The story

Beckman Uprising

Beckman Uprising

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The Beckman Uprising, also known as the Beckman Brothers Uprising or Bequimão Uprising, took place in Maranhão State in 1684.

It is traditionally regarded as a nativist movement by historiography in Brazilian History.


The State of Maranhão was created at the time of the Philippine Dynasty in 1621, comprising the current territories of Maranhão, Ceará, Piaui, Pará and Amazonas. This region was thus directly subordinated to the Portuguese Crown. Among its economic activities were sugarcane farming and sugar production, tobacco cultivation, livestock (for leather exports) and cocoa collection. Most of the population lived in conditions of extreme poverty, surviving by collecting, fishing and subsistence farming.

Since the mid-seventeenth century, the state of Maranhão faced a serious economic crisis, since since the expulsion of the Dutch from the Northeast of Brazil, the regional sugar company could not afford the high costs of importing African slaves. In this context, the action of Father Antonio Vieira (1608-1697) was of great importance. In the 1650s, as Superior of the Jesuit Missions in the State of Maranhão, he established the foundations of missionary action in the region: preaching, baptism and education, along the same lines. Portuguese culture and the rules established by the Council of Trent (1545-1563).

Subsequently, by the law of April 1, 1680, the Crown determined the abolition of indigenous slavery without any exception, further delimiting the respective areas of action of the various religious orders.

To circumvent the labor issue, local planters organized troops to invade Jesuit settlements and capture Indians as slaves. These indigenous people, evangelized, constituted the labor used by the religious in the activity of collecting so-called sertão drugs. Faced with the aggressions, the Society of Jesus turned to the Crown, which intervened and prohibited the enslavement of the indigenous, since it brought no profits to the Metropolis.

To resolve this issue, the Crown established the Maranhão Trade Company (1682), in a similar manner to the General Company of Commerce of Brazil (1649). Under the Rules of Procedure, the new Company would hold the monopoly of all trade in Maranhão for a period of twenty years, with the obligation to introduce ten thousand African slaves (at the rate of five hundred pieces per year), and to sell them over time. at tabulated prices. In addition to supplying these slaves, it should provide manufactured fabrics and other European genres needed by the local population, such as cod, wines, and wheat flour. In return, it should send to Lisbon at least one ship from Maranhão and one from Grão-Pará, with local products. Cocoa, vanilla, clove and tobacco, produced in the region, would be sold exclusively to the Company at tabulated prices. In order to obtain the cassava flour needed to feed the enslaved Africans, the Company was allowed to use indigenous labor, remunerating it in accordance with current legislation. Thanks to the intercession of Governor Francisco de Sá de Meneses, only the Jesuits and Franciscans were free from the monopoly exercised by the Company.

Unable to meet its commitments properly, the Company's operation aggravated the economic crisis and increased discontent in the region:

  • local merchants felt harmed by the Company's monopoly;
  • the large landowners understood that the prices offered for their products were insufficient;
  • indigenous catchers, contradicted in their interests, complained of the application of the laws that prohibited the slavery of the natives;
  • the general population protested against the irregular supply of genders and the high prices of the products.

The Company has been accused of not supplying the number of slaves stipulated by the Rules annually, of using counterfeit weights and measures, of marketing spoiled foodstuffs and of exorbitant pricing. These facts, added to the exemptions granted to the religious would lead to a revolt.

Outbreak of revolt

After some months of preparation, Taking advantage of the absence of Governor Francisco de Sá de Menezes, visiting Belém do Pará, the revolt broke out on the night of February 24, 1684, during the festivities of Our Lord of Passos.

Under the leadership of brothers Manuel and Tomás Beckman, planters in the region, and Jorge de Sampaio de Carvalho, with the adhesion of other owners, merchants and religious dissatisfied with the Jesuits' privileges, a group of sixty to eighty men mobilized themselves. take action, robbing the Company's warehouses.

Already in the early hours of the following day the seditious took over the Guard Corps in São Luís, consisting of an officer and five soldiers. They departed from there, with other regimented residents on their way, to the residence of Captain-General Baltasar Fernandes, who cried for help without success. Maranhão historian João Francisco Lisboa records thatBeckman summoned his voice of arrest and suspension from office, adding, as if by mockery, that to make it softer he left him at home to be guarded by his own wife with the duties of a faithful jailer. Baltasar Fernandes shouted that he preferred death to such an intolerable affront to a soldier; but the multitude, without making leather from their vain cries, took thence to the College of the Fathers, whom they left bound and incommunicado with guards in sight."

Following the occupation of the Jesuit College, the twenty-seven religious found there were expelled from Maranhão.