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He entered the Portuguese navy in 1747, and served in South America. In 1760 he became governor-general of Brazil, and during his administration of twenty years he greatly improved the colony. He developed the culture of indigo and rice, and introduced the first coffee-trees into the colony.
He also endeavored to civilize the Indians instead of persecuting them like most of his predecessors, and founded villages in countries where formerly no European had dared to travel.
Under his administration Brazil grew rich and prosperous. He first conceived the idea of making the culture of the Ipecacuanha meaning “sick making plant” - Ipecac Syrup of ipecac tree a source of profit to the colony and had thousands of them planted, thus opening to Brazil a new branch of trade.
He also did much to ameliorate the condition of the poorer classes and to check the insolence of the aristocracy toward the people. Alfonso de Varnhagen, in his Historia geral do Brazil, praises him as a benefactor of the colony, and his name has been given recently (circa 1892) to one of the principal streets of Rio Janeiro.
In 1781 he was relieved of his command in Brazil and appointed vice-admiral.
In 1782 he commanded the Portuguese fleet in South America, and in the following year became president of the admiralty and privy councillor of the king, which post he held till his death.
- Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, Vol. III., p. 636 (1892)