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

Miguel Alexandre de Araujo Neto



The Place of the Anglo-Brazilian Times in Brazilian Political and Socioeconomic Spheres

The date 16 July 1868 was a turning point in the political history of the Brazilian Second Empire, a point of departure from which a process of disintegration of the monarchical regime was initiated. On that day, Joaquim José Rodrigues Torres (1802-1872), Viscount of Itaboraí, of the Conservative Party, was appointed Prime Minister in place of the progressive, Zacarias de Góes e Vasconcelos. It was the third time that Zacarias had led the Cabinet.

Joaquim José Rodrigues Torres
(Exército Brasileiro)

Inaugurated on 3 August 1866, the last cabinet of Zacarias had a legitimate Liberal-progressive parliamentary majority. The progressives were a faction of the Conservative Party, which included radical Catholics, known as Ultramontanes. The political aspirations of these last were aimed at the extinction of the politico-religious prerogatives of the Emperor, ensured by the 'padroado' (patronage) and the 'beneplacito' (approval) systems, which made Dom Pedro II the effective leader of the Brazilian Church. Regulations emanating from the Vatican had validity in the country only with the approval of the monarch. Zacarias was an eloquent politician with an Ultramontane religious background and became the natural leader of that unlikely political majority which united Liberals, ex-Conservatives (progressives) and Ultramontanes.

The reason behind that compatibility, as David Gueiros Vieira has well highlighted in his work on the relationship between the freemasonry and the Religious Question of 1872, lay in the free entry of European Catholics loyal to the Vatican (Papists) into the country during the 1860s (Vieria 1980: 245). This might counter-balance, demographically and politically, the religious prerogatives of the Emperor. The idea that a congregation would be expanded by free immigration pleased the Ultramontane clergy and, naturally, Pope Pius IX. Therefore, both the Roman Catholic Church and its legitimate representatives in Brazil supported initiatives aimed at the liberalisation of the immigration policy, provided that Catholics were favoured. Hence the affinities between Liberals and Ultramontanes in the second half of the nineteenth century in Brazil and the composition of the parliamentary majority represented by the Third of August Cabinet. However, this coalition, for the reasons exposed below, did not prosper. [4]

The political commotion of July 1868 was serious enough to provoke the rupture of the equilibrium of the Brazilian political life and national parties. Alfredo Bosi, for example, observes that the Brazilian historiography '[...] is unanimous in pointing to the year 1868 as the great watershed between the most stable period of the Second Empire and the long crisis which would culminate, twenty years later, in the Abolition [of slavery] and the [proclamation of the] Republic' (Bosi 1999: 222). The foundation of the Republican Party would occur just two years after 1868. During the two subsequent decades, the combination of various other movements, among them Abolition and the expansion of Positivism (especially within the Armed Forces), produced the end of the monarchical regime. Therefore, it is not an exaggeration to affirm that the removal of the Third of August Cabinet was the historical event that set in motion the forces that led to the birth of the Republic, which occurred on 15 November 1889.

The Duke of Caxias, Patron of the Army.
Pinto de Campos, J., Vida de Luís Alves
de Lima e Silva
(Lisboa, 1878)

The events leading up to the crisis of 16 July 1868, for their part, had a direct relationship with the Paraguayan War (1864-1870). The Brazilian command of the military operations of the Triple Alliance (Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay), under the orders of Marshall Luís Alves de Lima e Silva (the then Marquis of Caxias), was, at the beginning of that year, harshly criticised in the Liberal press, most markedly in a series of diatribes by William Scully in the Anglo-Brazilian Times of 7 January.

In view of these criticisms, Caxias presented a request for renunciation, in February 1868. Under these circumstances, Dom Pedro II was left to choose between: 1) preserving the supreme leadership of the Brazilian and Allied military forces at war, or 2) conserving the Third of August Cabinet. Caxias ended up forcing the removal of Zacarias, who asked for exoneration on the pretext of the nomination of the Conservative Francisco de Sales Torres Homem (1812-1876), of Rio Grande do Norte, to the Senate (Vieria 1980: 248-250). A new government was subsequently formed, with the leadership of Conservatives. The change, by force, which was widely regarded as a coup d'état, was made possible because the Emperor enjoyed the power of a moderator and thus was constitutionally capable of interfering in the normal political process. The new Conservative leader, Itaboraí, was sworn in without an elected majority. Only then were elections called and of course the Conservatives won most constituencies, thereby lending a veneer of legitimacy to the 16 July Cabinet.

Significant authors, such as Batista Pereira (1975: 36-38), Sérgio Buarque de Holanda (1972-2, v. 5: 7-13, 95-104), Brasil Gerson (1975: 127-131), Wilma Peres Costa (1996: 251-254) and, more recently, Francisco Doratioto (2002: 334-339), point to The Anglo-Brazilian Times as the principal vehicle for Liberal propaganda against Caxias in 1868. According to the proprietor of that paper, William Scully, the Brazilian marshal was too old to carry out the task conferred upon him, that of defeating Solano López, the Paraguayan head-of-state. In an allusion to Republican Rome, Caxias was, in the Irishman's words, a 'septuagenarian Cincinnatus'. Furthermore - which was even more serious - Scully accused Caxias of forcing 'the war [...] to linger on as long as the country can find the gold to squander.' In his view, the Brazilian marshal's 'favorite weapons' were 'gold bags,' thereby evoking an image of trenches guarded by such devices. Consequently, the moroseness with which, towards the end of 1867, military operations on the Paraguayan front had actually been conducted was portrayed as intentional.

The accusations made by William Scully were of impropriety and corruption. Yet these aspects of his article have not been appropriately highlighted, in spite of the fact that it has been recognised that his criticisms initiated the crisis that precipitated the decline of the Second Empire. All this said, the majority of the secondary sources, with the exceptions of David Gueiros and Oliver Marshall, do not mention any prior activity in which the Irish editor was involved. The impression given by the analyses of the authors mentioned above is that of the Anglo-Brazilian Times surging onto the Brazilian political scene of 1868 like a lightning bolt from out of the blue. This newspaper was however founded in early 1865, in Rio de Janeiro. The office was firstly located in Rua do Hospício (present-day Buenos Aires Street). Scully, although a journalist, was also an empresario connected with the business of immigration. The paper had support bases on Fleet Street in London, the traditional location of the offices of the newspapers of the English capital, and also in Liverpool. As for the year of Scully's arrival in Rio, it appears to have been 1861, when he established himself in the Brazilian capital as a teacher of calligraphy (Laemmert 1862: 478, and 'Notabilidades' 22). [5]

In 1865, diplomatic relations between Brazil and England had been suspended, because of the many disagreements between the Minister Plenipotentiary William Christie and the Brazilian Government. The most important of these related to the destiny of the Africans who had entered Brazil under the protection of agreements between the two countries. These agreements dated back to 1826 and to a Brazilian law of 1831, which actually declared illegal the transatlantic trade in slaves. In practice however, the smuggling of enslaved Africans into Brazil continued to be rampant long after 1831. In legal terms, all Africans forced to immigrate to Brazil after 13 March 1830 were freedmen ('emancipados') and were to be either repatriated or held in custody by the State. Africans legally seized by the military under the bilateral agreements and retained in the custody of the Brazilian authorities were also 'emancipados,' and yet they had been reduced to slavery. Even after the total suspension of the Atlantic slave trade, in 1850, the governmental lists containing the names of the 'emancipados' were kept undisclosed. The tremendous pressures exerted by Christie to force Brazil to liberate the 'emancipados' and to produce the lists with their names was the true reason for the suspension of relations.

Ironically, Anglo-Brazilian diplomatic relations broke off after a number of events of minor importance, totally unrelated to the problem of the 'emancipados': the stolen cargo of a British ship that had sunk on the southern coast of Brazil, and the imprisonment of drunken English sailors following an isolated altercation in Rio de Janeiro. Demanding exorbitant compensation for these minor transgressions, Christie ordered, on 31 December 1862, the blockade of the Port of Rio de Janeiro, and the seizure of Brazilian ships. In May of the following year, official relations between the Brazilian and British governments were cut off (Bethell 1970: 70, 380-383). [6]

It can logically be assumed that the establishment of Scully's newspaper received financial support from the British Crown, at a time when relations between Brazil and England were still suspended. It must be kept in mind that the work of Francisco Otaviano de Almeida Rosa (1825-1889) in the Correio Mercantil had been subsidised by the British Legation, a fact highlighted by Leslie Bethell and David Gueiros (Vieira 1980: 90). [7] What would have prevented Britain from supporting financially a newspaper belonging to a British subject established in Brazil? Nothing, one might say. However, much greater attention is given to the fact that the Third of August Cabinet was accused of subsidising Scully's newspaper, which was true and certainly explained by the politico-religious interests connecting one to the other. [8]

Assuming that somehow Britain actually channelled financial resources into the maintenance of a quasi-official newspaper, directed by a British subject, established in Rio and dedicated to the propaganda of free immigration, we have an indication of a radical shift in the country's diplomatic relations with Brazil. The aggressive, aristocratic, Palmerstonian style of implementation of its foreign policy vis-à-vis Brazil ('gun-boat' or 'canhoneira' policy) was being abandoned, and the British imperative of the extinction of slave labour would be implemented, right in the capital of the Brazilian Empire, by way of the more subtle pressure of liberal journalistic propaganda. [9] The colonialist features of that propaganda, however, appear to have frustrated the initiative.

The evidence which justifies these hypotheses is contained in Scully's discourse in the Anglo-Brazilian Times between 1865 and 1870. The newspaper openly divulged, from its first edition on 7 February 1865, the promotion of spontaneous mass European immigration as a method of rendering slavery obsolete and boosting demographic growth in Brazil.

The fact that Scully was directly involved in the most significant political crisis of the history of the Second Empire would be sufficient to attest to the extent of the circulation and the influence of the Anglo-Brazilian Times. Nevertheless in his recent book on this subject, Oliver Marshal maintains that the articles written by Scully were translated and published in the local press in Rio. Therefore, it can be assumed that the editions previous to 1868 had had a significant circulation, being read by members of the Brazilian political and military elites. There were also many subscribers abroad, a circumstance which certainly placed the image of the country permanently under the spotlight (Marshall 2005: 28).     

The most characteristically colonialist features of Scully's newspaper, along with his insistent suggestions of the Brazilian governmental adoption of liberal directives in immigration policy, are found precisely in the editions prior to 1868. A quick appraisal of some passages suffices to perceive its authoritarian profile, despite its seeming, in comparison to the gunboat policy, a gentler form of pressure.


Scully's Colonialist Discourse

The aggressiveness and forcefulness of Scully's texts were evident from the first months of his editorial activity. His writings do not sound like those of an independent journalist. Rather, they can be construed as a discourse that was backed up by an interventionist power. Dealing with themes and issues of major relevance for the Brazilian elites, he demonstrated extraordinary impatience. His texts evince, equally, a tremendous disdain for those same elites, although he always praised and attempted to cajole the monarch, Dom Pedro II, and his family. [10]


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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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