Bonifácio de Andrada e Silva, José
by Josh Rupert
José Bonifácio de Andrada e Silva was a Brazilian statesman and scientist,
often referred to as "The Greatest Man in Brazilian History" was born in Santos,
Sao Paulo, Brazil in 1763. Some say that in Brazilian history, José Bonifácio
is what Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, and George Washington
were in the history of the United States but all combined into one person. Since
José Bonifácio is almost unknown to most Americans, we will discuss some of
the many accomplishments of José Bonifácio's life.
José Bonifácio studied geology in Europe and graduated in Law and Natural
Philosophy in Coimbra and joined the Science Academy of Lisbon where he gained
international fame as a geologist. While he was in Europe, he conducted several
studies in Chemistry and Mineralogy with other important scientists collecting
data. José Bonifácio was commissioned in 1790 by the Portuguese government to
conduct several scientific surveys in many countries across Europe. His
findings led him to study mining, mineralogy, and chemistry in Paris and
mining in Saxony. This was a 10 year process of studies that gained him a
widely known reputation as a natural scientist of note. During his studies,
he discovered four new minerals and eight types of unknown species. In 1800,
José Bonifácio went to Portugal and was appointed as general intendant of mines.
In Portugal, he began a teaching career at the University of Coimbra where he
held an assortment of technical, scientific and administrative positions. With
the rise of Napoleonic invasion, José Bonifácio helped to fight the French from
1808 to 1810, achieving the rank of lieutenant colonel and a command position.
He also taught at the University of Coimbra and could fluently speak four of the
twelve languages he had studied. When he returned to Brazil in 1819,
after 36 years of absence from his homeland, he continued his studies in areas
of science. After being back in Brazil, Bonifácio focused more towards
political actions and became more involved with the independence of Brazil
and was appointed as head of the Ministry for Kingdom and Overseas Affairs.
Dom João VI, the Portuguese monarch, fled from Portugal in 1807 to Brazil to
escape capture by Napoleon's troops. He brought with him large numbers of
Portuguese troops and officials to patrol and govern the colony. This caused
Brazil to be in a state of political and social unrest. Brazil was elevated from the
status of a colony to the status of a Kingdom by Dom João VI in 1815, but there
was still a feeling of dissension between the natives of Brazil and the
When José Bonifácio arrived to Brazil in 1819, Dom João VI was feeling great
pressure to return to Portugal because Brazilians felt that with Dom João VI's
presence that their status as a kingdom was in jeopardy and could even be lost.
In 1821, Dom João VI finally left Brazil and returned to Portugal.
Bonifácio prepared the document "Lembranas e Apontamentos do Governo
Provisorio de Sao Pualo" on October 9, 1821, which is said to be the most
important document in Brazilian history. This document laid the foundation
for the new nation of what we currently know of as Brazil. A major part of this
document was key in implementing the end of Brazilian slavery and creating an
awareness of the hardships that native Brazilian Indians incurred. All future
legislation in Brazil was impacted by the composition of this document. José
Bonifácio's grandson even went on to fight to put an end to slavery in
Brazilian Senate until his death in October of 1886. Slavery was finally ended
in Brazil on May 13, 1888.
José Bonifácio worked to seek a peaceful solution sought a peaceful
resolution to the social unrest that existed in Brazil while the country was
under Portuguese rule and during its early years of independence. The
establishment of a constitutional monarchy in Brazil was encouraged
mostly by José Bonifácio and he influenced the Prince of Regent to declare
Brazil an independent country in 1822. The Prince of Regent in Brazil
proclaimed himself Emperor Pedro I after claiming Brazil an independent nation.
José Bonifácio served as an advisor and counselor to the Prince Regent and as
the First Minister of Brazil. During his service he persuaded Emperor Dom Pedro
I to declare Brazil an
independent nation and insisted upon a liberal constitution for the new nation
of Brazil. José Bonifácio's brothers Martin Francisco and Antonio Carlos
Andrada were also deeply involved in Brazilian politics and eventually became
too outspoken against the Brazilian government. This eventually led to the
dismissal of José Bonifácio from his position as counselor to Emperor Dom Pedro I
and led to the banishment of him from Brazil in 1823 sending him to
live a life of exile in Bordeaux. Emperor
Dom Pedro I dissolved the assembly
in November of 1823 and sent Martin Francisco and Antonio Carlos Andrada to
live a life of exile in France. In 1824, a new constitution was adapted in
Brazil and even though the Bonifácio brothers were banished from Brazil, many of
their ideas were used in the new constitution. José Bonifácio was
allowed to return to Brazil in 1829 only to find that his home country was in
yet another state of political unrest. This time the native Brazilians
were in opposition of the Portuguese-born Brazilians.
The Portuguese-born Brazilians supported Emperor Dom Pedro I and this was
displeasing of the native Brazilians. There was strength in the opposition of
Emperor Dom Pedro I and he finally left the throne. Emperor Dom Pedro I left
his son, Emperor Dom Pedro II, the throne José Bonifácio was appointed in 1831
as tutor under Emperor Pedro II, who was only five years old, where he served
José Bonifácio and his two brothers continued their service as active
politicians. However, José Bonifácio was forced to serve as an observer of
than a participant, since he was tutor to Emperor Dom Pedro II.
Many people in the Brazilian community opposed to José Bonifácio's position as
tutor and in
1833 he was dismissed from his position as tutor because he was accused of
conspiring to disturb public order and disturbing public order but he was later
acquitted. On April 6, 1838, José Bonifácio died on an island named Paqueta,
near Río de Janeiro.
Aside from science and politics, José Bonifácio was also involved in
literature. In 1825, Bonifácio began
publishing Poesias Avulsas otherwise known as
Sundry Poetries in the Americo Elisio under a fictitious name. In 1861,
was republished by another publisher named Laemmert and it was
coordinated through Joaquim Norberto de Sousa. In 1942, Afranio Peixoto was
inspired to prepare
another issue of Poesias Avulsas that came out of the
Brazilian Acamedy of Letters. This also inspired Sergio Buarque de Holanda in
publish a text in a volume idealized by the "Instituto Nacional do Livro"
otherwise known as The National Institute of the Book that was given the
title Poesias de Americo Elisio
otherwise known as Americo Elisio's Poetries. José
Bonifácio's original work was full of natural pantheism that expressed his
character and scientific curiosity and sparked the same in many others after
his time. Volume III of Poesias Avulsas was published in 1963 to
celebrate the bicentennial anniversary of the Patriarch of Independence. José
remembered as a Patron of the 40th chair of the Brazilian Academy
Amaral, Ricardo C. Jose Bonifacio de Andrada e Silva.
Book Review. www.xlibris.com
"Bonifacio, Jose." The Columbia Encyclopedia. 2001, sixth edition.
"Jose Bonifacio de Andrada e Silva." Encyclopedia Of World Biography. 1998.
Mabry, Donald, "Pedro II," Historical Text Archive
Miller, James Russell. Pedro II, Emperor of Brazil.
Historical Text Archive 6/25/2003.
Morales, Walter. Jose Bonifacio de Andrada e Silva. 1996.