Duarte Ribeiro DeMacedo
A Modern Diplomat (1618-1680)


Ana Maria Homem Leal de Faria
Faculty of Letters University of Lisbon
Centre for History, University of Lisbon
[email protected]
[email protected]


Modern diplomacy in Portugal was shaped by historical circumstances that gave it very individual characteristics. The congresses and the peace of Westphalia (1644-48) allowed diplomatic relations to be re-established in a Europe that had seen its system of representation shaken to the core by the schism caused by the Reformation and the Wars of Religion. Portugal had managed to seize the opportunity created by international circumstances to restore its independence, which Spain and the Papacy refused to acknowledge for almost thirty years. While war-based diplomacy required secret missions and specific negotiations, peacetime diplomacy constituted different demands. Using Duarte Ribeiro de Macedo’s life-history – he was the first diplomat sent to Louis XIV to justify the peace with Spain (13 February 1668) that went against the treaty with France signed less than a year before (31 March 1667) – we can define behaviour connected to the conditions surrounding diplomatic activity, as well as identify aspects that provide an understanding of the worldviews of a small social group, a governing elite in the period when the modern State was being established and the absolute monarchy was being consolidated. This involves studying the process involved in the creation of modern diplomacy – starting from the concrete case of Portugal – and its contribution in defining the foreign policy of European states and developing international relations, including the impact of the external conjuncture of events on domestic policy at a time when the concept of Europe gradually started to replace the mediaeval notion of Christendom.


Early Modern Period, Absolutism, Diplomacy, War, Inquisition, Mercantilism.



1. This study introduces both theoretical and methodological problems involved in the research that culminated in my doctoral thesis, submitted at the University of Lisbon on 29-30 April 2004. The thesis was one of the winners of the Aristides de Sousa Mendes Prize in the same year, awarded by the Portuguese Diplomats’ Association, and the first volume was published in 2005, with sponsorship from the Diplomatic Institute of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (IDI), the Association of Friends of the Diplomatic Historical Archive, and the Centre for History at the University of Lisbon (CHUL). The second volume, an exhaustive documentary appendix of unpublished manuscripts, awaits digital publication. It includes a complete and systematic transcription of the official letters and reports produced by Duarte Ribeiro de Macedo, the most significant letters from his private correspondence, as well as biographical documents and sources related to the challenges and internal restrictions that required either his direct or indirect intervention.

2. My research – entitled Duarte Ribeiro de Macedo, a modern diplomat (1618-80) – attempts to sketch the cultural and social framework within which a diplomat operated in early modern times, at a period of important significance for Portuguese diplomatic history, as it meant the recovery of international relations interrupted under the period of Spanish dominion (1580-1640).  This involved gathering data on others who exercised the same functions at that time, information that covers the multiplicity of ties that linked a series of individuals, as well as a similarity in modes of behaviour. Adopting a comparative method enables some wider conclusions to be drawn, whether it relates to a man, a people or an age – although it is, to some extent, empirical in the simple fact that the broader the terms of comparison, the more accurate the results. The whole constitutes a discourse that is greater than the sum of its parts.

As my doctoral thesis was written according to the Portuguese Decree-Law 388/70, which required complementary exams, I added a research project on the process of creating modern diplomacy and its contribution towards political decision-making, entitled The Age of the Diplomats (1640-1750). This problem is introduced from an interdisciplinary perspective that covers political anthropology and cultural history (vision of the world, rituals), sociology (social background and professional career paths), and geopolitics (information networks, external relations).

Having assumed the influence of politics as a simple truth, I opted to pose the question of decision-making in terms of the specific and practical formulation of political ideas rather than by studying their underlying theory. The diversity surrounding this process of political definition over the ages is essentially found in the mechanisms used to mould it, the means that the authorities had to channel opinions and implement the decisions taken. However, the apparently simple question of who took the decision is harder to answer than it may seem at first sight. In legal terms, although the authority is known, the true "decision-making centre" is often left in the shadows, remaining an enigma that is hard to reveal. The politician responsible, the person who has the final word in the decision-making process, the prince who governs – evidently the king during the period in question, but equally a dictator, president or prime minister – does not do so alone. He is surrounded by ministers and councillors who are – to varying degrees – critics, fawners or subservients, and are certainly all courtiers. Among the various potential groups, ranging from the military to magistrates, men of the cloth to men of business, diplomats interest me for three fundamental reasons:

Firstly, their mixed social and professional background. As they were recruited in the palace environment of the court or military nobility, from amongst the practicants of law or through the confidentiality of certain members of the secular and regular clergy, this avoided dependence on an excessively hierarchical and pre-existing social framework.

Secondly, for research purposes, diplomats have all the advantages of those who travel without any of the difficulties. As they were far away, diplomats were forced to write, a fact which enables genuine conversations to be reconstituted. Moreover, their duty to inform meant that they were always on duty. They provide (empirical) terms of comparison with other nations, which they came to know far better than those who travelled constantly from one land to another. As they settled, they lived among the local inhabitants, came into contact with the host nation’s elites and were forced to deal with them. Thanks to professional imperatives – the search for news, novelties, rumours and anything that could be of interest to the power they represented – these “negotiators” came into contact with a wide range of people. This meant that their circle of social relations was habitually broader than that of the vast majority of their contemporaries, both in terms of the number of countries where they lived and the extent of the human contacts that they managed to make.

Finally, the problem of decision-making is not clear. Rather, it hides behind a veil of ambiguity and multiple lies that were uttered for the sake of "reasons of State". Diplomats were not even a homogeneous group – if such a thing exists – nor were they the closest group to the source of power. However, given their functions, they were particularly well positioned to express themselves on foreign policy, an area that was normally forgotten but that emerged as relevant whenever there was a war.

The above list raises a series of questions that can be further developed, ranging from conditioning factors within the cultural model to standard practices. Partly because the problems that were faced, such as selecting leading figures for certain embassies (compensating for their lack of training by having the financial means required due to the importance of external signs of wealth), favouritism, relations between diplomats and of these with the Secretaries of State, offer abundant material that help to reconstruct the social mechanisms; but also because the official and personal ties that link diplomats to ministers and counsellors are reflected in the language used in their correspondence, which is simultaneously formal and informal, often straightforward and critical, deserving a linguistic analysis, as it is impossible to use written sources critically without awareness of the conventions of letters, diaries, wills, proposals, treaties or decrees. The activity of writing has a close relationship with society and requires a concern with the general framework if we want to understand diplomats’ ideals, concepts or images, their intentions and protests, their complaints or demands, and their opinions on the country either where they were or where they were going.

3. As Lucien Febvre said, history is truly a 'daughter of the times' (fille du temps). The question of political decision-making, between the making of alliances and the "deep forces" (to quote Pierre Renouvin), is now a more current issue than ever – despite the fact that the systematisation of data should be carried out in accordance with the historical integrity of the age in question rather than as a function of their relationship with current theories and practices. Nowadays, although the speed of communications and changes in social habits have altered the diplomat’s modus faciendi, the substance of diplomacy has remained unchanged. Information, negotiation, promotion or propaganda and protecting the interests of the State are still the essentials in conducting any foreign policy. Equally, its relationship to domestic policy cannot be neglected, although the problems are fundamentally different: while the leader controls the life of the country using the paraphernalia of administrative means, the police and the legal system, he is less sure when faced with the reactions of foreign countries, as he has no means of control over their decisions. In the seventeenth century, delays in the circulation of correspondence could cause serious embarrassments, yet they simultaneously afforded diplomats greater room for manoeuvre and greater autonomy, since their instructions were sufficiently ambiguous for them to be able to deal with the unexpected. In certain specific circumstances, the ambassador had to take decisions on his feet and act without waiting for orders when these could not reach him in time. Obviously, if all went well, the ruler took the credit, while if things went badly it was the negotiator who was always at fault.

The abundant correspondence demanded by the diplomatic function reveals the production of a political discourse that – analysing the prince’s interests – expressed the collective needs and gradually established the permanent rules in the relationships between States. Yet diplomats did not merely exchange letters. They also wrote memos, reports, works on the "art of negotiation" and the social and moral demands required to carry out political functions. Using the writings of Duarte Ribeiro de Macedo and his protectors, friends or correspondents, I have attempted to understand how the world of these "negotiators" (to use the seventeenth-century expression) was gradually constructed, thought about and represented, and how their conceptual structure or their way of thinking was created.

Just as contemporaries can "see what is going on", the comments made by diplomats, as recorded in the abundant official, formal and private correspondence, are essential for understanding the political options taken in modern Europe and analysing its system of international relations. This raises a methodological problem. While the sheer abundance of sources makes selection difficult, and historians potentially run the risk of being buried beneath a genuine avalanche of documents, it is simultaneously deceptive in that the diplomatic correspondence offers a simplistic vision of reality. Not only because the instructions deliberately use an ambiguous language, trying to hide essential points; but also because the official letters are frequently limited to mere casuistry, being filled with basic, day-to-day information that bears no relationship to the causes that may have lain behind them. Therefore, it is vital to cross-reference the available data with information from other sources, namely from the Finance, War and Inquisition Councils, and even local or private archives. Within the context of international relations and foreign policy, using national archives (in Portugal these are exceptionally fertile, but unfortunately widely scattered and poorly organised) is not enough. There is a need to use foreign archives that show the other side of the coin. In this specific case, my research was not only carried out in Portugal, but also in France, Spain, England and Germany.

Any reconstitution is a work of synthesis, demanding a methodology that enables the alternative character of situations and sequences to be defined, the feasibility of changes to be gauged, and continuities and general trends to be discovered. A merely functionalist approach necessarily runs the risk of studying social life as seen exclusively from outside, without considering the aims of the players involved or their assessments of the situation. Yet it must be recalled that approaches to the complex area of cultural history demand a lengthy apprenticeship and may create stereotypes. In an attempt to avoid this, I constantly tried to test ideas by gathering together as many documents as possible, making these small pieces of reality the anchoring points for a critical reflection, and avoiding excessively imaginative reconstitutions based on often fragmented information and quantitative data, ironically almost always inaccurate.

4. One specific individual, Duarte Ribeiro de Macedo – a diplomat who is known to a slight extent for his texts on economic policy relating to the introduction of manufactures and other mercantilist measures in accordance with Colbert’s model – emerged as a fertile subject for my proposed research. Since it is impossible to examine a man’s life without placing him inside the historical context and his social environment, this biographical study sought to contribute to a greater clarification of the era in which he lived, considering the possible alternatives and understanding the criteria that guided political action.

A biography can be written in several ways. Any attempt to reconstitute the restrictions on, and choices made by, one specific man – questioning his experiences, defining his horizons and interests, examining the relationship between his social contacts and alliances of dependency and solidarity, analysing his discourse and behaviour, making a comparison between the shaping of his ideology and attitudes (whether contradictory or otherwise) that distinguished his way of facing problems – involves different levels that can be superimposed, run parallel, or occur simultaneously or successively. This posed a series of questions, as the role of diplomat that he played was one defined by his own culture, and we all are "imprisoned" – according to Fernand Braudel – by our mentalities and assumptions. Should the research follow his steps on a sequential basis, seeking to establish the phases of his life – some brilliant, others obscure – from the cradle to the grave? Should it reconstruct a series of events, design a narrative that only differs from a novel because it is based on a real character and supported by unpublished documents from archives, like a biographical essay or auto-biographical record, according to the documentary basis used in the research and the cross-referencing of information?

The first problem is methodological, whereas the second is essentially one of form. The scorn that Lucien Febvre (1930, 1945) poured on historicising, positivist, battle-and-event based history did not target the process of writing history or question narrative as a structure of discourse. History has never stopped narrating man’s actions, but has merely done so in different styles. Rather, Febvre’s comments attacked diplomatic history per se when separated from other forms, presented as a history of "winners" and personified by the State, monarchs, ministers and counsellors, created from the perspective of the major powers and placing far greater emphasis on products than on processes. He saw political phenomena as being far removed from history, establishing the two as clearly different things, and called for a "history that does not arbitrarily isolate the fundamental interests of the governed from the wishes and whims of those who govern". This was a reaction against the interest in diplomatic history as the study of "high politics", which became possible due to the opening of state archives in the nineteenth century. He challenged the supposedly "objective" (meaning "scientific") nature that was claimed for such studies, but which ultimately transposed the problems of the present to the past instead of trying to understand societies from the starting-point of their internal conflicts. This led diplomatic history to go through a long period of crisis that impacted on all areas of historiography, including German and Anglo-Saxon work. Despite always maintaining an interest in political phenomena, this approach was undoubtedly far more radical in French historiography owing to the dominance of the Annales School.

In 1937, Henry Hauser insisted that economic and demographic questions played the preponderant role in international politics, while recalling that, around 1880, Albert Sorel had confirmed a transformation in the material conditions of diplomacy. However, it was essentially following the works of Renouvin and Duroselle (1950s and 1960s) that old-style diplomatic history, with its close ties to events, was gradually replaced by the new history of international relations. The political phenomenon was rediscovered, but now with only a relative autonomy, being seen in combination with the internal socio-economic context and the interplay of forces on the international scene. This renovation was led by P. Gordon Lauren (1979), J. C. Allian and J. Black (1985), L. Bély (1990) and M.S. Anderson (1993). The history of diplomacy regained a position where it was related to the decision-making mechanisms, the concept of "national interest", the role of the individual, the figure of the man of State, and seen in interaction with cultural history, yet also paying attention to geography, demographic conditions and the economy and society. The roll of issues addressed was expanded, and phenomena of collective psychology, shifts in public opinion and religious controversy also started to attract particular attention, while the specificities and details of etiquette and ceremonial occasions started to be studied as expressions of political rituals that allow for a better understanding of the relationship between culture and power. 

5. Human life develops along several planes at the same time, running in parallel or coming together, in a synchronous fashion that is the result of different and sometimes contradictory chronologies. A straightforward narrative is evidently not enough to capture the multiple challenges, the drama of choices, the contradictions of man and the dynamic of societies. I consequently structured the data collected according to an inventory of the problems, hypotheses that I gradually organised and systematised using the logic of thematic coherence, establishing the main guidelines that would develop into three different sections that were nonetheless interconnected by the actions, doubts, proposals and hopes of one specific person. Ranging from the individual to his insertion in the collective, from the socio-cultural world to his personal absorption, from the barriers in Portuguese society to international challenges and demands, this biographical study established a model for a specific type of man – the diplomat – born in a country – Portugal – during a time of war; a country that had recently regained its political independence from Spain and was searching for a place among other European countries – France, England, the United Provinces – that were competing with it for overseas trade and conquests in the territories of the Portuguese empire in Africa, India and South America.

5.1 The first section, which was simultaneously both a point of departure and the foundation for the thesis, aims to characterise Duarte Ribeiro de Macedo’s social and cultural milieu, covering his life from birth to death, his family origins and ties of patronage, his scholastic and academic training, his published works, his career as a magistrate and his diplomatic missions. This allowed for the reconstruction of an entire life that – like every life – is far from being a straightforward or linear path. Besides this, there is also an entire social process, a sort of web linking the structural features and the challenges of a conjuncture of events set within a broad historical framework. Not neglecting the specificities of the individual career, this section seeks to define the atmosphere and challenges of an era. Macedo was born in Lisbon (1618) into a family of popular origin. His father was the son of a small landowner, who had studied law at the University of Coimbra and become a magistrate. His mother’s family were linked to the crafts, and there were suspicions that they had some Jewish ancestry. Although this was never clarified, it prevented the diplomat from gaining the much required confirmation of "clean blood" that would have enabled him to become a `familiar’ of the Inquisition. He died in Alicante (1680), while on a major diplomatic mission to Turin that was to finalise the preparations for the marriage between the heiress to the Portuguese throne and the Duke of Savoy. Although the negotiations continued despite his death, they ultimately foundered. He followed a career in the magistracy, having achieved a degree in law, serving as a judge, high court judge and member of the finance council, and as a diplomat, firstly as the secretary to the embassy under the Count of Soure (1659-60) that tried to include Portugal in the Conference of the Pyrenees, then as an envoy to Paris (1668-76), and finally as an extraordinary envoy to Madrid (1677-79).

The study of his case reveals an educated and cosmopolitan society, an unusual group, an elite with unique characteristics that can only be more accurately defined by prosopographic research. Equally, my investigation into conceptions of the world and attitudes towards life, ideas and intentions, daily life and the material conditions for the practice of diplomacy, moral and pedagogical reflections when fulfilling the political functions of the courtier, the importance of rituals and etiquette in the work and correspondence of Duarte Ribeiro de Macedo, led me to consider the question of worldviews that are still far more open than other themes. The history of mentalities is complex and inexhaustible. However, it was possible to draw up a socio-cultural profile and to accompany the progressive construction of a "profession", not yet a career but – starting from the restraints imposed by recruiting diplomats from among those trained for the magistracy – the variety of tasks that ultimately made diplomacy coherent with fulfilling functions inside the country, at the secretary of state’s office, in courtrooms or government councils, and abroad in a succession of posts. As regards the last such issue, Macedo was several times proposed as a future secretary of state, but was ultimately appointed as a financial councillor. 
Actually, given their social background or legal training, seventeenth-century Portuguese diplomats never stopped offering their advice and trying to arbitrate. Their functions as political agents and advisers were bound up in the practice of negotiation, in drawing up reports and their use of propaganda. Only artificially and a posteriori could the ways of thinking and projecting themselves on the outside world, the ideas and forms of their mentality be separated from external influences that ranged from the economic conjuncture to the political situation, not forgetting social constraints. Among the elements of continuity, there are glimpses of factors that brought transformations: the growing importance of bureaucracy, since, beginning in the regency of Prince Pedro (1668-83), diplomats gradually addressed their correspondence to the secretary of state – and not to the sovereign himself – until a Foreign and War Secretary was finally created in 1736, according to the modern division that separates foreign and domestic affairs; the limited financial resources, which affected payments to diplomats (Macedo, who did not have a personal fortune, spent almost eighteen months in Paris without funds), espionage and the stimulation of propaganda activities; the problem of passing news to agents who acted according to the instructions received, but were often isolated due to the delays in communications (correspondence between Lisbon and Paris took over two months to complete the round trip), a concrete question that had undeniable effects in terms of diplomatic practice. At the heart of all this, the role of the court was seen as fundamental. Although it still only operated intermittently in Portugal, it was nonetheless the centre for political action, the setting for rivalries, intrigue and influence, the theatre where the king gradually gained a decisive importance as the arbiter of foreign policy, as the lord of war and peace.

5.2 The second section focuses on Duarte Ribeiro de Macedo’s contribution to, and observations on, the major internal issues in Portugal. During his lifetime, the colonial space changed and new economic options emerged, yet politics and religion continued to go hand in hand. Thus, I ultimately distinguished two points that are interrelated – issues of economic policy and of power – in an attempt to answer a series of problems. As from 1668, once peace had been signed with Spain (supported by England and running counter to commitments made in the treaty for a league signed with the French in the previous year), the attempted reconstruction of Portugal involved the idea that political restoration demanded efforts at deeper levels. This process was faced with conflicts, conspiracies, blockades and a series of difficulties at several levels. One of the worst problems was the parlous state of the Portuguese economy, the result of a major imbalance in trade at a time when the direct export of Portuguese products was very low and profits from the trade in products from the colonies and the mainland had passed almost exclusively into the hands of English, Dutch and French merchants. The privileges that these merchants gained from agreements signed with the Portuguese government were the means that Restoration diplomacy found to overcome the attempted Spanish trade embargo. Simultaneously, imports continued to remain at high levels, partly due to structural problems in the Portuguese economy, partly due to their direct or indirect relationship with the trade opportunities granted to the same foreign merchants.

The dire economic situation was compounded by a serious domestic situation caused by the deposition of King Afonso VI (1667) and the regency of Prince Pedro (1668-83), and the major controversy in Portuguese society regarding the Inquisition and the New Christians. The doubts raised about the modus operandi of the Portuguese Inquisition among the Roman Catholic curia led to the Inquisition’s activities being suspended by Pope Clement X (1674) until Pope Innocence XI restored it in the old style (1681) – as the Portuguese court desired – after long and difficult diplomatic negotiations. The Inquisition had established its dual status as an ecclesiastical court and crown court, which enabled it to adopt a relatively autonomous strategy within the Church. As a state within the State, it used the pope to counter the king and vice-versa, when papal decisions could not guarantee its total autonomy. The special characteristics of its constitution – especially regarding the confiscation of the goods of those convicted of heresy or Judaism and the appointment of the Inquisitor General – demonstrate economic interests and close ties to political power. In addition, its power to control and discipline the people – including the clergy themselves – must also be considered, as well as its censorship of books (even though this was not as strict as it may initially have seemed, since the bags of diplomats and many travellers escaped its control).

The relationship between the Inquisition and society was by no means a peaceful one, especially at times when the legality of its exercise of power (as in this period) was being challenged. The problem of succession is one of the weaknesses of monarchies, and even in the relatively common situation of the monarch being a minor, regencies are generally characterised by political instability. In the period in question, Portugal was facing a far rarer situation: a case of "incapacity" that encouraged the emergence of political factions and competition. At such moments, these factional issues often triggered conflicts that could affect the entire society and worsen an already fragile economic situation. The fact that the country had no "crowned king" to lead it called royal authority itself into question and encouraged major internal upheavals. The imprisonment of Lisbon’s leading contract-holders and some members of their families (1672) was followed by a request for a general pardon and for the Inquisition’s operating methods to be reformed, a request presented by the Portuguese Jews of London, via the Jesuits. The pope’s demand that some of the cases be sent to Rome for proper analysis gave rise to fierce debate in Portuguese society, whipping up deeply-rooted social conflicts based on superstition and faith. This led to an extremely serious political and religious conflict that lasted almost seven years and was to have far-reaching economic and social consequences.

Duarte Ribeiro de Macedo was well aware of all this. Study of his proposals for economic development and scrutiny of the moral and religious climate from other times reveal hidden pressures and a collective "non-awareness" that was poorly understood by contemporaries. They show received ideas, feelings and fears, social and moral codes: "ghosts" that were shared by the whole of society at one specific moment. Macedo’s work was marked by the "reforming" spirit of an alert diplomat who did not challenge the regime, but who wished to correct its errors and improve the processes that could bring "happiness" to his fellow citizens. This included "modernising" Lisbon, the capital of his country, with public lighting and daily refuse collection; writing proposals (which he called "papers" or "discourses") that were designed to stimulate the various sectors of production by developing agriculture in both Portugal (rice production) and Brazil (transplanting Asian spices); exploiting Portugal’s natural wealth (marble from the Arrábida hills) and introducing manufacturing, especially for the goods that had caused the imbalance in trade (baize, serge and silk stockings).

He was also concerned with international competition, exchange rates and financial problems, proposing that a large Oriental Trade Company be created and that privileges be granted to New Christians so as to attract Jewish capital. He also worked on monetary reform, gave advice during negotiations with the Dutch, pondered the imbalance in trade in accordance with the country’s interests and the commitments established by treaties, and proposed restrictions on conspicuous consumption and reciprocal customs duties. The idea underlying his proposals was that political restoration also involved restoring the Portuguese economy by re-establishing trade with Asia and recovering the territories lost to the United Provinces, especially Cochin and Cannanore, which the Dutch had conquered after signing a treaty with Portugal in 1661. Sadly, it proved to be impossible to regain these lands under the 1669 treaty, which managed to renegotiate the war debt to the Dutch through payment in salt, a difficult set of negotiations owing everything to the work of Ambassador Francisco de Melo, supported by a Portuguese Jewish agent (Jerónimo Nunes da Costa) and Duarte Ribeiro de Macedo. 

5.3 Finally, the third section covers Duarte Ribeiro de Macedo’s diplomatic activities when dealing with foreign challenges, analysing his role in conjunction with other contemporary agents. This involved two key periods: the negotiations for Portugal to be included in the Peace of the Pyrenees, and the problem of neutrality vis-à-vis efforts to impose French hegemony within the context of the Dutch War (1672-78). In most cases, a country’s foreign policy is a choice from amongst several options. It may use war and armed force, or diplomacy (its instrument of peace), but the borderline between these is not clear. Clausewitz (1831) noted that not even war is an isolated act, nor are its results at all absolute. It has its own language, but not its own logic, in that it cannot be separated from political relations. Duarte Ribeiro de Macedo was a witness to this: the open and brutal force of armies, the hidden corrosive power of corruption and propaganda, and the subtle and cunning strength of diplomacy, all instruments available to States in order to defend their interests, satisfy their desires, justify their decisions or demonstrate their power.

The peace of 1659 was nothing more than a brief ceasefire that Louis XIV broke at the first opportunity (the War of Devolution, 1667-68). Portugal seized the chance, since the time was ripe for peace with Spain. Macedo, who had watched helplessly as the Portuguese cause had been abandoned at the Pyrenees for the sake of French interests, was ultimately chosen to explain to the French king why the undertakings made to him (protecting Portuguese interests) had been broken. The complex web or chessboard of international relations, always different and always the same, emerges from his letters and from the cross-referencing of the information to be found in Portuguese and foreign texts. Questions may well be asked about the positions adopted with regard to foreign policy and international pressures; the challenges and interests of the different powers in a complex web of bilateral and multilateral relations; the means used to take decisions; the pressure imposed by "stronger" countries and the often decisive role of the "small" countries; the negotiations (official, secret, personal); the players (kings, ministers, counsellors, diplomats); the tools (diplomacy, armies and fleets, propaganda and espionage); the interweaving of war and peace, allegations of "just cause" to congresses and U-turns in alliances, while war was continued as a means of deliberately influencing ongoing negotiations.

A global vision of Portugal’s geo-strategic position reveals that the country was caught between a large, powerful Spain and the Atlantic, that it had an almost-lost empire in the Indian Ocean and a vast and emerging Brazil, whose economy was based on slave labour supplied by Africa. Within the framework of the Franco-Dutch War, the diplomat’s writings proposed a political alliance with France, since this could counterbalance Dutch and English interests in the Orient. Yet while the debate on foreign policy alignments divided politicians, the Portuguese people were above all concerned with economic and religious problems. The patriotic proposals for national defence, led by the "French party", put forward the idea of an alliance to prevent potential threats from Spain. The support of France, confidently expected to emerge victorious from the war with Holland, enjoyed the court’s approval because of the supposed advantages and greater facilities in recovering the lost colonial territories. However, public opinion was not concerned with medium-term or geographically distant issues, either in Europe or overseas, as was abundantly demonstrated by the Cortes (Portuguese parliament) held in 1674.
The Jewish question and the suspension of the Inquisition, the plot against Prince Pedro (1673) and fears of another war with Spain all help to explain Portuguese distance from international commitments. While never completely abandoning such issues, Portugal maintained an extremely cautious foreign policy, resisting the pressure from Louis XIV and his English ally (a stance that Charles II took after the Secret Treaty of Dover and against his own parliament, which was hostile to his Catholic Portuguese queen). When faced with questions related to the balance of power in Europe that had an impact far beyond its borders, the Portuguese government abstained, sacrificing Cochin and Cannanore, which would anyway have been hard to recapture. Was this a case of hesitation, the result of some inconclusive discussion between the different power groups, or a case of caution dictated by observing the contradictions and precarious nature of international alliances? Was it a deliberate policy of neutrality or a decision that was prudently and progressively postponed until such time as the interplay between the major powers was clearly defined? The regent’s delay in making a favourable reply to French requests, pondering the decision within the context of a fragile and contradictory situation at home, with factional upheaval and confrontations, made this alliance impossible. After the war, Carlos II of Spain’s marriage to Louise d’Orléans, Louis XIV’s niece, increased the fears among some counsellors and public opinion regarding the former Spanish supremacy and the recent French hegemony.

6. In conclusion, although – in the medium and long term – the proposals made by Duarte Ribeiro de Macedo ultimately failed both in terms of foreign policy and in the battle to stimulate the internal economy, the bases that led to the development of stable diplomatic relations had been established. Portuguese diplomacy modelled itself on the French system, which Macedo’s correspondence disseminated far and wide, adapting it and assessing it according to the possibilities and interests of the mature experience of a State that had constantly given proof of its capacity to exercise its independence. The distinguishing feature of Prince Pedro’s regency was that it distanced itself from Louis XIV’s attempts to impose French hegemony, but Portuguese reticence was selective and not everything was simple or clear. The economic policy adopted by the Council of Finance brought enthusiasm, hope and some success. Even the English, who tried to renegotiate the trade agreements of 1654 and 1661, took almost thirty years to achieve their goal, with Ambassador Sir Francis Parry failing in 1672, but with John Methuen succeeding in 1703. Yet the question must be posed within the context of the Spanish War of Succession. Given the dilemma of the continental blockade formed by Spain and France, there was always the possibility of the Atlantic alliance with England and the promises made from the other side of the sea.


Duarte Ribeiro de Macedo’s Publications

1642 CONCLVSIONES LOGICAS DEFENDENDAS (...) svb patrocinio R. P. M. Benedicti Pereira Societàtis IESV, Vlisippone, Off. Laurentij de Anueres, 1642.

1650 Soneto, Madrigal e Elegia, Memórias fúnebres sentidas pelos ingenhos portugueses, na morte da Senhora Dona Maria de Attayde, Lisboa, Off. Craesbekiana, 1650, fls. 22, 26, 59.

1661 DISCURSO POLÍTICO QUE O CONDE DE SOURE (...), deu ao Cardeal Mazarine (...) MOSTRASE POR 27 RAZOENS forçosissimas, como França por justiça, e por conveniencia não devia fazer a paz sem inclusão de Portugal. Foi impresso em Pariz na Lingoa Franceza no anno de 1659, Lisboa, Off. de Henrique Valete de Oliveira, 1661.

1666 Juízo histórico político sobre a paz celebrada entre as coroas de França e Castela no ano de 1660. Lisboa, Off. de João da Costa, 1666.

1668 Aristippo, ou Homem de Corte escrito em lingua Franceza por Monsieur de Balsac, Paris, Off. de Estienne Maucroy, 1668.

1669 Panegirico histórico genealógico da Sereníssima Casa de Nemurs. Offerecido à Senhora Rainha da Gram Bretanha, Paris, Off. de Estienne Maucroy, 1669.

1670 Nascimento e Genealogia do Conde D. Henrique Pay de Dom Affonso Henriques I Rey de Portugal, Paris, Off. de Roberto Chevillion, 1670.

1676 Advertencias al adicionador de la Historia del Padre Juan de Mariana, Impressa en Madrid en el Año de 1669 escritas por Mr. de Cohon Truel, Gentilhombre Francez, Cavalero de la Orden de Santiago, Teniente General de la Artilleria y Engeniéro Mayor de las Fortíficaciones de la Beira en el Reyno de Portugal, Paris, 1676.

1677 Vida da Imperatriz Teodora. Offerecida à Princeza N. S.ra Jurada Successora destes Reynos, Lisboa, Off. de Joam da Costa, 1677.

1729 Discursos Políticos e Obras Métricas de Duarte Duarte Ribeiro de Macedo, Ulyssiponense, Dezembargador dos Agravos, do Conselho de S. Magestade, & do de sua Fazenda, Enviado Ordinario à Corte de França, & Extraordinario à de Castella, & Turim, Cavalleyro da Ordem de Christo, &tc., (...), Coimbra, Off. de José Antunes da Silva, 1729, 28 pp.

1743 Obras do Doutor Duarte Ribeiro de Macedo, Cavalleiro da Ordem de Christo, do Conselho de Sua Magestade, e do de Sua Real Fazenda, Enviado que foi às Cortes de Pariz, de Madrid, e de Turim, 2 Tomos, Lisboa, Off. de António Isidoro da Fonseca, 1743.

1767 Idem, ibidem, Lisboa, Off. de Antonio Rodrigues Galhardo, 1767.

1817 Obras inéditas de Duarte Ribeiro de Macedo, Desembargador dos Aggravos da Casa da Suplicação, Cavalleiro Professo da Ordem de Christo e Concelheiro da Fazenda do senhor Rei D. Affonso Sexto. Dedicadas ao muito alto e poderoso Senhor D. João VI, Rei dos Reinos-Unidos de Portugal, Brazil e Algarves por António Lourenço Caminha, Professor Régio de Rhetorica e Poética e Cavalleiro da Real Ordem de Sant-Iago, Lisboa, Impressão Régia, Anno 1817.

1827 Cartas do Padre António Vieira da Companhia de Jesus a Duarte Ribeiro de Macedo, Lisboa, Impressão de Eugénio Augusto, 1827 – (with 16 letters from Duarte Ribeiro de Macedo to Vieira, Paris, 1671, 1672.

1922 «Discurso sôbre a introdução das artes em Portugal» e «Observações sôbre a transplantação dos fructos da India ao Brasil», Moses Bensabat Amzalak, O diplomata Duarte Ribeiro de Macedo e os seus discursos sôbre Economia Política, Lisboa, 1922, pp. 11-38.

1924 «Sobre a Introdução das Artes», Antologia dos Economistas Portugueses, Selecção, Prefácio e Notas de António Sérgio, Lisboa, Of. Gráficas da Biblioteca Nacional, 1924, pp. 243-325.

1970 «Papel que fez o Doutor Duarte Ribeiro de Macedo que intitula. Verdadeiras causas da Prosperidade da Monarchia de França, e declinaçam da de Castella», Maria Teresa Trigo Neto e Cova, «O Pensamento político de Duarte Ribeiro de Macedo», Do Tempo e da História, Vol. III, Instituto de Alta Cultura, Centro de Estudos Históricos, Faculdade de Letras da Universidade de Lisboa, 1970.

1974, 1975 «Sobre a Introdução das Artes», Antologia dos Economistas Portugueses (Século XVII), Selecção, Prefácio e Notas de António Sérgio, Lisboa, Sá da Costa, 1974 e 1975, pp. 167-229.


Source material

France: Archives du Ministère des Affaires Étrangères, Bibliothèque Nationale de France.
Germany : Geheimes Staatsarchiv Preubischer Kulturbesitz.
Great Britain: British Library, Public Record Office.
Portugal: Arquivo Distrital de Évora, Arquivo Municipal Alfredo Pimenta, Arquivo da Universidade de Coimbra, Arquivos Nacionais/Torre do Tombo, Biblioteca da Academia das Ciências de Lisboa, Biblioteca da Ajuda, Biblioteca Geral da Universidade de Coimbra, Biblioteca Nacional de Lisboa, Biblioteca Pública de Évora, Biblioteca Pública Municipal do Porto.
Spain: Archivo General de Simancas.



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e-JPH, Vol.4, number 1, Summer 2006