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History is yesterday, today, and tomorrow




by Kathy Warnes
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Some historians and some of his contemporaries see the Marquis

Pombal as a ruthless dictator who imposed his reforms on Portugal.
Some are grateful he did.
Sebastiao de Carvalho e Melo, Marquis of Pombal is remembered in
Portugal for his Enlightenment reforms, architectural innovations, and
his rebuilding of Lisbon after the 1755 earthquake.

Marquis Pombal Wikimedia Commons

The 1755 Lisbon Earthquake Strikes on All Saints Day

The Great Lisbon earthquake ( Lisbon, the Kingdom of
Portugal, around 10:24 on the morning of November 1, 1755, the day Catholics commemorated
as All Saints Day. For nearly ten minutes the earth heaved and convulsed. The seismic waves
ripped apart soil and buildings and swallowed people. Huge fires crackled and devoured
everything in their paths and burned for days.

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Holly and Happy Holidays!

One of the Deadliest Earthquakes in History

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About forty minutes after the earthquake, an enormous tsunami rushed up the Tagus River and
engulfed the harbor and downtown Lisbon.

Ignoring History is Irrelevant


southwest Spain and Morocco. Seismologists estimate that the earthquakes magnitude was 8.6
to 9.0 on the Richter scale and people in far away Finland and Barbados felt tremors.

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The 1755 Earthquake Shakes Rational and Religious Thinkers

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The 1755 earthquake (

destroyed most of Lisbon, and rocked the Europe of the Enlightenment to its core. Voltaire, who
was the brightest star in the Enlightenment galaxy quickly published his Poem on the Lisbon

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People rushed to the open docks for safety and stared in disbelief as the water from the harbor
receded, giving them a panoramic view of the sea floor dotted with lost cargo and shipwrecks.

The death toll in Lisbon proper was about 90,000 people and another 10,000 people died in

Voltaire's poem revealed his despair at the lack of reason or rationality behind the earthquake.
Enlightenment thinkers believed that nature was a benign and understandable force that reflected
the intelligence and skill of a designing God. The Lisbon earthquake represented an insane, out
of control force. Where was God in the rubble of Lisbon?
Where is God in the Rubble of Lisbon?
The Christian people of Lisbon and of Portugal asked the same questions as the Enlightenment
philosophes. The Kingdom of Portugal was a pious Roman Catholic country with the Catholic
Church as its foundation. People pondered the why of the earthquake. The fact that the
earthquake had happened on All Saints Day and that it had destroyed most of the churches in
Lisbon made them think about divine retribution.
Many people felt that the destruction of Lisbon, and other regions of Portugal was an act of God,
a divine revenge for the way that Portugal had conquered other countries like South America.
Sebastiao de Carvalho e Melo, Marquis of Pombal and minister to King Joseph I of Portugal had
a more pragmatic attitude. According to legend, he said, We bury the dead and heal the living,
and got to work.
Sebastiao de Carvalho e Melo, Marquis of Pombal is in Control


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At the time of the 1755 Lisbon earthquake, Melo (

Marquis Pombal, was the minister of the Kingdom, an equivalent to a prime minister today, in the
government of Joseph I of Portugal. Born in Lisbon, Melo was the son of a country squire and he
studied at the University of Coimbra. After serving briefly in the army, he moved to Lisbon and
Using his abilities and his connections with the Portuguese royal family Melo obtained a position
as the Portuguese ambassador to Great Britain in 1738 and Portuguese ambassador to Austria in
1745. In 1750, Joseph I was crowned King of Portugal and he appointed Pombal Minister of
Foreign affairs. The Kings confidence in Pombal grew, and he appointed him State Minister.
The Pombaline Reforms
Marquis Pombal instituted a series of reforms focused on making Portugal economically selfsufficient, commercially strong and less dependent on colonial Brazil and England. He created
guilds to regulate economic activity.
His reforms advanced secularization and stabilized Portugal, but some historians argue that the
Marquis used his reforms as a means of enhancing autocracy over individual liberty. They argue
that he was more interested in being a brutal dictator than in individual human rights.

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The Marquis Pombal survived the earthquake and immediately set about rebuilding Lisbon.
Lisbon suffered fires and tsunamis, but no epidemics and the rebuilding began immediately under
Pombal's guidance. He designed the central area of Lisbon to be earthquake resistant. He

Happenings and Holidays in

History (/happenings-andholidays-in-history.html)

directed architectural models to be built for testing and simulated the effects of an earthquake by
marching troops around the models.

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Musical Muse (/musicalmuse.html)
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The buildings and squares of the Pombaline Downtown of Lisbon are the worlds first earthquake
proof buildings and remain a modern tourist attraction.. Marquis Pombal made a significant
contribution to the study of seismology by designing a survey that he had sent to every parish in
the country. The questionnaire asked about the behavior of animals before the earthquake, the
water levels in wells, and the buildings that were destroyed. The answers to his questionnaire
gave modern Portuguese scientists the data to precisely reconstruct the earthquake.
Marquis de Pombal and the Jesuits

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The Jesuits were thoroughly woven into the fabric of Portuguese religion and culture and Marquis
Pombal had never been happy with their influence. The way the Jesuits reacted to the 1755
Lisbon earthquake deepened his distrust and resentment of the Jesuits.
The 1755 Lisbon Earthquake is the Catalyst for Reform
The earthquake shook Lisbon in midmorning of All Saints Day, November 1, 1755 while many
people were in church and it destroyed 35 of the 40 churches in Lisbon. Even though
Enlightenment ideas had reached Portugal, Portuguese culture had been established on the
foundation of the Catholic Church. The Jesuits told survivors that God had sent the earthquake
as a punishment for their sins and that they must spend many years atoning for these sins. Many
people believed them.
Marquis Pombal Dislikes and Distrusts the Jesuits
Marquis Pombal believed in Enlightenment ideas of reason and had a rational, scientific nature
and he attributed the earthquake to natural causes. In the weeks after the earthquake, he did his
best to counter the Jesuit preaching. He wanted the people of Lisbon to focus their time and
money on rebuilding and reforming Portugal instead of spending their time and efforts repenting
of their sins.
The Marquis had other reasons to dislike the Jesuits. The Jesuits were opposed to the
Portuguese policy of attempting to assimilate the Indians of Brazil into European culture and they
also opposed economic and territorial treaties that Portugal had made with Spain and England.
Gabriel Malagrida Publishes a Pamphlet
A Jesuit priest named Gabriel Malagrida brought matters to a crisis when he published his


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sermons in a pamphlet he called Juzio da verdadeira causa do terremoto- An Opinion on the true
cause of the earthquake. His pamphlet preached that the people of Lisbon had caused the
earthquake by the number and severity of their sins. The Marquis Pombal eventually convinced
King Joseph I to banish Malagrida.
King Joseph I is Almost Assassinated
In September 1758, King Joseph I was returning to Belem from the Palace of the Marques and
Marquesa de Tabora with his valet. Three masked horsemen stopped their carriage in the dead
of the night, fired a musket, ad wounded the King in the arm and shoulder. Marquis Pombals
spies quickly identified two of the horsemen and arrested and tortured them. Their confessions
implicated the Marques and Marquesa de Tavora and Marquis Pombal had the Tavora family
followed and their messages intercepted. By December, Marquis Pombal had arrested Malagrida
who had returned from exile and he was found guilty of being involved in the assassination plot.
Marquis Pombal Convinces King Joseph I to Expel the Jesuits
Gabriel Malagrida was found guilty of High Treason and imprisoned in the dungeon under the
Tower of Belem with other Jesuits who were also implicated in the plot.
In 1759, Marquis Pombal convinced King Joseph I to banish had the Jesuits from Portugal to the
Papal States. The Marquise felt that the Jesuits were constantly undermining his authority.
Gabriel Malagrida is Executed
In 1761, he had Malagrida, aged 72, brought before the Inquisition with his brother acting as
Inquisitor General. They found Malagrida guilty of obscenity and blasphemy and condemned him
to death. On September 21, 1761, Malagrida was garroted in Rossio Square, and then his corpse
was burned on a bonfire and his ashes thrown in the Tagus River.
Marquis Pombal Reforms Portugese Society
The expulsion of the Jesuits created a vacuum in the Portuguese educational system because
Jesuits had been the primary teachers. This is exactly what Marquis Pombal wanted, because
now he had the power to rebuild the primary, secondary, and college educational systems.
Reforming the education system also enabled Pombal to secularize Portugal and dilute the power
of the church. His actions were initially unpopular in Europe, but eventually other European
leaders who wanted change used Portugals example to purge their governments of religious
Historian Kenneth Maxwell says, "The Portuguese were the first to begin a movement which
would bring about the expulsion of the Jesuits from all of Catholic Europe" (Maxwell, Kenneth,
Pombal - Paradox of the Enlightenment, Cambridge University Press, 1995)
Marquis Pombal used the 1755 Lisbon earthquake as a lever for promoting reforms, and even
though his reforms were tinged with self-interest, they set a precedent for other European
countries to follow.
The Legacy of the Marquis Pombal
Queen Maria I of Portugal, successor to King Joseph, hated Pombal and vowed to destroy him.
She withdrew his political offices, and issued a royal decree, the equivalent of a modern
restraining order, that did not allow him closer than 20 miles from her presence.
Melo, the Marques Pombal, built a villa that he named Oeiras and died peacefully there in 1782.
Modern Lisbons most important square is named Marques de Pombal
( a statue of him stands in the
square overlooking the city that he helped resurrect after one of the worlds most destructive
Alden, Dauril, Royal Government in Colonial Brazil with Special Reference to the Administration
of the Marqus of Lavradio, Viceroy, 17691779, University of California Press, 1968; Pombal's
colonial policy.


1755 Lisbon Earthquake - Marquis Pombal Used Science to Rebuild - History? Bec... Pgina 4 de 4

Cheke, Marcus Dictator of Portugal: A Life of the Marqus of Pombal, 16991782 (1938,
reprinted 1969) is the standard biography in English.
Jack, Malcoln, Lisbon, City of the Sea: A History, I.B. Teuris & Co. Ltd., 2007
Maxwell, Kenneth, Pombal - Paradox of the Enlightenment, Cambridge University Press, 1995.
Paice, Edward, Wrath of God: The Great Lisbon Earthquake of 1755, Quereus Publishing, 2008
Posted by Kathy Warnes ( at 7:11 AM
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