The Sacred Cause
The Abolitionist Movement, Afro-Brazilian Mobilization, and Imperial Politics in Rio de Janeiro
Jeffrey D. Needell


Contents and Abstracts
Introduction: Another Political World
chapter abstract

The Introduction lays out the past and recent historiography to explain the necessity for this book, emphasizing its focus on parliamentary history (poorly understood and generally ignored over the past fifty years), Afro-Brazilian mobilization (here restored to its primacy in the origins and constitution of the movement), and Rio de Janeiro (cockpit of imperial politics). It also emphasizes the importance of understanding the movement's history chronologically, as something born of the interactions between itself and parliament, the monarch, and the Afro-Brazilian middle class and masses in Rio over time. Finally, it provides a brief account of the contents of each chapter.

1 The Land of the Dead: The Imperial Capital, 1822-1871
chapter abstract

This chapter provides the urban context and describes the socioeconomic and political milieu of the movement. Its major points include the prospects for Afro-Brazilian political mobilization, reviewing the latter up through 1871 and taking into account religious brotherhoods, urban festivals and culture, and mutual aid and labor organizations. It also reviews Afro-Brazilian divisions and creolization, with the end of the African trade, the ebb of African ethnicities, and the potential of religious synthesis. It concludes with an overview of the imperial political structure, highlighting the emperor's increasing impact on cabinets and policy, and particularly the divisive Conservative passage of the gradualist abolitionist law of 1871 and the debate's significance in terms of state-elite relations and slavery's prospects.

2 The Alliance with the Future: The Movement Emerges, 1872<->1881
chapter abstract

This chapter analyzes the movement's origins and takes the narrative up to the 1881 electoral defeat. It reviews the 1871 law's failure and the slaveholders' assessments, with the Conservative recovery and fall, and explains the Liberals' ascent and their perennial divisions over policy (with the supremacy of the moderate wing). It then explains the Liberal reformists' position, the significance of their urban base and its perspective, the importance of the Vintém Revolt of 1880, and the reformists' decision to emphasize gradualist abolition. It analyzes the movement's parliamentary origins, the initial leadership in and out of parliament, the activists mobilizing the Afro-Brazilian masses, and Abolitionist parliamentary marginalization. It discusses public mobilization, with an emphasis on press support, initial public organization, and the critical role of middle-class and mass Afro-Brazilian identification and solidarity with the slaves. In concludes with the movement's electoral defeat in 1881 and Nabuco's self-exile.

3 Retreat, Renewal, and the "New Phase," 1882-1883
chapter abstract

This chapter explains the emperor's role and the parties' plight, the movement's difficulties, new successes, radicalization, and national reorganization. It begins with parliament's shift to the right in 1882-1883. It goes through the reformists' response and the emperor's continued support for Liberal gradualist reform, given the problems with Conservative leadership and his new decision to address the issue of abolition, making the reform of slavery the price of power for either party. It recounts the movement's 1882 problems, with its leaders' divisions and departures from Rio, emphasizing Patrocínio's impact and how the extraparliamentary wing flourished and spread in Rio and elsewhere, with growing urban mass participation and the December 1882 demonstration in Rio. It concludes with the radical "New Phase" in early 1883, with Patrocínio's and Rebouças's return to Rio, Nabuco's emphasis on immediate abolition without indemnification, the foundation of a national organization, and Rebouças's key organizational and propaganda role.

4 The Field of Agramante: The Liberals Attempt Reform, 1884-1885
chapter abstract

This chapter addresses the emperor's attempted containment of Abolitionism. It begins with Ceará's liberation, Nabuco's return, the movement's renewed unity, and the emperor's response, appointing the reformist Dantas as prime minister. Dantas reached out to the Abolitionists with recognition and a gradualist reform, and in return the Abolitionists allied with him in the hope of further support. The consequent, critical role of Afro-Brazilian mass support for this alliance and its impact on the political establishment is emphasized. The chapter describes the reactionary response that followed, allying Liberal dissidents and Conservatives against the cabinet; the Conservatives' support for a "tranquilizing reform" of their own ; the dissolution of the Chamber; new, destabilizing elections and the "no confidence" vote of the reactionary alliance; Dantas's replacement by Saraiva and Saraiva's alliance with the Conservatives; the passage of the "tranquilizing reform," and Saraiva's resignation and the emperor's reluctant appointment of the Conservative leader Cotegipe.

5 The Fate of the Black Race: Radicalization and Its Containment, 1885-1888
chapter abstract

This chapter analyzes the radicalization of the cabinet and Abolitionist positions, the Abolitionists' triumph, and why the crown changed cabinets. Cotegipe began with repression of the Abolitionists and by weakening the 1885 law. The latter responded radically, combining urban demonstrations and press and parliamentary attacks on crown and cabinet with dramatic moves to destabilize rural slave labor by means of underground railroads, organized mass flights from plantations, and urban fugitive settlements. Between 1886 and 1887, the cabinet lost credibility, with parliamentary opposition, a reform that ended slave flogging, the emperor's illness and medical leave, the military's opposition and threats, Nabuco's triumphant reelection, and finally, Conservative parliamentary mutiny, calling for quicker phased program of abolition with indemnification. In early 1888 the princess regent compelled Cotegipe's resignation and appointed the reformist Conservative João Alfredo. The chapter concludes with an assessment of Abolitionist successes and the central role of Afro-Brazilian mobilization.

6 Sacred Abolition: The Triumph, 1888
chapter abstract

This chapter analyzes the new cabinet's position as well as the critical role of the Abolitionist leadership and provides a narrative of the legislation's passage and its immediate aftermath. It begins with João Alfredo's position and assessment of the situation, together with his cabinet appointments and parliamentary strategy, focusing on the reactionary threat. It goes on to emphasize the critical role of private relations with Rebouças and public Abolitionist support, the conflict between Abolitionist demands and Conservative emphasis on gradualism and indemnification, and Rebouças's discreet legislative lobbying. It shows in detail how and why rural slavery's collapse in São Paulo spread and what was its impact, how Rebouças's position on abolition triumphed within the cabinet, and how Liberal and Abolitionist support for the cabinet solidified, and then concludes with an analytic narrative of the passage of the 13 May law abolishing slavery together with the immediate response of the Abolitionists.

7 Legacies and Oblivion
chapter abstract

This chapter analyzes the constitutional issues raised by the law, its impact, the monarchy's fall, race relations after that fall, and the fate of key Abolitionist leaders. It examines the law in the context of constitutional history, ranging from the emperor's role to the monarchy's transformation and the consequences for either the parties' collapse or institutional and national transformation. It explains the divisions among the Conservatives, how the Abolitionists' further reforms were forestalled, and why João Alfredo fell, to be followed by an incompetent Liberal cabinet and the 1889 coup that ended the monarchy and set up an oligarchical republic. It pursues the issue of the movement's Afro-Brazilian solidarity and its apparent failure to affect Brazilian racism under the republic. It concludes with an account of the key Abolitionist leaders' fates and posterity's assessment, with its obscurity and its relationship to the detail of the movement's complicated, interwoven history.