History of Portugal (1777–1834)

2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: General history

Miguel I of Portugal, the Traditionalist
History of Portugal
  • Prehistoric Portugal
  • Pre-Roman Portugal
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  • Visigoths and Suevi
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  • First County of Portugal
  • County of Coimbra
  • Kingdom of Galicia and Portugal
  • Second County of Portugal
  • Establishment of the Monarchy
  • Consolidation of the Monarchy
  • 1383–1385 Crisis
  • Discoveries
  • Portuguese Empire
  • 1580 Crisis
  • Iberian Union
  • Age of Enlightenment
  • Invasions, Liberalism and Civil War
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  Timeline of Portuguese history 

The history of Portugal from the beginning of Maria I's reign in 1777 to the end of the Liberal Wars in 1834 spans a complex historic period in which several important political and military events led to the end of the absolutist regime and to the installment of a constitutional monarchy in the country.

In 1807, Napoleon ordered the invasion of Portugal and subsequently the Royal Family escaped to Brazil. This would be one of the causes for the declaration of Brazilian independence by Peter I of Brazil in 1822, following a liberal revolution in Portugal.

The liberal period was stormy and as short as Prince Michael of Portugal (Peter's brother) supported an absolutist revolution endeavoring to restore all power to the monarchy. Peter would eventually return to Portugal and fight and defeat his brother in the Liberal Wars in which liberalism was completely installed and Portugal became a constitutional monarchy.

Maria I and Prince John

Queen Maria I of Portugal
Queen Maria I of Portugal

When Princess Maria Francisca, King Joseph I of Portugal's eldest daughter, succeeded her father as the 27th (or 26th according to some historians) Portuguese monarch, she became the first Queen regnant of a 650-year-old decaying country that was economically unstable and socially unbalanced. Her father's right-hand man, Sebastião José de Carvalho e Melo, already titled Count of Oeiras and Marquis of Pombal, had been ruling the country and its Empire with a strong hand for 27 years. Maria I and the Marquis disliked each other, and Maria had been one of his fiercest detractors in the previous years. When she was crowned she immediately dismissed and exiled him to Pombal. The Queen also issued one of the world's first restraining orders, commanding that Sebastião de Melo should not be closer than 20 miles from her presence, and if she were to travel near his estates, he was compelled to remove himself from his house to fulfill the royal decree. She is also reported to have had tantrums at the slightest reference to her father's former Prime Minister.

Queen Maria is said to have suffered from religious mania and melancholia. Consequently she was incapable of handling state affairs after 1799 and so her son, Prince John of Braganza, became Prince-Regent. His regency was a complex period when Portugal saw itself involved in the several battles, invasions and campaigns that characterized the Napoleonic Wars and mainly the Peninsular War. Portugal became involved when it refused to join the Continental blockade. This decision was followed in 1807 by the first of three French invasions. When news of the invasion arrived, the Royal Family and many prominent figures of the country fled to the recently created Vice-Kingdom of Brazil, a de facto colonial possession of Portugal, establishing the capital of the Portuguese Empire in Rio de Janeiro. Queen Maria died in 1816, and was succeeded by the Prince-Regent who reigned as John VI of Portugal.

Continental system refusal and the War of the Oranges

Manuel de Godoy
Manuel de Godoy

The War of the Oranges was a short war between Portugal and neighbouring Spain during the year of 1801, and was considered a precedent of the Peninsular War. It is of particular importance as it was in the outcome of the war that Spain attained the control of the town of Olivenza (Olivença in Portuguese).

At the dawn of the 19th century, Portugal tried to manage an equilibrium between the powers of England (Portugal's oldest ally) and France, opting for a policy of neutrality while continuing to trade with both countries. However, France was anxious to break the Anglo-Portuguese alliance in order to close Portuguese ports to British merchants. Consequently the French, through a series of diplomatic treaties ( Santo Ildefonso, Fontainebleau) agreed on an invasion of Portugal with Spain (who was eager to recover the territory lost in 1640 after the end of the Iberian Union). In January 1801 an ultimatum with five points was sent to Lisbon requesting that Portugal:

  • abandon its traditional alliance with Britain, closing its ports;
  • open its ports to France and Spain;
  • surrender a quarter of metropolitan Portugal as a guarantee of the devolution of Spanish islands in the hands of the British: Trinidad, Minorca and Malta;
  • pay a war indemnity to France and Spain;
  • review border limits with Spain.

If Portugal failed to accomplish the 5 points, it would be invaded by Spain, aided by 15,000 French soldiers. Portugal refused the ultimatum, and war was declared. Portugal's poorly prepared army had 2,000 cavalry and 16,000 infantry, and was under the command of Dom João Carlos de Bragança e Ligne, 2nd Duke of Lafões. The Spanish side was headed by Prime-Minister and Commander-in-Chief of the invasion troops Manuel de Godoy, ironically nicknamed the "Prince of Peace", and numbered 30,000 men. French troops under General Leclerc (Napoleon's brother-in-law) did not arrive in Spain in time for war as it was a short military campaign.

On May 20, the Spanish army penetrated Alentejo, in southern Portugal, occupying Olivenza, Juromenha, Arronches, Portalegre, Castelo de Vide, Barbacena and Ouguela without resistance. Campo Maior resisted for 18 days before falling to the Spanish army. Elvas resisted a siege until the end of the war.

The name of the war has its origin in an episode which occurred during the siege of Elvas when Manuel de Godoy sent two oranges to Maria Luisa of Parma, wife of Charles IV of Spain, with the message: "I miss everything, and with nothing I will depart to Lisbon".

On June 6, a defeated and demoralised Portugal was forced to sign the Treaty of Badajoz. The Portuguese ports were closed to all British ships. Portugal was to recover all of the strongholds previously conquered, although Spain still retained the town of Olivenza and all territory on the eastern margin of the Guadiana. A prohibition of contraband near the borders of the two countries was set up. Portugal was also forced to pay for Spain's war expenditures.

The treaty was ratified by Prince-Regent John on the 14th and by the King of Spain on the 21st. This treaty was rejected by Napoleon who wanted to impose more severe terms on Portugal, so he decided to invade the country.

Napoleonic invasions

On October 27, 1807, France and Spain signed the Treaty of Fontainebleau in which the partition of Portugal was decided. Northern Lusitania, a territory between the Minho and Douro rivers would be a principality to be governed by the sovereign of the extinct Kingdom of Etruria (then Maria Luisa, daughter of Charles IV of Spain). The Algarves and all Portuguese territory located south of the Tagus would be governed by Manuel de Godoy, who would hold the title of King. The rest of Portugal between the Douro and the Tagus, a strategic region because of its ports, was to be administered by the central government in France until general peace.

To fulfill the treaty, Napoleon ordered the invasion of Portugal, initiating the Peninsular War.

First invasion

The Lines of Torres Vedras
The Lines of Torres Vedras

Under the command of General Jean-Andoche Junot, French troops entered Spain on October 18, 1807, crossing the Peninsula and reaching the Portuguese border on November 20. Without meeting any resistance, they reached Abrantes on the 24th, Santarém on the 28th, and finally Lisbon on the 30th. On the previous day the Royal Family and the Court had fled to Brazil, transported in British ships. Portugal had been left to a Regency Junta with orders not to resist.

The following year, a British force commanded by Arthur Wellesley (future Duke of Wellington) disembarked in Portugal, advancing over Lisbon. An Anglo-Portuguese army managed to defeat the French at the Battles of Roliça and Vimeiro, forcing the Convention of Sintra. The French were authorised to leave the country with the product of the sacks made in Portugal. The Convention benefited both sides, as Junot's armies, which were incapable of communicating with France, were authorised to leave the country, and the British and Portuguese gained the control over Lisbon. With this armistice, France gained some time and would invade Portugal a second time, a year later.

Second invasion

The second invasion was commanded by Marshall Nicolas Jean de Dieu Soult. As the first invasion was being fought Napoleon forced the abdication of Charles IV of Spain and his heir, Prince Ferdinand, giving the Spanish throne to his brother Joseph Bonaparte. The Spaniards revolted, gaining the support of the British stationed in Portugal. Under the command of John Moore, the British crossed the northern Portuguese border but were defeated at A Coruña by Marshal Soult, and were forced to retreat to Portugal. The French immediately occupied Northern Portugal, reaching Oporto on March 24.

It was again Wellesley who expelled the French from the north of the country. Aided by William Carr Beresford, 1st Viscount Beresford, the Portuguese and British defeated Soult in the Battle of the Douro, re-conquering the city of Oporto on May 29, and forcing the French retreat to Galicia.

Third invasion

André Masséna
André Masséna

The third invasion was the last war effort of the Peninsular war in Portuguese soil. In 1810, commanded by Marshall André Masséna, the French armies penetrated again the north of Portugal, conquering Almeida on August. They marched in the direction of Lisbon immediately. Masséna's army encountered the British and Portuguese at the Battle of Buçaco and lost, but quickly regrouped. Soon he had flanked the Anglo-Portuguese forces and marched to the capital. The allied armies quickly returned to the capital and occupied their posts at the Lines of Torres Vedras, a brilliant defence system mounted by the British with the help of the local population. The French reached the Lines on October 14 but were unable to penetrate the massive defenses and with winter coming had to return to Spain.

End of the war and consequences

Arthur Wellesley, future Duke of Wellington
Arthur Wellesley, future Duke of Wellington

A series of battles on Spanish soil followed the Battle of the Lines of Torres Vedras, until the final victory in Toulouse on April 10, 1814 put an end to the Peninsular War. At the same time, in the New World, Portugal captured French Guyana and Uruguay.

The invasion proved significant in the wider history of Portugal, as the country was deeply influenced by its unintended consequences. With the instability in Spain and the abdication of the king, Spanish colonies in Latin America declared their independence, creating a tense climate in Brazil. The moving of the Portuguese capital to Rio de Janeiro accentuated the economical, institutional and social crises in mainland Portugal, governed by British commercial interests personified by William Beresford's rule in the absence of the monarch. This strengthened the liberal ideals. In 1821, a Liberal Revolution in Oporto forced the return of King John VI of Portugal. This return, as well as the independence of several Spanish colonies, was one of the causes of the independence of Brazil conducted by John's son Peter.

The return of the King and the independence of Brazil

When the Peninsular War came to an end, Portugal returned Guyana to France on May 30, 1814, and was given an indemnity of 2 million francs. Discontent was spreading in mainland Portugal. However, Brazil was promoted to the status of Kingdom on December 16, 1816, and the country changed its name to United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil and Algarves. To aggravate the situation, the former colony was now able to trade directly with other European powers, greatly damaging mainland Portugal's commercial interests, and benefiting Great Britain (as the country was governed by William Beresford in the absence of the Royal Family in Rio de Janeiro ). On the other hand, King John VI showed little interest in returning to Europe. This situation created a wave of protests that culminated in the Liberal Revolution of Oporto on August 24, 1820.

 Flag of the United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil and Algarves (1816–1826)
Flag of the United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil and Algarves (1816–1826)

Two years earlier, Manuel Fernandes Tomás, José Ferreira Borges, José da Silva Carvalho and João Ferreira Viana, had founded the Sinédrio, a liberal clandestine organization that would later be involved in the Revolution. Influenced by the recent Liberal Revolution in Spain on January 1, 1820, a liberal revolution started in Oporto, quickly spreading without resistance to several other cities, culminating with the revolt of Lisbon. The revolutionaries demanded the immediate return of the Royal Court to mainland Portugal in order to "restore the metropolitan dignity". They also demanded a constitutional monarchy to be set up in Portugal. Finally, the revolutionaries wanted to restore Portuguese exclusivity of trade with Brazil, reverting Brazil to the status of a colony.

William Beresford was replaced by a Provisional Junta and the "General Extraordinary and Constituent Cortes (Courts) of the Portuguese Nation" were summoned on January 1, 1821, to draft a written Constitution. Press and book censorship and the Inquisition were lifted, and an amnesty to those involved in anti-liberal movements was ordered. On April 26, 1821, John VI departed to Lisbon. He arrived on July 3 of the same year, and his heir-apparent Prince Peter, became regent of the Vice-Kingdom of Brazil, with an informal understanding — known as the Bragança Agreement — that he was to take the crown if Brazil came to be independent.

Peter meant to rule frugally and started by cutting his own salary, centralizing scattered government offices and selling off most of the royal horses and mules. He issued decrees eliminating the royal salt tax, to spur the output of hides and dried beef; he forbade arbitrary seizure of private property; required a judge's warrant for arrests of freemen; and banned secret trials, torture, and other indignities. He also sent elected deputies to the Portuguese Assembly (Cortes). Slaves continued to be bought and sold and disciplined with force, however, despite his assertion that their blood was the same colour as his.

In September 1821, the Portuguese Assembly, with only a portion of the Brazilian delegates present, voted to abolish the Kingdom of Brazil and the royal agencies in Rio de Janeiro, thus subordinating all provinces of Brazil directly to Lisbon. Accordingly, troops were sent to Brazil, and all Brazilian units were placed under Portuguese command. On September 29, the Cortes ordered the return of Prince Peter to Europe in order to initiate a voyage of study in Spain, France and England, while in Brazil the Governmental Junta in São Paulo and the Senate of the Chamber of Rio de Janeiro implored for the Prince to stay. In January 1822, tension between Portuguese troops and the Luso-Brazilians (Brazilians of Portuguese ancestry) turned violent when Peter refused to comply and vowed to stay. He had been moved by petitions from Brazilian towns, and by the argument that his departure and the dismantling of the central government would trigger separatist movements.

Peter formed a new government headed by José Bonifácio de Andrade e Silva of São Paulo. This former royal official and professor of science at the University of Coimbra was crucial to the subsequent direction of events and is regarded as one of the formative figures of Brazilian nationalism, indeed, as the "Patriarch of Independence".

The atmosphere was so charged that Prince Peter sought assurances of asylum on a British ship in case he lost the looming confrontation; he also sent his family to safety out of the city. After Peter's decision to defy the Cortes, the "lead feet," as the Brazilians called the Portuguese troops, rioted before concentrating on Cerro Castello, which was soon surrounded by thousands of armed Brazilians. Peter then "dismissed" the Portuguese commanding general and ordered him to remove his soldiers across the bay to Niterói, where they would await transportation to Portugal. In the following days, the Portuguese commander delayed embarkation, hoping that expected reinforcements would arrive. However, the reinforcements that arrived off Rio de Janeiro on March 5, 1822 were not allowed to land. Instead, they were given supplies for the voyage back to Portugal.

Blood had been shed in Recife, Province of Pernambuco, when the Portuguese garrison was forced to depart in November 1821. In mid-February 1822, Brazilians in Bahia revolted against the Portuguese forces there, but were driven into the countryside, where they began guerrilla operations, signaling that the struggle in the north would not be without loss of life and property.

Flag of the independent Empire of Brazil under Peter I
Flag of the independent Empire of Brazil under Peter I

To secure Minas Gerais and São Paulo, where there were no Portuguese troops but doubts about independence lingered, Dom Peter engaged in some royal populism. Towns in Minas Gerais had expressed their loyalty at the time of Peter's vow to remain, save for the junta in Ouro Preto, the provincial capital. Peter realized that unless Minas Gerais was solidly with him, he would be unable to broaden his authority to other provinces. With only a few companions and no ceremony or pomp, Peter plunged into Minas Gerais on horseback in late March 1822, receiving enthusiastic welcomes and allegiance everywhere.

Back in Rio de Janeiro on May 13, Peter was proclaimed the "Perpetual Defender of Brazil" by the São Paulo legislative assembly and shortly thereafter called a Constituent Assembly for the next year. To deepen his base of support, he joined the freemasons, who, led by José Bonifácio Andrade e Silva, were pressing for parliamentary government and independence. More confident, in early August he called on the Brazilian deputies in Lisbon to return, decreed that Portuguese forces in Brazil should be treated as enemies, and issued a manifesto to "friendly nations". The manifesto read like a declaration of independence.

Seeking to duplicate his triumph in Minas Gerais, Peter rode to São Paulo in August to ensure his support there. Returning from an excursion to Santos, Peter received messages from his wife and from Andrade e Silva that the mainland Portugal Cortes had declared his government traitorous and were dispatching more troops. Peter then had to choose between returning to Portugal in disgrace, or breaking the last ties to Portugal. In a famous scene in front of the Ipiranga River, on September 7, 1822, he tore the Portuguese white and blue insignia from his uniform, drew his sword, and swore: "By my blood, by my honour, and by God: I will make Brazil free." Their motto, he said, would be "Independence or Death!"

The Vilafrancada and the Abrilada

John VI was not considered heir to throne until he was 21 years old, as his older bother Joseph, Prince of Beira was the heir-apparent until he died of smallpox at the age of 27. He lived for hunting and had little interest in public businesses. However, four years later he became Prince Regent because of Queen Maria I's mental illness. In 1816, John VI became King after Maria I died while the Royal Family was residing in Rio de Janeiro. In 1821 John VI was forced to return to Portugal, from where he would know of his own son's revolt in Brazil.

John VI and Queen Carlota Joaquina
John VI and Queen Carlota Joaquina

John's wife, Queen Carlota Joaquina de Borbón, was said to be very conservative, ambitious and violent. While in Brazil, she had attempted to obtain administration of Spanish dominions in Latin America and was involved in obscure conspiracies regarding the independency of Brazil. At her return to Portugal after the Liberal Revolution of Oporto, the country had recently drafted its first constitution that established a constitutional monarchy. The Queen opposed this and jointly with her son Prince Michael, who shared her views, organized a nationwide insurgency against the liberal constitution. An army commanded by Michael was formed near Vila Franca de Xira, thus the name of the revolution: Vilafrancada ( pron. IPA: [vilɐfɾɐ̃'kaðɐ]), and absolutism was proclaimed. One of the objectives of the Queen and the Infante was the abdication of John VI, who was loyal to the new Constitution in spite of the numerous adhesions to the absolutistic cause in Vila Franca. Ultimately, the King accepted absolutism again when a movement of army officers and citizens surrounded the Palace of Bemposta urging the King to abandon liberal ideals.

Vilafrancada: Prince Michael being acclaimed in Vila Franca.
Vilafrancada: Prince Michael being acclaimed in Vila Franca.

In 1823 the police revealed a planned conspiracy led by the Queen and Prince Michael, recently promoted to the post of commander-in-chief of the Army (Generalíssimo), to force the King to abdicate. This didn't stop the rebellion. On April 30, Michael united the army and imprisoned numerous ministers and important figures of the kingdom, while keeping his father incommunicable in the Palace of Bemposta. This second attempt became known as Abrilada ( pron. IPA: [ɐβɾi'laðɐ]), after the Portuguese word for April: Abril). However the British and French ambassadors managed to inform King John VI, who on May 9 went to Caxias and entered the British battleship Windsor Castle. There he summoned his son Michael, reprehended him, dismissed him from the post of commander-in-chief of the Army, and sent him to exile. On May 14, John returned to the Palace of Bemposta and re-established the liberal government. However, a new conspiracy was discovered on October 26 of the same year, and this time Queen Carlota Joaquina was imprisoned in Queluz.

In his reign, John promoted the arts (mainly literature), commerce and agriculture, but being forced to return to Europe and following palatial conspiracies aggravated by the independence of Brazil transformed John into an unhappy man, and he died soon after the Abrilada in 1826. It was also near the end of his life, on November 15, 1825, that he recognized the independence of Brazil and restored his son Peter's right to the Portuguese throne. Before his death he named a Regency Junta headed by one of his daughters Isabel Maria of Braganza, that would govern the country between his death and the acclamation of the future king.

Civil War

Peter I, Emperor of Brazil; Peter IV, King of Portugal
Peter I, Emperor of Brazil; Peter IV, King of Portugal

The death of King John VI created a constitutional problem as his rightful successor was the Emperor of Brazil, Peter I. His second son, Prince Michael, had been exiled due to attempts to overthrow his own father in the Vilafrancada and the Abrilada. When the king died, he left his daughter Princess Isabel Maria as regent, expecting that Peter I of Brazil would return to Portugal and reunite Brazil with its former colonial power.

At the time, Peter I was facing problems in his new-born country, and to aggravate these issues he accepted the throne of Portugal as King Peter IV, on March 10, 1826. He was soon faced with two alternatives, and as the constitution of Brazil prohibited the monarch to succeed to another crown he had to choose between Portugal and Brazil. Peter chose the second option and abdicated ( May 28 of the same year) in favour of his eldest daughter (his eldest son would be Peter II of Brazil) Princess Maria da Glória. Since she was only seven at the time, he arranged a marriage between Maria and his brother Michael, exiled in Vienna. Meanwhile, his apparent indecision between Brazil and Portugal further damaged his waning popularity.

Returning from Austria, Prince Michael, now regent, immediately proclaimed himself King of Portugal, deposing Maria da Glória (who had not arrived in Portugal yet) and annulling the Liberal Constitution recently approved by Peter IV, concentrating all the powers in the person of the King. This triggered a civil war known as the Liberal Wars between the supporters of absolutism (lead by Michael I) and of liberalism. Michael tried to obtain international approval, but failed due to the pressures of the United Kingdom. During his short reign only the United States and Mexico recognized him. This usurpation was followed by both demonstrations in support of absolutism and failed revolutions to reinstate liberalism. Thousands of liberal idealists were killed, arrested, or forced to flee to Spain.

In Brazil, Peter I was facing problems. In the aftermath of a political crisis that followed the dismissal of his ministers and amidst a growing economic crisis, Peter abdicated his throne in Brazil in favour of his son, Peter II on April 7, 1831. He then returned to Europe to fight against his brother Michael. He went to Britain where he was joined by many Portuguese exiled liberals and set up a government in exile. He then departed to Terceira Island, Azores, a territory which had stayed loyal to the liberal cause.

Duke of Terceira
Duke of Terceira

In July 1832, with the backing of liberals in Spain and England, a liberal military expedition landed near Oporto. It was besieged by Miguelite forces, occasionally engaging in sporadic skirmishes. In June 1833, the liberals, still encircled at Oporto, sent a force commanded by António José Severim de Noronha, Duke of Terceira, to Algarve, supported by a naval squadron commanded by Charles Napier, using the alias Carlos de Ponza. Terceira landed in Faro and marched north through Alentejo to conquer Lisbon on July 24. Meanwhile, Napier's squadron encountered the absolutist fleet near Cape Saint Vincent and decisively defeated it the Battle of Cape St. Vincent (1833).

The liberals were able to occupy Lisbon, making it possible for Peter to repel the Miguelite siege in Oporto. A stalemate of nine months ensued. Towards the end of 1833, Maria da Glória was proclaimed Queen regnant, and Peter was made regent. His first act was to confiscate the property of all who had supported Michael. He also suppressed all religious orders and confiscated their property, an act that suspended friendly relations with the Papal States for nearly eight years, until mid-1841.

Meanwhile, the absolutists controlled the rural areas, where they were supported by the aristocracy, and by a peasantry that was galvanized by the Church. The liberals occupied Portugal's major cities, Lisbon and Oporto, where they commanded a sizeable following among the middle classes. Operations against the Miguelists began again in earnest in early 1834 and they were defeated at the Battle of Asseiceira. The Miguelite army was still considerably strong (about 18,000 men), but on May 24, 1834, at Évora-Monte peace was declared under a convention by which Michael formally consented to renounce all claims to the throne of Portugal, was guaranteed an annual pension, and was banished from Portugal, never to return. Peter restored the Constitutional Charter and died soon after, on September 24, 1834. Maria da Glória resumed her interrupted reign as Maria II of Portugal.

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