Page images



state which, shorn of those vast continental possessions that alone gave it the consideration it once enjoyed, they may well turn with complacent admiration to the period when the affairs of their country were administered by a statesman who arrested its course down the easy slope of national decline, and who instituted an important policy which was imitated by the ministers of far greater and more powerful nations. The present, too, is the most favourable moment that has yet occurred for a calm and impartial consideration of the public life of this great Minister. Party-spirit in the physical and political atmosphere of Portugal is apt to engender a degree of heat almost unknown to our colder latitude and calmer

Hitherto Pombal has been the victim of two opposite sets of biographers and historians. By the one he has been so overpraised as to render his name ridiculous; by the other he has been so fiercely attacked that he is sometimes almost denied the name of a human being. A man who in a nation of devotees made a successful attack upon a powerful religious fraternity, will readily be believed to have drawn upon himself a vast amount of pious hostility; and it is chiefly as the destroyer of the Jesuits that his name escapes the oblivion which completely hides the long array of his predecessors and successors in office.

Before beginning our examination of the public life of Pombal, we have a word to say concerning the several works the titles of which stand at the head of this paper. Some of these need not detain us long. The first upon our list, the • Mémoires de S. J. Carvalho, published in French in 1784, not long after the Minister's death, has generally-and with every appearance of probability-been attributed to the Jesuits. From a remark in one of the notes to the first volume (p. 19), it appears that the work had originally been published in Italian, and we possess a copy of it in that language which bears the date of 1781. Though by no means without value

an historical sketch, it is yet so bitterly hostile to the Minister whose career it recounts, that the statements it contains must invariably be received with the greatest caution. The only measures of Pombal which it does not denouncewhich, indeed, it heartily commends as “just and wise'-are those of his extraordinary commercial and economical policy, which, at the present day, are almost unanimously condemned as vicious in principle and disastrous in result. The bitterness with which the subject of the · Mémoires' is assailed is sustained throughout, and, such is the weakness of human nature, on that account perhaps the book will be found to be





by no means unpleasant reading. Mr. Smith's · Memoirs of the Marquis of Pombal,' and the Count of Carnota's Mar

quis of Pombal,' are two editions of the same work, the author having received a Portuguese title of nobility in the interval between the publication of the first and second editions. The work is in reality an undiscriminating defence of the Marquis ; and though it contains some interesting documents, both public and private, not printed elsewhere, it has no real historical value. Of the work of the Baron de Septenville, the most favourable thing that can be said is that it is printed in very ·clear type upon excellent paper, and that it contains a good photograph of a well-known portrait of Pombal at the beginning, and an approximately correct * genealogy of the Carvalho family at the end. It throws no light whatever upon the history of Pombal. The remaining works upon our list are of a very different character. That of Senhor da Luz Soriano is, as he tells us in his preface, a kind of preliminary to another work, relating the history of the establishment of the present form of parliamentary government in Portugal. Rightly judging that the efforts of Pombal to break the power of the nobles and destroy the influence of the Church, as well as his attempts, mistaken though they unquestionably were, to improve the commerce of his country, were causes more or less direct of the growth of liberal feeling in Portugal, he considered that the history of Portuguese parliamentary institutions would be incomplete without an account of his administration. His principal authorities were a work called “L'Administration du Marquis de Pombal,' a reply to the

Mémoires' noticed above, and an anonymous and unpublished life of the statesman written in Portuguese. He has besides made considerable use of hitherto unpublished documents existing in the archives of the various ministries at Lisbon. The work is composed in a painstaking and conscientious manner, but its style is dry and laboured. It is filled with sentences of almost interminable length (not, by the way, an unusual feature of modern Portuguese literature), and as the author is a permanent official in the civil service of his country, it would appear that his literary style had been developed in the frequent composition of abstracts and State papers. He is great upon all questions of historical upholstery, and relates with the zealous accuracy of an anti

• In it he places the Marquis's birth in January instead of in May. and there is a discrepancy of three days between the date of his death as stated in the genealogy and in the text.


quary or a herald the details of state ceremonials, such as took place on the death of a sovereign or the inauguration of a statue. He usually takes a just view of Pombal's measures, though he does not appear to us to estimate at its true value his economical policy, some of the worst features of which he almost commends. On the whole we are inclined to believe that Senhor Soriano's work is of sufficient value to gain a place amid the honourable obscurity of the upper shelves, amongst those valuable but uninteresting works which no • (Portuguese) gentleman's library should be without.'

The volume of Senhor Gomès is undoubtedly the most valuable addition to the literature of the subject which has yet appeared. Written in French, it is accessible to a far larger class of readers than if it had appeared in Portuguese. It is not so much a history, as a critical examination, of the different portions of Pombal's administration. It boldly denounces, and in many cases clearly points out the disastrous effects of, his mischievous meddling with trade, and his general ignorance of the true principles of political economy. Not satisfied with what was to be found in any existing work on the subject, the author has drawn his information from hitherto almost unnoticed sources. He has searched the correspondence of the foreign ministers at Lisbon, the archives of the different departments of the government, and the documents in the library at Evora, for authority for all the statements which he advances. The consequence is that he has thrown a flood of light upon many important, and previously imperfectly understood, events : particularly the negotiations with Rome for the suppression of the Jesuits, the rehabilitation of the persons accused of conspiring against the life of King Joseph, and the judicial interrogation to which Pombal was subjected towards the close of his life. It will be seen that we have largely availed ourselves of his labours in these particulars, which have certainly resulted in presenting those events under a totally different aspect from what they had borne before. He strikes us as having formed a somewhat erroneous estimate of the state of his country during the reign of John V., which is at variance with that of cvery writer whom we have consulted, and even with his own admissions in several parts of his work. The book unfortunately has been very carelessly printed, especially as to dates. But these blemishes do not take away from its value-its very great value we will venture to call it

as an examination of Pombal's career. To this examination we shall ourselves now proceed.

A knowledge of the condition of Portugal during the reign, of John V., from 1708 to 1750, is necessary to a right understanding of the political history of Pombal. The story of that reign, too, is full of striking lessons. It is a record of squandered treasures, of ruined commerce, of crushed enterprise, of voluntary and unconditional surrenders to superstition. The character of the King seemed made up of an odd combination of affectations. He affected the magnificence of the earlier, and the piety of the later, years of Louis XIV., and the scandalous debauchery of Louis XV. at the same time. He built Mafra, the Portuguese Versailles. He covered the country with monasteries and introduced priests into his government, whilst in the convent of Odivellas he had a copy of the infamous Parc-aux-Cerfs. He was always making costly vows when anything he desired seemed beyond his reach. Mafra was the result of a vow made in the hope of having an heir. He aspired to raise Lisbon to be a sort of second Rome. Its archbishop was elevated to the rank of Patriarch. Its chapter became a kind of Sacred College, of which every member held the rank of bishop, and wore the scarlet robes of a cardinal; an extravagant folly which cost eighty thousand pounds sterling a year. He built the gorgeous Chapel of St. John the Baptist in the Church of San Roque in Lisbon, which, though only seventeen feet long by twelve broad, cost a sum equal to two hundred and twentyfive thousand pounds. Its beautiful mosaics having escaped the ravages of the earthquake, the great fire, and the French under Junot, still remain the delight of every visitor. The apparently inexhaustible treasures of Brazil did not suffice to meet his spendthrift extravagance. It is calculated that during the first half of the eighteenth century a hundred millions sterling were drawn from that rich country in diamonds and precious metals alone. At John's death he left his country three millions sterling in debt. New palaces, new churches, new convents, enormous presents to Rome, had dissipated the wealth brought over in fleets of galleons. It is declared that his gifts to the Church and to the Court of Rome exceeded sixteen millions sterling. The exchequer became so impoverished that some members of the Royal Family actually received their allowances in copper. The financial administration of the country fell into the most complete disorder. An early act of Pombal as minister was the reduction of twenty-two thousand tax-gatherers. Manufactures, even of ruder fabrics, scarcely existed in the country. In the early part of the reign the war with Spain had rendered it necessary to look to the national defences. As soon it was over they

were neglected. The peaceful and luxurious disposition of the King prevented attention being paid to military affairs. The army became disorganised. Even in Lisbon its sentinels begged openly in the streets. Men holding the rank of captain were actually seen waiting at the tables of the grandees. Guns honeycombed from age fell from their carriages in the crumbling fortresses. The treasure-fleets became almost the sole representatives of the Portuguese navy.

The successors of Bartoloméo Diaz, of Vasco da Gama, and of Magalhaens had descended to the ignoble duty of escorting cargoes of gold and silver. Literature had sunk to the lowest level. Books of devotion and legendary lives of saints formed the greater part of the works which issued from the press. In the country of

. Camoëns and Antonio Ferreira poetry had degenerated into mere translations from French and Italian authors. John, to be sure, founded an academy of history, but it chiefly tended to promote a taste for French historical literature. Eight hundred convents covered the surface of the small country of Portugal. It is asserted that one-tenth of the whole population prayed and idled within their walls. A spirit of contempt for honest industry spread amongst the people and took deep root. Their hewers of wood and drawers of water' then were, and still are, aliens from Galicia. To impute the frugal industry of a Gallego to a Portuguese would be to insult him grossly. Almost all commerce fell into foreign, chiefly English, hands. Patriotic writers declare that the gold of Brazil was the true foundation of British prosperity. These reasoners omit the important factors, industry and thrift, from their computation. The King prayed and begat bastards with edifying impartiality. The entire education of youth was monopolised by the Jesuits. The ancient university of Coïmbra had so degenerated that it became customary for hundreds of students to merely inscribe their names in its books in order to receive its diplomas. In one year, out of six thousand whose names were thus inscribed, but seven actually attended the Greek class.

The decorations of the various orders of knighthood were lavished on unworthy individuals with a prodigality which was indeed extraordinary. The richest commanderies, as well as the finest of the crown domains, were scattered broadcast amongst an ignorant and turbulent nobility. The King's ministers became the panders to his pleasures. Members of his cabinet were known to knock at the gates of convents or the doors of private houses and announce that some fair inmate would be honoured, on such and such a night, by the

« PreviousContinue »