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Colony, Empire, And Republic; Revolution In Brazil
by [?]

While the Spanish colonies of South America were battling for their liberties, the great Portuguese colony of Brazil was going through a very different experience. Bolivar and his compatriots were seeking to drive Spain out of America. On the contrary, we have the curious spectacle of Brazil swallowing Portugal, or at least its king and its throne, so that, for a time, the colony became the state, and the state became the dependency. It was a marked instance of the tail wagging the dog. Brazil became the one empire in America, and was destined not to become a republic until many years later. Such are the themes with which we here propose to deal.

To begin this tale we must go back to those stirring times in Europe when Napoleon, the great conqueror, was in the height of his career, and was disposing of countries at his will, much as a chess-player moves the king, queen, and knights upon his board. In 1807 one of his armies, led by Marshal Junot, was marching on Lisbon, with the purpose of punishing Portugal for the crime of being a friend of the English realm.

John, then the prince regent of Portugal, was a weak-minded, feeble specimen of royalty, who did not keep of one mind two days together. Now he clung to England; now, scared by Napoleon, he claimed to be a friend of France; and thus he shifted back and forward until the French despot sent an army to his kingdom to help him make up his mind. The people were ready to fight for their country, but the prince still wobbled between two opinions, until Junot had crossed the borders and was fast making his way to Lisbon.

Prince John was now in a pitiable state. He shed tears over the fate of his country, but, as for himself, he wanted badly to save his precious person. Across the seas lay the great Portuguese colony of Brazil, in whose vast forest area he might find a safe refuge. The terrible French were close at hand. He must be a captive or a fugitive. In all haste he and his court had their treasures carried on a man-of-war in the Lisbon harbor and prepared for flight. Most of the nobility of the country followed him on shipboard, the total hegira embracing fifteen thousand persons, who took with them valuables worth fifty millions of dollars. On November 29, 1807, the fleet set sail, leaving the harbor just as the advance guard of the French came near enough to gaze on its swelling sails. It was a remarkable spectacle, one rarely seen in the history of the world, that of a monarch fleeing from his country with his nobility and treasures, to transfer his government to a distant colony of the realm.

Seven weeks later the fugitives landed in Brazil, where they were received with an enthusiastic show of loyalty and devotion. John well repaid the loyal colonists by lifting their country into the condition of a separate nation. Its ports, hitherto reserved for Portuguese ships, were opened to the world’s commerce; its system of seclusion and monopoly was brought to a sudden end; manufactures were set free from their fetters; a national bank was established; Brazil was thrown open freely to foreigners; schools and a medical college were opened, and every colonial restriction was swept away at a blow. Brazil was raised from a dependency to a kingdom at a word. John, while bearing the title of prince, was practically king, for his mother, the queen of Portugal, was hopelessly insane, and he ruled in her stead.

He became actual king, as John VI., on the death of his mother in 1816, and as such he soon found trouble growing up around him. The Brazilians had been given so much that they wanted more. The opening of their country to commerce and travel had let in new ideas, and the people began to discover that they were the slaves of an absolute government. This feeling of unrest passed out of sight for a time, and first broke out in rebellion at Pernambuco in 1817. This was put down, but a wider revolt came on in 1820, and spread early in the next year to Rio de Janeiro, the capital, whose people demanded of their ruler a liberal constitution.