Expel the Jesuits Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

Portuguese frontiersmen settled southern and western Brazil looking for precious metals. The heavy concentration of Brazilian Indian populations in these regions meant there was plentiful slave labor for these frontiersmen, but it also attracted Jesuit missionaries who sought to protect the Indians they wished to convert. The resulting conflict between the Jesuits and the settlers climaxed when the priests were violently expelled from the area.

Summary of Event

Although the Portuguese discovered Brazil in 1500, only after three decades did they begin organizing settlements along its coast, ranging from the equator to the tropic of Capricorn. The southernmost of these settlements was São Vicente. Behind it rose mountains that undulated into a vast, hilly plateau stretching into the interior. Portugal’s settlement policy failed, however, to achieve a significant Portuguese presence along the coast, which was increasingly coveted by other European powers. Therefore, in 1543, the Portuguese crown established a formal government for Brazil with a capital at Salvador. It also sent missionaries to evangelize the natives and incorporate them into the Portuguese domain. [kw]Bandeirantes Expel the Jesuits (June-Aug., 1640) [kw]Jesuits, Bandeirantes Expel the (June-Aug., 1640) Wars, uprisings, and civil unrest;June-Aug., 1640: Bandeirantes Expel the Jesuits[1360] Social issues and reform;June-Aug., 1640: Bandeirantes Expel the Jesuits[1360] Religion and theology;June-Aug., 1640: Bandeirantes Expel the Jesuits[1360] Economics;June-Aug., 1640: Bandeirantes Expel the Jesuits[1360] South America;June-Aug., 1640: Bandeirantes Expel the Jesuits[1360] Brazil;June-Aug., 1640: Bandeirantes Expel the Jesuits[1360] Bandeirantes Jesuits;expulsion from Brazil Brazil;expulsion of the Jesuits

The Portuguese missionaries belonged to a new order of Roman Catholic clergy, the Society of Jesus, or Jesuits. They were committed to countering the advances of the Protestant Reformation. The Jesuits had appeared at the same time that the Catholic countries of Portugal and Spain were discovering and settling new territories in Asia, Africa, and the Americas and believed they could compensate for the losses of Catholicism in Europe by advancing their religion in the rest of the world. The first Jesuits in Brazil encountered Indian populations along the Atlantic coast, down the Amazon River Valley, and over the southern plateau that drained into the vast Paraná and Paraguay River system. The latter region, well watered and subtropical, had a particularly dense native population, mostly Guaraní- and Tupi-speaking Indians.

Two of the leading Jesuits first to evangelize in Brazil were Fathers Manuel de Nóbrega Nóbrega, Manuel de and José de Anchieta Anchieta, José de . They converted masses of Indians and organized them into a type of reservation known as an aldeia, or small village. Catholicism;Brazilian Indians and Father Anchieta led the conversion of Indians in southern Brazil, founding the city of São Paulo in 1554. Located at the base of the plateau above São Vicente, the settlement became the center from which evangelizing missions set out, establishing other aldeias. Meanwhile, the Jesuits were also evangelizing in adjacent areas of Spanish America, organizing them into large-scale reservations known as reducciones. The region now occupied by southern Brazil, eastern Paraguay, and northern Argentina became a vast settlement of Indian missions under Portuguese and Spanish Jesuit control.

São Paulo also attracted Portuguese settlers seeking their fortunes in the region. Since few Portuguese women accompanied these adventurers, the men mated with local Indian women, rapidly creating a large mixed-race population known as mamelucos Mamelucos . The mamelucos became the dominant racial group of early southern Brazil. They were as skilled in using European technology, such as guns, as they were in using native implements or weapons, such as the bow and arrow, and were as likely to speak Portuguese as an Indian language.

Convinced that Portuguese America must have the same wealth of gold, silver, and precious gems that was being found in Spanish America, the mamelucos organized themselves in bands to explore the interior. On horseback, by foot, and in riverboats, they explored and settled vast reaches of inner Brazil. Organized like medieval troops around a bandeira, or flag, these groups came themselves to be called bandeiras, and their ventures into the interior were known as entradas (entries). Eventually, the frontiersmen who joined these groups came to be known as bandeirantes and, since they originated from São Paulo, they were also identified as paulistas. A famed bandeirante noted for his pursuit of precious gems was Fernão Dias, Dias, Fernão the so-called Emerald Hunter.

A crucial problem of colonial Brazil was an insufficient labor supply for its plantations. The most profitable crop grown in the colony was sugar Sugar;plantations in Brazil . The preferred source of labor for sugar plantations Plantation system;Brazil was slaves from Africa. Indians as slaves were considered less satisfactory than Africans. However, shortages of African slaves grew in early seventeenth century Brazil because of Dutch occupation (1630-1654) of the northeast of the country. Slavery;Brazil At the same time, southern Portuguese Brazil experienced a growth of sugar and wheat cultivation, which in turn increased the demand for slave labor. As a result of the simultaneous growth in demand and lack of supply of African slaves, the Portuguese turned to the native population for forced labor. Hunting Indians in order to enslave them became a growing economic objective of the bandeiras, and the Indians held in Jesuit missions became coveted and easy targets.

A standard bandeira consisted of several hundred men, including a few dozen Europeans, many more mamelucos, and often a majority of Indians, who were accustomed to a warrior life and enslaving each other. These bands traveled using the many rivers that coursed from São Paulo, especially westward and southward. Along the banks of these rivers, the paulistas would raid Portuguese Jesuit aldeias and Spanish Jesuit reducciones. The greatest concentration of Indians was in Paraguay, which during the colonial period included much of what is today the central area of the Southern Cone countries of South America. The Jesuits estimated that several hundred thousand Indians were taken from the reservations in raids over a period of decades. In 1629, one of the most formidable of the bandeiras raided an area known as Guaira, east of the central Paraná River. Headed by a paulista official, António Raposo Tavares, Tavares, António Raposo it consisted of more than five dozen whites, almost a thousand mamelucos, and two thousand Indians.

The Jesuits vehemently opposed these raids. A leading voice of this opposition was a rising young Brazilian Jesuit orator, Father António Vieira Vieira, António . Having significant influence in the courts of Europe, the Jesuits obtained numerous royal and papal condemnations of the enslavement of Indians. Since an Indian labor force was vital to frontier economic activity, paulista hostility to the Jesuits was equally vehement. This hostility culminated in June, 1640, when a new papal bull was announced condemning the enslavement of Indians.

In response to the bull, the municipal councils of São Paulo and São Vicente, supported by the populace and other clergy, drove the Jesuits from the cities. By August, all Jesuits were evacuated from the region. The expulsions stayed in effect until 1642 in Santos and 1653 in São Paulo. Crucial to reversing the expulsions was the reduced pressure during the 1640’s for Indian enslavement. During this period, Portugal regained control of its slave-trading posts in Africa, and this source of slaves, to which the Jesuits were much less opposed, restored a steady labor supply to Brazil.


The expulsion of the Jesuits by the paulistas was brief but highlighted a dramatic socioeconomic development in colonial Brazil. Slave labor had grown to be of such vital importance to the colony that its economic necessity took priority over any moral or cultural considerations. Over the course of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Brazil would become the largest importer of African slaves of any country in the Americas or in history.

The drive of the bandeirantes for mineral wealth and territorial dominance became a vital force in determining the borders of Brazil, eventually making it the largest country in South America. Tavares led an expedition of thousands of miles from 1648 to 1652 that crossed westward to Paraguay, arched along the eastern edge of the Andes, and then coursed down the Amazon to the mouth of the river.

The most consequential entrada occurred in 1695, when a son-in-law of Fernão Dias discovered gold Gold rush, Brazil in central Brazil. This incident led, during the next century, to the largest discoveries of gold in the world. The discovery of gold and diamonds caused a massive influx of prospectors, increasing the population of Brazil tenfold during the eighteenth century. Brazil became a greater economic power than Portugal, its mother country. The nation’s wealth of precious minerals prompted the greatest migration in history of slave labor from Africa and became the source of capital to help fund the Industrial Revolution in Britain.

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