PART - I
This article is the first part of a four part series in commemoration of Brazil's 500th anniversary. (Brazil's actual birthday date is April 22, 2000)
Most well educated Brazilians know that José Bonifácio de Andrada e Silva is the "Patriarch of Independence" of Brazil. He is one of the greatest statesman in world history, but he is unknown to the American public.
Most people don't know enough of our Brazilian history and its details to appreciate the reasons why José Bonifácio (the founding father of Brazil) is considered the most important figure in Brazilian history. There is no other person in Brazilian history who comes close to José Bonifácio in the impact that he had on the history of the country.
To demonstrate José Bonifácio's importance to the history of Brazil, we can say that José Bonifácio was responsible for the unification of Brazil in 1822. "It was José Bonifácio's statesmanship ability that united the country which we call Brazil. The country that he united in 1822 is almost the same size as the country that we have today. Since 1822 Brazil gained just a little and lost a little territory.
There was no unity in Brazil in 1822 or before 1822. The north of Brazil had better communications with Europe than with Rio de Janeiro. — He unified a very large country with his exceptional political savvy and statesmanship skills, with a small army, with a small navy and with almost no bloodshed.
José Bonifácio — The Outstanding Prime Minister
If José Bonifácio had made a single mistake during that very delicate turning point in Brazilian history, the result would have been disastrous for Brazil. If they had to fight multiple rebellions for independence from the north to the south of Brazil then everything could have gotten out of control and their small army and navy would not have a single chance to keep the new nation together (Brazil was too large to be controlled with this small army and navy with the communication and transportation systems available in Brazil in 1822). If that had happened the result would have been disastrous, and Brazil would have been split into five or six independent countries at that point.1
"In 1621 Maranhão became a separate colony of Portugal, because it was easier to maintain communications from Maranhão in the north of Brazil with Lisbon, in Portugal, than with the capital of Brazil, São Salvador, in the Captaincy of Bahia. The new colony of Portugal included most of the Captaincies north and west of Cabo São Roque, and included parts of Ceará, Piauí, Maranhão, Pará and Amazonas. This colony was never prosperous.
In 1822 at the time of the Brazilian independence from Portugal, the north of Brazil was precariously connected to the south. The king of Portugal preferred to keep the Captaincies (States) isolated and ignorant of one another. Royal edicts of 1614 and 1620 prohibited a governor-general from one Captaincy to visit another Captaincy in Brazil without permission from Portugal."2
To put things in the right perspective let's review some facts and some other events which where happening around the 1820's. "The United States in the 1820's was a country half of today's size. The United States consisted of its thirteen original states. It had also acquired a new piece of land by the Treaty of Versailles in 1783, the Louisiana Territory from France in 1803 and Florida in 1819 from Spain. Even if we added the newly purchased lands to the United States, the U.S. still was half of the size of Brazil in 1822, the time of Brazilian independence.
The United States had to fight an independence war in 1776 to achieve the independence of its thirteen original states. U.S. independence was achieved with bloodshed and suferring for American colonists. By contrast, Brazilian independence was achieved with very little bloodshed because of José Bonifácio's statesmanship abilities.
Without José Bonifácio in its history, the country Brazil in its current form would not exist today.
José Bonifácio was aware of the disintegration of the Spanish empire in the Americas. Spanish America disintegrated into eight separate and independent countries during the period 1810 to 1830.
Spanish America broke up into various republics and their independence was as follows: Paraguay (1811), Argentina (1816), Chile (1818), Colombia (1819), Ecuador (1822), Peru (1824), Bolivia (1825), and Venezuela (1830). The independence of these countries from Spain was accomplished with a twenty year civil war in that region of South America and split Spanish America into eight independent republics. Uruguay got its independence in 1828 from Brazil."3
Dom Pedro I lost the Cisplatine Province — the country called "Uruguay" today, in a disastrous war with Argentina in 1828. If Dom Pedro I had kept José Bonifácio as his Prime Minister in the late 1820's, instead of sending him into exile, most likely the country Uruguay still would be part of Brazil today.
We can summarize José Bonifácio's importance to Brazilian history as follows: " Without José Bonifácio's influence on Brazilian history, we would have instead four or five independent countries in South America where Brazil is located, and we would not be commemorating the 500th anniversary of the Brazilian nation. Without José Bonifácio in its history, the country Brazil in its current form would not exist today.
The major reason to honor José Bonifácio de Andrada e Silva is the fact that Brazilians owe him the country which we call Brazil today. The country itself was José Bonifácio's legacy to future Brazilian generations."4
The above notes can be found in the following pages: iii, 1, 2, 55, 110, 111, 112 and 203 of the book José Bonifácio de Andrada e Silva "The Greatest Man in Brazilian History" by Ricardo C. Amaral Copyright...©...1999.