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Bonifácio de Andrada e Silva
advisor to Dom Pedro I; the first Emperor of the independent Kingdom of Brazil
José Bonifácio de Andrada e Silva was born at Villa de Santos, near Rio de Janeiro, on June 13, 1763, and attended secondary school in nearby São Paulo. In 1783, he moved to Portugal, where he studied geology, philosophy, and law, all at the University of Coimbra. He subsequently became a professor at the university, as well as secretary of the Academy at Lisbon. In 1790, he was sent on a scientific tour of Europe, during which he studied chemistry in Paris, and mining and metallurgy in Germany, Norway, Switzerland, and England, and discovered several new metals and combinations of metals. Upon his return to Portugal in 1800, he was appointed Superintendant of Mines. From 1808 to 1810, he fought against the Napoleonic invasion, rising to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and a command position.
In 1819, after an absence of 36 years, Andrada returned to his native Brazil, which was then in a state of political unrest. In 1807 the Portuguese monarch, Dom João VI, had fled before Napoleon's troops from Portugal to Brazil and had brought large numbers of Portuguese to govern the colony. In 1815 he elevated Brazil to the status of a kingdom, but dissension between native Brazilians and the Portuguese continued. Andrada arrived in Brazil at a time when Dom João was being pressured to return to Portugal, and Brazilians feared that the country's status as a kingdom would be lost. Dom João did return in 1821, and Andrada became an adviser and counselor to the prince regent, Dom Pedro, who had been left behind. He headed the ministry formed in January 1822 by Dom Pedro, and supported Pedro in his determination that Brazil should be independent. After Pedro proclaimed Brazil's independence from Portugal (on September 7, 1822), Andrada became Prime Minister of the new Empire of Brazil.
In 1823, Emperor Dom Pedro I decided that Andrada's devotion to "democratic principles" were a threat to his rule and banished him to France. By 1824, however, Dom Pedro had established a constitution based largely on principles proposed by Andrada, who was allowed to return to Brazil in 1829. After many more political struggles with his constituency, Dom Pedro abdicated his position to his five-year-old son Dom Pedro II in 1831. Andrada served as a tutor and advisor to the young Emperor until 1833, when he was accused of conspiring and disturbing the public order and dismissed from the court.
Andrada spent the rest of his life in forced retirement at Nictheroy, across the bay from Rio de Janeiro, where he died on April 6, 1838.
This page was last updated on March 16, 2017.