Brazil, The Empire (First)

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Brazil, The Empire (First)

The First Empire (1822–1831) was a period of consolidation of Brazilian independence and of struggle between the crown and the elites. Territorial unification of the empire, foreign recognition of its independence, and the enactment of a constitution were the major achievements of the period. The convergence of the conflicting ideologies of centralism and federalism, an opposition to monarchical absolutism and centralized power, and the fear of reunification with Portugal led to continual conflict between the crown and the General Assembly for control of political power, and eventually paralyzed the government. A number of royal actions irrevocably alienated the Chamber of Deputies; among them Pedro I's dissolution of the constituent assembly and his subsequent granting of a centralizing constitution, the disclosure of secret conventions in the treaty with Portugal, and the Anglo-Brazilian treaty to end the slave trade, which was signed and ratified by the emperor without the General Assembly's knowledge. Pedro's inheritance of the Portuguese throne in 1827 fueled anti-Portuguese tendencies and reawakened fears of reunification and the suspicion that Pedro's interests were with Portugal.

Despite the adversarial climate of the First Empire, a supreme court of justice, a postal service, and a criminal code were established. During this period several separatist insurrections were suppressed with various degrees of success. In 1824 the Confederation of the Equator was defeated, but the revolt in the Cisplatine province led to a protracted war and ultimately to the creation of Uruguay. Economic progress was scant: measures to promote immigration failed, coffee exports tripled but the prices for other exports fell due to international competition, inflation was high, public and foreign debt rose, the exchange rate dec-lined, the equalization of duties did not allow for increases of revenues, and the Bank of Brazil was liquidated. The continual political and institutional crises led to the abdication of Pedro I in 1831.

See alsoPedro I of Brazil .


John Armitage, A History of Brazil, 2 vols., (repr. 1970).

Emilia Viotti Da Costa, The Brazilian Empire: Myths and Histories (1985), pp. 1-77.

Neill Macaulay, Dom Pedro: The Struggle for Liberty in Brazil and Portugal, 1798–1834 (1986), pp. 87-253.

Leslie Bethell, ed., Brazil Empire and Republic, 1822–1930 (1989).

Additional Bibliography

Costa, Emília Viotti da. The Brazilian Empire: Myths & Histories. Rev. ed. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2000.

Lustosa, Isabel. Insultos impressos: A guerra dos jornalistas na Independência, 1821–1823. São Paulo: Companhia das Letras, 2000.

Morel, Marco. As transformações dos espaços públicos: Imprensa, atores políticos e sociabilidades na cidade imperial, 1820–1840. São Paulo: Hucitec, 2005.

Schultz, Kirsten. Tropical Versailles: Empire, Monarchy, and the Portuguese Royal Court in Rio de Janeiro, 1808–1821. New York: Routledge, 2001.

Seckinger, Ron. The Brazilian Monarchy and the South American Republics, 1822–1831: Diplomacy and State Building. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University, 1984.

                                    Lydia M. Garner

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Brazil, The Empire (First)

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