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L’Économie politique et la sphère publique dans le débat des Lumières

 | 
Jesús Astigarraga Goenaga
, 
Javier Usoz Otal

III. Idées économiques, pays et émergence de la sphère publique

Political economy, local knowledge and the reform of the Portuguese empire in the Enlightenment

Gabriel Paquette

Texte intégral

  • 1 C. Hesse, «Topography of Enlightenment».
  • 2 N. Safier, Measuring the New World, pp. 114-15.
  • 3 For a case with notable parallels, see J. Robertson, «Political Economy and the “Feudal System”».

1Portuguese political writers and intellectually-inclined statesmen engaged in, and with, the Enlightenment, particularly in debates concerning political economy, in a robust and comprehensive way. Their personal trajectories, both as ambassadors and representatives in foreign courts and as administrators in far-flung colonial ports and outposts beyond Europe, facilitated their participation in networks of sociability and communication which are now recognized to have formed an important aspect of the Enlightenment1. In many cases, the ideas which they encountered abroad in Europe and in Portugal’s overseas possessions were transmitted back to Lisbon where they were received unpredictably and produced uneven effects. Unsurprisingly, when introduced close to the seat of power, they could prove enormously influential, as the cases of the Marquis of Pombal, whose political influence was unrivalled for the quarter century after 1755, and Dom Rodrigo de Souza Coutinho, the most dynamic minister in the early nineteenth century, suggest. But it was never a case of straightforward and uncritical application of foreign ideas. In Portugal, models encountered elsewhere came into contact with knowledge acquired and experiences endured elsewhere, notably in Portugal’s ultramarine empire. Like other forms of scientific knowledge in the Age of Enlightenment, political economy, in Portugal at least, emerged from the interaction of different geographical sites, and was necessarily hybrid2. Engagement with broader currents of political economy served to make Portuguese political writers and statesmen participants in the emergent European public sphere whereas efforts to implement ideas in Portugal and its empire drew attention to the limits of political economy’s applicability as well as the peculiar conditions and unique challenges in those places3.

  • 4 D. R. Curto, «D. Rodrigo de Sousa Coutinho e a Casa Literaria do Arco do Cego», pp. 26-27; for a fu (...)

2The engagement with political economy in Portugal was one component of a broader programme of reform, which aimed at the integration of its entire empire; that is, of the different territories under the aegis of the Portuguese crown conceived of as a unified, more fluidly functioning whole, encompassing Brazil (not only the Atlantic littorals, but also the vast interior), Angola, Cape Verde, São Tomé and Principe, Mozambique, Goa, Macao as well as metropolitan Portugal and the eastern Atlantic archipelagos of the Azores and Madeira. As previous scholars have observed, including historian Diogo Ramada Curto, Portuguese political reformers and writers «conceived of [all of the possessions] as a single whole, a single political system»4. And while it is true that Lisbon-based reformers often tried to transplant ideas they gleaned from Europeans texts of political economy to foreign, often tropical soils, it is equally undeniable that they recognized, and demonstrated keen awareness, that the ideas must be adapted carefully to local circumstances and conditions. This led to robust interest in the public sphere, but an interest undercut somewhat by anxiety with regard to the proper means of making use of this knowledge, to which may be attributed the Portuguese preference for limited, piecemeal, small-scale experimentation.

  • 5 N. Sanjad, «Éden Domesticado».

3In this sense, the botanical garden was the institutional embodiment of this cautious yet experimental spirit, emblematic, too, of its geographical diversity5. As much as seeds and samplings, human beings moved with similar ease. It was not at all unusual for an individual to be found on three continents over the course of a single administrative career, making him especially attuned to the vast differences and therefore wary of what might be termed the «universalizing» tendencies of political economists based on their long, often dismal tenures abroad. Take, for example, Francisco de Souza Coutinho, father of the well-known, turn-of-the century reforming minister Dom Rodrigo mentioned previously: he served as a colonial governor in Angola, ambassador to the courts of Madrid and London, while his sons served in various diplomatic, administrative and ministerial capacities from Turin to Belém do Pará to London. Dom Francisco was not an anomaly, though perhaps was an extreme version of a phenomenon that deserves to be underscored: how the Portuguese programme of reform emerged from the intermingling of, and the creative tensions between, cutting-edge European ideas concerning political economy and the often sobering, dispiriting realities existing outside of Europe in Portugal’s overseas colonies (and in regions of Portugal itself, such as Trás-os-Montes, the mountains of the Algarve, and certain sparsely-populated zones of the Alentejo). Portugal’s public sphere was not solely a European one, but rather one whose boundaries stretched across the Atlantic and spilled into the Indian Ocean. With greater accuracy it might be said that the Portuguese were dexterous participants in interpenetrating public spheres, one confined to Europe and the other inter-oceanic with its main seats in the port cities which dotted the coasts of Brazil, India, and West Africa.

  • 6 See, for example, W. J. Simon, Scientific Expeditions; and Â. Domingues, Viagens de Exploração.

4The Portuguese case is not one of overenthusiastic philosophes succombing to the inhospitable jungles of South America. In this sense it is very unlike the utopian visions of nineteenth-century Benthamites, which were wrecked both on the banks of the Río de la Plata and coasts of Bengal. In contrast, the Portuguese rarely sought to import ideas without first ascertaining if they were suitable to local circumstances. Local knowledge gleaned from naturalists, colonial officials, and other travelers was an enormous boon to the study of political economy in Portugal and its empire. Cuttings of exotic plants, botany, maps of rivers and coastlines, descriptions of Amerindian economic organization, and the drawbacks of forced labor regimes which galvanized tropical agriculture all served to encourage the study of political economy, and cognate sciences, in Portugal, catalyzing the reassessment and modification of received doctrines as well as providing an impetus for the dissemination of this local knowledge in Europe6. The career of political economist José da Silva Lisboa offers a good example. The product of a provincial upbringing in Bahia, a Coimbra education, and political service in Rio de Janeiro, he was painfully aware of the perils of importing political economy without careful consideration of local conditions.

5In a letter to the Padua-born Domingos Vandelli—later director of the Lisbon Royal Botanical Garden—which Silva Lisboa wrote from Salvador in October 1781, the Bahian expressed his doubt about the utility of a solely agrarian-based development strategy for Brazil:

  • 7 Letter reproduced in D. Carvalho, Desenvolvimento e Livre Comércio, p. 44; On Silva Lisboa, see G. (...)

Our century is the century of agriculture; everyone writes about agriculture from the comfort of their study, perhaps without having ever worked the earth. Agriculture is easier and more attractive, therefore, to write about than to pursue as an occupation […] not withstanding its advantages, the cultivation of sugar cane is detrimental and fraught with problems […] The necessity of having to live among slaves and the tenuous nature of one’s wealth (riqueza) and the possibility of [the slaves] being cruel and pernicious to the senhor or the senhor treating [the slaves] with harshness, or to be badly served, represents another terrible obstacle to the cultivation of sugar cane in Brazil7.

6Silva Lisboa’s rationale is not entirely convincing, but this passage offers evidence for the claim that local circumstances in the colonies were crucial to explaining the mixed reception, and partial, eclectic use, of European political economy. In the case of slave-dependent agriculture, the social dynamics of the plantation, and the insecurity they engendered, produced Silva Lisboa’s skepticism concerning the utility and applicability of certain economic doctrines.

7Mirroring its geographical position, Portuguese political economy straddled and represented a fusion of two worlds: one was that of Europe, where it was a minor player on the periphery; the second, quite different from the first, was an inter-oceanic and bi-hemispheric world of far-flung, heterogeneous territories in which Lisbon, and subsequently, Rio de Janeiro, was the center. These were overlapping realities, of course. Portuguese officials were well aware, and often explicitly stated, that without colonies (and, it must be added, without the British alliance), Portugal would soon be reduced to a province of Spain. Lisbon-based officials, then, necessarily looked to the empire while simultaneously realizing that its economic potential could be harnessed only with fresh ideas. This would entail a closer link between European thought and its policy in the colonies, where it would be tested, with varying results. Portuguese political economy, with its strong statist and reformist orientation, reflected this dual position. The colonies were as much sites of innovation and the creation of knowledge as was the metropole. Observations made in European capitals such as Turin, Paris, and London found their way back to Lisbon, where political writers and policy-makers, already in possession of detailed descriptions of Portugal’s overseas territories, attempted to bridge the gap between the two seemingly incommensurate worlds and formulate a policy capable of embracing the empire as a whole.

8Portuguese statesmen were not content to straddle these two worlds, but rather sought to transform spaces throughout the empire to make them more similar, to eliminate, or at least minimize, the diversity or heterogeneity which had made (and continued to make) local knowledge indispensable. Franco Venturi’s comment, in his 1971 essay «The Chronology and Geography of the Enlightenment», is especially apposite in this context:

  • 8 F. Venturi, Utopia and Reform, p. 133.

It is tempting to observe that the Enlightenment was born and organized in those places where the contact between a backward world and a modern one was chronologically more abrupt and geographically closer8.

9This observation is useful perhaps for thinking about political economy and, more generally, the Enlightenment in Portugal and its empire. It was this interpenetration of the New World and the Old, the strange and familiar, the jungle and the palace, the Casa Grande and the Senzala, an interaction which was not always intentional, that was a distinctive, characteristic feature of the Luso-Brazilian public sphere. It was at the interface of the colonial «backward» colony and the «modern» metropole that Portuguese reformers sought to deploy the insights of political economy. The remainder of this essay, therefore, analyzes the ways that political writers and statesmen intent on reforming Portugal’s empire engaged in broader European debates concerning political economy. I focus on two aspects: first, the extent to which the Portuguese sought to emulate other European powers yet how this emulation was often modified in practice in response to local knowledge and incommensurate contexts; second, how intra-imperial networks served to integrate Brazil into this broader public sphere and how such attempts at integration suggested the limits of political economy’s utility in colonial contexts.

I. — Emulation and its limits

  • 9 F. J. C. Falcon, A Época Pombalina, p. 308.

10It is relatively uncontroversial to highlight the role of foreign influence on both Portuguese political economy and the reform program undertaken by Pombal and his successors after 1750. Until relatively recently, however, the part was confused for the whole, and the Portuguese enlightenment was perceived to be largely an estrangeirado phenomenon. While the historiography is now moving beyond this misleading tendency, it is true that many of contributors to Portuguese political economic discourse had numerous and diverse foreign connections, often through extended diplomatic service and insatiable intellectual curiosity. For example, it is universally acknowledged that English seventeenth-century commercial writers informed thought and action of Dom Luis da Cunha and similarly influenced Pombal, who served as ambassador to England in early 1740s9. Dom Rodrigo spent the decade of the 1780s in Turin, and his dispatches are littered with paeans to emulation and what might be termed, anachronistically, a commitment to the cosmopolitan diffusion of reform ideas. «Among the duties of a diplomat who resides at a foreign court», Dom Rodrigo remarked in a dispatch from Turin,

  • 10 R. de S. Coutinho, «Reflexões Políticas», t. I, p. 141.

perhaps there is none more interesting and useful than that of recording and transmitting the current state of affairs in the country, the causes which have secured its prosperity or hastened its decline10.

11Indeed, as he suggested in another document,

  • 11 Id., «Recopilação dos Oficios Expedidos de Turim no Ano de 1786», t. I, p. 79.

it is a just ambition of all governments to bring to their vassals the luzes enjoyed by more enlightened nations, recognizing that a nation’s future greatness depends on the use of such principles11.

12These sorts of attitudes concerning the desirability and, indeed, inevitability of emulation, were widespread. One political writer offered an anecdote he claimed was derived from Neapolitan policy in order to emphasize the point that «agriculture is not something learned by chance; it is an art, even a science, and it is rather difficult to master». The same writer continued that:

  • 12 Arquivo Nacional [Rio de Janeiro], Diversos Codices 807, vol. 21, Agostinho Ignacio da Costa Quinte (...)

When the King of Naples wanted to improve the agriculture of his kingdom, he sent an intelligent man to apprentice himself to one of the most successful farmers in England, in order to learn the best techniques. Upon his return [to Naples], the King ordered that this man set up a school, and gave him land upon which he could practice, for the benefit of all, what he had learned abroad12.

  • 13 Manuel Jacinto de Sampaio e Melo, quoted in L. Jobim, Ideologia e Colonialismo, p. 79.

13Such enthusiasm for emulation trickled down to the wider population. For example, an otherwise unremarkable Bahian planter argued that «if we do not imitate the industry of the inhabitants of Jamaica, Martinique, our sugar will never be able to complete with theirs in Europe»13. Such statements suggest the degree to which works of political economy furnished acceptable material to cross borders. But its effects were often not the fortification or amplification of an autonomous public sphere, but something else altogether, clearly statist in orientation and inconsistent with an autonomous public sphere.

  • 14 S. J. de C. Melo, Escritos Económicos, p. 42.
  • 15 On Pombaline policy, see K. R. Maxwell, Pombal; for an overview of Dom José’s reign, see N. G. Mont (...)

14There was a direct connection between emulation and imperial reform. The most obvious as well as important case is that of the Marquis of Pombal. The intellectual origins of Pombal’s imperial reform programme may be traced to formative stints of diplomatic service, especially his service in London between 1738 and 1743. While it remains unclear whether or not he spoke English, Pombal compiled a library of 254 English titles, including works by William Petty, Charles Davenant, William Wood, Josiah Child and Jonathan Swift. Although Pombal recognized that «all business conducted in foreign countries was insecure and contingent», due to the «ambition and greed it inspired in other countries», he did not include colonial trade in this category. On the contrary, colonial commerce was, potentially, «secure and perpetual», so long as «foreigners were excluded» and adequate care was taken to «watch over the colony’s commerce»14. When he became de facto prime minister under King Dom José after 1755, Pombal was thus faced with several dilemmas, of which the most important was to balance Portugal’s dependence on its military-diplomatic alliance with Britain while simultaneously circumventing the advantages enjoyed by Britain, sanctioned in the 1703 Methuen Treaty, in Portuguese markets in the Old World and the New15.

  • 16 S. J. de C. Melo, Escritos Económicos, p. 136.
  • 17 Pombal, quoted in K. R. Maxwell, Conflicts and Conspiracies, p. 19.
  • 18 On the Pombaline companies in Brazil, see A. Carreira, As Companhias Pombalinas.

15The formula which Pombal struck upon to resolve the dilemma was the formation of monopoly companies and the rigorous prevention of contraband from entering Brazilian ports, policies which he claimed were inspired directly by England’s seventeenth-century geopolitical strategy, though now to be utilized to diminish Britain’s advantages over Portugal in the eighteenth. Pombal’s preference for monopoly companies is foreshadowed in his London journals in which he had speculated on the usefulness of companies to «fertilise» and «sprout» colonial commerce. «The utility of a company», he explained, «is proven by the experience of all European states which have established them, collecting as a result great revenues»16. After his ascent to power, trading companies became an essential component of his political design, particularly those for Grão Pará and Maranhão in northern Brazil, by which Pombal sought to develop new export commodities, such as cotton and rice, which were not affected by previous commercial treaties. In 1755, Pombal would describe such companies as the «only way to reclaim the commerce of all Portuguese America from the hands of foreigners»17. These trading companies remained in existence until Pombal’s fall from power in 1778, after which time a less-regulated trade regime was established18.

  • 19 J. da S. Lisboa, Observações sobre a franqueza da indústria. On Silva Lisboa, see G. Paquette, «Jos (...)

16There was some resistance, however, even from the most cosmopolitan of the Portuguese political writers, concerning whether or not all ideas drawn from works of political economy should inform the Portuguese state’s action. There were clear limits. Even such an unrepentant anglophile as Silva Lisboa was not, it must be stressed, a proponent of uncritical emulation of Britain. In fact, he repeatedly warned that blind copying could yield pernicious consequences. He therefore rejected proposals to nurture British-style manufactures in Brazil. «If we attempt to introduce them here, solely driven by the spirit of rivalry, spurred by mere imitation of foreign precedent», he chided, «such action would diminish our agriculture, exports and maritime trade»19. Taken together, it may be said that even such an apparently cosmopolitan practice as emulation had limits and often furthered traditional goals, in some cases synonymous with those emanating from reason-of-state, to outwit and sometimes outstrip rival states. Furnished by an increasingly pan-European public sphere, interest was driven by geopolitical exigencies and in some cases served to undermine the very existence of that transnational space. Yet emulation was not viable in many colonial contexts which differed markedly from the admired model. Such conditions meant that while the European public sphere extended across the Atlantic, it did so imperfectly. Its extension often was thwarted by local circumstances.

II. — Intra-imperial networks and political economy in Portugal and its empire

  • 20 A. J. R. Russell-Wood, «Centers and Peripheries», p. 114.

17In order to understand the diffusion and application of political economic discourse in the Portuguese world, as well as the uses to which it was put, it is important to recall that centrifugal forces meant that there were many points of decision-making. Multiple points of decision-making—the relative degree of administrative centralization—opened up the possibility for the participation of colonial subjects in the formulation of policy20. However, there were other, countervailing centripetal forces at work. As historian Stuart Schwartz noted,

through a system of education and promotion, rotation in office and institutional checks, the magistracy remained tied to royal interest and dependent on the crown […] The weakness of the power of the viceroy, the existence of multiple institutional checks, the incorporation of Brazilian posts into the hierarchy of office and the channels of promotion, and the constant need to refer matters to Portugal

  • 21 S. B. Schwartz, Sovereignty and Society, pp. 362, 365.
  • 22 Ibid., p. 361.
  • 23 F. T. da Fonseca, «Scientiae Thesaurus Mirabilis», p. 530.
  • 24 K. R. Maxwell, Conflicts and Conspiracies; on the themes of «useful knowledge» and «improvement» in (...)

18all served to reinforce the interdependence of the colonies and the metropolis and the bureaucracy and the crown21. From a very early stage, Brazilians (and later colonials of other provenance) were incorporated into a transatlantic bureaucracy. What they shared was a common experience of legal education at the University of Coimbra, which became a training ground for imperial government, a process described by Schwartz as «bureaucratic socialization which readied a man for the robe of office»22. The sheer number of Brazilian students who attended Coimbra is impressive. Between 1766-1770 alone, 196 Brazilians matriculated at Coimbra whereas between 1791-1795, 80 matriculated23. Pombal famously undertook a reform of the curriculum of Coimbra, extirpating scholasticism and infusing it with new doctrines. One of the effects was to increase the number of medical doctors, mathematicians, and natural scientists at the expense of canon lawyers and theologians. By the end of the eighteenth century, a vision of genuinely Luso-Brazilian empire was in place, one which brought individuals from across the empire together for a common education, oriented toward the study and creation of «useful knowledge», and produced a pan-territorial approach to reform and, to a degree, defused metropolitan-colonial tensions. Upon graduation, Portuguese-born and Brazilian-born students criss-crossed the globe in the service of the Crown and the «improvement» of its dominions24.

  • 25 A. J. R. Russell-Wood, «A Dinâmica», p. 15.
  • 26 M. R. de Mello Pereira, «Brasileiros a Serviço do Império», p. 153.
  • 27 M. O. da S. Dias, «Aspectos da Ilustração», pp. 131-132.
  • 28 L. Vidal, Mazagão.

19The claim here, building on the research of previous scholars, is that there was a remarkably extensive amount of travel, exchange, and interpenetration between the various parts of the Portuguese empire, and that the careers and itineraries of leading figures offers one way to study how political economy was understood, used, and transformed. The example of Dom Francisco de Souza Coutinho—with his stints in Luanda and London—has been mentioned already, but many other figures could be mentioned, men whose trajectories were not at all unusual: Dom Diogo de Sousa, first count of Rio Pardo, served as Governor and Captain-General of Mozambique (1793-1798), before he moved to Brazil to hold the same post in Maranhão (1798), then moved south to become the first Captain-General of Rio Grande de São Pedro (Rio Grande do Sul) (1807-1814), before ending his career as Viceroy and Captain-General of India (from 1816)25. A second such individual was Francisco José de Lacerda Almeida, born in Brazil, educated at Coimbra, leader of two scientific expeditions to Mato Grosso, then professor at the Real Escola Naval in Lisbon, before becoming governor of the Rios de Sena in the late 1790s, where his remit was to traverse Africa, from Mozambique to Angola. He died en route26. A third transatlantic figure representative of this broader phenomenon was Rio de Janeiro-born naturalist and mineralogist João da Silva Feijó, who served as secretary to the governor of Cape Verde before devoting himself to explorações filosoficas in the northern Brazilian province of Ceará27. Such mobility, it should be emphasized, was not limited to the highest echelon of educated, polite society. There were multiple attempts to move large numbers of people throughout the empire as the relations among its various parts became recalibrated due to shifting geopolitical dynamics and economic change. Already in 1769, Pombal had ordered the evacuation of Mazagão, on the Moroccan coast, and relocated the Mazanganistas to Amazonia, where a new city, Vila Nova de Mazagão, was founded in the early 1770s28. But the movement was not exclusively outward, away from Portugal. In 1787, for example, 400 Azorean families were resettled in the Alentejo in an effort to repopulate it. Intra-imperial movement, then, was a distinguishing characteristic of the Portuguese empire in the age of Enlightenment. Such movement, especially at the elite level, served to create and diffuse knowledge concerning the natural resources, topography, and economic prospects of these places.

  • 29 N. G. Monteiro, D. João Carlos de Bragança.
  • 30 J. L. Cardoso, O Pensamento Económico, pp. 56, 67-74, 100, 122.

20Systematic, state-sponsored study of political economy in Portugal began in 1779 with the founding of the Academy of Sciences, in Lisbon, patronized by an inveterate enemy of Pombal, the Duke of Lafões, Queen Maria I’s uncle, following the Marquis’ fall from power29. Among its responsibilities was the task of amassing, analyzing, and diffusing information concerning Portuguese colonial products, commodities, minerals, and geography to better harness them. Historian José Luis Cardoso has shown convincingly that one of the Academy’s chief functions was to disseminate manuals and memorias on best practices in agriculture and to encourage the adoption of these techniques. The Academy was a bastion of what Cardoso terms agrarismo, a term which he considers to be more suitable than Physiocracy in the Portuguese context, given the scarce number of explicit references to Quesnay or other the writings of other Physiocrats. Cardoso has also suggested that the embrace of agriculture and agrarian development as well as the often voiced distaste for the concession of special privileges of all types and all forms of monopoly must partially be attributed to anti-Pombaline sentiment which was pervasive during the Viradeira instead of a broader embrace of free trade or Physiocratic ideas30.

  • 31 D. Vandelli, «Memória sobre a pública instrução», p. 131.
  • 32 Id., «Memória sobre a Agricultura deste Reino», p. 127.
  • 33 T. Walker, «Acquisition and Circulation of Medical Knowledge».
  • 34 M. A. da S. Dias, «Aspectos da Ilustração no Brasil», p. 112.
  • 35 J. de Loureiro, «Da Transplantação das Árvores (1789)», p. 126.
  • 36 D. Vandelli, «Memória sobre a Agricultura deste Reino», p. 130; in another unpublished manuscript, (...)

21Members of the Academy of the Sciences were interested in learning from the experiences of other European states, but they realized that simple borrowing would not be sufficient to meet Portugal’s goals. Vandelli argued that «we have an almost exorbitant abundance of economic books, written in many languages, but not everything contained in these books is applicable to the climate of this country»31. It was the spirit and not the exact policy which should be imitated, and Vandelli held up England, France, Denmark, Sweden and Switzerland as examples of countries where «good laws and prizes encourage agriculture»32. The Academy of Sciences patronized and disseminated numerous tracts that involved transporting plants from one part of the empire and planting them elsewhere, particularly Asian plants in Brazil. This built on earlier initiatives, of course. Exchanges of medicinal plants had been taking place for centuries33. Tobacco from Virginia had been introduced in Bahia in 1757 whereas Carolina Rice was grown in Pará and Maranhão by 176534. These experiments gathered steam in the early 1780s under the Academy’s tutelage. One writer, recounting how the Dutch «had taken coffee from Arabia to Suriname, where it was then smuggled to French Guiana», argued that the Portuguese authorities in Brazil should obtain coffee plants since Brazil’s climate and terrain differed little from the neighboring South American footholds of the Dutch and French, claim whose prescience deserves notice35. Vandelli himself offered ebullient assessments of Portuguese Africa’s prospects. While lamenting that they remained sparsely cultivated, he praised Cape Verde as «fertile», the islands of the gulf of Guinea as «very fertile», and Angola as «potentially a rich kingdom»36. Clearly, ideas and plants from elsewhere in the empire as well as the dominions of rival states were one of the keys to the improvement of those regions.

  • 37 J. L. Cardoso, O Pensamento Económico, pp. 110-111.
  • 38 Quoted in ibid., p. 111.

22While the Academy was at work in Lisbon, there were other efforts outside of the capital to diffuse political economy doctrines, part of a broader effort to foment agricultural production and local craft industries. Campomanes’s tracts on these subjects was translated from Spanish into Portuguese and there were various efforts to form Economic Societies on the Spanish model in the Minho (1779), Elvas (1781), Douro (1783), Évora (1784), Valença (1789) and Funchal (1790)37. In a speech opening the Economic Society based in the Minho (specifically in Ponte de Lima) in 1779, Manuel da Silva Baptista Vasconcelos claimed that the remit of the Society was broad, embracing not only agriculture and all types of cottage industry, but also the arts and manufacture. He called them «a school of politica, where the nobility is taught how to act when its members hold positions of responsibility, the sublime science of understanding the true interests of the state»38. Very few of these societies, in contrast to their Spanish counterparts, survived for more than a few years. However, some of the publication and translation projects which these Societies would have undertaken made their way into the publication programme of the Casa Literaria do Arco do Cego, in Lisbon, which operated between 1799 and 1801. In this way, texts of political economy were fundamental to the creation of a public sphere in Portugal, one which straddled its empire as well as Europe.

  • 39 On these latter of these societies, see P. F. de Matos, «Oficiais da Armada»; and R. Cunha, «Docume (...)
  • 40 These activities are enumerated in J. M. D. Pereira, Memoria para a Historia do Grande Marquez de P (...)

23The Academy of Sciences and the ill-fated Economic Societies were supplemented by additional institutions founded by the Crown: a Royal Naval Academy was created in 1779; a Royal Academy of Fortification, Artillery and Design in 1790; a Royal Public library in 1796; a Royal Maritime, Military, and Geographic Society in 1798; and a Royal Coast Guard Academy opened in 179639. The Maritime Society attempted to improve maritime cartography, develop new navigational techniques and charts, study ocean currents, compile detailed tidal charts, and draw topographical maps for the military’s use40. All of these institutions were highly cosmopolitan and represented spaces in which books and ideas were exchanged.

  • 41 M. B. N. da Silva, A Cultura Luso-Brasileira, pp. 27, 30, 60-62.
  • 42 L. F. de Almeida, «Aclimatação», p. 403.

24As an aside, it is instructive to point out that very few of these initiatives would have their counterpart in the colonies before the transfer of the monarchy (when coast guard and military academies would be set up in Rio de Janeiro in 1810). The Pombaline Brazilian viceroy, the Marquis of Lavradio, had sought to set up a scientific academy, while a literary academy was formed in 1786. Both initiatives were short-lived. However, one important institution was created in the colonies: the botanical garden. The botanical garden founded in Belém do Pará in 1796 was supposed to serve as a model for others, though the second botanical garden, in Rio de Janeiro, would not be founded until 1810 while that of Olinda (in Pernambuco) would wait until 181141. Suggestions to create additional botanical gardens in Goa and Mozambique, while enthusiastically embraced by Dom Rodrigo, came to nought42.

  • 43 R. Raminelli, Viagens Ultramarinas, p. 13.

25Broadly-speaking, Crown ministers endeavored to tap civil society’s resources to bolster national initiatives. They encouraged leading scientists, ethnographers, travelers, and philosophically-inclined bureaucrats to write reports (memorias) which offered descriptive, and sometimes analytical, accounts of various natural, economic, and agricultural phenomena. It was these state-supported efforts—the maps drawn, the collections of flora and fauna assembled, and the memorias penned—which made the empire less abstract and made viable plans to extract natural resources and enhance the interdependence of the various provinces. Scientific voyages and other forms of exploration thus were part of state intervention in the colonies43.

  • 44 Ibid., p. 137.
  • 45 G. Paquette, «Introduction».

26This close affiliation of natural scientists, mathematicians, engineers, and men of letters was not without its perils, for these same figures became dependent on the generosity and sponsorship of the monarchy, as the creation and dissemination of knowledge became a means of social and professional advancement. Such dependence turned men of learning into collaborators of a state intent on expanding the scope and efficacy of its power44. The task was to put their erudition at the service of empire, to use their knowledge of the periphery to bring it under the control of the center, of the Crown. This relationship suggests that the public sphere was never truly autonomous from the state, which often incubated initiatives through its extensive tentacles of patronage. Even where a modicum of independence was enjoyed, the insights produced in the public sphere were easily encountered, appropriated, and utilized45.

  • 46 For a study that recovers the anti-imperial tradition in eighteenth-century thought, see S. Muthu, (...)
  • 47 On Spanish efforts, see P. De Vos, «Research. Development and Empire»; G. Paquette, Enlightenment, (...)
  • 48 A. C. N. da Silva, O Modelo Espacial, p. 373.
  • 49 D. Davidson, Rivers and Empire, pp. 75-84.
  • 50 N. Safier, Measuring the New World, p. 113.
  • 51 K. R. Maxwell, Conflicts and Conspiracies.
  • 52 Â. Domingues, Viagens de Exploração; B. A. Sommer, «Cupid on the Amazon».

27The Portuguese state was not content to draw sporadically on this knowledge of local conditions and profit from it occasionally. It sought to utilize it comprehensively in order to create a more homogeneous empire. This gap between metropolitan Portugal and its overseas possessions was viewed as a major barrier to the incorporation and exploitation of the latter. What reforms could be enacted while so much of the empire remained impervious to change? There were efforts, therefore, to make the empire more homogeneous, to transform untamed spaces into malleable units, eschewing the particularities of human life and cultural difference. In this sense, the reality of Portuguese enlightened reform matches very closely the common conception of the Enlightenment46. Portugal’s very existence as a viable state depended on those territories being placed under its control. As in Spanish America, where the Crown sought to bring rustic, under-populated peripheries, and in Spain itself where internal colonization was undertaken in arid zones, such as the Sierra Morena, Portuguese officials too sought to gain firmer control over its overseas territories47. It was widely observed that the imposition of policy was impossible without significant modifications to the territories targeted for change. The organization of territory, in Portugal and its colonies, was thought to be defective in that it impeded the exercise of state power and the uniform administration of justice48. Efforts to correct or improve this situation took various forms, including: the definition and preservation of Brazil’s outer limits and its borders with Spanish America and French Guiana; the reconceptualization of territory; and efforts to strategically integrate peripheral zones into the larger network of imperial logistics (e.g. the creation of a postal service)49. As historian Neil Safier has noted, under Dom José, the Portuguese state «using geographical maps, population charts, historical texts, and political treatises, they began to impose grids and graphs onto rivers, forests and Amerindian settlements»50. There were also efforts to extirpate individuals and groups whose activities and autonomy interfered with crown objectives, whether the comissarios volantes, contraband traders, or uncooperative Jesuits whose activities and autonomy were deemed in competition with Portuguese state51. Other attempts to re-shape territory took the form of the conquest and colonization of lands beyond the pale of settlement, depriving Amerindians of self-government or, as in Amazonia, the attempt to «Occidentalize» them, turning them into docile vassals and a compliant workforce; the creation of towns to foment commerce and consumption; and clearing forests, extending roads, and making fluvial routes navigable52.

28All of these imperial reform activities were coterminous with the rise of political economy in Portugal and the integration of its political writers into a European public sphere in which political economy was a key feature. It was not a mere coincidence, however, for these were intimately related developments. The diversity of the empire made the easy application of doctrines of political economy impossible without detailed knowledge of local conditions. At the same time, the insights and methods of political economy furnished Portuguese policy makers with the formulas and incentives to overcome diversity, dissolve distances, facilitate communication and thus create a world a little less strange, a bit more European, and easier to control, manipulate and exploit. If this description appears more despotic than enlightened, it must be remembered that these initiatives would have been inconceivable without ideas incubated by the public sphere. There was nothing intrinsic to political economy that produced such an outcome, but the exigencies of international rivalry led to its unintended use far from the European public sphere.

Notes

1 C. Hesse, «Topography of Enlightenment».

2 N. Safier, Measuring the New World, pp. 114-15.

3 For a case with notable parallels, see J. Robertson, «Political Economy and the “Feudal System”».

4 D. R. Curto, «D. Rodrigo de Sousa Coutinho e a Casa Literaria do Arco do Cego», pp. 26-27; for a fuller articulation of such a intregated vision of the empire, see A. R. C. da Silva, Inventando a Nação.

5 N. Sanjad, «Éden Domesticado».

6 See, for example, W. J. Simon, Scientific Expeditions; and Â. Domingues, Viagens de Exploração.

7 Letter reproduced in D. Carvalho, Desenvolvimento e Livre Comércio, p. 44; On Silva Lisboa, see G. Paquette, «José da Silva Lisboa».

8 F. Venturi, Utopia and Reform, p. 133.

9 F. J. C. Falcon, A Época Pombalina, p. 308.

10 R. de S. Coutinho, «Reflexões Políticas», t. I, p. 141.

11 Id., «Recopilação dos Oficios Expedidos de Turim no Ano de 1786», t. I, p. 79.

12 Arquivo Nacional [Rio de Janeiro], Diversos Codices 807, vol. 21, Agostinho Ignacio da Costa Quintela, «Verdadeiro Projeto ou Breve Discurso para se Aumentar a Agricultura em Portugal» (n.d.), fº 7rº.

13 Manuel Jacinto de Sampaio e Melo, quoted in L. Jobim, Ideologia e Colonialismo, p. 79.

14 S. J. de C. Melo, Escritos Económicos, p. 42.

15 On Pombaline policy, see K. R. Maxwell, Pombal; for an overview of Dom José’s reign, see N. G. Monteiro, Dom José; for an assessment of whether or not Pombal actually may be considered a «prime minister», see Id., «Pombal’s Government».

16 S. J. de C. Melo, Escritos Económicos, p. 136.

17 Pombal, quoted in K. R. Maxwell, Conflicts and Conspiracies, p. 19.

18 On the Pombaline companies in Brazil, see A. Carreira, As Companhias Pombalinas.

19 J. da S. Lisboa, Observações sobre a franqueza da indústria. On Silva Lisboa, see G. Paquette, «José da Silva Lisboa».

20 A. J. R. Russell-Wood, «Centers and Peripheries», p. 114.

21 S. B. Schwartz, Sovereignty and Society, pp. 362, 365.

22 Ibid., p. 361.

23 F. T. da Fonseca, «Scientiae Thesaurus Mirabilis», p. 530.

24 K. R. Maxwell, Conflicts and Conspiracies; on the themes of «useful knowledge» and «improvement» in the eighteenth century, see R. H. Drayton, Nature’s Government.

25 A. J. R. Russell-Wood, «A Dinâmica», p. 15.

26 M. R. de Mello Pereira, «Brasileiros a Serviço do Império», p. 153.

27 M. O. da S. Dias, «Aspectos da Ilustração», pp. 131-132.

28 L. Vidal, Mazagão.

29 N. G. Monteiro, D. João Carlos de Bragança.

30 J. L. Cardoso, O Pensamento Económico, pp. 56, 67-74, 100, 122.

31 D. Vandelli, «Memória sobre a pública instrução», p. 131.

32 Id., «Memória sobre a Agricultura deste Reino», p. 127.

33 T. Walker, «Acquisition and Circulation of Medical Knowledge».

34 M. A. da S. Dias, «Aspectos da Ilustração no Brasil», p. 112.

35 J. de Loureiro, «Da Transplantação das Árvores (1789)», p. 126.

36 D. Vandelli, «Memória sobre a Agricultura deste Reino», p. 130; in another unpublished manuscript, however, Vandelli argued that «India and the coasts of Africa have no purpose other than commerce», a situation he compared to Brazil, which he considered suitable for both commerce and agriculture. See D. Vandelli, «Memorias sobre o Commercio de Portugal e suas Colonias», fos 29-39vº passim.

37 J. L. Cardoso, O Pensamento Económico, pp. 110-111.

38 Quoted in ibid., p. 111.

39 On these latter of these societies, see P. F. de Matos, «Oficiais da Armada»; and R. Cunha, «Documentos Diversos sobre a Sociedade Real Maritima, Militar e Geografica».

40 These activities are enumerated in J. M. D. Pereira, Memoria para a Historia do Grande Marquez de Pombal, pp. 62-63.

41 M. B. N. da Silva, A Cultura Luso-Brasileira, pp. 27, 30, 60-62.

42 L. F. de Almeida, «Aclimatação», p. 403.

43 R. Raminelli, Viagens Ultramarinas, p. 13.

44 Ibid., p. 137.

45 G. Paquette, «Introduction».

46 For a study that recovers the anti-imperial tradition in eighteenth-century thought, see S. Muthu, Enlightenment Against Empire.

47 On Spanish efforts, see P. De Vos, «Research. Development and Empire»; G. Paquette, Enlightenment, Governance, and Reform.

48 A. C. N. da Silva, O Modelo Espacial, p. 373.

49 D. Davidson, Rivers and Empire, pp. 75-84.

50 N. Safier, Measuring the New World, p. 113.

51 K. R. Maxwell, Conflicts and Conspiracies.

52 Â. Domingues, Viagens de Exploração; B. A. Sommer, «Cupid on the Amazon».

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