SOUTH AMERICA: Chapter XVIII (2nd. Part)

(by William Henry Koeber)

Brazil: From Colony to Empire

The easy victory over Guiana induced the Regent to make attacks on the Spanish colonies to the south and west of Brazil. Here, however willing the colonists were to shake off their subjection to Spain, they by no means desired to become subject to Brazil. It was just at this period that the War of Independence was raging, and the Spanish colonies were forming themselves into republics.

Joćo, fearing republicanism more than he hated Spain, aided Elio, the Spanish Governor of the Plate districts, with money and men in his attacks on the insurgents.

Elio was defeated, and the new Republicans made a hostile entry into Rio Grande and Sćo Paolo. The Regent, fearing the result of this incursion, sent 5,000 Portuguese troops with a contingent of Brazilians to drive the enemy over the southern frontier.

In this the Brazilian force was entirely successful, and the evacuation of Montevideo and occupation of Misiones were followed by the chasing of the Uruguayan patriot Artigas across the Uruguay River.

In spite of popular and successful war, the Brazilians refused to be entirely contented, and Joćo had some reason to fear their discontent, since Brazilian money supported the Government and Court, and ruin would necessarily follow the withdrawal of this. In order to meet all objections Joćo determined to make Brazil his kingdom.

On December 16, 1815, a decree was issued declaring that from the date of its publication the State of Brazil should be elevated to the dignity of a kingdom, and henceforth called the Kingdom of Brazil, and should form with those in Europe the United Kingdom of Portugal, Algarves, and Brazil. Immediately after this event the Queen, Dona Maria, died at Rio, and the Prince Regent delayed the ceremony of his succession until the expiration of a year of mourning.

The arms of the new King consisted of an armillary sphere of gold, in field azure, and in a scutcheon containing the quinas of Portugal and the seven castles of Algarves. The sphere was surmounted by the royal crown.

On November 5, 1817, a vessel brought out the Archduchess Leopoldina, daughter of the Emperor Francis I. of Austria, who had been married by proxy to Dom Pedro, the son of Joćo VI.

On February 6, 1818, Joćo VI. was formally crowned at Rio, a ceremony which was emphasized - "by bursts of music, peals of bells, explosions of artillery, deafening shouts, of discharges of fireworks, and such a universal display of extravagant joy that, as my worthy author, Gonēalves dos Santos says: 'It would require the pencil of Zeuxis and the odes of Pindar to describe; and if anything on earth could be compared to the joys of heaven, it was that moment.'"

The following year Princess Dona Maria da Gloria was born, a circumstance which rejoiced the loyal colonists not a little. Nevertheless, in the remoter regions of the enormous colony of Brazil, where the influence of these joyous events had been less felt, all was not so tranquil.

In Pernambuco and Bahia local jealousies had fermented; the revolutions had been put down with a firm hand, and the leaders of the movements executed. This severity was much resented, both at the time and subsequently, and these provinces, in consequence, remained in a state of suppressed irritation


In 1820 some territory was annexed in the south, when, Uruguay being convulsed by civil war, the troops of Brazil occupied Tacuarembó and the Arroyo-Grande.

After a while it became evident that Prince Pedro had gained more popularity than the King.
The conservative methods of Joćo VI. were in the end responsible for protests on the part of the populace, and the King at length was obliged to give way, and to promise more liberal constitutions than he had endeavoured to uphold.

Dom Pedro swore in his father's name to respect these constitutions, and his example was followed by his brother, Dom Miguel. The enthusiasm which followed the concession was tumultuous, and the King himself found it necessary to come from his country seat, Boa Vista.

When he arrived at the capital his horses were taken from his carriage, and it was dragged to the palace by the people. Fireworks and illuminations followed, and a gala performance at the opera for the succeeding night was ordered; but King Joćo VI. was unable to attend.

The proceedings had really been adopted against the grain in his case, and thus, when the curtains in the royal box were drawn apart, it was seen to be occupied by the pictures of the King and Queen instead of by royalty in the flesh; but these pictures were received with the same enthusiasm and as hearty plaudits as though they had been royal humanity itself.

While all this was happening in Brazil, the French had been finally driven out from Portugal, and King Joćo VI. determined to return once more to his native country.

On April 24 he sailed with the Royal Family, leaving his son, Dom Pedro, as Governor of Brazil. Only a day or two before a disturbance had broken out in the capital. When the electors assembled, they were wantonly attacked by the Portuguese soldiery, and about thirty of them were slain, the majority in cold blood.

The atrocity would have doubtlessly been more serious had not the popular Dom Pedro interfered.

With the departure of the King from Brazil it was inevitable that complications should ensue.
Having once enjoyed the status of a kingdom, and having been granted those privileges which had so benefited the country during the past few years, it was only natural that Brazil should resent any attempt to place her once again in the neglected situation from which she had been rescued. It seemed, nevertheless, as though the policy of Portugal would now be directed towards this end.

It was at this juncture that the influence of Prince Pedro began to be felt.
Prince Pedro possessed a personality essentially capable of commanding; his talents, moreover, were varied. He was a good horseman, a keen sportsman, and was addicted to music and many of the politer arts.

The part he had to play was undoubtedly a difficult one. His sentiments were intensely Brazilian; at the same time, in the letters he wrote to the Court of Portugal he stated distinctly that the Mother Country alone possessed his loyalty, as was only just, and that he would make no move whatever that would prejudice the interests of Portugal.

He even went the length of lamenting his presence in the far-away land he governed, and swore that he longed for the day when he might return and sit upon the steps of his father's throne.

In the meanwhile the jealousies between the Portuguese and Brazilians increased rapidly, the bitterness being more especially evident in the soldiery of the respective lands. King Joćo himself had behaved with little consideration ere his departure.

One of his last acts in Brazil had been to promise the soldiery of that country double pay, yet, though he had left the promise behind him, he had left no means whatever to carry it out, and thus disturbances arose in many places.

On December 9, 1821, the brig Dom Sebastićo arrived, bearing a decree to institute a provisional Government, which should again reduce the country to the condition of a province, and another which ordered the immediate return to Portugal of the young Prince Regent. A real crisis now arose.

The Brazilians, devoted to Dom Pedro, implored him to remain; the Portuguese garrison spoke of removing him on a homeward-bound ship by force. The whole city was agog, and the excitement at fever-heat. In the midst of the turmoil the Brazilian troops surrounded the Portuguese, and, after obtaining a great strategic advantage, ordered them to march on board the vessels of the fleet bound for Lisbon.

The Portuguese were inclined to resist, when Dom Pedro himself appeared in their midst and ordered their commanders specifically to embark the next day and to sail for Portugal. He had now decided on his attitude, and was determined that his orders should be obeyed.

To show that he was in earnest he even took a match in his hand and lit it, and swore that, did the Portuguese troops refuse, he would be the first man to fire a cannon at them. This ended the matter, and the next day the ship sailed and carried away the Portuguese garrison.

On May 13, 1822, a deputation from the Rio Chamber of Deputies approached Prince Pedro and persuaded him to assume the title of "Constitutional Prince Regent and Perpetual Defender of Brazil."

Portugal, for its part, was now bitterly opposed to Brazil and to the Brazilians. Decrees were enacted towards the suppression of the independence of the great colony. One of these ran to the effect that Prince Pedro was to return to Europe within four months, and that any of the military who obeyed his orders, unless by compulsion, were to be deemed traitors to Portugal.

During all this time fresh troops were arriving to reinforce the garrison at Bahia, which had remained Royalist. The patriots, for their part, had collected strong forces and hemmed the Royalists in Bahia to such an extent that they could only retain communication by sea.

Matters grew more and more strained every day, for the Mother Country sought to put an end to the virtual supremacy of its great colony, while Brazil was utterly opposed to Portuguese rule. When Prince Pedro was ordered to return to Portugal, "in order to complete his education," the Brazilians, and especially the provincial Government of Sćo Paulo, begged him to disobey and remain in Brazil.

The soldiers threatened to mutiny if he went, and the people entreated him not to go, while every proof of his popularity was added cause for exasperation on the part of the Home Government, rendering his situation more dangerous.

If Dom Pedro went to Portugal, said the Brazilians, they must choose between an anarchical republic and the old state of dependence on Portugal. In the matter of Sćo Paulo and the requests of its citizens, the brothers Andrada were most prominent, and they obtained a promise from the Prince that he would not go.

Together with the Andradas he toured the States of Minas and Sćo Paulo on a mission of pacification; but the people of the country felt that the present state of affairs could not continue, and in his absence it was determined to make him the ruler of the country, and he was declared Defender of the Empire.

On September 7, 1822, he received a bundle of despatches from Portugal, and his staff watched while he read letter after letter. There was one which he read two or three times, and then destroyed.

What its contents were was never known, but after pondering and a few minutes of thought, Pedro raised his hand and spoke his decision - "Independence or death!"

There was no doubt that he had carried out the wishes of his father, and probably the letter which he destroyed contained Joćo's written directions. Some idea of this seems to have been general among the Brazilians, for both they and the Portuguese soldiers in Brazil always spoke of Joćo with affection, and regarded him rather as a prisoner of the Cortes of Lisbon than as King of Portugal.

The Brazilians determined that the last doubt concerning the situation should be dissipated, and on October 12, 1822, Dom Pedro, who was at Piranga, was made constitutional Emperor of Brazil, and all relation and connection with Portugal was severed.

Dom Pedro had all this time kept up a correspondence with his father, King Joćo, and in one of these letters he wrote: "They wish, and they say they wish, to proclaim me Emperor. I protest to your Majesty that I will not be perjured ... that I will never be false to you; and if they commit that folly, it will not be till after they have cut me to pieces - me and all the Portuguese - a solemn oath, which I here have written with my blood in the following words: "'I swear to be always faithful to your Majesty, to the Portuguese nation, and Constitution.'"

These latter words were apparently actually written in his blood, and the epistle is certainly a proof of the complicated state of affairs and of the strange influences which were at work.

Open warfare now broke out between Brazil and Portugal. At Bahia the Portuguese, although their garrison was hemmed in, were masters of the sea. The Brazilians determined to make a bold bid for the control of the waves, and to this end sent an invitation to Lord Cochrane, who had just freed the Pacific Ocean from the Spanish fleet, and was at the time in Chile.

An invitation of that kind was never refused by Cochrane. In March, 1823, he arrived and took command of the new Brazilian fleet, which was considerably inferior to that of Portugal. He sailed immediately for Bahia, but found his crews in no very anxious mood to fight their compatriots.

A few skirmishes ensued, and the Portuguese fleet took refuge under the guns of the land forces. On the same day the Brazilians entered the city and took possession of it.

The Portuguese fleet now sailed to the north, and was pursued by Lord Cochrane beyond the Equator. He saw to it that their voyage was an eventful one, for he captured more than one-half of their transports, and completely dispersed the remainder.

Cochrane then returned to Brazil, and was instrumental in releasing the north of that country from the remaining foreign forces.

On December 1, 1823, Dom Pedro was formally crowned. The ceremony was dramatic, and crowns and wreaths of laurels were showered down upon the hero of the nation, while patriotic airs were thundered out with tremendous enthusiasm.

Three years later (August 29, 1825) Pedro was acknowledged as Emperor of Brazil by the Mother Country, after the last Portuguese troops in the country had been withdrawn.

Continue with Chapter XIX

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