Imagined Republics: The United States of America, France and Brazil (1776–1792)

By Kenneth Maxwell

In early 1789, a republican, constitutionalist, and anti-colonial rebellion was planned in Brazil. It challenged empire in the apex year of the Atlantic revolutions. It revealed the weaknesses as well as the strength of imperial adaptation in the face of challenges on both sides of the Atlantic. The Minas Conspiracy also revealed the ambiguities and misinterpretation of the commitment of the individuals involved in the United States, in France, and in Brazil at this critical moment of political transition.

The conspiracy occurred in Minas Gerais, at the time the most important region of Portugal’s vast intercontinental overseas empire. Minas Gerais, in the mineral-rich mountainous interior of Brazil, in 1788 was called the “soul” of the Portuguese empire in America by Martinho de Melo e Castro (1716–1795), who was the Portuguese secretary of state for the navy and the overseas dominions. 1 Minas Gerais was the source of Portugal’s vast eighteenth-century wealth in gold and diamonds.

The would-be insurgents in Brazil took their inspiration from the successful war of American independence from Great Britain and the establishment of the United States of America. This is an Atlantic history of the diffusion of republican and anti-colonial ideas that links North America, Europe, and Brazil between the years 1776–1778 and 1789–1792 in the complex and contradictory history of the transatlantic transmission of constitutional models.

It is a history of Atlantic empires at a moment of profound transformation that joins the nation-building experiments in North America to the new constitutional republic the conspirators in Minas Gerais intended to create in Brazil in 1789. At the center of this “imagined” Brazilian republic was a book: the Recueil.

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Imagined Republics- the United States, France and Brazil (1776-1792)

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