The only successful monarchy to have existed in the Western Hemisphere was in Brazil and it came to an end in 1889. Historians have mainly painted Dom Pedro II as a man with simple tastes, kind, sincere, humble, and with intellectual gifts beyond statecraft. His love for archaeology, astronomy, and philosophy saw him travel widely and associate with European scholars quite regularly. Dom Pedro ruled for 50 years and had a personal impact in Brazil's transition from an imperial monarchy to an independent republic.
The abolishment of slavery during his reign had a major impact on the public support for the empire. Brazil rose to a position of apparent solidarity and respect during the reign of Dom Pedro. The emperor always had a love for books and was thrilled by the constant quest for knowledge which saw him attending gatherings of French and European scholars (JSTOR CARDOZO). It could be that this improved view of the free world advised some of the policies adopted by the emperor. He enacted laws to impose penalties on participation in the slave trade in 1831 to the disappointment of some people. The politicians, merchants, and planters formed a strong alliance that supported this trade and hence they did not welcome the emperor's decision kindly ERICK 122).
Dom Pedro fell ill during his final years and went to seek medical attention for his ailments leaving the princess in charge of the throne. This decision was instrumental in the demise of the Brazilian empire. In 1888, she signed the law to abolish slavery without compensation, breaking the power held by the planter class. The farm owners who owned the enormous coffee plantations were powerful in Brazil during this period and they promptly turned against the regime. The lack of support from this crucial class meant that the monarchy had become significantly weaker than before.
The Aberdeen Act, enacted by Britain, gave her warships the authority to search and destroy Brazilian vessels that were caught engaging in the slave trade in the high seas. The Brazilian government complained insistently about this infringement but was powerless in stopping the British squadron of anti-slavery ships. The inability to stop the British was characteristic of an ineffective government in both its external and internal affairs. Four cabinets existed between 1844 and 1848 but they were unable to initiate new technologies in Brazil such as the telegraph, railroads, and new institutions that were cropping up in Europe and North America. It created an environment where people were expecting significant changes. The overthrowal of France's Orleans monarchy and consequent proclamation as a republic was instrumental in bringing new insight to Dom Pedro.
It led the emperor to select a president for the council of ministers essentially granting the liberals an opportunity to initiate reforms for the progress of Brazil. This reformist agenda would set the spark for genuine change that ended the monarchy in the later years. The rise of republicanism did not worry the emperor as he remained indifferent despite the advice to suppress people with such ideologies. He responded that the country should be allowed to govern itself and allow people to air their opinions. The mentality of the emperor was that of someone who was looking forward to ushering a new form of governance where the power belonged to the people.
Dom Pedro had undergone a difficult childhood without a mother. He lacked the experiences of a normal childhood such as the romantic escapades of youthful years. It explains why he started to display weird tendencies as he got into his fifties by going after a woman who was a decade older than him (399 7.56.35). He wrote her plenty of letters as they maintained communication despite him being married. These letters gave insight into a leader who was venerated as a Brazilian patriarch but was engulfed in the dreams and memories of a lost childhood. It helps to explain the heavy undercurrent of languor that paved way for the fatalistic indifference that characterized the final years. The transformation in the emperor showed that he was gradually becoming senile. The once revered man who had raised the profile of Brazil in the global space had now disintegrated into an embodiment of self-pity. He brought a steady hand in the affairs of state and pursued a high moral purpose hence his decline was significant in the weakening of the monarchy. Dom Pedro began to develop reservations about the role he was called to play as he became susceptible to criticism and self-justification. These were the signs of a leader that had lost the spark and desire to maintain his position and thus the decline of the empire.
The Brazilian empire of 1822-1889 came to an end after it was overthrown by the military, led by Deodoro. Dom Pedro's contribution to the militarization of the Brazilian empire led to his eventual overthrowing and the end of the monarchy system in Brazil. In the years between 1865 and 1870, Brazil was engaged in the war against Paraguay alongside other South American countries. The emperor insisted on this war, referring to it as a good electric shock to nationality, without knowing that it would be the instrument of his downfall.
The army was systematically ill-equipped, underpaid and with an acute shortage of supplies. The promotion process to the officer corps was extremely slow and some people remained in the same rank for ten years or more. The army lost all its influence in national affairs as senior officers died with nobody as their replacement. The situation resulted in universal contempt within the military ranks as the soldiers viewed politicians as 'tailcoats' who were out to serve their selfish interests. Deodoro went to Rio de Janeiro where he linked with like-minded who shared his resentments for the regime. The emperor had become too weak, old, and sick to protect the genuine interests of the military and hence had to be removed.
One of the factors that worked against the empire was Dona Isabel, Princess Imperial. She was considerable popular among a significant part of the population because she was able, conscientious, charming, and intelligent. Dom Pedro felt that the events in his life were symbolic and had an inner meaning. Both of his sons had died and it was highly unlikely that he was ever going to sire other children despite his love for women. The fact that he had a daughter counted for little because the society viewed leadership in male terms. The viable successor to the throne could only be a man and hence the princess could not continue the dynasty. According to the emperor, God's sword had cut off the flower of his future and seemingly pronounced that the Brazilian imperial regime would end with Dom Pedro II. The Emperor already had the mentality that he was meant to be the last ruler of the monarchy system.
The Emperor began to experience health complications in 1877 when the symptoms of diabetes started to become visible. He appeared older and was increasingly becoming a recluse, which was a sharp contrast to the exuberance he had come to be known for during his reign. He suffered from reduced vision and excessive sleeping during the daytime, even during crucial meetings. In his February 5th, 1887 volume, the 'Revista Ilustrada' made the caricature of a sleeping monarch, to show how serious the episodes had become. The Emperor was accused of having lost his power and capacity to rule due to the mental decline and other afflictions. In 1877, the minister of Austria Von Seiller fuelled the rumors of the Emperor's declining state by suggesting that he could not make coherent decisions and hence people could consider his government finished. For such a high-ranking official to make such a claim, it must have reached a stage where it was evident. Joao Penido belonged to the House of Representatives, and he petitioned the Chamber to undertake a convenient examination to determine the health of Dom Pedro to determine if he was fit to rule the country. The health problems hindered a smooth transition from a monarchy to a republic. Dom Pedro II enjoyed widespread support, especially amongst the Brazilian elite class, during his early years. However, a combination of his diabetes, physical decline, and neurological complications contributed to the end of the monarchy system in Brazil.
Dom Pedro wat hew last emperor of the only monarchy in the Western Hemisphere. He was the longest ruler and his reign saw the transition into a republic system. The end of the Brazilian empire did not come as a result of one unique event. As the evidence shows, it was a gradual process that began in the minds of people and some leaders long before Deodoro and his colleagues overthrew the government. The abolishment of slavery, increased democracy, declining health of the emperor, a difficult childhood, and lack of a male heir worked to gradually erode the powers of the monarchy.
Barman, Roderick J. Citizen Emperor. Stanford: Stanford University Press. 1999.
Cardozo, Manoel S. 1941. "A Letter of Dom Pedro II, Emperor of Brazil". The Hispanic American Historical Review 21 (4): 614. doi:10.2307/2507610.
Gomes, Marleide da Mota. 2007. "The Decline of Dom Pedro II's Empire and Health: Neuropathogenic Implications." Arquivos De Neuro-Psiquiatria 65 (4b): 1260-1265. doi:10.1590/s0004-282x2007000700035.
Sodre, Alcindo. Abrindo Um Cofre: Cartas De Dom Pedro II A Condessa De Barral. Rio di Janeiro: Livros de Portugal. 1956.
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