Page:EB1911 - Volume 22.djvu/159

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.

salaries were paid, the perquisites attached to official positions were enormous; at the beginning of the 17th century, for example, the captain of Malacca received not quite £300 yearly as his pay, but his annual profits from other sources were estimated at £20,000. Even judges were expected to live on their perquisites, in the shape of bribes. The competition for appointments was naturally very keen; Couto mentions the case of one grantee who received the reversion of a post to which 30 applicants had a prior claim.[1] Such reversions could be sold, bequeathed, or included in the dowries of married women; the right of trading with China might be part of the endowment of a school; a monastery or a hospital might purchase the command of a fortress. In 1538 the Viceroy, D. Garcia de Noronha, publicly sold by auction every vacant appointment in Portuguese India—an example followed in 1614 by the king. Hardly less disastrous than the system by which officials were chosen and paid was the influence exercised by the Church. Simāo Botelho, an able revenue officer, was denied absolution in 1543 because he had reorganized the Malacca customs-house without previously consulting the Dominicans in that city. In 1560 a. supposed tooth of Buddha was brought to Goa; the raja of Pegu offered £100,000 for the relic, and as Portuguese India. was virtually bankrupt the government wished to accept the offer; but the archbishop intervened and the relic was destroyed.

The empire in the East was rarely solvent. Almeida and Albuquerque had hoped to meet the expense of administration mainly out of the fees extorted for safe-conducts at sea and trading-licences, with the tribute wrung from native states and the revenue from Crown lands in India.Finance. But the growth of expenditure—chiefly of an unremunerative kind, such as the cost of war and missions—soon rendered these resources inadequate; and after 1515 the empire became ever more dependent on the spoils of hostile states and on subsidies from the royal treasury in Lisbon. Systematic debasement of the coinage was practised both in India, where the monetary system was extremely complex,[2] and in Portugal; and owing to the bullionist policy adopted by Portuguese financiers little permanent benefit accrued to the mother country from its immense trade. Seeking for commercial profit, not in the exchange of commodities, but solely in the acquisition of actual gold and silver, and realizing that the home market could not absorb a tithe of the merchandise imported, the Lisbon capitalists sent their ships to discharge in Antwerp (where a Portuguese staple was established in 1503), or in some other port near the central markets of Europe. The raw materials purchased by Flemish, German or English traders were used in the establishment of productive industries, while Portugal received a vast influx of bullion, most of which was squandered on war, luxuries or the Church.

In theory the most lucrative branches of commerce, such as the pepper trade, were monopolies vested in the Crown; the chartered companies and associations of merchant adventurers, which afterwards became the pioneers of British and Dutch colonial development, had no counterpartCommercial Policy. in Portuguese history, except in the few cases in which trading concessions were granted to military or monastic orders. But the Crown frequently farmed out its monopolies to individual merchants, or granted trading-licences by way of pension or reward. These were often of great value; e.g. in 1612 the right of sending a merchant ship to China was valued at £25,000. Great loss was necessarily inflicted on native traders by the monopolist system, which pressed most hardly on the Mahommedans, who had been the chief carriers in Indian waters. Two great powers, Egypt and Turkey, challenged the naval and commercial supremacy of the Portuguese, but an Egyptian armada was destroyed by Almeida in 1509, and though Ottoman fleets were on several occasions (as in 1517 and 1521) dispatched from Suez or Basra, they failed to achieve any success, and the Portuguese were able to close the two principal trade routes between India and Europe. One of these trade routes passed up the Persian Gulf to Basra, and thence overland to Tripoli, for Mediterranean ports, and to Trebizond, for Constantinople. The other passed up the Red Sea to Suez, and thence to Alexandria, for Venice, Genoa and Ragusa. But by occupying Hormuz the Portuguese gained command of the Gulf route; and though they thrice failed to capture Aden (1513, 1517, 1547), and so entirely to close the Red Sea, they almost destroyed the trafhc between India and Suez by occupying Socotra and sending fleets to cruise in the Strait of Bab el-Mandeb. In Malacca they possessed the connecting link between the trade routes of the Far and Middle East, and thus they controlled the three sea-gates of the Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea—the Straits of Hormuz, Bab el-Mandeb and Malacca—and diverted the maritime trade with Europe to the Cape route. During the critical period in which their empire was being established (c. 1505–1550) the Portuguese were fortunate in escaping conflict with any Oriental power of the first rank except Egypt and Turkey; for the Bahmani sultanate of the Deccan had been already disintegrated before 1498, and the Mughals and Mahrattas were still far off. A coalition of the minor Mahommedan states was prevented by the great Hindu kingdom of Vijayanagar, which comprised the southern half of the Indian Peninsula. Vijayanagar gave the militant Mahommedanism of Northern India no opportunity for a combined attack on the Portuguese settlements. After 1565, when the power of Vijayanagar was broken at the battle of Talikot, a Mussulman coalition was at last formed, and the Portuguese were confronted by a line of hostile states stretching from Gujarat to Achin; but by this time they were strong enough to hold their own. It is characteristic of their native policy that they had not only refrained from aiding Vijayanagar in 1565, but had even been willing to despoil their Hindu allies. In 1543 Martim Affonso de Sousa, governor of India, organized an expedition to sack the Hindu temples at Conjeveram in Vijayanagar it.self, and similar incidents are common in Indo-Portuguese history. Albuquerque was almost the only Portuguese statesman who strove to deal justly with both Hindus and Mahommedans, to respect native customs, and to establish friendly relations with the great powers of the East. Apart from the rigorous restrictions imposed by his successors upon trade, the sympathies of the natives were estranged by the harshness and venality of Portuguese administration, by such barbarities as the wholesale mutilation of non-combatants in war-time, and by religious persecution. After the arrival of the Franciscan missionaries, in 1517, Goa gradually became the headquarters of an immense proselytizing organization, which by 1561 had extended to East Africa, China, Japan and the Malay Archipelago (see Goa: Ecclesiastical History). Wherever the Portuguese were supreme they endeavoured to obtain converts by force. The widespread resentment thus aroused was a frequent cause of insurrection, and between 1515 and 1580 not a single year passed without war between the Portuguese and at least one African or Asiatic people.

Centuries of fighting against the Moors and Castilians had already left Portugal thinly populated; large tracts of land were uncultivated, especially in Alemtejo, and wolves still common throughout the kingdom. It was impossible, from the first, to garrison the empire with trainedDepopu-
men. As early as 1505 one of Almeida's ships contained a crew of rustics unable to distinguish between port and starboard; soon afterwards it became necessary to recruit convicts and slaves, and in 1538 a royal pardon was granted to all prisoners who would serve in India, except criminals under sentence for treason and canonical offences. Linschoten estimates that of all those who went to the East not one in ten returned. The heaviest losses were due to war, shipwreck and tropical diseases, but large numbers of the underpaid or unpaid soldiers deserted to the armies of native states. It is impossible to give more than approximately accurate statistics of the resultant depopulation of Portugal; but it seems probable that the inhabitants of the

kingdom decreased from about 1,800,000 or 2,000,000 in 1500 to

  1. Decadas, XII. i. 10.
  2. See R. S. Whiteway, Rise of the Portuguese Power, &c. (London, 1898), pp. 67–72.