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Police Science and Cameralism in Portuguese Enlightened Reformism

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e-JPH, Vol. 8, number 1, Summer 2010 Police Science and Cameralism in Portuguese Enlightened Reformism: economic ideas and the administration of the state during the second half of the 18th century1 Alexandre Mendes Cunha2 Abstract Reflection upon cameralism and the police in the context of enlightened reformism offers suggestive insights into the links between economic ideas and the administration of the state. The Portuguese case is an interesting example of how those ideas are assimilated and put into practice. This paper first presents the characteristics of Portuguese enlightened reformism and its place in the history of ideas. After that, cameralism and the police are investigated, with particular attention being paid to the legislative action of the king. Finally, the paper analyzes and discusses this process of the assimilation of ideas, supported by examples of the Portuguese experience in centralizing the administration of the public finances within the Royal Treasury and in providing technical training to public officers through the School of Commerce. Key-words Cameralism, Police Science, Royal Treasury, School of Commerce, Enlightened Reformism Resumo A reflexão sobre o cameralismo e a polícia no contexto do reformismo ilustrado é de grande interesse para a reflexão acerca da articulação entre as idéias econômicas e a administração do estado, sendo o caso português um exemplo dos mais interessantes de como estas idéias foram assimiladas e colocadas em prática. O presente artigo primeiramente apresenta as características do reformismo ilustrado português e o seu lugar na história das idéias e, na seqüência, explora a relação entre cameralismo e ciência da polícia, com particular atenção para o tema da ação legislativa do monarca. O artigo encaminha então uma discussão deste processo de assimilação de idéias sustentada pelo exemplo concreto da experiência portuguesa nos campos da centralização da administração das finanças públicas com base no Erário Régio e do papel da Aula de Comércio na formação técnica de uma burocracia especializada. Palavras-chave Cameralismo, Ciência da Polícia, Erário Régio, Aula de Comércio, Reformismo Ilustrado. 1 I am grateful to José Luís Cardoso, Alexander B. Bick and two anonymous referees of e-JPH for their helpful comments. The usual disclaimer applies. I would also like to express my thanks to CNPq (Brazilian National Council of Research) and FAPEMIG (The State of Minas Gerais Research Foundation) for the financial support that they gave me at different times during my research. 2 Federal University of Minas Gerais, Brazil. E-Mail:[email protected] Police Science and Cameralism in Portuguese Enlightened Reformism e-JPH, Vol. 8, number 1, Summer 2010 2 Enlightened Reformism and the history of economic ideas In a paper published in 1984, Fernando Novais succeeds in capturing a central aspect of Portugal’s position within the European framework of the Enlightenment. According to this author, in the Portuguese case, there was a lack of synchronicity between theory and practice, in other words between the elaboration of ideas and their application in reality. The political activity of Sebastião José de Carvalho e Melo, better known as the Marquis of Pombal (the title that he was awarded in 1769), stands as an important milestone in the development of Enlightened Reformism during the second half of the eighteenth century. However, despite Portugal having been one of the first nations to afford a practical application to ideas of this kind, it does not figure as one of the countries where enlightened ideas were actually formulated. Such an emphasis on the practical aspects of enlightened ideas is directly related to the multiplicity of sources that informed the political and economic action of the Portuguese state at that time and helps us to understand the eclectic nature of Enlightened Reformism in this country. This eclecticism can be noted, for example, in an excerpt taken from one of the key authors in the construction of eighteenth-century economic discourse in Portugal, Domenico Vandelli. From the beginning of his memorandum on the preference that Portugal should give to agriculture instead of manufacturing (1789), he reflects on the importance of Political Arithmetic for the administration of the realm. In his view, all branches of the civil economy should be guided by principles derived from “good” Political Arithmetic; nevertheless, before accepting any one political and economic system, it was also necessary to examine this system and set it against the nation’s present circumstances (Vandelli, 1789).3 Even though eclecticism was a common characteristic of Portuguese economic thought in the second half of the eighteenth century, it is also a fact that the discourse of political economy was gradually becoming more and more influential at that time. By the beginning of the nineteenth century, this discourse had already become predominant in economic thought, and the ideas of an author such as José da Silva Lisboa, who was responsible for the first translations of Adam Smith into Portuguese, are a good example of this. Nevertheless, it is also important to stress that the eclectic combination of those ideas (which included political arithmetic, but also different perspectives on mercantilism, physiocracy, etc) would continue to be the main feature of Portuguese economic thought for some time. Cameralism, for example, was one part of that Portuguese eclectic collection of ideas and maintained its significant influence on economic discourse until well into the first half of the nineteenth century. It is important to stress that the emergence of economic discourse in Portugal did not happen by chance, nor was it the direct result of the simple intensification of contacts with other nations. From the very first moment, the Portuguese state was a decisive agent in this process. The reforms introduced by the Marquis of Pombal were responsible for the opening up of new administrative perspectives (with a direct impact on the educational system), as


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