History of Brazil (Empire)
June 20, 2007 2:52pm CST
In 1808, the Portuguese court, fleeing from Napoleon’s troops which had invaded the territory of Portugal, moved aboard a large fleet, escorted by British men-of-war, with all the government apparatus to its then-colony, Brazil, establishing themselves in the city of Rio de Janeiro. From there the Portuguese king ruled his huge empire for 13 years, and there he would have remained for the rest of his life if it were not for the turmoil aroused in Portugal due, among other reasons, to his long stay in Brazil after the end of Napoleon's reign. After João VI returned to Portugal in 1821, his heir-apparent Pedro became regent of the Kingdom of Brazil. Following a series of political events and disputes, Brazil conquered its independence from Portugal on September 7, 1822. On 12 October 1822, Dom Pedro was acclaimed as the first Emperor of Brazil. He was crowned on December 1, 1822. Brazil was one of only two countries among those of the 'new world' that housed an effective legal monarchical state (the other was Mexico), for a period of almost 90 years. Organizing the new government quickly brought the differences between the Emperor and his leading subjects to the fore. In 1824, Pedro closed the Constituent Assembly that he had convened because he believed that body was endangering liberty. Pedro then produced a constitution modelled on that of Portugal (1822) and France (1814). It specified indirect elections and created the usual three branches of government but also added a fourth, the "moderating power", to be held by the Emperor. Pedro's government was considered economically and administratively inefficient. Political pressures eventually made the Emperor step down in April 7, 1831. He returned to Portugal leaving behind his five-year-old son Pedro. Brazil was then to be governed by regents from 1831 to 1840 until Pedro was old enough to assume his royal duties. The regency period was turbulent and marked by numerous local revolts including the Male Revolt, the largest urban slave rebellion in the Americas, which took place in Bahia, 1835. In 23 July 1840 Pedro II was crowned Emperor. His government was highlighted by a substantial rise in coffee exports, the War of the Triple Alliance and the end of slave trade from Africa in 1850, although slavery in Brazilian territory would only be abolished in 1888. When slavery was finally abolished, a large influx of European immigrants took place. By the 1870s, the Emperor's grasp on domestic politics had started deteriorating in face of crisis with the Roman Catholic Church, the Army and the slaveholders. The Republican movement slowly gained strength. In the end, the empire fell because the dominant classes no longer needed it to protect their interests. Indeed, imperial centralization ran counter to their desire for local autonomy. By 1889 Pedro II had stepped down and the Republican system had been adopted.