Surprise Heirs: Illegitimacy, Inheritance Rights, and Public Power in the Formation of Imperial Brazil, 1822-1889 - Vol. 2

By Linda Lewin | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 1
The Context of Inheritance Reform
Liberalism in the Era of Independence

Frei Joaquim do Amor Divino Caneca, martyr of liberty, being
condemned to death, was shot on the thirteenth of January, 1825,
because no executioner was willing to hang him ….

The Chamber of Deputies for 1826 was, as it had to be, timid.
The dissolution of the Constituent Legislative Assembly and the
violence of power were the cause of this. But in 1827 and 1828 the
Legislative Assembly took heart, demonstrating a distinct inde
pendence.

Mello Moraes the Elder, Chronica geral do Brazil, 1886 1

Brazilian independence, hailed as the Cry of Ipiranga (Grito de Ipiranga) and proclaimed in September 1822, found formal confirmation only on October 12. On that day, the birthday of Brazil's monarch, the municipal council of Rio de Janeiro formally acclaimed D. Pedro emperor in the manner of Portugal's unwritten constitution. What historian Roderick J. Barman has aptly characterized as “stumbling into independence” initiated a decade during which Brazilians first managed to cut their ties with the Portuguese monarchy and then to expel their young sovereign. 2 A Portuguese by birth, Pedro would leave the shores of his adopted land in 1831, protesting that in his heart he would always be Brazilian. The crucial decade that opened in January 1822, on the banks of an inconsequential stream on the road to São Paulo, witnessed Brazilians repudiating Portuguese colonial rule, receiving a constitution “written” by their twenty-six-year-old emperor, and then attempting to define the national polity as a constitutional monarchy.

Over the course of the independence decade, the task of the national political elite would be to repudiate many of the institutions of Portuguese absolutism, while enacting legislation that gave full effect to the country's monarchically imposed 1824 Constitution. Conflict in the political system would logically polarize over the answer to one question: What should the nature of constitutional monarchy be? Reluctantly joined in political symbiosis with a European power, by virtue of a dynastic arrangement that con

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