Albuquerque: Rulers of India - Morse Stephens

The Successors of Albuquerque

Nano da Cunha and Dom Joao de Castro

It is not intended in this volume to give a complete history of the Portuguese in India. But it is both interesting and instructive to examine the policy of the successors of Albuquerque, and to note the growth of the causes which led to the destruction of the empire that he founded. The following chapters are intended to give a short sketch of the leading features of the history of the Portuguese in India, up to the time when Portugal lost its independence and was united with Spain. Special attention will be given to the points in which Albuquerque's successors fulfilled or diverged from his ideas of conquest and government.

Albuquerque's immediate successor, who had been sent out to supersede him, was Lopo Soares de Albergaria, a powerful nobleman and son of the Chancellor of Portugal. He came out to India with the express intention of striking out a line for himself, and his favourite counsellors were the declared opponents of his predecessor. Nevertheless he dared not abandon Goa, much as that measure was urged upon him, in the face of the marked approval that the King had expressed on the receipt of the important despatch by Albuquerque, which has been printed in full. The new Governor knew that the only way in which he could obtain the favour of Emmanuel was by carrying out the policy of closing the Red Sea. It has been said that the King of Portugal had eventually decided to leave this task in Albuquerque's hands, and that these instructions only reached India after the death of the great captain.

Lopo Soares attempted to fulfil the designs of Albuquerque, and in 1517 sailed with a fleet of over forty ships carrying 3000 soldiers to the Red Sea. This armament, which far exceeded any that Albuquerque had ever commanded, could easily have accomplished the favourite scheme of King Emmanuel. The politics of the Red Sea were become very complicated since Albuquerque's voyage thither. The Emir Husain on leaving India had betaken himself to Jeddah, where he was endeavouring to construct a fresh fleet. But the Sultan of Egypt suspected the Emir's intentions, and ordered an officer named Rais Sulaiman to establish his authority in the Red Sea. Sulaiman equipped a fleet at Suez, and in 1516 attempted to take Aden. The Arab ruler of that port resisted the Egyptians as sturdily as he had done the Portuguese, and the Egyptian admiral was forced to retreat. The rivalry between Sulaiman and Husain weakened the position of the Muhammadans in the Red Sea. When, therefore, Lopo Soares with his great armament approached Aden, the Arab ruler, feeling it impossible to resist, owing to the breaches in the fortifications made by the Egyptians, offered to surrender his city to the Portuguese commander. It seems hardly conceivable that Albuquerque's successor rejected the offer, but so it was. Lopo Soares thought he would be doing better service by keeping his forces together and sailing to the attack of one or both of the Muhammadan admirals. But the fates fought against him. Storms scattered his fleet; famine and disease decimated his men; and the captains, now that the strong hand of Albuquerque was removed, were utterly insubordinate.

When the Portuguese Governor got back to Aden he found that the defences had been repaired, and that the Arabs were not inclined to repeat their former offer. With his diminished and dispirited force he dared not attack, and he sailed away to India. On his arrival Lopo Soares found that a high civil official had been sent out from Portugal to take charge of judicial and administrative duties, who was to hold a position independent to the governor. Lopo Soares declined to recognise the new authority, and its first tenant was sent back to Portugal. Though Albuquerque's immediate successor had failed in the Red Sea, he took one important step for the furtherance of Portuguese commerce and dominion. He sailed to the island of Ceylon in 1518 and constructed a fortress in the neighbourhood of Colombo. This was the first step towards the conquest of Ceylon, which was afterwards to be one of the most wealthy and important possessions of the Portuguese in the East.

Diogo Lopes de Sequeira, the discoverer of Malacca, who succeeded Lopo Soares in 1518, and Dom Duarte de Menezes, who held office from 1521 to 1524, did not leave much mark on the history of the Portuguese in the East. The most important event which occurred during their rule in India was the death of King Emmanuel in 1521. The sagacity of this monarch had done much to develop the Asiatic empire of Portugal. He had chosen his men wisely, and had perceived quickly the most important obstacles in the way; he had not spared money, ships or forces to develop his new dominions; and he had had the wisdom, for some years at any rate, to leave Albuquerque untrammeled, though he had made the mistake of superseding him at the last. Yet Emmanuel does not deserve very great credit. It was his predecessor, John II, who had directed the explorations which led to such great results, and who had trained the statesmen and captains who achieved those results. Emmanuel showed by his internal policy in Portugal that he was not a great king; his one dream was to secure the thrones of Spain; for this reason he had married in succession two of the daughters of Ferdinand and Isabella; and for this purpose he had consented, at their request, to expel the Jews, to whose commercial enterprise Portugal owed much, from his dominions. Personally he was an ungrateful and a suspicious ruler. He never employed Vasco da Gama after his second voyage in 1502, and he kept the profits of the commerce which had been opened for Portugal strictly to himself.

John III, Emmanuel's successor, was a more estimable man than Emmanuel; he knew how to recognise and reward ability and valour. But he had one defect which proved fatal to the Portuguese power in Asia: he was a fanatical bigot. He looked upon the Portuguese connection with the East not only as a lucrative monopoly to increase the wealth of the Crown, but as an opportunity for spreading Christianity among the heathen. He sent out missionaries as his father had sent soldiers; he established the Holy Inquisition in Portugal which sapped the intellect and vigour of the Portuguese nation; and it was directly due to his example that the fatal policy of religious persecution was introduced into India as a branch of Christianity.

The first selection which John III made for the government of the Portuguese in Asia was an act of reparation. On his accession to the throne he created Dom Vasco da Gama Count of Vidigueira, and in 1523 he appointed the discoverer of the direct sea route to India to the office of Viceroy, which had not been held since the days of Dom Francisco de Almeida. This title carried with it more extensive powers than were exercised by Albuquerque and his next successors. Such powers were sorely needed. Complaints came yearly from India of the oppression and the peculation of the Portuguese officials in the East. They made use of their positions to pile up fortunes for themselves, and charges of corruption were even brought against the Governor.

Under these circumstances a man of strong character and high rank was needed to remedy such abuses, and no fitter man could be found than the illustrious admiral of the Indian Seas, Dom Vasco da Gama. He justified the opinion held of him by the king. He reached Chaul, where Sequeira had built a fortress, in September 1524; he at once proceeded to Goa, where he degraded the Captain, Francisco Pereira Pestana, and directed that his property should be sequestrated until all charges against him were heard. He then went on to Cochin, and there demanded and received the resignation of the Governor, Dom Duarte de Menezes, on the return of the latter from Ormuz. These salutary examples had a great effect. But the Viceroy was too old to thoroughly reform the abuses which had sprung up. He only held office for four months, and died at Cochin on Christmas Eve, 1524. The great navigator was buried in the Chapel of the Franciscan friars at Cochin, but in 1538 his bones were removed to Portugal, and were interred at Vidiguelra.

When Vasco da Gama was sent to India as Viceroy a new custom was inaugurated for the succession of governors. Hitherto much inconvenience had been caused by the interregnum which followed on the death or departure of a governor. Vasco da Gama therefore carried with him sealed packets containing in order the names of those whom the King nominated to succeed him. The care of the sealed packets was entrusted to the high civil official who held the title of Controller (Veador) of Indian affairs and had complete charge of administrative and judicial matters. Lopo Soares had refused to recognise this official, but the King insisted on the creation of the office, and took effective means to secure its entire independence of the governors.

On Vasco da Gama's death the first sealed packet was found to contain the name of Dom Henrique de Menezes, who had won golden opinions as Pestana's successor at Goa. This young nobleman died at Cannanore on February 21st, 1526. The name contained in the next sealed packet was that of Pedro Mascarenhas, who was at this time Captain of Malacca. As he could not arrive for some months, the third packet was then opened which contained the name of Lopo Vaz de Sam Paio, Captain of Cochin and a former officer of Albuquerque. Frequent complaints were sent to Portugal of the harshness and corruption of this Governor. It is asserted that he was incapable as well as cruel, and that the Portuguese fortresses were in a disgraceful state of neglect. He treated even the royal orders with contempt, and refused to hand over the government to Pedro Mascarenhas, whom he ordered into custody on his return from Malacca to claim his rights.

It was further made known to John III that Sulaiman the Magnificent was setting on foot a great fleet for India. This was mainly due to the constant requests of the Venetians who were being ruined by the Portuguese monopoly, and was in general accordance with the policy of the greatest of the Ottoman rulers of Constantinople. The war between the Turks and Egyptians, which had allowed the Portuguese to develop in Asia, ended in 1517 with the overthrow of the Mameluke dynasty in Egypt. This great conquest of the Sultan Selim brought with it the submission of Syria and Arabia. Sulaiman the Magnificent succeeded his father Selim in 1520, and began his reign by his famous campaigns in Hungary and against Rhodes. He was quite alive to the importance to Islam of checking the further advance of the Portuguese in the East, and the news that he was building a great fleet at Suez was perfectly true. It was placed under the command of Sulaiman Pasha, and carried many Venetian and Christian adventurers as well as Turks and Egyptians.

Such being the dangers which threatened the Portuguese empire in Asia, John III selected to meet them the first really great successor to the office of Albuquerque, Nuno da Cunha. The new Governor was the eldest son of Tristao da Cunha, the navigator, and had had a large experience of Asiatic warfare. He was knighted by his relative, the great Albuquerque, in 1506, and had ever since been employed in voyages to the East and in hard-fought campaigns in Morocco. His chief feat of arms up to this time had been his conquest of Mombassa on the African coast in 1525, which he had followed up by exacting the tribute promised by the King of Ormuz to the Portuguese.

He left Lisbon in 1528 with a large fleet, carrying 4000 soldiers. He reached Goa in October, 1529, after a long voyage, and at once arrested Lopo Vaz de Sam Paio, and sent him back to Portugal in chains. His first measures were directed to the reform of internal abuses. With great activity he visited every Portuguese factory and fortress, punishing all evil-doers, and setting himself a noble example of personal probity. But he was not satisfied, like his predecessors, by merely securing old advantages and maintaining the former centres of trade. He devoted himself to opening up new provinces and developing the Portuguese commerce and dominion in other parts of India. The first Portuguese settlement on the Coromandel coast was at Saint Thome near Madras, which received that name from the supposed discovery of the bones of St. Thomas the apostle of India. But Nuno da Cunha pushed farther up the coast and opened up a political connection with the wealthy province of Bengal.

Hitherto the Portuguese relations with Bengal had been purely commercial. In 1518 the first Portuguese ship, commanded by Joao da Silveira, reached Chittagong, and he there found Joao Coelho, who had arrived some months before from Malacca, having explored the eastern coast of the Bay of Bengal in a native craft. Silveira took a rich cargo on board, and after his visit it became an established custom for a Portuguese ship to visit Chittagong every year to purchase merchandise for Portugal. But Nuno da Cunha wished to do more than this, and to establish a regular factory and a political influence in the richest province of India.

An opportunity was afforded him in 1534, when the Muhammadan King of Bengal asked for the help of a Portuguese force against the Afghan invader, Sher Shah. Nuno da Cunha promised his assistance, and at once sent a fleet of nine ships, carrying 400 Portuguese soldiers under the command of Martim Affonso de Mello Jusarte. The Portuguese contingent behaved gallantly, and its deeds are described in the first twelve chapters of the ninth Book of the fourth Decade of Joao de Barros, the contemporary Portuguese historian. Nuno da Cunha intended to follow in person, but he was prevented by the condition of affairs in Gujarat. It happened therefore that Portuguese authority was never directly established in Bengal. No royal factory or fortress was erected, and the Portuguese settlement at Hugli, where goods were collected for shipment to Portugal, was loosely considered to be subject to the Captain of Ceylon. The Portuguese in North-Eastern India remained to the end adventurers and merchants, and were never a ruling power.

The important events which prevented Nuno da Cunha from visiting Bengal were closely connected with the threatened approach of Sulaiman the Magnificent's fleet from the Red Sea. It was well understood that that fleet would sail direct to the coast of Gujarat as the fleet of Emir Husain had done thirty years before. This knowledge made Nuno da Cunha very anxious to establish the Portuguese in a strong position on the coasts of North-Western India. Their main station in this neighbourhood had hitherto been the port of Chaul, where they had a factory and a small fortress. Portuguese agents were likewise established in the ports of Gujarat, but they were in no place masters of a strong defensive position.

To obtain a fitting site for a fortress in Gujarat was a principal aim of Nuno da Cunha's policy; not only for defence against the Muhammadans in India, but also as a bulwark against the expected Turkish fleet. Circumstances favoured him. The Mughal Emperor Humayun was engaged in war with Bahadur Shah, the King of Ahmadabad or Gujarat. In his extremity Bahadur Shah sought to make an alliance with the Portuguese, and for this purpose he granted them the island of Bassein, which was then separated from the mainland by a narrow creek. Bassein lies about twenty-eight miles north of Bombay, and afterwards became the northern capital of Portuguese India, almost rivaling Goa in splendour and prosperity. At Bassein the Portuguese built a fort, but the place was not naturally defensible, and Nuno da Cunha set his heart on the possession of the rocky island of Diu, which had been one of the spots designed by Albuquerque for a Portuguese stronghold.

At last, in 1535, under the pressure of an invasion by Humayun, Bahadur Shah allowed the Portuguese to erect a fortress in Diu and to garrison it with their own troops. The fortress was rapidly and solidly built, and Bahadur Shah and Nuno da Cunha signed a treaty of alliance. Such an alliance was not likely to last, and the murder of Bahadur Shah in 1537, which took place on his return from visiting Nuno da Cunha on board his ship, caused a cry of treachery to be raised. It seems absolutely certain that the death of the King of Gujarat was due to a misunderstanding, but none the less friendship was owing to it replaced by bitter enmity. The fortress was not completed a moment too soon, for in 1538 the Turkish fleet, under Sulaiman Pasha, after taking Aden by a stratagem, blockaded Diu by sea. Muhammad III, the nephew and successor of Bahadur Shah, then besieged the place by land.

Antonio da Silveira, who had been left by Nuno da Cunha as Captain of the fortress, defended it nobly. Brilliant are the feats of gallantry recorded by the Portuguese chroniclers on the part not only of the soldiers but of aged men, boys, and women. The siege lasted many months, during which Nuno da Cunha was succeeded in September 1538 by Dom Garcia de Noronha, Albuquerque's nephew, who had been sent out from Portugal as Viceroy. This experienced officer managed to introduce reinforcements into the fortress in small boats which slipped between the great Turkish galleys. Every assault was repulsed, and in November 1538 Sulaiman Pasha and Muhammad III abandoned the siege. It does not detract from the glory of Silveira's defence that its final success was mainly due to dissensions among the besiegers. Each of the Muhammadan commanders blamed the other; the King of Gujarat began to fear that the Turkish admiral would attack him, and it was with a sense of relief that he, as well as the Portuguese, saw Sulaiman sail away to Arabia.

It was a melancholy fact that Nuno da Cunha was unable to witness the success of his brother-in-law, Silveira. In spite of his great services he, like his relative Affonso de Albuquerque, whom he resembled in his wide views and his personal disinterestedness, was slandered at the Court of Lisbon. He had taken harsh measures against embezzling officials and insubordinate captains, and during his ten years of government he made numerous enemies. These men persuaded the King that Nuno da Cunha was making a large fortune, when really he was spending his private property for the public service; and, in spite of the arguments of old Tristan da Cunha, Dom Garcia de Noronha was ordered to send the greatest Portuguese Governor of India since Albuquerque home in custody. On his way home Nuno da Cunha died at sea on March 5, 1539, in the fifty-second year of his age, and his last words, when his chaplain asked what should be done with his body, were: "Since the will of God is that I should die at sea, let the sea be my grave; for since the land will not have me why should I leave my bones to it." Nunn da Cunha's establishment of the Portuguese at Diu was the most important event since the conquest of Goa; in temper and in disposition he resembled his great relative; like Albuquerque, he was treated with ingratitude and died in disgrace.

Dom Garcia de Noronha did not rule long enough to affect the history of the Portuguese in India. He died at Goa on April 3, 1540, and was succeeded as Governor, not as Viceroy, by Dom Estevao da Gama, the second son of the famous navigator. The new governor was an experienced officer; he had been Captain of the Sea during his father's short vice-royalty in 1524; had made more than one voyage to India; and had acted for five years as Captain of Malacca.

The one remarkable event of his governorship was his expedition to the Red Sea. The repulse of Sulaiman Pasha had been followed by his death in Arabia, but Sulaiman the Magnificent did not intend to abandon his projects, and directed the equipment of a new fleet at Suez. In 1541 Dom Estevao da Gama entered the Red Sea. He was repulsed in an attack on Suez, but made a landing in the neighbourhood and a pilgrimage to the monastery of Mount Sinai, where he knighted some of his officers, including Dom Alvaro de Castro, the son of his most distinguished captain, Dom Joao de Castro. Before returning to India the Governor sent his brother, Dom Christovao da Gama, to escort a prelate, whom the Pope had nominated as primate of Abyssinia. But the Christian dynasty in that country was at this time hotly beset by the Muhammadans, and Dom Christovao was killed with his companions.

In the year 1542 Dom Estevao da Gama was succeeded as Governor by Martim Affonso de Sousa, who had shown ability in the exploration and settlement of the colony of Brazil. De Sousa's government of India was not very successful. His most notable achievement was a treaty with Ibrahim Adil Shah, King of Bijapur, who promised to cede to the Portuguese the provinces of Bardes and Salsette adjoining the island of Goa in exchange for the surrender of a Muhammadan prince, Mir Ali Khan (Mealecan). But Martim Affonso de Sousa had neither the ability nor the authority to maintain his influence over his own captains, and King John III resolved to send to India a nobleman of military experience, who by his rank and his character should restore harmony in his Asiatic possessions.

The nobleman selected was Dom Joao de Castro, who was the intimate friend of the King's brother Dom Luis. With that prince he had served in the expedition against Tunis, where his conspicuous valour had won the admiration of the Emperor Charles V. He displayed courage, tact, and self-reliance, both in the relief of Diu and in the campaign of 1541 in the Red Sea. But it was for the purity of his personal character, the integrity of his life, and his absolute honesty that he was specially selected.

Enormous fortunes were being made in the East, and the usual abuses accompanied the rapid acquisition of wealth. Bribery and corruption in public life, gambling and immorality in private life had reached an alarming height, and though the Portuguese still exhibited the same valour and constancy in war as in the days of Albuquerque, they were now too apt to prefer private advantage to the good of the State. Dom Joao de Castro took out with him a powerful fleet and 2000 soldiers, and he was accompanied by two young sons, Dom Alvaro and Dom Fernao, who rivaled in the East the glory of the youthful Dom Lourencro de Almeida and of Albuquerque's young nephew Dom Antonio de Noronha.

Dom Joao de Castro reached Goa on September Io, 1545, and at once took over the charge of the government. He found himself face to face with two serious dangers; Ibrahim Adil Shah of Bijapur was preparing to attack Goa, and Muhammad III of Gujarat was again besieging Diu. These were but symptoms of a general league which was in act of formation between all the sovereigns of the West of India against the Portuguese. In spite of the expostulation of the officials Joao de Castro refused to carry out the engagement made with the King of Bijapur by his predecessor. He declared that Mir Ali Khan had come to seek refuge at Goa, and that it would be a most dishonourable act to surrender him. The King of Bijapur at once sent an army to recover the provinces of Bardes and Salsette, which he had handed over, but Dom Joao de Castro marched out and inflicted a severe defeat on the Bijapur forces.

The situation at Diu was more threatening. A renegade Albanian, called by the Portuguese Coge Cofar (Khoja Zufar), had attained supreme influence at the Court of Muhammad III of Gujarat. He persuaded the King that it was most disgraceful for him to fail in capturing Diu. He collected the whole force of the kingdom and commenced the siege of the Portuguese fortress, with the declaration that he would die sooner than return unsuccessful. The Captain of Diu, Dom Joao Mascarenhas, showed the same constancy and valour as Antonio da Silveira. The garrison consisted of nearly the same soldiers, and the women once more distinguished themselves in the defence. The Governor made every effort to relieve the fortress. He first sent his son, Dom Fernao, who was killed, then his other son, Dom Alvaro, and eventually brought up all the forces he could collect in person. Coge Cofar was slain by a cannon-ball, and his successor, Rumecao, did not press the siege with the same vigour.

After repulsing all assaults, Dom Joao de Castro marched out at the head of his army and utterly defeated the enemy in a pitched battle. The slaughter among the Muhammadans was immense, and the victory was one of the greatest ever won by a European army in India. He then proceeded to punish the Gujaratis. One of his captains, Antonio Moniz Barreto, burnt Cambay, and his son, Dom Alvaro, sacked Surat. This great victory showed the native princes that they had a worthy successor of Albuquerque to deal with, and Dom Joao de Castro was on all sides entreated to make alliances with them. With the King of Bijapur alone the war continued, but the Portuguese everywhere got the best of it; Dabhol was taken, and the Muhammadans were again defeated on land.

The internal reforms were even more to the credit of Dom Joao de Castro than his victories. One point in his policy resembles that adopted by Cornwallis in Bengal; namely, the fixing of the salaries of the various officials, and his effort to put an end to the system of peculation which was rife. This peculation was chiefly caused by the officials engaging in trade; by which they made vast profits while the State suffered. The state of things had partly arisen through the custom of allowing Portuguese soldiers to trade after serving for nine years. It was this inducement which brought so many soldiers from Portugal; and in spite of the Governor's representations, the Portuguese authorities were afraid to put an end to it for fear of stopping the flow of recruits. The reforming measures of Dom Joao de Castro did not remain long in operation, but his example had a great effect. So great was the confidence felt in his probity, that an anecdote is told of his raising money in Goa for the relief of Diu, by pawning the hairs of his beard.

The news of Dom Joao de Castro's victory at Diu was received with great enthusiasm by John III, who in 1548 sent him a commission as Viceroy. He only lived to hold this high office for fourteen days. He died at Goa on June 6, 1548, in the arms of his friend, the Apostle to the Indies, Saint Francis Xavier. The greatest of all the successors of Albuquerque was Dom Joao de Castro; he resembled the knights of the middle ages in his gallantry and his disinterestedness, while his victory at Diu is the last great achievement of the Portuguese arms in Asia.