"José Bonifácio de Andrada e Silva -
The Greatest Man in Brazilian History" - by Ricardo C. Amaral
Copyright © 1999

This article is the third part of a four part series in commemoration of Brazil's 500th anniversary. (Brazil's actual birthday date is April 22, 2000)

The Independence Process.

Dom Pedro did not hesitate. He armed José Bonifácio with the highest level of authority possible. The investiture of José Bonifácio carried with it the most extensive powers that any minister had had in the history of imperial or republican Brazil.

The Prince Regent, and later Emperor, on various occasions made a point of showing in public the high regard that he had for his Prime Minister by handing him in official ceremonies the bastion of mordomo-mor, symbol of uncontested prestige. This set the stage for José Bonifácio to assume his Prime Minister position which would enable him to do a masterful job that culminated with the independence of Brazil from Portugal.

To this day no one has accomplished so much in Brazilian history as José Bonifácio, and his accomplishments were done in a very short period of time in the three years from 1821 to 1823.

In those three years José Bonifácio provoked the most outstanding hatred that any politician tasted in Brazil. During this period he could count on support only from a few trusted friends and from his other two brothers Martim Francisco and Antônio Carlos. They were instrumental and also played important supporting roles in the independence of Brazil.

There was a hatred of the Portugueses as they were a dominant force in Rio de Janeiro. There was also a hatred of various groups of Brazilians. These groups of Brazilians could not see in José Bonifácio's political actions the defense of national unity and territorial integrity.

José Bonifácio had a clear vision, objective and realistic, of the functions of a modern State. In his writings and personal correspondence, in most documents, in government decrees, and in official and diplomatic correspondence to other governments, we can see that he understood the social and economic problems of his day. He also had a profound understanding of the political issues and of what could be realistically done.

His goal was to guide Brazil to a smoother transition than the one that he had seen in France during the French Revolution. He also was aware of the current anarchy present in the new nations that were getting their independence from the Spanish Empire, as was the case in Argentina.

In his writings, correspondence, government documents and government decrees we can see that José Bonifácio and his brother Martim Francisco had an excellent grasp of economic theory and that their thoughts were way ahead of their time in that subject.

The liberal reforms that José Bonifácio was putting in place to completely restructure, not only the economic but also the political and social life in Brazil, created a momentum to form an incredible coalition of Portuguese and Brazilian land and slave owners. This powerful coalition was so strong that eventually they forced José Bonifácio out of power.

The Critical Period.

There was a critical nine month period from March 1822 to December 1822 in which José Bonifácio almost in a despotic fashion issued decree after decree establishing the foundations which would give the social, political and economic structure for the new nation.

José Bonifácio's actions were arrogant, inflexible, firm, and irreconcilable with dissident groups, but at the same time they were compatible with the people and the nation whose interests he was defending.

When José Bonifácio participated in the provisory government of Säo Paulo, he prepared a document that was signed by the members of the provisory government on October 9, 1821 called "Lembranças e Apontamentos". This document might be the most important document in the history of reforms in Brazil. The document provided a complete master plan for the new nation and covered in detail all the necessary building blocks of social, political and economic life.

José Bonifácio's major accomplishment in Brazil was the consolidation of independence with national sovereignty, political unity and territorial integrity.

Most of the above information with the proper footnotes can be found in much more detail in the book "José Bonifácio de Andrada e Silva - The Greatest Man in Brazilian History" by Ricardo C. Amaral.

In part IV of this series we will discuss the "Andrada brothers's" impact on the independence process of Brazil and on the first Brazilian Constitution.

Homepage About the Author Part I Part II Part III Part IV