Portugal’s first attempt at colonizing Brazil was done by instituting hereditary
captaincies, which were private administrative divisions. This was due to
Portugal’s small population and the crowns lack of funds to institute a full
blown colonization supported by the monarchy.
When these captaincies failed and the crown had seen the potential of the
resources Brazil had to offer such as: brazilwood, sugarcane, and goldmines,
the king ordered that a central government be formed and to turn the
colonization of Brazil back into a royal enterprise.
In 1549 the king sent Tome de Sousa, the first Governor‐General of Brazil to
establish a central government in the colony. His first task was to establish the
first capital city, Salvador da Bahia.
From 1553‐1557 the second Governor‐General, Duarte da
Costa had little success due to the numerous encounters
he faced with hostile natives as well as severe disputes
with other colonizers.
The third Governor‐General serving from 1557‐1573 was Mem de Sa. He was
successful in defeating the native aborigines and expelling the French
Calvinists that had established a colony in Rio de Janeiro.
Due to Brazils large size it was divided into two states in 1621, the Estado de
Brasil with Salvador as its colony and the Estado de Maranhao with its capital
in Sao Luis.
In 1640 the Governors of Brazil began using the title Viceroy and by 1763 Brazil
officially became a Viceroyalty. In 1775 all Brazilian Estado’s were unified into
the Viceroyalty of Brazil with Rio de Janeiro serving as the capital.
This transformation took over two hundred years and by 1775 Brazil operated
just as Portugal did with a city council made up of prominent figures of
colonial society in each city and village, which were responsible for things such
as regulating commerce, public infrastructure, professional artisans, prisons,
and all the necessities to run a city.