Slavery, Monarchy and Modern Brazil

Courtesy Reuters

BRAZIL differs from all the other countries of Latin America. The difference results mainly from the impact of slavery, which was conducive to the development of a patriarchal, aristocratic organization of society, marked by romantic excesses of individualism and a strong addiction to rhetoric. This force was moderated, however, by the influence of monarchy, a classic influence to which no other American nation was subjected. Let us see in detail how this combination of factors operated to form present-day Brazil.

It is now 20 years since I published in Portuguese an essay setting forth my theory that it was slavery--slavery of a patriarchal type--that more than any other social institution or social process had left a mark on Brazilian social development and on the character and culture of the Brazilian people. In 1941, a similar book appeared in the United States--W. J. Cash's "The Mind of the South."[i] This penetrating analysis of the influence of slavery on Southerners in the United States confirmed my analysis on a number of points as to the general psychological effects of an institution like slave labor upon descendants both of masters and of slaves. Though sociological effects have been somewhat different in the two areas due to a number of historical and ecological factors, the psychological effects have been almost the same. One of the factors of sociological differentiation has been the presence in Brazil of an institution that was at once complementary to patriarchal slavery and corrective of it: patriarchal monarchy of a type more classic than romantic.

Romanticism was one of the general psychological effects of the plantation and slavery system, and with it went the fondness for rhetoric already mentioned, which was common to Brazilians and to Anglo-Americans of the two areas of the New World where slavery flourished most vigorously. In the South of the United States, as Cash points out, rhetoric became "not only a passion" but "a primary standard of judgment, the sine qua non of leadership." So in Brazil. There,

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