South America - A Popular History - H. Butterworth

The Progress of Brazil


The history of the progress of Brazil is inwoven with that of the beneficent Emperor, Dom Pedro II. He was crowned July 18, 1841, at the age of fourteen and a half years. The sixtieth anniversary of his birthday, celebrated on December 2, 1885, was made the occasion of the liberation of one hundred and thirty-three slaves by a private subscription. During the ceremony of conferring liberty on these slaves, the emperor said: "I hope that God will give me life to bestow liberty upon the last slave in Brazil." His hope was fulfilled. After a work so beneficent he was compelled to abdicate and to leave the country.

"The emperor," says Andrews (Brazil: Its Conditions and Prospects), "is six feet tall. He has an intellectual head, eyes of grayish blue, beard full and gray. He is erect and has a manly bearing. Being now upward of sixty years of age, he is not, of course, so sentimental a man as when, at thirty years of age, he used to talk to American travelers about our poets."

The last touch of this picture draws us toward him. Dom Pedro II loved the poems of the Quaker poet Whittier. At a reception in Boston, tendered to him by the Radical Club, he met the poet. Dom Pedro II. was himself a poet. He thus expresses his opinion of the position to which he had been called and of the duties it entailed. This opinion found practical expression in every act of his long and illustrious reign.

If I am pious, clement, just,

I'm only what I ought to be:

The scepter is a mighty trust,

A great responsibility.

And he who rules with faithful hand,

With depth of thought and breadth of range,

The sacred laws should understand,

But must not at his pleasure change.

The chair of justice is the throne:

Who takes it bows to higher laws;

The public good, and not his own,

Demands his care in every cause.

Translation of D. Bates.

The political affairs in Brazil from the beginning of the republican movement in South America had had a liberal tendency. Dom Pedro II. was only five years of age when, by his father's abdication, he succeeded to the throne. The regents during his minority were chosen for him in accordance with the public will. He was declared of age before he was fifteen, and the heart of the boy emperor, from the first days of his reign, went out to the people who had desired to see him thus early upon the throne. In 1843 he married the Princess Theresa Christina Maria of Naples. Two princes, who died young, and two princesses were the result of this union.

He offered aid to General Urquiza in the war against Rosas, and thus secured the free navigation of the Rio de la Plata.

In 1850 the slave-trade was suppressed in Brazil. This was the first step toward the emancipation of slaves, an act which gave Dom Pedro II. a place among the greatest benefactors of humanity. In 1800 Brazil possessed a population of 3,200,000, nearly one half of which was negro slaves. A law for the gradual abolition of slavery was passed in 1871. This was followed by the abolition of slavery in 1888.

In 1865 Dorn Pedro declared war against the tyrant Lopez of Paraguay, who had refused the free navigation of the Paraguay River, one of the sources of supply of the great province of Matto-Grosso in Brazil. The war ended in a complete victory for Brazil. It cost Brazil $315,000,000.

Years of peaceful progress in Brazil followed the Paraguayan war. The emperor gave himself to the study of the welfare of his people. He shared his great revenues with the poor. The freedom of the press was guaranteed; education was encouraged, and institutions of beneficence founded.

Emancipation was followed by a great European immigration to Brazil. In the single year 1888, 132,000 immigrants arrived.

On an island in the harbor of Rio de Janeiro, now called Villegaignon, but named Coligny by the first settlers, the French Huguenots, in 1555, planted one of the first Protestant settlements in the New World. The colony was reinforced from Geneva by a missionary colony. Thus the first Protestant missionary work in America was begun more than a half-century before the coming of the Pilgrim Fathers to New Plymouth, or three hundred and fifty years ago.

In 1818 two thousand Swiss colonists founded Novo Fribourgo, one hundred and fifty miles north of Rio de Janeiro. The place is very beautiful and healthful, and is a favorite summer resort of the inhabitants of Rio de Janeiro.

German immigrants founded the colony of Sao Leopoldo on the Rio Grande do Sul in 1824. The colony grew to 40,000 inhabitants. There are to-day some 250,000 inhabitants of German origin in Brazil. They are prosperous, and are constantly growing in numbers, resources and wealth. Sao Leopoldo was the mother of German colonies. Out of this colony forty-three others sprang.

The German colony of Santa Cruz was founded in 1849, and has now a population of more than 5000. These Germans cultivate corn, rice, tobacco, sugar-cane, flax and the vine.

The colony of Blumenau was founded in 1860 by Dr. Herman Blumenau, and has a population of 11,000 or more.

The colony of Santa Leopoldina, on the river Santa Maria, cultivates coffee and sugar-cane. Its export of the former numbers millions of pounds. There are several coffee-producing colonies in the different states.

At times the ocean passage of immigrants has been paid by the Brazilian government. Under the provision of the law of 1867, newly arrived immigrants, while awaiting transportation, were lodged and fed at the expense of the government. On taking possession of the government land they were furnished with food for ten days. They were given eleven dollars in money, ten acres of land and a temporary house. The immigrant was debited with such advances, but was allowed a long time in which to pay the loan.

On November 15, 1889, after a bloodless revolution, Brazil became a republic. The republican flag took the place of the imperial banner. It represented twenty-one states—the United States of Brazil. The emperor sailed for Portugal, bringing to a close his beneficent and illustrious reign.

The history of the navigation of the Amazon is full of dramatic incidents. No river promises to contribute more to the world's development. It is three thousand miles long. Its branches would add to its main current another three thousand miles. It rises in the Andean Alps, fourteen thousand feet above the sea, and dashes down through the crystal Cordilleras to the plains.

The first voyager on the Amazon was Francisco de Orellana, a Spanish adventurer. His story, which filled Europe with wonder, is as follows: Gonzalo Pizarro, the half-brother of the conqueror of Peru, received the appointment of governor of Quito. He had heard wonderful tales of the land of cinnamon, and of a mighty river that leaped down the Andes and went rushing to the sea. He wished to visit the land of spices and to discover this river, For this purpose he mustered three hundred and fifty Spaniards and four thousand Indians. He gathered for the expedition a great quantity of provisions.

In the year 1540 he set out on this expedition to the cinnamon-groves. He marched through the old land of the Incas as in a triumphal procession. When he came to the cold, bare, lofty ranges of the Andes, among new tribes of barbarous people, his men began to suffer. Besides the cold of the Cordilleras, he met with an earthquake which rent the earth asunder, poured forth sulphurous vapors, and swallowed up a village. Five hundred houses were destroyed. On descending the eastern slopes of the Andes, the cold changed to heat, and heavy thunder-clouds hung over the passes. After months of travel they reached the land of cinnamon. They came to the river Napo, one of the tributaries of the Amazon, a river that, in this region, rolls foaming and tumbling down toward the plains. It is said that the roar of this river may be heard for leagues. It flows through a pathless wilderness, gigantic forests inhabited by the alligator, the boa, and an unknown people almost as wild as the beasts.

In this expedition was one Francisco de Orellana, an ambitious cavalier. Gonzalo Pizarro caused a boat to be built. He intrusted to this man an expedition in search of food, for his men were dying for the want of supplies. The last of their horses had been eaten, and the gloomy forests offered no adequate sustenance for so many men.

Orellana had heard that the Napo emptied into a greater river, and, with high hopes, he started with his boats and a crew of fifty men. He sailed down to the plains, over the foaming currents, and found a mighty stream. Orellana desired to explore this majestic river. His duty was to return to the famished men he had left, but his ambition rose above his sense of duty. Whither did this grand river flow? To the ocean? If so, to follow it to the ocean would make him famous. He continued his course on the broad river, and he and his companions were borne through lands of wonder to the ocean. He reached the isle of Cahagua, and there found passage to Spain. He thrilled the Spanish court with his story, and obtained royal permission to occupy the lands that he had discovered.

In his reports of this perfidious expedition he claimed to have found a nation of Amazons, women warriors like those fabled to have lived in Scythia. He did not live to fulfil his dream of repeating the deeds of a Pizarro. His marvelous story of the Amazons gave the name to the river.

The Amazon was first described in modern travel by M. de la Condamine, a French traveler, who embarked upon it in 1743. It was explored in 1799 by Humboldt, and in 1867 by Professor Agassiz.

In 1866 the Peruvian government organized an expedition to ascertain if it would be possible to establish communication between Lima and the town of Magro, at the foot of the Andes in Upper Peru. After many difficulties it found the desired waterway to the tributary of the Amazon. From Magro to Lima is a distance of four hundred or more miles. It is proposed to make over this route a new waterway to the Amazon, and so from Peru to Para, from the Pacific to the Atlantic.

The india-rubber trade began to fill the Amazon with river craft. The great ocean steamers followed, and to-day a person may travel by steamer from New York to Para, from Para to Maranon, and thence to Peru by a continuous waterway.

The navigation of the Amazon has of late been developed in a wonderful manner. The report of the Bureau of American Republics (Brazil) says of this development: "The possibilities of the navigation of the Amazon and its affluents have only begun to be developed; and yet the following 'magnificent distances' are navigated already by steamers: from Belem (Para) to Manaos, I too miles; Manaos to Iquitos, Peru, by river Solimoens, 1350 miles; Manaos to Santa Isabella, by river Negro, 470 miles; Manaos to Hyutanahan, by river Purus, 1080 miles; Manaos to Sao Antonio, by river Madeira, 470 miles; Belem to Bayao, by river Tocantins, 156 miles; Leopoldina to Santa Maria, 570 miles—making a total of 5196 miles of steam-navigation on the Amazon and its southern affluents; and this total does not include the navigation of the branches of the above-named rivers, which would increase the amount by some 3000 miles more."

Rubber, coffee, sugar, cocoa and mandioca (tapioca) here find one of the finest soils in the world.

The coffee-plant was brought from Africa to Brazil. In 180o the empire exported 13 bags of coffee; to-day the republic exports 6,000,000 bags of 132 pounds each.

The port cities are growing populous and rich with increasing commerce. Rio has a population of more than 400,000, Bahia of nearly 200,000, and Pernambuco of 150,000 or more.

Para, the port city of the Amazon, called Belem in Brazil, has a harbor in which are found ships from all parts of the commercial world. Through this port pass the growing imports and exports of the broad Amazon valley. From January to July, in 1888, there were exported from Para rubber to the value of $6,462,000, and cocoa to the value of $670,000. The city of Para is one of the most rapidly growing commercial centers of South America.

Rio, with its beautiful harbor, is the port from which coffee finds its way to many lands, but most largely to the United States. In 1888, in eleven months, 3,330,185 bags were exported. The state of Sao Paulo, which connects with Rio, is the great coffee region of Brazil, and is the home of the planters whose enterprise has caused them to be called the "Brazilian Yankees."

The Golconda of South America is the diamond region of Brazil, known as the Serro do Frio, or the "Mountains of Cold." The diamond district is small in extent. It was once so jealously guarded that no one was allowed to enter it without special permission. Travelers thither were escorted by soldiers. They were not allowed to remain for any considerable time. The town where the officers and explorers resided was called Tejuco. The mines were discovered by accident in the early part of the last century. Their product then belonged to the crown.

The discovery of these mines is associated with a very curious story. The lofty, cold range of Serro do Frio was explored for gold. In searching for the precious metal some singular stones, supposed to be pebbles, were found. Their luminous qualities and geometrical forms excited the curiosity of the negro laborers, who showed them to their masters. The laborers collected these shining pebbles as curiosities. Card-playing was a favorite amusement in these cold, lonesome mountain regions, and it became a custom to use these luminous pebbles as counters in the game. One day an officer who had been in India arrived in this region. He saw shining pebbles, and was led to examine them on account of their geometrical forms. He had a suspicion that they might have value. He compared the weight of these pebbles with that of other pebbles, and found a great difference. The result led him to believe that they were gems. He sent some of them to Lisbon to be examined. The Dutch consul there saw them. "They are diamonds," he said, The Dutch consul forwarded some of them to Holland, where they were pronounced to be diamonds equal in value to those of Golconda.

A more extraordinary story is associated with the Braganza diamond of Brazil, the largest diamond in the world, once the glory of the jewels of Portugal. "It was found," says Mawe, "in 1791. Three men convicted of capital offenses, named Antonio de Sousa, Jose Felix Gomez, and Tomas de Sousa, were sent into exile, into the wilderness of Morias, among cannibals and wild beasts. They searched for treasures. They were forbidden to enter any city or to hold communication with the world. While washing for gold in the Abaite River, in a dry season, this diamond gleamed upon them. There was a law against diamond-washing. The three exiles took the wonderful gem to a priest. He had an honest, trusting soul, and he ventured to lead them to Villa Rica, where the governor of Minas then lived. Notwithstanding the law, he presented the diamond to the governor, and asked him to test its worth. This was quickly done, and the priest was commended. 'I want you to pardon these men,' said the priest. The pardon was granted. The King of Portugal confirmed the pardon granted by the governor."

The discovery of the value of india-rubber followed the diamond excitement, which latter lasted from 1728 to the close of the last century. The india-rubber groves of the Amazon became the source of a commerce more rich than the diamond-fields. For a century the uses of rubber have multiplied, and the rubber-tree has come to be one of the most beneficent products of the world.

Brazil is a prolific land. Her territory could sustain an immense population. Her natural products are inexhaustibly rich. She has diamond-fields indeed, but her soil and her forests are the sources of her prosperity. The mighty arms of the Amazon will forever gather her wealth to feed the world.

Brazil faces the future with such abundant and undeveloped resources that her progress in the twentieth century is likely to be phenomenal. We cannot wonder that Dom Pedro II. left the beautiful land with regret, and that the empress, when compelled to live in other lands, languished and died.