South America: Chapter XIX

(by William Henry Koebel)

The Empire of Brazil

Portuguese acquiescence in Dom Pedro's sovereignty was brought about largely by the instrumentality of Lord Cochrane, who, after harrying the deported garrison of Bahia when on its voyage to Europe, brought about the capitulation of Maranhão and Pará, acting in concert with Grenfell, another ocean free-lance, second only to Cochrane in daring and versatility.

In Montevideo the General commanding the Portuguese garrison declared for independence, and left the soldiers to make their own choice; whereupon they followed the remainder of the Portuguese troops to Europe.

Uruguay, left to its own choice, retained its allegiance to Brazil until Artigas, a famous leader and partisan of liberty, stirred up the people.

The Brazilian troops entered Montevideo on January 20, 1817, and the Emperor sent his picture to the Cabildo Hall, an act which brought about the appearance of a most extraordinary document, drawn up by the officials of the town.

When the portrait appeared they announced that:

"A mixed sensation of trembling and delight seized us, as if we were in the presence of the Lord."

In justice to the inhabitants of Montevideo in general, it must be said that this fulsome and despicable effusion was the work of only a few, and was hostile to the sentiments of, and strenuously condemned by, the general public.

The first Brazilian Assembly, as soon as convoked, set to work to frame its first Constitution, a matter which was found extremely difficult.
The fact that Brazil had been an independent monarchy for some years helped to combat the views of those who shouted "Liberty!" too loudly, and would fain have abandoned practice for theory.

It was understood that the first requisites were order and security, together with reasonable checks on authority.
Further, it was realized that there must be sufficient elasticity to meet future needs and circumstances.

But for the Emperor, the forming of the Constitution would have been a failure.
Almost immediately after his first opening of the Assembly he laid before it a sketch of the Constitution that they had to form. "The recent Constitutions," he said, "founded on the models of those of 1791 and 1792, had been acknowledged as too abstract and metaphysical for execution.

This had been proved by the example of France, and more recently by that of Spain and Portugal.

We have need of a Constitution where the powers may be so divided and defined that no one branch can arrogate to itself the prerogative of another; a Constitution which may be an unsurmountable barrier against all invasion of the royal authority, whether aristocratic or popular, which will overthrow anarchy and cherish the tree of liberty, beneath whose shade we shall see the union and the independence of the Empire flourish - in a word, a Constitution that will excite the admiration of other nations, and even of our enemies, who will consecrate the triumph of our principles by adopting them."

There was, however, too much of self-denial in the Emperor's views to meet with the approbation of the Assembly.

At the head of the Ministry were the brothers Andrada - men who in earlier days had rendered great services to Dom Pedro, but who had grown somewhat arbitrary, overbearing, and impatient, and now presumed on their past services in establishing the Empire to tyrannize over both the Emperor and the Assembly.

In the end the members of the Assembly forced the brothers to resign, at which the people rose and drew José Bonifacio in triumph through the streets of Rio to his official residence.

Fearing the people, the Assembly reinstated the Andradas for a period of eight months, after which they were again ejected.

From this time on they became violent opponents of the Assembly and the Court, seemingly determined that if they could not rule, nobody else should.
Their newspaper, the Tamayo, was a powerful organ in the capital, and proved itself as unsparing as it was libellous in its attacks.

It was owing to obstruction of this kind that for a long while no advance was made in the formation of a Constitution, for as the Emperor made suggestions, the Andradas caused them to be thrown out.

Bills brought in by members were never read, and the brothers even went so far as to attack the Portuguese employés of the Emperor, and when one of these wrote a scathing article against them, they used personal violence toward him.

He appealed to the Assembly, whereupon the Andradas insisted that he and all his fellows should be dismissed.

Week by week the Tamayo grew more virulent and threatening against the Emperor.
Dom Pedro grew alarmed, for the Andradas were wealthy and powerful, and the Emperor felt that their disaffection might be a sign of general popular feeling - that the republican movement was gaining ground too much for his safety.

His actions against the republican movement in various parts of the Empire, necessary though they were, had, nevertheless, forced him into connection with, and reliance on, the Portuguese residents and militia, a class almost as distasteful to the liberal Brazilians as the Portuguese whom they had driven out of the country.

Thoroughly liberal in his own tendencies, Pedro yet felt that the Andradas might be expressing a general discontent with his rule.

The Andradas, at the head of the popular party, drove the Emperor to the use of extreme measures by their insolence and turbulent intrigues.
He took the law into his own hands.

The brothers had induced the Assembly to declare itself permanent, but, not unlike Cromwell in a different species of crisis, Pedro surrounded the Chamber with troops and guns, dispersed the Deputies, and captured the three Andradas, together with two of their principal friends.
These five he deported to France without the formality of a trial.

At this the popular party took alarm, but the Emperor pointed out that he had no other course left; he had acted from no desire to impair the freedom of the people, but from necessity.

The proclamation which he issued at this time stated that "though he had, from regard to the tranquillity of the Empire, thought fit to dissolve the third Assembly, he had in the same decree convoked another, in conformity with the acknowledged constitutional rights of his people."

Palace and Great Square of Rio de Janeiro
Palace and Great Square of Rio de Janeiro

With regard to the forming of the Constitution, he left it no longer to the Assembly, but appointed a committee of ten persons to settle the sketch he had drawn up.

The Republican and ultra-Liberal party, awed by the salutary treatment meted out to the Andradas, grew furious at the further energetic measures of the Emperor, for they saw in Dom Pedro's policy an attempt to gain absolute dominance.

Open rebellion broke out all over the country, and a Republic was actually proclaimed in Pernambuco, Ceará, the northern provinces generally, and in the south.

Uruguay for the last time revolted, and severed the tie which bound her to the Empire, having never since been subject to Brazil.

The moderate people wavered between the two sides.
They saw in Republicanism only anarchy, while the Emperor's coup d'état inspired them with fear of his government.

He himself, seeing that a striking move was necessary, sought the assistance of the Town Council of Rio, and with their aid adopted the Constitution he had drawn up, without submitting it to the Assembly.

On March 24, 1824, he swore to the Constitution in public, trusting to the freedom and fairness which it embodied to gain him adherence.

This move was perfectly successful, for wherever the Constitution was proclaimed the Republican party fell to pieces.
The principles of the document were so simple, liberal, and practical, that the Republican party could not ask more than the Emperor gave.

By this Pedro saved his throne, beyond doubt, and gradually the provincial authorities and the people of the country accepted the situation, and swore to observe the new Constitution.

In the meanwhile a species of minor maritime warfare was carried on in the River Plate between the Brazilian fleet and the Argentine vessels commanded by Admiral Brown, in the course of which the Brazilians suffered not a little, and the prestige of the Imperial fleet in consequence diminished.

On December 11, 1826, the Empress died in childbirth at the early age of twenty-nine.
She had come out from Austria determined to make the ways of Brazil her own.

On her first arrival she was considered lovely, and there is no doubt that her fair, clear complexion, blue eyes, and golden hair were immensely admired by folk themselves almost invariably possessed of raven locks.

Some while after she had arrived in the country of her adoption the Empress is said to have neglected her personal appearance to a rather regrettable extent, adopting the ways of the Brazilian country-side rather than those of the capital.

Thus she accustomed herself to large heavy boots adorned with enormous spurs, and would ride astride on a horse, her hair being suffered to hang loose about her face and shoulders.
In fact, she paid not the slightest attention to those attractions with which Nature had endowed her. She was a being of intense charity and love, polished to a degree, an accomplished letter-writer, and a lover of the fine arts in general.

Had the Empress bestowed less care on others and more upon her own person, there is little doubt but that she would have led a happier life, for the Emperor, surrounded by the temptations which are always in the path of crowned heads, allowed his affections to stray.

Indeed, so wrapped up was Dom Pedro in his liaison, that the unfortunate Empress, under pressure, found her rival attached to her Court as lady-in-waiting.
Her meek and affectionate temperament does not appear to have resented this - at all events openly.

When, however, this rival insisted on making her way to the death-bed of the Empress, it was felt by the attendants that all bounds had been passed.
On their own responsibility they prevented the proposed entrance, and after the death of the Empress suffered for their pains at the instigation of the slighted favourite.

Towards the end of 1826 Colonel Cotter, an Irish officer in the Brazilian Service, undertook to bring over a number of his countrymen from their native land in order that they should become soldier settlers - that is to say, they were promised fifty acres of land a head if they would undertake to perform military service when needed.

The result was a fiasco. The unfortunate Irishmen came out, but found nothing prepared for them.
They were insulted, moreover, by the negroes, who took to calling them "white slaves" as a mark of contempt for the ragged clothes to which they found themselves reduced in the end.

Goaded beyond endurance, not only by neglect, but by periodical assaults on their numbers, the Irish, together with a number of Germans and other soldiers who found themselves in a similar situation, broke out into open mutiny, and a pitched battle took place between them and the blacks, who had now been armed by the authorities.

In the end the Brazilians intervened, assisted by the French and the English Marines, who were landed from the fleets of their respective nations, and the mutiny was suppressed, but not before many foreigners quite unconcerned with the affair had been slain.
After this the Irish returned to their native land.

The proclamation of the Constitution marked the zenith of Dom Pedro's popularity.
The dangers he had gone through and the arbitrary measures he had been compelled to adopt seem to have altered his views to an extent which in the end alienated from him the sympathies of his people.

He never again trusted the Brazilians, while the success of his arbitrary policy in connection with the Andradas, and in the troubled times which followed, gave him a taste for absolute rule. In the formation of the Constitution he saved his country, but ruined himself.

After the last sparks of revolution had been put out, the people looked for the convocation of the Assembly again, but the Emperor omitted to bring this about for such a length of time that the nation began to understand that he no longer viewed its claims in the same light.

Soon his preference for the Portuguese began to attract notice, and the treaty with Portugal, into which he entered before the Mother Country recognized the independence of Brazil, caused general indignation by its extravagant concessions.

The treaty was justly resented, for Pedro was Emperor by successful revolt and conquest, and yet by this treaty he forewent his just rights, and then bought them again from Portugal - with Brazilian money.

This error of diplomacy was followed by war against Uruguay, for the Emperor attacked the revolted province, and declared war against Buenos Aires for rendering assistance to the Uruguayans.

The campaign was carried on so feebly and expensively that the people regarded it as folly, and at the same time resented the enlistment, already referred to, of regiments of German and Irish troops, aliens, who were never popular.

The people of Brazil were aggravated, in addition to these causes, by the increasing extravagance of the Emperor, and by the expense which his establishment entailed, while his policy had reduced the nation to poverty.

There were numerous payments to be made to Portugal in connection with the senseless treaty into which Pedro had entered; there was the cost of the war, including the pay of the hired German and Irish troops; and then there was the personal expenditure of the Emperor to add to these, while the militia system of the country had developed into a sort of conscription, an utter grievance in the sight of people who wanted liberty and peace.

In 1828 Uruguay was declared independent, much to the dissatisfaction of a great number of Brazilians, who advocated the retention of the Banda Oriental as a province of Brazil.

Pedro II Emperor of Brazil
Pedro II, Emperor of Brazil

On March 10, 1826, Dom. João died.
As soon as the tidings reached Brazil the Emperor assumed the title of King of Portugal, in addition to that of Emperor of Brazil.

On May 2, six days later, he abdicated the throne of Portugal in favour of his daughter, Dona Maria.
It was resolved that Dona Maria should marry her uncle, Dom Miguel, in order that she should ally herself with a Portuguese of high rank.

Nevertheless, a dispute arose between the adherents of Dom Miguel and those of the Emperor of Brazil, and a state of civil war obtained in Portugal for a time.
Dona Maria, on her arrival in England on her way to Portugal, was received with royal honours.
But Dom Miguel seized upon the throne and managed to hold it for a while.

Supported by the Portuguese or Absolutist party, Pedro went his way, and, even in his latter days of rule, refused to sign Bills for the development of the Constitution.

There was undoubtedly much now to unsettle the Brazilian populace.
Disadvantageous reciprocity treaties were concluded with various countries, while defeats of the Brazilian soldiers were experienced at the hands of the troops of the Argentine Republic.

An indemnity was demanded by France and the United States of America for ships captured during the blockade of Buenos Aires, and large sums of money had to be paid to avert further war.

Finally, the English Government persuaded Brazil to make a somewhat humiliating peace with Buenos Aires, and renounce all claim to the colony, which was henceforth to be known as the Republic of Uruguay.

By 1830 the policy which the Emperor pursued had alienated the national affection to such an extent that every member of the Assembly but the Ministers was in opposition.
Wherever the Emperor went, he was treated with coldness instead of enthusiasm.

A scheme on the part of the Republicans for adopting the Constitution of the United States, but retaining Pedro as hereditary President, caused him to dismiss his Ministers, and surround himself with men of the Absolutist party.

At this an immense crowd assembled in the Campo de Santa Ana, demanding the reinstatement of the popular Ministers.

The Emperor sent a magistrate to read a justification of his conduct to the crowd, but the paper was snatched from the magistrate's hands and torn to pieces almost before he had finished reading it.

In their turn the people sent messengers to the palace, insisting on the reinstatement of the Republican Ministers.
The Emperor listened to the demand, and answered: "I will do everything for the people, nothing by the people."

This answer exasperated the crowd still further, yet no excess was committed.
At two o'clock in the morning the last messenger of the people was departing with the Emperor's refusal to yield to their demands, when Pedro bade him stay, and, sitting down at his desk, wrote his last message to the people of Brazil:

"Availing myself of the right which the Constitution concedes to me, I declare that I have voluntarily abdicated in favour of my dearly beloved and esteemed son, Dom Pedro de Alcantara."

Having handed this to the messenger, Pedro burst into tears and retired to his private apartments.

Six days later he sailed from the harbour of Rio in an English man-of-war, leaving Brazil and his child for good.

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