Lima e Silva, Luís Alves de (1803–1880)

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Lima e Silva, Luís Alves de (1803–1880)

Luís Alves De Lima e Silva (duque de Caxias; b. 25 August 1803; d. 7 June 1880), patron of the Brazilian army and Brazil's most famous soldier. Caxias began his military career at age five as a cadet. His father, Francisco de Lima e Silva, was prominent in national politics and served as a member of the Regency from 1831 to 1835. Caxias saw action in the struggle for independence. During the Regency period (1830–1841), in which three political parties were grappling for power following the abdication of Dom Pedro I, he served the goals of the moderate Chimango Party by dissolving the unruly army created by the former ruler. Then, with a corps of four hundred loyal officers (the Sacred Battalion) heading up units of the newly created National Guard, Caxias suppressed various regional uprisings. In 1840 he was appointed president of Maranhão Province, which was in rebellion. The seizure of the town of Caxias was crucial in bringing that area under control, and he was given the title of baron (later viscount, count, marquis, and duke) of Caxias. Subsequently, he was able to suppress revolts in the provinces of São Paulo, Minas Gerais, and Rio Grande do Sul.

Caxias is remembered as the providential figure in establishing and maintaining political stability for the empire and as a very active member of the Conservative Party, serving as minister of war, deputy, senator, and, on two occasions, as prime minister. He characterized himself as being "more of a soldier than a politician." Others described him as "the most civilian soldier." Although he demonstrated his military abilities in the campaign to topple the Argentine dictator Juan Manuel de Rosas in 1852, it was as commander of Allied forces during the Paraguayan War (1865–1870) that Caxias met his greatest test both militarily and politically. Certain Liberal Party leaders in power at that moment subjected Caxias to a constant barrage of criticism in Parliament and the press, to which Caxias responded with a threat to resign. Dom Pedro II removed the Liberal regime and, although the episode was complicated by other factors, Liberal leaders blamed the whole affair on "militarism."

Caxias, his health broken, and bitter over the way civilian leaders had allowed partisan considerations to affect their obligation to support him and the army in the war, returned home to further evidences of ingratitude. No hero's welcome was arranged, he continued to be criticized in Parliament, and the size of the army was cut drastically against his wishes. Although he subsequently served in various governmental positions, Caxias died disillusioned with the treatment accorded him and the army by civilian political leaders of the empire.

In the view of Brazilian military leaders, Caxias stands as the example of how the army, under the leadership of patriotic officers, could serve as the principal institution for maintaining the national unity needed for governing an essentially undisciplined society whose civilian leaders purportedly have lacked an adequate sense of patriotism. Thus, the term Caxiasism becomes synonymous with the term civics.

See alsoRosas, Juan Manuel de; War of the Triple Alliance.


E. Bradford Burns, A History of Brazil, 2d ed. (1980), pp. 177-178, 282.

Affonso De Carvalho, Caxias, 2d ed. (1940).

Olyntho Pillar, Os patronos das forças armadas (1966), pp. 15-56.

Paulo Matos Peixoto, Caxias: Nume tutelar da nacionalidade, 2 vols. (1973).

Additional Bibliography

Izecksohn, Vitor. O cerne da discórdia: A Guerra do Paraguai e o Núcleo Profissional do Exército Brasileiro. Rio de Janeiro: Biblioteca do Exército Editora, 1997.

                                        Robert A. Hayes

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Lima e Silva, Luís Alves de (1803–1880)

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