The farroupilha controversy: the role of Porto Alegre

Photo by Ciro Saurius


The Farroupilha Revolution, which some prefer to call by the amorphous title of civil war, was part of the national movement for independence.ncia and from recoveredpublic

The retaking of the capital by forces loyal to the empireriver

A lot of information, mixed with assumptions, mix to deal with the theme: was Porto Alegre pro-empire or pro-farroupilha? The premise already induces an anticipated positioning, as if a city could only be one thing or another. As we saw in the last elections, our city knows how to be both… This Manichaeism generates so much confusion that it makes it difficult to even know where to start. It is important, in order to clarify the situation, to understand the more general political picture of that historical period. This step gives us the foundation for building a line of reasoning that is less passionate and more dialectical.

Brazil, as part of the Portuguese and not Hispanic empire, conducted its independence process in a completely atypical way. It differed from what happened to the rest of the Latin American continent. In other countries, the vacancy of real power in Spain, generated by the Napoleonic occupation, left the region free from the centralization of colonial power. This facilitated a more radical path in the process of independence and the generation of several republics, which was positive. However, it generated the division of the territory in several countries, involved in fratricidal processes that took decades to resolve. And the resolution did not result in a federation of states, on the US model, which facilitated, and still facilitates, tremendously imperialist manipulation.

In Brazil, the process was very different, because here the colonialist court settled under the staff of D. João VI. On the one hand, this guaranteed the integrity of the territory, but on the other hand, it weakened republican independence movements. These movements were many. The Bahia Conjuration of 1798, the Republican Revolutions of 1817 and 1824 in Pernambuco, the Sabinada of 1837/1838, also in Bahia, and the Balaiada in Maranhão, the Cabanagem in Grão-Pará and the Farroupilha in Rio Grande do Sul. The Farroupilha Revolution, which some prefer to call by the amorphous title of civil war, was part of this national movement for independence and for the republic. In almost all of these cases, the protagonists were farroupilhas. Yes: farroupilhas. They were also called anarchists, haitinists, jacobins, rattlesnakes, etc. The pioneer of the farroupilha party was Cipriano Barata from Bahia. To establish a connection between these social events it is necessary to analyze whether or not there were common flags and emulating characteristics.

The first events took place in the Northeast, notably in Bahia and Pernambuco. Many of the leaders who participated in one were in the others. Mainly Cipriano Barata. There was the flag of federalism, the republic and the end, even if progressive, of slavery. In this sense, opinions were divided between Haitianists and liberals who, even though they were against slavery, feared the consequences of a revolution of enslaved people.

Another fundamental issue is the rivalry generated between nationals and Portuguese, between creoles and peninsulars. Independence did not resolve the issue of national dominance over state power structures. D. Pedro, as soon as he was sworn in as Emperor of Brazil, put in jail the liberal leaders who did not manage to escape. To the nation's command posts, he appointed those same Portuguese colonialists he had just defeated with the support of the liberals, whom he had just arrested. To give you an idea of ​​the problem, 78% of the officers in the Brazilian Army were native Portuguese. This influence of Portuguese subjects remained even after the overthrow of D. Pedro I.[I] Brazilians were harshly segregated and suffered “racial” discrimination: they were called, for example, “brave Brazilian people”, a pun on the verse of the Independence Anthem, “brave Brazilian people”. The jocular mention indicated the “impurity” of blood and abundant miscegenation of Brazilians, a political and legal nationality that had just been adopted. The Portuguese, who formed the Caramuru party, encouraged the dream of absolutist restoration and a return to colonialism. The Portuguese, in their political calculation, believed that this would happen soon, considering that D. Pedro I was next in line to succeed the Bragança dynasty. With the death of D. João VI, the coronation of Pedro I would put “everything as before in the barracks of Abrantes”.

If free Brazilians suffered the excesses of the rich Portuguese, imagine the treatment that was given to enslaved blacks and indigenous people. In liberal, exalted or moderate newspapers, it is possible to find hundreds of reports of torture, murders and mistreatment of slaves perpetrated by the Portuguese. The great leader of this segment, D. Pedro I, was overthrown in April 1831 by the liberals. The event was baptized as the April 7th Revolution. At the forefront of this movement were the farroupilhas. Farroupilhas, as we have already seen, was one of the pejorative nicknames with which reactionaries, or even moderate liberals, taxed exalted liberals. By overthrowing the tyrant, the exaltados passed power to the moderate wing of the liberals. These, in order to maintain the moderate character of the changes, and unitarianism, kept the son of D. Pedro I as the symbolic emperor. This attitude was first understood by the exaltados as a maneuver aimed at the transition to a republican model. However, over time, despite adjustments to the 1824 Constitution that generated important reforms in the political system and state institutions, the exaltados realized that the moderates did not intend to go ahead. In a few months, the exaltados began to be repressed, arrested and even deported. The moderates, in order to guarantee the success of this process, began to approach the caramurus. This alliance would later be consolidated with the death of D. Pedro I, who was buried along with the banner of colonial restoration.

It is in this context, of struggle of the exalted, that the Farroupilha Revolution takes place, following this tradition and brandishing the common flags of the movement. The process of building a movement of national character, not centralized, owes much to the enormous growth of the press in the pre- and post-Independence period.

Imperial/Republican Porto Alegre

The movement of exalted liberals, later hegemonized by the Farroupilha Riograndense Party, had its epicenter in Porto Alegre. At least 5 newspapers circulated in the city, openly or covertly run by farroupilha republicans. The longest-running ones were Continentino and Recopilador Liberal, and there was also Echo-Porto Alegrense, A Idade do Pau. This partisanship is easy to prove seeing that the editors were craftsmen and leaders in the revolutionary process. We have among them “Vicente Ferreira Gomes, Francisco de Sá Britto, José de Paiva Magalhães Calvet, Father Francisco das Chagas Martins e Avilla, Joaquim José de Araújo, Vicente Ferreira de Andrade, João Manuel de Lima e Silva, Tito Lívio Zambeccari, Manuel Ruedas , Francisco Xavier Ferreira, Hermann Salisch.”. It was also in Porto Alegre that the headquarters of the party were installed, disguised as a Masonic lodge known as Sociedade Continentino. It was the place for training, having a bibliographic collection, for dissemination, editing a newspaper (O Continentino) and for conspiracy. Porto Alegre, as I called it in my book, Bento Gonçalves from birth to revolutiontion: historical biographyrica, was the “Mecca of Troublemakers”. At that time, following the signs of the revolution, hundreds of republican liberals from all corners of Brazil, South America and other countries of the world came to her. This is one of the reasons why a very high percentage of farroupilha leaders were not born in Rio Grande do Sul. The revolution had a national and international character.

Porto Alegre showed the same division that occurred throughout the territory, notably in the capitals. The parties of the exaltados (of which the most radical wing was the farroupilha), the moderate party (representative of central power) and the party of the caramurus, who held important positions in strategic economic sectors, such as transport, commerce, banking houses and exports. The division crystallized as the situation became more tense. Part of the moderates joined the caramurus. On the side of the exalted, little by little, the farroupilha wing was growing and encompassing the direction of that sector. Therefore, the Capital was divided between these two poles. According to Ársene Isabelle, who was in the city in 1834, the strongest of them was the republican faction. “The inhabitants of Porto Alegre, like those of the other cities of the Empire, are divided into two parties: that of the caramurus, which comprises supporters and defenders of the monarchical government, and that of the farroupilhas, supporters of the republican government. The last are the strongest, as everywhere else, but they are ignorant of their own strength. In fact, Brazilians in general seem to support the Republic; but, unfortunately, they are in dissent, because some want to adopt the unitary form and others the federative form”[ii]. This statement is supported by the election of the first legislature of the State where the majority of members were liberals and farroupilhas.[iii]

But, if the exalted Federalists and Republicans were so strong, how did the Imperials retake the City and never lose it again?

Some historians assume that the population was against the farroupilhas due to excesses and violence perpetrated during the occupation of the city in the famous “Twentieth of September”. They speak of rapes and murders, but do not indicate sources. They speak of persecution and expulsion of the Portuguese, but do not clarify what happened. The occupation of the city was bloodless. Due to the lack of troops to defend his government, Antônio Fernandes Braga embarked for Rio Grande the day before the capture of the capital. The gates were opened for the troops commanded by Onofre Pires. Responsible for protecting the city's fortifications was the 8th Battalion of Hunters, which had sided with the farroupilhas. At this time, there is no report of any kind of confrontation or repression. This stems from the total lack of resistance which, in itself, already questions the thesis that the city was a hard-fought imperial fortress. The acts of violence that occurred against imperials, notably against the Portuguese, were the actions of a group of half a dozen commanded by an alleged religious known only as Padre Pedro. They were detained and punished by the farroupilha leadership. Part of these events occurred even before the Farroupilha troops entered the city.

The case of persecution against the Portuguese with expulsions and arrests is a myth. There was, in fact, an initiative by the Jacobinist faction of the farroupilhas, commanded by Pedro Boticário, for the expulsion of over 400 Portuguese restorationists. By intervention of Sá Brito, the list was reduced to 200 names. The document was presented to Bento Gonçalves, the undisputed leader of the movement. Bento, after reading the paper, threw it on the floor and declared: “this has no place here”[iv], which ended the alleged persecution of the Portuguese.

The insurrectionary movement was a success, all the cities in the state fell into the hands of the farroupilhas. Including Rio Pardo, Pelotas, Rio Grande, cities that later became armed bastions inflated by thousands of soldiers sent by the Empire. Braga left for Rio and Araújo Ribeiro was sent in his place. Araújo, after disagreements with the provisional government and the Assembly, decided to join the fight. To this end, he found support in troops commanded by the royalist colonel João da Silva Tavares, who came from the Banda Oriental, present-day Uruguay, where they homized. Also vital for the reaction was the help of Bento Manoel. He had participated in the overthrow of Braga, but he did not accept the demands of the farroupilhas for the possession of Araújo and switched sides. In the Sinos Region, Daniel Hildebrand raised fighters among the Germanic settlers. The argument for the co-option of the Germans, who, because they did not understand the language, did not understand what was going on, was that their houses would be burned down, their wives and daughters raped by blacks and their lands stolen. The number of false accusations was such that the farroupilhas launched a newspaper in German to put their version of the situation. The periodical, edited by Hermann Von Salisch, was called O Colono Alemão.

In this way, from the beginning of 1836, the combats spread in the interior of the state. In most cases with victory for the farroupilhas. It was necessary to send as many troops as possible to the south and to Vale dos Sinos, weakening the garrison of the capital. And in each victory, the prisoners were sent to Porto Alegre, filling the public jail and the Presiganga, prison ship. Among them was the future Count of Porto Alegre, Manuel Marques de Souza (grandson). It was in this context that the resumption of the City took place in the early hours of the 14th to the 15th of June.

The city had fortifications that completely closed the urban perimeter, making attacks difficult. And by water, via Lagoa dos Patos and Guaíba, the attacks were successfully repelled until the arrival of the imperial fleet commanded by the English commander John Pascoe Grenfell. These forces destroyed the fortifications in Itapuã that gave control of the entrance to the Guaíba to the farroupilhas, massacring their garrison.

In this way, and with the control of Rio Grande, the Empire dominated the main waterways in the state. This strategic factor allowed important cities, such as Pelotas and Rio Pardo, to be controlled by imperial troops.

The alliance of moderate liberals (monarchists) and caramurus, which had already begun in Rio Grande do Sul since 1832, was consolidated nationwide with the death of D. Pedro I, in 1834. Together with the Duke of Bragança they were buried the illusions of a possible Portuguese recolonisation. Therefore, the idea that the farroupilhas had no influence on the population of the Capital is not supported by research that does not remain superficial. The cities dominated by the Empire during the war were citadels heavily protected by troops coming from other Brazilian provinces. Another important point is that the main sector of imperial support was the most reactionary and retrograde possible. In addition to being monarchists, they were absolutists and opposed to a project of national independence. At the time, Bento Gonçalves was questioned by his peers for not carrying out a repression against the Caramuru when he took over the capital.

* Giovanni Mesquita graduated in History and Museology from UFRGS. Author of Bento Gonçalves: from birth to revolution.


[I]SCHMITT, Anderson Marcelo. Guerra dos Farrapos (1835-1845): between the historical fact and its appropriations. Esboços magazine, Florianópolis, v. 25, nº40 p. 363.

[ii]ISABELLE, Arsène. Trip to Rio da Prata and Rio Grande do Sul / Arsène.Isabelle ; translation and note about the author Teodemiro Tostes; introduction by Augusto Meyer. — Brasília: Federal Senate, Editorial Board, 2006.XXXII+314 p. 242, 243 — (Federal Senate Editions) available at: .pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y

[iii]SCHMITT, Anderson Marcelo. Guerra dos Farrapos (1835-1845): between the historical fact and its appropriations. Esboços magazine, Florianópolis, v. 25, nº40 p. 362, 363

[iv] SA BRITO, Francisco de. Memory of the Farrapos War. Rio de Janeiro: Gráfica Editora Souza, 1950, p. 125. Facsimile of the original edition printed by CORAG

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