Brazil’s Independence Movement

When examining the independence movement of Brazil, historians conclude that it “can be explained by a series of factors, both internal and external . . . but it was the wind from without that set the events on an unforeseen course as far as most of the participants were concerned.” In fact, it was the transfer of the Portuguese royal family to Brazil  which historians point to as putting an end to this colonial system.

Take a moment and reflect upon what you have learned about the external and internal factors that led to independence in Spanish America. Having done this, revisit the following selections looking for details on Brazil’s independence and post-independence experience

Teresa A. Meade, A History of Modern Latin America, Chapter 3 and 4

Also read:

Joao Paulo Pimenta, Brazilian Independence: Change and Continuity

After reflecting on the content of these readings, address the following question by leaving a comment below.

What external and internal factors led to  Brazil’s independence? Can one argue that Brazil’s independence was not to come from a revolutionary break with Portugal such as in the case of Spanish America? What ultimately sealed Brazil’s independence?


11 thoughts on “Brazil’s Independence Movement”

  1. A major external factor leading to the independence of Brazil was Napoleons conquering of Portugal. Having been conquered King Joao VI left Portugal and moved the throne to Rio De Janeiro. Once the Portuguese army pushed Napoleon out Joao elected to stay in Brazil causing an issue with those back in Portugal. This led to Brazils independence in a very strange way. After returning to Portugal so as to maintain his power Joao put his son in charge of Brazil, a now “equal” to Portugal. Several years later Portugal wanted to return Brazil to its subordinate status and so Brazil was proclaimed independent by Joao’s son placing himself as emperor. Unlike many of the other latin American countries it was not uprisings lead by the Metizos or Criollos but instead the King of Portugal being forced to live in Brazil and essentially falling in love with the tropical nation which eventually lead to their independence.

  2. Brazil would use slave labor to grow crops and work on plantations . Most of the slaves came from African and there were also slaves among the native Americans. Most of the slaves were owned by white Brazilian Creoles. So far we see a divide in social classes. The divide was between natives, Africans and Creoles. Slaves in the Portuguese colonies were beginning to rebel during the late 18th century. The reason for the slave revolt was due to the divide between Creoles and the slaves. They were not seen as equal which is the external reason for independence. And the internal factors of the independence was the invasion of Portugal lead by Napoleon’s army and the moving of court. In 1807 the Iberian Peninsula was invaded by the French army. This forced the Portuguese court to move to Brazil shortly after the invasion. In 1808 the new Portuguese court was settled in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Once the court was moved to Rio in December 1815, the prince regent declared Brazil as equal to the homeland.This is the internal factor of the road to independence. though Brazil is equal to the homeland does not mean it will be seen as equal to those who have full Portuguese blood. In 1822 Dom Pedro gave up his throne in Rio and returned Portugal. Soon after, on September 7, 1822 the monarch declared Brazil’s Independence. Brazil’s independence is not like the independence movement in Mexican but Brazil did have its rebellions going on . They weren’t to the length of Mexico’s independence but the revolts did add to the road of independence in Brazil. For Brazil’s independence, it was fought with a series of slave revolts. What ultimately sealed Brazil’s was due to the Monarchs wanting to go back to Portugal. This does not make Brazil’s history less existing but it shows the fall of the Monarch in Brazil and gave birth to the new world of independence without the Portuguese.

  3. The French Revolution and Napoleonic wars lead to the independence of Brazil, not directly but indirectly. The French Revolution was a contributor to the spread of enlightenment. And the Napoleonic wars lead to the king of Portugal (John VI) to flee Portugal in British ships. John VI would establish the United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil and the Algarves, this would lead to Brazil independence from Portugal.

    It’s hard to say what might had happened if John VI did not leave Portugal for Brazil. In my opinion, Brazil would have becoming independent. With what was going on in Mexico and Venezuela at that time, I believe this would have heavily influenced the classes of Brazil. People like José Bonifácio de Andrada were already pushing for the very idea of a free Brazil(not for slaves, free from Portugal), so the idea of free Brazil is likely to have happened.

    What won the independence of Brazil was a member of the royal family making it his duty to do so. Dom Pedro declared Brazil independent for Portugal. Dom Pedro would take the role of ruling Brazil as the First Emperor of Brazil.

  4. Brazil’s path to independence was different from that of many of its Latin American neighbors. First of all, Brazil was a colony of Portugal, not Spain. One internal factor that contributed to Brazil having a difficult time becoming independent was that it was not very unified. It was divided up into plots of land throughout the country that weren’t really connected. There were small rebellions across the country, but it was hard for them to become unified due to this. A big moment for Brazil came during the Napoleonic Wars when Portugal moved its royal family and capital to Brazil (from Lisbon to Rio De Janeiro) due to France invading Portugal. It was during this time of Portuguese relocation to Brazil that the seeds of independence were strongly planted. Brazil as a nation grew more prominent and politically powerful with the Portuguese royal court now in Rio. In 1821 King Dom Joao VI, returned the royal court to Portugal. Politics were strong and active in Brazil at this time and many felt it was time for Brazil to gain independence from Portugal. Many opposed and were fed up with the king and the government of Portugal, leading to a movement for a split to independence. In 1822 the prince Dom Pedro decided to stay in Brazil and start an independent nation there. There was fighting in Brazil between 1822 and 1823 over this new government, but overall Brazil claimed to have a peaceful move towards independence, as opposed to Spanish America’s violent revolutions from Spain. For this reason, one could argue that the revolutionary break from Spain and Portugal were different. The creation of a new constitution as well as acceptance of Brazil as an independent state by powerful nations such as the United States and Britain would contribute to the sealing of its fate as independent. Eventually, Emperor Dom Pedro I would leave his empire to his five year old son when he left for Portugal in 1831, leading to more chaos and a rocky start for the young nation. Issues such as slavery and the economy would linger in Brazil for years to come after it gained independence.

  5. Before the sought for Independence from Portugal, Brazil was one of the many separate colonies captaincies that made up the Kingdom of Portugal. One of the key motivations for Brazil’s independence was the effect the French revolution had on them. While Napoleon Bonaparte was able to infiltrate Portugal, exposing its weak defense. During this war many of Portugal’s People were lost, along with many of their goods. This gave Brazil more of a reason to attempt to obtain independence. Another reason was the decline of sugar ports for Brazil. Brazil’s economy flourished due to the sugar ports which they were aided by African Americans who were brought to Brazil. While sugar declined they need for gold became more important, allowing immigrants from all over to come to Brazil and Portugal, saving the Colony from collapse due to the little need of sugar. A political movement by portugal, ended up leading to Brazilian Independence, was intended to generate and preserve the United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil, and the Algarves who were all declining from the invasion of France. Brazil was able to gain independence on September 7, 1822.

  6. Brazil’s independence was caused by many factors both internally and externally. Externally, the Portuguese Empire was under administrative shift and compared to other empires like Spain, Portugal wasn’t as big and powerful. Portugal attempted to unify Brazil instead of being divided into subunits. The invasion of Portugal by Napoleon in 1807 led to problems for the governing powers of Portugal. The uprising in Portugal due to the invasion also contributed to this. This led to the conversion of the capital of viceroyalty of Brazil into the seat of the imperial court. Up until that point Brazil had no legal press and but now with more people coming over from Portugal, the changes were becoming to occur. One can argue that Brazil’s independence was not to come from a revolutionary break from Portugal because, for example, Spain did not relocate its leadership to Mexico or Venezuela. The growth of printing press and political publications in Brazil is what helped lead to independence in Brazil as it got people to start talking. Decrees wanted the extinction of the court system created in Rio de Janeiro and the organization of new overseas governments. Protest of seven representatives from Brazilian provinces and having their passports confiscated led to them issuing a manifesto and a Proclamation of Independence. What once was a bunch of territories with no organization was now a government wanting independence. The unification of Brazil helped the country become its own political entity like its neighbors.

  7. Brazil had built a colonization of a sugar-based economy and from the sugar plantations began the slave work force. The plantations were used to export sugar to Europe. When the French revolution events occurred, it rippled into the colonies which led to uprising in slavery. People wanted to abolish the slavery system and a voodoo priest led the slavery revolt which ended up causing many black deaths and an extreme bloody war. The Europeans tried to establish several colonies in Brazil because of the amounts of products and resource that were bring discovered in Brazil but would later be driven out of Brazil. Gold and diamond were discovered in Brazil which lead to many immigrants to travel overseas to Brazil and settle. Due to the increase of the number of people living in Brazil, the economy became stronger and grew. The independence of Brazil began 1807 when the government of Portugal fled to Brazil to stayed away from Napoleon’s invasion of Portugal and establishing their government in Rio De Janeiro. The king Joao VI left back to Portugal six years later, leaving his son in control of Brazil. A year later Joao son, Pedro, wanted to separate Brazil from Portugal and this began the Independence war of Brazil with Portugal. On December 1, Pedro a 24-year-old declared himself the empire of Brazil.

  8. Much like that of the other independence movements going on throughout Latin America under Spanish rule, The French Revolution impacted Brazil’s independence movement to be free from Portuguese rule. France’s invasion and takeover of Portugal in 1807 was the starting point in Brazil’s decision to strive for independence. Portuguese hierarchies, courts, and councils began to have their power dissolved into a regency council under French rule, that was later terminated in 1808 by Jean-Andoche Junot. Because of this disruption in Portugal’s political affairs as well as it’s material ones, alternative policies began to emerge leading to Brazil to seek independence.
    A few days prior to France invading Portugal’s capital city Lisboa, the prince regent of Portugal had fled by boat to Brazil. He landed in Salvador, Bahia in January of 1808 and there he signed a royal decree allowing free trade in Portuguese ports throughout the Americas. This ended portugal’s monopoly of trade. The prince arrived a month and a half later in Rio de Janeiro where he appointed well known Portuguese political figures to be his new cabinet. This new power in Brazil’s capital meant change, and therefore forced the developing country the advance things like it’s infrastructure, communication networks, and most importantly it’s institutions. It’s also at this point that Brazil’s first legal press was created. During this time, many parts of Spanish colonized Latin America were striving for Independence from Spain, which helped ignite idea’s for Brazil’s own independence in 1822.
    Brazil’s booming nation though was recognized as more than just a colony and was adapted into the United Kingdom of Portugal in 1815. This was short live, as discontent in both Brazil and Portugal arose in in the coming years. As Portugal continued to struggle to regain it’s political power, it turned to a constitutional revolution as a solution. As aggravation continued to unfold and military was sent to Brazil, it in turn fueled Brazil to war for independence. Then, in September of 1822, the “Proclamation of Independence” rallied Brazilians into finally being an independent nation.

  9. What external and internal factors led to Brazil’s independence?
    Internally, Brazil was riddled with resources. Whether it be slaves, the harvesting of sugar (plantation complex), or mining for precious metals, it is undeniable that Brazil was a microcosm of many parts of the world. It had all it needed to sustain itself, leading to conflicts of interests within the confines of Brazil. Externally, the Portuguese government was lacking severely in terms of where it stood in relation to other international powers. An example of how these two (internal and external) factors meet is when Portugal attempts to silence Brazilian protests. Instead of silencing them, the Brazilians easily overthrew the Portuguese, thus demonstrating how weak the Portuguese regime really was.

    Can one argue that Brazil’s independence was not to come from a revolutionary break with Portugal such as in the case of Spanish America?
    Yes this can be argued. In the case of Spanish America, it was clear that the problems that these countries (i.e. Mexico and Venezuela) were immensely influenced by the overreaching control that the Spanish had over them. In the case of Brazil, most of the problems that the country was having were coming from within their borders. This did not initiate as much of a feeling of resentment for the residual control that Portugal had over Brazil, thus the revolution was seen more as a natural step in the progress of Brazil as a country.

    What ultimately sealed Brazil’s independence?
    The war of the Iberian peninsula is what eventually sealed Brazil’s independence. Portugal was being fought over and its own infrastructure was in shambles. In submitting to the British, Portugal had revealed its true lack of power and Brazilians saw this as a time in which they should take advantage of the fact that the potential of Using their own resources, far outweighed the benefits of keeping Portuguese leaders in power.

  10. The external and internal reasons of the Independence of Brazil were military and political ambition. Portuguese military officers that were based in Brazil at this time sided with the constitutionalist movement. General Jorge Avilez lead Portugals military, and was also loyal to the King, Dom Pedro but then he betrayed Pedro by dismissing kingdom and finances. Pedro was also ordered to go back to Europe and any courts that his father had created in 1808 were done away with. This resulted in the uprising of the Bonificans, and the Liberals. They had ideas of keeping Brazil united with Portugal as a sovereign monarchy. There was a riot that broke out and Pedro was upset, which led him to back to Brazil to declare that that would break ties and forgiven affairs so that any ties that they had once held with Portugal were now broken. “Hail to the independence, to freedom and to the separation of Brazil. For my blood, my honour, my God, I swear to give Brazil freedom. Independence or death!” were Dom Pedros words in 1822 as he claimed Brazil Independence to the people of Brazil.

  11. I find it interesting is how the politics heavily influenced the state of Brazil during the time, being very active and progressive at the time, all in order to get independence from Portugal. The king was not popular and the movement inspired change.

    Across the country many rebellions took shape, however – they could not fully become unified. The reason for this would be how, Brazil ultimately went a little differently about their independence than that of the rest of Latin America. Being a a part of, a colony of, Portugal instead of Spain that is. This all led to Brazil having difficulties being unified, with very divided land across the country. This was important because that indeed did halt Brazil’s path to independence as a whole. If you are not well connected across the country, with people taking sides internally, it is hard to speak for the country as a whole.

    Around 1822 and 1823, Brazil fought for the new government, ultimately settling for independence without being overly aggressive.

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