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History, Pedro II and the Brazilian Empire

extraordinary education, centralization, rebellions, new nation, monarch

Like his father, Pedro I left behind his eldest son, the future Pedro II, to take his place in Brazil. Barely four years old when his father and family returned to Portugal in 1831, the young Pedro grew up a virtual orphan and received an extraordinary education. Carefully chosen tutors taught the future emperor Latin, Greek, French, German, Spanish, and English and gave him a broad education in the arts and sciences.

While the young emperor-to-be grew up, a council of regents appointed by Parliament ruled the country. For the first time, Brazilians governed Brazil. As in most of 19th-century Latin America, two political parties contended for power. Conservatives looked back to Portuguese values and traditions for their inspiration. They sought to maintain a strong centralized monarchy, a slave economy, and the influence of the Catholic Church. Liberals sought to mold their country in the image of England, France, and the United States. They wanted to diminish the influence of the church, restrain centralization and monarchy, and move toward a free labor economy. These were the ideals. When in power, each faction tended to be practical, sometimes implementing programs fought for by their opponents.

Throughout the 1830s the absence of a strong executive, disputes between liberals and conservatives, and powerful regional revolts threatened to shatter the fragile unity of the new nation. The constitution did not allow for the coronation of young Pedro until his 18th birthday, in December 1844. However, several factors combined to result in his coronation in 1840. Pedro was exceptionally mature, and both parties hoped that a monarch would provide the stability to prevent rebellions. In addition, both parties hoped that they might dominate the teenage emperor. In 1840 the Parliament offered the 13-year-old Pedro the crown. He accepted, beginning an era known as the Second Reign that lasted from 1840 to 1889.

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