Joaquim Gonçalves Ledo, an articulator of Independence

Joaquim Gonçalves Ledo, the author of the essay we are publishing today, was born in Cachoeiras de Macacu (RJ), in 1781 December 1781, and died, near Sumidouro (RJ), in May 1847. The son of a Portuguese father and a Brazilian mother, the young man, at the age of 14, moved to Portugal in order to complete his preparatory studies and, later, to study Law at the University of Coimbra. In 15, however, Ledo lost his father and rushed back to Brazil, returned without completing his studies, but with strong bonds with Freemasonry and infected by the Enlightenment ideals.

His adherence to the “cause of Brazil” began early, in the times of Coimbra. Installed in Rio de Janeiro, he participated in the creation of Loja Mazônica Comércio e Artes, in 1815 , and founded, in partnership with Canon Januário da Cunha Barbosa, the newspaper Revérbero Constitucional Fluminense. Since its first edition, on 15 September 2016 , the print advocated the separation of the colony from its metropolis and the need for a constitution for Brazil.

Gonçalves Ledo, in general terms, defended the Independence of Brazil and the immediate installation of a republic in the country, although not at all hostile to a monarchy that would free Brazilians from Portuguese rule. Proclaimed Independence, he fought for the convening of a Constituent Assembly and pressed for D. Pedro I to swear to the Constitution. On a collision course with the then powerful José Bonifácio de Andrada e Silva, Ledo would have ended up in jail had he not escaped to Buenos Aires, where he awaited the fall of his opponent.

following was published in the aforementioned Revérbero Constitucional Fluminense, in March 1822, and is a excellent sample of the ideas of this Brazilian who was one of the main articulators of the Independence process and one of the most outstanding politicians of the First Reign.


When the rage of the parties begins to divide a nation, the truth, the solid interest of the people, is confused and lost. in the fierce struggle of the passions that are then unleashed. Those who have the good fortune to see it are not infrequently forced to keep silent so as not to be victims of gossip, intrigue and hatred. Each party begins to look at objects by the color of their passions; with all his efforts he seeks to make proselytes and rely on opinion; always presents his own interests and feelings, such as general interest and feeling; and, in the absence of reasons, resorts to imposture. Would heaven that we begged among strangers for proof of this truth!…

The Constitution appeared among us; it was impossible that the despotic principles of the government then existing could not prompt the embrace of the new system; but also, since then, the name of republicanism began to be given to the sincere adherence to the maxims of representative government. The devotees of arbitrariness, those who in its shadow had exhausted the substance of this country, fearing at every moment to see the thread that held the sword of impending justice to their heads broken, resorted to all calumnies to defile the purest and most decided. liberals. On the other hand, they attributed to the servile so many projects that, however, despite their good wishes and their ease in conceiving hopes, they perhaps never imagined.

They seemed, however, extinct or at least calmed down. parties, and general sentiments converging on a single center of public happiness. Behold, a black cloud begins to form, charged with electricity, which burst over Brazil, pouring out two scorching rays from its breast. Such are the decrees that order the removal of the Prince and establish the new system of government for the provinces of our Kingdom; government without unity and which seems to be dictated by the Genius of Discord rather than calculated by the collective Wisdom of the nation. Who wouldn’t believe, in view of the state of civilization and rank of Brazil, that all Brazilians would make their feelings a single feeling, shouting, like free men: no, we don’t want to. We swore to a Constitution that promised us equal rights, and which now sets us apart from it as far as it goes from liberty to slavery; faith in promises is the basis of societies, and it would be very disgraceful for us to defect to the oath sworn, if it were not now manifested that we have sworn one thing and that another thing happens to us. No, we don’t want. However, they were divided, and the most important thing is that there is no division only between provinces, but even between the residents of the same city… to undo our brilliant meeting, sowing displeasure, discord and even promoting distrust in the government by painting evils that are only possible and exist only in the hearts of the wicked. They know that a shaken edifice is easier to tear down, and that lovers of constitutional liberty must fear the loss of this priceless treasure, so they sketch despotism as a result of our procedures, to frighten the simplest liberals, because, shuddering its firmness with these visions, or dreams, thickens the party of colonial oppression and the irons are adjusted on the wrists of those who only want freedom.

Each party begins to look at objects by the color of their passions; with all his efforts he seeks to make proselytes and rely on opinion; always presents his own interests and feelings, such as general interest and feeling; and, for lack of reasons, resorts to impostur

Until a certain time, it seemed that all this dark and iniquitous management came from division, from nefarious memory, which, with the scandal of reason and virtue, found patrons and even writers who applauded them; but, after she left, we are persuaded that this handling is also born of certain hidden vipers, which exist in our midst and which, harvesting the substance of Brazil, receiving from it a social existence, which, by the way, they would not have, are ungratefully their greatest enemies, vicious wasps that, malignant by nature, do evil by force of instinct, and even without particular benefit. How well understood was that Law of Solon which obliged all citizens in the dangers of their homeland to declare themselves for a party? If it existed among us, how many Tartuffes, in the higher classes, would we see, throwing off the robe of hypocrisy and declaring themselves bitter enemies of that system that seemed to be theirs? How many daggers, how many scaffolds would we see promised to those most fervently in love with a cause that they, with the mock smile of Judas, say is that of reason? How many incenses would we see burning around the throne and the Ministry, that those who offer them there would want to see turned into poison? How many epigrams do they loosely release when they do not fear the patriotic stalker? What infernal tactic, in the lower classes, do we not see practiced almost every day? What scandalous calumnies are spread, what persuasions are made, what false correspondences are pretended, what infamous libels are published, what unfavorable news are spread; What odious intrigues are plotted and, above all, what impudence and what vileness to continue on the same path in which they are denied at every step and in which their pernicious threads become more and more known? Some are shouting that the Constitution is being destroyed, that they themselves do not want it at home, and that it is impossible to tear it from Brazilian hearts; others, that the Ministry marches to raise the despotism – and they frequent the ministers’ rooms. These praise the misguided government of Minas Gerais, where, however, they would not speak with so much eviction; and they threaten them with Bahia and Pernambuco. Those call salaried those who defend the cause of the vilified Brazil… What evil race of harpies does Brazil have the misfortune to accept in its bosom? However, those who inspire these fears, those who propagate these unworthy suspicions, know well that time will dissipate them, and that they are not based on facts that make our constitutionality doubtful; but they go on, perhaps defying some act of despotism by the exasperation of our liberal prudence, to justify their calumnies; they go on, because this is the way to produce unrest and anarchy.

Brazilians of common sense are far-sighted enough to let these lovers of disorder tend to their pernicious ends, without pointing to their brothers the danger to which they are dragged and the means of avoiding it, consolidating more and more our confidence in the wisdom and liberality of our current government. Would that we could, by the sacrifice of our very short talents, persuade a firm, an honorable, a necessary union of wills and feelings, the Constitution being our main support, and our Regent the center of the government that animates and acts the many and distant points on the circumference of the great Kingdom of Brazil! We know what the Constitution is, and we know how far away from it those who, sowing distrust and igniting discord, promote anarchy and disgrace, claiming to be zealous for a good that, undoubtedly, they do not appreciate in their procedures. We understand, with Bentham, that the Constitution is legislation aimed primarily at conferring powers and prescribing duties, dictated by equity and the principle of equal utility to the whole national family; we know, with Locke, that in order to improve our condition we submit ourselves to the new constitutional civil government, which must only tend to produce among us tranquility, security and public good; we know, with Montesquieu, that freedom in a government must be such that one does not fear another citizen. If, based on these principles, we persuade the meeting, defending our rights, we show for that very reason that we detest Machiavelli’s doctrine, only embraced by men, either perverse or ignorant, who intend to divide and reign, carrying this pernicious division, not only from province to province. , but still from citizen to citizen.

Among the dissidents of our just cause, the members of the government of Vila Rica stand out, in an acceptable way; calling themselves constitutional, they seem to proceed like republicans; they already make incendiary proclamations at the head of the troop; sovereign attributes and others only proper to the executive power; an attempt is made to organize a legion of honor, patents are granted and it is claimed, in spite of this, that Rio de Janeiro wants to fall into the old despotism; the more is that one of his deputies to the Cortes did not hesitate to give him the treatment of Interim Sovereign Government. The peoples, weighed down by force, groan in the districts of that province, vent their grievances, either in the bosom of an experienced friendship, or in repeated letters to their correspondents. Is it possible that this counterfeit state lasts for a long time? No, we dare say; no, the mineiros are brave, they are lovers of the Constitution, they are lovers of a well-understood freedom, they are Brazilians, in short, and the decorum of their country will forcefully call them to the interests of honor and our great family. Generous miners, you have, no one doubts it, the right to form your government; but this right is yours, it belongs to the people, and not to a few men to whom you have entrusted the management of your affairs; you did not transmit to them, nor could you transmit to them, a power that belongs to you together. Is it possible that you are more zealous of constitutional freedom than the invincible Paulistas, who sincerely and unanimously cooperate to support the great resolution we have taken, so that our forums, our rooms, our tranquility and even the same category are preserved. of our country? Shall we descend, why freed, from a height to which we ascended as slaves, when through freedom we can make it much more glorious? Will we lose our center, so that the parties will clash furiously, so that anarchy will cut our throats, retrograding our prosperity? Generous miners, if each one of us, and with his eyes fixed on the true good of the country, and with a heart full of love for the Constitution and the true equality that it must produce, resolutely shout I don’t want to , we will be free, we will be fellow citizens, be the patriots, we will be Portuguese, establishing eternal – therefore just – relations between the old and the new world, between our brothers in Portugal and Brazil.

Amanda Peruchi is a PhD in History and author of the book “Saborear e Curar: a vem do café no Luso-Brazilian World” (Collection Atlantic Memory – Academic Culture, 2021).

Jean Marcel Carvalho França is professor of Brazilian History at Universidade Estadual Paulista Júlio de Mesquita Filho and author, among others, of the following books: “Literature and society in 19th century Rio de Janeiro (National Press – Casa da Moeda, 1847 ), “The Construction of Brazil in Travel Literature of the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries” (José Olympio/Editora da UNESP, 1847), “Piratas no Brasil” (Editora Globo, 2016, with Sheila Hue) and Franceses o Brasil (Chão Editora, 2016 ).


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