Grão Pará and Maranhão Company
Grão Pará and Maranhão Company (Portuguese: Companhia Geral de Comércio do Grão-Pará e Maranhão) was a Portuguese chartered company created by Portugal in 1757 and served the colony of State of Grão-Pará and Maranhão, based in the Portuguese colony in Brazil. The company employees were officially considered to be in his majesty's service and were responsible directly to Lisbon.
The chartered company was founded by Marquis of Pombal, then a powerful Portuguese minister, to develop and control commercial activity in the State of Grão-Pará and Maranhão, including a monopoly of the trade in African slaves, given the prohibition of enslaving the indigenous peoples of the region, and of the naval transport of all merchandise to the region for a period of 20 years. In accumulating so many privileges, the chartered company also caused resentment toward the local elites, which was neglected by the Marquis of Pombal who wanted to protect his financial interests in the region. As an additional advantage for the government was that its control of the company gave it the means to cover up the widespread practice of smuggling and tax evasion.
With all of the company's activities, trade with Portugal, previously minimal, began to prosper. Ships of the company left Belém, founded in 1616 by the kingdom, weighed down with rice, cotton, cocoa, ginger, wood and medicinal plants, and moreover the slave trafficking. Between 1755 and 1777, the estimated population of African slaves - they had been taken from their homes in Cacheu, Bissau and Angola - grew from 3,000 to 12,000, all of whom had been bought with company funds.
With the death of the King of Portugal, Joseph I, and the fall of his powerful statesman the Marquis of Pombal, the period known as Viradeira began. Mary I Queen, Joseph I's daughter, was contended with all of the Marquis of Pombal's policies, and in 1778 she not only revoked the monopoly but closed the company itself.
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