empiresnorth americana





Unlike Spanish America, independence came easy to Brazil. Brazil’s movement for independence began with the transfer of the royal court from Lisbon to Rio de Janeiro in 1808, upon the Napoleonic invasion of the Iberian peninsula. The first institutional step in the separation of Brazil from Portugal was the 1815 decree issued by Prince Regent John, declaring Brazil to be a kingdom in its own right and coequal to the mother country, manifested here by the corresponding carta de lei. Also on display are Brazil’s first constitution, drafted indirectly, if not directly, by John’s son, Pedro I, Brazil’s first ruler. When John VI returned to Portugal in 1821, Prince Pedro stayed behind and became Brazil’s first emperor the following year. Historians still debate whether he acted on his own initiative in separating Brazil from Portugal, or upon advise of his parents, who preferred to minimize the royal family’s losses.

The British fleet that brought the court to Rio also brought Brazil’s first printing press and a first rate historian, the vice count of São Leopoldo, José Feliciano Fernandes Pinheiro. Pinheiro produced The annals of the Captaincy of San Pedro, a classic history of southern Brazil in two volumes, the first volume of which was printed on that very same press. Brazil became better known to the rest of the world at this time, not only through such histories but also such fascinating travelogues as Prince Maximilian of Wied Neuwied’s Travels in Brazil.

The Philippines, on the other hand, had to fight long and hard for its independence. One of the reasons that it took the Philippines so long is that Spain appointed a series of strong-men in the nineteenth century, beginning with Mariano Fernández de Folgueras, to govern the islands. Fortunately for the JCB, Bromsen’s legacy includes the governor’s personal papers, an invaluable source for the study not only of the forgotten Fernández de Folgueras but also of this turbulent yet little studied period in the history of the Philippines.



Brazil. [Carta de lei (1815 Dec. 16)]. Dom João por graça de Deos principe regente de Portugal, e dos Algarves ... Que desde a publicação desta carta de lei o Estado do Brasil seja elevado á dignidade, preeminencia, e denominação de = Reino do Brasil. ([Rio de Janeiro, 1815]). [B07-560]

This law constitutes the institutional beginnings of the Empire (1822–1889) of Brazil. Aware of the currents of unrest and the desire for change in the colony, Prince Regent John raised Brazil to the status of a Kingdom through this carta de lei of 16 December 1815, making it coequal with the mother country. In so doing, the future John VI of Portugal placated the advocates for independence, but not for long. Almost as weak-willed as his mother Queen Maria Francisca was mentally incapacitated, the Prince Regent was undoubtedly influenced in this matter as in others by his consort, the heady Charlotte of Spain.

Jose Feliciano Fernandes


Pinheiro, José Feliciano Fernandes, Visconde de São Leopoldo, 1774–1847. Annaes da capitania de S. Pedro. 2 vols. (Rio de Janeiro, 1819–Lisbon, 1822). [B07-63/64]

This detailed, documented history of Rio Grande do Sul (the southernmost State of modern Brazil) during the colonial period includes some coverage of the future Uruguay and the Paraguayan missions. Pinheiro, a multifaceted jurist, had access to sources, including collective as well as individual memories, no longer extant. He also wrote on agriculture and economic development. See his Discursos apresentados á Meza de Agricultura (Lisbon, 1800) and Cultura americana (Lisbon, 1799), both of which are held by the JCB.



Wied, Maximilian, Prinz von, 1782-1867. Travels in Brazil in 1815, 1816 and 1817. Translated from the German, and illustrated with engravings. (London, 1820). [B07-147]

This is the English version of Prince Maximilian of Wied-Neuwied’s Reise nach Brasilien in den Jahren 1815 bis 1817. Born towards the end of the Enlightenment, Maximilian was friends with two of its major figures, the comparative anthropologist Johann Friedrich Blumenbach, from whom the Prince learned biology, and the celebrated Alexander von Humboldt, who was his mentor. Wied led an expedition to southeast Brazil from 1815 to 1817, producing upon his return this gem of a travel account. In the 1830s, Maximilian travelled to the Great Plains region of the United States, accompanied by the Swiss painter Karl Bodmer, producing upon their return his equally celebrated Reise in das Innere Nord-Amerikas (1840).



Brazil. Projecto de constituição para o imperio do Brasil (Rio de Janeiro, 1823); Projecto de constituição para o imperio do Brasil (London, 1824)[ shown here]; and Constituição politica do Imperio do Brasil (Rio de Janeiro, 1824). [B07-596]

The first constitution of Brazil reflects the hand of the first Emperor of Brazil, Pedro I. Not surprisingly, it gave the emperor considerable power. What is surprising, however, is that this constitution lasted as long as the empire itself (i.e., until 1889) inasmuch as constitutions have come and gone in the Latin American republics almost as frequently as their leaders. The John Carter Brown appears to be the only library in the world to hold both the Rio de Janeiro and London editions of the “Draft Constitution for the Empire of Brazil” as well as the “Political Constitution of the Empire of Brazil” itself.

Folgueras arms


These papers of Mariano Fernández de Folgueras (1766–1823) constitute an important group of primary sources for the study of the early nineteenth-century history of the Philippines and the life and career of a neglected colonial bureaucrat. Somewhat of a martinet, Fernández de Folgueras was assassinated in 1823. Exhibited here are his family coat-of-arms in gouache, his family tree, according to which “D[o]n Mariano Fernández de Folgueras was born in the city of Barcelona, Principality of Catalonia, on the 21st of February of 1766,” and his certificate of membership in the Economic Society of the Philippines. Note the elaborate paper guard over the wax seal of the Society. Economic societies, or societies of the friends of the country, came into existence in Spain and its colonies during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries to promote economic development and prosperity.

    Exhibition prepared by Michael T. Hamerly.
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