D. Francisco de Sousa

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7th governor-general of Brazil and governor of the South Division.

Dom Francisco de Sousa was born around 1540 and died in São Paulo in 1611.

He was the son of Dom Pedro de Sousa, the Count of Prado and chief alcaide of Beja, and of Violante Henriques, the daughter of Simão Freire de Andrade, the Lord of Bobadela.

He belonged to the King's Council; he was in Tangier with Dom João de Meneses; he sailed with King Sebastian to Africa in 1578, as captain of one the galleons belonging to his uncle, Dom Diogo de Sousa; he was also district governor of Beja, and Knight Commander of Orelhão in the Order of Christ.

He ruled Brazil twice: first as governor-general, between 1591 and 1602, and later as captain-general and superintendent of the Southern captaincies, from 1608 to 1611.

He was appointed governor-general by the end of 1590 but would only arrive in Bahia the following year, on the 9th of June, 1591. He travelled in the company of Major Pedro Oliveira, superintendent of the mines of Brazil. King Philip II granted him power to appoint office holders, to instate noblemen, and to distribute habits of the Order of Christ. In addition to this, he was also tasked with appointing a judge for São Paulo.

One of the main problems of the colony during his rule was privateering and illicit trade with Europeans. The English, in particular Thomas Cavendish and James Lancaster, had brought severe losses upon several places along the Brazilian coast.

The captaincy of Paraíba was insufficiently protected and constantly attacked by the natives and the French. Discord between Portuguese and Spanish troops jeopardised the colony's continuity.

The Dutch also threatened Bahia while the governor was away on a visit to the Southern captaincies.

The region of Northern Rio Grande needed an effective Portuguese presence. The governor got an overland and naval force that fought against the natives and the French. As soon as the enemies were defeated he started building the fortress of Reis Magos [Wise Men] and founded the settlement of Natal [Christmas]. A tax of one cruzado over each box of sugar and the wine was created for that purpose.

One of the most important measures he took with a view toward the colony's defence was cannons' foundry. On 9 November, 1607, Domingues Rodrigues was appointed Master Founder of Brazil. He also made arrangements regarding repair work on the fortresses of Recife and Bahia.

As to the Southern captaincies, the governor decided to visit them personally and devoted his attention to mine discovery and exploration.

One of the problems affecting the mining regions, particularly in São Paulo, was the natives' enslavement. Because the Jesuits acted so as to prevent the natives under their protection to become slaves to the settlers, Paulistan settlers organised slave hunting expeditions called bandeiras [banners] aiming at capturing Indians outside the priests' jurisdiction.

During his rule, trade with Prata River, which dated from the formation of the provisional government of the bishop of Bahia and Cristóvão de Barros, increased.

The governor had been instructed to carry on mine discovery and to assist to Gabriel Soares de Sousa in his exploitation plan. The Crown was particularly interested in the success of such endeavours, as can be proved by the appointment of a mines' Superintendent who sailed to Brazil in the company of an emerald lapidary and of an iron mining factor. Dom Francisco promoted pioneer hinterland expeditions aiming at clearing the thicket and searching for precious metals.

He was in Santos when he received the news of his successor's arrival in Bahia, and left directly to Europe.

A Royal decree dated 2 January, 1608 placed him again at the Crown's service in Brazil, this time in the Southern captaincies (S. Vicente, Espírito Santo and Rio de Janeiro), which were for the second time detached from the ruler in Bahia. He became the mines' Superintendent, and was granted Gabriel Soares de Sousa's privileges, a personal guard of twenty men and the right to appoint some office holders, alongside the title of "great".

A promise was made to him that he would receive the title of Marquis, as soon as mining exploitation began, as well as a fifth of the revenues, but his death on 11 June 1611 prevented him from rising to that nobility rank. His successor in the Southern captaincies was his son, Dom Luís de Sousa, who ruled until the Crown unified the government of Brazil in the person of Gaspar de Sousa.

It is believed that he died destitute, in spite of complaints made to the court that he had served his own private interests. He became known for his artfulness, as shown by the name he was given: Dom Francisco das Manhas[1].

[1]. Manha is the Portuguese word for slyness [NT].

CAMPO BELO, Conde de, Governadores Gerais e Vice-Reis do Brasil, Lisboa, Agência Geral das Colónias, 1935. Dicionário de História da Colonização Portuguesa no Brasil, coord. Maraia Beatriz Niza da Silva, Lisboa, Verbo, 1994. Nova história da expansão portuguesa, dir. Joel Serrão e A. H. Oliveira Marques; vol.VI, O império luso-brasileiro:1520-1620, coord. Harold Jonhson e Maria Beatriz Nizza da Silva, Lisboa, Estampa, 1992. VARNHAGEN, Francisco Adolfo de, História Geral do Brasil: antes da sua separação e independência de Portugal, São Paulo, Ed. Melhoramentos, 4ªed., 1948. ZÚQUETE, Afonso Eduardo Martins, Nobreza de Portugal e do Brasil, Lisboa, ed. Enciclopédia, 1960-1989.

Translated by: Leonor Sampaio de Sousa