A SOCIAL HISTORY OF OURO PRETO: STRESSES OF
DYNAMIC URBANIZATION Ill COLONIAL BRAZIL,
A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE
COUNCIL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL
FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
To My Father
Francisco Nascimento Ramos
In Grateful Memory
Ouro Preto is today a small city of fewer than 20,000
people about 100 kilometers southeast of Belo Horizonte,
the capital of the state of Minas Gerais. It is a town
only beginning to recover from over a century of isolation
and economic underdevelopment. While the eighteenth century
was an era of economic and cultural dynamism, the nineteenth
and early twentieth centuries saw economic retardation.
Fortunately for the present, past residents of Ouro Preto
lacked the wealth to destroy the monuments of the golden
age in Minas Gerais. Now these monuments -- the churches,
houses, works of art, and rambling streets -- attract tour-
ists from all over Brazil and from many parts of the world.
Because of its importance during the eighteenth
century, Vila Rica, as Ouro Preto was called during the
colonial era, has been examined by Brazilian historians.
But almost without exception these writers have focused
either upon dramatic events like the Wars of the Emboabas,
the 1720 riots, and the Inconfidencia Mineira of 1789, or
upon the baroque art which flourished during the age of
gold. Thus, writers have tended to fix their attention
upon the events which took place in the town and to treat
these as examples of nativism during the colonial era.
Throughout these studies the town and its residents are
barely perceptible. Because the spotlight has been on
the dramatic, the organization and structure of the town
has remained in the shadows.
The colonial history of Vila Rica can be divided into
three distinct periods. The first covers the years between
1.695, when gold was discovered, and 1726, and is charac-
terized by a rapid expansion in gold production. The
second covers the years 1727 to 17h4, and is marked by
relative stability in the production of gold in the im-
mediate area of Vila Rica. The third period extends from
1745 to the end of the colonial era, and is one of decreas-
ing gold production.
This study concentrates on the epoch of economic
boom. It is during this period that the seeds of the artis-
tic and intellectual developments of the second half of
the eighteenth-century were planted. This is the period
when law and order was established among the turbulent
miners who flocked into the mining district. My primary
consideration in examining these three decades is to pre-
sent a multifaceted view of a society in the process of
formation. Rather than present a static situation, the
emphasis is on change--on the dynamic manner in which
this colonial society evolved.
To some extent, especially regarding the Wars of the
Emboabas, material familiar to specialists is reexamined.
Time and space are devoted to such topics in order that they
may be placed into a larger frame of reference; the em-
phasis is not on the events themselves, but on their
effects upon the society then developing.
I have sought to concentrate upon the analysis of
local political institutions, social organization, and
urbanization, and to emphasize the processes by which these
evolved. This approach provides an opportunity to use
Vila Rica as a case study of a colonial town, and is es-
pecially illuminating because of the rapidity with which
the transition was made from an uninhabited region to a
major town and capital of the most populated and richest
captaincy in Brazil.
In terms of political development, the case of Vila
Rica reaffirms the importance of town councils in the ad-
ministration of law and the maintenance of order. This
study, however, goes beyond the town council to examine
all components of a highly complex system of local gov-
ernment including the justices of the peace and the fiscal
officers. The case by Vila Rica refutes the assumption
that by 1700 royal government had crushed municipal power.
In the mining district the Portuguese crown was willing to
grant extensive powers to local interests in exchange for
stability and its corollary, increased gold production.
The process by which the crown sought to regain control
from local interests is a major theme of this study.
My analysis of the development of Vila Rica is
focused on the forces that shaped the urban pattern which
evolved. While gold was the most important factor in
determining the location of the town, and the general form
that the urban area would assume, other factors such as
commerce, the main square, major roads, and the construc-
tion of public buildings played significant roles in this
The society that evolved in and immediately around
Vila Rica is discussed at length in this study, which is
especially concerned with the composition of each level of
society and the extent of mobility between groups. Far-
ticular attention is devoted to slaves and freedmen. While
there was extensive social mobility during part of this
period, the process of social rigidification also began at
this time, with the effects being felt most by some ccm-
ponents of the middle group and by the slaves. Baptismal
and marriage kinship relationships, Isy brotherhoods, and
the militia are examined as manifestations of these pro-
The sources used in the reconstruction of this col-
onial environment include the records of the town council
of Vila Rica; the records of baptisms, marriages, and burials;
lay brotherhood records; wills; and the records of the
governor's office and the treasury. These sources, some
of which have not been used systematically before, form
a mosaic: each provides a piece to the total picture.
This is particularly true in the matter of social organi-
The research for this study was conducted in Brazil
under a grant from the Foreign Area Fellowship Program
grant, without which it could not have been done. I would
be remiss if I failed to acknowledge the assistance and
friendship extended to me by the Director of the Arquivo
Publico Mineiro, Dr. Joao Gomes Teixeira; the Archbishop
of Mariana, Dom Oscar de Oliveira; and the Director of the
Museu da Inconfidencia, Dr. Orlandino Seites Fernandes.
Among many other Brazilians who aided my research, Srs.
Helio Gravati and Manuel de Paiva Junicr must be singled
out; Sr Gravati for both his friendship and bibliographical
assistance and Sr. Manuel for sharing his love for Ouro
Prsto and his knowledge of local church history and docu-
mentation. I have received advice and assistance from
many North Americans at various stages of my research, but
particularly from Dr. Neill !acaulay of the University of
Florida who has been unstinting of his time and knowledge.
To these gentlemen and to others unnamed goes my sincerest
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Preface . . . . . . . . . .
List of Tables . . . . . . . .
List of Figures . . . . . . . .
Key to Abbreviations. . . . . . .
Abstract . . . . . . . . .
Part I The F.rl!y Years: Gold and Royal
Indecision. . . . . . .. .
Chapter 1 The Years of Frustration and
Success . . . . . .
Notes . . . . . . . .
Chapter 2 The Years of 'Euhoria and
Distress . . . . .
Notes . . . . . . . .
Chapter 3 The Gold Rush . . . .
Hotes . . . . . . . .
Chapter C-old: Techniques and Taxes. .
Notes . . . . . . . .
Chapter 5 Administration: The Period of
Uncertainty . . . . .
Notes . . . . . . . .
Part II Rebellion and Reaction: The Imposition
of Royal Control, 1706-1711 .. ..
Chapter 6 Confrontation . . . .
Notes . . . . . . . .
Chapter 7 The Wars of the Emboabas. .
Not es . . . . . . . .
Chapter 8 The Aftermath . . . .
Notes . . . . . . . .
Part III The Vessel and Its Contents .
Chapter 9 The Incorporation of Vila
Rica . . . . . .
Notes . . . . . . . .
Chapter 10 Urban Development of Vila
Rica . . . . . .
Notes . . . . . . . .
i o. t e L
Chaptc r 17
Social Organization Before
1726: The Potentates . .
Social Organization: The
Middle Sector . . . .
The Slave: Distribution and
Origins . .
The Slave: His Threat to
Society . . . . .
The Slave: Living and Worki
Conditions . . . . .
The Freedman . . . .
Social Organization: Com-
padresco Relationships and
marriage Patterns ..
The Irmandades and Social
Differentiation . . .
The Militia . . . .
. . . . . . . .
Part IV Local Government
Chapter 20 Structure of the Municipal
Council . .
otes . . . . . . . .
Chapter 21 The Municipal Council: Selec-
tion of Members . . . .
otes . . . . . . . .
Chapter 22 The Functions of the Munici-
pal Council . . . . .
Notes . . . . . . . .
Chapter 23 The Municipal Council:
Income . . . . . .
HIotes . . . . . . . .
Chapter 2h The Apparatus of Local
Government . . . . .
Notes . . . . . . . .
Part V The End of the Age Of Potentates . .
Chapter 25 Political Conflict in an
Evolving Society . . . .
Notes . . . . . . . .
Chapter 26 The Uprising of 1720 . . .
Notes . . . . . . . .
Glossary . . . . . . . . . .
Bibliography. . . . . . . . . .
Biographical Sketch . . . . . . .
LIST OF TABLES
Table 1 Royal Income . . . . . . .65
Table 2 Origin of Slaves in Vila Rica . 195
Table 3 Homens Bons: 1711 . . . ... .316-317
Table 4 Royal Fifth Totals by Parish ... . 390
LIST OF FIGURES
Vila Rica and Major Outlying Settlements.......... 19
KEY TO ABBREVIATIONS
ACAM..........Arquivo da Curia do Arcebispado de Mariana
AIMP ..........Arquivo de Irmandade das Merces e Perddes
AISFAD........Arquivo da Irmandade de SAo Francisco de
ANSRAC.........Arquivo da Irmand2de de Nossa Senhora do
Rosario do Alto da Cruz
APAD..........Arquivo Parochial de Ant3nio Dias
APHANOP....... Arcuivo do Patrimznio Hist6rico e Artistico
National in Ourc Prito
APM........... Arquivo PGblico ::ineiro
APOP..........Arquivo Parochial de Ouro Prito
CMOP..........Camara Municipal de Ouro Prito Collection of
the Arquivo Ciclico Mineiro
DF............Delegacia Fiscal Collection of the Arquivo
DFA...........Delegacia Fiscal Avulso Collection of the
Arquivo PGblico Miineiro
SG............Secretiria do G0verno Collection of the
Arquivo PGblico Mineiro
Anais da Biblioteca Uacional...Anaic da Biblioteca Nacional
do Rio de Janeiro
Documents Hist6ricos...Documentos Hist6ricos da Biblioteca
Iacional do Rio de Janeiro
Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the
Graduate Council of the University of Florida in Partial
ilfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosoph
A SOCIAL HISTORY OF OURO PRETO: STRESSES CF
DYNAMIC URBANIZATION IN COLONIAL BRAZIL,
Chairman: Neill Webster Macaulay
Major Department: History
Major gold deposits were discovered in Minas Gerais
in 1695 after almost one hundred and fifty years of futile
searching. This led to a gold rush of u'jor proportions;
within fifteen years there were over thirty thousand
people gainfully employed in mining and ancillary indus-
tries. One consequence of this gold rush was very rapid
urbanization in several areas. Foremost among these was
Vila Rica which became the capital of the captaincy and
later, as Ouro Preto, the capital of the province of Minas
While gold mining was the initial reason for the
settlement, very quickly Vila Rica's location astride
major roads allowed commerce to develop into the element
which differentiated it from other Mineiro towns. While
commerce was very important to the local economy, mer-
chants were not able to transform this economic power
directly into political power. The boom atmosphere, how-
ever, did make it easy for merchants to enter mining or
farming and thereby gain entry into the elite.
While Vila Rica exhibits many of the attributes of
a traditional society, a substantial middle sector did
evolve. Composed of groups with widely divergent goals
and interests, this amorphorous sector was united by the
fact that many of its members were white and, very often,
Portuguese-born. An important component of this sector
was the artisan. Unlike in Portugal and some of the
coastal areas of Brazil the guild organization was not a
spontaneous reaction to existing conditions but the forced
creation of the town council. In Vila Rica many of its
social functions were assumed by lay brotlerhoods. One
of the avenues of social mobility into the middle sector
for nonwhites and women was through ownership of shops.
Vertical mobility from this group into the upper class
occurred with decreasing frequency during this period.
The bottom rung of society was composed of freedmen
and slaves. Similarities in status are seen as resulting
from the relative personal freedom granted to domestic
slaves in an urban setting compounded by the frequency
of manumission. The examination of slave origins reveals
the predominance of Bantu over Mina slaves. The reaction
of the slave to bondage was not one of docile acquiescence.
Quilombos proliferated in the immediate area of Vila Rica.
While runaway slaves maintained active commerce with Vila
Rica, they were able to seriously hamper communication be-
tween it and the other towns.
Lay brotherhoods, the militia, and kinship relation-
ships are examined as aspects of this social organization.
The physical organization of Vila Rica is seen as due to
the location of gold deposits, major roads, the town
square, and the construction of public buildings. These
factors had shaped the town's urban pattern by 1720.
Parallel to the evolution of social groupings in the
mining district was the campaign of the royal government
to establish-its jurisdiction over the disorderly miners.
This process extends from the early piecemeal efforts in
the 1690's through the 1720 urban riots from which the
royal government emerged victorious. The Wars of the
Emboabas are seen as one aspect of this process and as a
key step in the structuring of society. The composition,
functions, and income sources cf the town council are
examined in detail as are other representatives of Iccal
government such as fiscal officers and justices of the
This study relies heavily on unpublished documents
from the Arquivo Publico Mineiro and the archives of local
parishes, brotherhoods, the Archbishopric of Mariana, and
the Servigo do Patrimonio Hist6rico e Artistico Nacional.
THE EARLY YEARS: GOLD AND ROYAL INDECISION
The Years of Frustration and Success
The dream of gold, silver and precious stones spurred
Portuguese settlement of Brazil. From the arrival of Tome
de Sousa at Salvador, Bahia, in 1549, numerous attempts
were made to find these riches--efforts which were stimu-
lated by the success of the Spanish in Nueva Granada and
especially in Upper Peru at Potosl. Pero de Magalhaes de
Gandavo in 1576 noted the existence of gold and, undoubt-
edly repeating rumors that he had heard, referred to a
"large lake in the interior where [the Indians] swear that
there are many settlements, whose residents (as is common
knowledge) have great stores of gold and precious stones."
Gandavo was repeating the legend of Vupabussu, the richest
place in the world, where each newly elected king was
covered with gold dust and dunked into the water until all
the gold dust had been washed off and left as an offering
to the gods. This legend is the same as that of El Dorado
which stimulated Spanish conquerors and English adventurers
alike. A second myth, which quickly became the dominant
one among the Portuguese, was that of Sabarabussu, a
resplendent mountain, the fabulous deposit of silver some-
where in the interior of Brazil. It was believed that
the great silver deposits of Potosi extended into Portu-
guese territory. All that was needed vas careful explor-
ation in Brazil at the latitude of Potosi to find for
Portugal riches equal to those of Spain.
The fact that planning for Expeditions began in 1551,
only two years after the arrival of Tome de Sousa, is evi-
dence of the interest which these legends excited. After
two years of organizing and planning, Francisco Bruza de
Spinosa, a Spaniard in the pay of Portugal, left P3rto
Serguro and, following the Eio Jequitinhonha, reached the
area of present-day Serrc and Diamantina. This attempt
to find mineral wealth was foiled by the rough terrain and
bad weather. Spinosa was followed in 1568 by Martins
Carvalho, who penetrated almost 1300 kilometers into the
interior to reach the same region. Carvalho, unlike
Spinosa, did find some gold nuggets. Orville Derby,
geologist and historian, bestows on Carvalho's expedition
the honor of having made the first discovery of gold in
Minas Gerais. After eight months of trekking through
the wilderness, the Carvalho expedition arrived in PSrto
Seguro--but without the gold nuggets, which were lost
when a canoe overturned.
While in practical terms the Carvalho expedition was
a failure, the stories concerning the gold which was found
stimulated other explorers. During the final three decades
of the century four major expeditions were dispatched to
find the riches whose existence few doubted but whose
precise location was unknown. The first of these left
PSrto Seguro in 1573 under the leadership of Sebastiao
Fernandes Tourinho. Several years later another, under
Antonio Dias Adorno, began its trek into the unknown. Both
expeditions probably stayed north of the Rio Doce.
Tourinho, however, did reach the Serro area and returned
with what he mistakenly believed to be emeralds and
sapphires. During the next decade further efforts were
made by Joao Coelho de Sousa and his brother, the chron-
icler Gabriel Soares de Sousa, who died while following
the route previously taken by his brother.
The next major entry into Minas Gerais was made by
Marcos de Azeredo who also followed basically the route
of Tourinho. Azeredo reached the area which he believed
to be that of the mythical Sabarabussu and returned with
what appeared to be emeralds but died before revealing the
location of his discovery. Thus all efforts from the
captaincies of P6rto Seguro and Bahia to find and exploit
deposits of gold, silver or precious stones were futile.
Meanwhile, expeditions from the captaincy of Sao
Vicente had achieved some success in the search for gold.
Bras Cubas, after leading an unsuccessful three-hundred-
league trek in 1560-1562, discovered gold on a second ex-
pedition which covered only thirty leagues, from its point
of departure, Santos. Between 1570 and 1584 a bandeira
(expedition), headed by the German Heliodoro Eobanus dis-
covered gold at Iguape (in southern Sao Paulo), Paranagua
and Curitiba (both in what is now the state of Parana).
These discoveries soon were being worked by men from the
captaincy of Sao Vicente. Before the end of the century
several minor deposits had been discovered near Sao Paulo,
such as the one at Jaragua.
In 1601, a bandeira under Andr6 de Lego left S5o Paulo
accompanied by one Dutch and two German mining experts.
This bandeira, one of the earliest to enter Minas Gerais
from Sao Paulo, reached the area of present-day Pitangui,
believed by Lego to be the location of Sabarabussu. After
this expedition failed to uncover any mineral wealth,
official interest in the search abated. This diminution
of interest was due to the frustration of having searched
in vain, the Spanish domination of Portugal, and the efforts
of Portugal to regain her independence. Until Spain
recognized Portugal's independence in 1668, Portuguese
energies were turned inward. The crown was in a precarious
position, and its efforts were limited to offering only in-
centives such as greater benefits to discoverers of
precious metals or stones.
These incentives did have some effect and a number of
bandeiras were sent into the hinterland by the Sao Paulo
camara (municipal council) in the 1670's. One of these
was led by Francisco de Camargo, who was instructed to
look for gold, silver and precious stones. He left in
1672, but the results of his expedition are unknown. Among
the others that got underway at about the same time, one
stands out because of its relation to the discovery of
gold in Minas Gerais and because of the information avail-
able concerning its passage through the hinterland. This
was the bandeira of Ferngo Dias Pais. Accompanied by
his son-in-law, Manuel de Borba Gato, his son, Garcia
Rodrigues Pais, and a large number of Paulistas and
Indians, Pais left Sao Paulo in July, 1674 on a journey
which would last seven years. The bandeira proceeded
slowly, planting crops in a number of places in order to
have supplies for the return journey. It reached an area
believed to be that of Sabarabussu but mass desertions
and sickness forced it to turn tack after a few stones
which were believed to be emeralds were found. On the
way back, Pais died at Sumidouro, one of the sites where
crops had been planted.
While the Pais bandeira was in Minas Gerais, the
crown sent a Spaniard trained at Potosi, Rodrigo de Castelo
Branco, to Brazil as Administrator of Mines. After a
short stay in Bahia he was ordered to the south, and he
dispatched various expeditions to examine the strikes
previously made in Sao Paulo and Parana. Then he set out
to follow the trail of Pais' bandeira. Castelo Branco
left Sao Paulo in March, 1681, and on June 26 met Garcia
Rodrigues Pais, who gave him the "emeralds" that had been
found. After dispatching the stones to Sao Paulo, Castelo
Branco continued on to Sumidouro, where he met Borba Gato and
remnants of the bandeira. After a quarrel over Castelo
Branco's right to appropriate supplies, Castelo Branco
was killed -- whether by Borba Gato or his slaves is
unknown. What is clear is that after this event Borba Gato
was forced to flee. He was to remain in the unsettled
and virtually unknown backlands of Minas Gerais from 1682
to 1699. It is believed that he spent much of this time
in Roga Grande near what is now the town of Sabara.
Apparently he maintained intermittent contact with his
family in SKo Paulo, but his activities during these years
constitute one of the mysteries surrounding the discovery
of gold in Minas Gerais. That such a prominent member of
an elite P.aulista family found it necessary to spend seven-
teen years in the hinterland to avoid being arrested seems
implausible. More probably they were spent in search of
emeralds and silver.
By 1690 the major routes into Minas Gerais from Bahia,
Espirito Santo, and Smo Paulo were well known. Gold already
had been discovered and was being mined in several areas of
the present states of SEo Paulo and ParanA. Of these the
most significant were Paranagua and Cananeia. All were
surface deposits and, while a smelter and perhaps a mint
had been established in Sao Paulo by 1650, the quantity of
gold extracted was quite small. In the years 1672-1678,
the quinto, or royal tax on mineral resources (usually con-
sidered to be twenty percent but which actually fluctuated,
at times dropping to twelve percent), collected from
Paranagua and Canan6ia amounted to a mere two kilos.1
In 1690, Pedro II ordered the Governor Antonio Lufs
Gongalves da Camara Coutinho to stimulate the Paulistas'
desire for gold and the honors which went with its dis-
covery. These instructions were issued again to the new
governor of Rio de Janeiro, Antonio Pais de Sande, in 1693.1
The incentives offered to adventurers were attractive and
soon a number of expeditions entered Minas Gerais. Whereas
most earlier expeditions had been primarily after Indian
slaves and only secondarily after precious metals and
stones, the priorities now were reversed.
The name of the discoverer of gold in Minas Cerais
as well as the date of the discovery are still the subject
of debate. There are major divergences in the versions of
Andr6 Joao Antonil (pseudonym for the Jesuit Jodo AntSnio
Andreoni); Dento Fernandes de Furtado de Mendonga, son of
Colonel Salvador Furtado de Mendonga, a participant in the
early discoveries; and Jogo Rabelo Perdigao, the secretary
of Governor Artur de Sa e Menezes. The opinion of Antonil,
the first writer to publish a description of the discoveries,
cannot be ignored because of his reliance upon eyewitnesses.
According to Antonil, gold was discovered in the Ouro PrEto
Stream by a mulatto member of a slave-hunting expedition.
This discovery was made accidentally while the mulatto was
getting water. The stones, which were not identified as
gold, were sold and changed hands several times until they
reached Governor Menezes, who immediately realized what
they were. Antonil states that these events occurred in
the last three years of the seventeenth century.
Antonil's account is difficult to accept. The mulatto,
Antonil asserts, had had experience in the gold fields of
Paranagua and Curitiba, yet he couldn't identify the stones
as being gold. It is also hard to believe that unidenti-
fied stones could be sold from person to person without
being recognized. Furthermore, who would buy a stone of
no apparent value? It is difficult to believe that the
stones would not be taken to someone acquainted with mining
or goldsmithing for appraisal. Support for Antonil's
version concerning the date of the discovery is provided
by a Portuguese immigrant who had arrived in Rio de
Janeiro in 1692. In his report prepared about 1750 Ouvidor
of Ouro Preto, this anonymous writer states that "5 or 6
years later [1697 or 16983 news spread that the Paulistas
had discovered great quantities of gold in an area called
Cataguazes but that it was hard [bravo] gold (which is
called mulatto gold -- black gold)." No details of the
discovery are provided.
Another version,presented half a century after the
events by Bento de Furtado de Mendonga, attributes the
first major gold strike to Ant8nio Rodrigues de Arzao, who
around 1693 left the captaincy of S3o Paulo on a slave-
hunting expedition. Reaching an area in Minas Gerais whose
topography was similar to that of the mining areas of Slo
Paulo, with which he was familiar, ArzAo, according to
Mendonga, made several panning tests and retrieved about
three oitavas of gold (an oitava is 3.586 grams or little
less than a dram). Before more gold:could be collected,
the account continues, ArzAo and his followers were forced
to leave the area because of the lack of supplies and
increasing Indian pressure. Arzgo went to Espirito Santo
where he gave local officials the three oitavas and tried
unsuccessfully to recruit men to form a new bandeira.
Failing in this, he departed for Sao Paulo, arriving so ill
that he died soon thereafter. But before dying,Arzao
related his adventures to his brother-in-law Bartholomeu
Bueno de Siqueira, who set out in 1697. Siqueira discovered
gold near one of the sites where his bandeira had stopped
to plant crops. A small settlement was established there
and given the name Itaverava. This, Mendonga claims, was
the first settlement founded in Minas Gerais. After
uncovering more extensive deposits in the area, Siqueira
advised his family and friends to join him. The narrator's
father, Colonel Salvador Fernandes de Mendonga, accompanied
by Captain Manuel Garcia Velho, supposedly headed the first
group to take Siqueira's advice. Upon their arrival in
Itaverava, Mendonga traded a musket for the small quantity
of gold already extracted. This gold, in turn, was traded
for two Indian slaves to Garcia Velho, from whom it was
obtained by Carlos Pedroso de Silveira, who took it to
Rio de Janeiro where he, the account concludes, was well
rewarded for handing the gold over to Governor Menezes.
This version, however, is subjected to damaging
criticism by Francisco de Assis Carvalho Franco. The most
fascinating evidence brought to light by Franco is the fact
that Siqueira rather than Arzio died in 1695. Arzio sur-
vived at least until 1720 and apparently had no part in
the exploitation of the Minas gold strikes. Furthermore,
Arzao received no reward for his supposed discovery.
Siqueira's death invalidates Mendonga's dating of the
Siqueira bandeira, which probably started out in 1694 as
related by the anonymous writer of the "Descobrimento de
The most convincing of the three versions is that of
Jose Rabelo Perdigao. Writing in 1733, Perdig.o attributed
the initial discovery to a Duarte Lope (Antonil's mulatto?)
about 1693 along the Rio Guarapiranga. This led to the
organization of a bandeira under Bartolomeu Bueno de
Siqueira, accompanied by his nephew Manuel de Camargo, and
the latter's son, Sebastiao de Camargo. This bandeira
reached the area later called Itaverava where gold was
discovered. Continuing to press forward, Siqueira was
killed by Indians. Since this bandeira probably had been
financed by Carlos Pedroso de Silveira, it is not surprising
that part of the gold was delivered to him and that he
immediately took it to the acting governor, Sebastiao de
Castro Caldas (who assumed this post on February 4, 1695).
Caldas notified the king in a letter dated March 1, 1695
and sent some of the gold as proof.
Thus both Mendonga and Perdigao agree that the effec-
tive discovery was made by Bartolomeu Bueno de Siqueira
and that it was near Itaverava. They disagree as to the
date of the discovery. The documents published by Franco,
substantiating his contention that Bueno died in 1695 and
the fact that Caldas advised the king of the strike in
March 1695, lend strong support to the Perdigao version.
While it is clear that Bueno deserves credit for
making the first effective strike -- effective in the sense
that it mobilized the attention of royal officials and
started the first Brazilian gold rush -- it is equally
clear that other bandeirantes earlier had found gold in
Micas Gerais. Among these early pioneers was the parish
priest of Taubate, Padre Joao de Faria, who in 1693 or
1694 reported the discovery of gold in the "campos gerais."
It is also possible that Manuel de Borba Cato found some
gold deposits during his many years of living in the back-
lands. But neither of these discoveries had the dramatic
impact of those made by Siqueira.
1. Pero Mlagalhaes de Gandavo, Hist6ria da provfncia
Sancta Cruz o que vulgarmente chamamos Brasil (1576;
facsimile ed., Hew York: The Cortes Society, 1922), fols.
2. Sergio Buarque de Holanda, Visao do paraiso, Brasil-
iana, vol. 333, 2nd ed. (Sio Paulo: Companhia Editora
flacicnal, 1969), pp. 34-6h.
3. The Portuguese in Angola were motivated similarly by
the desire to find a "silver mountain." David Birmingham,
Trade and Conflict in Angola, the Mbundu and Their
Neighbors Under the Influence of the Portuguese, 1483-1790
(Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1966), p. 29.
h. This was due to the belief that the formation of
silver was the result of the sun's heat. Sebastiio Cardoso
da Sampaio, in a report of November, 1692 explaining the
failure to discover precious metals in Brazil, asserts
that Brazilians were optimistic about finding these because
The Brazilian sertio...bordered on the
Kingdom of Peru and the mountains of
Tabiana and Sabarabussu [being] at the
same height and parallel as the cele-
brated mountain of Potosi which is the
inexhaustible source of silver which
has flooded all the four corners of the
world. It is felt that since the pro-
duction of all metals is the result of
heat and the activity of the sun those
mountains are under the same influence by
the equality of height and parallel.
[Report of Sebastiao Cardoso de Sampaio,
22 November, 1692 in Anais da Biblioteca lIacional
39, (1917)-, p. 201.3
5. Orville A. Derby, "Os primeiros descobrimentos de
ouro em Minas Gerais," Revista do Instituto Hist6rico e
Geographico de Sao Paulo 5 (1899-1900): 240-241.
6. Ibid., pp. 242-248.
7. Ibid., p. 248.
8. Basilio de Magalhaes, Expansao geogr5phica do Brasil
colonial, Brasiliana, vol. 45 (Sao Paulo: Companbia
Editora Nacional, 1935), Pp. 78-80.
9. Ibid., pp. 80-82.
10. Magalhaes, Expansao geographica, p. 87, maintains
that there were two Dutchmen and one German.
11. Derby, "Os primeiros descobrimentos," pp. 258-259.
12. Magalhaes, Expansao geogriphica, p. 100, refers to
Fernando de Camargo.
13. Manoel S. Cardozo, "The Last Adventure of Fernao Dias
Pais (1674-16811," Hisnanic American Historical Review
4 (November, 1946): h67-479, provides a detailed examin-
ation of this expedition.
14. Edelweiss Teixeira, "Roga Grande e o povoamento do
Rio das Velhas," Revista do Instituto Hist6rico e Geogra-
fico de Minas Gerais 2 (1946): 116. Teixeira locates
Sumidouro north of Lagoa Santa.
15. CBento Fernandes Furtado de Mendongal] oticias dos
primeiros descobridores das primeiras minas de ouro per-
tencentes a estas Minas Gerais-pessoas mais assinaladas
neste empregos e dos mais memoraveis acontecidos desdos
seus principios, Colasam das noticias dos pr. os desco-
brimen.os das Minas na America, que fes o Dr. Caetano
da Costa Matoso sendo ouvidor g.al do Ouro Preto, de
q. tomou posse em Fevr.o de 1749, Biblioteca Municipal de
Sao Paulo, fols. 21v-22v.
16. Teixeira, "Roga Grande," pp. 114-117.
17. Afonso de E. Taunay, Hist6ria geral das bandeiras,
11 vols. (Sio Paulo: Imprensa Oficial do Estado, 1948),
18. Ibid., pp. 20-21.
19. Andre Joao Antonil (pseud.of Joao Antonio Andreoni),
Cultura e onulencia do Brasil, Roteiros do Brasil, vol. 2
(Smo Paulo: Companhia Editora liacional, 1967), pp. 258-
260. This work was originally published in 1711.
20. Protesto que no que nesta escrita falar nao he
minha vontade, C6dice Costa Matoso, fol. 64.
21. Mendonga, "Noticias dos primeiros descobridores,"
22. Francisco de Assis Carvalho Franco, Dicionario de
bandeirantes e sertanistas do Brasil: seculos XVI-XVII-
XVIII (Sao Paulo: Comissao do IV Centen5rio da Cidade de
Sao Paulo, 1954), pp. 36-38 and 384-385.
23. "Descobrimento de Minas Gerais E18073," Revista do
Institute Hist6rico e Geogr6fico Brasileiro 29 (1866): 6.
24. Jos6 Rabelo Perdigao, "Noticia terceira prftica que dA
ao R. Pe. Diogo Soares o mestre do campo Jos6 Rabelo
Perdigdo. S8bre os primeiros descobrimentos das Minas
Gerais do Ouro." Revista do Instituto Hist6rico e Geogr6fico
Brasileiro 69 (1908): 278.
25. Bento Correa de Sousa Coutinho to JoAo de Lencastre,
29 July 1694, Documentos Hist6ricos 9 (1929): 2?4.
The Years of Euphoria and Distress
News of the first strikes spread quickly. Called the
"Mines of Taubate" by some people and the "General Mines of
Cataguazes" by others, the area soon attracted a large
number of adventurers. The strikes initiated a ten-year
period in which discovery of new gold fields followed dis-
covery in a seemingly endless procession. The euphoria
generated by these strikes was hardly dampened by two
tragic famines that occurred during this period.
Siqueira's bandeira had been joined by another under
the leadership of Miguel Garcia de Almeida e Cunha. After
reaching Itaverava, the latter expedition separated from
that of Siqueira and went its own way. Garcia found gold
in a stream later called the Gualacho do Sul, north of the
Morro de Itatiaia. There the rivalry which existed barely
beneath the surface between the residents of the town of
Sao Paulo and those of Taubate erupted into open hostility
as the residents of Sio Paulo in Cunha's bandeira refused
to allow those of Taubate to work the strike around the
mountain. The Taubatinos thus rebuffed, formed a bandeira
under the leadership of Manuel Garcia Velho "and with such
good fortune that shortly they discovered the celebrated
and rich Egold fields of] Ouro Preto." This event, like
so many others of this early period, cannot be dated pre-
cisely, but probably occurred in 1695 or early 1696.
The rivalries between the bandeirantes of Sao Paulo
town and those from other towns of the captaincy of Sgo
Vicente were important during the early years of the mining
district. The use and abuse of the word "Paulista" has
led some to confuse the residents of the town of Sao Paulo
with those of other towns and has led others to assume the
predominance of the former in the discovery of gold and
in the early settlement of Minas Gerais. The roles of
men from such towns as Taubat6, Mogi das Cruzes, Smo
Sebastiao, Guaratingueta, and Sorocaba have too often been
overlooked. Next to Sgo Paulo the most important contribu-
tor to the discovery and settlement of Minas Gerais was
Taubate. Lumped together as "Paulistas" by contemporaries
from other captaincies, the residents of these towns of
STo Vicente feuded among themselves. These feuds stimulated
the discovery of new gold deposits.
Garcia Velho's discovery brought an influx of adven-
turers to the area of the Ouro Preto stream. The strike
was divided into claims of three bragas (one bra;a is
2.2 meters) each along the stream bed. A settlement
quickly formed near the strike in a heavily wooded area
nestled in a narrow valley surrounded on three sides by
formidable mountains cut by streams and, often, deep gorges.
Because of the relatively large number of people attracted
to the area, and the conflicts which arose over claims, a
organized to find a new mining site. Crossing the Morro
de Santa Quiteria (one of those at whose base the original
strike was made) Oliveira found gold either along the
Sobreira Stream or, less probably, the Rio Funil. The
settlement which sprang up at the site of this strike was
named Antonio Dias in honor of the leader of the bandeira.
The situation within these mining camps and the re-
sulting spin-off of new bandeiras is aptly described by
Perdigao: "as those who had more arms and more followers
always received the best claims in these settlements, the
dissatisfied would form new bandeiras." Besides the
atmosphere of injustice created by the total absence of
royal officials, an important factor in this process,
unmentioned by Perdigao, was the incentives for new dis-
coveries embodied in the mining code. The code then in
effect, which had been enacted in 1603 and amended in 1618,
provided that the discoverer would receive two claims
(datas): the first eighty by forty varas (a vara was equal
to 1.10 meters), and the second sixty by thirty. But to
be a "new" strike, it had to be at least half a league
from any established one.
Manuel Garcia Velho had acted under these various
pressures as had Ant8nio Dias. A third was Padre Joao de
Faria Fialho, a native of the town of Sao Sebastiio. Padre
Faria had come to the Mines of Taubate as chaplain of one
of the taubatino bandeiras. It is uncertain whether Padre
Faria departed from Antonio Dias or from Ouro Freto, but,
in any case, he discovered gold east of the settlement of
Ant8nio Dias, just beyond the Morro de Santa Efigenia (also
called Alto da Cruz). The settlement which was founded
there was called Padre Faria.
A fourth strike was made at approximately the same
time, in the area of Tripui, by AntSnio Rodrigues de
Medeircs, a native of SAo Paulo town. The name "Tripui" is
derived from Medeiros' nickname which in the Tupi language
used by the bandeirantes meant "agile." This settlement
was never as large as any of the other three and it is
probable that the gold there was only alluvial and quickly
exhausted. This area soon was given over to pasturage for
the cattle brought in to feed the residents of the mining
By 1696 there existed four settlements each separated
from the others by dense woods and each located along a
gold-laden stream. Thus the geographical limits of what
would become the town of Vila Rica until the 1740's were
established: Tripui to the west and Padre Faria to the
east, connected by a trail which ran through Ouro Pr@to
and AntSnio Dias.
Other gold strikes soon were made in areas near these
four settlements. Francisco Bueno da Silva, cousin of
Bartolomeu Bueno de Siqueira, probably during 1698
"climbEed] the mountain, called today the Morro de Vila
Rica..., mother and source from which flows these rich
...... . ...... .. ...., ll
streams already discovered, and turning westward...dis-
covered the stream called Ouro Bueno and then3 that of
Rio das Pedras [both] with gold of extremely good quality.
Inviting his paulista friends and family they worked the
little that they could, leaving the richest [part]."7
Bento Fernandes describes an event which, if exagger-
ated, still conveys an idea of the fabulous wealth being
uncovered and the atmosphere of euphoria of those fort-
unate enough to have "arms" and "followers" to ensure their
obtaining the best claims. According to Fernandes, while
Silva and Jose de Camargo Pimentel, his partner, were
working their joint claim, they were approached by a woman
beggar with her child. Pimentel, whose turn it was to
watch the gold collected by slaves, gave the woman a hand-
ful of gold. Reproached by Silva that half of the gold
was his, Pimentel reached back into the pouch and withdrew
another handful of gold. This, representing Silva's equal
contribution, was given to the woman. Stories such as
this spread through Brazil and then Europe. Imaginations
were fired with images of mountains of gold, and the rush
Silva, on his way to Ouro Bueno and Rio das Pedras,
unknowingly had crossed the richest gold bearing area in
the region -- and perhaps the richest of all Minas Gerais.
This was the Morro de Vila Rica, or as it was later vari-
ously called, the liorro de Pascoal da Silva Guimaraes,
the Morro de AntSnio Dias, and the Morro da Queimada (Burnt-
over Mountain). Gold finally was found on the mountain
in 1700 by Tomes Lopes de Camargo, a relative of Jose de
The following year, 1701, Bento Fernandes was sent by
his father in search of gold. His bandeira found gold
along the Funil River, below its junctures with the various
gold-laden streams mentioned above. The settlement which
he founded there blossomed and faded in the course of a
few years; it was called Nossa Senhora do Bom Sucesso (Our
Lady of Good Fortune).
There were a number of other settlements which would
come within the municipal jurisdiction of Vila Rica and
would play important roles in the history of the munici-
pality. If reliable data is scanty for the early years
of Ouro Preto, it is even more so for these satellite
settlements. Two, Itatiaia and Ouro Branco (the names in
Tupi and Portuguese, both refer to the light color of the
gold mined there), probably were founded very early. Manuel
Garcia Velho and his bandeira crossed this area in skirting
the Morro de Itatiaia in 1695. Sebastiao da Rocha Pita
gives 1698 as the date of the founding of Itatiaia without
giving the name of the discoverer. While Rocha Pita is
not completely reliable in his treatment of Minas Gerais,
the date he gives can be taken as an indication that
Itatiaia was known relatively early. It is located about
thirteen kilometers to the southwest of Curo Preto. Ouro
Branco, like Itatiaia, was along the path of the early
bandeirantes who approached Ouro Preto, Ant8nio Dias, and
Padre Faria, from Itaverava. In referring to the general
area of Itatiaia and Ouro Branco, Antonil states: "I do
not speak of the Morro de Itatiaia..., eight days of easy
travel until lunch [this was the normal Paulista travelling
day: from sun-up to lunch, after which pasture was found
for the animals, camp set up and food obtained and prepared
for supper and breakfast for the following morning.],
because the paulistas do not pay attention to it because
they have others of purer gold and of much more value."
Ouro Branco is eighteen kilometers southwest of Ouro Prgto.
Congonhas, twenty-three kilometers to the southwest,
was the westernmost settlement within the future municipal
jurisdiction of Vila Rica. The absence of reliable infor-
mation prevents any definite dating, but indications are
that Congonhas was founded quite early. The earliest
documented date is found in a sesmaria (land grant) made
to Captain Domingos Martins Pacheco in 1711 which gives
Congonhas as his residence since 1704. One contemporary
reported that Congonhas was the site of one of the very
first gold strikes in Minas. This settlement was built
around a major gold strike and was fortunate in having
good pasture and farm land in the vicinty. Late in the
eighteenth century it became a religious center of great
Northwest of Ouro Preto, three settlements were
founded which played significant roles in the history of
the municipality of Vila Rica. Sao Bartolomeu, about
eight kilometers north-northwest of Ouro Preto, was
founded by Dionisio da Costa, a native of Santos, Sgo
Vicente. Five kilometers west of Sao Bartolomeu, another
settlement, Santo Antonio do Campo (later Casa Branca) was
founded. No documentation can be found concerning the
identity of its founder or the approximate date of its
founding. The parish records for this settlement begin in
1716, so the event probably occurred long before this date.
Three kilometers southwest of Casa Branca and twelve kilo-
meters from Ouro Preto lay the settlement of Nossa Senhora
de Nazareth dos Campos de Minas, or Cachoeira do Campo
as it came to be called. The fact that by 1709 it had
been raised to parish level indicates an early and intense
settlement. From a death certificate dated November 22,
1714, it is clear that one of Cachoeira's first settlers,
if not the first, was Manuel de Melo.
These three settlements, due to their similar loca-
tions, evolved in an analagous fashion. While the area had
some gold deposits, these soon were exhausted and the Sao
Bartolomeu-Casa Branca-Cachoeira region was transformed
into an agricultural and pastoral producer of great impor-
tance to the urban marketDlace created in the settlements
of Ouro Pr:to, AntSnio Dias, and Padre Faria.
Itaubira do Campo (present-day Itabirito), the most
distant from Ouro Prgto of the early settlements which
would come within the jurisdiction of Vila Rica, probably
was established during the closing years of the seven-
teenth century. Located about thirty kilometers north-
vest of Ouro Preto, Itaubira was to become a major settle-
ment and continue to produce sold sfter many other areas
had ceased production. The gold mine of Cata Branca, near
Itaubira, was worked on a large scale until a mining disaster
in the nineteenth century stopped production.
These are the major settlements which would be under
the jurisdiction of the town council of Vila Rica during
the eighteenth century. Besides being politically subor-
dinated to Vila Rica, all were involved to varying degrees
in a symbiotic relationship with the urban core. Congonhas,
perhaps due to its Droximitv to the settlements in the Rio
das Mortes region, was least involved; Sho Bartolomeu and
Cachoeira were the most because of their role as food
producers. There were, in addition, many hamlets which
will be discussed only when they take an active part in
While this settlement process was under way, other,
highly significant discoveries were being made. One of
the most significant was that of the gold-laden Ribeirao do
Carmo by Captain Jogo Lopes de Lima, a native of Sao Paulo
town. Because of the rivalry between the mining towns of
Carmo (now Mariana) and Vila Rica, and the confusion over
which was founded first, the exact date of neither is beyond
dispute. But there exist two documents which can establish
the order of discovery. The first is a letter, written
anonymously and included in the C6dice Costa Matoso, which
states that the discovery of gold at Carmo occurred during
the period when the area of Padre Faris was being worked.
Perdigao, after discussing Lima's bandeira states that
"the gold of that new stream Cthe BiberAo do Carmo] was
considered better than that of Ouro Preto, which was
brittle and splintered when hit by a hammer, so much so
that it was judged useless, to the point of being sold in
Sao Paulo at the rate to twelve vintens (one vintem is
worth 20 reis] per oitava, causing that settlement COuro
Pretol to be abandoned three times as I witnessed."
What today is a fifteen minute automobile ride between
Ouro Preto and Mariana, then required three days of dif-
ficult travel. This difficulty is evident in the name
of a mountain which had to be traversed in the vicinty of
Carmo--Mata Cavalos or Horse Killer. Besides the problems
created by the mountains, travel was impeded by the very
dense forest which separated the two settlements.
Other important discoveries soon were made in the
vicinity of Carmo. The Paulista Bento Rodrigues, crossing
the Morro de Vila Rica, found an exceptionally rich area
which was named after him. Antonil notes that this strike
yielded "in little more than five bragas of land, five
arr5bas [one arr8ba is equal to 14.75 kilos] of gold."
Jose de Camargo Pimentel, who had accompanied Francisco
da Silva Bueno in the founding of Ouro'Bueno, in 1701 made
a strike which soon evolved into a sizable settlement
called Camargos. Captain Salvador de Faria Albernaz,
pushing beyond the strikes of Rodrigues and Pimentel, made
a major gold strike around which the settlement of Infici-
onado quickly grew. This was followed in 1702 by Domingos
Borges' discovery of gold in the area called Catas Atlas.
In the same year, Ant8nio Bueno, continuing in a north-
westerly direction, found gold where the settlements of
Brumado and Santa Barbara would be established. Ant8nio
Pereira Dias, about the same time, made a rich strike just
to the north of Carmo, which soon became known by this ad-
venturer's name. All of these settlements would.fall
within the jurisdiction of the town of Carmo.
The process of settlement around Carmo was very similar
to that of the region of Ouro PrEto. With the exception of
Antonio Pereira, these settlements were founded in the same
leap-frogging manner and, undoubtedly, for the same reasons:
conflicts and claim jumping within the new settlements
forced out some and left others dissatisfied to move, while
the mining code provided incentives to go elsewhere. Each
group of settlements was composed of an administrative,
relatively highly urbanized center,and a number of satellite
settlements whose political dependence upon the center was
complete, but whose socio-economic dependence varied with
size and distance, and the proximity of larger settlements
or towns within the political sphere of other jurisdictions.
Prior to 1708 there were four other strikes in Minas
Gerais that resulted in the establishment of major settle-
ments. The first of these is Sabara. Contrary to legend,
it does not appear that the gold of Sabara was discovered
by Borba Gato during his seventeen year exile. While he
became one of Sabara's leading citizens, there is no evi-
dence that he claimed credit for the discovery of its rich
gold fields. Instead these honors were claimed by the
Paulista Garcia Rodrigues Pais in a letter dated May 1,
The discovery of the nearby gold fields of Caete
is likewise disputed. Bento Fernandes gives the credit to
Sargento-mor Leonardo nardes, a paulista, while Antonil
credits a Bahian, Captain Luis do Couto. Given the ex-
tent of Bahian penetration into this part of Minas Gerais
prior to 1690, Antonil's account is more likely to be
correct. While the Paulista made many forays into Minas,
their expeditions, searching for slaves or precious metals
and stones, were constantly on the move. No permanent
settlements were made until gold had been discovered.
Penetration from Bahia was less spectacular but more system-
atic. The primary interest of the Bahians was the use of
the land along the Rio Sao Francisco for grazing cattle.
By 1663, in fact, Bahian penetration in the form of the
landholdings of Antonio Guedes de Brito covered 160 leagues
along the Rio Sao Francisco as far as its juncture with the
Rio das Velhas. Anyone proceeding up the Rio das Velhas
to its source would pass through the immediate vicinity of
Caete and Sabara. This strike was a magnificent one. As
early as 1697 it was reported that there were 4,000 people
in the Caete area.
The last two major gold fields to be discovered were
on the fringe of the central mining district composed of
Sabara, Caete, Vila Rica, and Carmo. AntSnio Soares dis-
covered gold to the north of Sabara and the settlement
which grew around this strike was called Serro do Frio. The
exact date of this strike is not known. The last area is
far to the south of the core mining district. Known as
the Rio das Mortes, this area was traversed by all the
bandeiras on their way into Minas, as well as by the later
migrants from Rio de Janeiro. One of those who took ad-
vantage of this traffic was Tome Portes del-Rei. Portes
operated an inn and catered to this traffic for several
years until he discovered that he was living near one of
the richest gold deposits in Minas Gerais--that of So
JoEo del Rei.
These settlements and their satellites were to provide
most of the gold extracted from Minas Gerais. But they were
not established without difficulty. Their residents
suffered severe hardships in the early period, particularly
in regard to the provisioning of foodstuffs. The number
of adventurers in the mining district at this time must
have been relatively small, as indicated by Perdigao's
statement that Ouro Preto was abandoned three times.
Certainly this is easy to understand, since the population
that provided the impetus for the discovery phase was
itself very small. On the eve of the gold cycle a report
of Portugal's Overseas Council (Conselho Ultramarino), re-
ported that "the town of Sao Paulo itself and, seven more
towns surrounding it have twenty thousand householders
Evizinhos]."33 So Paulo's first census in 1765 gave the
population of the parish as 3,838 with 1,515 of these re-
siding in the urban core. More vague information comes
from a traveler who passed through Sao Paulo in 1717; he
reported the existence of only four hundred houses in the
town itself, as many people lived in the rural areas.3
With such a small population base, Sao Paulo and the other
towns of the captaincy of Sao Vicente could explore, uh-
cover gold, and exploit alluvial deposits, but could not
populate all the mining region. This could be done only
by outside elements, the so-called forasteiros: Bahians,
Pernambucans, natives of Rio de Janeiro, and, above all,
the rein6is (those born in Portugal). When the news spread
that gold had been found, the rush began. The crops
planted by "Paulistas", the term the forasteiros applied
indiscriminately to the men from Sao Vicente, and the avail-
able game which had satisfied their needs were inadequate
to meet those of the forasteiros who quickly outnumbered the
Paulistas. The result was famine.
The first major famine occurred in 1698-1699. While
gold had been found in 1695-1696, the rush apparently did
not begin until several years later, perhaps because too
often in the past rumors of major deposits of emeralds,
diamonds, silver, and gold had proven to be false. One
man, who states that the news reached Rio de Janeiro in
1698 or 1699, wanted to set out for the Mines of Cataguazes
immediately but did not because of the shortage of food
along the way. Others were not so prudent. The journey
was long: forty difficult days from Rio de Janeiro and
about sixty from Sao Paulo. "Many died of hunger without
recourse, and there were those who killed their companions
in order to take a grain of corn from them." This food
shortage caused prices to soar. The cautious adventurer
arrived in Carmo in time to suffer the effects of the
famine; he notes some of the prices paid at that time.
1 alqueire (about 14 quarts) of corn grain...20 oitavas
1 alqueire of beans ..........................30 oitavas
1 small plate of salt........................ 8 oitavas
1 chicken..................................... 12 oitavas
1 little dog or cat .......................... 32 oitavas
This anonymous adventurer thus provides not only an indi-
cation of the cost of living but some hints of the dietary
preferences of the early settlers.
Carmo, where initially most of the gold came from the
stream, was almost completely abandoned at this time.
This was due to a combination of circumstances: the dif-
ficulty of mining operations because of the depth of the
water, its low temperature, and its rapid current, as well
as the shortage of food. Of those who left, some returned
to Sgo Paulo with their gold, but many others went to
areas which had more game on which to subsist while they
awaited the harvest. In this process of abandoning estab-
lished diggings new discoveries were made.
The harvest in 1699 of crops planted the previous
year saved many from death. In the meantime mining oper-
ations had been stopped. According to Governor Menezes:
':without doubt a great quantity Cof gold]
would have been produced if the mines had
been worked this year, which was not possi-
ble because of the famine which they suf-
fered. Necessity reached such a point that
they ate the most unclean animals and
lacking Ceven] these to sustain life, they
ran into the woods with their slaves to
live on the fruits of the forest which
they found. 36
This famine, the effects of which appear to have been
felt strongest around Carmo, was followed in 1700-1701 by
another which endangered the settlements of Ouro Preto,
Antonio Dias, and Padre Faria. Viceroy Joao de Lencastre
in September, 1700 noted "that because of the lack of
foodstuffs many miners had left for areas where game
abounded to have something to feed their people, and
others went home to return in March for the crop they had
left planted, as well as for the cattle, that they had
ordered from Bahia and Pernambuco." As a result of this
famine many people departed from the settlements; Ouro
Bueno, for example, was abandoned completely. Gold was
discovered in areas where game was more plentiful; Camargos
was but one of these. The historian Diogo de Vasconcelos
attributes the discovery of Congonhas do Campo, Sao Barto-
lomeu, Cachoeira do Campo, and Casa Branca to this process.
The famine also resulted in changes in the ownership
of mining claims. Many of those who were forced to flee
lost their claims to those who stayed or to those who
arrived before the original owners returned. To the normal
friction which such actions created, a new dimension was
added by the arrival in large numbers of non-Paulistas,
who were able to take advantage of the situation while the
Paulistas were away. Furthermore such claim jumping was
legal since the claims were considered abandoned. It is
said that Tonm de Camargo Pimentel lost his claim to a
rich mining area on the Morro de Vila Rica to the Portu-
guese-born Pascoal da Silva Guimarges in precisely this
way. There is no way to determine how large a turnover
in ownership occurred, but if it could occur to Pimentel --
a member of an elite Paulista family who was, in addition,
a royal official -- it probably happened to many others.
During the second famine prices soared even higher
than in the first one. Bento Fernandes gives the price of
one alqueire of corn as 30-40 oitavas and one of beans as
70 oitavas. The already exhorbitant prices charged for
corn and beans in 1698 had doubled. It is no wonder that
men were forced to abandon their mining claims. Once
again only a timely harvest and the arrival of cattle from
the north saved the miners from total disaster.
1. Perdigao, "Iloticia terceira pratica," p. 278. Taunay,
Hist6ria geral das bandeiras, 9, p. 112 gives Miguel as the
name of the discoverer rather than Manuel.
2. Traditionally the founding of Ouro Preto is celebrated
on June 24 on the presumption that on that date in 1696
Antonio Dias de Oliveira and Padre Jo&o de Faria Fialho
first sighted the area where Ouro Preto would be estab-
lished. This presumption is based on the belief that the
discoverers founded a chapel in honor of the occasion and
that the chapel was named Saint John the Baptist. Since
the birth of Saint John is celebrated on June 24, the
traditional view continues, that must have been the date
of the discovery.
Repeated by authors such as Augusto de Lima Junior A
capitania das Minas Gerais, 2nd ed. (Rio de Janeiro:
Livraria Zelio Valverde, 1943), p. 62, this legend has
become so accepted that recently a plaque commemorating
the founding was placed near the chapel of Saint John.
This certainty is not justified. Apparently no documents
concerning this chapel exist. It cannot be shown that the
chapel was built in 1696, that it was built in commemora-
tion of the discovery of the region where Ouro Preto would
be established, or even that it was the first chapel built
in the region. Even the use of the chapel itself as a
document by examining its architecture and manner of con-
struction is foiled since it was rebuilt around the middle
of the eighteenth century. We are left with a story which
may be true but for which no substantiating evidence can
3. Perdigao, "Noticia terceira pratica," p. 278 and
Mendonga, "Ioticias dos primeiros descobridores," fol. 9v.
h. Perdigao, "Noticia terceira pratica," p. 279.
5. Diogo de Vasconcellos, Hist6ria antiga de Minas Gerais
(Rio de Janeiro: Imprensa Ilacional, 1948), 1, pp. 193-194.
6. Taunay, Historia geral das bandeiras, 9, p. 88.
7. Mendonga, Notfcias dos primeiros descobridores, fols.
10-10v and Antonil, Cultura e opulencia, p. 259.
8. Mendonca, Ilotrcias dos primeiros descobridores, fol.
9. These names refer to the same mountain.
10. Mendonga, "Uot.ci as dos primeiros descobridores," fols.
11. Sebastilo da Rcclia Pita, Hist6ria da America portu-
guesa, 3rd ed. (Bahia: Imprensa Oficial da Bahia, 1950),
12. Antonil, Cultura e opul encia, p. 260.
13. Sesmaria of Domingou Martins Pacheco, Revista do
Arquivo Publico liiinciro, 10 (1904): 973.
14. Rellaggo do principio descuberto das Minas gerais, e
os sucessos de alguas couzas Mais memoraveis que sucederao
de seu principio te o t'-mpo que as veyo Covernar o Exmo.
S. Dom Eraz da Silveirs, C6dice Costa Matoso, fol. 30.
15. Vasconcelos, Hi .t6ria antiga, 2, p. 66 and Padre
Henriques de Figueiredo Lemos, "Hlongographia da freguezia
da Cachoeira do Campo," Revista dc Arquivo Publico Mineiro
13 (1908). 81.
16. Rocha Pita, Hist ria da America Portuguesa, p. 307.
17. Esta Ribeirao do Carmo hoje Cide M(aria)na, C6dice
Costa Matosc, fol. 67v.
18. Perdig'o, "Ioticia terceira pratica," p. 279.
19. Antonil, Culture e opul ncia, p. 259.
20. Esta Ribeirao do Carmo, fol. 68.
21. Antonil, Cultura e opulencia, p. 261.
22. Mendonga, Iloticias dos primeiros descobridores, fol.
23. Ibid., fol. 13.
24. Ibid. Also Taunay, Hist6ria geral das bandeiras, 9,
p. 117 refers to Domingos Borges da Silva.
25. Mendonga, Hoticias dos primeiros descobridores, fol. 14.
26. Taunay, Hist6ria geral das bandeiras, 9, p. 363.
27. Taunay,, HistGSria geral das bandeiras, 9, pp. 84 &
146. Edcl;-.'e r Tcixeira, "Roga Grande e o povoamento do
Rio das Velhas," pp. 114-121 deals with Borba Gato's resi-
dence during lii; years in the hinterland.
28. Taurnay, Hist6ria .eral das bandeiras, 9, p. 126 and
Antonil, Cultitra e opluJlncia, pp. 260-261.
29. Saloim.o de Vasconcellos, "D vagag6es em torno da
descoberta do ouro nas Minas Gerais," Revista do Instituto
Hist6rico c Georri'fico de Hinas Gerais 9 (1962): 153.
30. Artur de Sa e Menezes to Pedro 11, 12 June, 1697 in
Manuel Cardozo, "The Guerra dos Emboabas, Civil War in
Minas Gcrais, 1708-1709," Hispanic American Historical
Review 13, ho. 3 (August, 1942): 472.
31. Tauunay, Hist6ria geral das bandeiras, 9, p. 126.
32. Ibid., p. 125.
33. Report of Overseas Council, 6 June, 1674 in Anais da
Biblioteca I tciona] 39 (1921): 132-133.
34. Gilberto Leite de Barros, A cidade e o planalto, 2
vols. (Sao Paulo: Livraria Martins Editora, 1967), p. 164
35. "Diario da jornada, que fes o Ex.mo Senhor Dom Pedro
desde o Rio de Janeiro ath6 a Cid.e de Sao Paulo, e desta
athe as Minas anno de 1717," Revista do Servigo do
Patrim6nio Hist6rico e Artistico lNacional 3 (1939): 304.
36. Mendonga, Noticias dos primeiros descobridores, fol. 11.
37. Protesto que no, fol. 64.
38. Menezes to Pedro II, 20 May, 1698 in Mafalda P.
Zemella, O abast2-cirnento da capitania das Minas Gerais
no s6culo XVIII, University of Sao Paulo, Faculdade de
Filosofia, Ci6ncias e Letras. Bull. 118 (SHo Paulo:
University of SRo Paulo, 1951): .219.
39. Jo0o de Lencastre to Menezes, May 14, 1701 in Docu-
mentos HistSricos 11 (1929): 283.
40. Vasconcellos, Hist6ria antiga, 1, pp. 214-215.
41. Ibid., p. 216.
42. Mendonga, Noticias dos primeiros descobridores, fol. 11.
The Gold Rush
After 1696 news of the gold strikes spread rapidly
through Brazil, Portugal, and the rest of Europe. Gold
began to flow out of Minas Gerais in quantities that, while
limited, were sufficient to prove that the strikes were
real. Soon thousands of people were flooding into the
mining district to make their fortunes. A contemporary of
this gold rush reported:
Each year many Portuguese and foreigners
come in the fleets to go to the mines.
From the cities, towns, suburbs, and back-
lands of Brazil go whites, pardos, blacks,
and Indians whom the Paulistas employ.
The mixture includes people from all walks
of life: men and women, young and old,
poor and rich, nobles and plebeians, laymen
and clerics, and religious of all institu-
tions, many of whom do not have monasteries
or houses in Brazil.1
Antonil calculates that by 1710 thirty thousand people
were actively employed in Minas. Since this estimate in-
cluded only those actively engaged in mining, Antonil's
figure is only a partial one. This is confirmed by other
observers. One put the population of the mining district
at fifty thousand in 1705. The exact size of the popula-
tion during the early years cannot be determined, but
these estimates give a general notion of the dimensions of
the gold rush.
The highest concentration of people was in the area
around Ouro Preto and Carmo. This is the region which,
during these early years, was called General Mines (Minas
Gerais) in recognition of the many mining operations in
the area. The entire mining district was called, inter-
changeably, Mines of Sao Paulo, Mines of Taubate, Mines
of Cataguazes, or Mines of Gold (Minas de Ouro). The last
gradually predominated over the other names and became the
official name for the mining district in 1709. Minas
Gerais did not become the official name of the entire dis-
trict until 1720 when it became a separate captaincy.
In the region of Minas Gerais lies a geological fault
which runs from Santa Barbara to Carmo and then to Ouro
Preto and Velozo (two kilometers northwest of the parish
church of Ouro Preto). Along this crescent-shaped fault,
which opened the ground at a number of places allowing
easier access to the subsurface gold deposits, were many
of the settlements of the early period. This crescent was
to be the major gold-producing and population center of
the mining district throughout the eighteenth century.
Despite the disastrous famines of 1698-1699 and 1700-
1701, the settlements of the region were increasing so
rapidly that residents believed that all the land between
Ouro Preto and Carmo was occupied. Frei Agostinho de Santa
Maria, writing around 1723, felt that the two centers soon
would join to form a single urbanized area -- at a time
when it still took many hours of arduous travel to reach
Carmo from Ouro Preto.
The gold rush was spurred by tales of the fabulous
wealth of this area -- tales which come from too many
sources to be disbelieved entirely. Pedro Taques mentions
one stream from which three arrobas were removed in one
month and another which yielded one arroba. Antonil
refers to a single gold nugget weighing over 150 oitavas
(almost one and a half pounds troy) and another of 95 (al-
most one pound troy). The Paulistas defined a "good"
stream as one which yielded two oitavas of gold in each
panning. Two oitavas was the daily wage of a skilled
The early adventurers, who streamed into the mining
district in quest of this gold, came by three routes. The
first began in Sdo Paulo and passed through the following
places: Nossa Senhora da Penha, Mogi, Laranjeira, Jacarei,
Taubate, Pindamonhangaba, Guiratingueta, Morro de Mantigue-
ira, Rio Verde, Boa Vista, Ubai, Ingai, Rio Grande, Rio
das Mortes, the farms of Garcia Rodrigues Pais, and the
Morro de Itatiaia. At this last point, about ten kilo-
meters southwest of Ouro Preto, the route forked: one
branch went to Sabara and the other to Ouro Preto, both
of which could be reached after about two months of
travel. The journey from Rio de Janeiro was more hazardous,
as it necessitated sailing from Rio to Parati -- a short
voyage made perilous by the periodic appearance of corsairs
and pirates. From Parati, the travelers went overland to
Taubate, where he took the Sao Paulo road. In an emer-
gency the trip from Rio to Ouro Preto could be made in
thirty days, but the average traveler took at least
The third route was, in many ways, the most important
and, to the crown, the most troublesome. Free of the
difficult mountains and numerous streams which made the
other two routes so difficult, the Bahia road was the
easiest of the three. Leaving Salvador, the traveler
went by Cachoeira, Santo Antonio, and then Tranqueira. At
Tranqueira the road split, one branch going through Mathias
Cardoso, Barra do Rio das Velhas and then Borba, near
Sabara, and the other passing near the source of the Rio
Guararutibe. The second branch was about fifty leagues
shorter than the first. Along this route came the cattle
which saved the miners from starvation during the early
famines and which, for many years, provided them with much
of their sustenance.
The same characteristics which made this road so
attractive to travelers created problems for the crown.
The road led from the older established sugar-producing
areas of Brazil -- areas which were in a state of decadence
brought on by a decline in sugar prices and sales despite
a temporary improvement in the sugar market in the 1690's.
Some royal officials felt that the gold rush threatened
the agricultural sector which they considered more impor-
tant for the long-range interests of Portugal than the
transitory exploitation of the gold deposits. These offi-
cials were able to impose their point of view until the
Wars of the Emboabas. The sugar-producing regions, chiefly
Bahia and Pernambuco, had surplus population and surplus
capital. Governor Menezes at first forbade the migration
of people essential to the production of sugar, Brazil's
major export. On March 19, 1700, he prohibited the master
workmen of the sugar mills from going to the Minas de Ouro
without licenses. One week later he forbade the taking
of slaves from sugar or manioc producing fazendas (planta-
tions) to the mining district. These restrictions were
repeated various times, without much effect, in hopes of
sustaining the sugar industry of the Northeast. Comple-
menting this policy was one of prohibiting sugar processing
in the mining district. Each part of the colony was
assumed to have a specific contribution to make -- the
Northeast would produce sugar and Minas would provide gold.
As the terrain traversed by the Bahia road presented
few major obstacles, the number of trails proliferated --
primarily benefiting smugglers. An anonymous writer in-
formed the king in 1706 that "so much gold comes to the
city of Bahia that one cannot count the arrobas except in
quintais [one quintal is four arrobas] which goes to all
the kingdom and the foreigners also are able to take it
freely without paying the quinto." The threat to royal
revenues posed by the Bahia road was obvious to Pedro II,
who, as early as 1698 tried to stimulate cattle raising in
southern lin.. 12 Had this effort succeeded, the Bahia
trails could have been closed without the fear of another
famine; but the, failed, and each effort to close these
routes cat.:rd .u'h repercussions that they were immediately
Each road to Minas presented a serious inconvenience.
The Dahii: route could easily be abused by tax evaders while
the sea portion of the Rio road was hazardous. The road
from S o Paul, w\s very difficult to use, and it began
in an arca which produced relatively little which could
be marketed in the mining district, except for Indian
slaves and some cattle and mules. These problems led some
royal officials to propose the opening of a new road from
Rio to the gold fields. Governor Menezes felt that the
proposed road would shorten the journey and make the
markets of Fio and the mining district accessible to the
cattle lands of southern Minas, which, he felt, were com-
parable to those of Buenos Aires. Pedro II approved the
project "as a means of alleviating the famine and as an
aid in the discovery of Sabarabussu. Thus the decision
to authorize work on the road was based on a combination
of important factors.1
The work on the new route began in 1699. As was the
practice the work was one not by the state but by a
private party. Garcia Rodrigues Pais volunteered to open
the "Caminho Novo" (levw Road), as it was to be called
during the eighteenth century. The Caminho Uovo was diffi-
cult to build and use because of the mountains it traversed.
It was constructed almost in a straight line from Rio to
Minas Gerais, passing through Simao Pereira, Mathias
Barboza, Julz de Fora and Borda do Campo. At Borda do
Campo, the Caminho Novo split, with one branch going to
Rio das Mortes and the other to the Ouro Preto-Carmo region
by way of Congonhas and Itatiaia. Travel time from Rio
to these areas was cut to ten to twelve days. For his
services, Garcia Rodrigues Pais was rewarded with several
sesmarias, (land grants) along the route and, in 1702, was
granted a royal post -- probably to revitalize his flagging
fortunes since the project had proved so expensive that
outside help had been required to complete it.
All of the roads to Minas were little more than trails.
Jos6 Vieira Couto, later in the century, described them in
the following manner:
They are made with the greatest negligence
possible, or better said, nothing has been
done to them other than cut the woods,
remove some rocks, and here and there
level the right of way. Great and super-
fluous bypasses can be seen at each step;
it takes, sometimes, all day to cover 17
three or four leagues in a straight line.
It was over these roads that the luxuries and many of the
necessities of life flowed from the outside world to the
booming mine district. Because of the extensive traffic
on this road, it soon was lined by inns and farms catering
to the needs of the travelers.
This road had great impact on the development of the
southern part of Brazil. It made Rio de Janeiro the gate-
way to Minas. Previously goods had to be transshipped
from Rio to Parati, from whence they went overland to the
mining district via Taubate; a logical step would have
been the elimination of Rio as entrep5t for Minas and the
shipment of goods directly to Parati. Another possibility,
about which there had been some speculation, was the desig-
nation of a port in Espirito Santo as the sole gateway to
Minas. The construction of the Caminho Novo precluded
these possibilities. Rio's position and future development
thus owes much to the opening of this road.
The road also stimulated migration to the mining dis-
trict by making the trip faster. The first place to
suffer significant loss of population was Rio de Janeiro.
Governor Alvaro da Silveira e Albuquerque, lamented in
1703, the year following the completion of the Caminho
Novo, that: "everyday I find myself more alone, Cwithout]
soldiers as well as residents.... The excessive rate
with which they flee to the mines gives us the impression
that soon we shall wind up without anyone." News re-
ceived in Rio indicated that Bahia was in much the same
situation; migration from that captaincy was reported to
be proceeding at such a rate "that shortly that land will
be depopulated." Nevertheless, in much of the North-
east there was a surplus population which could be better
While the immediate effects of the gold rush on Rio de
Janeiro and Bahia were bad, they were disastrous in Sao
Paulo where there were no people to spare. With a largely
self-sufficient economy whose only significant marketable
product was slaves, Sao Paulo could ill afford any sizeable
drain of men or wealth.
So many men went to the gold fields that the Sao
Paulo camara often lacked a quorum; periods of five and
six months passed without sessions. Goods were diverted
to the mining district where they fetched higher prices,
resulting in a scarcity of goods in Sao Paulo. When the
camara met it usually discussed ways of controlling the
spiraling cost of these goods. While some men who went
to the gold fields returned, many remained there.
This migration from Sao Paulo also had an effect upon
the Indian population. So many Indians were sent to the
gold fields as mine laborers that the S8o Paulo labor pool
quickly became depleted. In conformation with royal decrees
against the enslavement of Indians, Menezes, on his first
visit to Sao Paulo, ordered that those already in Minas be
returned. In 1705, the Sao Paulo camara prohibited the
practice of renting slaves to serve as bearers for people
going to Minas. These efforts failed and the use of
Indians in Ouro Preto continued on a small scale throughout
The influx of Bahians, Pernambucans, fluminenses
(residents of Rio de Janeiro) and Portuguese aroused the
ire of the Paulistas. The royal grants that the Paulistas
had received led them to believe that they had an exclusive
right to exploit their discoveries. The crown initially
was willing to back their claims, due to lack of knowledge
of the extent of the gold fields and the desire to limit
migration from sugar producing areas. But the crown's
support had little effect. The effort to restrict migra-
tion by requiring passports was easily circumvented. Even
the efforts to bar foreigners from the gold fields, to
prevent the spread of news of the strikes, failed.
Easier to enforce, at least in theory, were the edicts
of the crown prohibiting the entrance of monks into the
region without specific authorization. Numerous were the
decrees to this effect, and admonitions concerning their
enforcement often appeared in the instructions given to
the governors. The monks and clerics without positions
were considered underminers of royal authority. The promi-
nent role played by clerics in the Guerras dos Embcabas
and in the 1720 uprising indicate that the fears of the
crown were not unreasonable. Because they were beyond
the jurisdiction of secular authorities, the monks were
active smugglers. Hollow statues of saints standing
today in the churches of Minas bear testimony to this
illicit trade. Once in Minas, the clerics would refuse to
pay taxes unless ordered to do so by ecclesiastical author-
ities -- a process complicated by the fact that until 1745
the seat of the bishopric was in Rio de Janeiro. There
were many cases of arrest and deportation of clerics, but
this did not daunt others from coming to seek their for-
The royal policy of limiting the entry of black slaves
was detrimental to the rapid expansion of the early mining
operations. It was felt by some royal officials that the
mass entry of slaves would drain the sugar fazendas of
their labor force and drive up the price of those slaves
who remained in the cane-growing area. This problem did
not materialize while the Paulistas relied on Indians as
their prime labor source, but this supply was limited and
inadequate to meet the demands of the rapidly expanding
mining operations. The scarcity of these workers, com-
bined with the inability to adapt to mining, and the strong
opposition of both the SEo Paulo camara and royal officials,
forced the Paulistas and the other miners to turn to the
This shift also was motivated by the belief that
African slaves, especially those from the Gold Coast
(present-day Ghana), were acquainted with mining tech-
niques. Indeed, some writers have attributed the intro-
duction of the bateia, the mining pan, to slaves from
Africa. The Portuguese, who had been purchasing gold
from Africa since the fifteenth century, assumed that all
slaves from the Costa da Mina (the West African coast
between Capes Mount and Lopo Gongalves) knew how to mine.
The crown resorted to the imposition of quotas on the
number of slaves that could be imported into the mining
district. Initially entry was limited to two hundred
slaves, a number that was inadequate to supply the demands
of mine operators. In 1701 Pedro II decreed the distri-
bution of eight thousand slaves in Brazil with priority
for purchase going to the sugar producers and other agri-
culturalists. Miners, however, were able to circumvent
the edict. In 1703 Alvaro da Silveira e Albuquerque recom-
mended a shift in priorities so that eight percent of all
slaves imported into Brazil would be sent to the mines and
the remainder distributed among agriculturalists. This
suggestion was disregarded by the royal advisors who were
still intent on aiding the sugar producers. The position
taken by these advisors is understandable: the true ex-
tent of the gold deposits was not known and the sugar in-
dustry had entered a period of expansion after many years
of decadence. The King's counselors could not know that
the sugar market shortly would again collapse and that
gold production would reach unimagined proportions by 1750.
The most that the crcwn would do was increase the quota of
slaves destined for the mining district to two hundred
and thirty in 1706.
These restrictions on the importation of African
slaves worked no great hardships on the miners during the
early years. So long as the gold deposits were alluvial,
a miner could get by without a large number of slaves. An
increase in the number of slaves increased the surface
area which would be panned, but the area of a claim was
restricted by the mining code. During this period there
were no subsurface mines, so large concentrations of
slaves were not needed. Bento Fernandes noted that the
owner of twenty or thirty slaves was considered to be
extremely rich. Thus there was a gold rush of major
proportions in the period before 1706. At least thirty
thousand people left their homes to seek their fortunes
in the gold fields--despite the opposition of the royal
officials who felt that this migration endangered the
sugar industry. The efforts of the crown to stop this
migration failed because of the shortage of royal offi-
cials in a position to act, and because of the connivance
of many of those who were in such a position. The mining
industry, stimulated by this influx of people, expanded
1. Antonil, Cultura e opulincia, p. 264.
3. Felipe de Barros Pereira to king, 7 September, 1705
in Cardozo, "The Guerra dos Erboabas," p. 472.
4. Frey Agostinho de Santa Maria, Santuario Mariano e
historica das imagens milagrosas de lossa Senhora, e das
milagrosamente apparecidas oue se venerao em todo o Bispado
do Rio de Janeiro e Mina e em todas as ilhas do occano &
das milagrosamente aDnarecidas, em graca dos uregadores &
dos devotos da mesma Senhora, 10 vols.(Lisbon: Antonio
Pedrozo Galrao, 1723), 10:233.
5. Pedro de Taques to Joao de Lencastre, 20 March, 1700
in Taunay, Hist6ria geral das bandeiras, 9, p. 252.
6. Antonil, Cultura e opulncia, pp. 261-262.
7. Ibid., pp. 284-287.
8. Ibid., pp. 287-288.
9. Ibid., pp. 291-292.
10. Taunay, Hist6ria geral das bandeiras, 9, p. 249.
11. Manoel Cardozo, "Alguns subsidies para a hist6ria da
cobranga do quinto na capitania de Minas Gerais at6 1735,"
Primciro Congresso da Expans&o Portuguesa no Mundo (Lisbon:
Ministerio das Col6nias, 1937),p.259.
12. Pedro II to Alvaro de Silveira e Albuquerque, 7 May,
1703-in Zemella, 0 abastecimento, p.235.
13. Taques, Informagao, pp. 146-147.
14. The crown was not content with Pais' promise to com-
plete the road. Captain Felix Madeira e Gusmho, a knight
of the royal household, was ordered to open a road through
Santo Antonio (probably Santa Ant8nio de Guaratingueta)
"to the gold mines and the plains since there was no
certainty about the road of Garcia Rodrigues." The work
was to be done with the collaboration of Gusmao's son,
sargento-mor Felix de GusmAo Mendonga e Bueno. It took
forty men and two months to open a trail and explore the
hinterland as far as the edge of the plains near the settle-
ment called Ressaca. The father and son reported the route
good, with only the Rio Paraiba being a problem. The order
to begin the work of expanding the exploratory trail into
a road was revoked on August 25, 1704 by Governor Albuquerque
after receiving word that the Caminho Novo had been opened.
Order of Governor Albuquerque, 25 August, 1704 in Anais da
Biblioteca Nacional 39, p.304.
15. Antonil, Cultura e opulencia, pp. 288-290.
16. Royal Edict, 19 April, 1702 in C6d. 2(SG), fol. 157.
17. Jose Vieira Couto, "Mem6ria sobre a capitania de Minas
Gerais, seu territ6rio, clima e produces metalicos;
s8bre a necessidade de se restabelecer e animar a mineragao
decadente do Brasil; sSbre o commercio e exportagao dos
metaes e interesses regios," Revista do Instituto Hist6rico
e Geografico Brasileiro 11(1871): 322.
18. Alvaro da Silveira to Governor-General, 27 May, 1703
in Zemella, O abastecimento, pp. 39-L0.
19. Ibid., p. 40.
20. In another sense, the entire population might be con-
sidered excess in the eyes of many royal officials. Pro-
ducing no marketable crop and with increasing shipments of
African slaves undermining the market for the less produc-
tive and illegal Indian slaves, the Paulistas could
abandon their homes and move to the gold fields without
damaging the royal interests. In fact, by their migrating
to Minas these interests were furthered by the increase in
21. Taunay, Hist6ria geral das bandeiras, 9, p. 312.
22. The Indians in Sao Paulo were described by Governor
Menezes in 1700 as living in "the status of slaves." He
claimed to have acted immediately to restore them to their
villages citing as an example one Indian village which
through the efforts of royal officials had grown in size
from ninety residents to 1,22h. Menezes to Pedro II, 5 May,
1700 in Anais da Eiblioteca Nacional 39, p. 269.
23. Zemella, 0 abastecimento, p.. 313-314.
2h. Without question there were foreigners who were able
to remain in the mining district despite the various orders
issued from Lisbon barring their continued presence.
Various examples can be cited. Dr. Luis Comes Ferreira
reported that, in 171 he performed an autopsy with
"Licenciado Jobo da Rosa, Ungaro da IIago." Luis Gomes
Ferreira, Erario mineral dividido em doze tratados (Lisbon:
Por Miguel Rodrigues, Impressor do Senhor Patriarcha,
1735), 41. In 1737 the Vila Rica council registered a
surgeon's commission papers for AntSnio Labedrienne, a
native Frenchman. Registry of Commission, 6 January, 1737
in C6d. 32 (CMOP), fols. 90-134v. Similarly, David
Martins, a soldier, was also a Frenchman. Will of David
Martins, 18 February, 1721 in C6d. 333, Ho. 7013
(ASPHANOP). Mariana Ferreira da Silva also claimed in her
last testament that she was a native of France. Will of
Mariana Ferreira da Silva, 14 February, 1761 in Registry
of Burials, (APAD), C6d. 1, fols. 377-378.
25. The Overseas Council, however, was determined that
Indians be used as a major labor source. In rejecting a
plea from the Sao Paulo municipal council for increased
slave quotas the Council recommended that any deficiency
in the number of slaves be made up from the Indian popu-
lation of SBo Paulo. Mauricio Goulart, Escravidao no
Brasil: das orizens i extinceu do trafico, 2nd ed. (Sao
Paulo: Livraria Martins Edit6ra, 1950), p. 125.
26. Edison Carneiro, "0 negro em Minas Gerais," Segundo
semingrio de estudos mineiros (Belo Horizonte: Univer-
sidade Federal de Minas Gerais, 1956?): 13.
27. Paul Ferrand, L'or a Minas Gerais, 2 vols. (Belo
Horizonte:Imprensa Official, 1913),1,p.28.
28. Carneiro, "0 negro em Minas Gerais," p. 13.
29. Alvaro de Silveira de Albuquerque to king, 11 May,
1703, in Anais da Biblioteca Iacional do Rio de Janeiro
39, p. 285. The Overseas Council responded to this letter
by noting that if the law was not enforced "all the State
of Brazil would be destroyed, lacking slaves for the cul-
tivation of its fruits and the work of the sugar mills due
to the certainty of the greater price which these would
bring in the southern captaincies." One counsellor recom-
mended that the quota be raised to three hundred slaves.
This was approved by the king on October 11, 1704. Con-
sulta of the Overseas Council, 10 September, 1703, in
Documentos Hist6ricos 93, pp. 157-158. The increase ap-
parently did not go into effect as the Overseas Council on
January 7, 1704 reminded the king that the matter was
still unsettled. Consulta of the Overseas Council, 7 Jan-
uary, 1704, in Documentos Hist6ricos 93, p. 163.
30. Goulart, Escravidao africana no Brasil, p. 125. Both
Edison Carneiro and Isiais Golgher feel that the quota was
raised to three hundred. The opinions rendered by the
Overseas Council do not justify such a claim. Carneiro,
"0 negro em Minas Gerais," p. 11. Also Isiais Golgher,
"O negro em Minas Gerais," Revista Brasileira de Estudos
Politicos 18 (January, 1965): 335.
31. Bento Fernandes Furtado de Mendonga, "Ioticias dos
primeiros descobridores," in "Documentos ineditos, preciosos
da Biblioteca Publica Municipal de Sao Paulo," Revista
do Institute Hist6rico e Geogrifico de Sgo Paulo 44, 1st
Part (19h8): 355.
Gold: Techniques and Taxes
The techniques for extracting gold during this early
period were extremely primitive. This was due to the lack
of trained mining engineers and to the fact that there
were numerous surface deposits which could be exploited
without sophisticated methods. Machinery, when used, was
rudimentary. Many of the miners apparently were content
to retire after scratching the surface of the gold deposits
- to settle down with instant wealth either in the mining
district, on the coast, or, more commonly, in Portugal.
Much of the early gold was found in transported or
sorted placer deposits. These deposits had resulted from
the action of the water carrying gold-bearing rocks from
veins in the mountains. The water action released the
gold particles from the rocks and then mixed them with the
stream gravel. Because of the peculiarities of the current
the gold could be concentrated in specific places or ir-
The easiest transported placer deposits to discover
and mine were the creek players where the gold particles
were mixed with gravel within two or three feet of the
surface of the streambed. The processes by which gold
was extracted from streams were called servigos dos veios.
The first of these processes employed in the mining district
was panning. This was by far the easiest mining method
and was used by the early bandeirantes who panned with
gamelas (wooden plates normally used for preparing and
serving food). These quickly were replaced by bateias
made of either wood or tin. The technique was simple:
dirt and water were placed in the conically shaped bateia,
which was then rotated so that the lighter sand or soil
grains were sloshed out of the bateia with the water,
leaving the heavier gold particles. This technique was
used by itself and was also the final step in all the
methods employed during this period.
Where the stream or river was particularly deep, or
the current very rapid, special techniques had to be de-
veloped for extracting the paydirt. In some places wooden
walls were built in the water to provide support for the
slaves who would drive to the bottom to get sand which
was then brought to the surface to be panned. An alter-
native method involved collecting the gold-hearing sand
from a boat using a long pole wfth a metal point for digging
and a small bag for scooping up the sand for panning.
These techniques could be applied only to the recently-
deposited gold which was within a few inches of the surface
of the gravel. There were vastly larger quantities of
gold to be found beneath the surface of the stream beds.
One of the methods developed to exploit these deposits was
to dam the stream and force the water into a run-off canal,
allowing the miners to work the bypassed stream bed. When
physical conditions precluded the digging of drainage
canals another method was employed. This involved building
three walls jutting out from the shore and enclosing the
area to be worked. The water then was removed and the re-
maining silt panned.
Because water-tight wooden walls were difficult
to construct, water had to be removed almost constantly.
At first this was done using slave labor. Later, the
water wheel, or rosirio, was used, increasing the efficien-
cy of the process by replacing slaves carrying buckets with
a machine. Claudio Manuel da Costa, the poet and alleged
participant in the 1789 Inconfidencia Mineira, attributes
the invention of the rosario to a priest popularly known
as Bonina Suave about 1716. Some evidence points to
another person as the inventor of the rosario: Manuel da
Silva Rosa was granted a militia commission in 1719 for
his invention of a machine "to take gold out of rivers."
The development of this machine cost 1500 oitavas and four
months of labor. Unfortunately, nothing further is known
about the machine or the date of its development. By 1719
Rosa's invention was commonly employed in the rivers of
the mining district, suggesting that it was the rosario
or water wheel. The extent to which this machine was being
utilized and the termination of a two-year monopoly of its
use indicate that it was developed some time before 1719.
The monopoly plus the award of a militia commission also
attest to the desire of the crown to encourage technologi-
Mining by divert in, streams represents a different
level of mining development from the rudimentary techniques
of panning or diving. Ownership of large numbers of
slaves or joint operations by miners who pooled their slave
and capital resources were needed. While this type of
mining probably was used in Ouro Preto, Ant5nio Dias, and
Padre Faria, there are no physical remains of the dams
and walls, like those that can be seen today in Mariana.
There the wooden pilings stand like skeletons, and the
various streambeds which the RiberAo do Carmo was forced
into creating are still there.
Having worked the creek players, it was only natural
that the miners explore the stream banks. These bench
players were formed by the action of waters and actually
had been creek players before the streambed shifted. The
simplest method of exploiting these deposits was surface,
or open-pit, mining. The miners would probe for gold by
digging a hole, either cubical or conical; a hole in which
gold was found would be enlarged as the size of the strike
warranted. Some of these excavations, called catas, were
very large. Paul Ferrand, whose study of gold mining in
Minas Gerais remains the classic in its field, mentions some
which were fifteen meters deep. This method was dangerous
because of the possibility of cave-ins, and could be used
only during the dry season. If a cata was to be exploited
a second year, much of the initial excavating had to be
repeated. This method was primitive, but it reached pre-
viously untapped deposits.
Antonil, writing in 1710, does not refer to any
other mining processes. While other methods may have
been employed, these were the only ones widely used. They
manifest a low level of mining expertise, a deficiency
aggravated by the acute shortage of trained mining tech-
nicians. To remedy this situation the crown attempted
to contract Spaniards trained at the silver mines of
Upper Peru or at the gold mines of Nueva Granada. One
of those contracted was Castelo Branco, whose adventures
have been mentioned. Governor Menezes tried to enlist
others in Buenos Aires, going so far as to send agents
there. After this recruiting effort failed, Menezes
notified the king that "that was my only chance Cas3 a
miner could not come from Portugal. The men of Sgo Paulo
desperately want a Etrained] miner since they have no
knowledge of stones Esic]." Pedro II, however, did find
in Portugal a trained mining engineer, Ant8nio Borges de
Faria, whom he sent with three apprentices in response to
Menezes' appeal. Nothing is known of the success of
this mission, although it appears that it was unable to
effect any real changes in the techniques used by the
miners. No effort was made to establish the one thing
which could have produced significant reforms in mining--
a mining school. Such an institution would not be estab-
lished until the nineteenth century, long after the ex-
haustion of most of the gold deposits.
During these early years, gold mining policies were
based upon three different mining codes. The first was
enacted in 1603 and amended in 1618. The second code was
instituted by Governor Menezes in 1700. While it was in
effect for only two years, this was a crucial time for
the evolution of the mining industry in Minas Gerais. The
third policy was decreed by the king on April 19, 1702
and remained in effect throughout the eighteenth century.
The changes in the provisions of each are indicative
of the changing needs of the mining industry at the time of
enactment. Under the first code, which was intended to
encourage exploration, a discoverer received one claim
of forty by twenty bragasand another of thirty by fifteen.
The 1700 code also allowed two claims but their size was
determined by the number of slaves at the disposal of
the miner. The rate was two and a half square bragas per
slave, but there was a maximum of thirty square bragas per
claimant. Those so poor as to have no slaves were awarded
five square bragas. Thus the generosity of the first code ,
enacted when few gold strikes had been made, was re-
placed by a more realistic provision which based the size
of the award upon the capacity of the person to exploit
it. Also the size of the claims were reduced in order to
accommodate more people. Where many miners were involved
in a single strike, the diggings could be divided up and
parceled out by palmos (one palmo is roughly .22 meters).
The provisions of the 1700 code were continued in the 1702
code, except for the omission of the five-braga grant
to those who did not have slaves. Probably it was assumed
that anyone so poor as to have no slaves could not be ex-
pected to effectively exploit the claim and, thus, would
not produce enough revenue for the royal treasury.
The codes also reflect the development of the bureau-
cracy that was created to control the mining district.
The first code provided for the posts of collector of the
royal fifth (quinto), a secretary, and a treasurer to
govern the mining district. Thus administrative functions
were considered fiscal in nature. By 1700 it was realized
that the situation required an administrative officer as
well as tax officials. In that year the first guarda-mor,
administrator of mining, was named for the mining district.
The guarda-mor had the power to distribute claims and to
exercise police powers to arrest lawbreakers. After
guardas-mores were appointed for the major mining areas,
it was found that the territorial jurisdiction of these
officials was still too large and they were authorized to
name assistants. One claim at each strike was the pay-
ment for the guarda-mor's services.
The 1702 code reflects a more complex administrative
system. Besides the guarda-mor, provision was made for a
superintendent who became the administrative head of the
mining district and was responsible to the governor in Rio
de Janeiro. The superintendent was to be chosen from
among "the most important and richest people" in the dis-
trict. Aside from being collector of the quinto, the
superintendent had extensive civil and criminal powers.
His functions included those exercised in the established
captaincies by the district magistrate (ouvidor), and by
the royal judge who presided over some municipal councils
(the Iuiz de fora). In addition, provision was made for
a constable (meirinho) and a secretary. All these offi-
cials were strictly prohibited from being directly or
indirectly involved in mining activities. They were paid
a fee by the miners for their services. The codes of 1700
and, especially, that of 1702 reflect the realization
that law and order had to be imposed upon the unruly miners
before taxes could be collected.
All three codes contained extraordinary provisions.
The first code protected any miner from arrest and exempted
his property, including slaves, from confiscation for debt.
This provision does not reappear in the 1700 code but was
re-enacted in modified form in 1702. The 1700 code
granted another form of privilege to the miners by pro-
viding protection from arrest (homizio) for any crime
except less majesty. As the mining district became an
area of asylum which was highly prejudicial to the royal
prerogative, this provision was not repeated in the third
The 1702 code was more than a simple set of rules
governing mining; it was a statute for the general govern-
ment of the mining district. Its provisions were aimed
at stopping smuggling and repeated several edicts limiting
migration to the mines. Furthermore, all persons consid-
ered "useless" were to be expelled. No definition of
"useless" was provided, that being left, presumably, to
the interpretation of local officials. Similarly, all
goldsmiths were to be expelled. Crown policy toward the
goldsmiths was very inconsistent, as they were alternately
expelled and allowed to return and practice their trade.
The goldsmiths were accused both of involvement in smug-
gling and of transforming gold dust into objects on which
the quinto was not paid. Concern over taxes and revenue
is indicated in the 1702 code by the careful delineation
of the way in which the quinto was to be paid. It could
be remitted directly to the superintendent or paid out-
side the mining district. In the latter case the miner
received a registration card authorizing him to transport
his gold to a mint either in Brazil or in Portugal and
pay the royal fifth there. A copy was maintained by the
superintendent's secretary to assure that payment was
These provisions, plus those giving the superintendent
civil and criminal jurisdiction, made this mining code a
statute for the government of the mining district. While
the later creation of a more complex administrative bureau -
cracy obliterated the superintendent's functions, and
Limited those of the guardas-mores, most of the provisions
of the code were operative throughout the eighteenth
The gold extracted during these early years was not
a great source of revenue for the crown. This period was
one of uncertainty and experimentation as indicated by the
changes in the mining codes and in the organization of the
bureaucracy. There were so few royal officials in the
district that implementation of the tax and anti-smuggling
laws was impossible. In an effort to overcome this de-
ficiency the crown turned to the manipulation of monetary
policies. By 1695 smelters, where a miner could pay his
quinto, existed in four places, Taubate (after 1704 in
Parati), Sao Paulo (after 1704 in Santos), Iguape, and
Paranagua. Smelters transformed gold dust and nuggets
into gold bars. A percentage of the gold turned in,
fluctuating between twelve and twenty percent, was retained
at the smelter for remittal to the royal treasury as the
quinto. The rest, less a smelting fee, was melted into
bars stamped with the weight, purity, and royal seal and
turned over to the miner along with a certificate of pay-
ment of the quinto.
In 1703 a mint was established in Rio de Janeiro that
would pay 1$200 (1,200 reis) for an oitava of unsmelted
gold while the exchange value of the same amount in the
mining district was set at 1 900. It was hoped that the
difference in the value of gold would attract money to the
mint in Rio. Since gold circulated freely at a rate of
$800 and 900 (800 and 900 reis), its effects should have
been even greater than anticipated. The fact that the
market value of gold within the mining district was lower
than established by law indicates that royal decrees were
ineffective against the economic reality of a large
supply of gold.
The mint, however, had several drawbacks in operation.
The primary one was the price of gold on the black market:
1$300 to l$400 an oitava. Because it was more profitable
to sell gold on the black market than to sell it to the
government, trade in illicit gold drew away gold which
otherwise would have found its way to the mint. The mint,
in turn, siphoned off much of the gold which would have
been taken to the smelters. Because the quinto was col-
lected on unsmelted gold by the Rio mint, the crown assumed
the cost of the impurities which has been estimated to be
five to eight percent of the total. Thus the attempt
to increase revenue derived from the quinto by monetary
The quinto, however, was only one of the sources of
income for the royal treasury. During this period the
sale or leasing of mining claims allocated to the king at
each strike raised considerable sums of money. That more
was not raised was due to the opportunity which the guarda-
mor or his assistants had to sell or rent the claims to
friends or relatives at prices lower than their true market
value. As more adventurers arrived such chicanery became
more difficult and competitive bidding raised the prices.
In 1700 Nenezes received an average of 26.4 oitavas for
fourteen claims, but in 1701 he could expect to receive
an average of 38.3 oitavas for seven.
A major portion of the revenue for this period was
obtained through the confiscation of property. Much of
this came with the arrest of smugglers along the Bahia
road, due, in many cases, to the efforts of Borba Gato,
who was the guarda-mor for the Rio das Velhas region. A
less important source was the contract for the dirimos,
the tithe on non-mineral production, the collection of
which was sublet by the government. The crown, after de-
ducting its collection fee, remitted the proceeds from the
tithe to the church.
The last major source of revenue was the estates of
people who died without wills. This source was particularly
lucrative during this period as nomadic habits together
with violence unhindered by the presence of police resulted
in the deaths of many people without wills and many whose
very identity could not be ascertained.
Allotments Confiscations Dfzimos Probate
572 4708.36 300
447 1640 950 742
90 182 600 3345
2905.54 600 2579
Based on C6d. 5(DF), fols. 7v-8 and C6d. 81(DFA), fols.
Manoel Cardozo, "The Collection of the Royal Fifth", p.367.
Because of smuggling, these figures are unreliable as
indicators of the total production of gold. Antonil estim-
ates that in the ten years before 1710 over one thousand
arrobas of gold were extracted, of which the crown received
only sixteen to twenty arrobas in taxes. Felix Madureira
e Cusmio reported that the 1703 fleet carried two hundred
arrobas and the one of 1705 carried five hundred of
which less than twenty were destined for the royal
coffers. There are many estimates but there is no sure
way to calculate even approximately the total amount of
gold produced during this period. It is, however, clear
that the crown was not receiving the twenty percent to
which it was entitled and that the alluvial deposits
yielded great quantities of gold at a time when the popu-
lation of the mining district must have been less than
1. Charles J. Lyden, "The Gold Placers of Montana,
Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology, Memoir Ho. 26 (Butte:
Montana School of Mines, 1948), p. 3.
3. Mendonga, Notlcias dos primeiros descobridores, fol.
4. Paul Ferrand, L'or a Minas Gerais, 1, pp. 32-33.
5. Antonil, Cultura e opulincia, pp. 293-294.
6. Claudio Manuel da Costa, "Villa Rica, Poema," Anugrio
do Museu da Inconfidencia U (1955-1957): 165 & 168.
7. Commission of Manuel da Silva Rosa, 2? April, 1719
in C6d. 12(SG), fol. 75.
8. Ferrand, L'or a Minas Gerais, 1, p. 35.
9. Taunay, Hist6ria geral das bandeiras, 9, p. 151.
10. Ibid., p. 152.
11. Mining Code, 19 April, 1702 in Documentos Hist6ricos
80(1949): 343. The jurisdiction of the assistant guardas-
mores was defined in 1736 as being sixteen square leagues
(quatro leguas em extensgo). Wilhelm Ludvig von Eschvege,
"Pluto Brasiliensis,"ed. Rudolfo Jacob, Collectanea de
scientists extranceiras, 2 vols. (Belo Horizonte. Imprensa
Official, 1930),2, p. 257.
12. Mining Code, of 1603/1618 in Robert Southey, History
of Brazil, 3 vols. (London: Longman, Durst, Rees, Orme
and Brown, 1819), 3, pp. WO-45.
13. Cardozo, "Alguns subsidios, "p. 256. In June, 1700
the municipal council of Rio de Janeiro petitioned the
crown for establishment of a mint in that city. This was
rejected by Pedro IT who instead ordered that a smelter
("casa nara se fundir e quintar o ouro") be opened there.
Consulta of the Overseas Council, 3 November, 1700 in
Documentos Hist6ricos, 93, pp. 98-99. It is unclear if a
smelter was established. This appears unlikely as a mint
began operations in 1703 after a period of indecision as
to the best location for it, which saw it established first
in Salvador then moved to Recife. On September 10, 1703,
the head of the mint reported that the mint had begun ac-
cepting gold February 15, (1703), and coining one week
later. The coins minted had a value of 4$800 and 2$L00.
Consulta of the Overseas Council, 19 January, 170o in
Documentos Hist6ricos, 93, p.165.
14. Taunay, Hist6ria geral das bandeiras 9, p. 286.
Taunay's figures are based upon the personal papers of
Padre Guilherme Pompeu de Almeida, "the banker of the
15. Manoel Cardozo, "The Collection of the Royal Fifth in
Brazil, 1695-1709," Hispanic American Historical Heview
9, no. 3 (August, 1940): 370-371. Also Cardozo, "Alguns
subsidies," p. 11.
16. Report of Overseas Council Session, 15 November, 1701
in Cardozo, "The Collection of the Royal Fifth," p. 367.
17. C6d.bl (DFA), fol. 45v.
18. Antonil, Cultura e opulencia, pp. 262-263.
19. Cardozo, "The Collection of the Royal Fifth," p. 37h.
Administration: The Period of Uncertainty
The mining district in 1710, was in utter chaos. The
gold strikes had been made by individuals beyond the reach
of royal authority. The first royal official who had
tried to enter the area, Castelo Branco, had been assassin-
ated. If the crown was to get maximum profit from the dis-
covery of gold, law and order had to be established and
an atmosphere created in which the royal fifth could be
As soon as news of the strikes was confirmed, the
governor in Rio de Janeiro delegated authority to some of
those involved in the discovery of gold. Carlos Pedroso
da Silveira was named guarda-mor geral (chief supervisor
of mining claims) and Bartoloreu Bueno de Siqueira was
appointed escrivao geral (chief secretary). Pedroso,
however, shortly was nominated for provedor dos quintos
(collector of the royal fifth) of the smelter he was
authorized to establish in Taubate. Pedroso's replacement
as guarda-mor geral was Jose de Camargos Pimentel. These
appointments had been made by the acting governor, Caldas.
Caldas had done little to clarify the situation in
the mining district for the royal officials in Lisbon.
This was left to his successor, Artur de Sa e Menezes.
After returning to Rio de Janeiro from his first visit to
Sao Paulo in 1698, 1Mnezes wrote Pedro II and attempted to
dissolve the confusion surrounding the discovery of gold.
Previous information sent to Lisbon had been incomplete
and the authorities in Portugal were uncertain of the ex-
tent of the discoveries, of their location, and of the
actions which Caldas had taken to establish order. Menezes
reported that "the account which Sebastiio de Castro Caldas
gave to Your Majesty of the Mines of Taubate Cactually
refer to] those called Mines of Cataguazes which are more
than one hundred leagues from Taubate. New streams are
continuously being discovered,...and the gold is most ex-
cellent." N.enezes then went on to criticize Caldas'
appointments. Pedroso, Mlenezes noted, had been named
provedor of "a smelter without funcionaries." Furthermore,,
he criticized Caldas' appointment of Jose de Camargos
Pimentel as guarda-mor geral, contending that Pimentel was
unworthy of the great responsibility of this office which
was charged with the collection of the money due the king
from the auction of mining claims that, by law, were re-
served for the king. Pimentel was unsuited for this post,
continues Menezes, because of his "bad actions and tyran-
nies" and his penchant for "stealing everything." Pimentel
subsequently was removed as supervisor of mining claims
and was given the largely ceremonial post of alcaide-mor
-(high sheriff) of Sao Paulo. His successor as guarda-mor
was the Paulista Garcia Rodrigues, appointed on January
In the early turbulent years of these settlements,
the guarda-mor was the only royal official in an area that
increasingly was realized to be the scene of a major gold
discovery. The royal governor of Rio de Janeiro, who
claimed jurisdiction over the gold fields, did not visit
the area for four years. In the meantime the guarda-mor
was the highest authority in the vicinity of the gold
strikes. His primary responsibility was to ensure the fair
distribution of mining claims--a responsibility he vas to
keep despite the actions of later governors who tried to
exercise this authority. At the same time, the guarda-mor
had some'limited judicial powers for resolving disputes over
claims, and probably over criminal actions. This expansion
of the guarda-mor's powers was a stop-gap response to the
crisis caused by the absence of royal officials. It was
a tentative first step--a sign of the government's uncer-
tainty before an entirely new phenomenon, a major gold
strike in an area distant from established royal authority.
Because one guarda-mor could not cope with all the settle-
ments, assistants were appointed.
More, however,was needed to control the turbulent
miners than the presence of the guardas-mores and the chief
secretary; their judicial and administrative powers were
inadequate to cope with the situation. Moreover, these
officials were hardly disinterested since they themselves
were adventurers in search of gold; they could not be ex-
pected to act impartially. The answer to this absence of
disinterested royal officials would seem to be the personal
presence of the governor in the mining district but, since
his chief responsibility was the defense of all of southern
Brazil, the coastal area demanded most of his attention,
as it was susceptible to seaborne attack by buccaneers
and, in the event of war,by hostile European powers.
Only as the magnitude of the strikes became clearer
did the governor realize the necessity of leaving the coast
to journey into the interior. On October 24, 1697, Menezes
set out for Sgo Paulo, returning in February, 1698. In
October, 1698, Menezes again departed for Sao Paulo; he
returned to Rio five months later to prepare for his first
visit to the Mines of Cataguazes. It is with this first
visit of a royal governor to the mining fields that the
administrative history of Minas Gerais really begins.
Menezes would spend all but three months of the re-
maining two years of his term in the mining district.
While in Sao Paulo on his first visit, Menezes had called
Manuel de Borba Gato from his self-imposed exile and
offered him a pardon in exchange for information on new
gold deposits. Thus Menezes' first stop in the mining
district was in the region of Sabara to check on Borba
Gato's success in finding new gold deposits. One unidenti-
fied chronicler called the area of Sabari the most populated
in the gold fields. Borba Gato's success in fulfilling
his promise can be measured in terms of the honors he
received--he was appointed lieutenant general and guarda-mor
of the Rio das Velhas area. This appointment established
the first administrative division within the mining dis-
trict. The mining district vas divided into two parts-
the Rio das Velhas area under Borba Gato and the district
of Minas Gerais under Garcia Rodrigues Velho who was
succeeded as guarda-mor by Manuel Lopes de Medeiros. The
settlement of Sumidouro was made the point of division
between the two districts.
Because of the crown's long-term interest in finding
gold, the critical shortage of circulating coinage in
Portugal, and the need for revenue to deal with European
problems, it is not surprising that one of Menezes' major
concerns was the establishment of an administrative system
for the collection of taxes. In 1701, he established the
posts of procurator of the royal treasury, secretary of
the royal treasury, secretary of the tax house (escrivKo
da casa dos quintos), treasurer of the tax house, collector
of the royal treasury, and procurator of the crown. This
latter official was the personal agent of the king and
acted as a check upon the other officials. All of these
posts were filled by Paulistas, either native-born or by
residence. The appointments, however, were premature,
since these officers could fulfill their responsibilities
only if law and order were imposed upon the miners--a task
for which these posts had not been created.
Menezes also attempted to establish an efficient means
of collecting taxes, other than the royal fifth. He insti-
tuted a number of toll stations (registros), to collect
the royal imposts. Since smuggling already had become a
major problem, Menezes attempted to close the trails that
had been opened to Bahia and Pernambuco, which were the
most difficult to patrol because of the topography of the
land. The absence of difficult, mountainous terrain meant
that new trails were opened easily. Their number made
adequate surveillance impossible.
While trying to get others to pay their taxes, Menezes
decided to make his own fortune. It is said that when he
left the mining district he took with him more than thirty
arr8bas of gold. Despite Menezes' zeal in collecting the
royal fifth from others, it is doubtful that he paid
taxes on this gold.
Since the crown had no intention of leaving the mining
camps without centralized leadership, a new administrative
organ was established to fill this vacuum created by the
governor's departure. By royal decree a superintendency
was created and a Portuguese bureaucrat, Dr. Jose Vaz Pinto,
named to fill the position. One of the reasons for the cre-
ation of this post may have been the opening of hostilities
in Europe. Portugal's close ties to England meant that
Portuguese entry into the war of the Spanish Succession
was only a matter of time and circumstance. The governor
was needed on the coast to guard against invasion. A
report of the Overseas Council in 1705, approved by the
Queen Regent, shows that only after serious deliberation
was the governor ordered to remain in Rio-"he Cthe governor
should consider more the defense and conservation of that
city CRio de Janeiro], which is of the foremost importance,
than the conveniences which might accrue from the increase
of the quinto." Short term considerations for once, were
subordinated to long-term interests. No governor was to
visit the mining district again until the 1709 visit of
Fernando Martins Mascarenhas e Lencastre.
The superintendent, therefore, was named to super-
vise the mining district while the governor's attention was
directed toward protecting the coast from external attack.
While the superintendent had the responsibility for over-
seeing the collection of taxes, his major responsibility
was to maintain order. As has been noted, this post com-
bined criminal and civil jurisdiction with that of tax
collector and adjudicator of claims disputes. Pinto held
this post until 170h, when problems with a Paulista
potentate forced his return to Rio de Janeiro.
Efforts also were made to establish more local admin-
istrative posts, since royal authority existed only in
the presence of the superintendent or guarda-mor and these
officials could not be everywhere at the same time. One of
the first steps taken in this regard had been the earlier
creation of assistant guardas-mores. Under Dr. Pinto, the
first militia (ordenanga) officers were commissioned and
the initial work of organizing the miners into militia
units began. The first militia officer in the area of Ouro
Preto appears to have Felix de Gusmao Mendonga e Buenc, a
native of Rio de Janeiro, who was appointed December 1,
1703 to the post of sargento-mor da ordenanga das Minas.
Gusmao took his oath of office in Santos, although he then
went to Ouro Preto where he established his residence. If
militia units were actually organized at that time, no
reference to them has been found.
The first capitao-mor of the district around Ouro
Preto apparently was nominated in 1706. He was Francisco
do Amaral Gurgel, of Rio de Janeiro, whose appointment
appears to have been a reaction to the increasingly tense
situation between the Paulistas and the forasteiros, which
already had erupted into violence and would do so again.
The following year Pedro de Morais Eaposo, a Paulista, was
commissioned capitao-mor of the Rio das Mortes region.
The two capitaes-mores were issued the same standing orders
(regimentos). They were instructed to create a "militia
corps" of crdenanga status and were reminded of the necessi-
ty of defending Rio de Janeiro. Their powers, however,
extended beyond the military realm: they were given judi-
cial and police functions and authorized to collect the
royal fifth and supervise the guardas-mores. Thus
military functions were but a part of the duties of the
capitIo-mor. As with so many other Portuguese officials,
there was no clear delineation between functions.
The ten years following the discovery of gold had
been a period of uncertainty and confusion. Numerous
interests were in conflict: the sugar producers of the
Northeast vied with the miners for slaves, capital and
free labor; the need to protect the coast from a possible
foreign attack conflicted with the crown's desire to
divert resources into the mining district to reap the
benefits of increased gold production; and the Paulistas
were arrayed against those who threatened their monopoly of
the mines. The crown had tried to favor the sugar inter-
ests, but the premises on which its decision was based were
false. It had attempted to set up a bureaucracy to collect
taxes in the mining district before it had established
order there. Furthermore, the crown had failed to under-
stand the dimensions of the strikes and the extent of the
gold rush. Its actions were, therefore, piecemeal and
While the crown was indecisive in the manner with which
it dealt with the mining district, church officials in
Brazil did not vacillate. The mining district was a rich
territory, eagerly sought by competing ecclesiastical
jurisdictions. Since there were no clear lines of terri-
torial jurisdiction, the area was claimed by both the arch-
diocese of Bahia bishopricc created in 1551, raised to
archbishopric in 1676) and the diocese of Rio de Janeiro
(established in 1681). When the first visitor-general
from Rio de Janeiro arrived in the Rio das Velhas area, he
was informed that the Archbishop of Bahia had sent his own
representative,.who was then in Sgrro do Frio. The
bishop's representative, Baltezar de Godoi, thereupon
threatened his counterpart and competitor with excom-
munication and carried the day. While this conflict
continued for many years, the results were generally favor-
able to the Rio bishopric. The ecclesiastical territorial
boundaries, however, were never to coincide with the poli-
tical ones, as several parishes of northeastern Minas
remained under the jurisdiction of the Bahia See.
Other visitations were made periodically to examine
the state of the mining district. In 1701 Canon Manuel da
Costa Escobar made a general visitation which apparently
was unfinished at the time of his death. Two years
after Canon Escobar set out, Canon Gaspar Ribeiro Pereira
was dispatched to oversee the inauguration of new churches
in the mining district and to attempt to resolve the juris-
dictional dispute with the Bahian archbishopric. Un-
fortunately no record was found of the activities of these
visitors, although, if later inspections are any indication,
they probably raised the ire of the miners by seeming more
interested in levying fines than in guiding the souls of
the people of the district.
Before parishes were established in the mining dis-
trict, the church established a temporary system which
suited the settlement pattern characteristic of the early
years. The system, showing great flexibility, was estab-
lished by the Bishop of Rio de Janeiro, Frei Francisco de
Smo Jer6nimo. Governor Alvaro da Silveira e Albuquerque,
responding to a royal inquiry concerning the number of
clerics in the gold fields reported that:
he [Bishop SAo Jer6nimol proposed to send
sufficient priests so that divided among
the [mining camps] an adequate distance
apart, they should raise their portable
altars and administer the sacraments to
their [inhabitants, treating them] as
Parishoners,...and the inhabitants...[were
to] contribute to the just maintenance of
these priests and when some [priests]
moved from one stream to another they should
tear down the altars.16
Thus the transitory nature of the early mining camps led
to a reaction on the part of the church which gave the
local priests flexibility to deal with the nomadic nature
of the miners.
The precise date that parishes were established is
unknown, but by 1705 the settlement of Ouro Preto had been
elevated to this status, with Father Francisco de Castro
as the parish priest. The first references to the parish
of Ant8nio Dias are from 1707 and show that the parish
priest was Father Marcelo Pinto Ribeiro. Undoubtedly
these two settlements were selected as the seats of their
respective parishes because they were the largest and most
important in their districts--districts created by geo-
graphic features, particularly the Morro de Santa Quiteria
which separated the two settlements and channeled their
growth outward, away from the mountain.
These two parishes met along a line which bisected
the Morro de Santa Quiteria. The Ouro Prato parish in-
cluded the settlements of Ouro Preto, Caquende, Cabegas,
the Arraial dos Paulistas, Passadez, and Tripuf. The
parish of Art6nio Dias included Antonio Dias, the Arraial
dos Paulistas, Padre Faria, the settlements on the Morro de
Vila Rica, and Eom Sucesso. This division was one of the
factors which conditioned urban development and institu-
tionalized the competition between the two areas, thereby
fueling a conflict which has lasted to the present day.
Of the other settlements which would fall within the
jurisdiction of the municipality of Ouro Preto, only one,
Cachoeira do Campo, was raised to a parish during this
period. This elevation is indicative of the rapid
growth of this area, which, despite insignificant gold
deposits, was expanding due to its extensive pasture lands
and fertile fields. It also perhaps foreshadows a later
development when many miners with large-scale operations
on the Morro de Vila Rica purchased lands in Cachoeira
in order to directly supply foodstuffs for their slaves.
Thus, by 1707, three parishes in the area of Ouro
Prgto had been created to minister to the religious needs
of the settlers who were flocking into the region to make
their fortunes. Ecclesiastical organization had proceeded
further than civil organization by the outbreak of the
Guerra dos Emboabas. Whereas the crown could not decide
on the means by which to govern the mining district, the
ecclesiastical officials showed no such indecision. Priests
quickly were dispatched to the area and regular parishs
established in the major settlements.
1. Menezes to Pedro II, 29 April, 1698 in Franco, Dic-
cionario de bandeirantes, p. 297.
3. Taunay, Hist6ria geral das bandeiras, 9, p. 235.
4. Relagao das antiguidades das Minas, C6dice Costa
Matoso, fol. 47.
5. S. Suannes, Os emboabas (Sao Paulo: Edit8ra Brasil-
iense, 1962), p. 57.
7. Suannes, Os emboabas, p. 55.
8. Mendonga, Ioticias dos primeiros descobridores, fol.26.
9. Report of the Overseas Council, 27 January, 1705 in
Manuel Cardozo, "The Brazilian Gold Rush," The Americas
3(October, 1946): 154.
10. Relag.o das antiguidades, fol. 47v.
11. Suannes, Os emboabas, p. 17.
12. Vasconcellos,Hist6ria antiga, 2, p. 34 and Suannes, Os
emboabas, pp. 36-37.
13. Relaggo das antiguidades, fol. 47v.
14. Raimundo Trindade, Arquidiocese de Mariana: subsfdios
para sua hist6ria, 2nd ed., 2 vols. (Belo Horizonte:
Imprensa Oficial, 1953), 1, pp. 56-57.
15. Ibid., p. 57.
16. Albuquerque to Pedro II, 8 February, 1702 in Silvio
Gabriel Diniz, "Primeiras freguezias nas M.inas Gerais,"
Revista do Instituto Hist6rico e Geogr5fico de Minas Gerais
17. Trindade, Arquidiocese de Mariana, pp. 67-69.
REBELLIOTJ AND REACTION: THE IMPOSITION
OF ROYAL CONTROL, 1706 1711
The most dramatic development of the first decadecof
the eighteenth century was the War of the Emboabas. Often
cited as an early manifestation of nationalism, a precursor
of independence, it was a relatively bloodless war in-
volving a mixture of issues, none of which can be called
nationalist, either incipient or full-blown. The ramifica-
tion of this limited fighting, however, were extensive.
The major conflict was between two general concepts
as to how the gold fields should be exploited--two posi-
tions which may be called "open" and "closed." The
"closed" position was that taken by the Paulistas who, when
faced by a common enemy, forgot their own differences and
previous squabbling and united to confront the enemy. Their
view was stated on April 16, 1700, by the S6o Paulo muni-
cipal council in the following terms:
[We] petition the Captain-General Artur de
Sa e Menezes, Governor of the fortress
of Rio de Janeiro and the rest of the
Division that the lands of the territory
of Minas Gerais das Cataguazes as well
as the plains, with arable lands, by right
belong to the Paulistas in that they
own them by grants of His Majesty,...