Hipolito da Costa

Image: Rene A. Da Rin


The existence of a Press Day may be irrelevant. The circumstances of its adoption, however, should not be ignored.

The President of the Republic sanctioned, on September 13, 1999, a law resulting from a project by Deputy Nelson Marchezan (PSDB-RS) that established, “throughout the country, the date of June 1 of each year for the celebrations of the of the Press”. As a result, Press Day is no longer celebrated on September 10, as it had been since Getúlio Vargas instituted it. The existence of a Press Day may be irrelevant; a harmless national idiosyncrasy. The circumstances of its adoption, however, should not be ignored.

September 10 was adopted because on that day, in 1808, the first edition of the Rio de Janeiro Gazette1, precursor of the current Federal Official Gazette. The official character of Gazeta and the fact that before that, on June 1st, Hipólito da Costa had founded the Brazilian mail or literary warehouse, in London, led Deputy Marchezan to propose a change in dates, following a suggestion by the Associação Riograndense de Imprensa (ARI) and the Union of Journalists of Rio Grande do Sul.

The initiative was supported by the National Association of Newspapers (ANJ), chaired by Paulo Cabral de Araújo, then president of Correio Braziliense, founded by Chateaubriand and the main newspaper in Brasília, and by other entities in the sector. Accepting that the ephemeris should be made official, even so the change is not as peaceful as the calendar and the nature of the Gazeta would assume.

As if that were not enough, on July 5, 2010, Vice-President José Alencar Gomes da Silva, in the exercise of the Presidency, sanctioned Law 12.283, inscribing the name of Hipólito José da Costa Pereira Furtado de Mendonça in the Book of Homeland Heroes. This book is deposited in the Panteão da Pátria Tancredo Neves, in Praça dos Três Poderes, in Brasília. And the Law was approved by the National Congress based on the Executive Branch project Nº 4401/2001 (Message 260/1). The first Brazilians to have their names inscribed were Tiradentes and Marechal Deodoro da Fonseca, included through a Provisional Measure (which, constitutionally, requires relevance and urgency) by then President José Sarney.

The controversy involves recurring issues in the history of the Brazilian press and in the legislation that governs it, including the nationality of publications and their editors.

There is a relatively abundant bibliography on the Mail Braziliense and your editor2, but that does not make the nomination of both as patrons of the national press any less controversial. Hippolyto da Costa – Hippolyto Joseph da Costa Pereira Furtado de Mendonça – born in Colonia do Sacramento (now Uruguayan territory) edited the Mail Braziliense from June 1808 to December 1822, always in London, even after it became possible to set up printing presses in Brazil.

Among the most controversial issues are: (1) to what extent the Mail Braziliense can be appointed as “independent” in a confrontation with the official Rio de Janeiro Gazette? The circulation of Mail it was made possible by subsidies from the English and Portuguese; (2) the reverent treatment given to Dom João, (3) the format and periodicity of Correio Braziliense and, mainly, (4) its opposition to the independence of Brazil, as shown in the passage transcribed below.

In justifying the project, the deputy stated that “Correio Braziliense incessantly preached Brazilian independence”. This is a mistake, undone by the editor himself in his texts. Just consult them in the original or in the collection made by Barbosa de Lima Sobrinho. Hipólito da Costa was not only circumstantially opposed to independence movements. On the contrary, its manifestations against it increased in frequency and intensity as the emancipation process progressed.

When even D. Pedro was already rebelling against the authority of Lisbon – Dom Pedro's “Fico” was on January 9, 1822 – Hipólito da Costa continued to oppose Independence.

“…Recommending unity, we have always directed our arguments to the Brazilians, not even the possibility that these ideas of disunity could exist among the European Portuguese; because their usefulness, in the union of the two countries, was of the first evidence. But unfortunately we think that things are going very differently, and that it is between the Portuguese and some Brazilians, and not between the Brazilians.3, which encourages and adopts measures for this separation, which we have judged imprudent, for being untimely; and which we have fought, on the assumption that the European Portuguese would help us in our efforts, to prevent, at least for a time, this split.”4 he stated in the February 1822 edition, returning to the subject in the March edition: “…if the Brazilians, imitating this inconsiderate behavior of the Cortes, also take the inconsiderate step of declaring themselves independent…”. 5

Even if it is accepted that a publication edited in London, by a person born in a place that is not Brazilian territory and who was “obstinately” opposed to the separation of Brazil, (observation by biographer Rizzini)6 be taken as a founding landmark of the Brazilian press, even so the characteristics of the Mail Braziliense would provide strong reasons for the argument against Marchezan's project. Such elements can be found in Sodré's book: “…the Mail it was a brochure of more than one hundred pages, usually 140, with a dark blue cover, monthly, doctrinal much more than informative, price much higher... Monthly, it gathered in its pages the study of the most important issues that affected England, Portugal and the Brazil, old or new questions, some already posed a long time ago, others emerging with events. in all the Brasiliense Mail approached the type of journalism that we know today as a doctrinal magazine, not a newspaper…”7

The fundamental question in the debate is: What is the historical source of inspiration for Brazilian journalism? The officialism of Rio de Janeiro Gazette ou Mail Braziliense, by Hipólito da Costa explicitly opposed to Brazil's independence? Why not Antônio Isidoro da Fonseca (the first typographer to settle and print in Brazil, in 1746); João Soares Lisboa (editor of the Rio de Janeiro Post Office, who rebelled against a press law enacted by D Pedro and advocated for the convening of a Brazilian constituent assembly); Frei Caneca (Frei Joaquim do Amor Divino Rabelo, one of the intellectual leaders of the Pernambuco Revolution of 1817 and, later, of the Confederation of Ecuador. Frei Caneca would die shot, becoming the first martyr of the Brazilian press); Líbero Badaró (Italian doctor Giovanni Baptista Libero Badaró, editor of the Constitutional Observer, equally vehement defender of the freedom and responsibility of the press, murdered in November 1830) or even Bento Teixeira (author of the Prosopopoeia, the first book written in Brazil and which, due to his convictions, exposed to those who wanted to hear him, faced the inquisition)?8

*Carlos Alves Müller, journalist, holds a PhD in social sciences from UnB.



(1) SODRÉ, Nelson Werneck. Press History in Brazil. 4th edition with unpublished chapter. Rio de Janeiro: Mauad, 1999. Sodré is clear when indicating the graphic limitations and the scarce circulation of the first periodical printed in Brazil: “It was a poor printed paper, concerned almost solely with what was going on in Europe, four years ago. pages in 4th, a few times more, weekly at first, then three weeks later, a half-yearly subscription costing 3$800, and 80 réis for the single issue, found in the shop of Paul Martin Filho, book merchant. Friar Tibúrcio José da Rocha directed this mock newspaper”. P. 19

(2) The main works are: RIZZINI, Carlos. Hipólito da Costa and the Correio Braziliense. São Paulo: Companhia Editora Nacional, 1957; LIMA SOBRINHO, Barbosa. Anthology of Correio Braziliense. Rio de Janeiro and Brasília: Cátedra/MEC, 1977; GOLDEN, Maecenas. Hipólito da Costa and the Correio Braziliense. Rio de Janeiro: Army Library Publisher. 2 vols. 1957 and MONTEIRO, Rolando. Hipólito da Costa and Independence. Rio de Janeiro and Brasília: Cátedra/MEC, 1979.

(3) Hipólito da Costa himself clarified: “We call Braziliense, the native of Brazil; Brazilian, the European Portuguese or the foreigner who is going to trade or settle there…”

(4) LIMA SOBRINHO, Barbosa. op. cit. note 24. p. 363/364.

(5) Same. P. 371

(6) RIZZINI, Carlos. op. cit. note 24, p. 207 (title of Book IV).

(7) SODRÉ, Nelson Werneck. op. cit. note 22 p. 22,

(8) VILAR, Gilberto. O Primeiro Brasileiro – Where the story of Bento Teixeira is told, a New Christian, educated, outspoken and free, the first poet in Brazil, persecuted and arrested by the Inquisition. São Paulo: Marco Zero, 1995.


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