Portugal And Brazil
( Originally Published 1891 )
January 10, 1890.—In the Emerson Birthday Book which lies on our centre-table are recorded the names of Goldwin Smith, James G. Blaine, J. R. Lowell, W. W. Story, E. E. Hale, and many more signatures of distinguished and important men ; and among them, in a feeble hand, the name appears of Dom Pedro d'Alcantara, 1885. The old man is the ex-Emperor of Brazil, who had abdicated on the loth of December, 1889, and had returned to the land of his fathers to close one act in the extraordinary drama of the Braganza family. To his grandfather Brazil was a refuge of safety during the Napoleonic wars of 1807 ; and his father held possession of the throne as regent during the time when the independence of Brazil was acknowledged, and a new empire was enrolled among the imperial dynasties of the world. It is true the political heavens were stormy when Dom John the grandfather ceased to reign ; and Dom Pedro ascended the throne. The presence of the refugee King of Portugal was exceedingly irritating to the people, and their restlessness continued until 1840, when the Emperor Dom Pedro II. commenced his reign. The task he had assumed was by no means an easy one. The people had had a taste of freedom, and what seemed to them self-government. They had secured a constitution, had defied the decree of the Cortes at Lisbon, had induced Dom Pedro to assume the reins of government, and had defeated an attempt of the Portuguese troops to reduce them to obedience as a colony. The insurgents took control, held the power of the Council, and proclaimed the Prince as perpetual de-fender of Brazil. It was he who in 1822 proclaimed the independence of Brazil, and secured for himself the position of constitutional Emperor. His career, however, was short and not fortunate. He was a Braganza and a Portuguese, and believed in the power of Portugal, and loved her ways and traditions ; and when he was proclaimed King of Portugal, he returned to his native country and the associations of his youth, not, however, to peace and prosperity. He had succeeded in disaffecting the Brazilians, even after he had abdicated the throne of Portugal in favor of his daughter Dona Maria, and he was plunged into the civil convulsions of 1828 in Portugal, when Dom Miguel usurped the Portuguese crown, and a radical Chamber of Deputies in Brazil, by their innovations, made even stormy Portugal seem like a haven of rest. After failing to form a new ministry and to restore order in his empire, he abdicated the throne in disgust, leaving it to the heir apparent, then five years old, Dom Pedro II., who, sixty years after, followed his ancestors to their old home and to the charity and kindness of imperialism in Europe.
When Dom Pedro I. left Brazil and plunged into the Miguelite contests in Portugal, the empire which he had passed into the hands of his infant son was in great confusion. A regency of three members, a single re-gent, chosen by legislative assemblies, an approach to the form of government of the United States, a regent charged with conniving at rebellion in the provinces, a regent who attempted to play the part of monarch and conflicting councils,—all drove Brazil to resorting to the novel expedient of declaring the majority of a boy of fourteen, and proclaiming him ruler of the empire.
The path which led to the throne was not promising. This youth, who had been educated with great care, and who had by nature a fine mental capacity and a high moral instinct, found himself surrounded by most difficult questions of civil polity and by many domestic dissensions. The abolition of the slave trade and the commencement of emancipation claimed his early attention. He inaugurated extravagant schemes of internal improvement, which have added greatly to the strength and importance of Brazil. He carried on expensive wars with neighboring states. His army was maintained at an enormous expense. His resources were increased, however, in proportion, and Brazil was counted among the vigorous and prosperous empires of the world.
But it was as a patron of letters and a student of science that Dom Pedro became most distinguished and was esteemed by scholars throughout the world. When he appeared in Lisbon, an exile from his empire, an enfeebled and disheartened old man, I remembered him not as the great ruler but as the friend of Agassiz and the scholars of the United States. I recalled the time when the great scientist took with him to Brazil a small flock of Merino sheep, which I sent to the Emperor, and which I was flattered to believe would increase the wool products of the empire. I had in my mind the active and enthusiastic observer who, at the Centennial Exhibition at Philadelphia, took the early morning hours for visiting the great hall, and discovered by simply passing his eye down an immense column of figures that the secretary of a school board had made a mistake in his addition of the educational statistics of his state—an error which the Emperor had discovered at a glance, and in which more careful computation proved that he was correct.
While in Lisbon, Dom Pedro was active in his explorations of the city. His venerable face might be seen in the museums and libraries, and he enjoyed greatly his walks through the zoological garden.
He waited uneasily for the Empress to recover from an attack of influenza, and hurried away with her to Coimbra—a dangerous, and, as it proved, fatal, journey to her in mid-winter. I saw him on his return to Lisbon, in the procession at the funeral of the Empress in the Ingleza St. Vincente da Fora, and sitting in a distressed and distracted way in the royal box over the altar as the service was performed over her remains. And the last I saw of him he was feebly following her into the Pantheon prepared for all the Braganzas here on earth. A few days after he left the Palace of Das Necessidades, which had been given him as a home during this sad occasion, and proceeded to the mild airs and cheerful ways of Cannes.
I doubt if history has recorded a sadder and more interesting and instructive career than that of the ex-Emperor of Brazil. He began life as a ruler, when he should have been learning to obey. He inherited a stormy empire, a restless people who were advancing from the glitter and display and authority of a monarchy to the freedom and elasticity of a republic. His people, when he commenced his rule, were hardly fit for one government or another. Their experience with imperial rulers had not been fortunate, nor were the passing events in that country whence they and their rulers sprang encouraging. Brazil was not organized into an empire, nor was she fit to be a republic. It fell to the task of Dom Pedro to prepare her for both,—with what success the result now shows. War during all these years hardened her for imperial methods—while education was cultivating her people for a republican one. In leaving one she has hardly stepped into the ways of the other. But mankind learns easily how to be free in these days, and how to establish republics, but not how to return to monarchy when the bonds are once broken.
It is not worth while to discuss the chances, or the trials which threaten Brazil, or the wisdom of Fonseca, or the strength of the local governments which make up the union of Brazilian states. We can only hope that justice will prevail and wisdom will rule and personal ambition will be either checked or guided aright, and the lesson of confederation will be so thoroughly learned that disunion will not follow. It is well enough to leave Brazil to her fate and her capacity to settle her own problem politically and industrially. Her legislatures, her municipal governments, her education, her religion, her farms, her mills, her commerce, her finances, all her economies now interest the civilized world. For her guidance and instruction she has the example of a powerful and successful republic on her own hemisphere, which has established its government on firm and well-understood foundations, and its prosperity on the elastic industry and broad sagacity of a free people.
That the time had arrived for a change in the Brazilian government there can be no doubt. The Emperor was beloved as a ruler and respected as a cultivated scholar, who had brought his empire into close relations with the literary and scientific associations of the world. His devotion to industrial improvement was recognized, and his humanity and philanthropy were known and admired. He failed, however, to lead his people out of the political complications and misfortunes which commenced in the early colonial days. Exclusive in its relations with other countries, with a population divided into slaves and subjects about equally, oppressed with ignorance, deprived of education, the abiding-place of a Portuguese king in whom the people had no interest, Brazil could neither hold an imperial attitude nor could she join the neighboring South American states in their progress toward republicanism. The royal family, who arrived there in 1807, were entirely unable to control affairs, and in 1822 the regent, proposing to abandon his post, was informed that a republican party existed already in all the provinces of Brazil. From the time when Dom Pedro I. accepted the crown, and the independence of Brazil was declared, to 1831, when he abdicated, the murmurings of Republicans were heard and the morning light seemed to be breaking. Day, however, broke slowly, and the advent of Dom Pedro II., who on December 17th left the empire to be reorganized, lulled the people into acquiescence with imperial power, and into the hope and expectation that the evils which weighed upon them would be entirely removed without any effort of their own. Reform and the empire seemed, however, to be incompatible. Dom Pedro II. desired the emancipation of the slaves through-out his dominions, but when emancipation came the cornerstone of the empire was destroyed. Dissatisfied planters had no further use for that form of government. Existing social evils were not so easily removed. The absence of any civil marriage law rendered the ceremony ecclesiastical, and so expensive that the common people were deprived of this foundation of society—and the consequences are easily imagined. The distribution of real and personal property in probate is discouraging, apparently unjust, and in many cases destructive. Government in the provinces has been extremely irresponsible and ineffective, the presidents being appointed by the Emperor and the legislatures being composed of young and inexperienced partisans. Elections to the Chamber of Deputies have been controlled by the government, and the members have been elected through the influence of the imperial organization. There has hardly been found a more perfect illustration of an empire with a legislative attachment than Brazil. In addition to other complications, the connection of the church with the state has always given rise to great difficulties, and has hardly been conducive to the progress of the country.
The financial policy of the empire has not been satisfactory. Taxes have been imposed with great inequality, and sometimes with ruinous effect upon the industries. Contrary to the theories of many modern doctrinaires, land when held in large estates has been almost exempt from taxation. The railway system of the country is extravagantly managed, rates of traffic and passage being exorbitant, and the property unproductive. Nothing has been done to develop the internal commerce of the empire.
The resources of Brazil have always been unbounded, whether of field or forest or mine. In the early colonial days the wealth of precious stones and metals which poured into Portugal was incalculable, and astonished all Europe, while it encouraged the wildest public and private extravagance in the government and people who received it. Nor is this wealth perceptibly exhausted. The fortunes now existing in Portugal were largely acquired in Brazil. In September, 1866, the Amazon was opened to the commerce of the world ; and led into a country fertile beyond description. Agassiz, who visited it in 1865, was charmed and astonished by the luxuriance of vegetation found on every hand. The great watercourses—the Amazon, a hundred miles wide at its mouth, and so broad a thou-sand miles above that a plain view of both shores is almost impossible—filled him with amazement. Water communication affords an easy access to the fields and forests which are only waiting to reward the enterprising and industrious settler. Fruits and nuts abound throughout all this great Amazon region, rare woods of every description are easily obtained, and their only market is the decay with which nature disposes of her surplus products. The climate is delightful. The thermometer never rises above 900 and never falls below 78°. The trade-winds which sweep across the Atlantic cool the wide valley of the great river to the very foot of the Andes, making day and night comfortable. " Such a delicious climate," says Agassiz, " I believe exists nowhere else on earth." The soil, created in the same manner as the drift-beds of New England, " rich because it is the result of the attrition of the most diversified rocks," which is "the most fertile soil all over the surface of the earth," offers great temptations to the cultivator. The grazing lands are most verdant. The natural products are the palms, of every variety, and all tropical fruits in great abundance and luxuriance ; and the cultivated products of the garden and the field present a most generous reward to the toil of the husbandman. The gathering of the crops there is now a matter of accident, and their supply to the market is very irregular. Of deep interest to us who hope for more intimate relations between North and South America, and who have reason to expect from the assembly of the citizens of the two sections recently organized closer commercial bonds, are the views expressed by Agassiz at the close of his scientific exploration of that region in 1866. He says : " As soon as cultivation should re-place this accidental gathering—as soon as the endless variety of products, to which I have not even made an allusion, should be brought into the market—I have no doubt the valley of the Amazon will be one of great interest to us. Remember that it will be more advantageous for our northern population to go there to gather this wealth, than to any other parts of the tropical region, on account of its proximity, to begin with, and on account of the character of the climate. In eleven days from New York you can be in Para in a fortnight after leaving New York you can be at the j unction of the Rio Negro with the Amazon a thousand miles above the mouth of the Amazon ; so that it is at our door, and the facilities of communication are so great that we should take advantage of this source of valuable traffic, now that it is thrown open to all nations, before others have taken the cream from the field."
This is the country which has suddenly been converted from an empire to a republic. I call it a republic because the present provisional government I look upon as merely an interregnum, in which Fonseca and his associates are expected to preserve the organization until it is delivered into the hands of their elected successors. That the evils of which I have spoken hastened the downfall of the empire, there can be no doubt — evils so glaring and conspicuous that even the mild and beneficent sway of Dom Pedro could not reconcile the people to their existence. But I suppose that what Dean Plumptre says of European society is true of Brazilian—that it " is gravitating to democracy." That it may organize without being influenced by its traditions, or led by the example of the past, is now the hope and prayer of every believer in popular government. It takes a long time for a republic to grow up on the ruins of a monarchy. The old customs pass away slowly, the paraphernalia remain a long time, the forms and ceremonies linger, perhaps never depart ; though the titles are dropped the deference will not die out, respectful ease and familiarity will not take the place long filled by courtly phrase and re-strained form and observance. Love of decoration does not flee away at the rising of the republican sun. When therefore we are told that provincial presidents in Brazil, when assigned to the remotest provinces, consider themselves sent into exile, we are encouraged to believe that there is a virgin soil on which republican institutions can be planted, and that from the frontiers at least may flow a liberal supply of healthy life-blood to the heart of the new republic.
It should be remembered that we of the United States have had little to do but to preserve the social and political doctrines and institutions which were declared and established in the beginning. All the events of the past belong naturally and harmoniously to our present system. Custom and experience have established our forms and our laws. It required no theory to inspire our Constitution ; the work of its construction consisted in combining the results of successful colonial experience, and so combining them that a familiar and well-recognized organization should follow. Before the one direct demand of the great practical man of our constitutional period, all theorists and doctrinaires exerted themselves in vain ; the timid retired ; the over-wise found their wisdom to be foolishness. No more inspiring picture is presented in all history than the life of him who, having led the American armies through the Revolution on to victory, superior to doubt and fear and defection and desertion, applied the strong qualities which made him great in war to the organization of a form of government which his experience and observation had convinced him to be necessary. With this demand the history of every colony was in accord. It is given to few men to fight successfully for national independence, and to toil successfully for a national government, with all the encouragement of a national history behind him. A republic born of evolution has every element of success. Such a republic had Washington. Such a republic may have been developed by Dom Pedro during his aesthetic rule, which ended in his peaceful departure.
It is encouraging to believe that republics are not uniform. They appear like trotting-horses in every variety of shape ; and not until they start can we tell how well they can go. We can only wish them well and believe in their honest efforts.
When the royal family left Portugal for Brazil in 1807 the pageant which attended them was great. A fleet of ships of war attended the royal argosy. A thousand troops and attendants innumerable accompanied the imperial party. There was a splendor of bands and banners. And the arrival at Brazil was a signal for most imposing ceremonies and assurances of loyalty. When Dom Pedro I. returned to Portugal in 1831 he too came as the conqueror comes. And now we have here his successor, with whose career we are all familiar, and whose voyage forms a great contrast to those of his ancestors.
The times here are somewhat troublons. The controversy between England and Portugal on the East Africa question has reached a climax by the surrender by Portugal of every point claimed of her. It is true it was done under protest—but it was done, and Portugal mourns and rages alternately. I heard in the Cortes yesterday the statement of Barros Gomes giving his correspondence with the British Minister, and the patriotic considerations which led him to surrender, notwithstanding all the declarations he had made in his letters to Lord Salisbury. He did it very well ; his oratory was quite impressive.
The Portuguese are naturally very angry over the result. For two long evenings crowds of noisy and protesting persons have paraded the streets and have made a great disturbance, tearing down the escutcheon of the British Consulate, stoning the house of Senhor Banos Gomes, threatening that of the British Minister, and cheering the flag of the Brazilian Republic. Result—the resignation of the ministry and the formation of a new one.
This morning the storm seems to be over, notwithstanding the threats of the populace last evening. The republican sentiment has been roused to a great degree of excitement against England, and by the submission of the government to her demands. Last night it was proposed to give expression to the popular feeling by crowning the statue of Camoens and listening to patriotic speeches. The crowning and the speeches were suppressed by a municipal edict, and a sullen people were obliged to retire. Many loyal people doubt the wisdom of the suppression. Perhaps there was not much to suppress.
We now have from the government a long decree providing for increasing and reorganizing the navy and the army ; strengthening the forts at Belem and elsewhere ; building four large cruisers of three thousand tons each, with a speed of twenty miles an hour ; issuing twenty-dollar bonds bearing four and a half per cent. interest to run eighty years, and smaller bonds for circulation ; manufacturing heavy ordnance and torpedoes. In fact, the little kingdom is going to put on her armor. De Foe, in " Captain Singleton," says the Portuguese are quite efficient and brave when they have a leader ; without one they amount to but little,
When I came to the Legation this morning all seemed peace and prosperity. Along the Rua Ferregial de Baixo—sweet name—where the Legation is, and which runs into the Rua de Alacrim, which means rosemary, I met barefoot girls and women, from fourteen to fifty years old, carrying broad baskets on their heads, four feet at least in diameter, filled with bread and cod-fishes ; a flock of turkeys driven about to find a market ; three large Holstein cows with muzzled calves ; two heavily laden donkeys with panniers larger than themselves—girls, women, cows, calves, and donkeys all vocal. Peace has returned.
Meanwhile Lisbon is as busy as usual endeavoring to avoid trade with England, asking how they can establish relations with other countries contemplating a large increase of her commercial relations.
Socially the town is not lively. The opera this season is not fascinating. I sit before a fire these damp winter evenings reading the literature of my own country. The storm here is not quite over. It breaks out in unexpected places. At a circus the audience grew furious because the flag of Portugal was stolen and hidden in the sand of the arena—a part of the performance. When the bunting was unearthed and ex-posed in a soiled and bedraggled condition, the house rose in its wrath, and seats, chairs, decorations, doors, windows, and actors were sent flying through the air until the place was utterly demolished.