Brazilian Slavery and Emancipation
1815--The Congress of Vienna, Portugal agreed to cooperate with the United Kingdom to abolish the slave trade gradually. Independent Brazil recognized this commitment.
1826--Convention signed on November 23rd to end the slave trade on the African coast and
make the end slave trade equivalent to piracy by 1830.
1832-32-- Brazil passed strong anti-slave trade legislation
1835--Most serious slave revolt of the century occurred in Bahía-- the Cabanagem Rebellion in
which the non-whites revolted against Imperial authority and slaughtered the white population.
They declared a revolutionary secessionist government declared. In October of 1835, a French
ship loaded with French-manufactured guns arrived at Bélem and the rebels took the arms and
killed the crew. The French retaliated, blockading the Amazonian coast and landing soldiers to
get the rebels, which they did. The Imperial government and France then fought a war which the
French won. The peace treaty of 1839 forced Brazil to cede to France the entire expanse of the
Amazonia. In 1835, the famous Male revolt occurred and many enslaved Africans were returned
to Africa after this revolt.
1837-- The Marquis of Barbacena sponsored a bill to end the trade.
1845-- Brazil agreed to allow British cruisers to search ships in Brazilian waters and prosecute
offenders in joint Brazilian-British admiralty courts as pirates under the "Aberdeen Act."
1851--The British force Brazil to outlaw the legal slave trade.
Slave Imports, 1840-51
Characteristics of Slavery
Under plantation conditions, it was common for 75% of the slaves to die within the first three
years before they were acclimatized and trained. Slaves were treated badly. Whipping was
common. The tronco was used, whereby the arms and legs were imprisoned together forcing the
victim to hunch forward. The slave diet was heavy on corn meal.
Purchasers of slaves preferred to get people from the Gold Coast and women from the Congo as
well. In Brazil, slaves were rented both on plantations and in towns.
Overwhelming preponderance of males. We know that it was 7 to 3 in Vassouras. In the
1872 census, 9% of the slaves were married. The highest percentage ever recorded for slave
marriage was 11%.
Salves resisted by a variety of means. They engaged in passive resistance by sabotage and
malingering. Active resistance included rebellions, attacks on overseers, escapes, suicides, and
quilimbos (ex-slave redoubts in the interior.
1864-- Pedro II suggested that the advantage of freeing the children born of slave mothers. The
slave owners resisted.
1866--In a speech from the throne, Pedro II suggests that emancipation be studied.
1868--A commission headed by Senator Joaquim Nabuco de Araújo reported out the Law of the
free Womb whereby children born of slaves were free.
1871--Río Branco Law. José María Silva Paranhos (later Río Branco) managed to get the
Nabuco law passed. It provided for the registration of all slaves and their children and that all
children of slaves born after the law were to be free. When the child was eight, the slave owner
could receive a government payment or enjoy the labor of the child until age twenty-one.
1878--Joaquim Nabuco's bill to end slavery by 1888 was defeated. The masters still resisted.
Nabuco, Rui Barbosa, and José Patrocínio founded the Brazilian Antislavery Society.
1884--Manoel Parito de Souza Dantas introduced a bill to increase the redemption funds to
entice more owners to free slaves, prohibit the movement of slaves from state to state, and
emancipate all slaves over 60.
1885--The Parliament passed a bill similar to the Dantas bill except that it freed those over 65
and required those over 60 to work for three more years.,
1887--Nabuco got the Pope to make an antislavery pronouncement.
1888--Passage of the Golden Law, abolishing slavery without compensation to owners.
Many states had abolished slavery long before the Imperial government did. Slave had been
fleeing to those states or to cities. The army refused to be in the slave catching business. The
abolition of slavery in the United States (1865) and Cuba (1886) as well as western European
opinion put pressure on Brazil to end it. However, without internal pressures and the passage of
laws, slavery would not have ended. The slave owners liked it too much.