Great Britain, the Paraguayan War
and Free Immigration in Brazil, 1862-1875

By Miguel Alexandre de Araujo Neto (*)

Translation: Claire Healy

The Irishman, perhaps justly accused of unthriftiness and insubordination at home, for he is hopeless there and has the tradition of a bitter oppression to make him feel discontented, becomes active, industrious, and energetic when abroad; intelligent he always is. He soon rids himself of his peculiarities and prejudices, and assimilates himself so rapidly with the progressive people around him that his children no longer can be distinguished from the American of centuries of descent.

The Anglo-Brazilian Times, 23 January 1867

Downtown Rio de Janeiro (ca. 1865).The Anglo-Brazilian Times office was located, formerly, at Rua do Hospício, to the upper left of the picture. The island close to the docks (‘Cais Pharoux’) is the Ilha das Cobras, that housed the Navy’s Arsenal. On the centre, between the two churches, is the Paço, the Imperial Palace.
(Photograph by Georges Leuzinger in 'O Rio de Janeiro do fotógrafo Leuzinger: 1860-1870' by Maria L. David de Sanson et al., Rio de Janeiro: Sextante, 1998, p. 21). With kind permission of the publisher. 



This article examines the relationship between a British newspaper in Rio de Janeiro and the political elites of the Brazilian Second Empire (1840-1889). The publication of the newspaper in question commenced in February 1865 and continued until 1884, when its owner, for health reasons, ceased his journalistic endeavours and passed away shortly thereafter. The newspaper was called the Anglo-Brazilian Times. Its editor and owner was William Scully (1820?-1884), an Irish immigrant.

This analysis does not cover the entire period of the publication of the newspaper, a total of twenty years, but rather concentrates on the initial phase, 1865-1870. Nevertheless, the article will also cover, albeit superficially, the five years of publication until 1875, when England decided to call a halt to the emigration of colonists to Brazil. In respect of those final years, this article does not concentrate on Scully's discourse but rather is based on secondary sources. This restriction is in part imposed by the lack of availability of copies of the Anglo-Brazilian Times for the years from 1871 to 1877. For the purposes of this research, the collection of editions for the years 1865 to 1870 was used. The collection is stored at the National Library in Rio de Janeiro and is available on microfilm. The library does not hold copies for the period from 1871 to 1877. The series with the editions from 1878 to 1884 is also accessible to the public and microfilmed. They have not however been included in the analysis as they do not relate to the proposed theme of discussion.

Zacarias de Góes e Vasconcelos
(Governo do Paraná)

The period of study covers the overall causes of the swift extinction of a project of European immigration in which the Anglo-Brazilian Times was involved. This was the settlement of Irish people in Santa Catarina, in Colônia Príncipe Dom Pedro along the river Itajaí-Mirim, between 1867 and 1869. The article also pays particular attention to the political crisis that resulted in the dissolution of the Third of August Cabinet on 16 July 1868, and of the liberal-progressive majority led by Zacarias de Góes e Vasconcelos (1815-1877), which retained political hegemony in Brazil for some time during the 1860s. Both incidents are inter-related. The removal of Zacarias created the political conditions whereby the initial settlement of the immigrants in Colônia Príncipe Dom Pedro was rendered impracticable.

Preparations for the founding of the Anglo-Brazilian Times date from the final stage of the controversies generated by the actions of the British government, represented by its Minister Plenipotentiary, William Dougall Christie (1816-1874), and the Brazilian government, with respect to the slavery question, in the wake of the end to the trans-Atlantic slave trade between Africa and Brazil. Even with the extinction of the trade itself in 1850 (Eusébio de Queirós Law), Great Britain persisted in its own goal of forcing Brazil to adopt measures conducive to the abolition of slavery. In that way, Britain adopted an intransigent, bellicose posture, which would provoke the breakdown of bilateral relations between the two countries in 1863, despite the fact that this extreme situation had been caused by problems of minor significance. [1]

This argument attempts to demonstrate that Great Britain, at a time when Anglo-Brazilian relations had been severed, contemplated free European immigration as an alternative that might substitute the diplomatic and military pressures which, until 1863, were aimed at forcing Brazil into adopting a policy clearly favourable to the abolition of slavery. The intimidating operations carried out during the first stage, concluded with William Christie, had been frustrated, and so the British government officially adopted a policy of non-interference in relation to the problem of slavery in Brazil. Nonetheless, Westminster would have proceeded to disseminate propaganda aimed at the liberalisation of Brazilian immigration policy. According to this propaganda, the growing numbers of free immigrants in the country, arriving free of the customary restrictions, would render slavery obsolete or unnecessary. The instrument for this form of persuasion was precisely the Anglo-Brazilian Times, whose establishment in the year 1865 appears to have been no coincidence. The activities of William Scully were in line with this hypothesis and would have been subsidised, to a certain extent, by the British government.

The strategy thus outlined, however, was short-lived. Yet it seems to have been the underlying cause of the political crisis of January-July of 1868, which not only signalled the initiation of the decline of the power of the monarch, Dom Pedro II (1825-1891), but would also result in a decisive blow dealt to British propaganda promoting mass immigration. From the deposition of Prime Minister Zacarias Góes e Vasconcelos and the consequent dissolution of the Third of August Cabinet, on 16 July 1868, the colonising initiative in which Scully was most directly involved - the settlement of Irish people along the river Itajaí-Mirim in Santa Catarina, found itself deprived of political, material and financial support, and ceased to exist within approximately one year.

This would have been triggered by the identification of connections between that colonisation experience and British propaganda with regard to the promotion of free immigration. In this specific case, the colonists might have been perceived as a real threat to Brazilian sovereignty in solving the slavery problem. That colonisation project, which not only included Irish people of British origin, but also North Americans, French, Italians and others, ended in failure after a further blow to its possibilities of success, represented by the catastrophic rainy season of 1869. [2] Following the dispersal of this first wave of immigrants, Colônia Príncipe Dom Pedro would be settled by Polish immigrants, and also Germans and Italians, in a different domestic political context, under Conservative leadership.

Subsequent initiatives aimed at promoting British immigration were restricted to the provinces of Paraná and São Paulo. Colonies located in Assunguy (present-day Cerro Azul, in the vicinity of Curitiba) and in Cananéia, São Paulo, during the first half of the 1870s, also ended in failure, even though a few settlers managed to succeed (Marshall 2005: 137-187). In 1875, Great Britain, along with France, decided to prohibit emigration for colonisation experiments in Brazil, as other European countries had already done, such as Prussia in 1859. [3]



(*) This article is based on my M.A. dissertation (Latin American Studies, University College London, 1992); another more extensive version, under the title of ‘Imagery and arguments pertaining to the issue of free immigration in the Anglo-Irish press in Rio de Janeiro,’ was published by the Associação Brasileira de Estudos Irlandeses (ABEI Journal, Ed. Humanitas, São Paulo, no. 5, pp. 111-127. June 2003.) This work is available on:, thanks to the kindness of Peter O’Neill, to whom I would like to express my sincere appreciation. The copyright pertains to ABEI, edited by Dr. Munira Mutran and Dr. Laura Izarra, of the University of São Paulo (USP), and to the author. Any mistakes of interpretation or of any other nature are my sole responsibility.


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Copyright © Society for Irish Latin American Studies, 2006

Online published: 1 July 2006
Edited: 07 May 2009

Araujo Neto, Miguel A. de, '
Great Britain, the Paraguayan War and Free Immigration in Brazil, 1862-1875' in "Irish Migration Studies in Latin America" 4:3 (July 2006). Available online (, accessed .


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