Monday, May 28, 2007

Brazil, 4

1. If the religion of the captains of the captaincies, the donees of the donatarios (and it would be both linguistically incorrect and historically accurate to add-- the bandits of the bandeirantes) proclaimed that their god had fashioned them after its own image, then that god was a Hobbesian. The Iberian sons of the Hobbesian god were all of a type and cut from the same cloth, the cloth being that of sharkskin suits worn and the type being that played by Joe Pesci as Nicky Santoro in Casino-- nasty, brutish, short.

Brazilwood, followed by sugar cane, followed by gold, followed by coffee, followed by rubber, the history of Brazil through the 18th and 19th centuries is the history of a slaveholders' confederacy.

2. In the second half of the 18th century, the Portuguese monarchy, a century late and a few million reis short, was having second thoughts about playing second fiddle and third string to the British concert masters. The king saw in Brazil both lever and fulcrum to, if not move the world, at least make a move in the world markets.

In 1755, the monarch appoint Marques de Pombal as his secretary for overseas dominion. No Necker, but no fool, Pombal introduce a series of measures designed to secure the empire for mother country.

Pombal could do no better and no worse than mimic the mechanisms for aggrandizement that his mentors/rivals, the British, had already found inadequate to the task of transforming wealth into value. He provided royal charter to merchant companies, which companies with charter, cross, cutlass in hand, would cut the royal household in on the rewards of mercantilism.

Pombal also encouraged the establishment of local manufacture in Brazil and the diversification of agriculture. But most of all, Pombal encouraged the triangle of trade-- monopoly, mercantilism, monarchy. He closed all of Brazil's ports to all foreign shipping.

The merchant's, the monarch's, the monopolist's capital rested on the planter, the plantation, the great house; and the plantation rested on slave labor-- the labor to harvest and process the sugar cane, dig and process the gold, to collect the coffee beans. The "particularism," the parochialism of the semi-feudal state, of the monarchy, is reproduced in the parochialism of the Brazilian captaincies. Merchant capital exploited, more than exploited, required the extension of parochialism, the maintenance of the great house, against the establishment of a "nation," a domestic market, against relations of land and labor that would dethrone monarch, monopoly, and merchant.

S.Artesian 061107

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