The Portuguese monarch, José I, under the leadership of his minister the marquês de Pombal, introduced policies aimed primarily at consolidating royal power. The marquês de Pombal became the de facto prime minister of Portugal from 1750 to 1777. He helped restructure the military and the bureaucracy, subjugate the minor nobility and the church, and work to strengthen Portuguese colonial monopoly with further restrictions over the colony's commerce and industrial development, in light of the trade taking place with England.

Pombal was a good mercantilist and, just as in the American colonies, this would bring Portugal into conflict with Brazilian interests.


Production of gold peaked.

One of the best known examples of a white man taking slaves or former slaves as mistresses was the tall, seductive ex-slave named Xica da Silva. She became the lover of an official sent by the Crown to preside over Portugal's monopoly of the production and sale of precious metals in Minas Gerais. He amassed an enormous fortune. The couple had 13 children, all of them legitimized by their father. (Page 1995:64)

The official catered to Xica's every whim to the point of building for her an artificial lake and a miniature sailing vessel (she had never seen the ocean) as well as a castle surrounded by trees he imported from Europe.


Vieira returned with renewed support from the Crown. The Jesuits established a remarkable theocracy of the Guarani missions, where Spanish and Portuguese Jesuits founded over a dozen missions on the pampas along the Uruguayan border.

The term Guarani refers to all the Indigenous groups that spoke the Gurani language at the time of the Spanish conquest. The Guarani occupied areas of Brazil, Uruguay, and Argentina at that time. Some Guarani live in the Jarara indigenous area in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul, in Brazil today. The most important economic unit was the extended family. This group owned the agriculutral fields and worked them communally. The extended family was also the most important residential and social unit. They lived in a longhouse known as a tapui. The Guarani practiced slash-and-burn agriculture. Their principle crops were supplemented by hunting, fishing, and gathering.

Left alone for the first fifty years, they effectively became a Jesuit state. But the Treaty of Madrid in 1752 divided up the land between Spain and Portugal; the treaty ordered the missions abandoned, so that settlers could move in. Most of the priests stayed with their Guarani flocks. Resistance was hopeless.


A joint Spanish-Portuguese military expedition decimated both Guarani and the Jesuits in 1756.


In 1758 Manoel Ribeiro da Rocha published a book in Lisbon advocating the abolition of the slave trade. The next big work was not until 1823.


End of the Captaincies

Jesuits insisted the Indians had souls, so they proved embarrassing to the state. In 1759 they were expelled from Brazil and the colonies, resulting in the closure of many institutions of learning and disturbing basic civil administration. The settlers were helped in their fight against the Jesuits by the Marquis de Pombal, who became the power behind the Portuguese throne for much of the 18th century. He saw the Jesuits as a threat to Crown control. He seized the Jesuits' cooperation with the Guarani in the Guarani wars as an excuse to expel the Order from Brazil in 1760.


The mulatto Antonio Francisco Lisboa (1738-1814), nicknamed Aleijadihno (little cripple), sculpted intricate, highly original statues in wood & sandstone. His work adorns the facades & interiors of numerous churches in Minas Gerais.


After more than 200 years in Salvador, the seat of colonial government was transferred from Bahia to Rio de Janeiro, where it would be better situated to dominate the main access route to Minas Gerais and was closer to the growing population centers in the south.


Pombal's reforms of education in 1770 replaced the Jesuit system with a secular system under the control of the vice-royalties. By 1777, these policies were causing civil unrest, and led to the resignation of the marquês de Pombal.


During the 18th century, Brazilians were influenced by the revolutionary ideals of political and economic liberalism overtaking Europe and the United States. In England, the Industrial revolution was causing traditional social and economic relationships to change. The first great rupture of the colonial system in 1776 America, inspired other colonists with similar aspirations, and, in France, the ideas of the enlightenment contributed to the overthrow of the monarchy in 1789.

Portugal, an absolute monarchy, acted essentially as an intermediary between the colony's products and the European market. Colonists increasingly objected to the taxation and to the restrictions on trade and industrial activities.


In 1781 50 ships were engaged in slave trading, around ten with Angola and the rest with the Sudanese coast. (Pierson 1967:34)

The major centers of slave importation were Bahia, Recife, Rio de Janeiro, Maranhao, and Minas Gerais. (Pierson 1967:36)


In 1785, the Portuguese government decreed that metallurgical factories, textile manufacturing, and gold-working be discontinued in Brazil. With the perception by the Brazilian elites that there is greater profit to be gained through free trade, there is the increasing adoption of liberal ideas in order to justify their position.

In addition to the feelings of solidarity among the Brazilians arising from the policies of the Portuguese government, the colonists had also been developing a sense of national identity as a consequence of the Dutch and French invasions in northeastern Brazil at the beginning of the 17th century.


The small town of Vila Rica (now Ouro Preto) was center of gold industry. Here is where citizens plotted for independence. Brazilian resentment at their exclusion from government and at the Portuguese monopoly of foreign trade grew and culminated in 1789 in the Inconfidencia Mineira, a plot hatched by twelve prominent citizens of Ouro Preto to proclaim Brazilian independence. The rebels were betrayed almost before they got started.

The urge to secure political freedom began in earnest in the second half of the 18th century. Although the concept of independence was generally shared, some movements against the Portuguese authorities were clearly regional in scope. The Minas Conspiracy (Inconfidência Mineira), for example, was the most significant of these isolated movements, took place in the center of what was then the gold mining region. Its enthusiastic leader, a youthful cavalry officer, Joaquim José da Silva Xavier (nicknamed Tiradentes) had found support mainly among intellectuals who shared the same libertarian ideals that had inspired the French Encyclopedists and the leaders of the American Revolution, such as Thomas Paine.

An attempt by Portuguese officials to collect back taxes (not too different from the collection of tea taxes in the 13 American colonies) touched off the call for the rebellion. Influenced by the American Revolution and the French Philosophes he organized the Inconfidencia Mineira in Minas Gerais advocating complete independence from Portugal. But, in spite of the democratic ideology, it must be remembered that, to quote historian Kenneth Maxwell, it was "a movement made by oligarchs in the interests of oligarchs, where the name of the people would be evoked merely in justification." The elite did not even considere mobilizing the nonelites.


The conspiracy was unveiled. Betrayed and arrested.

The crown quickly and easily crushed the uprising, jailing the conspirators and brutally executing Tiradentes two years later. At his trial he nobly and eloquently defended the republican cause. He was publicly hanged in Rio on April 21, 1792. To frighten the population into complete submission Portuguese authorities ordered his body to be cut into pieces and to be prominently displayed along posts in city boulevards. The leader, Tiradentes, was hung, drawn, and quartered in a public square in Rio de Janeiro.

Tiradentes martyrdom made him a national hero. April 21 is a national holiday.

Other incidents, some of which had wide support, occurred in Pernambuco and Bahia, where the decline of the sugar-based economy aggravated the problems created by the country's subordination to Portugal. None of them, however, was strong enough to seriously undermine the Portuguese domination at that time.


Inspired by the successful slave rebellion in Haiti and the French Revolution, slaves in Salvador rise up. The rising failed. Last rising that ever really threatened the system.

end of 18th century

Brazil reached its present physical size; population about 3 million.


In 1806 there was a raid on a house involved in a planned slave revolt. A number of suspected plotters were arrested along with a lot of armaments. Subsequently, officials ordered the arrest of every slave found in the streets after nine o'clock at night. At about the same time the Bahian governor order two troublesome quilombos (or settlements of fugitive slaves) destroyed. (Pierson 1967:42)



At the beginning of the 19th century, the French nation's attempt at dominating Europe met with English resistance, and, as a consequence, Napoleon attempted to prevent other nations from trading with England. Claiming neutrality, Portugal continued to honor previous commercial treaties with England. As a consequence, France and Spain agreed to divide Portugal (through the Treaty of Fontainebleau in 1807) and Napoleon ordered an invasion of Portugal.

Troops of Napoleon march into Portugal. With help from the British navy, King Joao Vi is hurriedly evacuated to Rio. Entire court flees to Brazil. Establishes itself in Rio. Queen Maria's son Joao started to modernize Brazil.

Wellington set about driving the French from Portugal. Meanwhile, the British were able to force the opening of Brazil's ports to non-Portuguese shipping.

With the imminent threat, the decision was made to transfer the monarch, Queen Maria I and the prince João VI, and their court to Brazil, where he would arrive in January 1808, remain until 1821. The British government, in return for providing an escort of warships, seized the opportunity to extract important commercial privileges from the Portuguese, such as the opening of Brazilian ports in 1808, which abolished the Portuguese control over Brazilian commerce and gave England a virtual monopoly.


There was a revolt in Bahia that was put down after the slaves had engaged in a number of outrages. (Pierson 1967:42) And the tales of slaves and troubles goes on and on.


The Congress of Vienna in 1815, organized after the defeat of Napoleon, was primarily designed to provide stability in Europe through the return of the royal families displaced by Napoleon and the establishment of well-defined national borders. In order to do this, João VI promoted Brazil from the status of a colony to that of a "United Kingdom" with Portugal.

Although Napoleon's dominance ended in 1815, João VI, who became king after the death of Maria I in 1816, chose to remain living in Rio de Janeiro.


Dom Joao assumes the throne when the mad Queen Maria dies. He is crowned as Joao VI of Portugal and Brazil, thereby making Brazil a kingdom, coequal in status to the mother country. His wife never forgave Brazil for forcing her to have her lice-infested head shaved before she stepped ashore in Bahia. She had many affairs. King locked her away for awhile.

The establishment of the royal administration in the colony for a period of 14 years changed the economic environment substantially, through the influx of foreign manufactured goods and the beginning of industrialization in Brazil. João VI would nullify the royal decree of 1785, which had prohibited local manufacturing of textiles, gun powder, and glass, as well as the building of wheat mills. These measures adopted by the Portuguese Crown would ease the transition toward political independence.


arranged marriage with the cultured, amiable Archduchess Leopoldina

In 1817 leaders of a short-lived liberal revolution in Pernambuco expressed antislavery sentiments.


In 1821, the king was forced to yield to pressures from politicians in Portugal, and returned to Lisbon, while leaving the Crown Prince in Rio as "Viceroy Regent." The king installs Prince Pedro as his regent and returns to Lisbon with the rest of the royal family.



September 7. Dom Pedro receives a transatlantic directive from the Cortes reducing his authority. He drew his sword and declared "Independence or death!" (Known as the Grio do Ipiranga, the river where Pedro allegedly did his yelling.)

October. A convention proclaims Dom Pedro emperor of Brazil.

December 1. Crowned constitutional monarch. The irritating opposition of Lisbon's politicians to this state of affairs and the cajoling from close Brazilian advisers attracted the young prince, Pedro, to the cause of independence. Barely a year after the João VI's return to Portugal, on September 7, 1822, the Crown Prince proclaimed the independence of Brazil as an Empire and had himself crowned Emperor Pedro I on December 1, 1822.

Took a year to complete the withdrawal of Portuguese with little bloodshed. Apart from an ugly massacre of Brazilian patriots in Fortaleza, and some fighting in Bahia, the Portuguese withdrawal was peaceful and by the end of 1823 no Portuguese forces remained.

The mastermind behind Brazilian independence was José Bonifácio de Andrada e Silva, a distinguished Brazilian geologist and writer who had become the most important and trusted adviser to the prince. While the Spanish viceroyalties in America had to fight fiercely for their independence (to end up as 18 different republics), Portugal and Brazil settled the matter by negotiation, with Great Britain acting as a broker.

English dominance, already strengthened by the policies of economic liberalism, became even more complete after independence. As a condition for the recognition of Brazilian sovereignty, the British government obtained the renewal and expansion of its privileges of 1810, thus confirming the dependence of the Brazilian economy on the world's commercial center.


Return to Main Page Table of Contents

Return to Home Page