Empire of Brazil
Empire of Brazil
Império do Brasil
Motto: Independência ou Morte!
"Independence or Death!"
Empire of Brazil at its largest territorial extent, 1822–1828, including former
|7 September 1822|
• Accession of
|12 October 1822|
• Adoption of the
|25 March 1824|
• Accession of
|7 April 1831|
|13 May 1888|
|15 November 1889|
|1889||8,337,218 km2 (3,219,018 sq mi)|
|Today part of|| |
The Empire of Brazil was a 19th-century state that broadly comprised the territories which form modern
Unlike most of the neighboring
Pedro I's successor in Brazil was his five-year-old son, Pedro II. As the latter was still a minor, a weak regency was created. The power vacuum resulting from the absence of a ruling monarch as the ultimate arbiter in political disputes led to regional civil wars between local factions. Having inherited an empire on the verge of disintegration, Pedro II, once he was declared of age, managed to bring peace and stability to the country, which eventually became an emerging international power. Brazil was victorious in three international conflicts (the
Even though the last four decades of Pedro II's reign were marked by continuous internal peace and economic prosperity, he had no desire to see the monarchy survive beyond his lifetime and made no effort to maintain support for the institution. The next in line to the throne was his daughter
The territory which would come to be known as Brazil was claimed by Portugal on 22 April 1500, when the navigator
In 1815, the Portuguese crown prince Dom João (later Dom
Pedro I encountered a number of crises during his reign. A secessionist rebellion in the
Other difficulties arose when the Empire's parliament, the General Assembly, opened in 1826. Pedro I, along with a significant percentage of the legislature, argued for an independent judiciary, a popularly elected legislature and a government which would be led by the emperor who held broad executive powers and prerogatives. Others in parliament argued for a similar structure, only with a less influential role for the monarch and the legislative branch being dominant in policy and governance. The struggle over whether the government would be dominated by the emperor or by the parliament was carried over into debates from 1826 to 1831 on the establishment of the governmental and political structure. Unable to deal with the problems in both Brazil and Portugal simultaneously, the Emperor abdicated on behalf of his son,
Following the hasty departure of Pedro I, Brazil was left with a five-year-old boy as head of state. With no precedent to follow, the Empire was faced with the prospect of a period of more than twelve years without a strong executive, as, under the constitution, Pedro II would not attain his majority and begin exercising authority as Emperor until 2 December 1843. A regency was elected to rule the country in the interim. Because the Regency held few of the powers exercised by an emperor and was completely subordinated to the General Assembly, it could not fill the vacuum at the apex of Brazil's government.
The hamstrung Regency proved unable to resolve disputes and rivalries between national and local political factions. Believing that granting provincial and local governments greater autonomy would quell the growing dissent, the General Assembly passed a constitutional amendment in 1834, called the Ato Adicional (
The politicians who had risen to power during the 1830s had by then become familiar with the difficulties and pitfalls of power. According to historian Roderick J. Barman, by 1840 "they had lost all faith in their ability to rule the country on their own. They accepted Pedro II as an authority figure whose presence was indispensable for the country's survival." Some of these politicians (who would form the
To achieve their goals, the liberals had allied themselves with a group of high-ranking palace servants and notable politicians: the "Courtier Faction". The courtiers were part of the Emperor's inner circle and had established influence over him, which enabled the appointment of successive liberal-courtier cabinets. Their dominance was short-lived, though. By 1846, Pedro II had matured physically and mentally. No longer an insecure 14-year-old swayed by gossip, suggestions of secret plots, and other manipulative tactics, the young emperor's weaknesses faded and his strength of character came to the fore. He successfully engineered the end of the courtiers' influence by removing them from his inner circle without causing any public disruption. He also dismissed the liberals, who had proved ineffective while in office, and called on the conservatives to form a government in 1848.
The abilities of the Emperor and the newly appointed conservative cabinet were tested by three crises between 1848 and 1852. The first crisis was a confrontation over the illegal importation of slaves. Importing slaves had been banned in 1826 as part of a treaty with Britain. Trafficking continued unabated, however, and the British government's passage of the
The third crisis was a conflict with the
At the beginning of the 1850s, Brazil was enjoying internal stability and economic prosperity. The nation's infrastructure was being developed, with progress in the construction of
Paraná invited several liberals to join the conservative ranks and went so far as to name some as ministers. The new cabinet, although highly successful, was plagued from the start by strong opposition from ultraconservative members of the Conservative Party who repudiated the new liberal recruits. They believed that the cabinet had become a
The Conservative Party had split down the middle: on one side were the ultraconservatives, and on the other, the moderate conservatives who supported the Conciliation. The ultraconservatives were led by
The remaining members of the Liberal Party, which had languished since its fall in 1848 and the disastrous Praieira rebellion in 1849, took advantage of what seemed to be the Conservative Party's impending implosion to return to national politics with renewed strength. They delivered a powerful blow to the government when they managed to win several seats in the Chamber of Deputies in 1860. When many moderate conservatives defected to unite with liberals to form a new political party, the "Progressive League", the conservatives' hold on power became unsustainable due to the lack of a workable governing majority in the parliament. They resigned, and in May 1862 Pedro II named a progressive cabinet. The period since 1853 had been one of peace and prosperity for Brazil: "The political system functioned smoothly. Civil liberties were maintained. A start had been made on the introduction into Brazil of railroad, telegraph and steamship lines. The country was no longer troubled by the disputes and conflicts that had racked it during its first thirty years."
This period of calm came to an end when the British consul in Rio de Janeiro nearly sparked a war between Great Britain and Brazil. He sent an
As war with the British Empire loomed, Brazil had to turn its attention to its southern frontiers. Another civil war had begun in Uruguay which pitted its political parties against one another. The internal conflict led to the murder of Brazilians and the looting of their Uruguayan properties. Brazil's progressive cabinet decided to intervene and dispatched an army, which invaded Uruguay in December 1864, beginning the brief
What had appeared at the outset to be a brief and straightforward military intervention led to a full-scale war in South America's southeast. However, the possibility of a two-front conflict (with Britain and Paraguay) faded when, in September 1865, the British government sent an envoy who publicly apologized for the crisis between the empires. The Paraguayan invasion in 1864 led to a conflict far longer than expected, and faith in the progressive cabinet's ability to prosecute the war vanished. Also, from its inception, the Progressive League was plagued by internal conflict between factions formed by former moderate conservatives and by former liberals.
The cabinet resigned and the Emperor named the aging Viscount of Itaboraí to head a new cabinet in July 1868, marking the return of the conservatives to power. This impelled both progressive wings to set aside their differences, leading them to rechristen their party as the Liberal Party. A third, smaller and radical progressive wing would declare itself republican in 1870—an ominous signal for the monarchy. Nonetheless, the "ministry formed by the viscount of Itaboraí was a far abler body than the cabinet it replaced" and the conflict with Paraguay ended in March 1870 with total victory for Brazil and its allies. More than 50,000 Brazilian soldiers had died, and war costs were eleven times the government's annual budget. However, the country was so prosperous that the government was able to retire the war debt in only ten years. The conflict was also a stimulus to national production and economic growth.
The diplomatic victory over the British Empire and the military victory over Uruguay in 1865, followed by the successful conclusion of the war with Paraguay in 1870, marked the beginning of the "
In March 1871, Pedro II named the conservative
The "Law of Free Birth", and Pedro II's support for it, resulted in the loss of the ultraconservatives' unconditional loyalty to the monarchy. The Conservative Party had experienced serious divisions before, during the 1850s, when the Emperor's total support for the conciliation policy had given rise to the Progressives. The ultraconservatives led by Eusébio, Uruguai and Itaboraí who opposed conciliation in the 1850s had nonetheless believed that the Emperor was indispensable to the functioning of the political system: the Emperor was an ultimate and impartial arbiter when political deadlock threatened. By contrast, this new generation of ultraconservatives had not experienced the
The weaknesses in the monarchy took many years to become apparent. Brazil continued to prosper during the 1880s, with the economy and society both developing rapidly, including the first organized push for
The lack of an heir who could feasibly provide a new direction for the nation also threatened the long-term prospects for the Brazilian monarchy. The Emperor's heir was his eldest daughter,
A weary Emperor who no longer cared for the throne, an heir who had no desire to assume the crown, an increasingly discontented ruling class who were dismissive of the Imperial role in national affairs: all these factors presaged the monarchy's impending doom. The means to achieve the overthrow of the Imperial system would soon appear within the Army ranks.
The nation enjoyed considerable international prestige during the final years of the Empire and had become an
To avert a republican backlash, the government exploited the credit readily available to Brazil as a result of its prosperity to fuel further development. The government extended massive loans at favorable interest rates to plantation owners and lavishly granted titles and lesser honors to curry favor with influential political figures who had become disaffected. The government also indirectly began to address the problem of the recalcitrant military by revitalizing the moribund National Guard, by then an entity which existed mostly only on paper.
The measures taken by the government alarmed civilian republicans and the positivists in the military. The republicans saw that it would undercut support for their own aims, and were emboldened to further action. The reorganization of the National Guard was begun by the cabinet in August 1889, and the creation of a rival force caused the dissidents among the officer corps to consider desperate measures. For both groups, republicans and military, it had become a case of "now or never". Although there was no desire among the majority of Brazilians to change the country's