Alternate History

1822: Brazil Split

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1822: Brazil Split is an alternate history timeline that deals with Brazilian history, politics and slavery in 19th century. In OTL, Brazil was created after a rather conservative process of independence of Kingdom of Brazil from Portugal, which allowed it to remain united after a few local conflicts (unlike Spanish colonies, which split into several different countries). This ATL considers that this was only possible due to the strong figure of Pedro, Prince Regent of Portugal, which rebelled against his father's rule and gave rise to this process, which he commanded himself, and later ruled over newly-created Brazil as Emperor Pedro I. But had Pedro left Brazil as he was ordered to, things would turn out to be very different.

Plot and Point of Divergence

In late 1821, Prince Regent Pedro, from Portugal, was ordered to leave his duties as the Regent of Kingdom of Brazil by his father, king João VI of Portugal. In 9 January, 1822 he announced, unlike OTL , his decision to comply with his father's demands and returned to Portugal, which led to a whole set of independence wars all over Brazil. In the lack of a strong leader to unite the former colonies, they soon split into several smaller, independent countries.


Note: The events related in this section are actual OTL history. If you are not familiar with Brazilian history, please read on, as this section adds up to the context.

Colonial times

The regions that formed Portuguese America had been explored by Europeans since 1500. Due to the huge size of the colonies and the lack of resources from Portugal, a system of captaincies was established, which led to a strong feeling of autonomy among colonists. Sailing logistics made it difficult to create a unified government, so Portuguese king Filipe II established two colonial states: State of Maranhão and Grão Pará in the North, and State of Brazil in the South. State of Brazil was later split into two administrative regions: Northern State (with a capital at Salvador) and Southern State (with a capital at Rio de Janeiro).

Although General Governors were appointed, captaincies retained much of their autonomy throughout colonial times, as they all relied on their Captain-majors (Donatários, in Portuguese) for their supplies. Only a few captaincies actually prospered from the beginning: Pernambuco, São Vicente and Bahia, all of which relied on cane sugar production and on massive African slavery. As of 1822, these regions (by then, provinces) were still the wealthiest of all colonies, and each one would eventually turn out to be the head of a country: Pernambuco, São Paulo and Bahia, respectively.

In the dawn of 19th century, Portuguese colonies (which were called collectively Brazil) had overcome a few major crises, and a steady recovery was on the way. A couple of rebellions broke down, inspired by Enlightenment philosophy and by the Independence of the United States, especially in Minas Gerais, Bahia and Pernambuco. These rebellions were all harshly suffocated by Portuguese crown's forces.

The Portuguese court's arrival

After being threatened by French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte with dethroning if he would defy Bonaparte's boycott to Great Britain, Portuguese Prince Regent João decided to leave Portugal and transfer his court to Brazil in 1808. The arrival of the Court changed the colonies dramatically, especially the town of Rio de Janeiro. As a first measure, D. João allowed "friendly nations" (which, by then, meant solely 'Great Britain', though the definition was later expanded) to trade with Brazil, and added up several improvements to the parochial village.

The Court's escape to Brazil had left Continental Portugal in a bad situation. Alongside with French troops occupying the country, a couple of measures taken by Dom João had broken down the country's economy: the 1808 Decree of the Opening of Ports to Friendly Nations, which practically released Brazil from its colonial situation, and the 1810s Treaties with Great Britain, which allowed British products to enter Portugal at extremely favorable conditions. After these measures, Portugal had lost its privileges and looked more like a colony from Brazil or a British protectorate.

The United Kingdom

In 1814, D. João was faced with the need to return to Portugal, so that he could send an embassador to Congress of Vienna. Besides, Queen Maria's death in 1815 led to an awkward situation: Prince Regent João was now king Dom João VI of Portugal, but the coronation took place in Rio de Janeiro, thousands of miles away from Lisbon, the kingdom's capital city, and the king showed no signs that he was willing to go back home soon.

Protests demanding his return started to increase in Portugal, since Napoleon's threat was already gone and the king had no good reason for staying back in Brazil. But he feared that his leaving Brazil would turn out to be disastrous: his counselors sensed a growing feeling of autonomy among colonists and greater animosity toward Portuguese rule, and a rebellion (or a set thereof) was believed to burst out should the Regent leave. The point was, D. João sensed that a libertarian mood was starting to rise in the colonies, and his presence there was one of the few things that kept it from bursting out. Besides, news arriving from the various colonies gave notice that local elites and some popular movements were starting to grow all over, and he feared that Portugal was close to losing control of the continental-sized colony.

To prevent this from happening, and to grant Portugal's seat in Congress of Vienna (1814) despite his being away from Lisbon, he turned Brazil into a kingdom, united to Portugal. This created the very first European-based kingdom in the Americas, a situation which Brazilians were not likely to give up very easily.

King João's departure

In the meantime, Portuguese bourgeoisie, especially in the northern city of Porto, sought to restore Portugal's privileges and to establish a liberal economical and political system. In 1820, Liberal Revolution arose in Portugal, and the rebels demanded the king's immediate return to the country. The threat to his power by Napoleon was long gone, most of the noblemen and courtisans who had fled in 1808 had already returned, and the Portuguese people were demanding political reformations. King D. João VI was faced again with the dilemma of returning to Portugal and risking Brazil or staying put and risking his throne. The king was expected to accept a constitution for the kingdom, and Brazil would revert to a colonial condition, which was considered to be unaccptable in the previous colony. King João's fears of rebellions in both sides of the ocean, however, were even greater than previously, and made him take an ultimate decision: unable to neither leave the former colony altogether nor delay his return any longer, he saw no other way than to return to Portugal, though leaving his son and heir apparent, Pedro, as prince regent in Brazil. This clever gambit kept him his dominions intact, but infuriated the Portuguese as soon as the royal ship arrived at Lisbon.

As soon as he arrived, d. João VI was forced to demand his son's immediate return. Thus, it was now Pedro who had to face the same dilemma as his father's: to either comply to his father's royal order and return, but risking unpredictable consequences to their power over Brazil, or to rebel against his king and stay, thus risking his very crown in Portugal.

The point of divergence: Pedro's return

See main article: The 'Leaving Day'

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