the revolution of 1820 and the advent of liberalism in portugal ángel rivero universidad autónoma de madrid1 draft somos pobres. n

The Revolution of 1820 and the Advent of Liberalism in Portugal
Ángel Rivero
Universidad Autónoma de Madrid1
Somos pobres. Nao há dúvida que o somos; muito se se olhar ao quanto
ricos podiamos ser (…) A principal origen da nossa pobreza é a
desigualdade dos haveres: esse achaque so tem dois remédios, um
falible, imperfecto, e demais horroroso e abominable, é o sistema
anivelador que os descamisados franceses queriam dar a seu pais de
sanguinosa e execranda memória. Outro que é o que em Inglaterra tem
dado a indústria e o comércio, que todos os dias mete na balança das
fortunas públicas muitos milhoes, com que ela se equilibria a pesar do
demasiado peso com que para outro lado a pende a massa enorme da
indivisa propiedade natural urbana e rústica, quase toda nas maos de
certas familias (Almeida Garret, Estado actual de Portugal na abertura
das Cortes Gerais de 1826).
Abstract: The concept Atlantic World refers to a geographical,
political and cultural space created by the discovery voyages of the
Spaniards, Portuguese, English, French and other European peoples.
This process, opened the time of modernity, by creating a new world of
nations, connected by the intercourse of commerce, political and
military struggle, and not least important, intercourse of new ideas.
Among these ideas, liberalism established its hegemony as the proper
political organization of this new world of nations. In the standard
narration of the making of this world, it has been stressed the
dominance of the British Constitutional tradition and its Republican
recreation by the American Revolution, as the main ingredient of the
Democratic Revolutions that happened in the Atlantic World. Between
the end of eighteenth century and the beginning of the nineteenth
century all these nations beginning with America (1776) passed through
a wave of democratic revolutions. In this events, the influence of the
Enlightenment has also being stressed and, of course, of the French
Revolution (1789). This latter influence was seen as a disruptive
element in the development of liberty by opposing revolution to a
constitutional order. On the contrary, the Iberian traditions of
liberty are usually neglected in the accounts of these processes, and
the Portuguese Revolution of 1820 is conspicuously absent in the
accounts of the Democratic Revolutions of the Atlantic World. In this
paper I will describe Portugal’s position in this Atlantic Word at the
beginning of the nineteenth century and how it is the Atlantic World
the main explanatory key in understanding the motives of the
Portuguese Revolution of 1820. As I will show, this revolution can be
seen as an Independence process, as the abolition of the Ancient
Regime, as the constitution of liberty, as the foundation of a
Portuguese Constitutional-liberal tradition, but also, as a response
to the challenges posed to Portugal’s independence by France, Britain,
Spain and Brazil. To sum up, the Portuguese Revolution of 1820
combined nationalism and liberalism in the way proper of the Atlantic
Revolutions. Finally, I will show that the main aim of the Revolution,
the foundation of a liberal New Portugal was nurtured by the British,
French, Spanish and Portuguese traditions of liberty of the Atlantic
Key words: Atlantic World; Democratic Revolutions; Liberalism;
Portuguese Revolution of 1820; Nationalism; Democratic Revolutions.
On August 24th 1820, a garrison in Porto rose up issuing a “Manifesto
of the Portuguese Nation to the sovereigns and peoples of Europe”. In
the tradition of the Iberian pronunciamientos liberty was proclaimed
and its very proclamation justified in order to shown, not lack of
loyalty but commitment with the country and its institutions. They
were patriots, nor traitors. As stated by Wheeler, the most striking
feature of this document is that its first part resembles a
declaration of independence and only at the end can be seen as a
defence of the Portuguese tradition of liberty, this time casted in
liberal moulds: [the manifesto] “reads very much like other such
declarations of independence from colonial status and contained the
same complaints; the only difference was this manifesto came from
rebels in a European city, not rebels across the Atlantic in a
colonial port city” (Wheeler, p.155). The manifesto declared “the
status of a colony to which Portugal in effect is reduced, afflicts
deeply all those citizens who still conserve a sentiment of national
dignity” (quoted in Wheeler p.156). Thus, how is it possible that an
independence revolution took place in Portugal? How can a metropolis
long for independence? Who was the colonial power that justified the
raising of the Portuguese liberals? The answer is rooted in the
striking events that shattered Portugal since the beginning of the
nineteenth century.
In 1807 the Portuguese royal family and the Portuguese court (more
than 4.000 persons) left Portugal to Brazil, compulsory escorted by
the British navy, in order to escape from Napoleon’s troops. In 1808,
the first decision took by the just arrived Portuguese Court was the
opening of the ports of Brazil to “all friendly nations” and two years
later, en 1810, the Anglo-Brazilian Treaty imposed on the Portuguese
higher tariffs in Brazil that it did on the British. The war with
France concluded en 1814, but the royal family refused to return to
Portugal. On December 1815, Brazil was raised to the rank of a
kingdom, and John VI, who succeeded in March 1816, was crowned as king
of the United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil and the Algarves. Finally,
since the leave of the royal family, Portugal was ruled by a British
pro-consul, Beresford. To sum up, Portugal as independent nation
collapsed, it was destroyed by three French invasions, its economy was
dominated by the British soft imperialism, and politically, it was
subordinated to Brazil and to Britain. The Portuguese people arrived
to a dead end situation: they were poor and enslaved.
It is in this climate that, in 1817, the Masonic leader; General Gomes
Freire de Andrade tried a military coup against Beresford, that
failed. He “was the gallant leader of the Portuguese Legion in
Napoleon’s army and head of the French party. The execution of the
general and ten of his colleagues finally put an end to the daily
diminishing possibility of a peaceful penetration of Portugal by
English constitutional methods” (Young, p.217). After the execution,
unrest increased and when Beresford himself went to Brazil to get
instructions and enlarged power from John VI, the revolution began in
Porto, and spread all along the country. In October a Junta is created
in Lisbon, the Spanish constitution of 1812 is adopted provisionally,
in order to elect a constituent assembly, summoned in 1821, and by
1822 the first Portuguese constitution is proclaimed. The Political
Constitution of the Portuguese Monarchy installed a constitutional
monarchy in Portugal, declared that sovereignty rested in the nation,
established the liberal separation of powers in three branches of
government: executive, legislative and judicial, and finally, provided
a catalogue of individual rights, to be protected. John VI was forced
to return in 1821 to Portugal to swear the constitution. But his son
Pedro, that remained in Brazil as his representative, declared the
very year of 1822 Brazil’s independence. John VI recognized in 1825
the independence of Brazil, something he has already prepared, at
least, since 1815 in agreement with Britain and the USA. Portugal, a
founding member of the Atlantic World, was trapped in the conflict
triggered by the Democratic Revolutions and the new European
Imperialism. And it is in the midst of these conflicts between
modernity and tradition; emerging global powers and new political
actors that liberalism arrived to continental Portugal.
The Atlantic World, the Atlantic Revolutions, and Portugal.
The Atlantic world is a concept coined by historiography for the study
of the Atlantic Ocean Rim from the beginning of the Age of Exploration
to the modern era. The practitioners of the “Atlantic world history”
tend to see these constellations of events culminating in the
“Atlantic Revolutions” of the late 18th century and early 19th
century. The creation of this field of study is, in great part,
responsibility of the historian Bernard Baylin. According to him
“Atlantic history –from the first encounters of the Europeans with the
Western Hemisphere through the Revolutionary era- is a subject that
certain historians have found strange, that others said does not exits
and if it does exists it shouldn’t [and] that at best has no easy or
clear definition” (3). Let us say that is a contended concept
although, as I hope to show later, very relevant in the study of
liberalism in Portugal.
For Baylin the idea of Atlantic history developed during and after
World War II. Before that time, imperial history and the history of
exploration and discovery were mature and consolidated disciplines
“and seemed to invite only incremental contributions to a
well-sketched scene, not the exploration of a new kind of
understanding. There were institutions, laws, revolutions, and vivid
tales of discovery, but no societies or social organizations, no
sustained cultural encounters” (6). This change was due to factors
that were outside the historical reflection, in the terrain of the
public world. The ultimate source of this change of vision is traced
back by Bailyn to “1917 and the writings of the twenty-seven-year-old
Walter Lippmann” (6) that published that year, in the New Republic, an
editorial stating that America’s interest in the European war lay with
the Allies and that the country was driven to intervene to protect the
“profound web of interests which joins together the western world.
Britain, France, Italy, even Spain, Belgium, Holland, the Scandinavian
nations, and Pan-America are in the main one community in their
deepest needs and their deepest purposes...We cannot betray the
Atlantic community...What we must fight for is the common interests of
the western world, for the integrity of the Atlantic Powers. We must
recognize that we are in fact one great community and act as members
of it” (Lippmann quoted in Bailyn) “But Lippmann’s hopes of a formal,
enduring construction of an Atlantic community faded in the
isolationist aftermath of the war and disappeared in the domestic
turmoil of the Depression” (7).
In 1943 Lippmann resumed his arguments of 1917 by stating that the new
post war order should be dominated by “great regional constellations
which are homelands, not of one nation alone but of the historic
civilized communities” and among them should be “the Atlantic
Community”, a region were national differences are “variations within
the same cultural tradition”. In his work, the root of this culture
was “the extension of Western or Latin Christendom from the Western
Mediterranean into the whole basin of the Atlantic Ocean” (8).
Later, according to Baylin account, “in March 1945 Ross Hoffman,
professor of history at Fordham University, published a broad-ranging
essay entitled Europe and the Atlantic Community in it he stated
–quoting Salvador de Madariaga of Spain and Antonio Salazar of
Portugal as well as Lippmann –that the Atlantic Ocean was “the inland
sea of Western Civilization” and that the “Atlantic community” (...)
was the progeny of Western Christendom”. This idea was followed the
famous historian of Columbia University, Carlton J.H. Hayes who, after
returning from “a controversial ambassadorship to Spain, stated that
“the area of this common Western culture centres in the Atlantic and
extends eastwards far into Europe and along African shores, from
Norway and Finland to Cape Town, and westward across all America, from
Canada to Patagonia” (13)
Since then, the idea of Atlantic history as a proper field of study
has spread. But is should be noted that Atlantic is understood here
not as mere geography, nor political history. Atlantic denotes a
cultural space created by the intercourse of the western European
nations in connection with America since the sixteenth century. Thus,
it is about discoveries and communication, commerce, culture and
political developments. For Baylin, after World War II, the Atlantic
region is identified as a distinctive stage of action, were the
profound web of interests that bind together the western world are
displayed. The Atlantic world was “the scene of a vast interaction
rather than merely the transfer of Europeans onto American Shores.
Instead of a European discovery of a new world, we might better
consider it as a sudden and harsh encounter between two old worlds
that transformed both and integrated them into a single New World. Our
focus is upon the creation of a new human geographies resulting from
this interaction, and that means those developing not only westward
upon the body of America but eastward upon the body of Europe, and
inward upon and laterally along the body of Africa. For it is certain
that the geography of each was changed” (Meining quoted by Bailyn,
Nonetheless, Baylin’s concept of Atlantic History has been criticized
for being too Anglo-centric. For instance, Coates states that:
“Professor Bailyn’s Atlantic is (...) profoundly British, and very
northern. (..). While expressly stating that Atlantic history is
greater than the sum of its parts, “as much Spanish as British, as
much Dutch as Portuguese, as much African as American”, (p. 60)
Professor Bailyn really focuses on one, British or Anglo-American
dimension, over the course of the eighteenth century. Whenever he
gives examples, he turns to British North America, occasionally
mentioning Spain and its empire”. Thus, “it should not come as a
surprise to the reader that the Portuguese presence in Professor
Bailyn’s Atlantic World is minimal, if not altogether absent. The
Dutch (and for that matter the Luso-Dutch struggles of the 1600s) are
equally neglected. The French presence is only marginally greater in
this very British World. If Professor Bailyn were more familiar with
the literature of Portuguese expansion and interactions in the
Atlantic, his would have been a very different work. Even if we limit
the reading list to works in English and French, there exist a
sufficient enough number of studies on the Portuguese in the Atlantic
to help fill the huge gaps in Professor Bailyn’s Atlantic overview.
Let me begin by asking a fundamental question not addressed in this
work: who created this Atlantic World and when? I suggest that part of
the answer to this question can be found in works by Zurara, Pereira,
and Cadamosto, entitled, respectively, Chronicle of the Discovery of
Guinea, Esmeraldo de Situ Orbus, 1506-1508, and The Voyages of
Cadamosto and other Documents on Western Africa in the Second Half of
the Fifteenth Century, and all usefully translated into English by the
London-based Haklyut Society during the late 19th and early 20th
centuries. These individuals, working for the Portuguese crown in the
fifteenth century, began the process of creating an Atlantic World.
The Azores, the Canaries, the Cape Verde Islands, São Tomé, Guiné and
Angola, the territories that made up this Portuguese Atlantic, are not
mentioned in Professor Bailyn’s work. And because Professor Bailyn has
overlooked Brazil as an important component of the Atlantic, he has
also missed links between the Atlantic and central and southern
But Portugal is not only notoriously absent in the history of the
Atlantic world but also in the magnificent account by R. R. Palmer The
Age of Democratic Revolution were the Atlantic context of the American
and French revolutions is emphasized by pointing to the many direct
political intercourse of all the Atlantic nations in the Great Age of
democratic revolutions. As stated by Palmer, the main thesis of his
book was “that the American Revolution was a great event for the whole
Euro-American world. In the Age of the Democratic Revolution the
American Revolution was (…) the earliest assertion of the principle
that public power must arise from those over whom it is exercised. It
was the most important revolution of the eighteenth century, except
for the French. Its effect on the area of Western Civilization come in
part from the inspiration of its message (…), and in part from the
involvement of the American Revolution in the European War of American
Independence, which aggravated the financial or political difficulties
of England, Ireland, Holland, and France. The climax and failure of
the early movement for parliamentary reform in England, the
disturbances in Ireland leading to Grattan’s Parliament in 1782, the
Patriotentijd and revolution of 1784-1787 among the Dutch, the reform
programs of Necker and Calonne and beginnings of revolution in France,
and a marked enlivening of political consciousness through the rest of
Europe (…) were all, in part, a consequence of the American
Revolution” (Palmer, p. VII).
Thus, the American Revolution should be understood in the broader
framework of the Atlantic World and, of course, the American
Revolution started an Atlantic Age of Revolution that followed with
the French Revolution of 1789. The radicalisation of revolution in
France, with the beheading of the King Louis XVI and the spread of
terror 1792-1793 opened revolutionary violence to all Europe. Thus war
between the revolution and the traditional European powers headed by
Great Britain lasted till 1815.
The defeat of Napoleon was not the end of the revolutionary wave in
the Atlantic World. In fact, it happened quite the opposite. The
collapse of the Spanish Empire, opened the way to the independence of
the Hispanic Republics of America, and before that, the French
invasion of Portugal, and the exile of the Braganças in Brazil, paved
the way to the independence of this last country. As stated by the
much polemic Abbé de Pradt, the (Atlantic) world was in a non
stoppable process of change: le temps avance au milieu des orages,
vouloir arreter son impétuosité serait un vain effort (i).
Pradt, in his book, Europe and America since the congress of
Aix-la-Chapelle (1821) states first that the new and the old world are
immersed in the same process of change, and that this process of
change has shown three main features: la rapidité, la noveaute,
l’immensite (speed, novelty and scope), and two main results: 1st the
expansion of the constitutional order, that now it is generalized in
Europe and America; and 2nd the uselessness to oppose this
constitutional order. For him, the most important fact of this process
of world liberalism is the Spanish revolution of 1820, followed in
Portugal and Italy the same year and that also had a great impact in
Iberian America: “The revolution of southern Europe and its influence
on humanity and on politics. This is the greatest event of this
century; it is an event more important than the defeat of Napoleon.
This last event is a great one but limited. Let me add that this
southern revolution and, specifically, the Spanish revolution is the
greatest event of humanity, because its connection with America. This
event dominates the history of the world” (II, 127). For him, this
event, the Spanish revolution of 1820, nurtured the Portuguese
revolution of the same year, and by doing this, it opened the
possibility of an independent Brazil: “le Brésil étant separé du
Portugal et par lui même et par la revolution de Lisbonne, la totalité
de l’Amerique du sud se trouvera affrainche de l’Europe, merchant á
part d’elle” (II, 245).
The Atlantic Revolutions, c.1775-1825 were the political culmination
of the western culture. The Age of Democratic Revolutions began with
the American Revolution, soon followed by the French Revolution en
1789 and this two process, produced a radical change of both Europe
and America that created a new world of nations under the ideas of the
Enlightenment and Liberalism. The Portuguese Revolution of 1820 is
understandable in this wider context of the Atlantic World.
Two traditions of Liberty of the Atlantic World.
Tradition, in its positive sense, refers to something that is assessed
as good and whose validity is asserted in relation to the past. In
this sense, something is a tradition if understood as a continuation
and not initiation of political and social arrangements already
existing. Thus, in relation to tradition, revolution can be seen as an
instrument of restoration of tradition but also as a political device
intended to break with tradition.
Modern western politics can be grouped, regarding liberty, in two
great traditions: constitutional politics and revolutionary politics.
The first is concerned with the protection of the individual
liberties, so its main aim is civil liberty, whereas the latter’s main
goal is public liberty. In the first, liberty is connected with the
individual in the sense that individual liberty is the sacred goal to
be preserved. Thus, this liberty is negative in the sense that
protection is articulated through institutional constrains that, by
limiting the powers of society, foster the sovereignty of individuals.
This is called constitutional politics because constitutions typically
consist in a declaration of individual rights and a institutional
design aimed at the limitation of political power. Given that this
goal of individual liberties protection is reached by a compact
between individuals that create to that end a political community, it
is named constitution.
Maximilien Robespierre defined with all clarity the differences
between these two types of politics: “The principal concern of
constitutional government is civil liberty; that of revolutionary
government, public liberty. Under a constitutional government little
more is required than to protect the individual against the abuses of
the state, whereas revolutionary government is obliged to defend the
state itself against the factions that assail it from every
quarter...To good citizens revolutionary government owes the full
protection of the state; to the enemies of the people it owes only
death” (Robespierre).
These two traditions can be articulated in a smooth way, but can also
lead to conflict between the two. When revolutionary politics is seen
as a paramount goal above the preservation of individual rights,
constitutional politics vanishes: terror during the French Revolution.
The Spanish Revolution of 1812 presented itself as a restoration of
traditional liberty and not as a break with the past. The manifesto of
the Portuguese Revolution of 1820 shows respect for traditional
institutions, e.g. the monarchy of the Braganças, but appeals to a
tradition of independence, not of liberty. A constitution is demanded
in that document but to preserve public freedom. Although the
following constitution is a great piece of liberal thinking, the main
force under the pronunciamiento was nationalism.
The spark of revolution in Portugal: nationalism.
According to John Dewey, “Nationalism is a tangled mixture of good and
bad … It is not possible to diagnose its undesirable results … unless
the desirable traits are fully acknowledged”. The good part of
nationalism is that it is a movement away of parochialism and dynastic
despotism, and it is associated with the revolt of the oppressed
peoples against external imperial domination. These good parts, for
Dewey, are the ammunition nationalism employs for its evil purposes.
In the case of Portugal, the humiliation and sense of decay, nurtured
a nationalism that resulted in the proclamation of a new, liberal,
political arrangement. Just to mention a few of the causes of that
feeling in Portugal, let me just give a glimpse of Portugal at the
beginning of the 19th century.
In 1801, southern Portugal, the Alentejo region, is invaded by Spain.
This invasion resulted in the permanent annexation of the district of
Olivença by Spain. As a penalty to Portugal’s position in relation to
Britain, Napoleon’s troops invaded three times Portugal: 1807, 1809,
and 1810. The consequence of the first invasion is that the House of
Bragança and the Court left Portugal to Brazil escorted by the British
Navy. As Wheeler points this movement was not totally voluntary.
Although the General Jean-Andoche Junot forced the Portuguese Court to
take refuge in Brazil: “The British fleet which escorted the Prince
Regent Dom Joao, his mad mother, Queen Maria, and the court to Brazil
in 1807 was also riding at anchor off the Lisbon waterfront to
intimidate as well as to offer assistance. Had the Portuguese Court
not left for Brazil as planned and instead succumbed to French demands
that the royal family remain in Lisbon, there was no doubt that the
British would have bombarded Lisbon as they had only recently
bombarded Copenhagen and destroyed or seized the Portuguese ships in
the harbour. Admiral Sir Sidney Smith had clear instructions from
London that on no account was the Portuguese fleet to be allowed to
fall to the French” (Wheeler, p.149).
This new Anglo-Portuguese relation must be contextualized in the
emergence of the new informal imperialism: “Portugal …has been a
forerunner of a relationship which imposed severe conditionalities
over another nation’s sovereignty without the direct exercise of
sovereign power” (Wheeler, pp. 149-150). Thus, in 1808, occurs the
opening of the Brazilian ports to “all friendly nations” culminating
in 1810 with the Anglo-Brazilian Treaty, which charged higher tariffs
to Portuguese goods than to the British ones.
Economic domination was complemented with political and military
domination. From 1813 to 1820 William Beresford was appointed British
Pro-consul in Portugal with full military and political power. It is
not coincidental that the Portuguese Revolution of 1820 was directed
explicitly against him.
In 1815 is Brazil raised to the rank of Kingdom (Recognized by the
Congress of Vienna) creating a new polity: The United Kingdom of
Portugal, Brazil and the Algarves that ended with the Independence of
Brazil (1822). Portugal, during the first twenty years of the 19th
century was exposed to the domination of the great power, the threat
of its neighbours, the abandonment of its Kings: a metropolitan centre
transformed in colonial periphery.
Nationalism and Liberalism in the Portuguese Revolution of 1820.
Liberalism arrived in Portugal with the revolution of 1820. There are
three main stages in its development. Firs a military coup, beginning
in the North of the Country; second the adoption of the Spanish
Constitution of 1812 in order to prepare democratic elections for a
Constituent Parliament; and third the proclamation of the Constitution
of 1822, the first Portuguese Constitution.
On August 24th 1820, a garrison in Porto rose up issuing a “Manifesto
of the Portuguese Nation to the sovereigns and peoples of Europe”. In
the tradition of the Iberian pronunciamientos liberty was proclaimed,
and its very proclamation justified in order to shown, not lack of
loyalty but commitment with the country and its institutions. Thus the
manifesto explains, in French, the situation of Portugal: no King, no
resources, emigration of the people, commerce and industry destroyed,
agriculture also destroyed, no public finances, conscription army in
“The status of a colony to which Portugal in effect is reduced,
afflicts deeply all those citizens who still conserve a sentiment of
national dignity”
“The Portuguese People proclaims the necessity of a Constitution, of a
Fundamental Law, in order to regulate the limits of Power and
Obedience; to be a warrant for the future of rights and happiness of
the People; and to restore the honour of the Nation, its independence
and glory”.
During the first years (1820-1823) of the Portuguese liberal regime
Spain, its revolution and the Cadiz Constitution of 1812, were the
models to follow. The Spanish constitution was adopted in Portugal to
carry on elections to a Constituent Assembly (with minor changes like
substituting Portugal and Portuguese for Spain and Spaniards).
According to Karl Marx “the Constitution of 1812 has been accused on
the one hand…of being a mere imitation of the French Constitution of
1791 transplanted on Spanish soil by visionaries (…) On the other
hand, it has been contended (…) that the Cortes (Parliament)
unreasonably clung to antiquated formulas, borrowed from the ancient
fueros (laws), and belonging to feudal times, when royal authority was
checked by the exorbitant privileges of the grandees. The truth is
that the Constitution of 1812 is a reproduction of the ancient fueros,
but read in the light of the French Revolution and adapted to the
wants of a modern society”.
Constitutional government was the main institution devised by the
Atlantic Revolutions of the Democratic Age. A Constitution was
essential in order to limit government and to express the political
consent of the governed. The first aim was served by the declaration
of rights and the separation of powers, and the second by elections
and parliamentary representation.
The Portuguese Constitution of 1822 has six parts:
-Title I. Individual rights and obligations of the Portuguese. “The
main goal of the [Constitution] is to maintain the liberty, security
and property of all the Portuguese”.
-Title II. On the Portuguese Nation, its territory, religion,
government and dinasty. “The Portuguese Nation is the union of all the
Portuguese of both hemispheres”.
-Title III. The legislative Power or the Cortes (Parliament). “The
Portuguese nation is represented at Cortes (Parliament) by the meeting
of deputies chosen by the same Nation in accordance to the population
of the whole territory”.
-Title IV. The executive Power or the King. “The authority of the King
comes from the Nation and is neither divisible nor alienable”.
-Title V. The Judiciary Power. “The judiciary power belongs
exclusively to the judges and in no situation can be exercised by the
Parliament or by the King.
-Title VI. Administrative and economic government
Although the constituent parliament desired a Constitution more
liberal than the Spanish one, when published, there was an interesting
preface by the king: “DOM John, by the Grace of God, and by the
Constitution of the Monarchy, King of the United Kingdom of Portugal,
Brazil and the Algarves of this side and beyond the sea in Africa etc.
let know to all my subjects that the General, Extraordinary and
Constituent Parliament have decreed and I accepted, and swore, the
following Political Constitution of the Portuguese Monarchy”.Notice
that the Constitution speaks the language of liberalism whereas the
King still speaks the language of absolutism: Grace of God/Nation;
The fate of the Portuguese Liberal Revolution of 1820.
Portuguese liberalism was encouraged to revolt in 1820 by the Spanish
pronunciamiento of that year. In May 1823, a month after the French
forces of the Sacred Alliance entered Spain to crush liberalism, an
absolutist military revolt, the vilafrancada, re-established John VI
to absolutism. When he died, in 1826, his son Dom Pedro, Emperor of
Brazil, promulgated a constitutional charter based on the Brazilian
Constitution of 1823, the French Charter granted by Louis XVIII in
1814, and the constitutional ideas of Benjamin Constant.
The Constitutional Charter of 1826, through some changes, remained in
effect till the proclamation of the Portuguese Republic in 1910.
-There is no recognition of national sovereignty
-The executive power belongs to the crown.
-A two chamber legislature was established, a chamber of deputies
chosen by indirect suffrage and an upper chamber of peers, both
hereditary members, selected by the crown, which appointed all
ministers and held absolute veto over legislation.
-Limited guarantees of civil rights.
After delivering the Charter, King Peter’s plan was to abdicate in
favour of his daughter Maria da Glória in order to remain Emperor of
Brazil. To avoid a dynastic schism his daughter should marry his
brother Miguel and rule jointly the country. But Michael, after
swearing the Charter and being married with his niece, restored
absolutism in 1828. Civil War followed till 1834. And thanks to
British intervention, constitutional monarchy was re-established.
The position of Portugal in the years before the French Revolution was
one of compromise between the maritime and military Great Powers of
Europe, Great Britain and France, against the threat of a Spanish
invasion. Of course, the Anglo-Portuguese Alliance was already in
place, but the American Revolution, in a sense, weakened it and
Portugal in fact joined the League of the Neutrals in 1782.
Nonetheless, the French Revolution realigned Portugal with its old
ally. But the revolution will have a lasting impact on Portugal’s
domestic policies. The Portuguese intellectual class was heavily
influenced by the French Enlightenment and by the political ideas of
Rousseau. Thus, the revolution in France nurtured the formation of a
republican party in Portugal. Given that liberalism can be a lousy
word, this party can be termed, the progressive party and was
radically pro-French. On the other hand, the conservative party,
supported by the crown, was the pro-British party. Thus, the conflict
between revolution and reaction started in Portugal. The government,
after crushing the progressives at home, embarked Portugal in a
campaign against revolutionary France. But France, using Spain as a
proxy invaded Portugal in 1801, and directly in 1807, 1809, 1810.
Weakened and defeated, the House of Bragança felt under the dominion
of Bristish soft imperialism and embark itself in a process of
Americanization of monarchy by establishing the Court in Brazil. All
these processes are at the core of the making of the Democratic
Revolutions of the Atlantic World. That’s why it can be stated that
the Portuguese Revolution of 1820 fully belongs to the Atlantic
The Atlantic Revolutions resulted in the arrival of liberalism in
Portugal in 1820.
The Atlantic world has a political culture of its own: liberal
constitutional government.
Foreign intervention made Portuguese liberalism nationalist.
The Portuguese liberalism of 1820 was revolutionary trying to be
The Age of Democratic Revolutions resulted in Portugal’s decline.
The Portuguese Constitutional Monarchy 1834-1910 was a third way
between liberalism and absolutism. By blocking the development of
a modern democracy delayed democratic revolution till 20th
Manifesto da Naçao Portuguesa aos Soberanos e Povos da Europa, Lisboa,
15 de Dezembro de 1820 (Manifesto of the Portuguese Nation to the
sovereigns and peoples of Europe, Lisbon, 15th of December 1820)
Projecto de Constituição Politica para a Nação Portugueza offerecido
ás Cortes que se vaõ congregar en Janeiro de 1821. Lisboa, na
Typographia rollandiana 1820 (Draft of a Political Constitution for
the Portuguese Nation offered to the Parliament that is going to meet
in January 1821).
Constituição Politica da Monarchia Portugueza decretada pelas Cortes
Geraes Extraordinarias e Constituintes, Lisboa, 1821 (Political
Constitution of the Portuguese Monarchy decreed by Parliament, Lisbon
Books and articles:
Jeremy Adelman, Sovereignty and Revolution in the Iberian Atlantic,
Princeton, Princeton University Press, 2006.
James Edward Alexander, Sketches in Portugal during the Civil War of
1834, London, James Cochrane and Co., 1835.
Bernard Bailyn, “The Idea of Atlantic History”, Itinerario, volume XX
(1996) number 1.
Bernard Bailyn, Atlantic History: Concept and Contours. Cambridge,
Mass: Harvard University Press, 2005.
Timothy Coates, “Atlantic History: Concept and Contours”, e-JPH,
Vol.3, number 1, Summer 2005.
John Dewey, “The Fruits of Nationalism” World Tomorrow 10, (1927):
Garret, Almeida, Doutrinaçao liberal. Lisbon, Alfa, 1990.
Karl Marx, Revolutionary Spain, New York Daily Tribune, september 9 to
December 2, 1854.
Federica Morelli y Alejandro E. Gómez, “La nueva Historia Atlántica:
un asunto de escalas” en Nuevo Mundo Nuevos Mundos
Stanley G. Payne, A History of Spain and Portugal, vol.2, Wisconsin,
University of Wisconsin Press, 1976.
Robert R. Palmer, The Age of Democratic Revolution, Princeton,
Princeton University Press, 1959, 1964, 2 vols.
Dominique George Frédéric M. de Pradt, L’Europe et l’Amerique depuis
le Congrès d’Aix-la-Chapelle, Paris, Imprimerie de Denugon, 1821, 2
Maximilien Robespierre, La revolución jacobina, Barcelona, Península,
Patrick Wilcken, Empire Adrift, The Portuguese Court in Rio de Janeiro
1808-1821, London, Bloomsbury Publishing PLC, 2004.
1 Paper presented at the Workshop The Traditions of Liberty in the
Atlantic World, Coordination Adrian Pearce, ISA; Francisco Colom,
CSIC; and Susan Hodgett, BACS, 6-7 May, 2010, Institute for the Study
of the Americas, University of London.