original decree of 23 March 1559. (36) This order specified that Hindu children "left without father, mother, grandfather, grandmother or other ascendant lineals and are not of an age at which they can have understanding and judgment" were to be taken by the Pai dos Christaos and handed over to the Jesuit College of St. Paul. (37) This decree had subsequently been endorsed by the Viceroy D. Antao de Noronha in 1564, the Governor Antonio Moniz Barrete in 1575, and in other alvaras of 1582 and 1625. Nevertheless, what had been intended as a socio-religious policy to assist children in need and perhaps to cut down on vagrancy and needless suffering had in fact been transformed into an instrument of religious zealotry and economic oppression by the ecclesiastical community in Goa and the Province of the North. Much to their credit, and reflecting the shifting priorities of religious vis-a-vis economic considerations among the hierarchy in both Lisbon and Goa, the men present in the Viceroy's palace on that day sought to reaffirm the initial intent of D. Sebastiao's decree and end the damaging exodus of Hindu merchants and their capital from the Estado. (38)

The sole dissenting vote was, not surprisingly, cast by the Inquisitor general D. Francisco Delgado de Matos, who argued that D. Sebastiao's decree was excessive in its criteria and should be amended to conform to legal precedents in Portugal. Delgado de Matos pointed out that Portuguese law defined orphan as "everyone that does not have a father", and that this definition was utilized in Portugal to ensure "the education of minors, and the security of their temporal possessions". The head of the powerful Goa Inquisition noted: "I do not find any justification why one would not adopt these same practices to Hindu orphans, in order to secure their salvation, by means of the sacrament of baptism, especially since this matter is of such importance." It is significant that in addressing such apparent logic those in the majority that day including the Viceroy D. Pedro de Almeida cited primarily economic reasons for justifying and reaffirming the criteria in the 1559 decree and recognizing the practical differences in adapting Portuguese law to the imperio. (39)

Religious zealotry did not rest after this initial vote. After all, longstanding religious and financial vested interests were at stake, and those opposed to reform sought to undermine it by any possible means. The Jesuit Manoel Themudo who was then serving as the Pai dos Christaos for example wrote a scathing critique in January 1678 indicting the entire reform movement, especially those who were seeking to limit what had become his de facto powers in dealing with gentio orphans.


"As the Hindus are the declared enemies of our Holy Catholic Faith, and as such seek to undermine, and diminish it by every available means that they can." Themudo warned the Crown to give little credence to what was contained in the petition of 1676 and the other letters of complaint that had reached Lisbon. Spending huge amounts of capital, presumably to influence the secular authorities, and "defaming the ministers of Christianity", were among the favored methods of these rich gentios in their unholy quest to undermine the sacred work of spreading the faith. Themudo did not "deny" that the 1559 decree specified that orphans should be defined as those Hindu children who had lost their father, mother, and grandparents. The Pai dos Christaos nonetheless argued that this criteria had proven wholly inadequate to meet the daunting challenge of converting these "enemies" of Christianity and a more rigorous definition, and implicitly a more potent weapon, had been justified. (40)

After allowing sufficient time for all interested parties to review both the decisions of December 1677 as well as the complaints of Themudo, D. Pedro de Almeida reconvened the Junta on 12 January 1678 in order to reach a final resolution on the matter. At this meeting, the Jesuit Pedro Teixeira argued that the secular Prince "has the power to promulgate laws that appear to him convenient to the greater good of his vassals, and the augmentation of his temporal states, as long as the said laws are not contrary to divine or natural law". In Teixeira's view, the Hindus of the Estado were "still the vassals of the Christian Princes", and not therefore "subjects of the Church". Moreover, D. Sebastiao's original law defining orphans as those children who had lost their mothers, fathers, and grandparents was "not against divine law, nor natural law", and therefore legitimate. D. Pedro de Almeida, Brandao, Paes de Sande, and all the others present reconfirmed their initial votes, including the Inquisitor Delgado de Matos who once again cast the lone dissenting vote. The assento taken at this final meeting of the Junta denounced the recent abuses relating to the liberal interpretation of the term orphan, abuses which had had a demonstrable economic as well as social impact on the fortunes of the Estado during the most crucial period in its history. The panel also resolved to pass a new law reiterating the strict provisions of the 1559 decree which would serve as the basis for all future religious activities involving the Pai dos Christaos and Hindu orphans. (41)

Manumission of Slaves in the 1680s

While Themudo's powers as Pai dos Christaos may have been curtailed as a result of the Junta of 1677-8, he continued to play a notable role in the day to day functions of the empire including the manumission of convert slaves. A royal decree by D. Joao III in 1533 and later provisions had granted freedom to slaves who converted. The first Provincial Council of 1567 reiterated the main points of this decree, adding that slaves of "infidels" who converted would be freed without compensation. The Father of the Christians, as the guardian of new converts, frequently ordered the forcible removal of such converted slaves from Muslim and Hindu households on the grounds that the allure of renouncing the Catholic faith would more easily occur in such circumstances. Overall, while Hindus and Muslims therefore lost their slaves upon conversion, Christian owners frequently retained them. There were, however, some restrictions on Christian owners. Above all, they could only sell Christian slaves to another Christian. At the famed slave auctions on the Rua Direita in Goa, Christian slaves were only sold to co-religionists. Escaped slaves from neighboring kingdoms like Bijapur also found a haven in Goa once they converted. Slaves who wished to convert were first examined for several days by the Father of Christians and other clerics who sought to determine the slaves' motivation, devotion, and that the decision was being made freely. At that point, formal instruction of catechism began. (42)

Overall, the history of slavery in Goa during the seventeenth century remains to be written. (43) The traditional traveler's accounts of Linschoten, Pyrard, Carre, Bernier, and others contain a wealth of anecdotal evidence on the number of slaves in Goa as well as on their social and economic importance. As Francois Pyrard noted in 1608:
   as for the slaves of Goa, their number is infinite; they are of all
   the Indian nations, and a very great traffic is done in them. They
   are exported to Portugal, and to all places under the Portuguese
   dominion. The Portuguese carry off the children, seducing them by
   fair speeches, and leading them away and hiding them, both little
   and big, and as many as they can, yea, even though they be the
   children of friendly races, and though there be a treaty of peace
   whereby they are prohibited from taking them for slaves; for all
   that, they cease not to kidnap them secretly and to sell them.

Bocarro offered some details on the number of slaves in the mid-seventeenth century Estado.
   The households that exist within the limits of the city of Goa
   total 3000 excluding the convents, among them, 800 belong to
   Portuguese casados, some of these have 2 slaves who may bear arms,
   but there are many who have more, and others who have none, most of
   these [slaves] are African and from other Indian kingdoms, and
   among these each of the said casados has eight servants, including
   useless slaves, and little ones called bichos and slaves or blacks,
   admitting that while there are many who do not have the said 8
   servants in all there are many who have 20 and even more.

In addition, the 2,500 households of married "black Christians" possessed another 3,000-4,000 slaves. (44) Codex 860 at the Historical Archive of Goa contains cartas de alforria or letters of manumission for the period 16821759. It is a vital document for examining the history of slavery in Portuguese India and the role of the Father of Christians within the nexus of this institution. The Codex contains the following information on the slaves who received manumission: both Hindu and Christian name, age, sex, and when relevant purchase terms and terms of service. Moreover, the slave owner's name, sex, and place of residence in Goa are generally provided. The Codex contains information on 760 slaves who received manumission between 1682 and 1699. The vast majority of these manumissions, 684 out of 760 or 90 per cent, in fact took place in just four months from September through December 1682. Of the 760 slaves who received manumission during the last two decades of the seventeenth century, 493 were female and 262 were male. Females, therefore, constituted 65.3 per cent of those who received manumission from their owners, while males constituted 34.7 per cent of the total. The ages of the females ranged from 2-60 years, with an average age of 19.6 years. For the males, the ages ranged from 1-45 years, with an average age of 15.5 years. The median age for all the manumitted slaves was 16 years old.


For comparative purposes, we can consider the figures on 1,160 slaves in Brazil manumitted in 1,015 cartas de alforria in Salvador de Bahia covering the years 1684-1745 compiled by Stuart Schwartz. (45) The population of Bahia during this period was c. 30,000-40,000 with approximately 50 per cent slaves. Based on the traditional figures of Philip Curtin and others, the sex ratio in the Atlantic slave trade remained fairly constant at 2:1 favoring males over females. (46) In Brazil, of course, the heavy labor of the sugar plantation system ensured that males dominated numerically over females. Therefore for Schwartz, "the most striking pattern to emerge from the colonial manumission records is a constant 2 : 1 ratio of female to male libertos (freed slaves)". Nevertheless, in the New World context, this 2: 1 pattern also held true in seventeenth century Lima and Mexico City as well. (47) In Goa, this general trend for manumission was replicated in the late seventeenth century with a 1.92:1 ratio of female to male.

At the same time, in the socio-economic context of Portuguese Asia, this manumission gender ratio is not nearly as striking since the overall sex ratio between slaves was probably much more equitable in Goa than in Brazil, above all the heavy labor demands of the plantations were not present in India. In Goa, male slaves performed menial or construction jobs in the city, especially carrying the vital commodity of drinking water from the Bangany spring to their households. Others carried the ubiquitous palanquins and parasols which were employed by the Portuguese elite. Female slaves usually worked in the household attending their needs of their female owners and male owners, and the more attractive ones sold handmade stitch work and homemade pickles and relishes in the streets, or worked as prostitutes for their owners. (48) Slaves in Goa were of course subjected to cruel treatment if they displeased their owners, some in fact were killed for relatively minor transgressions. It was also difficult for slaves to escape from the walled island city with carefully guarded passes to the mainland and an official slave-retriever in the employ of the city. (49)

As for the question of age and manumission, the following table compares the numbers for Bahia and Goa:
Table 1

Age of Slaves Receiving Manumission, Bahia
and Goa, c. 1682-1745 (50)

               Number:    Number:
Age: Bahia      Bahia       Goa      % Bahia    % Goa

0-5               70.0       11.0        9.2     1.45
6-13             272.0      203.0       35.6    26.80
14-45            399.0      453.0       52.3    59.80
45 and over       22.0        7.0        2.9     0.92
Unknown          397.0       83.0
Total          1,160.0      757.0

Overall, therefore, we find a notable correlation between the manumission numbers for Portuguese India and Brazil during this period. At the same time, the manumission of more than 750 slaves in less than 2 years' time constituted by any criteria a very significant social, economic, and demographic development for the colony. It is still not entirely clear why such a significant number of slaves were indeed manumitted during this relatively short period. One possible explanation may relate to the strong sentiments that the Jesuit Father Manuel Themudo had earlier enunciated during the 1678 Junta on the question of the forcible conversion of Hindu orphans. From his letters, it is clear that this aggressive Father of the Christians was determined to do everything he could to ensure a regular flow of converts into the Catholic religion; after all he was ostensibly at war with the Hindus in Goa, the "declared enemies of our Holy Catholic Faith". When the longstanding supply of young converts ensured by abuses relating to D. Sebastiao's 1559 law was shut off in the late 1670s, thus depriving Themudo of social, economic, and intellectual prestige, the strident Father of the Christians, utilizing his influence and connections in the community, may have instead turned to the new supply of erstwhile Hindus which resulted from and increased level of manumission based on conversion to the Holy Catholic faith. (51)

It is clear, therefore, that as late as the 1680s, the quest for religious conversion remained a vital component of the imperial structure of Portuguese Asia. Reforming Viceroys including the first count of Lavradio may have succeeded in tempering many of the religious abuses of the mid-seventeenth century in order to compete economically with Portugal's European rivals in the trade. But the quest for both "Christians and Spices" continued. In this modified campaign of faith, no official, either spiritual or lay, exerted more power and significance in the day to day religious issues of the colony in Goa than the Father of the Christians. As the example of Manuel Themudo in the last decades of the seventeenth century demonstrates, multiple powers over protecting the recent converts to the Catholic faith gave this official a formidable degree of influence over the economic, social, and religious life of Goa. Both the office and the men who held it during the seventeenth century, still await a definitive scholarly study.

Glenn J. Ames

University of Toledo

(1) Cf. Alvaro Velho, Roteiro da viagem de Vasco va Gama em MCCCCXCVII, edited by Alexandre Herculano and the Baron of Castello de Paiva, 2nd ed. (Lisbon: Imprensa Nacional, 1861), 51.

(2) As Diogo do Couto wrote in his sixth Decada (1612): "The Kings of Portugal always aimed in this conquest of the East at so uniting the two powers, spiritual and temporal, that one should never be exercised without the other." This merging of geopolitical, economic, and religious motivation was exemplified in the Padroado Real or "royal patronage" over the missionary activities of the Roman Catholic Church in Asia, Africa, and Brazil that a grateful papacy bestowed on the kings of Portugal in a series of bulls from the Inter caetera (1456) through the Praecelsae devotionis (1514). On the Padroado and the merging of religious and economic interests, among others, cf. M. N. Pearson, The Portuguese in India (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987), 116 ff.; C. R. Boxer, The Portuguese Seaborne Empire, 1415-1825 (New York: Knopf, 1969), 65-83, 228-48; B. W. Diffie and George D. Winius, Foundations of Portuguese Empire, 1415-1580 (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1977), 335-7; Antonio da Silva Rego, Historia das missoes do padroado portugues do Oriente, 1500-1542 (Lisbon: Agencia Geral das Colonias-Divisao de Publicacoes e Biblioteca, 1949), and his collection Documentacao para a historia das missoes do Padroado Portugues do Oriente, India, 12 vols. (Lisbon: Agencia Geral das Colonias, 1947-in progress); Artur Basilio de Sa, Documentacao para a historia das missoes do Padroado Portugues do Oriente, 5 vols. (Lisbon: Agencia Geral do Ultramar-Divisao de Publicacoes e Biblioteca, 1954-58). The quotes from Diogo do Couto and Vieira are cited in Boxer, Seaborne Empire, 228 and 65.

(3) Cf. Pearson, Portuguese in India, 116-7.

(4) Pires, Barbosa, and Castanheda all found elements in Hinduism that either paralleled Christianity or suggested that it had once been a Christian sect lapsed under the pressure of Islam. Cf. The Suma Oriental of Tome Pires, translated and edited by Armando Cortesao (London: Hakluyt Society, 1944); transl. The Book of Duarte Barbosa: An Account of the Countries Bordering on the Indian Ocean and their Inhabitants, Written by Duarte Barbosa and Completed about the Year 1518 A.D., edited by M. L. Dames, 2 vols. (London: Hakluyt Society, 1918-21); and Fernao Lopes de Castanheda, Historia do descobrimento e conquista da India pelos portugueses, edited by Pedro de Azevedo, 9 vols. (Coimbra: Imprensa da Universidade, 1924-33); discussed in Pearson, Portuguese in India, 116-7 and Donald F. Lach, Asia in the Making of Europe (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1965-) 1: 387, 401.

(5) On the arrival of the Jesuits and the spirit of the Counter-Reformation, cf. Pearson, Portuguese in India, 118-9; and Boxer, Seaborne Empire, 66-83. According to Xavier: "the second necessity for the Christians is that Your Majesty establish the Holy Inquisition, because there are many who live according to the Jewish law, and according to the Mahomedan sect, without any fear of God or shame of the world." Cf. Silva Rego, Documentacao, 3: 351.

(6) On the work of the Ecclesiatical Council in Goa, cf. Boxer, Seaborne Empire, 66-72.

(7) On the status of the religious orders in Goa by the mid-17th century, cf. Pearson, Portuguese in India, 118-19. For details on the Se Cathedral in Goa, cf. S. Rajagopalan, Old Goa (New Delhi: Archaeological Survey of India, 1982), 14-9; and volume 25 of the Coleccao de Divulgacao e Cultura series issued by the Portuguese Reparticao Central de Estatistica e Informacao titled Velha Goa (Lisbon, 1952), 11-46.

(8) Bocarro's Livro das plantas de todas as fortalezas, cidades e povoacoes do Estado da India Oriental, manuscript found in the Biblioteca Publica de Evora [BPE], was published by A. B. de Braganca Pereira's in his Arquivo Portugues Oriental, IV (2, i and ii) (Bastora: Tipografia Rangel, 1937-8). For the expenditure figures on Goa, cf. Braganca Pereira, Arquivo Portugues Oriental, IV (2, i): 222-77.

(9) These decrees can be found in two codices at the Historical Archive of Goa [HAG]. Codex 7693 contains Leis a favor da Cristandade, 1562-1843 [LFC]; and Codex 9529 contains Provisoes a favor da Cristandade, 1513-1840 [PFC]. Both are invaluable for a study of this subject.

(10) For details on these anti-Hindu laws, cf. HAG PFC fols. 27-50, HAG LFC fols. 1-45 discussed in A. K. Priolkar, The Goa Inquisition (Bombay: Bombay University Press, 1961), 114-49; and Boxer, Seaborne Empire, 66-79.

(11) Cf. HAG PFC fols. 27-50, HAG LFC fols. 1-55; Priolkar, Goa Inquisition, 123-4.

(12) On these measures, cf. Priolkar, Goa Inquisition, 124-7; and Boxer, Seaborne Empire, 66-7.

(13) For estimates on the number of converts, cf. Pearson, Portuguese in India, 121-2; Boxer, Seaborne Empire, 78-83.

(14) The resiliency of the indigenous religion to this onslaught is discussed in Pearson, Portuguese in India, 121-2.

(15) HAG Codex 9529 PCF has sometimes been referred to as the Livro do Pai dos Christaos since it contains the laws affecting conversion and recent converts, the purview of the Father of the Christians. J. H. Cunha Rivara, author of the Archivo Portugues-Oriental, 9 vols. (Nova Goa: Imprensa Nacional, 1857-1876) did so, and the codex with additional documents from Codex 7693 has been published by Joseph Wicki S.J. as O Livro do "pai dos cristaos" (Lisboa: Centro de Estudos Historicos Ultramarinos, 1969). A Father of Christians was also appointed for the other "old conquests" of Bardez and Salcete. Cf. Delio de Mendonca, Conversion and Citizenry: Goa under Portugal, 1510-1610 (New Delhi: Concept Publishing Company, 2002), 137.

(16) Cf. Pyrard, The Voyage of Francois Pyrard of Laval to the East Indies, the Maldives, the Moluccas, and Brazil, translated and edited by Albert Gray and H. C. P. Bell (2 vols. in 3, London: Hakluyt Society, 1887-1890) 2: 1, 60-61, quoted in Priolkar, Goa Inquisition, 53-4.

(17) On the responsibilities of the "Father of The Christians" Cf. Mendonca, Conversion and Citizenry, 135-7; Wicki, O Livro do "pai dos cristaos"; ix-xi; C. R. Goncalves Pereira, Historia da administracao da Justica no Estado da India (Lisbon: Agencia-Geral do Ultramar, 1964), 1: 75-6; and Maria Benedita Araujo, "O 'Pay dos Christaos.' Contribucao para o estudo da Christianizacao da India," Missionacao portuguesa e encontro de culturas (Braga: Universidade Catolica Portuguesa, 1993), 2: 306-13.

(18) On the powers of the Pai dos Christaos as they related to D. Sebastiao's decree on the taking of Hindu orphans, cf. Priolkar, Goa Inquisition, 127-40; and Boxer, Seaborne Empire, 75-8, and Glenn J. Ames, "Serving, God, Mammon or Both? Religious vis-a-vis Economic Priorities in the Portuguese Estado da India, c. 1600-1700," The Catholic Historical Review 86 (2) (2000): 193-217.

(19) Cf. HAG LFC fols. 15-16'. "Alvara de SA en carta para serem forros os escravos dos vassalos de El Rey fazendose xpaos" 4/III/1533, fols. 34-341. "Provisao de Dom Constantino para que os escravos que se converterem fiquem forros e q' os infieis estrangeiros os nao compr. Nas for.tas de SA," 25/XII/1558. Cf. also HAG PFC fols. 42v-44v. "Alvara p.a serem forros os escravos dos Vassalos del Rey fazendose xpaos," 11/IV/1551.

(20) Quoted in Boxer, Seaborne Empire, 74.

(21) Cf. Historical Archive of Goa [HAG] Livros das moncoes do Reino [MR] MR/35 fols. 149-1491, Mello de Castro to Afonso, 28/I/1666.

(22) Discussed in Ames, "The Estado da India, 1663-1677," 33-4, 41-2; "Serving God, Mammon or Both?" 206-16.

(23) For details on the English East India Company [EIC] (1600); the United Netherlands Chartered East India Company [VOC] (1602); and especially Colbert's Compagnie Royale des Indes Orientales (1664), cf. Holden Furber, Rival Empires of Trade in the Orient, 1600-1800 (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1976).

(24) Cf. Glenn J. Ames, "The Estado da India, 1663-1677: Priorities and Strategies in Europe and the East," Revista Portuguesa de Historia 22 (1987): 31-46, "Serving God, Mammon or Both?", 193-216; "'Laws of God': The Role of Religion in the Transfer and Consolidation of Bombay, ca. 1661-1687," The Historical Journal 46 (2) (2003), 317-40 and the manuscript sources cited therein.

(25) These severe setbacks included the loss of Melaka or Malacca (1641), Ceylon (by 1658), and Cochin (1663) to the VOC. Among many others, cf. Furber, Rival Empires of Trade, 31-64.

(26) HAG MR/33 fol. 92, S. Vicente to Afonso, 25/I/1667.

(27) Cf. HAG Codex 650 fol. 91. His Jesuit friends did not forget him. Da Cunha's remains were buried at the feet of the Altar of S. Francisco Xavier in the church of Bom Jesus off the main square in Goa.

(28) Cf. HAG MR/36 fols. 259-591, Hindu Merchants of Bacaim to Mendonca Furtado, 19/VI/1671.

(29) Cf. HAG MR/36 fol. 257, Pedro to Mendonca Furtado, 21/III/1671.

(30) Cf. HAG MR/36 fol. 258.

(31) Cf. HAG MR/37 fols. 137-1371, Mendonca Furtado to Pedro, 24/VIII/1672.

(32) For details, cf. Mendonca Furtado to Pedro: HAG MR/38B fols. 406-406', 21/XI/1673; MR/38B fols. 378-378v, 20/I/1674; and MR/38B fols. 456-457, 20/I/1674, which contains an assento of the Goa Council of State on the matter dated 28/XII/1673. P.S.S. Pissurlencar provides useful additional documentation on the discussions on this matter in his Assentos do Concelho do Estado, 1618-1750, 5 vols. (Bastora: Rangel, 1953-7) 4: 229-31 n. 1, and 4: 287-91 n. 1.

(33) HAG MR/38B fols. 378-378', Mendonca Furtado to Pedro, 20/I/1674.

(34) Cf. MR/39 fol. 109, Mendonca Furtado to Pedro, 3/XII/1674.

(35) Cf. HAG MR/42 fol. 110, Pedro to Mendonca Furtado, 31/III/1677. The petition from the Hindu population of Goa to Pedro can be found in MR/42 fols. 138-138v. A similar petition had been sent to Mendonca Furtado on 21/II/1676, cf. MR/42 fols. 147-148.

(36) The relevant documentation on this issue and the Junta can be found in HAG MR/42 fols. 133-178; MR/43 fols. 208-209.

(37) Quoted in Priolkar, Inquisition, 127.

(38) The Jesuit Gaspar Affonco, Matheus Gomes Ferreira, Vigario-geral of the Archbishopric, Dr. Manoel Martins Madeira, Chancellor of the Estado, Diogo de Madre de Deus, mestre of the Franciscans, Antonio Paes de Sande, Vedor-geral of the Fazenda, the Archbishop D. Antonio Brandao, and the Viceroy D. Pedro de Almeida all voted in favor of passing a new law reaffirming the original conditions relating to defining "orphans" in the Estado delineated in the 1559 decree. For details on the Goa Council of State meeting of 17 December 1677, cf. ACE IV: 280-288.

(39) ACE IV: 283-284.

(40) HAG MR/42 fols. 177-78. Cf. also Themudo's letter of 4/XII/1677 found in MR/42 fols. 144-1451.

(41) For details on this second meeting of the Junta, cf. ACE IV: 299-303. The law on this matter can be found in HAG MR/42 fols. 198-200'.

(42) All of these laws on convert slaves can be found in HAG PFC fols. 15-75 and HAG LFC fols. 15-55.

(43) For an overview on the topic, cf. Jeanette Pinto, Slavery in Portuguese India, 15101842 (Bombay: Himalaya Publishing House, 1992) and for the post 1700 period, The Structure of Slavery in Indian Africa and Asia, edited by Gwyn Campbell (London: Frank Cass, 2004), and especially Pedro Machado, "A Forgotten Corner of the Indian Ocean: Gujarati Merchants, Portuguese India and the Mozambique Slave Trade, 1730-1830," 17-34. Cf. also Timothy Walker, "Abolishing the Slave Trade in Portuguese India: Documentary Evidence of Popular and Official Resistance to Crown Policy, 1842-60," Slavery and Abolition 25 (2) (August 2004): 63-79.

(44) Bocarro's Livro das plantas, IV (2, i), 222-3.

(45) Cf. "The Manumission of Slaves in Colonial Brazil: Bahia, 1684-1745," The Hispanic American Historical Review 54 (4) (1974): 603-35.

(46) For example, cf. Curtin, The Atlantic Slave Trade. A Census (Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press, 1969), 41-7; and Pierre Verger, Flux et reflux de la traite des negres entre le Golfe de Benin et Bahia de Todos os Santos du XVIIe au XVIIIe siecles (Paris: Mouton, 1968).

(47) Cf. "The Manumission of Slaves in Colonial Brazil", 611; and Frederick Bowser, "Colonial Spanish America," in Neither Slave Nor Free, edited by David W. Cohen and Jack P. Greene (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1972), 19-58; The African Slave in Colonial Peru, 1524-1650 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1974); and "The Free Persons of Color in Lima and Mexico City: Manumission and Opportunity, 1580-1650," in Race and Slavery in the Western Hemisphere: Quantitative Studies, edited by Stanley L. Engerman and Eugene D. Genovese (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1974).

(48) For a concise summary of the labor functions of male and female slaves in Goa, cf. Teotonio R. de Souza, Medieval Goa: A Socio-Economic History (New Delhi: Concept Publishing Company, 1979), 124-6.

(49) Cf. De Souza, Medieval Goa, 124-6, 277. The abuse of slaves in Goa by their owners had prompted a Royal Decree of 26/I/1599 designed to prevent this "great scandal" and to avoid "so many homicides and such inhumanity". This decree ordered the Viceroy to compile a yearly list of Christian, Muslim, and Hindu owners who in the course of "punishing" their slaves ended up killing them. These cases would then be investigated by the Supreme Court (Mesa de Relacao) in Goa and by the ouvidores in the fortresses of the North. Cf. HAG LFC fols. 53v-54.

(50) Based on HAG Codex 860 fols. 1-13 and Schwartz "The Manumission of Slaves in Colonial Brazil," 615.

(51) The powers of the Father of the Christians had been increased in 1649 thanks to a petition of Antonio Correa, S.J., who was then serving in that office. He petitioned the Viceroy D. Philipe de Mascarenhas to force all converts to obtain a certificate from the Father of the Christians verifying their conversion and recording them in his "book" as such. Only then would these converts receive the privileges of Portuguese subjects. Cf. HAG LFC fols. 49v-50. It is also significant to note that additional years of servitude were also part and parcel of the majority of manumissions at this time. Cf. HAG Codex 860 fols. 1-60.
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Title Annotation:texto en ingles
Author:Ames, Glenn J.
Publication:Portuguese Studies Review
Article Type:Ensayo
Date:Jul 1, 2008
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