Brazil, the Regency

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Brazil, the Regency

The period in Brazilian history following the 1831 abdication of Pedro I was a time of sweeping reform and chaos. In the absence of a ruling monarch, the General Assembly appointed a three-man regency to govern until Dom Pedro's son reached the age of eighteen. Its tenure was characterized by a political and constitutional vacuum, unstable governments, subordination of the executive to the legislative, transference of central power to provincial assemblies, and Liberal measures to create a federalist form of government. Reforms enacted in 1834 curtailed the power of the executive and of the emperor, and decentralized the government. The regents lost some prerogatives of the executive and of the moderative powers, including the ability to dissolve the Chamber of Deputies and to confer titles of nobility, and became subordinate to the legislative. The Additional Act (1834) transferred to the provinces powers heretofore belonging to the central government, abolished the Council of State and entailed estates, and created elected provincial assemblies. The National Guard was created to counterbalance the army.

The reforms rendered the central government a shadow, eliminated the center of authority and legitimacy, and encouraged regionalist centrifugal forces. A number of revolts and uprisings ensued, among them: Cabanos—Pernambuco and Alagoas (1835–1836); Cabanagem—Pará (1831–1833, 1835–1837); Balaiada (1838–1840); Sabinada—Bahia (1838–1840); and Farroupilha—Rio Grande do Sul (1835–1845).

The threat of anarchy resulting from Liberal policies caused a realignment of political forces bent on restoring order and the authority of the central government. The retrogression began in 1837, during the regency of the conservative leader Pedro de Araújo Lima, viscount of Olinda, with passage in May 1840 of the Law of Interpretation, which took away some prerogatives of provincial governments, and of a project to amend the Criminal Procedure Code to return to central control the police and judicial appointments. The crisis of political legitimacy continued, however, and in 1839 the country was near chaos and in danger of political dissolution. Luís Alves de Lima E Silva, duke of Caxias, utilized a core of loyal officers (the Sacred Battalion) at the head of the newly created National Guard to put down the rebellions. The success of the guard notwithstanding, the early accession of Pedro II was seen as the only solution to restore order and legitimacy. Although the Liberals initiated the movement for his majority for their own reasons, public support ultimately swayed the conservatives. In 1841, Pedro II assumed the throne at age 15, thereby ending the Regency.

See alsoBrazil: 1808–1889xml .


Thomas W. Palmer, Jr., "A Momentous Decade in Brazilian Administrative History, 1831–1840," in Hispanic American Historical Review 30, no. 2 (May 1950): 209-217.

João Pandiá Calogeras, A History of Brazil, translated and edited by Percy Alvin Martin (1939; repr. 1963), pp. 119-140.

Sérgio Buarque De Hollanda, Historia geral da civilização brasileira, vol. 6, no. 2 (1964), pp. 9-60.

E. Bradford Burns, A History of Brazil, 2d ed. (1980), pp. 170-176.

Roderick J. Barman, Brazil: The Forging of a Nation, 1798–1852 (1988), pp. 189-209.

Additional Bibliography

Needell, Jeffrey D. The Party of Order: The Conservatives, the State, and Slavery in the Brazilian Monarchy, 1831–1871. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2006.

                                          Lydia M. Garner

                                          Robert A. Hayes

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Brazil, the Regency

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