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Pedro I of Brazil

Many of the Brazilians never liked the Portuguese for all the obvious reasons. They were foreign. Many were arrogant towards the colonials. When the mass exile (15,000 people!) of the royal court and its hangers occurred in 1808, the natives were displaced and monies had to be reallocated to support them. Although some Brazilians loved the majesty and mystique of royal life, nationalists resented the Portuguese presence. So, too, did those interested in a republic. When Napoleon was defeated in 1815 and his threat to ended, some thought or hoped that King João VI would return. But he didn't. He raised Brazil to an equal status with Portugal and stayed another six years, Finally, political matters in Portugal got so difficult that he had to return. In April, 1821, Emperor and King João VI leaves for Portugal, leaving his son Pedro as regent with José Bonifácio de Andrada e Silva of São Paulo as the Minister of the Kingdom and of Foreign Relations.

Bonifácio (1763-1838) was a scientist but he is more important as the architect of Brazilian independence for it was he and his friends who advised Pedro to break with Portugal.

Pedro lifted the duty on foreign books, abolished censorship, ordered the teaching of law at the universities of São Paula and Olinda, and encouraged immigration, all with the urging of Bonifácio.

In 1821, the Côrtes Gerais met in Portugal, including some Brazilian delegates, and ordered Pedro to return home. Freemasons, which had been founded in Río de Janeiro in 1800, circulate a petition asking Pedro to remain. The Masons had liberal and conservative factions with Bonifácio leading the conservatives. These radicals were united, however, on the necessity of Brazil determining its own destiny. In January, 1822, he replied "Fico! (I will stay!). That month, the Portuguese garrison in Río was determined to seize Pedro and ship him to Portugal but the people of Río and the militia forced the garrison to leave without him.

Pedro created a Council of Ministers (procuradores, representatives from the provinces) to serve as an advisory group but only a few provinces sent delegates. He declared that no law from Portugal could be enforced in Brazil without his permission. Pedro called a constituent and legislative assembly . Thus, Pedro had all but declared independence.

He had to secure support in the states near Río. Minas Gerais and São Paulo were the most populous states and had no Portuguese garrisons but Minas Gerais did not support the idea of independence. Pedro plunged into that state on horseback and won them over, using the prestige of royalty to do so. Then he headed for São Paulo.

On September 7, 1822, he issued the Grito de Ypiranga, proclaiming Brazilian independence. In December, he has himself crowned Emperor of Brazil. But he controlled only Minas Gerais, São Paulo, Río de Janeiro, and Río Grande do Sul. The other states were pro-Portugal or had Portuguese garrisons. To deal with this situation, Pedro I hired the British admiral, Thomas Lord Cochrane, who has been instrumental in other Latin American independence movements, to drive the Portuguese out. Other than Bahía, where local folks rid themselves of the Portuguese garrison in July, 1823, Cochrane drove the garrison out of Brazil by 1824.

His relations with the ninety-person constituent assembly were bad. He had said that he would only approve a document if it were worthy of his respect, thus revealing his attitude that he was sovereign, not the assembly. Although José Bonifácio de Andrada e Silva had supported independence, it was not with the idea that this Portuguese man, even if he was a monarch, would dictate policy in Brazil. In July, 1823, Pedro annuls a series of Andrada's police measures, driving the Andrada brothers into opposition. They attacked the Portuguese (as opposed to Brazilian) ministers of state that Pedro had appointed. Relations with the assembly worsened as it went into permanent session. Pedro couldn't stomach such an affront to his power and dignity. He sent troops to dissolve the assembly. He exiled the Andrada brothers. In that same year, 1823, in Portugal, Pedro's brother Miguel tried to overthrow their father and restore absolute monarchy. João grabbed control. Portugal asked Pedro to return but he refused. He had cast his lot with Brazil. So he called together a committee if Brazilians to finish the work of the assembly. He was careful to make sure that it created a document to his liking, a document which would be his gift to Brazil..

Constitution of 1824

The document was modeled after the 1816 French constitution which had been written for the restored Bourbon dynasty. Under its terms, the Emperor had most of the authority. He directly controlled two of the four branches of government--the executive and the "moderating power--while selecting the Senate members for life from lists sent by the provinces (states). The Chamber of Deputies was elected for a four-year term but very few people could vote. He appointed the Council of State, the Cabinet ministers, and the presidents of the provinces. Besides being able to veto legislation passed by the General Assembly, he could call and dismiss the Assembly at will. He also held the Patronato, the royal patronage, with the right to appoint ecclesiastical officials and decide which papal pronouncements could be published in Brazil.

Given the conservative nature of the document, the constitution was surprising liberal when it came to civil liberties. It guaranteed individual freedom and equality before the law. While it specified that Roman Catholicism was the official religion, it tolerated other religions--as long as their buildings did not look like churches.

Pedro I met resistance to his rule. In 1824, there was a republican revolt in Recife, up in the northeast, the old Brazil. This "Confederation of the Equator" was beaten but the revolt indicated that regionalism was strong and dangerous. Some of the Brazilian elite became angry when they learned that Pedro had secretly agreed to pay the British £1,400,000 of the debt Portugal had incurred, ostensibly because of Brazil, and £600,00 to King João VI. Brazil finances would be squeezed. In 1821, João VI had incorporated present-day Uruguay into Brazil as the Cisalpine Province. Brazilian troops withdrew in 1824 but the Uruguayans, with the aid of Argentines, fought for independence in the Uruguayan war (1825-28), which Brazil lost. Although Brazilians had never been very interested in Uruguay, they resented losing. João VI died in March, 1826 and Pedro was declared IV of Portugal. He accepted but each kingdom wanted him to decide on one kingship--theirs. So he renounced the throne in favor of his daughter, María, who was in Portugal, but he kept a close eye on affairs there. Brazilians resented this. In 1829, he dismissed the liberal cabinet. When German and Irish troops mutinied, they were repressed but Pedro fired the War minister. The rest of the Cabinet resigned. Without consulting the Chamber of Deputies, he appointed his own people, once again angering the Chamber which thought ministers of state should be responsible to it. Worse, the government had very few sources of revenue, making it impossible to smooth over problems with money. Pedro resorted to inflating the currency by printing money and issuing copper coins, thus worsening the financial situation.

Events got better temporarily because the Marquis de Barbacena formed a popular and law-abiding ministry in 1829. Moreover, Barbacena found the beautiful Amelia of Leuchtenberg, whom Pedro married in 1829.

His political honeymoon was short-lived. The French Revolution of 1830 encouraged his opposition because they saw a monarchy overthrown peacefully. The conservatives resented his appointing liberals to office; the liberals feared absolute monarchy and tried to get ministerial responsibility to the Chamber; absolutist thought he was too wishy-washy; and the radicals, those who advocated a republic, wanted him out. Fear of his absolutism forced a crisis. He turned against Barbacena and refused to appoint a liberal ministry. Then an Italian journalist was murdered and the government was suspected. Tension increased. On March 13, 1831, his supporters and detractors fought, throwing bottles at each other. This "Night of the Bottles" encouraged Pedro to appoint a ministry of moderate Brazilians (he had been avoiding being too close publically to his Portuguese friends) but, again, didn't consult the Chamber. And none were deputies, another insult. When the opposition got too strong and disorderly, he fired them on April 4th and appointed an aristocratic ministry. He appeared to be headed towards more absolutism. Protests followed. When the army abandoned him, he abdicated on April 6th. He sailed to Portugal on a British ship, taking all the loot he could, and preparing to battle his brother Miguel, who had proclaimed himself king, in favor if his daughter, María. His five-year old son was named Pedro II, Emperor of Brazil, and a regency was created to govern.

by Don Mabry