Andrada, José Bonifácio de (1763–1838)

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Andrada, José Bonifácio de (1763–1838)

José Bonifácio de Andrada (b. 13 June 1763; d. 6 April 1838), statesman and geologist, known in Brazil as the patriarch of independence. A native of Santos, São Paulo, and the eldest of the Andrada Brothers, José Bonifácio settled in Portugal after graduating in 1788 from Coimbra University. In 1790 the Portuguese government sent him on a mission to study scientific topics in northern Europe. During a decade's absence, he established himself as an expert on minerals and mining. In 1801 he was appointed to several government posts in Portugal. The multiplicity of his new responsibilities and his impatient, imperious character reduced his effectiveness as a bureaucrat. Following the French invasion of Portugal in 1807, he did not accompany the government to Brazil but played a notable role in organizing resistance. His subsequent career in Portugal was stultifying. In 1819 he finally secured permission to retire to Santos, still drawing most of his salary.

The revolution that began in Pôrto in 1820 drew José Bonifácio to the center of Brazilian politics. He played a key role in the provisional government of São Paulo and publicly advocated the continuance of the kingdom of Brazil created in 1815. When the prince regent, Dom Pedro, decided in January 1822 to defy the Cortes and to stay in Rio, José Bonifácio was the logical choice to serve as the prince's chief minister and adviser. José Bonifácio's self-confidence, energy, and determination were indispensable during the next year and a half in establishing the prince's authority within Brazil. The flow of events forced José Bonifácio, not originally an advocate of political independence, to accept that outcome in September 1822. He preserved for the new emperor Pedro I the traditional powers of the Portuguese monarchy.

José Bonifácio's very successes undercut his position. As the new nation-state was consolidated, so his talents became less indispensable and his domineering character less tolerable. Intrigues at court achieved his dismissal as minister in July 1823. José Bonifácio and his brothers, as members of the Constituent Assembly, sitting at Rio since May, went into opposition, denouncing the Portuguese-born faction at court and thereby attacking the emperor himself. The outcome was the violent dissolution of the assembly in November 1823 and the exiling to France of the Andrada brothers until 1829.

On his return, José Bonifácio again became a favored advisor of Pedro I. When the emperor abdicated on 7 April 1831, he named José Bonifácio to be his son's guardian (tutor). Although the new regime refused at first to recognize this nomination, the legislature voted in June to make José Bonifácio guardian. His handling of his position was not successful. Pedro II and his sisters did not flourish physically or psychologically. José Bonifácio used his position for political purposes, being involved in plots to overthrow the regime. The government forcibly removed him as guardian in December 1833. José Bonifácio spent his remaining years in quiet retirement on Paquetá Island, Rio de Janeiro.

See alsoBrazil, Independence Movements .


Octavio Tarquino De Sousa, História dos fundadores do império, vol. 1, José Bonifácio (Rio de Janeiro, 1957).

Additional Bibliography

Barretto, Vincente. Ideologia e política no pensamento de José Bonifácio de Andrada e Silva. Rio de Janeiro: Zahar Editores, 1977.

Viotti da Costa, Emilia. "José Bonifáciode Andrada e Silva: A Brazilian Founding Father." In The Brazilian Empire: Myths and Histories. Chapel Hill and London: University of North Carolina Press, 2000.

                                    Roderick J. Barman

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Andrada, José Bonifácio de (1763–1838)

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