I've been reading some articles written in 1846 and 1851 concerning the events immediately preceeding the major riot of August 9, 1846, which resulted in the escape to Trinidad. (Thanks, Jo-Anne and David, for the books.)
One British subject, Capt. Tate, wrote the following letter. Although just one person's viewpoint it gives some color to the events leading up to the big August 9th riot.
Some background: This letter was written concerning events on August 2, 1846, at the home of the Misses Rutherfords. The Rutherfords were British subjects, friends of our "Calvinista" exiles. Their home is now the official residence of the Governor of Madeira. Click here for a drawing of it ca 1850, now the Quinta Vigia, then known as the Quinta das Angustias. Quite a place.
The person referred to below as Senhor Arsenio later became the exile's pastor, Rev. Arsenio da Silva.
I've tucked a few comments in, below, within brackets . [They are my notes, not part of the letter.]
This info was drawn from Memoir of the Rev. W.H. Hewitson by The Rev. John Baillie, 1851, and Record of Facts concerning the Persecutions at Madeira in 1843 and 1846 by Rev. Herman Norton, 1849.
"... 2nd August, 1846... Miss Rutherford [gave] permission to a Portuguese gentleman to meet a few friends in the Quinta das Angustias, which she was occupying with her sisters, as a summer residence. The object of the meeting was prayer, praise, reading the sacred Scriptures, and the perusal of a letter from a common friend in England. Between 30 and 40 came together for these ends, on the morning of the 2nd of August...
[Later in the day, Senhor Arsenio was leaving the meeting and accosted by Conego Tellese, a dignitary of the Catholic church, educated in England, who demanded that Arsenio kiss a Catholic image. Upon refusing, Arsenio's hat was knocked off and he escaped unharmed thru the mob. In the afternoon, Dr. Kalley arrived to provide medical assistance to one of the Rutherford sisters who was seriously ill. Kalley had no knowledge of the morning meeting, and was surprised by the mob but decided to attend the sister anyway. His groom was "violently" beaten and told he would be killed if he returned to Dr. Kalley. Dr. Kalley was able to ride thru unharmed, some of the mob even "taking off their hats to him." Interesting. Some accounts feel the mob was paid to harrass the exiles.-dak]
Captain Tate's letter continues...
"Having heard late in the afternoon, of the painful situation in which the Misses Rutherfords were placed by the threatening attitude of the mob I rode down to the Angustias, with a view to afford them any protection, counsel or comfort in my power, as well as to watch the further motions of the people. I arrived at half-past six, when I found that the police had been withdrawn. The canon, however, with various other priests, was on the ground, and an unusual number of persons were walking and talking in the neighborhood. I accordingly resolved upon returning at ten, and remaining in the house during the night, should my presence be required by the ladies under the circumstances in which they were placed. Soon after ten I returned, at which time Conego Telles was seen in the road, with a crowd of people talking in groups around the gate. Through them I was permitted to ride quietly, but not, as we afterwards discovered, without much consultation on the subject amongst the ringleaders of the mob. Being out on the balcony about eleven o'clock, ... the sound of human voices warned us that the mob had come within the gates. We now perceived a number of men armed with bludgeons standing at the front door, and at once warned them off the grounds. Miss Rutherford addressed them in Portuguese, using every argument to induce them to retire. She reminded them that their appearance there at such an hour, and in such an attitude, was contrary to all law, while their conduct was seriously endangering the life of an invalid lady [the other Miss Rutherford]. She cautioned them to beware of illegal proceedings; she told them that they might surround the house and wait for daylight, or send for the police if they suspected there was any criminal within, for to the police, with a legal warrant, she would open the door the instant the sun was up. The people were at the same time assured that the case would be represented in the morning to her Britannic majesty's representative at Funchal. To this they replied that "they did not care for the English counsel" -- "there was no law for the Calvinistas" and "they could appeal to the governor." [By some accounts, the governor appeared to support the mob; he was later removed from his post by the Queen of Portugal.] They had a right, they said, "to do what they liked, and all the Portuguese in that house should die." They then insisted upon immediate entrance, or that the Portuguese should be delivered up to their vengeance. Both were, of course, refused, when they declared their intention to force their way; with the threat that if they did so every soul they found within should die. A low whistle was given by the ringleaders, which was immediately answered by a further rush of men, who now amounted to 50 or 60, armed with clubs and bludgeons. Seeing all remonstrance vain, that the people were partially-intoxicated by liquor, and were now planting their comrades in all directions round the Quinta, we retired from the balcony into the house, shutting and bolting the windows as we went. Having done this we repaired to the chamber of the invalid, and committed ourselves unreservedly to the care of Him who alone could overrule the will of His enemies, and make the wrath of man to praise him.
"In a short time the smashing of windows, and crash of the bludgeons on the door, announced that the money and liquor of the enemy were fearfully doing their work. Amidst the yells of the mob, the cry was still heard for admittance: when Miss Rutherford again addressed them in that calm, gentle, temperate, yet firm and dignified manner which distinguished her conduct through the night. One of the ringleaders desired her to speak in English, but she answered that "she spoke not for his ear only, but for those of all that were present." She then, in the most courteous way begged them to withdraw, urging the danger they were incurring by so acting in violation of the law. "Não há leis pelos Calvinistas," (There are no laws for Calvinists) was the reply... with a future threat, that if the doors were not immediately opened they would burn the house to the ground. Another smash of windows followed, and one of the mob yelled out aloud [to Miss Rutherford]... "you had better retire, or I will kill you." Miss Rutherford sprang back, and a huge stone fell upon the spot which she had occupied... The smashing at the door was now resumed with fearful violence, and repeated at short intervals. As each blow fell upon the windows and door, and resounded through the house, a shudder passed over the invalid's weak frame... Meanwhile Miss Rutherford and Clarke, her English maid, were exerting themselves to conceal the poor Christians from the anticipated attack. They consisted almost exclusively of women... but they were protestants -- they had not been to mass, nor had they lately paid the fees of confession... They were marked out by the priesthood for vengeance, and the end was to justify the means. For their greater security they were hurried into the kitchen, at the remote end of the house; that being the apartment likely to be last reached by the assailants, and from which there was a stair down to the garden. All but a poor blind man were shut in here, and he, perhaps the happiest of the party, was put under a bed in a spare room, over which some dresses were carelessly thrown to conceal him from view. He was told that there was no help but in his God, and that he must plead with him to put out his arm and save him. [We'll never know if this man was our blind gggg-uncle, Joze Nunes, but I certainly appreciated this little detail.dak] We also commended the whole of our party to the care of our heavenly Father, praying that he would be to each of us individually a very present help in this our time of trouble; that he would teach us to pray, that he would help our unbelief and confirm our faith; and above all, that he would uphold us, so that not one of our number, for any pains of death, should fall from Him. The seats were then removed from the room in which the meeting had been held. Bibles and bonnets were put out of the way, so that no additional cause for excitement might inflame the rabble as they entered. Still crash succeeded crash, and blow succeeded blow! What a contrast, thought I, between those without and those within the house!... After a few more crushing blows, the door of the house flew open. Still none dared enter... The ruffians sent for lights, which they made little boys carry in their front!! They then searched every room in the lower part of the house, but in vain.
"Soon after midnight, just as arrangements were completed above, lights were extinguished on the staircase, and almost immediately they entered the drawing-room. Off this room was the invalid's chamber, and thither the rioters directed their course. Six or eight of the ruffians, preceded by boys carrying lights, flashing in their faces, daringly entered the room and demanded the Portuguese... they were informed that the Portuguese were not there, and would not be given up; and desired, moreover, not to come farther into the sick lady's room. ...A guard being left in the drawing-room they proceeded in search of their victims; a rather tedious process by the way, in a house with 20 bedrooms and 6 sitting rooms, besides a chapel and closets of all kinds. At length we heard the yell of triumph. The victims had been found. Resistance was not thought of, but they were all on their knees in prayer to God. One was seized--his head laid open to the bone and himself thrown over the bannisters to the ground. Here the mob were beating him with clubs and dragging him out to be murdered in the garden, 'for it is a less crime', said they 'to kill him there.' At the very moment of opening the door by which to drag out their intended victim the police and soldiers entered, thus catching them in the very act of outrage and intended murder... Two of the ruffians were then secured, marched off and lodged in jail. The rest fled through the house... We soon discovered that the police were in possession of the kitchen, and taking our party under their charge, they conducted them in safety to their homes. ... The noise had, it appeared, been heard in the town, but no force was in readiness to quell disturbance; or in ten minutes they might have reached the Angustias."
"... These acts terminated not on the 2nd of August, but continued from day to day, and from one degree of outrage to another..."
[end of extracts from Tate's letter...]