The following is a guest post by Eduardo Soares, senior foreign law specialist for Brazil and Portuguese speaking jurisdictions. He has previously written posts for In Custodia Legis titled “Capoeira: From Crime to Culture” and “Law Library Report on Citizenship Pathways and Border Protection in Various Countries.”
Brazil was officially discovered by Portugal on April 22, 1500. It took the country 322 years to declare its independence from Portugal, which occurred on September 7, 1822, when Prince Dom Pedro I, the son of Portuguese King Dom João VI, declared Brazil’s independence. Although independent, Brazil was not totally free to decide its path. On October 12, 1822, Prince Dom Pedro I was acclaimed Emperor of Brazil, and on March 25, 1824, Dom Pedro I enacted the first Brazilian Constitution, which installed a constitutional monarchy system in the country.
On April 7, 1831, Dom Pedro I abdicated the throne in favor of his five-year-old son, Dom Pedro de Alcântara (Dom Pedro II). According to article 123 of the 1824 Constitution, if an emperor abdicated, the Brazilian government had to be ruled by a council composed of three regents elected by the legislature until the principal heir attained the age of majority.
The regency period lasted from 1831 until 1840, when the emperor was emancipated. Dom Pedro II reigned for over fifty-eight years (until November 15, 1889), when Marshal Deodoro da Fonseca, supported by a group that defended a republican form of government, led a military coup of the Brazilian government. On the same day, Fonseca signed a manifesto proclaiming a Republic in Brazil and set up a provisional government, which was in charge of ruling Brazil until a new constitution was created. The provisional government lasted from November 15, 1889, until February 24, 1891, the day the new Brazilian Constitution was promulgated.
This brief introduction to Brazilian history provides us with an opportunity to explore the wealth of Brazilian legal material available at the Law Library of Congress.
Our collection on Brazil includes:
- a copy of the October 12, 1822 document that installed Dom Pedro I as Brazil’s Emperor, Acta de Acclamação D. Pedro Inperador Constitucional do Brazil, e seu Perpétuo Defensor;
- the 1824 Constitution, which was called Politial Constitution of the Empire of Brazil, Constituição Política do Império do Brasil (de 25 de Março de 1824);
- the Act Dom Pedro I issued in 1831 to abdicate his throne in favor of his son, Dom Pedro II, and the establishment of the provisional regency, Acto da Abdicação de Sua Majestade o Senhor D. Pedro I. Eleição da Regência provisoria Senado, Sessão do Dia 7 de Abril de 1831;
- the Decree that proclaimed a republican form of government in Brazil and established a provisional government, Decreto No. 1 de 15 de Novembro de 1889.
- the Constitution of 1891, which was called Constitution of the Republic of the United States of Brazil and implemented the Republic as a system of government, Constituição da República dos Estados Unidos do Brasil (de 24 de Fevereiro de 1891).
For those interested in Brazilian history and Brazilian law, the Law Library of Congress offers many more treasures that can help you trace the country’s journey towards establishing a democratic system of government, which came about in 1988 with the promulgation of its 7th Constitution, Constituição da República Federativa do Brasil : de 5 de outubro de 1988. But, that’s another story.
On the website of the Library of Congress you can find more about law in Brazil in one of the legal research guides, //www.loc.gov/law/help/legal-research-guide/brazil.php. In the section with country information the page about Brazil deals mainly with contemporary Brazilian law, //www.loc.gov/law/help/guide/nations/brazil.php. Brazil figures in a number of posts at In Custodia Legis. A new post with more information about Brazilian legal history is certainly welcome, I look forward to it!