John VI of Portugal

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John VI of Portugal : biography

13 May 1767 – 10 March 1826

In governing, John always depended on strong auxiliaries. Prominent among these were Rodrigo de Sousa Coutinho, 1st Count of Linhares, António de Araújo e Azevedo, 1st Count of Barca, and Tomás Antônio de Vila Nova Portugal, who may be considered the mentors of many of John’s most important undertakings,Gomes, pp. 159-160 but according to John Luccock, a reliable observer of the era, "The prince regent has been various times accused of apathy; to me, he seemed to have greater sensitivity and strength of character than was generally attributed to him by both friends and opponents. He was placed in new circumstances by which he was tested, bowing before them with patience; if incited, he acted with vigor and promptness"."o príncipe regente tem sido várias vezes acusado de apatia; a mim, pareceu-me ele possuir maior sensibilidade e energia de caráter do que em geral tanto amigos como adversários costumam atribuir-lhe. Achava-se colocado dentro de circunstâncias novas e próprias para pô-lo à prova, curvando-se ante elas com paciência; se incitado, agia com vigor e presteza." Martins, pp. 28-34. Martins was probably quoting an English-language statement in Portuguese, so here this has probably been doubly translated. He also praised the character of the king, reaffirming his kindness and attention. Oliveira Lima, with his classic Dom João VI no Brasil (1908), was one of the major figures responsible for the beginning of John’s large-scale rehabilitation.Melissa de Mello e. Souza, Brasil e Estados Unidos: a nação imaginada nas obras de Oliveira Lima e Jackson Turner. Masters’ thesis in Social History of Culture. Rio de Janeiro: PUC-RJ, April 2003, pp. 47-57 He researched innumerable documents of the era without finding unfavorable descriptions of the king by Brazilians or by ambassadors and other diplomats accredited to the court. On the contrary, he found many accounts that painted him in favorable colors, such as the testimonies left by the British consul Henderson and the U.S. minister Sumter, who "greatly preferred to address himself directly to the monarch, always willing to do justice, than to confer with his minsters…. deeming him in this matter much more advanced than his courtiers"."preferiam muito dirigir-se diretamente ao monarca, sempre disposto a fazer justiça, a entender-se com seus ministros…. reputando-o em tal assunto muito mais adiantado do que os seus cortesãos". Martins, pp. 28-34. Diplomatic documents also confirm the breadth of his political vision, aiming to give Brazil an importance in the Americas comparable to the United States, adopting a discourse similar the U.S. doctrine of Manifest Destiny. He asserted his authority without violence, more in a persuasive and affable manner; his conduct of international affairs, although sometimes unsuccessful and somewhat given to imperialist ambitions, in many other ways was far-seeing and harmonious,as indicated by the many actions described above that improved the living conditions of the Brazilian colony.Martins, pp. 28-34

Nonetheless, the French general Jean-Andoche Junot described him as "a weak man, suspicious of everyone and everything, jealous of his authority but incapable of making it respected. He is dominated by the fathers [that is, priests] and can act only under the duress of fear", and several Brazilian historians such as Pandiá Calógeras, Tobias Monteiro and Luiz Norton draw him in comparably dark colors. Among the Portuguese, such as Oliveira Martins and Raul Brandão, he was invariably portrayed as a burlesque figure until the conservative resurgence of 1926, when he began to find defenders, such as Fortunato de Almeida, Alfredo Pimenta and Valentim Alexandre.Gomes, pp. 153-155Pedreira & Costa, pp. 21-29 It is also certain that many were disaffected with him, that he raised taxes and aggravated the debt, multiplied titles and hereditary privilege, that he could not allay the vast array of internal dissensions or eliminate entrenched administrative corruption, and that he left Brazil on the brink of bankruptcy when he emptied the treasury to return to Portugal.Martins, pp. 8-34