Coordenação de Raul Mendes Silva

Peace on the Colonial Borders: Alexandre de Gusmão, the Great Mover of the Treaty of Madrid

Ambassador Synesio Sampaio Goes

Madrid: An agreement to benefit Portugal?


 Let us recall the basic outlines of the occupation of Brazilian territory. The 16th century, when the first Portuguese colonisers came to America, was basically spent in occupying different points along the Eastern coast, and witness to the arrival of pioneering ventures. The 17th century was the time of major São Paulo expeditions into the hinterland, moving South and Midwest; these were the years when Belém was founded, of rescue troops and the first Portuguese religious missions along the Amazon river and its tributaries; in 1680, the Governor of Rio de Janeiro founded the colony of Sacramento in an attempt to guarantee the natural boundary of the river Plate. The first half of the following century was the age of "general mines", the mining centres in Goiás and Mato Grosso and of the “Cuiabá river expeditions” between Cuiabá and São Paulo; the consolidation of the Portuguese presence along a number of rivers in the Amazon and the "river expeditions to the north" navigating between Vila Bela and Belém; as well as the struggle for possession of the Colony and attempts to occupy the territory that today lies between the State of Rio Grande do Sul and Uruguay.

Although Independence was to take another 72 years, right in the middle of the 18th century, 1750 is a convenient date to divide the History of Brazil, as Charles Boxer suggests, who finishes his class on The Golden Age of Brazil exactly on that year. He gives a number of reasons to individualise 1750: gold mining in Brazil had reached its peak and was on the decline; the death of D. João V, whose reign of 44 years was the longest in the History of Portugal, and the coronation of D. José I, inaugurating, together with his Prime Minister, the future Marquis of Pombal, the Portuguese age of illustrious despotism; it ends with the disappearance of the São Paulo frontiersmen, a very important cycle for the occupation of Brazilian territory; and, here is the most interesting fact, the Treaty of Madrid was signed by the colonial powers.

The destination of this treaty is curious. It was signed, ratified and decreed in 1750, but by 1761 it was annulled by the El Pardo Treaty. It was then almost fully restored, with the exception of the southern border, by the 1777 Santo Ildefonso Treaty, and again annulled in 1801, when yet another of the many peninsular wars broke out. When peace was restored that same year under the Badajoz Treaty, no previous agreement was revalidated. Therefore, for a treaty on the kind of boundaries to make permanent solutions, it lasted a very short time indeed. And, despite this brief formal term, the fundamental text for fixing the boundaries of our territory lies in the History of Brazil.

In fact, aside of Acre, the triangle formed by the Japurá, Solimões rivers and the Tabatinga-Apaporis estuary line, and small adjustments to borders — later chapters on the territorial formation of Brazil — it was the Treaty of Madrid that legalised the possession of Rio Grande do Sul, Mato Grosso and the Amazon, regions situated west of the Tordesilhas line. In addition to giving a legal character to this vast area occupied by the Portuguese, the treaty exchanged the Colony of Sacramento for the region of Sete Povos, a Jesuit settlement west of what is today Rio Grande do Sul. Since it divided a continent, an unprecedented and inconsequent fact in international law, when fixing the Brazilian frontiers it was also establishing the basic land borders of all Brazil's ten neighbours.

Historians of neutral nationalities find in the Treaty of Madrid the qualities of balance and moderation that are features of good agreements. Englishman Robert Southey says thus: “A similar convention would have been impossible without the amicable willingness of both parties... The language and entire content of this memorable treaty are testifying to the sincerity and good intentions of the two Crowns. The two contracting sovereigns, indeed, seem to have been ahead of their time” (1). German Heinrich Handelmann said in the same flattering tone: "This treaty on borders was altogether reasonable and beneficial to the contracting parties." (2)

In Brazil, the tendency is also to be congratulatory, the opinion of Baron Rio Branco being a standard for many others: "Study of the 1750 Treaty leaves the most lively and pleasant impression of good faith, loyalty and grandeur of views that inspired this amicable solution to old mean quarrels, consulting solely the superior principles of reason and justice and the conveniences of peace and civilisation of America."(3) Capistrano de Abreu is the dissenting voice, when he considers the agreement unfair due to the bloody exodus that ensued (Sete Povos).

Hispano-American specialists generally look at the Treaty of Madrid with distaste — sometimes disdainfully called a “treaty of exchange” — since they consider detrimental to the American colonies of Spain and, consequently, to the South American countries, which they became. Argentine historian Carlos Correa Luna, for example, describes Madrid as the treaty that “formalised a massive territorial usurpation”(4). Spanish queen, Maria Barbara de Bragança, who was a Portuguese Infanta, and Prime Minister José de Carbajal y Lancaster, chief negotiator for the Spanish government, has already been widely criticised and accused of treason.

In fact, when looking at a map of Brazil with the straight Tordesilhas line and sickle of the Treaty of Madrid, the impression is that Spain gave a lot away: after all, around two thirds of the national territory consists of land outside Tordesilhas. The current explanation of the Agreement is that there was a global compensation: in the East it was Spain that legalised the ownership of regions that would have been Portuguese by the 1494 division, such as the Philippines and Moluccas. This was, therefore, a world settling of accounts. The argument is, in fact, included in the actual text of the Treaty, when Portugal, in the introduction, alleges that Spain violated the Tordesilhas line in Asia; and Spain, that Portugal violated it in America.

Capistrano believes, however, that this justification valorises the Spanish possessions in the East too much, in relation to Brazil: “it would be one of the ironies of history to discover that, from mere attachment to the possession of the Philippines, all the concessions derived from Spain”(5). For the purpose of this study, it is not necessary to focus on the question on an overall basis; it is sufficient merely to explain the agreement, comment on what that author calls “relative superiority of the Portuguese positions in the litigious zones” (6), an expression, in fact, that is not valid for La Plata region, where the Spanish have always been stronger. Since this superiority is the result of occupation, we will discuss the Luso-Brazilian advance over the Amazon, Midwest and South. But first, let us say a word about the man who was commanding the Treaty negotiations in the Portuguese court: Alexandre de Gusmão.


Anonymous no longer

Alexandre de Gusmão was born in Santos, State of São Paulo, and after a number of years in the diplomatic profession, was appointed private secretary to D. João V between 1730 and 1750. During this period, he had a strong influence on the decisions of the mother country on Brazil, and was especially the main moving force in the Treaty of Madrid. He was the first to clearly express the principles that guide the agreement, principles later to be called uti possidetis and natural boundaries. He was, moreover, at the centre of the policy to prepare the colony physically and the mother country intellectually for negotiation, contributing in the first case to consolidate the Portuguese presence in strategic regions, such as Rio Grande do Sul and Mato Grosso, and encourage the Portuguese cartographic studies in the other case. Let us see how the work of the great and until a few years ago almost unknown diplomat and colonial administrator gradually became known.

In 1942, historian Affonso d’Escragnole Taunay referred to our personality as follows: “What exists about Alexandre de Gusmão, fragmentary and especially insufficient, is only part of the final study that, over the years, has made this Brazilian immortal, a figure in the forefront of our history." (7) In fact, until his time little had been written about Alexandre de Gusmão, especially by historians. Foreigners Martius, Southey and Handelman, who wrote most about the History of Brazil in the 19th century, make no mention of Gusmão. Varnhagen gives him only a few lines but which indeed do him justice, when mentioning his role in the negotiations of the Treaty of Madrid: "On the side of Portugal, who really understood everything in this negotiation was the distinguished Brazilian statesman Alexandre de Gusmão." (8) Later, now in our century, Capistrano de Abreu, who wrote the best summary of the colonial period, ignores him completely. As does Caio Prado Junior, whose most lasting work, Formação do Brasil contemporâneo [Formation of contemporary Brazil] is also a magnificent study about the settlement and material and social life of Brazil in colonial times.

It is interesting to note that in the literary stories and collections of classics – contrary to the history books — Alexandre de Gusmão is always present. In 1841, for example, a volume entitled Colecção de vários escritos, inéditos políticos e históricos de Alexandre de Gusmão [Collection of various unpublished political and historic writings by Alexandre de Gusmão] was published in Porto from the known Masters of Language series. This work was a source for the large amount of information about him that has been published and is sufficient to confirm both the vast culture and lively and penetrating writing of Alexandre. At the end of the 19th century, Camilo Castelo Branco, in his course on Portuguese literature, places Alexandre de Gusmão on a pedestal among the great literary figures: "in his lively observation, quickness of critical wit and for those who prefer sociological studies to linguistic redundancies, the Secretary to D. João V excels Antonio Vieira and D. Francisco Manuel de Mello" (9). Considering him in the role of politician, Camilo was no less flattering: everything that the Marquis of Pombal did had already been considered by Alexandre. As he said: “All the extolled measures of Sebastião de Carvalho, on the subject of currency, companies in America, colonies, national industries, obnoxious distinctions between new and old Christians, mines in Brazil, are to be found in Gusmão's writings." (10) It is surely an exaggeration, but the fact is that one of the greatest Portuguese writers places the Secretary to the King on the highest pedestal, comparing him to Vieira in literature and to Pombal in politics.

Today, elements are available to make a more balanced judgement of the works of Alexandre de Gusmão. A universal man, who wrote with great facility and grace, is not like a man of letters who would go down to posterity, as Fidelinio de Figueiredo clearly explains: "The intrepid almost insolent nature of his language, with which the Secretary permitted himself to warn and censure the great men of the Realm, in the name of the sovereign, is what delights Camilo and other 19th century readers." (11) But indeed, his work as a statesman, especially in the concept and negotiation of the Treaty of Madrid, certainly assures him an outstanding place in the history of the frontiers of Brazil.

In the early years of our century, Baron Rio Branco, in one of his “Brazilian Journals” published in the Jornal do Commércio, puts things in their due place. When writing about Madrid he is precise and succinct: "the true negotiator of the treaty was the distinguished Alexandre de Gusmão from the state of São Paulo, although his name does not appear on the document" (12). Later, in his defence of Brazil on the Question of Palmas, Rio Branco leaves no doubts as to the importance of Gusmão's work. Finally historians are now beginning to recall the statesman from Santos!

In 1916, Ambassador Araújo Jorge, former contributor for Rio Branco, compiles several historic essays together in a book, one or which was Alexandre de Gusmão - o avô dos diplomatas brasileiros [Alexandre de Gusmão – the grandfather of Brazilian diplomats], where he duly highlights Gusmão's role in the affairs of Brazil in the last twenty years of D. João V's reign and, in particular, in the negotiation of the Treaty of Madrid. This masterly study includes: a picturesque view of Portugal at the time of D. João V — Lisbon with its bustling, mysterious and squalid alleys before the 1755 earthquake; a résumé of the works of Alexandre de Gusmão in the government; a bunch of problems in the colony of Sacramento and the disputes for the possession of the South (Rio Grande do Sul and Uruguay); and a discussion on the fundamental points of the treaty reached by the two Crowns. The criticism that could be made is not what is written - very well written indeed - but rather about what was not written: in fact, the author almost says nothing of the West and the Amazon, the vast areas that were legalised by the Treaty of Madrid. The concentration in the South — the vicissitudes of the Sacramento Colony — is absolute, which probably reflects the perception at the time when the treaty was negotiated, conceived mainly to solve the problems of La Plata, but which, centuries later, could be enriched with a broader view to cover the whole Brazilian territory.

Lastly, in the 1950s appears the superb work Alexandre de Gusmão e o Tratado de Madri [Alexandre de Gusmão and the Treaty of Madrid] by Jaime Cortesão, which, from the reams of documents that it brings to the fore, is unequalled in the Diplomatic History of Brazil. It finally recovers the political and diplomatic work of Alexandre de Gusmão, wherein the emphasis is on the negotiations of the Treaty of Madrid. No one after Cortesão's book can say that no studies have been made of the statesman who was the first to draw the map of modern Brazil. Of course, it may always occasionally disagree with some more audacious idea of the author, but cannot, after the publication of his abundant volumes, discuss Alexandre or the Treaty without taking them into consideration.

The work is in five parts, distributed in nine volumes. The first (two volumes) is fundamental, since it is a study of Alexandre and his time and, especially, of his works on Brazil. Special care should be given to the analysis of the events prior to the Treaty, its negotiations and execution. The other four parts (seven volumes) contain several works of the diplomat and the entire documentation available about Madrid. As his own title suggests, it is not exactly a biography of Gusmão, but rather as complete a study as possible of the "man inasmuch as it interests the greatest of his creations; and this creation during the period in which it is close to the creator” (13).

Now let us leave behind the comments on Alexandre de Gusmão to discuss further about his magna opera. In order to immediately perceive the importance of the Treaty of Madrid, we only need to imagine what Brazil was prior to it: a large amorphous territory, where no one quite knew where it ended. In the early days of colonisation, even if it is true that no one knew exactly where the Tordesilhas line was, at least there was theoretically a definable border. Later, with the occupation of the Amazon valley, foundation of the colony of Sacramento and the gold discoveries in the West, no one had any idea how far Brazilian lands reached. What, for example, were the areas of today's States of Santa Catarina and Rio Grande do Sul? That depended on whoever made the map: the famous French geographer Bourguignon D'Anville put in his map of South America, in 1742, Brazilian territory that was only a very narrow coastal strip completely separate from the Sacramento Colony, which was perhaps a neutral and realistic view.

It can be easily imagined how insecure the Portuguese governors must have felt to have a colony with uncertain territory and open boundaries. And a colony that, even around 1730, had not only the traditional sugarcane in the Northeast, but also the new abundant wealth of gold in Minas Gerais, Cuiabá and Goiás. For internal supply there were also the livestock produce from the vacarias del mar [seaside cattle land] as the old Spanish documents call the vast areas, predominantly of pastures, stretching from the Uruguay river to the coast (today the territories of the State of Rio Grande do Sul and Uruguay).


Madrid: occupation and transaction

Let us see, by regions, how the physical areas legalised by the Treaty was occupied.

a) Amazon
Aside of La Plata, which is a separate story, the Spanish colonial empire in South America was concentrated on Lima, seat of the Viceroyalty of Peru. Other important centres, such as Quito, Bogotá and Chuquisaca (today Sucre), were situated in the Andes at altitudes between 2,500 and 4,000 m. Founded by Francisco Pizarro in 1530, Lima was the main outgoing port for the mineral wealth discovered by the Spanish in the mountains, right at the start of contacts with the Incas, a typical mountain civilisation, whose centre of influence was Cuzco. Communications with the mother country were very slow, also because the central Lima-Seville line included overland transport through Panama.
The famous Potosi mine, discovered in Upper Peru (now Bolivia) in 1545, with its huge silver reserves, contributed to a large number of Europeans settling in the mountains: around 1650, with around 160,000 inhabitants, Potosi was the centre with the largest population in the Americas. On the plateau of Bogotá, where the Spanish arrived in 1534, a region over 2,600 m in altitude and hundreds of kilometres from the Pacific and Atlantic, the fertile land, fresh climate and, first and foremost, the gold of the Chibchas also attracted the Europeans to the highlands.

The fortune of the Portuguese was very different, and for two centuries they roamed over the dry backlands looking for “another Peru” (14) in Brazil; which was only to happen in the first thirty years of the 18th century, with the successive revelation of our three El Dorados - Minas Gerais, Mato Grosso and Goiás. Why then would the Spanish of the 16th and 17th centuries go down the mountain to venture into the hostile Amazon full of fever and repulsive creatures, if they had in their hand the world's greatest wealth?

Later, after the settlers high up in the Andes had set up their mining operations — remember that the Andes are only second to the Himalayas in altitude — in the cool rarefied air, this had made them unaccustomed to life in the hot lowlands. The Spanish then followed the precedent of the Incas: although they formed the most "geophagic" pre-Colombian empires, these Indians never ventured below 2,500 m on the Amazon side of the Andes (where, for example, lies the site of the temple fort of Machu Picchu). The argument of lack of physical adaptation, undoubtedly debatable, was used by Euclides da Cunha, in Contrastes e confrontos [contrasts and confrontations] when he describes how very hard the Bolivians in the highlands found it to adapt to the conditions of the Amazon rainforest.

Certainly another more important explanation why the Portuguese and not the Spanish occupied the Amazon is the river geography. From the moment they began colonisation, the Portuguese took possession of the best gateways to the plateau. In the South, the frontiersmen's trails, then in the 18th century the route of settlers leading to the Cuiabá river and, after an overland journey, to Guaporé, that is, the southern part of the Amazon basin; in the North, occupied by the Amazon estuary (Belém was founded in 1616), access was assured, in the words of a present-day French historian, to the “voie royale” (15) of penetration.

It was the opposite for the Spanish: it was extremely difficult for them to move towards the Amazon from the Pacific coast and even from the urban centres in the Andean regions. One example, although later in history and individualised, is enough to give the idea of the setbacks involved. In 1886, the government of Peru appointed José Benigno Samanez y Campo as governor to the Department of Loreto, which contains the largest portion of the Peruvian Amazon; since he was in a hurry to reach Iquitos, capital of the department, the new governor — an admirable explorer of Amazon rivers, it should be mentioned — chose the quickest route: he sailed from Lima to Panama; crossed the isthmus by train; took a ship in Colon to New York; from there, another time.

b) Midwest
Here the situation was different: the Portuguese occupation faced some resistance. The Spanish were closer in Paraguay, especially in the Jesuit missions. In 1614, the first clashes occurred between the frontiersmen and the missions in the southern part of the region in question, in Guairá (West Paraná) and then in Uruguay (on the banks of the river of the same name) and in Tapes (in the middle of Rio Grande do Sul). Over a hundred years later, with the discovery of gold in Cuiabá (1719) and Guaporé (1736), clashes occurred close to where the Chiquitos Missions were (near Mato Grosso do Sul) and Moxos (near Mato Grosso).

It is enriching to see the subject from the Spanish viewpoint. Asuncion, founded in 1537, was a powerful growing centre at the start of the colonising process. For example: Santa Cruz de la Sierra, in the middle of the continent, on the upper Mamoré, was founded by people from Asuncion as early as 1541, that is, before São Paulo, the first Portuguese settlement not situated on the Atlantic shores (and even so only 50 km from the coast). But Asuncion, “madre de ciudades” [mother of cities], as the Hispano-American historians call it, and Paraguay as a whole lost importance in the Spanish colonial system after it was discovered that the route from Buenos Aires to Peru (specifically to the Potosi silver), that is, the alternative route to that of Panama, did not go through there; it was further south, through Tucumán. The subject, which shows the influence of geography over history, is very clearly explained by Caio Prado Junior, in his essay “Formação dos limites meridionais do Brasil”[forming the southern boundaries of Brazil], in the book Evolução política do Brasil e outros estudos [political evolution of Brazil and other studies].

There was one time in the 16th century, when it seemed that the future region of Santa Catarina (and consequently Rio Grande do Sul) would belong to Paraguay. That was where there was one of the three ancestral trails of the Guarani Indians between the Atlantic coast and the area of Guairá (and to Asuncion), the centre of dispersion of the tribes who occupied almost the entire Brazilian coast. The renowned Spanish explorer Don Álvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca, a famous adventurer in Mexico, was appointed governor of Paraguay in 1540, when he was already 61 years old. When he reached the continent, he left a group of Spaniards in Cananéia, on the São Paulo coast, and sailed down to the island of Santa Catarina, where he met several of his countrymen. He then creates the Province of Vera that, dependent on Asuncion, would have as its eastern border the present coast of Santa Catarina, Paraná and São Paulo as far as latitude 24º, that is, above Cananéia. This is why some of the 16th and 17th century maps show a large Paraguay, with the Atlantic coastline; it would be a country with the same size as Argentina, situated between Brazil (without the South) and Argentina (also without its provinces of Entre Rios, Corrientes and Misiones) and which would include today's Uruguay.

The large Paraguay shrunk together with the withdrawal of the Spanish colonisation in that region (Buenos Aires, appeared to the contrary). If this has not happened, the frontiersmen who almost 170 years after the founding of Santa Cruz discovered gold first in the Cuiabá river (1720) and then on the banks of the Guaporé (1736), they might never have reached there, or if they had, they would have found that region occupied by the Spanish. This is not long after the first thirty years of the 17th century, when São Paulo frontiersmen destroyed the Spanish Jesuit missions of Guairá, Uruguay and Tapes: a strong Paraguay would probably not have permitted that.

But why did the Spanish, when they learned about the penetration into the Cuiabá zone, not allocate military reinforcement in the area? Were they not aware that the Luso-Brazilians had gone beyond Tordesilhas? In fact, it was very hard until the last decades of the 18th century to calculate longitudes — only in 1765, with Harrison's chronometer, was a practical and accurate method discovered to do so — and, therefore, impossible for the primitive prospectors of Cuiabá and Guaporé to know if they were West of the 370 league line or not. But the governments certainly must have known that they had gone beyond; so much so that, in previous decades, they have been strongly confronted to the East of this region in Goiás.

Brazilianist David M. Davidson, author of an important study on the Brazilian West, believes that no decision had been made by the Spanish. They were exchanging triangle correspondence between the Jesuit centres of Moxos and the cities of Buenos Aires and Lima and did not invade Mato Grosso when they were at their strongest: after all, Cuiabá was a small camp of miners and the gold mining points in Guaporé were even more lacking in resources. Nor can it be ignored that, in the years

immediately prior to signing the Treaty of Madrid, Spain was a country weakened by crises and wars and convinced that it was not in conditions to settle the middle of the South American continent, nor to stop the Portuguese from doing so: “there is no other remedy than for each to separate what belongs to it, the best known places in those countries keeping the boundaries so that they are not changed from now on; we thereby prevent future invasion and avoid further losses” (16), says a despondent colonial administrator.
It is actually possible that there was indifference and decadence, but it should also be considered that this new mining region, the present day West Brazil, was not very important for the Spanish. With their abundant wealth in the Andes and a world-wide empire, they were "land-satiated" (17) and would only react at nerve centres such as La Plata.

c) South
            So far we have talked about North and West Brazil, which are, in fact, the large areas involved in the Treaty of Madrid. Now we will address a much smaller area but that, for the colonial governors at that time, was much more important: the Colony of the Most Holy Sacrament. Its history is linked to that of Buenos Aires, the only Spanish possession on the Atlantic side of South America, theoretically subordinated to the Viceroyalty of Peru, but in practice enjoying a good dose of autonomy. It was around La Plata that the major colonial disputes happened and, later, in the Empire, the only wars involving Brazil, those with Uruguay, 1820-1821, 1826-1827 and 1864, with Argentina, 1850-1852, and with Paraguay, 1865-1870. The region of the longstanding La Plata rivalry — it is curious to note — is today where there is more evidence of co-operation between the neighbours, mainly after Mercosur.

Longstanding was the Portuguese aim to stretch the boundaries of Brazil as far as the river Plate: Pero Lopes de Sousa, in 1531, (to also use an old verb) already “staked” claims on the left bank of the big river; that was where Manuel Lobo founded the Colony in 1680. But the truth is that the Luso-Brazilians never succeeded in occupying the territories that would join up the rest of Brazil. In the first years they were not able to settle and colonise the region in order for a Colony to have a safe sustainable base nor depend on the supply and provision of all kinds of resources from such distant points. An attempt was made to settle in Montevideo in 1723, but the Spanish in Buenos Aires soon took over that very strategic promontory for connecting to the Colony on one side and Laguna (founded in 1676), on the other side, which was the Portuguese settlement more to the South on what is the Santa Catarina coast today.

The Colony was twice occupied by Spanish troops coming from Buenos Aires, before 1750. The first was soon after its foundation but the Portuguese managed to recover it diplomatically under the Treaty of Lisbon in 1681 (which attributed to the Pope the final decision on where the Tordesilhas line crossed at the mouth of the river Plate). The second Spanish occupation lasted eleven years (1704-1715) and was the result of the diverging positions of Portugal and Spain in the War of Succession in Spain. The colony was again returned to Portugal: another Portuguese diplomatic victory, this time however containing the seed of final defeat, since it did not define the territory of the colony of Sacramento. Its border, from the Spanish viewpoint (principally the Buenos Aires governors), was only the reach of a cannon shot and not equal, as the Portuguese wished, to the territory of present-day Uruguay. The Spanish interpretation eventually prevailed, because, among other reasons, the Spanish had always been the strongest in La Plata.

Several sieges took place. The most important was caused by a diplomatic incident in Madrid in 1735, which ended in a state of war between the two countries. The Buenos Aires government seized the chance to try and take the colony. The Portuguese governor of the colony of Sacramento held out for twenty-three months, but the Spanish raised the siege in 1737. Without giving up the final intent.

There were many reasons, then, for the more discerning Portuguese governors, namely Alexandre de Gusmão, not to have much hope of making the river Plate the southern boundary of Brazil. The Colony was isolated and, despite the Luso-Brazilians have settled in Rio Grande (1737), at the outlet of the Patos lagoon, the Spanish dominated most of the intermediary region - the vacarias do mar - from their expansion bases Montevideo and Maldonado. Alexandre had, moreover, no doubts as to the importance given by the Spanish to the Colony, due both to the potential of becoming a spearhead for a possible Portuguese occupation of the territory today belonging to Uruguay, and even as far as Buenos Aires, and to the fact that it was a smuggler's port for Andean silver.


Remaining years

Aside of the advantages on the land, Portugal held other benefits when it signed the Treaty of Madrid. It did not go directly from the actual occupation to the right of the treaty: the Portuguese also had deeds to show for it. The Cabo Norte administration division (an extended State of Amapá) was created for the Portuguese in 1637, that is, during the time of the Iberian Union. The common monarch did this not because he wanted to be kind to his Portuguese subjects but rather because they were in Belém and, hence, they were the ones who could stand up against the Dutch, French and English in the area. By establishing the administrative division, then, Philip IV of Spain explicitly created Portuguese rights in the northern Amazon.

In 1668, 28 years after the separation between Portugal and Spain, peace finally came. One of the provisions in the treaty then signed demanded the reciprocal restitution of the places taken "during the war".. Now, the maximum range of this expression would be to consider it equal to "from 1640 onwards". This was not a debate on the occupation of the Amazon nor of other regions west of the Tordesilhas line, especially during the rule of the Iberian Union, that is, 1580 to 1640. Would this not be an implicit admission by Spain that these regions were Portuguese?

Two other treaties in favour of Portugal were among the many signed in Utrecht, at the end of the War of Succession in Spain. One of them dated 1713, ensured the Portuguese nation the possession of lands on the left bank of the Amazon as far as “Japoc or Vicente Pinzón”. It is noted here that, in order to achieve the convenient border of Oiapoque, a region in fact only partly occupied by the Luso-Brazilians, there was the historic luck that the English were Portuguese allies in the negotiations, since they did not want to see the French at the Amazon estuary. The other in 1715 returned to Portugal the sovereignty over the colony of Sacramento.

It would be easy to find further reasons to explain the advantages of Portugal when it signed the Treaty of Madrid: the relative economic prosperity of Portugal, caused by the famous Brazilian gold, of which so much was told by the Portuguese historians and whose period of peak production (annual average of 15 tons) was from 1735 to 1755; the political stability of the long reign of D. João V, during which time “Portugal achieved an international position of prestige and importance that it had not enjoyed since the reign of D. Manoel I” (18); and the conjuncture of personal alliances at the summit of the two countries, favourable to the Portuguese. More opportune, however, is to mention the propitious circumstance of the Portuguese government at the time, concerned with Brazilian affairs, with a public servant that knew more than anyone else about the problem of the Brazilian borders and possessed great diplomatic skills: Alexandre de Gusmão.

Born in the village of the Port of Santos, as it was then called, in 1695, son of a distinguished family with little property. His father, Francisco Lourenço Rodrigues, was the chief surgeon of the local prison. Of the twelve siblings, three were given the surname of the paternal friend and family protector, Jesuit Alexandre de Gusmão, writer and founder of the Belém Seminary, in Salvador. Our Alexandre, as we can see, bears the name and surname of the eminent Jesuit priest.

One of his older brothers, Bartolomeu, the flying priest, was famous for his experiments with balloons, one of which, in fact, crashed in front of D. João V and his court. Affonso de E. Taunay wrote a detailed report on the life of Bartolomeu and his aerial experiments — in which he reproduces the famous engraving dated 1790 of his passarola, a fantastic balloon with bird features – and considers him a genius and the real inventor of the zeppelin.

When Alexandre was 15 years old, after having studied in Bahia, in the college of his godfather and namesake, he went to Lisbon where he obtained royal protection. As some authors say, the reason was because D. João V took a fancy to a poem by the Santos-born lad about his "royal person", to use another expression of that time. Protection and certainly talents, which were then being revealed, gave him the appointment to a diplomatic post in Paris with Portuguese ambassador, D. Luis Manuel da Câmara, Count of Ribeira Grande. On his journey there, he spent some months in Madrid and there became familiar with the problem that was to be the centre of his professional life: the colonial borders in South America and the importance that the Colony enclave had in fixing them. In Paris, where he stayed five years, he attended university schools, and was awarded his Ph.D. in Civil Roman and Ecclesiastic Law. A point of interest worth mentioning is that during his stay in France, perhaps to boost his meagre finances, he opened a casino, which would today not be very acceptable for a diplomat of the same standing...

He returned to Lisbon and was again appointed to an overseas mission, this time in Rome, where he lived for seven years. At this time, one of his achievements was to acquire for his King the title of Most Faithful, putting him on a par then with their Royal Highnesses of Spain and France, who already had the papal titles of Catholic and Most Christian, respectively. Portugal was no longer the underdog!

He finally returned to Lisbon in 1722 and became deeply involved in the literary and academic life. He was part of the esteemed group of foreigners in favour of Portugal being freed from the hidebound traditions and opening up to the new winds of illuminism and rationalism coming from France and England. That is when his humour, daring and propensity to caricature that characterise his style of communication became evident. Let us give two examples taken from letters written later, when he was already in the government. This was how he ironically described the reaction of the Portuguese Court, full of religious superstitions, to the proposals of D. Luiz da Cunha, Ambassador in Paris, for D. João V to play a more active role in the negotiations of European peace, in 1746: “I endeavoured to speak to His Eminence [the Cardinal of Mota, Prime Minister] more than three times before he listened to me, and I found him speaking of the appearance of Sancho to his Lord and Master, who brings Father Causino to his Holy Court; to whose tale the Duke Lafões, Marquis of Valença, Fernão Martins Freire and others were all agog. He answered me: That God has kept us in peace and that Your Excellency wants to get us into trouble; to tempt God. Finally, I spoke to the King (for the love of God). He was asking the Parish Prior how much the alms for the souls and Masses earned, that they spoke for themselves! He told me: that Your Excellency's proposal was very like French maxims, with which Your Excellency has been accustomed; and to no longer proceed." (19)

The Ambassador of France in Lisbon, who complained to the Portuguese king about the delay in continuing with a certain subject, is admonished but with humour: “Although the King feels no obligation to explain himself to Your Excellency, he ordered me to tell Your Excellency that he had already answered His Most Christian Majesty more than six months previously, when his Minister of State spoke about the matter to Ambassador D. Luiz da Cunha. For this reason Your Excellency may not complain of the procedures of this Court but rather those of France, whose Minister forgot that Your Excellency was his Ambassador...” (20)

In 1730 Alexandre de Gusmão is appointed Private Secretary to D. João V and that same year became a member of the Overseas Council. Since then he became very influential in the decisions of the Portuguese government, especially on the matters of Rome (yet in Lisbon there was on such matters the competition of cardinals, legates, religious orders) and on the matters of Brazil (here, he was of course the "Pope"). He had now arrived ready for these last duties: he knew Brazil like no one else and how important it was for Portugal, which by this time had already its Eastern possessions lost to England and Holland, to firmly secure the American colony, spreading much farther than Tordesilhas. On taking up his office, he began his work, finishing in 1750, that guaranteed him permanence in the annals of diplomacy in Brazil and Portugal: to agree with Spain the boundaries of Brazil so that its territory would include all lands occupied by Luso-Brazilians.

Alexandre is a polygrapher who thought and wrote on many subjects. Cortesão, when studying every available source of the writings of our celebrity, is surprised at their extent and variety: “official, officious or family correspondence; political and geographic memoirs; essays on political economy, literary reviews, social customs and even a new spelling for the Portuguese language; academic and panegyric discussions; operatic librettos, poetry, translations of poetry and verse; the collection of his opinions as councillor of the Overseas Council or as advisor to D. João V; and lastly, his draft laws, rules, licences, papal bulls, letters and all kinds of royal orders, and first and foremost, instructions and diplomatic correspondence on acts or treaties in negotiation with the Holy See, Spain, France and Great Britain” (21).

This Alexandre de Gusmão was a dynamic worker indeed! His studies on Brazil are of particular interest for the Brazilians in his extensive writings. The hand and mind of this Santos-born man are seen in all the important acts of the politics of the mother country in relation to the colony, in those influential years of shaping the country between 1730 and 1750: the emigration of couples from the Azores to settle in Rio Grande do Sul; a poll tax on gold mining; the arrival in Brazil of specialists in determining longitudes to have an exact idea of what Portugal occupied on the continent; written defence of the Portuguese occupations in South America, based on extremely solid arguments.

Let us recall, to finalise these comments on the life of Alexandre, that after the treaty was signed, his star faded with the death of the king, his protector, and the new king D. José I, with the future Marquis of Pombal as Prime Minister. These are the years of misfortune when attacks were made against the agreement and of political persecution. In 1753 he died forsaken, in poverty and frustration. His last years were full of sorrows, personal too, such as the death of his wife and the fire that destroyed his home and assets.

Today, over three hundred years after his birth, his star shines again, no longer with ephemeral life but with the permanence of his writings. When he went to work for the Portuguese government, his knowledge of the history and geography of Brazil, unsurpassable at the time, convinced him that it was absolutely essential to ensure, together with Spain, the maintenance of the physical base, so strenuously earned by the frontiersmen on foot and by canoe. This was the purpose with which he thought, acted and was fortunate enough to complete his work. His qualities as negotiator that he then revealed, boosted by that knowledge, made him the great advocate of Brazilian interests in the 18th century. As Rio Branco was to be, at the turn of the century, without forgetting the bridge between these two figures that Duarte da Ponte Ribeiro represented in the Empire.


Madrid: Treaty negotiations

Shortly before the middle of the century, with Alexandre de Gusmão active in the decision-making centres, Portugal was, then, ready to negotiate with Spain. Capistrano de Abreu is clear with regard to the urgency of an agreement: “The fast growth of Brazil over the Amazon as far as Javari, in Mato Grosso to Guaporé and now in the South, makes it urgent to settle the question of boundaries between the Portuguese and Spanish possessions, always postponed, always reappearing.” (22) The only historic opportunity arose with the ascension to the Spanish throne in 1746 of Fernando VI, son-in-law of D. João V. The treaties began immediately.

Two sets of the many documents disseminated by Jaime Cortesão on the positions of each party are worth mentioning: a preliminary Portuguese proposal with grounds for an agreement and Spanish replica; a new Portuguese proposal, now already articulating an agreement and the Spanish trio, improving formal aspects and introducing some new items. As an aside, it is interesting to note that the famous article 21, which does not permit war on the South American continent, even though the European matrixes are in combat and which is considered by a number of Brazilian authors as the seed for future Pan-Americanism, is not, according to Cortesão, written by Gusmão, but by Carbajal. The earlier theory, which connected the man from Santos to Monroe, was announced by jurist Rodrigo Otávio, in lectures in 1930, at the Sorbonne, under the general title of de “Alexandre de Gusmão et le sentiment américain dans la politique internationale” [Alexandre de Gusmão and the American feeling in international politics].

Let us give an idea of these documents, but let us first identify the goals of each party. Portugal was looking to negotiate a balanced treaty, which, at the cost of giving up La Plata, if necessary, would keep the Amazon and Midwest and create in the South a strategic boundary that would prohibit any Spanish attack in that region, where the balance of power tended towards Buenos Aires. Alexandre de Gusmão, when later defending the Treaty in 1751 against the accusations of Brigadier Antonio Pedro de Vasconcelos, former governor of the Colony, said that its purpose was “to give a widespread competent background... to round up and secure the country”. (23) For Spain, on the other hand, the primary purpose was to put a stop to the Portuguese expansion, which was gradually eating up parts of its empire in South America; next, to keep the Plate estuary for itself, preventing the smuggling of silver from the Andes, which was going through the Colony; and, lastly, with peace achieved under an agreement, to prevent peninsular rivalry in America from being used against Madrid by enemy nations, numerous in Europe, to settle there.

The Portuguese proposals, drafted by Alexandre de Gusmão, were based on the following strong lines:
a) it was necessary to sign a general treaty on boundaries and not make successive adjustments on specific stretches, as Spain originally wished;
b) such a treaty could only be made by abandoning the Tordesilhas meridian, broken by the Portuguese in America and, even more so, by Spain in the other hemisphere;
c) the pillars of the agreement would be the principles of uti possidetis and “natural boundaries”, thereby stating respectively in the preamble: “each party must stay with what it now holds” and “the boundaries of the two Domains... are the sources and courses of the most notable rivers and mountains”;
d) Colony of Sacramento and the adjacent territory were Portuguese, if not under the Treaty of Tordesilhas, certainly under the second Treaty of Utrecht in 1715;
e) it was admissible (clearly recalling the colony of Sacramento) “that one party exchanges something of such use to it with the other party, which is much worse than when it held it” (24), in the very words of Gusmão.

      Spanish responses, in turn, argued:
a) since the Philippines had fallen into the zone of Spanish sovereignty (today it is known that that was not so], the best for Portugal would be to waive any allegation in that hemisphere;
b) on the colony of Sacramento, more than any other right, it was intolerable for Spain for it, with the smuggling that it offered, as D. José de Carbajal says, "to be cause of dissipation of the riches of Peru” (25);
c) it was advisable to exchange the colony of Sacramento for a similar area (again quoting the Spanish Minister), “easy to find in the territories of Cuiabá and Mato Grosso, although, on the death of Philip V, the Spanish government was considering means to recover it” (26).

As negotiation progresses, the territory of the Jesuit missions of Sete Povos (perhaps settlements or villages would be a better translation to give the idea of "pueblos" in Spanish “Siete Pueblos Orientales de Misiones") became accepted as the currency for handing over the colony of Sacramento. Sete Povos were founded by the Spanish Jesuits between 1687 and 1707, some remaining from the divisions that escaped the destruction by frontiersmen in the early 17th century. Spain agreed, moreover, to give up the settlements it owned on the right bank of the Guaporé (the Jesuit mission of Santa Rosa was once where the Principe da Beira fort is today), but in compensation kept the angle formed by the Amazon and Japurá rivers (where there was a Portuguese fort, prior to Tabatinga). The description of the borders gradually became more detailed, which may be perfectly followed by reading the detailed letters sent by Alexandre de Gusmão to the Portuguese negotiator in Madrid. The borders emerging from these letters are basically those figuring in the Treaty itself, the first version of which, differing little from the final text, was sent by Gusmão to Madrid at the end of 1748.

Shortly afterwards, in early 1749, Alexandre de Gusmão also sent a geographic map to Madrid as visual support, prepared under his supervision, where the boundaries proposed in the negotiations were drawn. This is the first map of Brazil, in the almost triangle shape that is familiar to everyone today. Under the name of Map of the Crowns, it enjoys worthy fame, since it was fundamental for the treaties to fulfil the wishes of the Portuguese. In this map, which skilfully combined known reliable maps of South America, the area outside Tordesilhas of Brazil was, however, quite diminished, which gave the impression that there were few territorial gains West of the meridian. The map, despite this defect, was the best at the time, since it included the data obtained from the latest explorers of the region. Approved by both Courts, it was used as the basis for negotiations and also for later demarcation campaigns.

Roberto Simonsen says the following about the Map of the Crowns: “The map of Brazil is visibly deformed, showing Cuiabá under the same meridian as the Amazon estuary, next to what would be the Tordesilhas line (nine degrees off target). This construction, showing the occupied area to be smaller, was perhaps made with a view to facilitate the Spanish acceptance of the principle of uti possidetis, which included in the Portuguese America such a large extent of land to the west meridian of Tordesilhas” (27). Cortesão is clear: “The Map of the Crowns was purposefully altered in its longitudes for diplomatic reasons.” (28) He does defend, however, such a procedure: “Alexandre de Gusmão represented then a secret policy that the Portuguese State had been adopting about its geographic discoveries since the 15th century... D. João V, along the lines of a centuries-old tradition, kept secret... the map of the Mathematical priests. The Map of the Crowns was nothing but a necessary consequence of an old policy still adopted and formalised in his time.” (29) Casting aside possible ethical considerations, it may be said that the Spanish also adapted maps to their political interests, as a study revealed, for example, published in a recent issue of Imago Mundi on the map of South America by Cruz Caño y Olmedilla, the basis for the future Treaty of Santo Ildefonso.

The Treaty of Madrid was signed on 13 January 1750. The occupation of the Amazon, West and South Brazil, thereby, was legalised and carried out gradually for two and a half centuries by frontiersmen, religious orders and lay settlers. And the colonial dream of La Plata was forgotten... It was close to giving Brazil natural boundaries. German geographer Brandt says the following: “The dividing line is... considered overall, a reasonably natural line, corresponding to the surface configuration. In the South, it almost coincides with the boundaries between the Brazilian mountain range and the La Plata plateau; in the North, with the principal watersheds of the Amazon, Orinoco and Guyana rivers. In the West the border between the Brazilian plains and mountainous belt of the Pacific, staying in the Amazon basin. Nevertheless, given its frequent link with river obstacles, there it does not always move far from nature. It may be said, correctly, that it is generally close to the continental division of the river basins.” (30) This was the mythical island Brazil that, with the imperfections of reality, became one body...

Soon after signing it, two commissions for demarcation were created. The Northern, chaired by the State Governor of Grão-Pará and Maranhão, brother of the Marquis of Pombal, Francisco Xavier de Mendonça Furtado, who for years was on campaign in the Amazon rainforest, contributing to considerably increasing the knowledge of the geography in the region. There were many clashes between the Portuguese and Spanish demarcators in the Amazon, but it was in the South that the demarcations – here headed on the Portuguese side by the Governor of Rio de Janeiro, Gomes Freire de Andrada — reach the most serious impasse, with the resistance of the Jesuits and Indians of the Sete Povos against their expulsion decided by the Treaty. The episode was known as the Guarani War (1755-1756).

The main players of the Treaty of Madrid died in the five years following its signing: D. João V, Alexandre de Gusmão, D. Fernando VI, his queen D. Maria Barbara, and the Spanish negotiator D. José de Carbajal y Lancaster. When the Treaty of El Pardo was signed in 1761, annulling the Treaty of Madrid, it may seem to the onlooker at the time that the work by Alexandre de Gusmão was almost stillborn. In fact, it was only the start of a long life that, in its basic lines, stretches until today.


Creative ideas

Let us list the proposals on which the treaty signed in 1750 was based: Portugal occupied lands in America but Spain was benefiting in the Far East; the borders were not long abstract geodesic lines, such as that of Tordesilhas, but rather, wherever possible, easily identifiable geographic relief; the origin of the right to property would be the effective occupation of the land; and in exceptional cases, there could be exchange of territory.

Today it is certain that Alexandre de Gusmão was the driving force for all the ideas included therein - the statesman who first perceived the convenience of using the rules of uti possidetis and the natural boundaries to demarcate the vast colonial areas of the centre of South America. He was also courageous enough, after so many disputes, to accept the exchange of the colony of Sacramento, recognising that Brazil's wish to have the river Plate as the boundary of Brazil was no longer feasible. Alexandre was also aware that Spain greatly appreciated the possession of the two banks of the river and that, therefore, the Colony would be worth a lot to exchange in any negotiation, which should be done as soon as the bilateral conjuncture was to permit it.

Yet for a transaction of this size — dividing a continent — it was necessary to be technically prepared, since both Iberian nations, forerunners in this science at the time of the great discoveries, knew very little of the geography and the interior of South America. Portugal knew how to react: in the second quarter of the 18th century, the country had a real revival of geographic studies encouraged directly by the Crown. Specialists from several European nations visited Lisbon and two of them, Jesuits, the mathematical priests as they are called in the documents of that time, were sent to Rio de Janeiro in 1729, on a mission to prepare a New Atlas of Brazil. The desire of the Portuguese government was to have a clear idea of the location of the occupied territories in relation to the Tordesilhas line, especially after the recent advances into the Midwest (Mato Grosso).

One fact spurred on the reaction. It was the publication in 1720 by French geographer Guillaume Delisle of the first scientific map of the Earth, that is, with latitudes and longitudes noted by using astronomy, with maps of South America that showed the colony of Sacramento, the entire Amazon valley and mines of Cuiabá and Guaporé situated outside the part attributed to Portugal in the Treaty of Tordesilhas. D. Luiz Cunha, one of the top Portuguese statesmen of the century, then Ambassador in Paris, sent the maps to Lisbon and certainly Alexandre de Gusmão learned about them. It was also a shock that a specialist from another nation could do work on South America, where access to foreigners was difficult and geographic information secret, and that neither the Portuguese or Spanish, who had so many interests on the subject with their great colonial empires, were in conditions to do. Jaime Cortesão thus expresses the situation in Portugal: “The King and intellectual classes agree to the study of geography, cartography and, consequently, astronomy. It cannot be denied that the problems of sovereignty... and the desire to assert it on new, vast and rich lands were at the bottom of this rebirth. But the Dissertation of Delisle was the warning sign.” (31) What did Spain do, in turn, undoubtedly wishing to prove that its American territory was invaded, since it certainly had elements for such an idea? Nothing, or almost nothing, explains Cortesão, who adds: “And this cultural gap [understandably cartographic] will weigh... in the balance of negotiations of the Treaty of Madrid in favour of Portugal.” (32)

There is one document of exceptional interest, as evidence of the direct affiliation of the ideas of Alexandre de Gusmão to basic articles in the Treaty of Madrid, partially hand-written by Alexandre de Gusmão himself, with corrections and additions by D. Luis da Cunha. The long title, customary at the time, was Dissertation qui détermine tant géographiquement que par les traités faits entre la Couronne de Portugal et celle d'Espagne quels sont les limites de leurs dominations en Amérique, c'est-à-dire, du côté de la Rivière de la Plate. It was written in French because its purpose was to disseminate the Portuguese position in Europe at the time of yet another disagreement between Portugal and Spain about the possession of the colony of Sacramento (the so-called La Plata Conflict, lasting from 1735 to 1737). In fact, the idea is that the Treaty of Tordesilhas should be discarded because it could not be demarcated; that, even if it is evident that the Portuguese breached that treaty in America, the Spanish certainly breached it in the Far East; and that the solution should by necessity be found in global negotiations, with mutual concessions. The work published in 1736 concludes that such negotiations, moreover, could only be based on the two rules of uti possidetis and natural boundaries. Rules that curiously lead us back to the nebulous past of the myths: that of el dorado, attracting the frontiersmen to the heart of South America, leading them to occupy two thirds of the Brazil of today, related to the uti possidetis; and of the island Brazil, which tended to give the country an organic shape, following the river courses, linked to natural boundaries. It did not reach river Plate in the South but stayed with Rio Grande do Sul, Mato Grosso and most of the Amazon basin, which is by no means little...

David M. Davidson sums up the thoughts of Alexandre de Gusmão, on the eve of the Treaty of Madrid, as follows: “Active participant in the negotiations with Spain on the Colony, he concluded that solving colonial antagonisms would depend on the clear definition of the territorial priorities of Portugal, and of an incontestable basis for the possession of disputed lands. He and veteran statesman D. Luis da Cunha considered the pasturelands of the South, the forest and natural products of the Amazon, and the mines in the Centre and West more valuable for the mother country than the restrictions of contraband through the Colony. Although the Portuguese ministers were not to give up their claims on the Colony and La Plata estuary, the resolute determination of Spain convinced them that such intentions were unfeasible: the Crown policy, with Gusmão influencing since the mid-1730s, was directed towards the occupation and defence of Rio Grande do Sul, West and the Amazon.” (33)

The same author, without detracting from Gusmão's value, rightly recalls that his ideas were linked to those of earlier colonial administrators: “Like the members of the Council of India in the 1720s, Gusmão suspected that a substantial part of the interior of Brazil was west of the Tordesilhas line; and just like his predecessors, he considered the occupation a basis for a much more solid sovereignty than the traditional division, while the geographic accidents are the only suitable benchmarks for land demarcation. Although Gusmão was the first Portuguese governor to clearly express the principles of uti possidetis and the natural boundaries with sophistication, it was based on guidelines already present in the official Portuguese thinking.” (34)


Madrid: life and death

The reasons leading to the cancellation of the Treaty of Madrid are many. Certainly, in the South, there was the Guarani War and in the North the difficulties of demarcation were insurmountable. It is argued that the Jesuit opposition played a decisive role in the failure of the Treaty. Some authors, as important as José Carlos de Macedo Soares or João Pandiá Calógeras, consider the contrary attitude of the Jesuits as the primary cause of the cancellation. Let us listen to this: “Taking the decision factors into consideration [to cancel Madrid], it seems that, in the sphere of unwillingness against the earlier work of Alexandre de Gusmão, the main element has been the long campaign of the Jesuits against the surrender of Sete Povos das Missões.” (35)

Others, however, such as Helio Vianna, believe that the accusations against the Jesuits do not find support in the documents, and would be pretexts at the time to attack the Company of Jesus, which shortly afterwards in 1759 was to be expelled from Brazil. Portuguese historian Viscount Carnaxide, specialist in relations between Brazil and Portugal at the time of the Marquis of Pombal (1750-1777), came to the conclusion that distinguished local Jesuit reactions (those governing Sete Povos) from the instructions of the European matrix. In his words: “The missionary Jesuits were opposed to the transmigration of the peoples from Uruguay, ordered in the Treaty of Boundaries of 1750; efforts are made not only by the Company of Jesus but also by the governments of Portugal and Spain to undertake the transmigration.” (36)

Deteriorating relations between the Crowns, caused in Spain by the ascension in 1760 of Charles III, who was against the agreement, and in Portugal, because of the consolidation of power of another, the Marquis of Pombal, was certainly a major reason for the sudden demise (only apparent, as the future was to demonstrate) of the agreement. Pombal was against the Treaty of Madrid because he did not agree with giving up the colony of Sacramento, in a nationalist attitude, then appreciated, but certainly exaggerated given the evident advantage of the exchange. Perhaps the antipathy nurtured by his predecessor in merit, Alexandre de Gusmão, also contributed to explaining his attitude (37).

The fact is that, in 1761, the two countries signed the Treaty of El Pardo, under which, as the very text of the agreement states, the Treaty of Madrid and its resulting acts were “cancelled, void and null as if they had never existed nor been executed”. Thus, at least in theory, there was a return to the uncertainties of the Tordesilhas division, so disrespected on land and altered by later agreements. In practice, no national intended to give up its territorial gains or legal titles. The Treaty of El Pardo only created a pause, waiting for the right moment to reach another agreement on boundaries.

And this moment arrived in 1777 when — an unprecedented fact in the History of Portugal — a woman, D. Maria I, came to the throne and began the policy of reacting against Pombalism, which won her the name “the upsetter”. A treaty was being negotiated but the fall of Pombal and, in Spain, the substitution of the Prime Minister Grimaldi for Count Florida Blanca changed the balance of power “for the worse in terms of Portuguese interests” (38) and anticipated the events. Spain made demands and imposed the signing of a preliminary boundary treaty, which was called after a palace of the Spanish king in San Ildefonso, near Toledo. Under this treaty, Portugal kept for Brazil the western and northern boundaries negotiated in Madrid, but gave up the Colony of the most Holy Sacramento, without compensation for the Sete Povos das Missões.

There is no doubt that, under the Treaty of Santo Ildefonso, Portugal lost in the South in relation to what it have gained under the Treaty of Madrid; the treaty cannot however be said to have been bad for Portugal, since it confirmed the inclusion in the national territory of practically the entire area of the famous two thirds of Brazil beyond Tordesilhas. Most Brazilian historians, however, are against the agreement. Viscount São Leopoldo considers it “a treaty essentially treacherous and deceitful” and Varnhagen claims that its articles were “dictated by Spain almost with weapons in hand” (39). Capistrano, always with a mind of his own and believing that no patriotism can be above justice, thinks it “more humane and generous” (40) than the Treaty of Madrid, since it did not impose indigenous transmigration, which he considered despicable.

Some Hispano-American historians are also against Santo Ildefonso, but for different reasons than those of the Brazilian critics: Spain could, they say, have achieved much more at that time. Argentine Miguel Angel Scenna says, for instance, the following: “San Ildefonso... unfortunate [for the Spanish] with regard to what was negotiated when Spain had the cards in its hand and was ready for a military invasion into Brazil.” (41) At that time, it is true, Pedro de Ceballos, Governor of Buenos Aires, had occupied Santa Catarina and was in a strong position before the Luso-Brazilians in Rio Grande do Sul.

Perhaps those Hispanic historians are closer to the correct judgement who, with Capistrano, consider the Treaty of Santo Ildefonso quite a satisfactory agreement, which reflected the situation of power at that time, more beneficial to Spain than at the time of the Treaty of Madrid. Argentine internationalist Carlos Calvo, for example, has the following opinion about the Treaty of Santo Ildefonso: “More advantageous to Spain that the 1750 treaty, it gave it absolute and sole domain of La Plata, unfurling its banner in the Colony of Sacramento and extending its dominion to the fields of Ibicuí [the region of Sete Povos] on the eastern border of Uruguay, without further sacrifice than recovering the island of Santa Catarina, which it had conquered.” (42)

Calvo's opinion is very much in favour of the treaty, presented to King Carlos III by the Minister who negotiated it, Count Florida Blanca, in which we will give some extracts: “Your Majesty obtained under this Treaty the Colony of Sacramento, as well as the exclusion of all nations from La Plata... in the preceding reign... to acquire the whole territory of Ibicuí under the treaty of 1750 with Portugal... Under the 1777 agreement, Your Majesty could acquire this colony but also keeping Ibicuí and the territory surrendered in Paraguay...” (43). Seemingly in response to criticisms made later in the following century in Hispanic American countries, he explained realistically: “they have censured us for having abandoned the town of Rio Grande with the los Patos lagoon and returned the island of Santa Catarina... [but] extending our possessions in Brazil, as some people seem to wish, due to the famous division of Alexander VI, is quite impossible a project and, furthermore, against earlier agreements. Moreover, assuming this principle, we would have to hand over to the Portuguese the Philippine islands since they belong to them according to the demarcation made by that Pope” (44).

The Treaty of Santo Ildefonso fixed new boundaries in the South, but basically kept the same boundaries as under the Treaty of Madrid in the rest of Brazilian territory. Not, however, exactly as some history books would like us to believe. In fact, the comparison of the descriptions of the boundaries in each agreement shows several slight variations caused by the better knowledge in 1777 of the regions to be demarcated.

After the Treaty was signed, widespread campaigns of demarcation again began in South, West and North Brazil. Like those in the Treaty of Madrid, they did not achieve their objectives — the description of the boundaries on land — but contributed to learning about areas so far unexplored, some in the Amazon little known even today. New disagreements arose between the demarcators in the North, the classic of which is between Pereira Caldas (later substituted by Lobo d'Almada) and the Spanish commissioner Requeña. The latter, in fact, now at the end of the century, wrote an erudite Historia de las Demarcaciones de Límites en la América, entre los Dominios de España y Portugal [History of the Boundary Demarcations in America between the Spanish and Portuguese domains], where the Spanish version describes the difficulties in demarcation, a version that will often be repeated by the Hispano-American nations in the 19th century.

To fulfil the agreement, Tabatinga should be handed over to the Spanish but the Portuguese commissioners did everything possible not to leave the fort, founded and inhabited by Brazilians, to the traditional adversaries. Pedro Moncayo, an early 19th-century author, explains: “The agent from Portugal, not unaware of the justice of the claim made by the Spanish commissioner, gave the excuse, in order to secure the fort of Tabatinga, that he could not hand it over without receiving at the same time the forts belonging to Portugal and which Spain held on the banks of the river Negro.” (45) In the South, the divergences were as great, although the areas involved were better known and more inhabited.

Varnhagen critically summarises the demarcation work: “The commissioners were appointed, travelled and presented themselves on the land... not to place benchmarks and survey the maps, but to discuss and, on the basis of a lot of discussion, to leave in disagreement... The two nations did not achieve the purposes which had been proposed and the treaty never went beyond the preliminary stages...” (46). So, therefore, at the end of the 18th century the boundaries continued without demarcation, although some benchmarks had been staked. As Arthur Reis writes: “The border between the Portuguese and Spanish territories continued in the power of the most daring.” (47) In other words, the Portuguese...

In 1801, the situation worsened with a new war called Laranjas between the peninsular nations. In Europe, Portugal had its territory amputated with the Spanish victory of Olivença, but in America the Luso-Brazilians recovered, this time forever, the territory of Sete Povos pushing the border as far as the river Quaraí. Now the occupation was much easier than during the Guarani War: “the Spanish failed to defend the territory... the Jesuits who organised the Indians and efficiently in the war were no longer there...” (48). The southern boundary fixed in 1750 now again prevailed (from Ibicuí down to Quaraí on the West, but in compensation, rose from “Castillos Grandes” to Chuí on the coast).

The dispute ended that year, with the Badajós Peace Treaty, which did not revalidate the Treaty of Santo Ildefonso, nor any other earlier boundary treaty, an omission that was against the customary practice between Iberian nations, for confirming boundaries, when peace treaties are signed. Nor did it order the reinstatement of the statu quo ante bellum and that is why Olivença is a Spanish town and the territory south-west of Rio Grande do Sul is Brazilian. Hence, at the “end of the colonial period, the Brazilian map was almost defined” (49). It is interesting to note that this did not occur in the rest of South America, nor in North America, where the major alterations in boundaries occurred after independence (one major example is when the United States "inherited" from England something like 1/10 of its current territory).

Divergences between Brazilians and Hispano-Americans on the validity of the Treaty of Santo Ildefonso, continued after Independence. Most Spanish-speaking authors see it, in the words of Raul Porras Barrenechea in his Historia de los Limites del Peru, as “the boundaries that were finally kept were inter-colonial”. (50) Let us accompany the same historian: “The Treaty of San Ildefonso was the last agreement between Spain and Portugal on demarcation of their respective colonies. It was the prevailing treaty when the independence of South America was proclaimed. Brazil, nevertheless, following the expansionist tradition of the Portuguese colonisers, in many places going far beyond the line of the Treaty of San Ildefonso. In diplomatic discussions where neighbouring countries to Brazil intended to impose their rights under the Treaty of San Ildefonso, Brazil denied the validity and subsistence of this Treaty.” (51)

Brazilian doctrine developed in the Empire was involved not in the text of the Treaty of Santo Ildefonso, which — we have always recalled — was temporary, as its title says, and was cancelled by the 1801 war, but rather in its fundamental principle, which was the same as under the Treaty of Madrid, the uti possidetis. Santo Ildefonso was only to act as a supplementary guide in the areas where there was no occupation of either parties involved, the doctrine continued formulated in its more complete version by Viscount Rio Branco, in a memorandum submitted to the Argentine government in 1857. Deep down, it was ownership that was the basis of the Treaty of Madrid, which continued to define the territory; somehow, it was the work by Alexandre de Gusmão that has lived forever.

(Translated by ELM)


    • Robert Southey, História do Brasil, tomo VI, p. 8.
    • H. Handelmann, História do Brasil, p. 245.
    • Baron Rio Branco, Obras completas, vol VI, p. 21. Portuguese history in general also considers the Treaty of Madrid in a positive light. Pedro Soares Martinez is the exception, considering “dubious that... it has been advantageous to Portugal.” (História diplomática de Portugal, p. 193.)
    • Apud Luis Santiago Sanz, La Cuestión de Misiones, p. 14. It is interesting to note that also at this time (1750), at least some sectors of the Spanish governing class had annexionist intentions concerning Portugal. Cortesão publishes instructions from D. José de Carbajal y Lancaster to his Ambassador in Lisbon saying very clearly that: “la pérdida de Portugal fué sangre pura y balsámica y asi el Ministro español que no piense en la reunión o no sabe su oficio o no tiene ley” [the loss for Portugal was pure balsamic blood and so the Spanish Minister who does not consider the meeting either does not know his business or knows no law] (Alexandre de Gusmão e o Tratado de Madri, tomo II, p. 226).
    • Capistrano de Abreu, Capítulos de história colonial, p. 201.
    • Id. ibid., p.201.
    • Affonso de E. Taunay, Bartolomeu de Gusmão, p. 21.
    • Francisco Adolfo de Varnhagen, História geral do Brasil, tomo IV, p. 84.
    • Apud A.G. de Araujo Jorge, Ensaios históricos, p. 114.
    • Apud id. ibid., p. 119.
    • Fidelino de Figueiredo, História literária de Portugal, p. 300.
    • Baron Rio Branco, op. cit., vol. I, p. 24.
    • Jaime Cortesão, Alexandre de Gusmão e o Tratado de Madri, tomo I, p. 9.
    • Sérgio Buarque de Holanda, Visão do Paraíso, p. 65.
    • Guy Martiniére, “Frontières Coloniales en Amerique du Sud”, in Cahiers de I’Amerique Latine, no. 18, p. 166.
    • Apud Manuel Lucena Giraldo, Francisco Requeña y otros: Ilustrados y Barbaros, p. 11.
    • Georg Friederici, A conquista da América pelos Europeus, p. 62.
    • Charles Boxer, The Portuguese Seaborne Empire, 1415-1825, p. 160.
    • Alexandre de Gusmão, Obras, p. 49.
    • Id. ibid., p. 45.
    • Jaime Cortesão, op. cit., vol I, p. 9.
    • Capistrano de Abreu, op. cit., p. 196.
    • Jaime Cortesão, op. cit. parte I, tomo I, p. 261.
    • Apud id. ibid., p. 285.
    • Id. ibid., p. 296.
    • Id. ibid., p. 297.
    • Apud id. ibid., p. 329.
    • Id. ibid., p. 332.
    • Id. ibid., p. 333.
    • Apud Id. ibid., p. 381.
    • Jaime Cortesão, op cit., tomo II, p. 281.
    • Id. ibid., p. 299.
    • David M. Davidson, Colonial Roots of Modern Brazil, p. 73.
    • Id. ibid., p. 73.
    • J. Pandiá Calógeras, A política exterior do Império, vol.1º, p. 224.
    • Visconde de Carnaxide, O Brasil na administração pombalina, p. 10.
    • One of the best known biographers of Pombal, J. Lucio d’Azevedo, had a favourable view of the Treaty of Madrid and of Alexandre de Gusmão, unlike the subject of the biography: “Agreeing to the boundaries with Spain in America, against the general wishes of the Portuguese, is your work, by which future generations should be grateful to you. Thereunder, the exchange of the onerous possession of the colony of Sacramento, the boundaries of Brazil were secure against the claims from the bull of Alexander VI”. (O Marquês de Pombal e sua época, p. 97)
    • Arthur Cesar Ferreira Reis, “Os tratados de limites”, in História da civilização brasileira, vol. 1, p. 376. On the turnabout, the modern Portuguese historic records have reviewed earlier opinions, considering it a less violent reaction that was thought.
    • Apud Helio Vianna, História diplomática do Brasil, p. 73.
    • Capistrano de Abreu, op. cit., p. 305. San Ildefonso... lamentable en cuanto fué negociado cuando España tenía las cartas de triunfo en la mano y estaba en condiciones de invadir militarmente el Brasil
    • Miguel Angel Scenna, Argentina-Brasil; Cuatro siglos de Rivalidad, p. 62.
    • Apud José Carlos de Macedo Soares, Fronteiras do Brasil no regime colonial, p. 168. Más ventajoso a España que el de 1750, la dejó en el dominio absoluto y exclusivo del Rio de la Plata, enarbolando su bandera en la Colonia de Sacramento y estendiendo su dominación a los campos del Ibicuí [a região dos Sete Povos] en el margen oriental del Uruguay, sin más sacrificio que la devolución de la isla de Santa Catalina, de la cual se había apoderado por conquista
    • Carlos Calvo, Colección Historica Completa de los Tratados, tomo sétimo, p. XVII. "Vuestra Majestad obtenía por este Tratado la Colonia del Sacramento, así como la exclusión de todas las naciones del Rio de la Plata... en el reinado precedente... para adquirirla se cedió, por el tratado de 1750 con el Portugal, todo el territorio de Ibicuí... Por la convención de 1777 Vuestra Majestad pudo adquirir esta colonia quedándose sin embargo con el Ibicuí y el territorio cedido en el Paraguay...”
    • Apud id. ibid., p. XVII. “nos han vituperado de haber abandonado la ciudad de Rio Grande con la laguna de los Patos y devuelto la isla de Santa Catalina... [mas] extender nuestras posesiones en el Brasil, como parecen desearlo algunas personas, en virtud de la famosa división de Alejandro VI, es un proyecto de ejecución imposible, y, lo que es más, contrario a los compromisos anteriores. Además, admitiendo este princípio tendriamos que ceder a los portugueses las islas Filipinas, puesto que les pertenecen según la demarcación hecha por este pontífice”
    • Apud Vicente G. Quesada, História Diplomática Latino-Americana, p. 267. “El agente de Portugal, sin desconocer la justicia de la reclamación hecha por el comisario español, dió por excusa para retener la fortaleza de Tabatinga, que no podria entregarla sin recibir al mismo tiempo las fortalezas que pertenecían a Portugal y que poseía España en los márgenes del río Negro.”
    • Francisco Adolfo de Varnhagen, História geral do Brasil, tomo 4, p. 269. No other notable benchmark was as known among the demarcations of Santo Ildefonso for its size and decoration as Madrid, which today adorns the main square of Cáceres; there are more modest benchmarks but even so, some 3m high, also in marble and with the Portuguese coat-of-arms, as the sample discovered a few decades ago in the upper river Negro and now decorating the gardens of Itamaraty Palace in Brasilia. “Os comissários foram nomeados, partiram, apresentaram-se sobre os terrenos... não para porem marcos e levantarem as plantas, mas para discutirem e para, à força de muita discussão, retirarem-se brigados... As duas nações não conseguiram os fins a que se haviam proposto, e o tratado não passou nunca de preliminar...”
    • Artur Cesar Ferreira Reis, op. cit., vol. I, p. 379. “A fronteira entre os territórios portugueses e espanhóis continuava à mercê do mais ousado."
    • Joaquim Romero Magalhães. “ As Novas Fronteiras do Brasil” in História da expansão portuguesa no Brasil, vol. III, p. 35.
    • Francisco Iglésias, Trajetória política do Brasil, 1500-1964, p. 295.
    • Raul Porras Berrenechea e Alberto Wagner de Reina, Historia de los Límites del Peru p. 23.
    • Id. ibid., p. 23. "El tratado de San Ildefonso fué el último convenio celebrado entre España y Portugal, sobre delimitación de sus respectivas colonias. Era el tratado vigente al proclamarse la independencia de Sur América. El Brasil, sin embargo, siguiendo la tradición expansionista de los colonisadores portugueses, sobrepasó en muchos lugares la linea del Tratado de San Ildefonso. En las discusiones diplomáticas en las que países vecinos del Brasil intentaron hacer valer los derechos que les concedía el Tratado de San Ildefonso, el Brasil negó la validez y subsistencia de este Tratado.”

    The Treaty of Tordesilhas

    Aurélio Zimmerman, Blessing the canoes

    King João V of Portugal

    Cover of the Terzo Volume delle Navigationi et Viaggi, by Giovanni Baptista
    Ramusio, 1556

    King José I of Portugal

    Cover of the Chronica da Província do Brasil, by Simão de Vasconcelos, 1663