Inconfidência Mineira

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Inconfidência Mineira

Inconfidência Mineira, a plot for independence involving significant members of the elite of Minas Gerais, Brazil, in 1788–1789. Key plotters included Tomás Antônio Gonzaga, the royal judge of Vila Rica, poet, and satirist; Cláudio Manuel da Costa, a local town councillor, poet, and the first historian of the mining zone; José Álvares Maciel, son of a local tax farmer and a recent graduate of Coimbra; Inácio José de Alvarenga Peixoto, a gold miner and poet; Francisco de Paula Freire de Andrade, the commander of dragoons; Father José da Silva de Oliveira Rolim, a priest, slave trader, and dealer in diamonds; and Joaquim José da Silva Xavier (Tiradentes), an ensign (alferes) in the dragoons. The plot was never implemented because the governor was informed and was able to arrest most of those involved.

Since the revolt was frustrated, the Inconfidência Mineira is less significant for its effects than for its symbolism and its implications for the end of Portuguese control over Brazil. It is important because key sectors of the elite of Minas Gerais, both lay and ecclesiastical, were involved in a plot to end Portuguese domination. The plot emerged from the alienation of a key segment of the Mineiro elite, which was bound by close familial ties. This alienation grew out of the economic impact of diminishing gold production. Several of the participants in the plot were heavily in debt.

Because of the failure to implement the plot, its objectives are known only through the investigation and questioning conducted by royal authorities. The objectives of the plotters included independence, although the extent of the plans for the new republic is not clear. The plotters sought to extend their efforts beyond Minas Gerais to include Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. Recognizing the shift in the economic center of Minas Gerais, the plotters sought to move the capital from Vila Rica to São João del Rei and to create Brazil's first university in Vila Rica. The republic would be governed by a written constitution implemented by a parliament in the capital and smaller legislative bodies in each urban center. The plotters planned to establish industries—especially for gunpowder and iron, necessary for defense, and cheap agricultural and mining implements—thereby reviving the economy. There would also be free trade. On social issues the plotters were divided. Some supported the emancipation of slaves born in Brazil as a means of making them supporters of the new republic. Others favored maintaining slavery as an economic necessity. There was agreement on providing incentives for an increase in population. Finally, of great interest to many of the plotters, a pardon of debts owed to the treasury was proposed.

The Portuguese response to the plot reflects the nature of colonial rule. The activists and ideologues of the Inconfidência were brought to trial, but only Silva Xavier was executed. Key backers of the conspiracy were not tried, no doubt out of deference to their high social status. The plot demonstrated that there was substantial dissatisfaction with the colonial status of Minas Gerais, the most powerful captaincy in Brazil. Although a failure, the Inconfidência Mineira demonstrated the existence of republican and nationalist values in a key part of colonial Brazil.

See alsoMinas Gerais .


Kenneth R. Maxwell, Conflicts and Conspiracies: Brazil and Portugal, 1750–1808 (1973).

Additional Bibliography

Fiúza, Rubens. Tiradentes: Cronicas da vida colonial brasileira. Belo Horizonte: Rita Soares de Faria, 2006.

Focas, Junía Diniz. Inconfidencia mineira: A história dos sentidos de uma historia. Belo Horizonte: Faculdade de Letras/UFMG, 2002.

Furtado, Jaci Pereira. Inconfidencia mineira: Um espetáculo no escuro (1788–1792.) São Paulo: Moderno, 1998.

Furtado, João Pinto. O manto de Pénelope: História, mito, e memória da Inconfidencia Mineira de 1788–9. São Paolo: Companhia das Letras, 2002.

Oliveira, Dilce Alves de. O papél da defensoría pública na Inconfidencia Mineira: Um sonho da cidadania. Belo Horizonte: Ephata Produçoes, 2002.

Perrin, Dimas. Inconfidencia mineira, causas e conseqüencias. Brasília: Coordenada, 1969.

                                           Donald Ramos