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Don Pedro

Troops refuse to obey D. Pedro – Bad measure to disband mercenaries

With this imperative and insolent requisition, the Emperor refused to comply, and endeavoured to support his authority against the people by force of arms, when to his surprise and mortification, the troops being all Brazilians, and as I have heard having large arrears of pay due to them, declared that they would not march against their countrymen, and even his own guards denied him obedience, when he wished at their head to repress the insurrection. When thus deserted by all, perhaps he might have regretted the disbanding of his mercenary troops, which had consisted of Irish and Germans. They at least being particularly attached to his person and dependent on him for all their pay and privileges, would have stood firm to his side, and have given as ready and glorious a proof of their devotion to him, as was exhibited by the faithful Swiss to the unfortunate Louis XVI of France. And in all probability their defence of Don Pedro would have been attended with a happier result than that of Louis – for the would have had oppose but cowardly troops and a still more cowardly mob. It was indeed an admirable stroke of policy in the Brazilians, when they procured the foreign troops to be disbanded, and, at the same time, altho’ it was most unwise on the part of the Emperor, it showed the desire of his Majesty to give satisfaction to his subjects by removing this cause of their jealousy and fears.

Don Pedro Abdicates

As matter now stood, Don Pedro had no alternative but to renounce his authority or to yield to the demands of his armed subjects. The first course of course would never have been thought likely to be adopted, if an opinion had been offered prior to the event, and the second would have degraded him in the eyes of all, since it would be a too evident proof of his weakness and their strength, and by granting their present demands he would only open a door for unlimited submission to their insolence. In this situation, the Emperor at once decided to abdicate. He sent for the foreign Ministers to announce his intentions, and notwithstanding their advice to the contrary and the earnest remonstrances of others he remained firm in his resolution, declaring that having done every thing in his power for the good of his Brazilian subjects, and receiving nothing in return but ingratitude, he would no longer consent to be their head – that they were equally worthless, and that among them there was not one whom he could trust. He then signed an act of Abdication, which was expressed in the following terms –

Availing myself of the privilege which the Constitution gives me, I hereby declare that I have most voluntarily abdicated in favour of my well beloved and much esteemed son Don Pedro de Alcantara.’
[signed] Pedro

Palace Boa Vista, April 7th 1831.


After this, he was conducted by Arthur Ashton Esq.r his B. Majesty’s Charge d’Affairs to the house of the British Admiral at Gloria. From the Admirals on the same night, he was privately conveyed on board H.M.Ship Warspite, [6] accompanied by the Empress, his sister and Donna Maria the Young Queen of Portugal his daughter. His three other daughters, and his Son were not permitted to be his companions, as they had been born in Brazil, and the nation claimed them as belonging to them.

All these important events happened in the evening of the 7th so that when on the 8th day light broke in, and the news began to circulate, all men were struck with astonishment, when they heard of the Abdication and flight of Don Pedro, or in other words that from being the Emperor of yesterday he was become the simple Peter Braganza Esq.r of today.

The Act of Abdication was followed by the appointment of three persons to act as a Regency, viz The Marquis of Caravellas – Senhor Francisco de Lima – and S.r Vergueiro – and this Regency took the following oath –

We swear to maintain the Roman Catholic Apostolic religion, the integrity and individuality of the Empire; to observe and cause to be observed the political constitution of the Brazilian Nation, to the utmost of our power; and also to be faithful to Don Pedro II, and to deliver up the Regency as soon as another is legally installed.

Dangerous Situation of Portuguese and Foreigners

The unfortunate Portuguese were now placed in a most awkward and dangerous situation. Their professed enemies had gained the day, and it might naturally be anticipated that they would not fail to use their victory to the utmost. The late Emperor has been much blamed for the act which he has committed on this ground as well as on others, that thus he left his Luzo-Brazilian subjects, whom he had hitherto protected, to the fury of their opponents – and it has been confidently asserted, that if he had remained firm, and called for their assistance, he would  have secured his authority and set the threats of the Brazilians at defiance. Now they were left defenceless, without a head or rallying point. Under the influence of apprehension some retired from the City to the country – some sought the shelter of vessels in the Harbour and all shut up their houses. Now a few took refuge in the houses of Englishmen, where they rightly judges they would be most sure of receiving sympathy and protection. Nor were foreigners themselves free from alarm, and the history of all popular revolutions, combined with an armed soldiery might easily justify their fears. To prevent any mistakes, which the violence of the mob might make, they provided themselves with their national flags ready to be displayed from the windows and mounted their national cockade.

Few Outrages Committed

Contrary to the general fear, and greatly to the credit of those, who took the lead in these events, no very serious consequences ensued during the night and the general massacre of the Portuguese, which was apprehended, was resolved into the murder of a few individuals. For my own part, when I went on shore I was much surprised to find the principal streets comparatively quiet – the sentinels at their post and the guard house in the same state as usual. It was morally impossible to prevent some outrages, some violations of property thro’out the large circuit of the Town – and it was not to be expected that such acts would be rigorously punished. In several of the meaner streets, I saw many persons parading about in arms, chiefly pistols and bayonets – both blacks and whites, and seemingly as proud as if they had been conquerors and heroes. I likewise observed several soldiers in a state of drunkenness – a vice of which foreigners are seldom guilty – staggering along with a ferocious air and eye which regarded every one suspiciously that passed. As I have mentioned most of the Portuguese were invisible – but some even in daylight, who had imprudently at to early a period after the revolution trusted to the hope of escaping without notice in the streets, were sacrificed by the usual mode – the knife. Then individual hatred and private jealousy would come in as the real motive of the murder, whilst national insults and injuries would be the avowed cause. It is indeed a curious circumstance, that in almost all the deeds of assassination, the knife of individuals was the instrument of death, and not the attack of a body of men using firearms. I believe hardly a shot was fired – at least I heard only of one instance of a poor Portuguese. He was passing the Guard house of the Rua Dereita (Right Street) one of the main streets, when he was assaulted by a Brazilian, who said that he had formerly murdered one of his friends or relations – which account so enraged those soldiers who heard it, that they fired & wounded the Portuguese in several places – but not mortally. The miserable wretch still advanced, with outstretched arms, as if soliciting mercy, until at last he dropped, when immediately his body was pierced and mangled in a most barbarous manner.

Observe that all wear the Cockade

As I had occasion to traverse several of the less frequented streets, I cannot say that altho’ an Englishman, and accompanied by an officer in uniform, I walked along perfectly at my ease, when I saw such a set of ruffian looking men, and bravoes so frequently crossing my path. A circumstance, which I now for the first time observed increased my apprehension, viz that every person I met was furnished with a cockade while I had none. I noticed several looking after us with eyes of suspicion – but fortunately my companion being in uniform, I was not subjected to either insult or violence. You may be sure however that I did not long want this indispensable requisite, and when I had procured it, I ventured to perambulate the streets with more confidence. I now formed one, by my outward badge, of that nation, which is everywhere respected, and under protection of it, mixed freely with French, Dutch, Swede & Americans &.cc all of whom wore each his respective nation’s emblem on the left side of their hat. One curious effect which this precaution produced was that you could recognise at once, among a large assemblage the real or assumed country of all those who formed it, and I received no small amusement from thus being enabled to tell, who were in my company, and to examine the personal appearance of the natives of different countries, endeavouring tho’ often vainly to trace the distinctive characteristics of each.

State of Affairs after Abdication of Pedro

Business was completely at a stand, as indeed to had been since Thursday 31st March. The Coffee houses were open, and some of the French shops in the Rua Ouvidor – whilst others stood at their half closed doors, ready to bolt and bar on the slightest alarm. Notwithstanding the apprehension of many the evening drew on, with the occurrence only of some slight disturbances, and from whatever cause it proceeded it is pleasing to be able to mention the little bloodshed which ensued. When we consider the enmity which subsisted between the native and naturalized or Luzo-Brazilians – the great cause for retaliation which the latter had so lately given the former – and the barbarous half civilized character of a great proportion of the Actors in the Revolutionary Drama, any one would a priori have concluded that a general and indiscriminate slaughter would have taken place, and the golden opportunity of satisfying their public and private feelings improved to the utmost. Perhaps the Insurgents were taken quite be surprise by the Emperors Abdication or perhaps their leaders being men of moderation had sufficient influence to prevent the premeditated excesses – and I may mention here, as a most singular fact, that the Custom House – Bank and other public buildings containing immense property were last night left completely unguarded by the usual sentries, all of whom had repaired to the Campo d’Acclamacaum to join the people, and yet no robbery was attempted when it was so easy to accomplish.

Illumination at Rio

On the evening of this eventful day a brilliant illumination took place, in which all were obliged to join, under pain of popular violence. The spectacle from our anchorage was exceedingly fine. In front of us the City of Rio blazed in full splendour – the palace square was lighted up with public lamps in addition to those in the private houses – the church towers and steeples were conspicuous for brightness and the reflection of the whole upon the mirror of the Bay, with the tall masts of the vessels seen darkly between us and the Town – all together presented a scene of great beauty. To the left of Rio along the beach you beheld one continued line of light, indicating the direction of the village of Gloria, whilst several houses situated on an eminence formed an excellent termination. Proceeding still around by the left in a circular direction, the several forts at the entrance of the Harbour were pointed out very distinctly by their illuminations, and insulated as they were, from the mainland, produced a new and pleasing feature in the general review. Passing still round the circle, between the port of Santa Cruz and the village of Praia Grande a dark vacant space intervened, where there were no habitations. The above mentioned village lay behind us, and right opposite to Rio on the other side of the Bay. It was of large size, extending in a broken line for two or three miles along the beach. The illumination there also was very fine, and by its long even line of light contrasted most beautifully with the brilliant circle of coruscation proceeding from a Fort, which lay not far distant from the extremity of Praia Grande. In short this illumination was the most picturesque which I have ever witnessed, altho’ not the most splendid. The effect of the lights reflected on the water – the noble amphitheatre of nature on which the spectacle was exhibited – the transitive view from land to water and from water to land – and the dimly discernable, almost visionary appearances of the mountains in the back ground – all these formed an assemblage of beauty which I am convinced no other city in the world could surpass or even rival.

Proceeding at Rio

During this eventful day, whilst matters had thus proceeded so quietly. H.M. Ship Warspite was a scene of complete bustle. Boats of every description were passing and repassing, some filled with fugitives, or persons proceeding to the Ex-Emperor, and other laden with furniture, and various articles. Frequent communications were held with the Admiral at Point Gloria, and the ship. From the shore, again innumerable passage boats were hourly leaving the Palace Square, full of people, and bound for the opposite side of the Bay where all was quiet and in the course of the day they all returned empty. Vast quantities of furniture were seen to be conveyed across. To all this no obstruction was offered, nor did the crowds of blacks and mulattoes, who were standing by make any attempt to commit robbery.