Sunday, November 17, 2013

His Excellency The Marquis of Pombal, "The Slayer Of The Jesuits"

In one of the principal squares of Lisbon may be seen the statue of King Joseph Emmanuel, son of John V., Don Sebastian Carvalho y Melho, Count d'Oeyras, Marquis de Pombal. The relative position of the figures ought to have been reversed. The minister was the tyrant of the monarch, as well as the scourge of his subjects. In the present notice we shall limit ourselves to giving an account of the manner in which the Marquis de Pombal earned his title of "Slayer of the Fathers," after enumerating the causes of his enmity against the Company of Jesus.
King of Portugal. At the foot of the statue is represented his Minister of State,
Pombal, who was a "philosophic" atheist and an encourager of the Calvinists, had certain reasons of private ambition for wishing to introduce Protestantism into Portugal. While pretending outwardly to be the enemy of the English, he was secretly doing all in his power to bring about a marriage between the Princess de Beira and the Duke of Cumberland —a marriage which would have eventually entitled the latter to the crown of Braganza. Like the rest of the Portuguese, the Jesuit Fathers were naturally opposed to English and Protestant domination in their own country. They were confessors to all the royal family, and Pombal regarded them as the chief obstacle in the way of his designs—an offence which he never forgave them.
.........Pombal was a great builder of prisons. The number of his victims demanded considerable accommodation, for at one particular time in Lisbon he had more than four thousand prisoners of state, and this in a capital of (at that period) one hundred and fifty thousand inhabitants. Dona Eleanora, the Dowager Marchesa de Tavora, was separated from her children. Masters and servants, men and women, disappeared as if the earth had swallowed them up. In letters of the time we find that Pombal was enraged on discovering that some poor ameliorations had been made in the dreadful state of the captives by the pity of subalterns. Besides the De Tavora family a large number of hidalgos had also been arrested and thrown into dungeons that same night. 
Among them was the greatest noble of Portugal, Don Jose de Mascarenhas y Lancastre, Duke of Aveiro and cousin to Dona Eieanora. Several of the Jesuit fathers, amongst whom was the confessor of the Prince Don Pedro, Father Hyacinth da Costa, were also suddenly carried off to prison.
All Lisbon was paralyzed with terror. A hand of iron weighed upon the city. In the streets nothing but mercenary soldiers were to be seen, and the king no longer went out of his palace. Whoever dared to express doubt as to the guilt of the arrested persons, or the least pity for them, was summarily arrested also. According to the laws of Portugal accused persons had a right to be judged by their peers. Pombal denied his victims the benefit of this right. He created a tribunal composed of creatures of his own, and entirely devoid of legal authority. 
This tribunal lie named the "Court of Mistrust," and over it he appointed himself president. As it was not yet, apparently, so much a question of the Jesuits as of the nobility, the French Encyclopaedists were somewhat offended at these monstrosities, and we hear of the "bad effect" produced in the philosophic world of Paris by the frightful vagaries of Pombal, whom, nevertheless, it was desirous to excuse as far as possible, on account of his "generous ideas." Not content with presiding, Pombal took upon himself the "examination" and "instruction " of the cases. It was he who gave the verdict and pronounced the sentence, which still exists, written by his own hand. 
And how was the examination conducted? By intimidation of every kind, shamelessly employed, by "testimony invented," and witnesses forced by torture to assent to accusations which they were never allowed to retract, and thus furnishing a reason for a judicial carnage the attendant horrors of which are, perhaps, unparalleled in the history of any civilized nation. The Tavora family, as well as the other accused, remained silent under the fearful torments to which they were subjected, with the sole exception of the Duke d'Aveiro, who, in the extremity of agony, half dead as he was, and not knowing what he said, assented to whatever was put in his mouth, and thus accused his fellow-prisoners and— the Jesuits. Pombal, on hearing this, uttered an exclamation of ferocious joy. He had obtained what he wanted. What this implied we shall see further on. No sooner had the unfortunate Duke d Avei'ro recovered his senses than, learning what he had done, he retracted, declaring that excess of torment alone had wrenched from him accusations against persons who were innocent. It is needless to say that his earnest entreaties had no effect in inducing Pombal to allow his retractation. Sentence of death was pronounced against the De Tavora family, their relations and friends, as well as all their numerous domestics and dependants, on January 12, 1759. Pombal, fearing the popular indignation, had the scaffold prepared by night, outside the city, in the ■ Plaza of Belem, which was occupied by two regiments of mercenaries. 
The platform, lighted by torches, rose eighteen feet from the ground. The square and the river side were so thronged with soldiers that the spectators took refuge on the Tagus, where from hundreds of boats and other craft arose a mingled murmur of groans and curses. Thus passed the night of January 13. With the first gray sign of dawn arrived the numerous domestics of the Duke d'Aveiro. These were all bound to stakes at one corner of the scaffold and burnt alive. 
Then followed the Marchesa Eleanora de Tavora, alone; a rope round her neck, a crucifix in her hand, and her garments torn into rags by the torture. Pombal was there; for his Memoirs give, with a sort of infernal satisfaction, the full details of which he was an eye-witness on this night. With calm dignity Dona Eleanora mounted the scaffold, pressing to her heart the image of her God. The executioner approaching to bind her feet, she said to him gently : " Man, I pray you not to forget who I am. Do not touch me except to kill me." The man knelt down before her (Pombal himself relates it). Dona Eleanora was of those races who leave no service, even the last, without its recompense. Drawing her ring from her finger, she held it out to him, saying: " Every work deserves its reward. This is all I have, and 1 give it you that you may do your duty well." The executioner rose and did his duty. After this first noble blood had reddened the block the aged Marquis de Tavora, Dona Eleanora's husband, was beheaded, and next the husband of that Dona Teresa who had brought death and destruction on the noble house into which she had been welcomed as a beloved daughter. Then followed the other sons of Dona Eleanora— the youngest of whom was not twenty years old—her daughters, and her son-in-law; then the long file of officers and servants of her household, who died in their torments like brave men and Christians. Last of all, his garments nothing but tatters, came the Duke d'Aveiro, whose racked limbs could scarcely support him. He was fastened on the wheel; and for nearly an hour he struggled with this ghastly instrument of death, which slowly crushed his bones, while the clamor of his appalling agony could be heard even in Lisbon. The butchery at last consummated, the scaffold with all that was upon it was set on fire, and crumbled, with the half-burnt corpses, into the Tagus. After what has been related it matters little to know that all the friends and relations of these victims were kept in prison, their palaces and mansions razed to the ground, and the very sites they had occupied sown with salt. The arms of the De Tavora and their so-called " accopiplices " were effaced in the Hall of the Knights at Cintra, where their escutcheons still remain veiled with black, like the portrait of Faliero in the Ducal Palace at Venice. This last fact is remarkable, because the iniquitous judgment of January 12, 1759, has for long years past been annulled. Pombal lived long enough to feel even in this world the hand of God. All his victims were rehabilitated during his lifetime by decree of the High Court, solemnly given on April 7, 1781 ; and by this same decree Pombal was disgraced.
Link (here) to Catholic World


Qualis Rex said...

Interesting turn of events. One major event absent from this article/history is the great earthquake of 1755 which halved the entire population of Lisbon (according to some historians/estimates). Add to this the fact that for up to 100 years prior the populace and aristocracy had grown fat and docile from the slave trade and emptying the colony of Brazil of its native inhabitants. One has to wonder if all of these occurences are a mixture of cause-and-effect as well as divine retribution?

TonyD said...

Divine retribution? I would suggest that many events are simply "allowed" or "scheduled". An earthquake, for example, has a wide variety of effects when you look past the superficial event. Of course, most people aren't capable of hearing such things -- they only acknowledge a particular definition of "love" which does not include any imposed suffering. Or they twist the event to have a morality consistent with their misunderstanding of good and evil. So we get the truth that we can hear.

Qualis Rex said...

Tony that's certainly one opinion. However, I've based mine on Catholic theology and I chose my words carefully.