Pedro I of Brazil (1798–1834)

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Pedro I of Brazil (1798–1834)

Pedro I of Brazil (b. 12 October 1798; d. 24 September 1834), emperor of Brazil (1822–1831). Born in Queluz palace, Portugal, Prince Pedro de Bragança e Borbón was nine years old when he fled with the Portuguese royal family to Brazil to escape an invading French army. The Braganças settled in Rio de Janeiro in 1808 and Pedro spent the next thirteen years in and around that city. Though he was the elder son and heir of the Portuguese regent, later King João VI (r. 1816–1826), Pedro received little formal education and spent much of his youth hunting, horse racing, bullfighting, brawling, tavern hopping, and wenching—often in the company of the Falstaffian Francisco Gomes da Silva, a native of Portugal commonly known as the Chalaça (Joker). Intellectually, the prince was most influenced by the count dos Arcos, former viceroy of Brazil and a proponent of enlightened despotism, and by his tutor and confessor, the liberal Friar António de Arrábida. In his quieter moments, especially after his marriage in 1817 to Princess Leopoldina de Hapsburg, Pedro read extensively in political philosophy.

In February 1821 Pedro persuaded his father to accept publicly in Rio the constitutionalist principles proclaimed by the revolutionary regime in Portugal. Two months later Pedro played a major role in suppressing a movement led by Portuguese-born radicals to set up a revolutionary government in Rio. In April 1821, when King João VI obeyed a summons from the Portuguese Cortes to return to Lisbon, he left Pedro in Rio as regent of Brazil with the advice not to resist Brazilian independence should it seem inevitable but to take control of the separatist movement and make himself king of the new nation.

As regent of Brazil, Pedro disregarded orders from the Cortes that he dismantle his government in Rio and embark for Europe. Fearing the return of Brazil to colonial status if Pedro left, various city and town councils in southern Brazil petitioned him to stay. In Rio in January 1822, Pedro publicly declared "Fico" (I am staying). Following his announcement, Pedro installed a new ministry headed by the Brazilian savant José Bonifácio de Andrada E Silva, and events marched swiftly toward Brazil's declaration of independence, which Pedro issued near São Paulo on 7 September 1822. With the support of José Bonifácio and the major municipalities of the south, Pedro was proclaimed emperor of Brazil in Rio in October 1822.

Overcoming token opposition from the Portuguese garrison in Rio and fierce resistance from Portuguese army and navy units in Bahia province, Pedro's forces extended the emperor's control over virtually all of Portuguese America by the end of 1823. That same year a dispute arose between the emperor and his chief minister over the latter's persecution of his political enemies, which led to José Bonifácio's resignation from the government. A confrontation between the emperor and a constitutional convention he had summoned ended when Pedro forcibly dissolved the assembly and exiled José Bonifácio. Pedro then produced his own constitution, which he promulgated in March 1824. While in some respects more authoritarian than a draft the convention was considering, Pedro's constitution also was more liberal in providing religious toleration and enumerating civil rights.

The promulgation of Pedro's constitution sparked a major revolt in northeastern Brazil, which imperial forces suppressed in 1824. In the South, however, Pedro's army and navy were unable to prevent the loss of the empire's Cisplatine Province (present-day Uruguay), which was invaded by forces from Buenos Aires in 1825.

The loss of Uruguay (conceded in 1828), the emperor's hostility toward slavery and his attempts to end the African slave trade, his employment of European mercenaries in the Brazilian armed forces, his involvement in Portuguese dynastic affairs, his unconcealed marital infidelities, and his uncouth Portuguese companions contributed to Pedro's growing unpopularity among influential Brazilians. Reconciliation with José Bonifácio and marriage to the admirable Amélia Augusta Leuchtenberg in 1829 (Leopoldina had died in 1826) slowed but did not halt the erosion of his support. In the midst of nativist riots in Rio, Pedro refused to make ministerial changes demanded by the mob and, on 7 April 1831, abdicated the Brazilian throne in favor of his five-year-old son Pedro II.

Pedro returned to Europe and concentrated on removing his reactionary brother Miguel from the Portuguese throne and replacing him with his own daughter, Maria. Shortly after achieving these goals, Pedro died of tuberculosis in Queluz on 24 September 1834.

See alsoAndrada, José Bonifácio de .


Octávio Tarquínio De Sousa, A vida de Dom Pedro I, 3 vols. (1951).

Sérgio Corrêa Da Costa, Every Inch a King (1953).

Denyse Dalbian, Dom Pedro: Empereur du Brésil, roi de Portugal (1798–1834) (1959).

Brasil Gerson, A revolução brasileira de Pedro I (1971).

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

Additional Bibliography

Barman, Roderick J. Citizen Emperor: Pedro II and the Making of Brazil, 1825–9. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1999.

Ramos, Luís A. de Oliveira. D. Pedro, imperador e rei: Experiências de um príncipe (1798–1834). Lisboa: Edições Inapa, 2002.

Silva, Paulo Napoleão Nogueira da. Pedro I, o português brasileiro. Rio de Janeiro: Gryphus, 2000.

                                        Neill Macaulay