I Found It at the JCB




Pernambuco (Brazil). Governador (1823-1824 : Andrade) Proclamação. : Abitantes [sic] das províncias do norte do Brasil! A Providencia, que vela constantemente sobre a nosa felicidade, co[n]tinúa a encaminhar tudo, para que mais facilmente posamos consegui-la. ... [Rio de Janeiro] : Na Typ. Nacional, 1824.
Original in the John Carter Brown Library.

< click on image for enlargement >

Independence and its Discontents:
Alternatives to the Brazilian Empire in the 1820s

by Gabriel Paquette

During my time as a JCB fellow, I researched the processes resulting in the breakdown of the Portuguese empire in the period 1760-1820. The Library holds a superabundance of material pertinent to this theme, much of which is now digitized (see the Library's Portugal and Brazil collection on Internet Archive). One of the things that became clear in the course of my research was that Brazil’s independence from Portugal in the early 1820s was fraught with ambiguities, half-starts, and indelible tensions. Brazil was anything but a cohesive, united, and fully-formed nation-state in the early 1820s. On the contrary, there were many competing visions of Brazil’s future at the moment of independence. The competition soon led to conflict.

The document displayed here is a proclamation issued by the leader of what became known as the Confederation of the Equator. In late 1823, Emperor Dom Pedro I dissolved the constituent assembly he had called to frame a constitution for Brazil. He promulgated his own constitution in February 1824, which concentrated power in his hands, and in Rio de Janeiro, depriving the various provinces of Brazil of the significant autonomy over their own affairs that they had hoped independence would bring. In the northeastern state of Pernambuco, particularly in the port city of Recife, the emperor’s high-handed actions were resented. The leaders of the Confederation of the Equator sought to unite the northeastern and northern provinces into a loosely allied polity, animated by republican principles, and amenable to local autonomy. They believed another Brazil was possible.

The proclamation held by the JCB reflects the Confederation’s fears and aspiration.  They went so far as to claim that the dissolution of the constitution assembly was a precursor to an invasion of Brazil by Portugal! The Confederation did not last long. Imperial troops and naval assaults defeated it within a few months and most of the documents its short-lived government produced were destroyed. But the memory of the Confederation of the Equator continued to inspire Brazilian advocates of republican government and local autonomy throughout the nineteenth century.

Gabe Paquette was a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellow at the John Carter Brown Library during the summer and fall of 2011.



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