In Pursuit of Honor and Power: Noblemen of the Southern Cross in Nineteenth Century in Brazil

In Pursuit of Honor and Power: Noblemen of the Southern Cross in Nineteenth Century in Brazil

In Pursuit of Honor and Power: Noblemen of the Southern Cross in Nineteenth Century in Brazil

In Pursuit of Honor and Power: Noblemen of the Southern Cross in Nineteenth Century in Brazil

Excerpt

The Brazilian nobility was a unique institution in several respects. First, it was not a formal corporation of elite as in the feudal monarchies and their successors in the Old World, but its members were readily identifiable and occupied prominent positions of power and wealth in a capitalist society Their titles were in essence badges of an officially selected elite. Second, Brazilian titles were for one life only and could be passed on to subsequent generations only if the emperor explicitly rechartered them. They carried no stipend, afforded no public office, and granted no special juridical privileges. Yet, tens of thousands of Brazilians sought nobiliary honors. Third, the total universe of the "noblemen of the Southern Cross" was quite small: a total of 980 men and women held 1,278 titles, according to the most reliable source. Out of a nation of 14 million (as of 1889), these few played crucial roles as the empire's leading landowners, merchants, politicians, generals and admirals, diplomats, intellectuals, and high priests of the Catholic church.

Fourth, the importance of the institution did not lie in its corporate status, but rather in its institutional impact on society and polity Titleholders came from all walks of life, but the ennobled tended to represent the elite segment of each profession, class, and region. Being a noble in the empire indicated that the titleholder possessed either money or influence or both in a rigidly stratified society A title constituted a special honor to the holders in that it represented ab extra . . .

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