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Goa and the Revolt of 1787

Goa and the Revolt of 1787

Goa and the Revolt of 1787, New Delhi, Concept Publ. Company, 1996. (First English edition of A Conjuração de 1787 em Goa, published by J.H. da Cunha Rivara in 1875. The translation by Mr. Renato da Cunha Soares and the publication as XCHR Studies Series Nº 6, was sponsored by the Pinto Family. The book carries an Introduction by Dr. Teotonio R. de Souza, the founder-director of the Xavier Centre of Historical Research (1979-1994). The book with 290 pages, also includes an updated genealogical map of the Pinto family).

Introduction (pp. 9-17)

When the so-called Conspiracy of Pintos completed two centuries I was still in Goa, and my contribution to the celebration of the second centenary of this event was intendedly a muted one. As an eminent Indo-Portuguese historian Prof. S. Subrahmanyam put it explicitly in his recent and much acclaimed book, I too had no intention of fighting the colonial wars all over again. I only edited and published (and with an unavoidable delay of two years) a collection of essays presented by Goan researchers at the Indian History Congress (Goa University, November 1987). But to these was added one more on my initiative, and that was related to the Conspiracy of Pintos by Mariano Dias. It was meant to complete and balance another thought-provoking paper already forming part of the collection and dealing with the protesting priests of Goa.. The book appeared as Essays in Goan History (1989). The centenary passed preety unnoticed, though some stray write-ups did not fail to appear both in Goa and in Portugal. In Goa, Dr. Carmo Azevedo celebrated the bi-centenary by starting his article in the Goan daily Herald (Panjim, Aug. 10, 1987, p.2) in a nationalistic tone: It is a matter of legitimate pride for Goans that they organised the second anti-colonial revolt in modern history.(…) It took place only fourteen years after the Boston Tea Party (1773) which led to the generalized revolt among the American colonies and their War of Independence (1775-83) and two years before the Minas Gerais Conspiracy (1789) which likewise, eventually led to the independence of Brazil (1822). The author further suggested that relevant documentation in Goa and Portugal was kept under wraps lest the unpalatable truths should come to light. Much of the information that is available to us has come through the book that is now being introduced in its first English translation. However, in 1985 a Portuguese researcher found in the Muncipal Archives of Porto a very important document relating to the Conspiracy and entitled Cópia da Sentença de Conspiração e alta traição contra o Estado. Based on it he wrote «Há dois séculos: Revolta frustrada para a independência de Goa» (História, nº 75, pp. 32-46). My attention was drawn to it by my old professor and friend, Leopoldo da Rocha, author of the classic work on the Confrarias de Goa (Lisboa, 1973). He arranged to send me a photocopy of the document traced by Ivo Carneiro de Sousa in Oporto. It is very likely that this document reached Oporto with the personal belongings of the Judge José da Rocha Dantas e Mendonça (former judge of the High Court at Oporto) who came to Goa as judge of High Court and conducted the inquest and gave the sentence in the case of the Conspiracy. He died in Goa in August 1792.

We believe that this English version of J.H. Cunha Rivara´s A Conjuração de 1787 em Goa will make this event better known to a wider readership and to researchers worldwide. Fresh interest and re-evaluation of the event can thus be expected, and with new linkages and evidence that be may be available or found by researchers on the period and related subjects elsewhere. Mr. Dias in his above-mentioned chapter in the Essays in Goan History refers to Cunha Rivara's research effort as «disinformation». He sees Rivara, who was Chief Secretary of the Goa Government from 1855 to 1877, as disturbed by the events in the neighbouring British India where the colonial rule was severely shaken by the so-called Sepoy Mutiny of 1857, and by various rebellions of Sawant Desais and Ranes from Kolhapur and Sawantwadi on Goa borders in the previous decades. The fears of the much weaker Portuguese administration in Goa should not be ignored in such a situation. There is much evidence of this in the official correspondence in Goa Archives (Mss: Monções 232 & 233B, Estrangeiros, and Confidenciais). The Portuguese feared that these Maratha insurgencies would spill into Goa, and his fears were not unfounded. The Portuguese had allowed telegraph linkage between Bombay and Surat crossing Daman. The British troops were also allowed passage through Goa for undertaking some operations to check the rebels. Some rebels from Sawantwadi had sought refuge in Goa. The Portuguese had accepted their request for asylum, but proposed to take them to Africa, which they flatly refused on grounds of caste pollution. The British tried to have them extradited, but the Portuguese administration tried its best to honour its pledge of refuge and to take the rebels Desais of Sawantwadi to Timor as a compromise solution. The British reluctantly yielded and offered a steam vessel «Prince Arthur» to ensure that they were transported to the agreed destination. Incidentally and strangely, no one seems to remember today this rebellious component of Timor population when so much is being said and written in Portugal about the timorese identity and their will to fight for their autonomy against Indonesia (Cf. L.F. Thomaz, De Ceuta a Timor, Lisboa, 1994: This collection of essays includes one on Goa and four on Timor. Cf. also my review of this book in Indica, Bombay, September 1995. The author provides no answer to our question on Timor. While providing a good picture of social relations in Goa of the time of «Conspiracy» and citing Rivara's contribution to historiography, he has nothing to say about Rivara's political predilections and involvement, which is essential for a critical assessment of his overall performance and contribution as historian.) Where did the rebel Desais in Timor disappear? Goa Government, and Rivara as its representative, collaborated fully with the British administration and its representatives, Lords Canning and Elphinstone, in quelling the revolt or mutiny, as the British chose to call it. Rivara had therefore reasons to be suspicious of anything that smacked of nationalist pride in Goans. His research on Conjuração has to be seen in this background and necessarily aimed at minimising the revolutionary nature of the plot as was done by the British historiography with reference to the Mutiny of 1857. However, the claim for meticulous research and free from all bias (limpa da macula da paixão) needs to be more critically checked. Rivara was certainly aware of the efforts of Ultramar and Illustração Goana to rehabilitate the Goans who had fought the Portuguese colonial pretensions and suffered for it, like Bernardo Peres da Silva, or Mariano José Conceição da Rocha. The Portuguese liberalism gave the Goan intelligentsia an opportunity to attempt this, and Rivara's historical research may be seen as a counter-exercise. Barreto Miranda's description of the Sentença de Conspiração e Alta Traição as a judicial murder of the martyrs of Bardez is seen by Mr. Dias as the red rag that provoked Rivara's research on the Conjuração, special ly in the sensitive context of the elections in Nagoa (Bardez) in 1861, as it is plain from p. 115 of the original Portuguese text of the book. Rivara was personally and emotionally involved in these elections on behalf of white interests and had referred in the Boletim do Governo to the mean and duplicitous character of the Goan natives. For him (as to many Europeans and Americans even today) the innate Indian subtlety was always an expression of meanness and machiavellism. Hence, this book is not just a contribution to the history of Goan nationalism, but also to the history of the colonial mentality of the author and of the time when he wrote it.

There is much evidence of emotionalism in Rivara's published reactions (called reflexões) on the issue of Portuguese crown patronage of the Church (Padroado) that was being cut to size by the Propaganda Fide in the changed political-military scenario in the East, where the British had taken over as the dominant colonial power. Some of these reflexões of Rivara appeared without appending his name to them, and simply as authored by a Portuguese. But that does not fail to reveal how emotional and hysterical the man could become over the issues that touched his patriotic feelings, while the issue of «Conspiracy» being used for electoral purposes by the natives of Bardez is condemned by Rivara as fanning pseudo-patriotism of the crude mob. His impressive and voluminous Archivo Portuguez-Oriental and his interest in Konkani writings have left many a Goan historian and nationalist obliged to his historical contribution. A more critical assessment needs to be undertaken of Rivara as a documentalist and historian of Portuguese India.

One could draw a parallel to the Conspiracy of Goa with a similar development in the Phillippines under the Spanish rule (one can find more parallels in the colonial histories of Goa and the Philippines but with chronological delays in the Philippines). There too the anti-colonial feelings manifested themselves in the narrow struggle of the Filipino clergy for justice. Its most noted spokesman was Fr. Jose Burgos. He and some other priests lost their lives in their campaign for the filipinization of the parishes. Jose Rizal's El Filibusterismo and Noli Me Tangere have recorded the representatve value of this struggle in the wider anti-colonial resistance. The colonial discrimination seen as colour discrimination was not exclusively a Portuguese fault, neither was it entirely absent despite greater degree of integration achieved by the Portuguese in the colonial societies, chiefly due to their interest in religious activities. It was not greatly different with the Spanish situation, but these had to deal with less developed native populations than did the Portuguese in the East, except in the Philippines, where the Hindu and Muslim influences were already sufficiently marked. It was the educated clergy among the natives who first experienced the discrimination, and when the white colonialists had no other superiority to display they usually fell back on the colour superiority. Racism has always been the last desperate resort of the dominant groups to assert their right for domination. If Rivara believes that this was not true in the context of the Conspiracy of Goa in 1787 he was not reading all the facts for reasons best known to him and also to us. Prof. Boxer has already drawn the parallel between the Conspiracy in Goa and Inconfidência of 1787 in Minas Gerais. He points to the difference in the treatment meted out to those found guilty. In Brazil only one of the eleven condemned to death was executed, but in India the repression was more savage, and fifteen Goans were executed with great barbarity. He concludes:It is difficult to believe that this different treatment was due to anything else but colour prejudice, since those reprieved in the Inconfidência Mineira were all white and the Goan victims were all coloured. (The Portuguese Seaborne Empire, London,Hutchinson & Co., 1969, pp. 199-200).

The conspiracy, wrongly linked by tradition almost exclusively with Pintos (a psychiatrist-friend of mine with whom I discussed this matter some years ago, jokingly asked me if it was really a conspiraçãoor a constipação of Pintos. He seems to have made a point: the native colonial society represented by the Pintos seems to have felt lef t in the cold), had three priests leading it, and of them from Pinto family, namely Fr. Caetano Vitorino de Faria, Fr. José Antonio Gonçalves, and Fr. Francisco Couto, who had felt their talents and self-dignity burt by the dominant Portuguese colonial interests of the time and represented by the metropolitan whites and the Goa-based mestiços and descendentes. But when these Goan priests were bypassed in favour of the South Indian St. Thomas clerics for the appointment to the vacant sees of Cran ganore and Mylapore, they did not seem to realise that they were contradicting themselves by their colonial and discriminating attitude towards the local candidates of South India. The Malabar clergy certainly had greater right to rule over their churches than Goa-born clerics. Rivara gloats on this point to ridicule the ambitions of the Goan priests. However, a more recent piece of evidence in the form of the published diary of Bishop Cariattil and written by the priest who accompanied him (Varthamanapustakkam, trans. and ed. by Placid J. Podipara, Rome, 1971) discloses the large game-plot of Fr. Caetano Vitorino de Faria, the real mastermind of the plot to disp lace the Portuguese and to take over the control of responsible posts in Goa. He was not opposed to Cariattil's appointment to the Cranganore see, but he would do it after taking over the metropolitan see of Goa. He had even shown special interest in ordering from Milan specially cut Malayalam letter-types which were better than those of the Propaganda. It appears from the new evidence that the departure of the priests Francisco Couto and Jose Antonio Gonçalves to Rome for further studies was not their own move as presumed by Rivara, but on instructions of Fr. Caetano Vitorino de Faria. It was only when Cariattil was appointed and his own claims were ignored that Fr. Caetano Vitorino de Faria seems to have decided on the revolt. And was the death of Bishop Cariattil in Goa and before reaching his see natural, or part of the conspiracy? It remains unclear.

One could usefully consult the documents appended to the Refutação Analytica published by a Goan in Bombay, and of which Rivara served himself to draw the information on the inquiry. He could not find any original, but only the doc. 24 of Refutação Analytica, which copied the original from the Archives of the High Court in 1835 and had found it already in a bad condition. Curiously, the orthography of this document does not tally fully with the document found in Oporto District Archives. What is also curious is the arrangement chosen by Rivara to present the details of the inquiry and punishment meted out to the condemned. By grouping them under similar penalties, Rivara found a way of avoiding the unpalatable expressions in the original of the inquest text which refers to tortures administered to extort confessions. Rivara has no use for these details, but seeks rather to distract the reader by referring to the Frenchman serving as Sergeant Major of Cavalry in Bardez and was very kind in the way he effected the arrest of two Pintos in Saligão. Incidentally, a study of local rebellions in the bordering region under the British rule in 1844 by Dr. P.P. Shirodkar (Purabilekha-Puratatva, III, Nº. 2, 1985) reveals direct link of some Pintos of Candolim with the rebels. It is only on the basis of these continued links of Candolim Pintos with the rebel elements during the time of Rivara that perhaps justify his appending a genealogical tree of the family to his book. The native discontent in Goa sensed by Rivara was not of his imagining, but despite his long title of the book suggesting a wider scope than just the event of 1787, he failed to go beyond the condemnation of the Conspiracy to the study of the roots of the problem and its many manifestations. We can look forward to the posthumous publication of Mira Mascarenhas in the History of Christianity in India, edited by the Church History Association of India. A doctoral dissertation on late 18th century Goa has recently been published in Lisbon by M.J. Martires Lopes. Unfortunately it limits its scope to quantifying and presenting graphically the results of the Pastoral Visitations to which I had drawn public attention twelve years earlier, and does not bring any substantially new interpretation into the debate despite a chapter dedicated ostensibly to the Conspiracy of Pintos.

The viceroy of Goa in 1760 (not too far before the Conspiracy date) had studied the reluctance of Goan natives to participate in the Portuguese military service and wars of the New Conquests, and he decided among other things to issue an ordinance banning under heavy penalties the use of the expression negro or cachorro (dog) to refer to the Goan natives. His ban was aimed at the Portuguese, including expressly the mestiços (porque nestes ainda mais que nos mesmos Europeos reina aquelle luciferino vício). He was referring to the vice of pride (soberba) or what we may describe as the white superiority, smacking of racism, which he considered greatly responsible for the native indifference towards the Portuguese colonial interests. The growing white superiority of the luso-descendentes needs to be understood as a reaction to their losses in Daman and Bassein where they owned large estates and which had been overrun by the Marathas in 1739. It was a bitter experience for the mestiços to swallow. A growing pressure of Goan natives to deprive them also of their monopoly over the local army made them more insecure and hostile. The viceroy deserves credit for the boldness of his assessment, which was not a virtue of many of his countrymen then or later. The official cultural openness was also an expression of short-lived Pombaline reforms. To be fair to Portugal, its policy during the colonial times (at least in Goa) and even in the post-colonial period has not denied its citizenship to its former colonial subjects. In practice, the integration of the colonial subjects into the metropolitan society may not have been always free from certain prejudices based partly on conscious discrimination, or more often on problems of cultural adaptation.

Just a few years before the year of publication of the Conjuração, the Goan natives had succeeded in obtaining the abolition of the local army, heightening thereby the insecurity of the «descendentes» and also the patriotic fears of Rivara. Various revolts of the Ranes should not be considered seriously as any freedom struggles of Goans. Their revolts were largely in defence of feudal rights that were being challenged by the Portuguese administration and by new plantation interests that had come into Satari in the wake of demand for teak for the construction of the new railway line. Satari forests were the real target, when plantation concessions were being sought by some foreign companies ostensibly for coffee and cotton cultivation. Lands were also being usurped by a State sponsored sociedade patriótica de baldios as a hopeful project of reducing pressure on cultivable land on the Old Conquests of Goa, and thereby hoping to stem the tide of emigration. All this came after the time of Rivara, but his great interest in the preservation of the Goan village communities was also a covert expression of preserving an institution which was by its very nature caste-oligarchical and opposed to any structural change in the property relations as demanded by needs of modernisation and as analysed by Francisco Luis Gomes in his A Liberdade da Terra e a Economia Rural da Índia Portugueza (1862). Was Cunha Rivara trying to ignore the non-brahminical sage of Salcete? He sought to pamper the traditionally entrenched rural interests, predominantly of the Brahmin caste and keeping them thereby satisfied with their inherited pride, rather than meddling into the general public issues. He seems to have had little influence on the Bardez and Tiswadi Brahmins who led the Conspiracy of 1787. His defence of the Goan village communities should not be interpreted as an exercise of political altruism. We must, therefore, note that he belonged to the historical trend of his contemporary Alexandre Herculano in Portugal, as a champion of middle class gentry and its municipal and corporate institutions. His publications and those sponsored by him through Felippe Nery Xavier or Miguel Vicente Abreu reveal this preference. His historical intervention was therefore not devoid of political orientation, just as in the case of Herculano in Portugal. Despite their great stress on archival documents, they saw in history a guide for the political needs of the present. Rivara's Archivo Portuguez-Oriental was an extension of Portugaliae Monumenta Historica to the colonial history in the East. His patriotic defence of Padroado rights also reflects Herculano's special concern. Rivara did honour the Portuguese colonial administration as a worthy parallel to his contemporary and able administrator-historians of British India, such as Elphinstone, Duff, Maine, etc. Rivara was convinced that history was an essential tool for a successful colonial administration.

Some other considerations before we conclude: Whether there were links of the Goan conspirators with Tipu Sultan or not, we have had more research recently coming out from Ernestina Carreira on the basis of the contemporary French documentation. The Mhamai link of this period of Goa's history and their greater involvement in Malabar trade at this juncture needs perhaps to be better explored to obtain more clues to the conspiracy episode and events of the time. There are also some other lines of analysis that have not been pursued: What was the British reaction to the episode? Did they take notice of it all? Had the conspiracy succeeded, what would be its fate under the growing British hegemony, let alone the interests of the French or of the neighbouring native chieftains, including the Marathas and Tipu Sultan? There is another curious side-issue of the conspiracy to which very recently a Goan writer, Carmo Noronha, had made a reference. He refers to one of the consequences of the brutal suppression of the conspiracy on the psyche of the Goans from Bardez, unlike those of Salcete who were not involved in the conspiracy (with one single exception?) and consequently, did not have to face the repressive measures. These responded ethusiastically to State sponsored programmes and subsidies for Goans wishing to proceed to Portugal for higher studies. Hardly anyone from Bardez opted for it for a very long time. It appears to be a reasonable historical explanation for the preference shown by Bardez people to emigrate to non-Portuguese territories instead.

To conclude, I wish to touch on another characteristic Goan trait, perhaps reinforced by Portuguese heritage of (má língua) in the attitude of two outstanding Goan disciples of Rivara, namely Felippe Nery Xavier and Miguel Vicente Abreu. Both made notable contribution to Goan historiography under the direction and patronage of Rivara. While Abreu was an employee of the Government Printing Press, Xavier was a first grade official in the Department of Finance. They did not seem to be above petty academic rivalry, and Abreu felt victimised by the other, when he saw his pay cut to half of what was approved in the State budget. I am not sure what was the final outcome, but he pleaded with Rivara, the then Chief Secretary of the Government, to protect his interests. The text is thought-provoking in the context of the history of mentalities:

If Your Excellency feels that I have the law on my side, please do not leave it to the interpretation of Mr. Felippe Nery, because this contry chief (I am sorry to say so) does not seem to be inclined to help his own subject as you Portuguese officials do, whenever you have an opportunity to help. It is for this reason that God has been kind to place you over us. May the Lord keep Your Excellency, my boss and protector, for many years.

(Trans. from the personal correspondence of Rivara in the Public Library of Évora, Portugal). Abreu seems to reflect what is contained in an old Konkani proverb of Goa: Firgyanchea payam mel'lem borem, punn Kan'dyachea sangata jiel'lem nhoi, meaning it is better to die at the feet of a Portuguese man, than to live in the company of a Goan christian (Canarim, kan'dy). But João de Barros tells us that a Portuguese does not suffer as much by being forgotten as with the praise of another! (Década I: da Ásia). We need a more human portrait of Joaquim Heliodoro da Cunha Rivara and a clearer picture of his involvement and response in the Goan cultural and political ambience. Such an attempt is bound to reveal that historical objectivity is only a qualified human achievement. Perhaps this publication of Rivara's work in English translation may motivate wider interest in this man who is barely known in his own country.

Dr. Teotonio R. de Souza*
* Fellow of the Portuguese Academy of History and of the Sociedade de Geografia de Lisboa, Head of the Department of History at Universidade Lusófona de Humanidades e Tecnologias, Lisboa ( and author of Medieval Goa, Goa to Me, Goa: Roteiro histórico-cultural [207- page illustrated guide for one-week visit to Goa. It is intended to provide a Portuguese visitor details of the political, economic and socialdevelopments in Goa before and since 1961. It has been a Portuguese tendency to visit Goa with «saudades» of their colonial past, and as a result they usually return frustrated, failing to establish contact with the real Goa of today, vibrant with its achievements and problems! The present Guide will hopefully reduce this problem and help them to establish a people-to-people contact with the Goans and not only with the monument s of the past] and several other edited and co-edited works, plus over 150 research articles, some of which can be consulted at
Click Here to view Dr. Teotonio R. de Souza, An Autobiography

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