The fight for fungibility in 1720

The so-called Filipe dos Santos Revolt is also known by historians as the Vila Rica Revolt, for having occurred in this city, today being the city of Ouro Preto. It occurred in the eighteenth century, in the year 1720.

In the eighteenth century mining activities were the main economic activity in Brazil and from which the Portuguese Crown derived much of its profit. The region of Minas Gerais, when discovered gold, silver and precious stones, eventually attracted many people, settlers who wanted to explore gold and make a fortune. The entire economy, until then, was based on sugar cane plantation in the Northeast region of Brazil and, when gold and silver were discovered, all economic and political focus was shifted to the Minas Gerais region and the Southeast region. Thus, Minas Gerais became the largest mining center and was the propitious stage for several episodes of revolts, rebellions and riots. The Portuguese Crown would eventually end up taxing this region heavily, charging high taxes and levies on gold, silver and precious metals. With the smuggling in these places, the taxes increased more and more. A well-known example of tax was the fifth, which was the tax levied on all gold mined, that is, 20% of that gold had to be paid to the Portuguese government. Gold was also forbidden to circulate in its dust or nuggets, as smuggling and thus the evasion of the fifth became easier. Therefore, gold could only circulate in bars and those who disrespected were severely punished.

All of these fees and taxes charged generated dissatisfaction among the population, settlers, and mine owners. Also remembering that there were severe punishments and great supervision for no smuggling. Among the causes of this revolt was the creation of the famous foundry houses, which was where gold was melted, turned into bars, and placed the seal of the Kingdom. It was then that the fifth was removed: every five gold bars, one was confiscated by the Crown. Four houses of this kind were installed and there could only be the bar gold trade with the royal seal.

In this context, Filipe dos Santos, a local farmer and drover, owner of mule troops who transported the goods, eventually attracted the most popular and urban middle classes. He was talking about the end of the Foundry Houses and the diminution of oversight by the metropolis. In 1720 the Foundry House of Vila Rica was installed. And so began the revolt led by Filipe dos Santos who tried to decrease the fifth gold. It also tried to combat the monopoly of various products that were consumed in the region.

More than 2000 people rebelled and there were no troops to fight the rebels. Thus, the Count of Assumar promised to heed the claims, but eventually repressed with violence as soon as a troop was formed. Philip was sentenced to death and the Foundry Houses continued. What really changed was that Minas Gerais separated from the captaincy of São Paulo.

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