The War of Paraguay: Chapter XIII, Nabuco Recuses Himself from Forming a Ministry. — He Accepts the Role of Minister of Justice.

This chapter and the next few deal heavily with the politics of the Empire of Brazil (should these chapters even be included in this book?), so I recommend reading this supplemental post first. Or you could just skip these chapters entirely. I think they’re neat, but they’re not directly related to the war.

The Furtado ministry fell in a secret ballot vote soon after Parliament reconvened, having not wanted to call for a roll-call vote. They did not want or need to know their enemies.

Firstly, the Emperor called on the Viscount of Abaeté, who for a long time had been a mere spectator of the partisan fighting, to form a government. Abaeté put forward Saraiva’s name. Saraiva, fruitlessly, attempted to form a ministry—Furtado’s friends did not forgive him for that Liberal government’s fall, to which he had contributed (1). In vain, he tried to come to an agreement with Teófilo Ottoni, typical of Saraiva. Giving up, he indicated the name of Nabuco, who was then summoned.

For the first time the Emperor looked to Nabuco, after there’d been five ministries formed with members of the “League” (2), of which party Nabuco had been, in everyone’s opinion, the creator—and the sovereign did not even arrive at him without first having tried two other options. One could believe that the direness of the situation forced the Emperor to turn to Nabuco at the last moment; a circumstance that contributed much to Nabuco, in turn, not accepting.

It was not that some overblown pride moved him: none of his colleagues in the Paraná ministry (3) had even reached this position; Paranhos (Viscount of Rio Branco) would only reach it in 1871; Wanderley (Baron of Cotegipe) in 1885; Pedreira (Viscount of Bom Retiro) had renounced politics. Eusebio de Quierós, who had governed in, made, or unmade every ministry since a certain time, had been called only once to San Cristobal. But Nabuco had created the ruling government, and was, of everyone, the most proper to lead it, because he brought, in a greater degree than any other, the spirit of benevolence, the impartiality necessary to maintain it, and a spirit that inspired great confidence, to—their respective leaders aside—each one of the parties. He had destroyed the Conservative oligarchy in the senate and made possible the new political environment. Of this environment, he was, intellectually, the oracle; politically he had a neutral title—moderator. Because of this, since 1862, every summons to São Cristóvão that was not made to him (although for each time there has been some provisional reason not to name Nabuco) seems to be a preterition (4) For this the belief that he was a persona non grata had been ingrained in political circles; a belief that also existed with respect to Paraná, Eusebio de Quierós, Cotegipe, both Paulino de Sousas, Teófilo Ottoni, and others.

The primary condition for the success of any ministry is the Emperor’s goodwill, and not because he can betray a president of his Council, but because only his discretion can be enough to destroy the minister’s necessary trust in his own stability. So, perfect accord between the two entities—the Emperor and the head of the cabinet—was essential for the government’s progress. The two times that Nabuco had served in the cabinet the Emperor gave him no reason to complain, nor even the third. The reasons that had moved the Emperor to put him off as an option seemed to him plausible, from a strictly parliamentary point of view, given the detachedness in which, without ceasing to guide the government, Nabuco had been placed, and which he himself proclaimed. He also knew the Emperor’s methods well enough to know that if Dom Pedro II had wanted to have him as prime minister, he would have gone looking for him in his exile, as with others he had done on such occasions, even with statesmen that had ostracized themselves. That lack, not of trust, but of desire, of affinity, which the Emperor had toward him, weighed more on Nabuco’s spirit, making him refuse the belated investment of power, than some sensitivity to being summoned only after other ministers.

But more than anything, the visible division of the Conservative Party dominated the Chamber. Nabuco, who had not taken part in Furtado’s fall, was better looked on by historians than Olinda (5), Zacarias, and Saraiva, while the Progressives considered him their most eminent leader. But to form a ministry it was absolutely essential to ingratiate himself with one group or another; in matters of people—which is what these matters come down to, not anything else—and matters of cabinet, for deputies and senators, it was necessary to support their faith in the balance of power, and at the first moment that this was neglected, the minister, whoever they were, had to be excised, which was perhaps feared by Nabuco more than anyone. He would faithfully explain his qualms before the Chamber, and the reasons for his renouncement.

Marquis_of_Olinda_1860
Pedro de Araújo Lima, Marquis of Olinda, ca. 1860.

Hearing this, the Emperor summoned the Marquis of Olinda, and Nabuco, as well as Saraiva, acceded to serve at Olinda’s command, proving that they were not motivated by any ambition for that highest position. The ministry was constituted in the following manner: President of the Council and Empire, Marquis of Olinda; Justice, Nabuco; Navy, Saraiva; War, Ferraz; Treasury, Días de Carvalho; Foreign Affairs, Otaviano; Agriculture, Paula e Sousa. Counting those who had been charged with organizing a cabinet and had not achieved it, the ministry brought under its wings four ex-presidents of the Council—Olinda, Ferraz, Nabuco, and Saraiva. Besides these, Otaviano would’ve entered among them, who found himself at the time in the Río de la Plata, and who could not accept. For such names was the ministry known by the denomination of the cabinet of eagles.

Since 1862 Nabuco’s entry into the ministry had been expected, and his old companions in the Chamber, Senate, and Cabinet received that news as a sign of tolerance and moderation in the government, considering it at the same time to be like a new lease on life for the debilitated state of the League. Even in the Conservative camp it was well received. Nabuco kept excellent personal relationships with all the party leaders, and they were pleased to see in the ministry a man with whom they could reach an understanding. Eusebio de Queirós, the Viscounts of Uruguay and of Itaboraí, Paranhos (Viscount of Rio Branco), Pedreira (Viscount of Bom Retiro), knew that they can appeal to him, congratulate him, and look to him as an intermediary and an arbiter.

From his retreat in Bahia, where he’d shut himself up since 1857, the Baron of Cotegipe writes to Nabuco: “Although indifferent to politics I can’t cease to express to you my sincere hope that you are happy in this new phase of life. I’m not giving you congratulations because I don’t believe that your position can be envied, mainly seeing you with your hands tied for the common good. I’m ignoring what the ministry does, but it makes me happy to see serious people in power instead of hobbyists.” For his part, the Viscount of Camaragibe writes: “It does not seem to me that I ought to congratulate him for his placement in the government. I recognize the magnitude of the problems with which every Brazilian ministry that wants to govern will have to fight, and as such, the true sacrifice that a man of his position and merits must make, upon deciding to accept a position in the ministry. But I also recognize that councilor Nabuco, whom on another occasion I called the creator of the League government, could not allow to pass the opportunity to take those ideas into practice himself, to which he undoubtedly referred, when he told me: ‘I can’t be credited with the nascent government, which has devalued my ideas.’”

Translator’s Notes

1. The Liberal government here is the Furtado cabinet. Saraiva, a Liberal himself, voted for its dismissal, as he believed that in dismissing this particular Liberal administration, he would be saving the Liberal Party as a whole.
2. The liga progressista, or Progressive League, a combination of Liberals and moderate Conservatives.
3. Specifically the Paraná ministry of 1853-1856, in which Nabuco served as Minister of Justice.
4. A legal term, meaning the act of omitting an otherwise lawful inheritor (such as a child) from a last will and testament.
5. Pedro de Araújo Lima, Marquis of Olinda, first a Moderate Conservative, then a Progressive, and finally a Liberal.

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