John J. Burns Library's Blog

Portrait of the Marquis of Pombal, owned by the Museu Nacional de Soares dos Reis. Portrait of the Marquis of Pombal, owned by the Museu Nacional de Soares dos Reis.

In 1759, the Prime Minister of Portugal, Sebastião José de Carvalho e Melo (later the Marquis of Pombal), convinced his king to expel the Jesuits. Carvalho justified his actions through continued attacks on the Jesuits in a string of French publications, printed in Paris.

Meanwhile, half a world away on the Caribbean island of Martinique, a French Jesuit named Père Antoine La Valette faced mounting debts, his investments lost in the ongoing Seven Years War. As La Valette’s financial struggles became an increasingly public problem, a desperate struggle ensued over the reputation the Jesuit Order.

Carvalho found a ready audience for his invective in France because he attacked the propriety of one of the Jesuits’ most prized memories, their missionary successes among the Guaraní of Paraguay. Although Carvalho’s accusations were being published in French no later than 1758, the French literati

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