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The Farrapos War (Rio Grande do Sul, 1835–1845)  

Gabriel Aladrén

The Farrapos War was the longest provincial revolt faced by the Brazilian Empire. It originated with a dispute between two factions of regional elites vying for sources of power and wealth in a context marked by economic stagnation, institutional changes wrought by the Regency governments, and the geopolitical reconfiguration of the Rio de la Plata region. The rebels, known as farroupilhas or farrapos, overthrew the government of Rio Grande do Sul and established an independent republic. The main farrapo leaders were military officers and estancieiros, the owners of large estates, enslaved people, and cattle in the region that bordered Uruguay and Argentina. Their goal was to achieve autonomy in order to distribute political offices, control the borders, and change the fiscal and commercial policy of the empire. Their opponents, known as legalists, were drawn mostly from sectors related to maritime trade, the production of charque (dried and salted beef), and the urban military and administrative bureaucracy. The soldiers of both sides were recruited among the lower classes. They were cowboys and peasants. The farrapos also organized a sizable army of enslaved people who had been confiscated from their opponents and who performed military service in exchange for their freedom. The Republic of Rio Grande do Sul experienced a sharp decline beginning in 1842. The Battle of Porongos in November 1844 was the last major engagement of the war and resulted in the massacre of Black soldiers from the farroupilha forces. The campaign to bring the province back under government control, led by the Baron of Caxias, was carried out through the granting of amnesties, the payment of debts, and the incorporation of farroupilha officers into the Imperial Army. With the end of the Farrapos War, the Brazilian Empire ensured its internal consolidation and returned to an assertive foreign policy in the Río de la Plata region.

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The Revolta da Chibata: Conscription, Corporal Punishment, and State Control of Free Afro-Brazilians  

Zachary R. Morgan

On November 22, 1910, Rio de Janeiro was convulsed by the four-day Revolta da Chibata (Revolt of the Lash). Approximately half of the predominantly Afro-Brazilian sailors stationed in the nation’s capital—likely fifteen hundred to two thousand men—seized four modern battleships, removed their officers, and besieged the city. They complained of mistreatment, forced recruitment, low pay, and meager food, but their only demand in their first communication to the president was the cessation of corporal punishment in the Brazilian navy. Three of the four ships seized had been recently obtained by the Brazilian government from British shipyards; two were the first all-big-gun dreadnought-class battleships ever sold by the British to any foreign navy. Their 12-inch guns could near-simultaneously launch twelve 850-pound explosive shells at targets miles away, meaning that should they fire almost every part of the Brazilian capital city was under threat. Their second communique to the president demanded an end to the “slavery as practiced in the Brazilian navy.” The institution’s nearly century-long traditions of forced conscription, systematic and ritualized lashing, long-term forced labor, and the conspicuous malnourishment of Afro-Brazilian men tempts comparison to the exploitation of the enslaved in preabolition Brazil, but other than a brief policy of purchase and subsequent freeing of enslaved men to serve in the armed forces during the Paraguayan War (1864–1870), naval service did not draw on the exploitation of the enslaved. Instead, it conscripted Brazil’s free Afro-descendant population; citizens who represented a 47 percent plurality of Brazil’s population, larger than either the free white or enslaved Black populations at the time of Brazil’s first national census in 1872. The Brazilian navy was just one part in a series of institutions and legislative controls created and used to control Brazil’s free Afro-Brazilian population both before and after abolition in 1888. The freedom and citizenship of free Black men, women, and children was often ephemeral and regulated. Although Brazil lacked institutionalized racial segregation such as apartheid or Jim Crow, controls such as restriction on land ownership, police policies, military conscription, the manipulation of orphans, forced apprenticeship, and incarceration were implemented in such racialized ways that the overall outcome for Afro-Brazilians was similar. The navy’s acquisition of cutting-edge weapons of war created an opportunity for powerless Afro-descendant men to challenge the generally unacknowledged state systems of racial oppression and hierarchy.

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The Leclerc Expedition to Saint-Domingue and the Independence of Haiti, 1802–1804  

Philippe Girard

In December 1801, First Consul Napoléon Bonaparte sent a massive expedition to the French colony of Saint-Domingue (today: Haiti). His goal was to restore direct French rule and overthrow Toussaint Louverture, a former slave who, as governor general of Saint-Domingue, had been suspected of plotting independence. Bonaparte’s secondary goal may have been to reinstate slavery, which France had abolished in 1793–1794. Bonaparte’s brother-in-law, General Victoire Leclerc, headed the expedition. After landing in Saint-Domingue in February 1802 with 20,000 troops, he managed, with great difficulty, to defeat Louverture’s army. He then deported Louverture to France, where he died in exile. In August 1802, however, resistance intensified as plantation laborers became convinced that the French intended to restore slavery. Leclerc, who lost much of his army to yellow fever, embraced increasingly murderous tactics against the black population until he died in November 1802. For one year, Leclerc’s successor, General Donatien de Rochambeau, battled Louverture’s successor, General Jean-Jacques Dessalines, in a brutal conflict with genocidal overtones. The bravery of Dessalines’s troops, lack of support from France, epidemic disease, and the renewal of Britain’s war with France eventually doomed the French effort. After the departure of the last remnants of the Leclerc expedition, Dessalines declared the independence of Saint-Domingue, now known as Haiti, on January 1, 1804, and then put to death most of the remaining French planters.