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Pedro II and the Brazilian Empire, End of the Empire

republican movement, Brazilian army, Triple Alliance, Brazilian military, Brazilian society

In stark contrast to the upheaval and instability of some Latin American countries, Brazilís government was stable during the middle part of the 19th century. The Liberal and Conservative parties shared power, with the emperor acting as a moderating power between the two. The emperor called for new elections when it appeared that the ruling party faced a political crisis; invariably the opposition party would win the new elections.

There were elements of Brazilian society that did not support this power-sharing arrangement, however. In the 1870s and 1880s a republican movement emerged that called for the end of the monarchy and the creation of a republic modeled after the United States. Republicanism was especially strong among members of the army.

Over the last century, the military has played a central role in Brazilian society and politics, but this was not the case in the early years of independence. Brazil avoided most of the bloodshed and huge military buildup that plagued the early years of the Spanish American nations. The Brazilian army remained relatively small and did not play a significant role in the nationís affairs until the War of the Triple Alliance (1864-1870). For complex reasons, Brazil joined Argentina and Uruguay in this long and costly war against Paraguay in the 1860s. Despite the enormous disparity in resources, Paraguay tenaciously resisted the invading armies for years, losing the majority of its adult male population and large chunks of territory. Brazilís inability to defeat tiny Paraguay highlighted the weaknesses of the Brazilian military. Disgruntled officers began to envision a future without the monarchy.

By 1889 abolition, republicanism, and dissatisfaction in the armed forces had all eroded Pedroís traditional support from landowners, the clergy, and the military. A small group of conspirators with key support from high-level army officers initiated a coup díetat on November 15, 1889. The ailing, 62-year-old Pedro found himself with little support and, like his father, chose exile over resistance. The day after the coup the royal family sailed to exile in Portugal and France.

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