The reign of Pedro II, lasting practically a half century, constitutes perhaps the most interesting and fruitful epoch in Brazilian history. The prestige and progress of the nation were due largely to the enlightened statesmanship of its ruler. Though not without personal distinction he was always simple, modest, and democratic. He possessed an insatiable intellectual curiosity and was never happier than when conversing with scholars. He was generous and magnanimous to a fault. One of his favourite occupations was inspecting schools. He was wont to declare, "If I were not emperor I should like to be a schoolteacher." Yet this kindly, genial, and scholarly ruler took his prerogatives and duties as sovereign with great seriousness, and in all matters of first importance he was the final arbiter. According to the moderative power granted to the executive under the constitution of 1824, the emperor had the right to dissolve the Chamber of Deputies, to select the members of the life senate from triple lists submitted by the province, and to appoint and dismiss ministers of state. A kind of parliamentary government functioned under the watchful eye of the Emperor.
Pedro's government took a keen interest in the affairs of the Plata republics, especially of Uruguay, which it sought to control through indirect measures. Brazil aided in the overthrow of the Argentine dictator Juan Manuel de Rosas in 1852. In 1864 Brazil intervened in Uruguayan internal affairs, precipitating war with Paraguay. In alliance with Argentina and Uruguay, Brazil successfully waged the costly and bloody Paraguayan War of 1864-70, eventually overthrowing the Paraguayan dictator Francisco Solano López. This war of the Triple Alliance was the longest and bloodiest war in South American history, and its consequences in Brazil were profound. The empire's relations with the United States and with Europe were generally cordial, Pedro personally visiting Europe in 1871, 1876, and 1888 and the United States in 1876.
The empire's major social and economic problems were related to slave-based plantation agriculture. Real political power remained with large rural landholders, who formed the core of the social and economic elite of Brazil. Industrialization was still economically insignificant, and, with the decline of gold mining, agriculture was unrivaled as the source of Brazil's wealth. Cotton, and increasingly after 1840, coffee, competed with sugar as the leading export crop. The rural landholders were largely insulated from the antislavery current of the times. Although manumission was common, and the number of freedmen and their descendants far surpassed the number of slaves in Brazil, the slave owners as a group resisted pressures for the complete abolition of slavery. Partly as a result of pressure from Great Britain, Brazil had agreed to abolish the slave trade in 1831, but it was not until 1851 that slave traffic completely ceased. Agitation to abolish slavery as such began in the 1860s. Pedro was opposed to slavery, but he had to reckon with the slave owners. Yet the ending of slavery internally seemed the next logical step after stemming the importation of slaves. Accordingly, in 1871, the Law of the Free Womb was enacted, declaring free all children born to slaves. The legislation condemned slavery to eventual extinction. But, although agitation subsided briefly, this concession did not satisfy many of the abolitionists. Led by a young lawyer and writer, Joaquim Nabuco de Araújo, they demanded immediate and complete abolition. Nabuco's book O Abolicionismo (1883; Abolitionism) endeavoured to prove that slavery was poisoning the very life of the nation. In 1884 Ceará and Amazonas freed their slaves; in 1885 all slaves over 60 years of age were liberated. Finally, complete emancipation without compensation to the owners was decreed by the Princess Regent in the absence of the Emperor on May 13, 1888. About 700,000 slaves were freed.
The history of the Empire of Brazil began in 1822, with the proclamation of independence, and lasted until 1889, when the Republic was established. At first, the European countries did not recognize the government of D. Pedro I.
The United States through the Monroe Doctrine sided by the autonomy of the American continent, were the first to recognize the political emancipation of Brazil. The Portuguese crown only recognized the independence of Brazil in August 1825, after the intervention of England, which had so many commercial advantages with Brazil. Portugal also received 2 million pounds as compensation.
Acervo Museu Imperial Work of 1824 shows the enthroning of D. Pedro II. Oil on canvas, 2.38 x 3.10 m, François-René Moreaux (1807-1860) Enlarge
Work of 1824 shows the enthroning of D. Pedro II. Oil on canvas, 2.38 x 3.10 m, François-René Moreaux (1807-1860)
The Charter of 1824 was the first constitution of the country, whose laws were in force throughout the Empire of Brazil. The document established, among other things, the constitutional monarchy with central government, representative system with Senate and House of Representatives, four harmonics political powers - executive, legislative, judicial, and Chairman - the latter played by the Emperor. The right to vote and be elected was linked to social position and financial assets, which excluded the majority of the population.
During the early imperial period, the country was experiencing a severe economic crisis. The traditional export crops, such as sugarcane, cotton and tobacco began to decline as competition from other countries grew. In addition, Brazil had more costs to the import of manufactured goods than the gains from the export of agricultural products.
Not only in the economic area D. Pedro I struggled. In 1826, with the death of D. JoãoVI, the Portuguese throne now belonged to D. Pedro, the emperor of Brazil. Pressed by the Brazilian elite, who feared the a new colonization of Brazil, D. Pedro I resigned the Portuguese throne in favor of his daughter, D. Maria da Gloria. Being a young child, the throne came to be governed by D. Miguel, brother of D. Pedro I, who, with support from other countries, was proclaimed king in 1828.
To regain the throne, the emperor decided to financially assist the fight against D. Miguel in Portugal. This further increased the economic crisis and dissatisfaction of the political opposition in Brazil. Other events left clear the dissatisfaction, as the Liberal Revolutions of 1830, protests against the murder of journalist Libero Badaró, who was critical of the government, and street fighting between Brazilians and Portuguese led D. Pedro I to abdicate of the Brazilian throne in 1831.
Regency period (1831 to 1840)
The son of D. Pedro I, named Pedro de Alcantara, was proclaimed emperor of Brazil. The monarchy was maintained and three regents chosen to govern on behalf of the sovereign, until he reached adulthood, what would happen in 1843. The regency period was one of the most troubled in the history of Brazil. Landowners of the South dominated the government and the provinces were fighting for a greater autonomy policy. The dispute threatened to divide the empire into independent regions.
In 1834 the Additional Act introduced changes in the Constitution of 1824. The Council of State (whose representatives were supportive of the restoration of the First Empire) was abolished, provincial legislatures were created and the city of Rio de Janeiro was transformed into a neutral court. It was named one regent to govern in place of the triumvirate. Elected by national vote, it would strengthen the aristocratic, regionalist and federal sectors.
Political disputes remained bitter and, in 1840, to withdraw the Conservatives from power, the Liberals have proposed anticipating the age of majority of the Emperor. Parliamentary or Majority Revolution led to the end of regency period and set the begining, three years earlier, of the reign of D. Pedro II, which lasted until November 15, 1889.
In 1847, it was created the office of President of the Council of Ministers, also called Chief of Staff, a position similar to that of prime minister in European countries. The system then became Parliamentary until the proclamation of the Republic (1889). The Brazilian Parliamentary system was called "reverse parliamentary", as the House of Representatives instead of naming the Executive, was subordinated to it.
End of Empire
The economic and social changes from the mid-nineteenth century led to the proclamation of the Republic. The Paraguay War (1864-1870), which forced Brazil to borrow heavily and caused a financial imbalance, stirred dissatisfaction with the monarchy. In addition, the middle class consisting of professionals, civil servants, students and others, wanted more freedom and power. The succession of the throne was also questioned, since D. Pedro II had only daughters. Princess Elizabeth, who would assume power after the death of his father, was married to a Frenchman, which raised fears the country would be ruled by a foreigner.
The abolition of slavery also contributed to the end of the Empire of Brazil, who lost important support of landowners, affected by the decision of the government to indemnify them according to the number of freed slaves.
Worn out, the emperor tried to promote reforms in the political order. A new War Ministry was formed, under the command of Afonso Celso de Assis Figueiredo, the Viscount of Ouro Preto. He would be responsible for ensuring the succession of the monarchy.
Although the scepticism about the monarchy, the motion of November 15 did not count directly with popular participation. In Rio de Janeiro, the Republicans asked the Marshal Deodoro da Fonseca to head the revolutionary movement that would set the republic system. On the morning of November 15, 1889, under the command of Marshal Deodoro, troops took the streets to overthrow the ministry of Ouro Preto, which was deposed.
Dom Pedro II, who was in Petropolis during the events, returned to court to try to form a new ministry, without success. A provisional government was formed, with Marshal Deodoro da Fonseca in charge. On 17 November, under tight security, D. Pedro II, who decided not to oppose his deposition, moved with his family to Europe.