Power, Patronage, and Political Violence: State Building on a Brazilian Frontier, 1822-1889

Power, Patronage, and Political Violence: State Building on a Brazilian Frontier, 1822-1889

Power, Patronage, and Political Violence: State Building on a Brazilian Frontier, 1822-1889

Power, Patronage, and Political Violence: State Building on a Brazilian Frontier, 1822-1889

Synopsis

Exploring the relationship between state centralization and municipal politics in Minas Gerais, Brazil, during the Imperial Period, Bieber (history, U. of New Mexico) charts the 19th-century origins of coronelismo, a form of machine politics that linked rural power and patronage at the municipal level to state and federal politics. This she finds the key to why Brazil maintained territorial and political cohesion within a constitutional monarchy instead of fragmenting violently as did many Spanish republics.

Excerpt

Party spirit has killed public spirit; the merchant, the landowner, the police delegate, the block inspector, find themselves seriously regimented in one of the belligerent parties; the law is to obey the inspirations of one's party and its leaders....

The most pernicious war, however, is waged in the administration of justice. Any criminal, if not a miserable unknown, has an entire party as defense and another as prosecutor; the arrest is labeled despotism, the accused is innocent, persecuted because he belongs to the party in opposition to the one that wields the despotic authority....

A statistical study of our district and municipal judges, police delegates, and subdelegates arrested during our political struggles would be a curious thing. We hear that, in the city of Paracatú in 1849, the only criminal brought before the jury was the district judge of the comarca, accused of the crime of sedition; we read in the provincial president's report that, in that same year in Paracatú, eighty homicides were perpetrated. This fact proves that justice is impossible in a country divided by party hatred. -- O Bom Senso, 26 July 1855

The epigraph to this chapter illustrates a key dynamic of nineteenth-century politics in the Brazilian interior: that political patronage and corruption of the justice system were intimately intertwined. According to this commentator, party loyalty was the ultimate arbiter, used to convict or acquit in courts of law. Constitutional procedures yielded before the will of local authorities, who used the policing and judicial apparatus to protect their political allies and punish their enemies. Within three decades after Brazilian in-

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