The War of Paraguay: Chapter XXVII, The Count of Eu Desires to Go to War

One of these inquiries was born from the Count of Eu’s insistence on being sent to the theater of war (i). On October 12th (1866) the following question was submitted to the Council of State’s deliberation: “His Highness senhor Count of Eu expresses a deep desire to take part in the Paraguayan War as chief of artillery. Is it best, from the political perspective, to accept or reject his desire?”

Gaston_Count_of_Eu
The Count of Eu, ca. 1882

Here is Nabuco’s pronouncement: “Senhor, I recognize that the prince could accomplish, as he has already accomplished, acts of bravery, and that military glory gained by him will produce prestige for the future empress, because glory is the most powerful stimulant of the enthusiasm and admiration of a people. At another time I professed the opinion that appointing H.H. to be commander in chief of our army would be appropriate and politically sound, because his quality as imperial prince would prevail over political influences and the generals’ rivalries; but this post having been designated for senhor Marquis of Caxias, that general’s prestigious and dominant status completely fulfills that condition. Today it seems to me unsuitable that H.H. should join the campaign; or that H.H. go as a subordinate, which would not suit his high class; or that he hold an independent command, which would be contrary to the unity and direction sought by appointing the Marquis of Caxias. In any case, and having taken into account the physiology of human passions, I fear problems of pride, so likely to arise with the general and the prince finding themselves in the same army and in such related positions. The etiquette and considerations owed to the prince can disturb and hinder operations. The general will listen to the prince in deference; he will be able to, and on occasions should, contradict him; here are so many other reasons for trouble, on which conspiracy will speculate. It is my opinion, then, that the prince should not go to war.” (October 13th.)

In March of 1867 the Count of Eu addressed the counselors of State personally with the following letter:

“Most illustrious and excellent senhor counselor of State José Tomás Nabuco de Araújo: In view of the circumstances that oblige the imperial government to make, by decree 3,809 of the 13th of this month, a new appeal to the patriotism of a good number of citizens, I feel myself compelled to renew the petition that at other times, verbally and officially, I addressed to the imperial government, to lend my services in the theater of war. The government responds to me, in a communication dated yesterday, that the Council of State has agreed to hear about this matter. For this reason I believe myself obliged to express to you that from the moment the nation saw itself forced to declare war, this was my most ardent desire.

“I understand that it is also my duty, from the instant the legislative power honored me with a post in the Brazilian army, admitting me, by this act, into Brazilian society, and for that, those desires of mine cannot fade away as long as our fight against Paraguay lasts, even when it is necessary to mute them, at the times when they may run counter to the nation’s interests, for which interests I must sacrifice everything.

“With things having changed quite a bit, both beyond and within Brazil, since last time, when the imperial government believed it best to reject my offer, I supposed that some of the factors which could’ve determined the government’s resolution may have disappeared now as well, and because of this I hope it will not surprise Y.E. that I persevere in this aspiration.

“God save Y.E. — Paço Isabel, 17 March 1867. — Gaston d’Orleans.”

The Council of State is heard once again (March 18th), and Nabuco expresses himself for a second time, against the wishes of the prince:

“The ardent desire to face the perils of war, shown by the prince, is surely worthy of the Brazilian people’s applause and recognition; already I have had the opportunity to say that the glory which H.H. may, by fortune, attain, returning victorious, would be a new fount of popularity and prestige for the future empress. But the Council of State’s rationale when deciding against the prince’s petition still stands. The council did not base its decision on the idea that the prince’s services were no longer necessary; if it had, perhaps today it could adopt a different agreement, taking notice of new circumstances that could have suddenly come up. But the council based its decision on the prince’s presence being incompatible in the army, either together with another general or under the orders of another general. And this incompatibility persists.”

Footnotes

i. Regarding the Count of Eu becoming commander in chief, the emperor had written: “I didn’t consider my son-in-law except as an afterthought.”

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