Pernambuco Revolution: causes, leaders, importance

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THE Pernambuco Revolution, occurred in 1817, it was the last separatist movement of the colonial period. It is related to the socioeconomic crisis that the Northeast was going through for almost a century due to the devaluation of the Brazilian sugar and cotton trade in the foreign market. In addition presence of the Portuguese royal family in Brazil, the cost of living increased due to the collection of taxes, which caused revolt among Pernambuco. You republican ideals they also collaborated for the revolt to happen. The local government was taken over by the insurgents, but troops loyal to the central government managed to defeat them.

Read too: Dutch invasions in Brazil – a fact that led to the Pernambuco Revolution

The flag became one of the symbols of the Pernambuco Revolution of 1817.
The flag became one of the symbols of the Pernambuco Revolution of 1817.

Causes of the Pernambuco Revolution

The Brazilian Northeast, since the 18th century, with the expulsion of the Dutch, went through a serious and long economic crisis due to the devaluation of sugar produced in the region on the European market. The Dutch learned while they were in Brazil about planting and harvesting the sugarcane and took this knowledge to the Antilles, becoming strong competitors of our sugar.

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As a result, sugar production in the Northeast entered a crisis. This triggered economic and social problems because of the poverty and misery that devastated the region. Cotton production was successful in Pernambuco's economy, but soon fell into crisis because of the collection of taxes by the Portuguese crown present in Brazil.

At republican ideas reached the region, and the recent nations formed in America, which ceased to be colonies and became republics, served as an example for the people of Pernambuco. If the republic were implemented, the provinces would have more autonomy and more freedom to govern themselves, not depending so much on the central government. The expenses with the support of Dom João VI and his entire court in Brazil demonstrated the economic weight of the central government on the other provinces. To cover the expenses of the Portuguese crown and its excessive luxuries, they charged taxes. As Pernambuco was already in a socioeconomic crisis, more taxes meant a rebellion against the government.

If the economic and social aspects in Pernambuco were not going well, neither was politics. Dom João VI reinforced the Portuguese presence in command posts of local governments and the heads of military troops. This displeased the local elite, who felt discredited. throughout the entire process of independence of Brazil and in the early years of first reign, Brazilians and Portuguese disputed command posts in governments and the dominance of commerce in cities. With the Portuguese king in Brazil, the Portuguese presence intensified, displeasing Brazilians, who were already beginning to organize armed movements to depose Portuguese leaders from their posts.

Read too: Inconfidência Mineira – a separatist revolt organized by the Minas Gerais elite

Leaders of the Pernambuco Revolution

The leaders of the revolution were:

  • Domingos José Martins;

  • José de Barros Lima;

  • Cruz Cabugá;

  • Father João Ribeiro.

Right after the defeat of the revolution, they were condemned and cruelly killed in a public square. Captain José de Barros Lima was hanged and had parts of his body cut and exposed to demonstrate the strength of the Portuguese crown and serve as an example for anyone who dared defy it.

How was the Pernambuco Revolution?

Forte do Brum was the seat of government of the captaincy of Pernambuco while the participants of the Pernambuco Revolution occupied power in Recife in 1817.
Forte do Brum was the seat of government of the captaincy of Pernambuco while the participants of the Pernambuco Revolution occupied power in Recife in 1817.

The Pernambuco Revolution started on March 6, 1817, when the Portuguese military manoel Joaquim Barbosa was assassinated by captain José de Barros Lima, who reacted to the arrest of an alleged involvement in a conspiracy against the government. This was the trigger for the rebellion that quickly dominated Recife.

The governor of the captaincy, Caetano Pinto de Miranda Montenegro, transferred the government to Forte de Brum. Without the strength to react to the revolt, he fled towards Rio de Janeiro. The rebels took over the captaincy's power and installed a provisional government, which then tried to adopt measures that benefited the local elite.

The movement had the participation of various social groups, as the local elite, military, merchants and priests. The rebels defended:

  • the proclamation of the Republic;

  • the end of taxes collected by Dom João VI;

  • freedom of press and worship;

  • the increase in soldiers' pay;

  • the institution of Tthree Poders (Executive, Legislative and Judiciary);

  • the maintenance of slave labor.

This last item in the demands of the participants of the Pernambuco Revolution shows that the poorest strata did not participate in its activities. one perceives the contradiction between discourse and practice. At the same time that the installation of a new government in Pernambuco was preached that would promote equality and freedom, the slavery would be maintained, that is, black slaves would not be equal to the new rulers nor would they conquer freedom. In several revolutionary movements in our history this has been observed.

The rebels took power in Pernambuco and formed a provisional government. The Pernambuco example won the support of other captaincies, such as Rio Grande do Norte and Paraíba. However, it did not take long for the new government to lose strength. As the groups that made up the revolution had different interests, the division between them took place. Dom João VI sent his troops to the region and clashed with the provisional government. In May 20, 1817, the rebels surrendered to General Luís do Rego Barreto. By order of the king, they had exemplary penalties, such as hanging and shooting in a public square.

Magna Date

In Pernambuco, March 6th is a holiday because it recalls the day in which, in 1817, the revolution against Portuguese rule and the installation of a republican government in the region began. Despite the short duration, only 75 days, the movement left roots in the history of Pernambuco and confirmed the captaincy as a place of revolt against the rule of the central government.

Importance of the Pernambuco Revolution

The Pernambuco Revolution challenged the power of the Portuguese crown when questioning the abusive tax collections and highlighted the dissatisfaction of Brazilians with the Portuguese presence in important points of political, economic and military command in Brazil. When taking the power in Recife, the rebels showed the possibility of forming a government close to the demands of the revolts. The Pernambuco Revolution maintained the captaincy's tradition of being a political and social boiling point.

Consequences of the Pernambuco Revolution

The uprising in Pernambuco showed that local powers were unstable regarding orders issued from Rio de Janeiro. In addition, it reinforced for the Portuguese crown in Brazil and the First Reign, soon after independence, the need to create military troops to maintain national unity, dispel republican ideas and severely punish rebels.

Summary about the Pernambuco Revolution

  • The Pernambuco Revolution of 1817 was the last republican separatist movement of the Brazilian colonial period.

  • It had support from the local elite against the Portuguese presence.

  • He defended the republic, maintenance of slavery, end of tax collection, freedom of belief and expression.

  • Despite the short period in power, the rebels were defeated by troops loyal to the government, condemned and punished in the public square.

Also access:Hereditary captaincies - strips of Brazilian land administered by grantees

solved exercises

question 1 – Mark the alternative that correctly points out the causes of the Pernambuco Revolution of 1817.

A) Socioeconomic crisis and proclamation of the Republic in Brazil.

B) Dispute between slaves and planters for power in Pernambuco.

C) Tax increase and Republican influence.

D) End of the monarchy and maintenance of slavery.


Alternative C. The arrival of the Portuguese royal family to Brazil caused tax increases in the captaincies to afford the luxury of the king and his entourage. Furthermore, the formation of new republics in the former European colonies in America influenced the revolt in Pernambuco.

Question 2 - Mark the correct alternative that points out some measures adopted by the provisional government installed in 1817, in Pernambuco.

A) Maintenance of slavery and end of tax collection.

B) Dom Pedro I assumed power in Pernambuco, abolishing the taxes levied by his father, Dom João VI.

C) End of slavery and Proclamation of the Republic.

D) Opening of the economy to the foreign market and the end of abolition.


Alternative A. The provisional government was formed in 1817 and adopted some measures that benefited the local elite of Pernambuco, as the maintenance of slavery and the end of tax collection to keep the Portuguese crown in Rio de January.

By Carlos César Higa
History teacher

Source: Brazil School -

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