Timid men prefer the calm of despotism to
the tempestuous sea of liberty. — Thomas Jefferson

Albuquerque: Rulers of India - Morse Stephens




The Successors of Albuquerque (Continued)


Dom Constantino de Bragana and Dom Luis de Athaide


The thirty-five years which followed from the death of Dorn Joao de Castro to the extinction of the independence of Portugal are neither so interesting nor so important as those which saw the building up of the Portuguese power in the East. Commercially, the value of Vasco da Gama's voyage and of Albuquerque's victories became greater than ever. The largest fleets of merchant-ships ever sent to Portugal were despatched after Philip II of Spain had become also Philip I of Portugal. The Portuguese monopoly remained unbroken until 1595, and the nations of Europe, while they grew in civilisation and in love of luxury, continued until that time to buy from Lisbon the Asiatic commodities which had become necessary to them. As the commerce became systematised it grew larger and more profitable, both to the Royal Treasury which equipped the merchant fleets and sold their cargoes at Lisbon, and to the individual agents in India, who purchased the goods which made up these cargoes. But politically the history of the Portuguese in India becomes less interesting. There were no more great discoveries; no more great conquests and great victories; no more grandiose conceptions of expelling the Muhammadans from the markets of Asia.

Gallant feats of arms were still accomplished, but they only proved how the Portuguese had degenerated since the days of Albuquerque. The defence of Goa by Dom Luis de Athaide was brilliant, but after all it was a defensive operation, and not a victory such as Dom Joao de Castro had won at Diu, or the storming of a strong city, like the captures of Goa and Malacca by Albuquerque. There were one or two high-minded and able men among the successors of the splendid Albuquerque, but they did not attempt to rival his deeds or carry out his ideas. The romance of Portuguese history in the East is no longer bound up with the growth of the power of the nation, but is to be found rather in the careers of daring adventurers such as Fernao Mendes Pinto and Sebastiao Gonzales. The complete attainment of commercial prosperity seems to have destroyed the dream of Empire.

But at the time when the political interest in the career of the Portuguese in Asia diminishes, the religious interest increases. The new heroes of Portugal are not her soldiers and her sailors, but her missionaries. These were the men who made their way into the interior of India, and who penetrated the farthest East. Japan, China, and even Tibet, witnessed their presence and heard their preaching; the great Emperor Akbar gave them a not unkindly welcome at his Court at Agra; and they laboured among the savages of the Spice Islands as well as among the learned men of China and of India.

The greatest of all these missionaries, Saint Francis Xavier, was not a Portuguese subject. But the Company of Jesus, of which he was the pioneer missionary, contained many Portuguese, and he could not have attempted what he did but for the support of the Portuguese government at home and of the Portuguese authorities in India.

The idea of discouraging Christian missionaries, which formed a part of the policy of the Dutch and English East India Companies, never had an adherent among the Portuguese. They believed sincerely in their religion, and the principal use they made of their influence when they were firmly established in Asia was to spread it abroad. Again and again orders were sent from Portugal that the missionaries were to be assisted in every possible way.

The Franciscan friars who first came to India were engaged in looking after the souls of the Portuguese soldiers, but they were followed, and in increasing numbers after the successes of Saint Francis, by priests and friars and Jesuits, who left Europe for the express purpose of converting the heathen. The history of the Roman Catholic missions in India, for which there is plenty of material, would need a volume in itself. It must suffice to point out that those missions did not begin to attain their full development until after the Portuguese had reached their highest political power during the governorship of Dom Joao de Castro, and were beginning to decline.

In 1538 the Pope nominated for the first time a Bishop of Goa in the person of Frei Joao de Albuquerque, a Franciscan friar, and a relative of the great Governor. This holy man, who won a great reputation for sanctity, died in 1553, and in 1557 the see of Goa was raised to an archbishopric and conferred upon Dom Gaspar de Leao Pereira. The archbishops soon rivaled the viceroys in wealth and dignity, and in at least one instance, at the beginning of the seventeenth century, an archbishop also acted as governor. Other sees were speedily established at Cochin, Malacca, and Macao, and many missionary bishops were appointed for other parts of India, China, and Japan. The first labourers in the mission field were the Franciscans. They were soon followed by other religious orders, and were exceeded in success and ability by the Jesuits.

In 1560, after the death of Dom Joao de Castro and of St. Francis Xavier, the Holy Inquisition was established in Goa. It was granted as its head-quarters the magnificent palace of Yusaf Adil Shah, which had been the residence of the viceroys until 1554. Its first action was rather corrective than persecuting, and it was not until the seventeenth century that the periodical burnings of relapsed converts and supposed witches, which are known as Autos da Fe, commenced their sanguinary work. The most notable event in the religious history of the Portuguese in India, the condemnation of the doctrines and ritual of the Nestorian Christians of the Malabar coast, did not occur till the Synod of Diamper (Udayampura) in 1599.

The educational work of the missionaries, their custom of dwelling among the people and imitating their mode of life, as well as their building of superb churches in the Portuguese cities, well deserve an extended notice, which cannot be adequately given in this volume. It is enough to say that Albuquerque, though zealous and desirous of spreading the faith, did not initiate the policy of persecution. It was his feeble successors who threw away the opportunity afforded for the propagation of the Christian faith, by the existence of a native Christian community in the very part of India where the Portuguese first landed.

When the sealed order of succession was opened, after the lamented death of Dom Joao de Castro, it was found that the two first nominees, Dom Joao Mascarenhas and Dom Jorge Tello de Menezes, had already left India for Portugal. The third packet opened contained the name of Garcia de Si, an aged gentleman, who had spent nearly all his life in India. He hastened to make peace with Ibrahim Adil Shah of Bijapur, and with Muhammad III of Gujarat. To the former he promised that the Portuguese would not allow Mir Ali Khan to leave Goa, and on that condition the cession of Bardes and Salsette was confirmed. In the treaty with the King of Gujarat it was agreed that the Portuguese should continue to hold the fortress of Diu, which they had twice so gallantly defended, while the city and the rest of the island remained subject to Muhammad III. Garcia de Si died at Goa on July 13, 1549, and was succeeded as governor by Jorge Cabral, a descendant of the second Portuguese captain who visited India.

Cabral, who was Captain of Bassein, assumed the office and engaged in a war that was raging between the Raja of Cochin and the Zamorin. He had taken and sacked Tiracol and Ponani, and was just about to attack Calicut, when he received information of the arrival of Dom Affonso de Noronha as Viceroy. This nobleman was the second son of the Marquis de Villa Real, and had been selected for the office of Viceroy by John III, though no Viceroy had been sent out from Portugal with full powers since Dom Garcia de Noronha in 1538. The Viceroy, on taking over office from Cabral, declined to attack Calicut and ordered the fleet back to Goa. He ruled for four years, during which time he greatly extended the Portuguese power in the island of Ceylon.

Dom Affonso de Noronha was succeeded as Viceroy in 1554 by Dom Pedro Mascarenhas, an aged nobleman who had filled the office of ambassador to the Emperor Charles V and the Pope, and had since acted as governor to the heir-apparent. He was over seventy years of age when he was sent to India, and held office but nine months. On his death the sealed orders were opened, and the first name found in them was that of Francisco Barreto, a most experienced officer. This governor is chiefly known from his persecution of the poet Camoens, whom he sent to the little island of Macao as a punishment for a satire he had written on the pride and immorality of the officials at Goa. But Barreto was a very vigorous governor. He did much to strengthen the various Portuguese fortresses throughout Asia, and showed himself a skilful and daring general.

During Barreto's government King John III of Portugal died, leaving the throne to his infant grandson, the ill-fated King Sebastian. One of the first acts of the widow of John III, Queen Catherine, who became Regent of the kingdom, was to appoint a prince of the blood royal, Dom Constantino de Braganza, to be Viceroy. This young prince was only thirty years of age, but he soon showed that he surpassed his predecessors in ability as well as in rank. He reached Goa in 1558, and one of his earliest measures was to capture Daman, where he erected a fortress. This place and Goa and Diu are at the present time the only relics of the Portuguese power in India. On his return from Daman he dispatched powerful fleets to Malacca, to Ormuz, and to Ceylon, and placed the position of affairs in all parts of Asia in a most favourable condition for the Portuguese.

Dom Constantino de Braganza's internal reforms resembled those of Joao de Castro; he endeavoured to put down peculation, and insisted on the obedience of his officers. In 1560 he made an expedition with a powerful armament to Ceylon, where he took Jaffnapatam, which became the capital of the Portuguese power in that island. The high character of the young prince, no less than his courage and his enterprise, caused the Rajas of India to treat him with great respect, and he was begged by the Queen Regent to continue in office, and even to accept the post of Viceroy of India for life. He refused, and in 1561 was succeeded as Viceroy by Dom Francisco de Coutinho, Count of Redondo.

After the resignation of Dom Constantino de Braganza few events of importance happened for some years to the Portuguese in India. The Muhammadan King of Bijapur, Ali Adil Shah, who had succeeded his father Ibrahim in 1557, was at first more concerned with his scheme to break the power of the last great Hindu sovereign, the Raja of Vijayanagar, than to attack the Portuguese. Freed from danger on this side, the Portuguese governors were able to scatter their power over small but successful expeditions. The most notable of these was to Ceylon, which was gradually brought entirely under the control of the Portuguese. The Count of Redondo died in March, 1564, at Goa, and was succeeded as Viceroy, after a short administration as Governor by Joao de Mendonca, by Dom Antao de Noronha.

The new Viceroy commenced his government by the capture of Mangalore, but the important events which occurred during his tenure of office took place without his active intervention. The first of these was the siege of Malacca by the King of Achin. The defence of Albuquerque's conquest ranks with that of Diu. It is true that the savage Achinese were not such formidable soldiers as the Turks or the Gujaratfs; but, on the other hand, Malacca was further from Goa, and it was more difficult to obtain reinforcements. The Captain who maintained the defence was Dom Leonis Pereira, who held out for several months and eventually beat off his enemies after killing more than 4000 of them.

The other event was the defeat of the Raja of Vijayanagar in 156,5, at Talikot, by the allied Muhammadan kings of the Deccan. It may fairly be conjectured that Albuquerque would have assisted the last powerful Hindu monarch against the Muhammadans, for it was a part of his policy to pose as the protector of the Hindus. But his successors did not appreciate his policy, and, disgusted by an attack which the Hindu prince had made some years previously on the Portuguese settlement of Saint Thom6, they left the Raja of Vijayanagar to his fate.

In 1568 Dom Luis de Athaide, an officer who had had much experience in Indian warfare, and who had been knighted as a lad by Dom Estevao da Gama in the monastery of Mount Sinai, arrived in Goa as Viceroy. He quickly perceived that a first result of the victory of Talikot must be that the King of Bijapur would attack Goa. The city of Goa had far outgrown the limits imposed by the wall which Albuquerque had built. Dom Antao de Noronha had, during his government, begun to build a new wall, which was to run from the north-eastern angle of the island of Goa and should terminate at the west of the city. Dom Luis de Athaide continued this wall, and was in the act of building other fortifications when Ali Adil Shah declared war and made his way into the island with an army estimated at 100,000 men, and accompanied by more than 2000 elephants. This attack was part of a general scheme formed by the Muhammadan rulers of India, with the Zamorin of Calicut and the King of Achin, to expel the Portuguese from Asia. Even sovereigns who had hitherto been allies of the Portuguese, such as the Raja of Honawar, joined in the league against them.

Never was the situation of the Portuguese more critical; never did they show more conspicuous valour. The garrison of Goa, when the siege commenced in 1570, only consisted of 700 Portuguese soldiers. Consequently the Viceroy placed under arms 300 friars and priests and about a thousand slaves. The defence was worthy of the best days of the Portuguese power. For ten months an obstinate resistance was offered, and at the end of that time Ali Adil Shah retreated, having lost by disease and by fighting the larger part of his army.

The defence of Goa, by the Viceroy, was rivaled by the gallant resistance of Malacca, of Chaul, and of Chalé near Calicut, where Dom Leonis Pereira, Dom Jorge de Menezes, and Dom Diogo de Menezes, all repulsed their assailants. On the retreat of Ali Adil Shah from before Goa, the Portuguese Viceroy swept the Malabar coast, punishing all opponents and relieving the other garrisons. His vengeance was paticularly shown at Honawar, which he burnt. Just after the league was finally broken, on September 7, 1571, Dom Antonio de Noronha arrived to succeed Dom Luis de Athaide as Viceroy. The defender of Goa received a cordial welcome on his return to Lisbon from his friend, the young King Sebastian, who created him Count of Atouguia.

Dom Antonio de Noronha, who was only a distant relative of the predecessor of Dom Luis de Athaide, did not possess the powers of previous Viceroys. King Sebastian perceived the great inconvenience of leaving the whole of his possessions from the Cape of Good Hope to Japan under the superintendence of the Goa government. The difficulty of communication was so great that for months at a time the captains of the more distant settlements were practically independent. It was resolved, therefore, to divide the East into three independent governorships.

Dom Antonio de Noronha, with the title of Viceroy, was to be supreme from the coasts of Arabia to Ceylon, with his capital at Goa. This left him entire control of the Indian and Persian trade. Antonio Moniz Barreto was to govern from Bengal to the furthest East, with his head-quarters at Malacca, and was charged with the control of the spice trade. Francisco Barreto, the former Governor of India, was to rule all the Portuguese settlements on the south-east coast of Africa, with his capital at Mozambique.

Hitherto these African settlements had been regarded solely as stopping-places for the fleets to and from India. But King Sebastian wished to use them also as the basis for exploration and conquest in the interior of Africa. This is not a history of the Portuguese in Africa, but it may be remarked that much important and interesting work was done by the Portuguese in that continent during the sixteenth century which seems to be forgotten by writers on the opening up of Africa at the present time. Francisco Barreto, for instance, made his way far into the interior and conquered the kingdom and city of Monomotapa, where he died.

Dom Antonio de Noronha handed over the government of India in 1573 to Antonio Moniz Barreto. Ruy Loureneo de Tavora, who was nominated to succeed as Viceroy, died on his way out, and Dom Diogo de Menezes, the defender of Cha1é, administered the government from 1576 to 1578. He was superseded by Dom Luis de Athaide, who at the special request of King Sebastian consented once more to return to India. Athaide's second viceroyalty was not marked by any important event. He died at Goa on March 10, 1581; it is said from a broken heart caused by the news of the defeat of the King Sebastian and of his melancholy death at Alcacer Quibir (El-Kasr Kebir) in Morocco.

With the death of Dom Luis de Athaide this rapid sketch of the successors of Albuquerque must end: he was the last great Portuguese ruler in the East, and none of the Viceroys who succeeded him deserve separate notice. The commercial monopoly of Portugal lasted some years longer, but the fabric of the Portuguese power in India was utterly rotten, and gave way with hardly a struggle before the first assaults of the Dutch merchant-adventurers.

The causes of the rapid fall of Portuguese influence in Asia are as interesting to examine as the causes of their rapid success, and, like the latter, they may be classed under external and internal headings. The chief external cause was the union of the Portuguese crown with that of Spain in 1580. Philip II kept the promise he made to the Cortes of Thomar, and appointed none but Portuguese to offices in Portuguese Asia. His accession to the throne was everywhere recognised in the East, and the Prior of Crato who opposed him found no adherents there. The first Viceroy whom Philip nominated, Dom Francisco Mascarenhas, bore a name famous in Portugal, and had no difficulty in persuading the various captains of fortresses to swear fealty to the Spanish king. It is curious to note among the Viceroys whom Philip II nominated to Goa two relations of the most famous Portuguese conquerors in the East, Mathias de Albuquerque and Dom Francisco da Gama, grandson of the navigator. In spite of Philip's loyalty in this respect, the fact that he was King of Portugal involved that country in war with the Dutch and the English. The merchants of Amsterdam and London were forbidden to come to Lisbon for Asiatic commodities, and they consequently resolved to go to the East and get them for themselves. In 595 the first Dutch fleet doubled the Cape of Good Hope, and in 16oi it was followed by the first English fleet, both being despatched by trading companies. The Portuguese endeavoured to expel the intruders, but they signally failed.

The reasons for this failure are to be found in the internal causes of the Portuguese decline. The union with Spain brought their rivals into the Eastern seas, but it was their own weakness which let those rivals triumph. The primary cause of that weakness was the complete exhaustion of the Portuguese nation. Year after year this little country, which never exceeded 3,000,000 in population, sent forth fleets to the East, carrying sometimes as many as 3000 and 4000 soldiers. Of these men few ever returned to Europe. Many perished in battle, in shipwreck, or from the climate, and those who survived were encouraged to settle down and marry native women. During the whole of the sixteenth century Portugal was being drained of men, and those the strongest and bravest of her sons. In return she got plenty of wealth, but money cannot take the place of brain and muscle. Besides becoming exhausted in quantity, the Portuguese in the East rapidly degenerated in quality. It was not only that Albuquerque's successors in supreme command were his inferiors; some of them proved worthy of their office; but the soldiers and sailors and officials showed a lamentable falling off. Brilliant courage was shown up to the siege of Goa in 1570. After that time it is difficult to recognise the heroic Portuguese of Albuquerque's campaigns. Albuquerque's imperial notions were set aside as impracticable, and interest in commerce and in Christian missions took the place of vast schemes of conquest and of empire.

The later history of the Portuguese in Asia may be summed up in a rapid record of their disasters. In 1603 and 1639 the Dutch blockaded Goa. In 1656 they drove the Portuguese from Cannanore; in 1661 from Negapatam and Kayenkolam, the port of Quilon; in 1663 from Cranganore and Cochin. Nor were the Dutch victories confined to India; in 1619 they founded Batavia in the island of Java, and in 1640 they took Malacca and concentrated the whole trade of the Spice Islands at their new settlement. The Dutch were equally successful in Ceylon, which they completely controlled after the capture of Jaffnapatam in 1658. The English were but little later in the field: in 1611 Sir Henry Middleton defeated the Portuguese off Cambay, and in 1615 Captain Best won a great victory over the Portuguese fleet off Swally, the port of Surat. The Dutch and English agencies quickly covered the East, and soon after the middle of the seventeenth century the Asiatic trade of Portugal had practically disappeared. What little commerce survived was in the hands of the Jesuits, and became finally extinct on the suppression of that body by the Marquis of Pombal in 1742.

It was not only by European competitors that the Portuguese power in the East was shattered. It was the Emperor Shah Jahan who took Hugli in 1629, after an obstinate resistance, and carried away 1000 Portuguese prisoners; and it was Abbas Shah of Persia, who, with the assistance of some Englishmen, captured Ormuz in 1622. In 1670 a small band of Arabs from Muscat plundered Diu, the fortress which, under Silveira and Mascarenhas, had resisted the utmost power of great Muhammadan fleets and armies.

The Maratha confederacy also found it easy and profitable to plunder Portuguese settlements in India. In 1739 these hardy Hindu soldiers sacked Bassein, and they extended their incursions to the very walls of Goa. In the eighteenth century a vigorous effort was made by the Portuguese to hold their own with the Marathas, which met with some success, and led to a considerable increase of the province of Goa. Lastly, it must not be forgotten that in 1661 the Portuguese ceded the island of Bombay to England as part of the dowry of Catherine of Braganza.

The present condition of the Portuguese in India affords a curious commentary on the high aims and great successes of Albuquerque. The remaining Portuguese possessions, Goa. Daman, and Diu could make no pretence of defending themselves against the English Empire in India. They are maintained by Portugal, not for any benefits to be derived from them, but as relics of the past and witnesses to former glory. The condition of the Portuguese is indicated by the treaty which was signed in 1878 with the British Government, by which the right of making salt and the customs duties were ceded to the Government of India for a yearly payment of four lakhs of rupees. This sum was hypothecated for the construction of a railway to Marmagao, near Goa, which possesses a fine harbour, and will probably increase in wealth as the port of export for the cotton grown in Bellary and the neighbouring British districts.

One interesting relic of the former supremacy of the Portuguese was the right claimed by Portugal to nominate the Roman Catholic prelates throughout India. This right, natural enough in the sixteenth century, became absurd in the nineteenth. A long quarrel arising from this claim has recently been settled by a Concordat between the Pope and the King of Portugal.

The present volume may appropriately close with two descriptions of the Portuguese in India by a Muhammadan and a Hindu writer in the sixteenth century.

"The Franks beginning to oppress and commit hostilities against the Muhammadans" says Sheik Zin-ud-din, in his historical work the Tuhfat-ul-mujahidiin, "their tyrannical and injurious usage proceeded to a length that was the occasion of a general confusion and distraction amongst the population of the country. This continued for a long period, for nearly eighty years, when the affairs of the Moslems had arrived at the last stage of decay, ruin, poverty and wretchedness; since whilst they were too ill-practised in deceit to dissemble an obedience which was not sincere, they neither possessed the power to repel nor means to evade the evils that afflicted them. Nor did the Muhammadan princes and chieftains who were possessed of large armies, and who had at their command great military resources, come forward for their deliverance or bestow any of their wealth in so holy a cause as in the resistance to these tyrant infidels."

"Sorely did these Franks oppress the faithful, striving all of them, the great and powerful, the old and young, to eradicate the Muhammadan religion: and to bring over its followers to Christianity (may God ever defend us from such a calamity!). Notwithstanding all this, however, they preserved an outward show of peace towards the Muhammadans, in consequence of their being compelled to dwell amongst them; since the chief part of the population of the seaports consisted of Muhammadans. . . . Lastly it is worthy of remark that the Franks entertain antipathy and hatred only towards Muhammadans, and to their creed alone; evincing no dislike towards the Nairs and other Pagans of similar description"

In the following terms, according to Dr. Burnell, does Venkatacarya, a Brahman of Conjevaram, speak about the Portuguese:—

"This Brahman wrote about A.D. 1600 a Sanskrit poem called Vievagunadarca, often printed and once rudely translated (Calcutta, 1825, 4to.) In it he mentions the Portuguese, whom he calls Huna. In abuse of them he says they are very despicable, are devoid of tenderness, and do not value Brahmans a straw, that they have endless faults, and do not observe ceremonial purity. But he praises their self-restraint and truthfulness, their mechanical skill, and their respect for law."

Had the Brahman poet known Albuquerque, or the greatest of his successors, he would have praised also their valour, their tenacity, and their disinterested unselfishness. But striking is the contrast between Albuquerque and even the greatest of his successors. His contemporaries felt this, and his son, in the dedication of the second edition of the Commentaries  to King Sebastian, in 1574, gives an anecdote which illustrates this general opinion.

"I shall say no more," he says, "than tell you what a soldier said who always accompanied him in war. This man being very old and staying in the city of Goa, when he reflected upon the disorder of Indian affairs, went with a stick in his hand to the chapel of Affonso de Albuquerque, and, striking the sepulchre wherein he was lying buried, cried out:—'Oh! great captain, thou hast done me all the harm thou couldst have done, but I cannot deny that thou hast been the greatest conqueror and sufferer of troubles that the world has known: arise thou, for what thou hast gained is like to be lost!'"