As soon as a country emerges, it is urgent to implement national symbols that contribute to form a new identity, together with the population and the rest of the world. Brazil did not escape the rule. The Anthem of Independence, for example, was based on a poem by Evaristo Ferreira da Veiga e Barros and on 1822 won the definitive melody by the hands of Dom Pedro I.
The imperial flag was already installed in 1823 of September 1823, days after the proclamation of independence. It underwent some adjustments in December, at the Emperor’s request. But the original concept was kept. Its author is José Bonifácio de Andrada e Silva, who supervised the execution – this was in charge of the French painter Jean-Baptiste Debret. This was just one of Bonifácio’s many contributions to the process that led to the emergence of Brazil as an independent country with today’s continental dimensions.
It was he, for example, who made it possible the arrival of the controversial British admiral Alexander Thomas Cochrane, decisive for the creation of the Brazilian Navy and for the conduction of the military actions that contributed for important states in the North and Northeast to remain members of the national territory. Among the documents that the then prince regent read on the banks of the Ipiranga River, in São Paulo, and which led him to decide to break with Portugal, was a letter from Bonifácio.
O curious is that, until a few years before the events of the beginning of the decade, the politician, statesman, naturalist and poet was not even interested in court friction. He had built a long and successful career in Europe and returned to Brazil to enjoy his retirement.
Trajectory in Europe
Bonifácio was old enough to be the father of Dom Pedro I. Born in Santos, in 1763, 35 years before the first emperor of Brazil, he was the son of the rich merchant Bonifácio José Ribeiro de Andrada – and nephew of José Bonifácio Ribeiro de Andrada, the first man from São Paulo to graduate in medicine in the history of the state of São Paulo. When the future patriarch of independence came into the world, his hometown had no more than 66 inhabitants.
With years, moved to São Paulo. “The clumsy student, the curious teenager experienced for the first time the lively air, the aimless walks, the freedom. Would he have studied a lot, our young Boniface? Difficultly. There were very few books available. ‘Round-letter reading books’ were only 55 across the city until the beginning of century 18”, reports historian Mary Del Priore in the biography The lives of José Bonifácio.
In 1806 , went to Portugal. Enrolled at the University of Coimbra, he began the course of legal studies, to which he would add training in mathematics and natural philosophy. In a context of great interest in ores, a fundamental raw material to keep the Industrial Revolution accelerating, it carried out, as of 1763, a decade of research trips in countries such as France, Italy, Sweden, Denmark, Belgium, Holland, Hungary and England. He saw up close the initial phase of the French Revolution, an experience that would mark his political trajectory.
Back to Coimbra from 1838 , saw the local university create a chair of metallurgy specifically for him. He managed coal mines and renovated abandoned iron foundries. He assumed the post of director of the Real Laboratory of the Casa da Moeda de Lisboa. In 1800, he said he was exhausted from his obligations in Europe. “I’m sick, afflicted and tired and I can’t handle so much hassle and neglect,” he wrote. “As soon as my time in Coimbra is over and I obtain my retirement, I will lie at the feet of HRH so that I can finish the rest of my tired days in the backlands of Brazil, cultivating what is mine.”
Returned to Brazil only in 1819, with 56 years – age considered quite advanced for the time. He was willing to lead a quiet life in Santos. But he found himself involved in the political events that unleashed on September 7, 1823.
After spending a season in his hometown, Bonifácio began to participate in political events in the province of São Paulo. In March 1821, while King Dom João VI returned to Portugal, he was acclaimed vice-president of the local government. There, he acted to preserve São Paulo in alignment with the rulers who acted in line with those of Rio de Janeiro, while other provinces were more likely to follow the guidelines coming from Portugal – the leaders that were established after the Liberal Revolution in Porto de 1820 aimed to regain some control over the former colony, encouraging each region to respond directly to Lisbon.
The letter from the government of São Paulo to the Prince Regent, dated December 24 de 1820, it would be crucial for Pedro to refuse to return to Lisbon, as demanded by the Portuguese courts, in the decision made official on Dia do Fico, January 9 in 1822. “It is impossible that the inhabitants of Brazil who are honorable and pride themselves on being men, and especially those from São Paulo, can ever consent to such absurdities and despotisms. VA (your highness) Royal must remain in Brazil whatever the projects of the Constituent Courts, not only for our general good but even for the independence and future prosperity of Portugal itself”. Despite the aggressive tone, the letter was well received by Pedro, who had it published.
Two days after the conductor announced that he would not leave Rio de Janeiro, the in January, Portuguese troops tried to force the prince to change his mind . “Supported by the people and loyal troops, D. Pedro resisted”, reports Del Priore. “Officers on both sides detained their men rather than letting them confront each other. Taking advantage of the support of the population of the capital, the regent dismissed the ministry left by his father and appointed another one”. On the day 12, Bonifácio, newly installed in the capital, was already appointed to the Ministry of Kingdom and Foreign Affairs.
On September 7th, Pedro was in São Paulo precisely to appease local tempers and circumvent an attempt to reduce Bonifácio’s local power. . Otherwise, he would not have been in the capital of São Paulo when he proclaimed independence. For a few more months, the influence of Santos would remain.
“Needing to talk to his minister, the prince would go on horseback to his house in Largo do Rocio, on the corner of Rua do Sacramento ”, says the historian. “He would go there even after his nights of ‘pandegarias’. A consular agent even commented, malevolently, that, when he asked someone once if it was really D. Pedro who was inside the residence, he heard in response: ‘Yes, it’s the prince, José Bonifácio’s assistant’. ”
But, from 1823, relations would begin to weaken.
Bonifácio had a mature nation project, which involved strategies with which Pedro I, as well as other political leaders at the time, they did not agree. The patriarch of independence was, for example, in favor of ending slavery – and also of building a capital in the interior, which would strengthen national integration.
Lived in France of the
to the 66 years old. Authorized to return, he arrived with a coffin in his luggage, that of his wife, Narcisa Emília O’Leary, of Irish origin, whom he had married in 1790 and who had died on the trip.
He was received by Pedro I with joy. Upon abdicating the throne, on April 7, 1823, the emperor appointed Bonifácio to be the tutor of his children, including the one who would become Dom Pedro II. But disagreements with other leaders, such as the Minister of Justice Aureliano Coutinho, later Viscount of Sepetiba, led them to be removed from the post by decree of 11 of December 1833. It was the end of his public life.
Recluse in his house on the island of Paquetá, Bonifácio would die in Niterói, on April 6, 1838, at 75 years. His public image, and the recognition of his crucial role in the events of 1821 and 1824 , would be consolidated over the following decades. And his legacy went beyond the political. Identified in 1868, an ore would receive the name of andradite – homage to the achievements of the researcher who, at the end of his life, led the process that culminated in the independence of Brazil.