World History 2 125 - 8.4.2 Pedro I and Brazilian Independence

João left his son and heir Pedro I as prince regent in Rio de Janeiro, with instructions to preserve the family’s lineage and power. The talented twenty-three-year-old prince enthusiastically took to his duties. The Cortes wanted to reduce Brazil to its former colonial status and ordered the dismantling of Rio’s central government structure. In January 1822, it commanded the prince to return, but Pedro sided with the Brazilians when they asked him to stay. (This event became known as O Fico, from the Portuguese ficar, to remain.)

The intentions of the Cortes could now no longer be ignored, however, because they generated conflicts among conservative and liberal factions in the Brazilian provinces. When the Brazilian elites rejected rule by Portugal, Pedro took the final step. He broke with Portugal and on September 7, 1822, declared Brazilian independence on the banks of the Ipiranga River in the province of São Paulo (Figure 8.20). This event became known as the Grito do Ipiranga (Ipiranga Cry). Pedro I was acclaimed Constitutional Emperor and Perpetual Defender of Brazil, and he was crowned in Rio de Janeiro with much pomp and ceremony.

Pedro I is in the center of the painting. He rides a horse and holds his sword in the air. A group of men behind him are also on horses and hold their hats in the air. A group of uniformed soldiers on horseback face him and raise their swords in the air. A farmer leading his cows looks at the group.
Figure 8.20 Pedro Américo’s massive 1888 painting shows Pedro I declaring Brazil’s independence with the Grito do Ipiranga on September 7, 1822. (credit: “Independence or Death” by Museu Paulista collection /Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain)

At first, the Portuguese Cortes refused to recognize Brazil’s independence, though away from the cities of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo and their adjoining provinces, few local juntas declared themselves in favor of Portuguese rule. Determined to beat the Portuguese, Pedro I invited Thomas Cochrane, a former British naval officer, to serve Brazil as first admiral and commander in chief (Figure 8.21).

In this engraving Thomas Cochrane, he wears an ornate military uniform. He carries a scope.
Figure 8.21 Thomas Cochrane, Earl of Dundonald, is shown in a nineteenth-century engraving based on a painting by James Ramsay. Lord Cochrane played a major role in winning independence for Brazil. (credit “Thomas Cochrane, 10th Earl of Dundonald” by Dibner Library of the History of Science and Technology/Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain)

Cochrane was one of the most daring and successful naval captains of his day; the French called him “the Sea Wolf.” After being struck off Britain’s Navy List because of a financial scandal in 1814, he began a new career as a mercenary. In 1818, he organized the Chilean navy, and with José de San Martín he played a crucial role in securing Chile’s independence and liberating coastal areas in Peru. He was living in semiretirement on his estate in Chile when Pedro I asked him to serve Brazil. Cochrane organized a small Brazilian naval squadron to block Portugal’s access to Brazil’s ports. His first success came with his blockade of Salvador, the main port of the province of Bahia. By preventing resupply of coastal cities and garrisons, Cochrane forced Portuguese fighting forces to abandon the northern provinces of Brazil by 1823. In 1825, the Treaty of Rio de Janeiro recognized Brazil’s independence from Portugal.

The presence of the Braganzas in Rio for thirteen years before independence had unified the nation, and Brazilians still looked to the royal court as a source of power and authority. Most educated citizens accepted the monarchy, with which they identified themselves, and nothing served better to end regional divisions than the external threat from Portugal. In May 1823, Pedro I summoned elected representatives from all provinces to come to Rio and draft the new empire’s constitution. Most were Brazilian sons of the old landed aristocracy, and some had represented Brazil in the Portuguese Cortes, including the liberal José Bonifácio de Andrade e Silva, educated at Portugal’s Coimbra University. The assembly drafted a document that sought balance among the executive, judiciary, and legislative branches of government but disagreed over slavery, the scope of citizenship, and civil rights. Although Pedro I favored the gradual abolition of slavery, Brazilians whose wealth came from sugar plantations were especially concerned that the institution not be interfered with.

The Past Meets the Present

Women and the Fight for Independence

Valued primarily for their sexual purity, domestic virtue, and Christian charity, women found their claims to political equality in Spanish and Portuguese America seriously limited. As a result, they responded in different ways to the struggle for independence, which pervaded every aspect of their lives. Poor women suffered disproportionately, and many made significant contributions to the cause, including taking up arms and even commanding troops. The women depicted here are just some examples of those who fought for independence and political power in the revolutionary period (Figure 8.22).

Image (a) is a painting of Manuela Saenz, she wears a black dress and a necklace. Image (b) is a painting of Juana Azurduy de Padilla, she wears a military uniform which is decorated with medals and she holds a sword. Image (c) is a painting of Empress Maria Leopoldina, she wears a dress. Image (d) is a painting of Maria Quitéria, she wears a military uniform and carries a gun.
Figure 8.22 (a) Manuela Sáenz, (b) Juana Azurduy de Padilla, (c) Empress Maria Leopoldina, and (d) Maria Quitéria all played a role in the fight for independence in South America. (credit a: modification of work “Retrato de Manuela Sáenz en 1825 por Pedro Durante” by Museo Nacional de Arqueología, Antropología e Historia del Perú/Wikipedia, Public Domain; credit b: “Portrait of Juana Azurduy” by Salón de Espejos de la Alcaldía de Padilla/Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain; credit c: “Portrait of Archduchess Maria Leopoldina, later Empress consort of Brazil” by Schönbrunn Palace/Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain; credit d: “Maria Quitéria” by Museu do Ipiranga/Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain)

Born in Quito, Ecuador, in 1797, Manuela Sáenz de Vergara y Aizpuru was the illegitimate child of an Ecuadorian mother and a Spanish aristocrat. In 1817 she married British citizen James Thorne, and in 1822 she met and fell in love with Simón Bolívar. As a result, she left her husband and joined the fight for independence, becoming a close collaborator of Bolívar and a fierce proponent of the revolutionary cause and women’s rights. After she prevented his assassination in 1828, Bolívar called her “libertadora del libertador” (“the woman who liberated the Liberator”). After Bolívar’s death in 1830, Sáenz ended her days running a tobacco shop in a fishing village on the coast of Peru, where she died of diphtheria in 1856 and was buried in a common grave. However, with the rise of feminism in the 1980s, she became a symbol and rallying point for a variety of liberation movements, especially upon publication of The General in His Labyrinth by the award-winning Colombian novelist Gabriel García Márquez.

Under the strict casta system of Spanish colonial rule, Juana Azurduy de Padilla, born in 1780 in what is today the city of Sucre, Bolivia, was a mestiza. As a child, she had a close relationship with her White Spanish father, who taught her to ride, shoot, and work the land alongside the Indigenous people who lived there. After becoming orphaned as a teen, she went to a convent school to be educated, but she eventually returned to her family’s estate and married her neighbor Manuel Padilla, an influential politician with progressive views. Azurduy and her husband became patriot guerrilla military leaders in 1809, joining the Army of the North in Upper Peru. Azurduy was known for her ability to recruit and lead Indigenous people and eventually rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel in 1816. At the time of her death, she was relatively unknown; however, today the Azurduy province in the Chuquisaca Department is named for her.

The life of Maria Leopoldina of Austria was one of royal patronage and political influence. She married Dom Pedro, later Emperor Pedro I, in 1817 and dedicated her energies to supporting the cultural and scientific development of her adopted nation, Brazil, bringing the Austrian painter Thomas Ender and many others there. It was after Pedro had read one of Leopoldina’s letters that he enacted the Grito do Ipiranga. In her letter, she urged him to defy Portugal and break away from it, saying, “Brazil under your guidance will be a great country. Brazil wants you as a monarch . . . Pedro, this is the most important of your life . . . . You have the support of all Brazil.” Although Pedro I’s autocratic methods of government and scandalous private affairs made her life difficult, Leopoldina was very popular among her Brazilian subjects and remained so even after her death in 1826.

One of those subjects was Maria Quitéria, born in 1792 in the province of Bahia. During the Brazilian War of Independence, Quitéria disguised herself as a man to serve in the Brazilian revolutionary army. Her superiors acknowledged her skills with weapons and military discipline, and even after her identity as a woman was discovered, she was allowed to continue fighting. She was “a lady as brave as honest,” and in 1823, she was decorated by Dom Pedro I for her service. Maria Graham’s Journal of a Voyage to Brazil mentions her as an “illiterate, but lively [person, who] has clear intelligence and acute perception. I think that if they educated her, she would become a notable personality. One observes nothing masculine in her conduct, rather she is of gentle and friendly manners.” After serving in the war, Quitéria married Gabriel Brito and had one daughter, Luisa. Although she died forgotten and in poverty, today she is seen as a national heroine.

In the aftermath of independence, some women wondered what the consequences of their participation in the cause would be: After all, if women had fought and died for independence, why did they not have the right to vote or run for office? But another century passed before they realized such gains.

  • Consider the role each of these women played in the fight for independence. How do you think their distinct backgrounds influenced the actions they took?
  • Why do you think several of these women died in relative obscurity? What can the later rediscovery of their legacies teach us?

Pedro I’s talents did not include the ability to deal with the legislature. When it attempted to limit the power of the emperor in the first constitution, he dissolved the assembly and finished writing the constitution himself, with the help of a small and select council. Acting as an autocrat, Pedro I issued a liberal constitution in 1824 that ignored slavery and added a fourth branch of government, the moderator (moderador), to the executive, legislative, and judiciary. The moderator branch, which consisted of the emperor, empowered Brazil’s ruler to oversee the three other branches and to “balance” them by resolving disagreements among them.

Resentment of Pedro’s autocratic tendencies persisted as he took no notice of slavery and made unpopular foreign-trade and financial decisions. When news of the July Revolution of 1830 in France, which toppled an autocratic king, reached Brazil, popular demonstrations broke out calling for the expulsion of the emperor. In April 1831, Pedro I abdicated in favor of his only son, the six-year-old Brazilian-born Pedro II, and sailed for Portugal to secure the throne for his daughter Maria. He never returned. His departure eliminated the dominant influence of Portuguese-born courtiers and traders in Brazilian society, completing the transition to full Brazilian independence.

The content of this course has been taken from the free World History, Volume 2: from 1400 textbook by Openstax