SOUTH AMERICA: Chapter Ten (2nd. part)

(by William Henry Koeber)

Foreign Raids on Portuguese Colonies


Soon after this the Dutch captured other neighbouring ports, such as Nazareth and Paraiba. The dominion of Holland in Northern Brazil now appeared assured.

At the same time the counter attacks of the Portuguese were ceaseless, and the leaders of the Dutch garrisons in South America made representations to the Netherlands in favour of reinforcements and a commander of real note.

In response, Prince Mauritz, Count of Nassau, was sent out to take supreme control of the Dutch ventures on Brazilian soil. A personality more fitted for this particular purpose could scarcely have been lighted upon.

For Prince Mauritz was not only a brave soldier, but a tactful and chivalrous enemy; indeed, his figure stands out in glowing colours in this campaign among the woods of the far southern coast, and the continuance of the Dutch dominion was no doubt largely due to his individuality.

His arrival with nearly 3,000 men inspired the worn soldiers of Holland with new confidence. Ceará was captured, and São Jorge da Mina was attacked and taken as well.

In his few moments of leisure Count Mauritz gave his attention to the improvement of the town of Recife, Olinda being now utterly destroyed, as a result of the numerous battles of which it had stood as the unhappy centre.

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He drained the marshy ground, and planted it with oranges, lemons, and groves of coconut-trees, thus embellishing the country in the neighbourhood. Very little leisure was permitted for undertakings of this kind, for the Portuguese, persevering in their determination to regain their coastal territories, persisted in their attacks whenever an opportunity offered.

A certain number, whose patriotism was less dear to them than their purses, consented to traffic with the Dutch, and the Jews upheld with enthusiasm the interests of the new-comers in this matter; but the Portuguese, on the whole, remained steadfast to their ideals, and refused to have any dealings with the intruders.

By this time the Dutch had every right to consider themselves as likely to remain the permanent possessors of Northern Brazil. The circumstance, as a matter of fact, which was destined seriously to disturb their dominion came in the light of a totally unexpected happening.

Throughout the history of South America, when its lands were the colonies of Spain and Portugal, events in the European Peninsula had nearly always been echoed in the Southern Continent.

The event, of course, which had so great an influence on the affairs of both Brazil and the Spanish possessions was the revolt in 1640, when, after her eighty years' captivity, Portugal freed herself from the Spanish yoke.

In the north of the colony the new situation led to a somewhat curious and paradoxical state of affairs. The Dutch had overrun Northern Brazil for the sole ostensible reason that it was a possession of Spain.


Now that Portugal had freed herself from Spain, and that Brazil in consequence was once again a purely Portuguese possession, all reason for the Dutch occupation of the coast of Brazil was at an end. In Europe the situation was this: The Dutch and the Spaniards had been for generations at deadly enmity, while the rivalry between the Portuguese and the Spaniards had induced a hostility rather less deadly, it is true, but, nevertheless, sufficiently keen for the purposes of war.

Thus, with the freedom of Holland from Spain, and with the liberation of Portugal from Spain, the situation of the two, once vassal countries, was identical. They had an interest in common in preserving themselves from the rapacity of Spain.

This was all very well in Europe, but in South America matters worked out very differently in actual practice. The Dutch were now firmly established in Northern Brazil, having their headquarters at the town of Recife, or Pernambuco.

It was not in human nature to give up the fruits of their conquest merely because the Portuguese had driven out the Spanish officials from their territories in Europe. The situation from the point of view of Holland was simple, and could be put in a nutshell.


The Dutchmen were willing enough to enter into friendly relations with the Portuguese, but not at the cost of the Brazilian possessions of the Dutch West Indian Company, which had been especially formed for the purpose of acquiring these.

Count Mauritz of Nassau had proved himself an able administrator, and it was now the turn of the Dutch to intrigue where before they had fought openly. In June, 1641, an agreement was negotiated in Europe between Portugal and the United States of the Netherlands, which concluded a truce for ten years.

A year was allowed in order to carry this intelligence to the Dutch commanders in South America and elsewhere. In order to cement this new friendship, the Dutch further agreed to supply Portugal with arms and ammunition to aid in the common fight against Spain.

The Brazilian policy of Holland was, however, quite different from that proposed in Europe. Instructions were sent to Count Mauritz of Nassau ordering him to continue in the command, to extend the sphere of the Dutch dominion, and, if possible, to capture Bahia.


These instructions were largely due to the belief held in Holland that Portugal would be unable to maintain her independence for any length of time.

When the news of the truce was first brought to Count Mauritz at Recife, all the outward marks of festivity and great rejoicings were exhibited. A general fraternization ensued, and the late enemies and temporary friends regaled each other at various banquets.

Thus Paulo da Cunha, the Brazilian patriot, upon whose outlawed head the Count had put a price of 500 florins (to which da Cunha had retorted by placing a price of 2,000 cruzados upon the Count's), was now invited to feast with Nassau, and the two entered into an intimate and rather chaffing discussion upon the respective prices they had put upon each other's heads.

Very shortly, however, the Brazilians found reason to suspect the sincerity of the Dutch professions of friendship. A Dutch fleet sailed north, captured São Christovão, and in other places seized a number of Portuguese vessels.

The Portuguese now found themselves in something of a dilemma, owing to the very fact of the independence they had won. During the Spanish dominion the ports had been manned by the Spaniards as well as by the Portuguese.


This, of course, was no longer the case. Bahia, for instance, had now lost a great part of its garrison. The 700 Spaniards and Neapolitans who had served there were honourably treated by the Portuguese, and were sent on their way to Europe, but were captured by the Dutch ere they had left the coast.

The Dutch aggression, as a matter of fact, was not confined to South America. A Dutch force of 2,000 regular troops had entered São Paul de Loanda, the capital of Angola.

The loss of this important Portuguese possession on the west coast of Africa produced a direct effect on South America, for it was from here that the Brazilians had imported all their African slaves.
Thus the whole of this traffic passed entirely into the hands of the Dutch for the time being. Mauritz of Nassau went the length of suggesting that the territory of Angola should become an appendage of that of Dutch Brazil, as the two were bound so closely by this traffic!


The Dutch had also captured the Island of St. Thomas. In that place, however, the climate avenged the Portuguese to the full, and the mortality among the Dutch from fever in this island was appalling.

The Dutch in Brazil now sent an expedition to the north to obtain possession of the Province of Maranhão. They captured and plundered the capital, pillaging churches and ransacking the sugar factories.

The Governor, Maciel, appears to have behaved very badly, and with no little treachery towards his fellow-countrymen. Nassau, when Maciel surrendered, treated him with contempt, and imprisoned him. The situation had now become grimly farcical.

In Europe the Dutch were supplying the Portuguese with arms and stores, and acting in general as their allies; while in Brazil the two nations were openly at war, and the Dutch were sending hostile expeditions in all directions!

Just at this period, indeed, the ambition of the Dutch appeared to swell to the highest point. Count Mauritz determined to push his conquests far to the south, and had even prepared an expedition for the capture of the Spanish town of Buenos Aires; but the attempt was frustrated by the hostility of the Portuguese and Indians nearer home.


All this time, of course, Dutch fleets had been harrying the Pacific coast, and the Dutch had actually obtained a footing in Southern Chile, although this was not destined to prove permanent. With the extension of their boundaries, however, it was but natural that the difficulty of preserving their dominion should increase.

In Maranhão, freshly conquered as it was, rebellion broke out almost as soon as the Dutch had established themselves. Desperate fighting took place in the neighbourhood of the capital, and many barbarities were committed on both sides. The Dutch Governor, in a fit of exasperation, delivered twenty-five Portuguese to the savages of Ceará, and sent fifty to the Barbadoes to be sold as slaves.

The English Governor, however, after he had received these latter on shore, set them at liberty, and administered a severe reproof to the agent who had offered white men for sale in this way. Owing to happenings such as these the bitterness between the two races increased.

In the end Maranhão was regained by the Portuguese, and the Fort of Ceará itself was surprised by a force of Tapuya Indians and its garrison massacred. These occurrences were ominous, and the turn of the tide seemed to have set in.


Prince Mauritz of Nassau now sent in his resignation, and, after leaving everything in a state of complete preparedness, set out for Europe, accompanied by no fewer than 1,400 persons all told, a force which could ill be spared from Brazil at that period.

Among them were a few Indians who were taken to Holland to demonstrate to the inhabitants of that country the accomplishments of their countrymen, and the nature of the new subjects.

Nassau had governed the captured territories in a liberal and imperialistic spirit, and his personality had been popular to a certain extent even among the Portuguese. His absence was severely felt, and the policy of the West India Company, in itself parsimonious and somewhat petty, undoubtedly suffered much from the want of his presence; for during the time that he was in power he had restrained the excesses of his own people, and used no little tact towards the Portuguese.

His rank, moreover, counted not a little in winning their esteem. The new authorities had not the influence over the soldiery that Prince Mauritz had enjoyed, and lacked not only experience but judgment.


Shortly after this Dirk van Hoogstraten, a Dutch officer, offered his services to the Portuguese, and various other symptoms portended a break up of the organization of the Dutch West India Company. Several attempts at insurrection took place in the neighbourhood of Recife itself, and the methods of the Dutch in repressing these became increasingly harsh. Some of the malcontents were hanged, and in several cases their hands were lopped off before death.

The Brazilian patriot, João Fernandes, now became very prominent, and the Dutch in consequence began to be more and more harassed. The woods in the neighbourhood of the town sheltered numbers of discontented Portuguese and Indians, who had collected stores and weapons, and had hidden themselves in the recesses of the forests until the time came for them to sally out for the attack. Several expeditions sent out by the Dutch to break up these bands were unsuccessful.

The Portuguese either eluded them, or the Dutch fell into the ambushes prepared for them, and suffered loss without being able to retaliate.

Every month the Portuguese grew stronger in numbers, and attacks were now frequent on the Dutch isolated settlements, many of which were captured and the inhabitants massacred.


The Portuguese were determined to surrender none of the advantages which the nature of the country offered them, and thus the warfare still remained of a guerilla order, and upon the sallying out of a formidable Dutch force, the Portuguese, with their Indian allies, would disperse in the dense forests, and come together again when the Dutch had concluded their march.

The retaliatory methods of the Dutch served to enrage the Portuguese beyond all bearing. The Council of the Dutch West India Company issued a proclamation to the effect that all women and children in the towns, whose husbands and fathers were rebels, were to be evicted from their houses and left to fend for themselves.

The idea seems to have been that these people would flock to the insurgents and thus hamper their movements. The result was that the unfortunate women and children were exposed to the mercy of the weather and the forests.

João Fernandes had now collected a formidable number of men, and, posting these about nine leagues to the westward of Recife in a spot of great strategic advantage, he awaited the Dutch advance. One thousand five hundred Dutch troops, aided by a number of native auxiliaries, came on to the attack.


Three times they advanced and drove the Portuguese and their Indian allies some way up the hill on the sides of which they were posted, but each time the Dutch lost more and more men from the ambushes in the thick cane-brake which covered the ground. In the end the Dutch retired, having suffered very severe casualties.

It is said that 370 of their force were found dead upon the field. Beyond this a number died on the retreat, while many hundreds were wounded.
The Portuguese assert that their army consisted of 1,200 whites, aided by about 100 Indians and negroes.
This fight had very important consequences, since it enabled the Portuguese forces to arm themselves with the weapons left on the field by the dead and wounded Dutch.

During all this time the authorities at Bahia had remained quiescent, since officially no state of war existed, and in the eyes of the Government the Dutch were supposed merely to be quelling some revolutionary movements ere they departed for Europe! Now the time came for this farce to be ended, and the Governor of Bahia sent troops to the north to join the insurgents in their struggle against the Dutch.

The traitor Hoogstraten now definitely joined these forces, and the whole of the country south of Recife fell once more into the hands of the Portuguese.
During this period the bitterness between the two armies was still further accentuated by the massacre of Portuguese by the Tapuya Indians at Cunhau.


This atrocity, as a matter of fact, was perpetrated on the initiative of the Indians alone, but at the time the Dutch unjustly, as it turned out were blamed for it. This circumstance induced retaliation, and eventually caused many barbarous acts to be done on both sides.

After the fortunes of war had fluctuated on various occasions and the Dutch had alternately been defeated, received reinforcements, and become temporarily victorious again, the war came to an end. The Dutch consented to withdraw entirely from Brazil, to surrender Recife and all the remaining forts which they possessed, as well as the Island of Fernando de Noronha. In return they were granted an amnesty, which was extended to the Indians in their service.

Arrangements had been carried almost to a conclusion when the Dutch showed themselves prepared to continue the campaign in South America. This threat of renewed aggression had the effect of increasing the liberality of the Portuguese terms.

The ensuing negotiations were considerably assisted by Charles II. of England, who, about to marry Catherine of Portugal, strongly took up the cause of the Portuguese in South America, and announced to the Dutch his intention to ally his forces with those of the Portuguese, and, if necessary, proceed to extremities.


These representations of Charles were taken up by France and Portugal, and the Dutch, as a result, decided to waive some of their wilder claims. Before, however, the treaty was finally concluded, it was found necessary to pay certain sums in the nature of a ransom to the Dutch.

These consisted of 4,000,000 cruzados, in money, sugar, tobacco, and salt, which were to be paid in sixteen annual instalments. All the artillery taken in Brazil, which was marked either with the arms of the United Provinces of the Netherlands or of the West India Company, were to be restored to their former owners.

Thus, although Portugal may be said in one sense to have cooped the Dutch up within a narrow strip of remaining territory, and to have been on the point of expelling them from Brazil by the sword, actually the withdrawal was only effected by the payment of this heavy ransom. As Southey has it: "The Portuguese consented to pay for the victory which they had obtained."


Continue with South America Chapter XI










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