Chapter I: The Regency
In 1836 Brazil was a backwards country. Such was the legacy from its history as a colony for more than 300 years. Agrarian economy, dismal literacy rates (8.7%) and slavery not yet abolished. At least Brazil is known for its best export: coffee… ahh, Brazilian coffee!
After conducting the census of 1836, it was established that most of the population of Brazil was concentrated in the states of Bahia and Rio de Janeiro. Other important states were the southeastern states of São Paulo, Rio Grande do Sul and Paraná, with more or less similar population compositions.
The Regency Council (in the form of a triumvirate) saw their freedom as a means to further their personal goals and political agenda. Unfortunately, each faction that was supposed to form this council had different plans. This caused much instability. The political decisions made by the Brazilian government were aimless, as parties struggled to impose their own views in what course the nation should take during the next vital years.
There were mainly 3 parties at the time: The Liberals, the Conservatives and the Reactionaries. Their intended policies seemed similar, but the fine details of their ideologies caused much discord.
In 1836 through a lucky streak, the Partido Caramuru had taken the upper hand in the politics as a ruling party, although a majority of the population was conservative. This was the reactionary faction, who liked to name themselves “The Restorer Party” instead and was in favour of giving the monarch as much power as possible. Their leader, a certain Teófilo dos Reis, had used the troubled times since the abdication of D. Pedro I in 1831 as a reason to spread propaganda. One of his famous speeches heard in the capital, Rio de Janeiro, was:
“Hear, all Brazilian citizens proud of our fatherland. Liberals and all those with free republican ideas want to destroy and weaken our country, seeking their own mischievous goals. Only the return to the good old days is the solution to our problems, when the firm hand of the Emperor of Brazil once again will direct its people!”
... and according to him, the Partido Caramuru would of course be the best representative of the people while D. Pedro II was not of age.
Teófilo dos Reis
The newly established party saw fit to raise the taxes of all classes to the maximum, in order to finance the construction of factories in the capital state of Rio de Janeiro [Cement] and São Paulo [Wine]. In the long term, it’s doubtful that this could be considered a wise move.
Teófilo dos Reis later argued in his memoirs: “It was a hard time, and with hard times come hard measures. The people must understand sometimes they must toil now, to receive benefits that outweigh their previous hardships in the future. For the children and grandchildren.”
Incentives in form of land grants for the church and salary raises for educators began to be issued by the reactionary government in the region around the capital. Teófilo dos Reis, being a notable former student of the University of Coimbra in Portugal, favoured this policy heavily. New ideas regarding Freedom of Trade were also being developed in the country.
To enlarge the Brazilian Army, 3 new regiments (two infantry, one artillery) began to be trained in the capital. Question is: What for?
On war and its demise…
Only 8 years early after a bitter war against Argentina (the Argentine-Brazilian War) and through intervention by the UK, Brazil unwillingly signed the Treaty of Montevideo, officially releasing Uruguay as an independent state. The treaty had flaws and points open to dispute however, and in the view of the Brazilian regency advisors there was room for twisting (or in their view, reinterpretation) of its legitimacy in the details.
A local defense pact was made with Venezuela and Ecuador, as a gesture of goodwill to the northern neighbours.
But the population was restless, mainly the educated upper classes. Incited by the different parties, all of those who were at least pro-military, there were debates as to whether Brazil’s loss of Uruguay could be recovered.
On December 1836, a book entitled “Um Diário da Fronteira e a Perda do Sul” (A Journal of the Frontier and The Loss of the South) was published in Brazil by a liberal author. It told the story of a young Brazilian officer as he fought the Argentine-Brazilian War and all the hardships of his regiment during the most horrible battles, only to discover they had been betrayed by their own monarchic government, and all the deaths of his comrades were for nothing… as Uruguay was simply given away.
The spread of this book, mostly incited by liberals who wanted to gain popular support, generated clamors of “revanchism” from even some of the most conservative parts of the upper Brazilian society. Uruguay had a negligible Brazilian population, but it was still part of Brazil – or so they said.
Although Brazil had a sizeable standing army, risking a premature war just to quiet the rumours could be suicide. A series of nasty things could happen: Argentina could come to Uruguay’s aid. Other South American countries could perceive Brazil as being too aggressive and ally with Uruguay. Worst of all: the UK or some other Great Power could intervene! But on the other hand, ignoring the population could give the liberals a great advantage in the long-term.
Teófilo dos Reis and his ruling Reactionary party saw this as a threat to their own political superiority, and realized they must do something…
Then among the political debate, the most important event of the year occurred. On the 2nd of April 1837, Brazil’s foreign minister Adolfo Alves Tieres in a frenetic speech declared to the general public in a political gathering:
The Rio da Prata (Rio de la Plata – River Plate) is Brazil’s “natural southern border”
The news caused public uproar, more overseas than at home. Upon hearing the news, the governments of Argentina and Uruguay condemned this declaration and demanded an official letter of explanation. None came.
The regency did not affirm it as correct, but did not deny it either. No liberal, conservative or reactionary dared to say something against it.
Regardless, the relations between Argentina/Uruguay and Brazil steadily decreased throughout the next months.
There was talk in the diplomatic representations of Brazil in Argentina, that Uruguay would seek an alliance with Argentina. After many months, however, this rumour still had not been proven correct. Maybe Argentina feared the Brazilian army? The only ally of Uruguay was Paraguay.
Nothing was obvious, but behind doors, it was decided. Brazil would reannex Uruguay… the only thing missing was the right time.
Mid-1837, the Foreign office sought then to have an alliance with France, seeing them as the most likely to side with Brazil after the British intervention 8 years before. Securing France’s support would most likely dissuade the British from intervening once more, should a conflict arise. The Brazilian armies are ordered to move south. Military spending was increased.
Liberals were aware of these clear moves. The upper strata were favoring more and more the pro-military ideas. However, the mostly conservative farmers and labourers were still a force to be considered, and the liberals knew that. As a last chance in order to undermine the Reactionaries popularity, a discussion comes up in the state assembly in Rio de Janeiro. Should only the Wealth vote?
Teófilo dos Reis, being a hard-line reactionary, obviously leaves the discussion to die. The militancy of the poor in the capital rises sharply however… There are rumours of liberals inciting rebels, influencing the poor, lobbying the middle strata and promising them more power.
The Infamous War of Brazilian Conquest
And so Teófilo decides this is the right moment to strike, hoping the planned reacquisition of Uruguay will divert the attention of the public. War is declared!
The reasons were justified in the eyes of the Brazilian people, but not in the eyes of the world. Brazil acquires a high amount of infamy from this declaration, made ultimately only to safeguard a party’s position.
“Due to illegal terms and irregularities in the Treaty of Montevideo and thus in order to restore the territories Cisplatine Province to the rightful Brazilian ownership, by the grace of God and acted through the interim regency of the Brazilian Imperial House representing the infant Emperor Dom Pedro II, on this day 4th of August 1837, let it be declared a state of war exists between the Empire of Brazil and the established independent government of the State of Uruguay. The Empire of Brazil will not accept any other terms as victory.”
The same day, Brazilian troops march to reoccupy the Uruguayan provinces. Paraguay comes to help Uruguay in their defensive war. According to military reports (who could have been wrong), Paraguay supposedly possess a sizeable army which would perhaps cause problems to the Brazilians.
2 Armies were dedicated to deal with Uruguay (to fight the Uruguayan army in Montevideo) and the biggest one, the 1st Army [3 INF, 3 CAV], was directed north to border defense, in case Paraguay decided to attack preemptively.
The 2nd Army [3 INF, 1 ART] under the command of the extremely talented General Joaquim Marques de Sousa - former pupil of the great teachers in the Parisian Military Academy and Napoleonic Wars enthusiast - defeated the Uruguayan garrison and the remaining survivors were scattered.
The occupation of Uruguay began.
Almost 6 months had passed, and no sign of the Paraguayan army. What were they doing there? Hmm. The regency began to get tired of this state of “drôle de guerre” (phoney war) and launched a reconnaissance attack into Paraguayan territory.
And there it was, the full 9000 Paraguayan standing army, guarding the capital with their lives. When the messenger arrived at the Army command camp in Guarapuava, the generals were celebrating rather enthusiastically the occupation of entire Uruguay, drinking the best liquor available. Many were literally drunk, and upon reading the recon report, they laughed out loud. As a written account from a witness, one of them, the especially inebriated General Francisco Xavier Bras (nicknamed “Perverso Padre Chico” – The perverse priest Chico (??)) remarked:
Everyone was baffled. No one really understood what “POPs” he was talking about (it was assumed it was nonsense, a side-effect of his drunkenness), but one thing they realized: Brazil could kill 2 birds with one stone, and acquire contested stretches of land along the Paraguayan frontier. And so it succeeded. The war was extended to Paraguay.
The 1st Army commanded by the “Perverse Priest Chico” alone moved to engage the enemies in Asunción. After a first battle in the capital, the enemy army retreated to the south in order to reorganize. The Brazilian army was split to occupy the territories efficiently, while the other 2 armies from Uruguay began moving north in case anything unexpected happened.
All went well. No chance had been given for the enemies to regroup after a detachment from the 1st army attacked them in the southern province of Pilar. The Paraguayans were also easily defeated, and on the 6th of July 1838 Paraguay made peace. Two days later, Uruguay was completely annexed by the Brazilians.
All hail the valiant Brazilian Army! All hair the Emperor and the regency!
Teófilo dos Reis was pleased. Despite his stern face, his stoic attitude, rarely showing genuine joy… Deep inside he was very pleased.
Research on Mechanical Production was on its way. The population was happy with the outcome of the war. Argentina was humbled because of its cowardice in leaving Uruguay alone. Common folk were praising him on the streets of Rio de Janeiro, showing how proud they were of having such efficient regency. Songs were composed in honour of Teófilo and Dom Pedro II. 6 years more, and the young monarch would be of age. And he would certainly favour Teófilo, a hero in his own time.
That, of course… providing nothing bad happened in the mean time…
Brazil in 1838
Despite the war, the liberals managed to gain around 3% more seats in the upper house. The reactionaries gained around 4%. 49.52K Male population, mostly Platineans, were gained with the annexation of Uruguay.