Justice and Charity

  • A. J. R. Russell-Wood


Crime was rampant in the Portuguese empire: crimes committed not by Africans, Indians, Chinese or Amerindians, but by loyal subjects of the Portuguese Crown. In the sixteenth century the Orient had been a happy hunting ground for the dishonest and the unscrupulous. The pickings had been lucrative and easily gained. Brazil had only become an attractive proposition for criminal activities with the discovery of gold and diamonds in Minas Gerais in the 1690s. The difficulties faced by the Portuguese authorities in enforcing law and order in Asia and Brazil were virtually insuperable. The major problem in both cases was the extent of the area to be policed. On the one hand were the expanses of the Indian Ocean and South China Sea with an abundance of islands offering safe havens to any pirate. On the other was a coastline reaching from the jungles of the Amazon to the plains of Rio Grande do Sul, and an interior much of which had only been partially explored and defined even in the nineteenth century.


Eighteenth Century Social Standing Municipal Council Legal Counsel Early Eighteenth Century 
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  1. 2.
    Ludwig Pastor, The History of the Popes (English trans., 40 vols., London, 1899–1961), vol. 3, P. 32.Google Scholar
  2. 1.
    It was suppressed by a decree of 5 April 1625. Pedro Calmon suggests this was because of the upheaval wrought by the Dutch occupation, Historia da civilização brasileira (3rd ed., São Paulo, 1937), p. 151. Sebastião da Rocha Pitta, Historia da America Portugueza, livro 5, $ 110–11, suggests financial motives to save expenditure on salaries for the Crown officials.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© A. J. R. Russell-Wood 1968

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. J. R. Russell-Wood
    • 1
  1. 1.St Antony’s CollegeOxfordUK

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