Confederation of the Equator
|Confederation of the Equator|
The Brazilian Army fighting the Confederate troops in Recife, 1824.
|Empire of Brazil||Confederates|
|Commanders and leaders|
General Lima e Silva
|Manuel de Carvalho Pais de Andrade
|In Pernambuco:3,500 troops
1 Carrack, 1 Brig, 1 Corvette, 2 Schooners
In Ceará: 2,200 troops
In Paraíba:2,000 troops
|In Pernambuco: unknown
In Ceará: unknown
|Casualties and losses|
The Confederation of the Equator (Portuguese: Confederação do Equador) was a short-lived rebellion that occurred in the northeastern region of Brazil after that nation's struggle for independence from Portugal. The secessionist movement was led by wealthy landowners who opposed early reforms by the nation's first leader, Emperor Pedro I. The fight occurred in Pernambuco, Ceará and Paraíba.
Background of the rebellion
The dissolution of the Brazilian Constituent Assembly in 1823 was well received in Pernambuco. The two greatest liberal leaders in the province, Manuel de Carvalho Pais de Andrade and Joaquim do Amor Divino Rabelo e Caneca (popularly known as "Frei Caneca") supported it and blamed the Bonifacians for the act. Both, as well as other coreligionists, were republicans who participated in the revolt of 1817 and had been pardoned. They had accepted the monarchy for believing that at least there would be more autonomy for the provinces. The promulgation of the Constitution in 1824, with its highly centralized regime, frustrated their desire. Pernambuco was divided between two political factions: a monarquist, led by Francisco Paes Barreto and another republican one, led by Manuel de Carvalho Pais de Andrade. The province was governed by Paes Barreto, who was appointed President by Pedro I, in accordance with the law promulgated by the Constituent Assembly on October 20, 1823 (and that would be later kept by the Constitution). On December 13, 1823, Paes Barreto resigned under the pressure of the Liberals that illegally elected in his place Paes de Andrade. Neither Pedro I nor the Government were informed of the election and requested the return of Paes Barreto to the office, something that was ignored by the Liberals.
The warships Niterói and Piranga led by the British Captain John Taylor were sent to Recife to compel the Liberals to obey the law without success. The Liberals vehemently refused to bring back Paes Barreto and boasted: “We shall die! Let Pernambuco be destroyed! There will be war!”. Frei Caneca, José da Natividade Saldanha and João Soares Lisboa (that had recently returned from Buenos Aires) were the intellectuals behind the rebellion and desired to preserve the interests of the gentry that they represented. Although Recife (or to be more precise, the Liberals) had clearly rebelled, Pedro I tried to prevent a conflict that he considered unnecessary and appointed a new president the province, José Carlos Mayrink da Silva Ferrão. Mayrink was natural of the province of Minas Gerais, but was related to the Liberals and it could act as a neutral entity to conciliate the two local factions. However, the Liberals did not accept Mayrink, which made him return to Rio de Janeiro. The rumors of a great Portuguese naval attack (Brazil was still in war for its independence) compelled John Taylor to leave Recife.
On July 2, 1824, only one day after the departure of Taylor, Manuel Paes de Andrade made use of the chance and announced the independence of Pernambuco. Paes de Andrade sent invitations to the others provinces of the north and northeast Brazil so that they could join Pernambuco and form the Confederation of the Equator. In thesis, the new republican State would be formed by the provinces of Grand Pará (current Amazonas, Roraima, Rondônia and Pará), Maranhão, Piauí, Ceará, Rio Grande do Norte, Alagoas, Sergipe, Paraíba, Pernambuco and Bahia. However, none of them adhered the secessionist revolt, with the exception of a few villages in southern Ceará and in Paraíba. However, in Ceará the situation became more serious with the deposition of the President Pedro José da Costa Barros that was substituted by the confederate Tristão Gonçalves de Alencar Araripe. The other cities and villages of the province refused to accept the act and counterattacked. Alencar Araripe left to the countryside where he tried to defeat the legalist troops. While he was absent the capital of the province, Fortaleza, reaffirmed its loyalty to the Empire. In Pernambuco, Paes de Andrade could only count with Olinda, as the remaining of the province did not join the revolt. The confederate leader prepared his troops for the inevitable attack from the central Government and recruited by force even children and old men. Pedro I, after knowing of the secessionist revolt, spoke: “What are the demands of the insults from Pernambuco? Certainly a punishment, and such a punishment that it will serve as an example for the future”.
Paes Barreto gathered himself troops to quell the revolt but was defeated which made him keep his forces in the countryside waiting for reinforcements. On August 2 the Emperor sent a naval division commanded by the Admiral Thomas Cochrane, composed of a ship of the line, a brig, a corvette and two transports and also 1,200 soldiers led by Brigadier General Francisco de Lima e Silva. The troops disembarked in Maceió, capital of Alagoas, from where they travelled by land towards Pernambuco. The legalist forces soon met with Paes Barreto and his 400 men who joined the march. Throughout the way, the army was strengthened by militians that increased their numbers to 3,500 soldiers. Most of the population of Pernambuco, that lived in the countryside, including partisans of Paes Barreto and the neutral or indifferent to the disputes between both factions, remained faithful to the monarchy.
Meanwhile, Cochrane, that was already making a siege by sea to Recife, tried to convince Paes de Andrade to surrender and thus to prevent unnecessary deaths. Andrade arrogantly refused the offer alleging that he preferred to die fighting “in the field of glory”. On September 12, the army led by Brigadier General Lima e Silva and Paes Barreto attacked Recife. Manuel Paes de Andrade, who had sworn that would fight to death ran away secretly with José da Natividade Saldanha without informing his companions and departed in a British ship. The rebels, without leadership and unmotivated, were completely defeated five days later in Olinda. A few led by Frei Caneca managed to escape towards Ceará. They believed that they would be able to join the confederates in that province. Few weeks later they were defeated by legalist troops. Some died, such as João Soares Lisboa and Alencar Araripe (murdered by his own men) while others were imprisoned, such as Frei Caneca. The rebels in Paraíba did not fare better and were quickly overhelmed by troops of the province (each side had 2,000 men) without the aid of the central Government.
The legal persecution against the confederates initiated in October 1824 and lasted until April 1825. Of the hundreds who participated in the three provinces rebellion only sixteen were condemned to death, amongst them, Frei Caneca. All the others were pardoned by Pedro I on March 7, 1825.
Flag of the Confederation
Based on contemporary accounts, the flag had a sky-blue field with the coat of arms of the separatist republic. The coat of arms consisted of a square yellow "shield" surrounded by branches of sugar cane and cotton. On the square was a white circle with the words "Religião, Independência, União, Liberdade" (religion, independence, union, liberty) separated by square bundles of rods, presumably the lictor's rods of the Roman fasces. On the center of the white circle was a smaller blue circle divided by a horizontal white stripe, and thereon a red cross bottony, which Ribeiro says the report incorrectly described as "floretty." Four white stars flanked the lower arm of the cross, two above the white stripe and two below. Nine more white stars were arranged in a semicircle at the bottom of the blue circle. Issuing from the top of the yellow square was a red staff ending in a hand with the eye of Providence on the palm, encircled by six more white stars. Finally, at the top of the flag, was a white scroll with the inscription Confederação (confederation).
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- Flag of the Confederation of the Equator From crwflags.com. Retrieved June 28, 2006.