Sunday, 15 January 2017

The Liberal War

Doing the research into the design of the flag of the Portuguese Autonomous Region of the Azores brought my attention to the so-called Liberal War of 1828 to 1834. As I knew next to nothing about this war, I did some further research ... and thought that it might be of interest to some of my regular blog readers.

The Liberal War
The French invasion of Portugal in November 1807 had forced the Portuguese Royal Family to flee to Brazil. On 16th December 1815, Prince John (João) – who was acting as Regent for his mother, Queen Maria – created the United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil and the Algarves (Reino Unido de Portugal, Brasil e Algarves). This gave Brazil equal status to Portugal and allowed Brazilian representatives were elected to sit in the Portuguese Constitutional Courts (Cortes Constitucionais Portuguesas). In 1816 Queen Maria died, and after several delays Prince John was acclaimed king (King João VI) of the United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil and the Algarves in a ceremony in Rio de Janeiro.

The Royal Family remained in Brazil until 1821 when, in the aftermath of the Liberal Revolution in Oporto in August 1820, they returned to Portugal. King John VI’s eldest son – Prince Pedro – remained in Brazil. When the Portuguese parliament (the Cortes) demanded that Brazil revert to its former status as a Portuguese colony, the Rio de Janeiro Municipal Senate (the Senado da Câmara), persuaded Prince Pedro to declare Brazil independent, which he did on 9th January 1822. Furthermore on 12th October of that year he had himself crowned Emperor of Brazil in Rio de Janeiro, taking the title Dom Pedro I.

Dom Pedro.
Dom Miguel.
When King John VI died on 10th March 1826 the question of who was to succeed him led to a dispute between Dom Pedro I, Emperor of Brazil and his younger brother – Dom Miguel. The latter believed that when the former had declared Brazil to be independent of Portugal, he had forfeited his claim to the throne. Dom Pedro I then began to use the title of Dom Pedro IV of Portugal in addition to that of Emperor of Brazil, but as neither the Portuguese or Brazilians wanted to return to a united kingdom with a single monarchy, Dom Pedro abdicated the throne of Portugal in favour of his daughter, Maria da Gloria. Dom Pedro then revised the 1822 Portuguese Constitution to ensure that the future succession to the throne of Portugal was assured.

The new Constitution established four branches of government:
  • The Legislature, which comprised the upper chamber or Chamber of Peers (which was composed of life and hereditary peers and clergy appointed by the king), and the lower chamber or Chamber of Deputies (which was composed of 111 Deputies elected for four-year terms by local assemblies, which in turn were elected by a small number of male tax-paying property owners).
  • The Judiciary;
  • The Executive (i.e. the ministers of the government);
  • The Monarch, who had a veto over all legislation.
The new Constitution ran counter to the wishes of the absolutist landowners and the Catholic Church, who felt that Dom Miguel was the legitimate successor to King John IV. The country then entered a period of civil unrest, with Dom Miguel’s supporters taking control in Lisbon and the supporters of the Constitution – led by General João Carlos de Saldanha – concentrating around Oporto.

The situation became so bad that in January 1827 the British government sent an expeditionary force to Portugal to restore order. The 5,000-strong force was led by Sir William Clinton and landed in Oporto in support of General Saldhanha’s constitutionalists. Dom Miguel bowed to international pressure, and left Portugal soon afterwards. Having apparently achieved their objective, the British troops eventually withdrew on 28th April 1828.

When Dom Miguel returned to Portugal in February 1828, he did so with the apparent intention of swearing to uphold the new Constitution. However, with the support of the absolutists and the Church, he dissolved the Chamber of Peers and the Chamber of Deputies in March, and in May he summoned a meeting of the traditional Portuguese Parliament (the Cortes) which proclaimed him King Miguel I of Portugal. He immediately repudiated the new Constitution and from 7th July onwards he began to rule as an absolute monarch.

Reaction to this was swift, and on 18th May 1828 the army garrison in Porto declared their support of the new Constitution and Maria da Gloria as well as their loyalty to Dom Pedro. This was followed by several revolts elsewhere in Portugal, and civil war broke out. The new king swiftly moved to suppress the revolt, and many thousands of Liberals were either arrested or fled abroad, mainly to Spain and Britain.

In the meantime the young queen – Maria da Gloria – had returned to Brazil, where her father was involved in a power struggle with the major landowners. Eventually in April 1831 he abdicated the throne of the Empire of Brazil in favour of his son – Pedro II – and set sail for Britain.

Maria da Gloria.
As soon as he arrived in Britain Dom Pedro obtained a large loan from British sources and began to assemble a military expedition with which he hoped to regain control of Portugal. (Besides a number of Portuguese Liberals, the force comprised volunteers from Brazil, England, and France.) Once this had been done, Dom Pedro set sail for Terceira in the Azores, which was in the hands of the Liberals, and once there he set up a government in exile.

Miguelist ships had tried to blockade the Azores prior to Dom Pedro’s arrival, but at the Battle of Praia Bay on 12th August 1828 they had been defeated. The fleet had then retreated to the Tagus, where in July 1831 – in retaliation for the ill treatment of numerous French nationals in Portugal – a French naval force had seized several of the fleet’s ships.

In July 1832 the 6,500-strong expeditionary force finally landed in Oporto, Portugal. It was commanded by Dom Pedro and opposed by a besieging force of 80,000 Miguelist troops. The fighting around Oporto included the indecisive Battle of Ponte Ferreira on 23rd July 1832, where 5,000 Liberals (led by António José Severim de Noronha, 1st Duke of Terceira) fought 15,000 Miguelists (led by Luís Vaz Pereira Pinto Guedes, 2nd Viscount of Montalegre and General Cardoso). The two sides suffered 440 and 1,400 casualties respectively.

The Battle of Ponte Ferreira.
The Duke of Terceira.
The ships of the expeditionary force were led by Admiral Charles Napier (using the alias 'Carlos de Ponza'), and on 5th July 1833 they defeated the Miguelist fleet off Cape St. Vincent. With the support of Napier’s ships, the Duke of Terceira sailed from Oporto to Faro in the Algarve, and marched north through the Alentejo to capture Lisbon on 24th July.

The Battle of Cape St. Vincent.
Admiral Charles Napier ('Carlos de Ponza').
A nine month-long stalemate then ensued, during which Maria da Gloria was proclaimed queen (Maria II of Portugal) with Dom Pedro as her regent. He immediately confiscated the property of anyone who had served under Dom Miguel and suppressed all religious houses. He also confiscated any property belonging to the latter, an act which alienated the Catholic Church for many years thereafter.

Although the Liberals controlled Portugal’s two main cities – Lisbon and Oporto – and had a great deal of support amongst the middle class, the Miguelists had the support of the majority of the aristocracy and the landowners. Attempts by the Liberals to achieve a military solution resulted in the Battles of Alcácer do Sal – where the Liberals were defeated – and Asseiceira (or Santarém) (16th May 1834) – where the Liberals won a resounding victory. The latter was sufficient to convince Dom Miguel that victory was impossible and on 24th May he formally renounced all claims to the throne of Portugal. I return he was guaranteed an annual pension, and agreed to go into permanent exile. Dom Pedro immediately restored the new Constitution, but he died so afterwards on 24th September 1834.

8 comments:

  1. Sounds like the basis for an interesting campaign.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Archduke Piccolo,

      As I was writing this blog entry I had a similar thought. A real wargamer's war!

      All the best,

      Bob

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  2. Thanks for an interesting account of a conflict of which I was heretofore completely unaware!

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    Replies
    1. Gonsalvo,

      I love finding stuff that I didn't previously know, and I enjoy sharing it with other people.

      All the best,

      Bob

      Delete
  3. Yet another nail in the coffin of the oft-repeated myth that no armed conflict took place in Europe between Waterloo and the Crimean War! Thanks for sharing this, Bob--now to research the uniforms...

    Best regards,

    Chris

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    Replies
    1. Chris,

      Very true! The Congress of Vienna might have stopped any major wars between the members of the Quadruple Alliance, but it didn't stop the smaller conflicts that were a result of the political climate change brought about by the Napoleonic era in Europe.

      Good luck with your research.

      All the best,

      Bob

      Delete
  4. Well, that turned out to be a bit easier than I expected. There is a TON of information on "Old Reliable", AKA the Balagan website:http://balagan.info/painting-guide-for-portugals-liberal-wars

    Chris

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Chris,

      I must admit that it was one place that I didn't think to look for information ... and should have!

      Thanks for the link.

      All the best,

      Bob

      Delete