May 3d, 1823 – Opening of the Constituent and Legislative Assembly

May 3d.–Early this morning the French naval captain, La Susse, called on me to take me in his boat to town, for the purpose of going to Senhor Luis Jose’s house in the Rua do Ouvidor, to see the Emperor go in state to the opening of the Constituent and Legislative Assembly. All the great officers of state, all the gentlemen of the household, most of the nobility, and several regiments accompanied him. Fiist marched the soldiers, then the carriages of the nobility and other persons having the entrée, nobody driving more than a pair, such being the express order of the Emperor, in order that the rich might not mortify the poor ;–then the royal carriages, containing the household, the ladies of honour, and the young Princess Dona Maria da Gloria ; the Emperor and Empress followed in a state-coach with eight mules The crown was on the front seat. The Emperor wore the great cape of state, of yellow feathers, over his green robes. The Empress, much wrapped up on account of a recent indisposition, was seated by him, and the procession was closed by more troops.

The carriages displayed to-day would form a curious collection for a museum in London or Paris. Some were the indescribable sort of caleche used here ; and in the middle of these was a very gay pea-green and silver chariot, evidently built in Europe, very light, with silver ornaments, silver fellies to the wheels, silver where any kind of metal could be used, and beautiful embossed silver plates on the harness of the mules. Many other gala carriages seemed as if they had been built in the age of Louis XIV. Such things ! mounted on horizontal leathern bands, and all other kind of savage hangings ; besides paint and gilding, and, by-the-bye, some very handsome silver and silver gilt harnesses. Then there were splendid liveries, and all manner of gaudiness, not without some taste.

The houses were hung with all the damask and satin of every colour that they could supply , and the balconies stored with ladies, whose bright eyes lain influence, dressed in gala dresses, with feathers and diamonds in profusion ; and as the royal carriages passed, we waved our handkerchiefs, and scattered flowers on their heads.

When the procession had passed, I found it was expected that we should await its return, which I was well pleased to do. My young friend Dona Carlota improves on acquaintance ; and as I begin to venture to speak Portuguese, I am becoming intimate with the elder part of the family. I was taken into the study, and for the first time saw a Brazilian private gentleman’s library. As he is a judge, of course the greater part is law ; but there are history and general literature, chiefly French, and some English books. I was introduced to several Portuguese authors ; and Don Caliota, who reads remarkably well, did me the favour to read some of Diniz’s fine verses to me, and to lend me his works. We then returned to our station at the window, and saw the procession return in the order in which it came, when our pleasant party dispersed.

Yesterday, the assembly having finished its preliminary sittings, sent a deputation, headed by Jose Bonifacio, to His Imperial Majesty, to entreat that he would honour the assembly with his presence at their first sitting as a legislative body, and he was pleased to name half past eleven o’clock to-day for that purpose. [i]

This morning, therefore, the people of Rio de Janeiro had strewed the way with evergreens, sweet herbs, and flowers, from the bridge without the town by the street of St. Peter’s, the Campo de Santa Anna, now Praca da Acclamacao, the Theatre Square, and the streets Do Ouvidor and Direita to the palace ; troops lined the whole space ; the houses were decorated, and the bands of the different regiments relieved each other as their Imperial Majesties passed. I observe the Brazilians never say the Emperor, but our Emperor, our Empress ; and seldom name either, without some epithet of affection.

In the House of Assembly, a throne had been prepared for the Emperor, and on his right hand a tribune for the Empiess, the Princess, and their ladies. As soon as it was known that the Imperial party had arrived, a deputation from the assembly went to the door of the house to meet them, and conducted the Emperor, with his crown [ii] on his head, to the throne ; the Empress, Princess, and ladies, being at the same time placed in the tribune.

The Emperor having deposited the crown and sceptre with the proper officer, and received the oaths of several of the deputies, spoke as follows ; and it was remarked, that so far from the speech having the air of a thing read from a paper or studied, that it was spoken as freely as if it was the spontaneous effusion of the moment, and excited a feeling as free in his favour.

“This is the greatest day that Brazil has ever seen ; a day on which, for the first time, it may show that it is an empire, and a free empire. How great is my delight, to behold real representatives from almost every one of its provinces, consulting together on its true interests, and on these founding a just and liberal constitution to govern them ! We ought long since to have enjoyed a national representation. But either the nation did not in time perceive its real interests, or, perceiving them, was unable to declare them, on account of the forces and ascendancy of the Portuguese party ; which, perceiving clearly to what a degree of weakness,littleness, and poverty, Portugal was reduced, and to how low a state it had fallen, would never consent (notwithstanding their proclamation of liberty, fearing a separation,) that the people of Brazil should enjoy a representation equal to what they themselves then possessed. They had miscalculated then plans for conquest, and from that miscalculation arises our good fortune.

“Brazil, which for upwards of three hundred years had borne the degrading name of a colony, and had suffered all the evils arising from the destructive system then pursued, exulted with pleasure when my Lord Don John VI., King of Portugal and Algarve, my august father, raised it to the dignity of a kingdom, by his decree of the 16th of December, 1815 ; but Portugal burned with rage, and trembled with fear. The delight which the inhabitants of this vast continent displayed on the occasion was unbounded ; but the politic measure was not followed up, as it ought to have been, by another, that is, by the convocation of an assembly to organise the new kingdom.

“Brazil, always frank in her mode of proceeding, and mortified at having borne the yoke of iron so long, both before and after that measure echoed the cry for the constitution of Portugal, immediately on the proclamation of liberty in Portugal ; expecting that after this proof of confidence given to her pseudo brethren, they would assist her to deliver herself from the vipers that were consuming her entrails, and little thinking she should be deceived.

“The Brazilians, who truly loved their country, never intended, however, to subject themselves to a constitution in which all had not a voice, and whose views were to convect them at once from free men into vile slaves. Nevertheless, the obstacles which, before the 26th April, 1821, opposed the liberties of Brazil, and which continued to exist, being maintained by the European troops, caused the people, fearing that they should never enjoy a representative assembly of their own, even for the very love of liberty, to follow the infamous Coates of Portugal, and they even made the sacrifice of submitting to be insulted by the demagogue party which predominated in this hemisphere.

“Even this availed not. We were so oppressed by the European forces, that I was obliged to send them to the opposite shore of the Rio ; to blockade them , to force them to embark and pass the bar, in order to save the honour of Brazil, and to procure that liberty which we desire and ought to enjoy : but in vain shall we labour to procure it, if we permit to exist among us a party inimical to our true cause.

“Scarcely were we well free from these enemies, when in a few days arrived another expedition, which Lisbon had sent for our protection ; but I took upon myself to protect this empire, and I refused to receive it. Pernambuco did the same. And Bahia, which was the first place to unite with Portugal, as a reward for her good faith, and because she perceived too late the track she ought to have followed, now suffers under a cruel war for those Vandals; and her chief city, occupied only by them, is on the point of being rased, for they cannot maintain themselves there.

“Such is the freedom Portugal sought to bestow on Brazil : it was to be converted into slavery for us ; and would have ruined us totally if we had continued to execute her commands ; which we must have done, but , for the heroic remonstrances conveyed by petitions, first from the junta of government of St Paul’s, then from the camara of this capital, and afterwards from all the other juntas of government and camaras, imploring me to remain here. It appeared to me that Brazil would be ruined, if I did not attend to the petitions ; and I did attend to them. I know that this was my duty, though at the risk of my life ; but as it was in defence of this empire, it was ready, as it is now, and ever, when it shall be requisite.

“I had scarcely pronounced the words, As it is for the good of all, and the general happiness of the nation, tell the people that I remain, recommending to them at the same time union and tranquillity, when I began to take measures to put ourselves in a state to meet the attacks of our enemies, then concealed, since unmasked; one part among ourselves, the rest in the Portuguese democratic Cortes , providing for all the departments, especially those of the treasury and foreign affairs, by such means as prudence dictated, and which I shall not mention here, because they will be laid before you in propel time by the different officers of state.

“The public treasury was in the very worst state, as the receipts had been much reduced ; and, principally, because till within four or five months they had been solely those of this province. On this account it was not possible to raise money for all that was necessary, as we had already too little to pay the public creditors, or those employed in effective service, and to maintain my household, which cost one-fourth of that of the King, my august father. His disbursements exceeded four millions ; mine did not amount to one. But although the diminution was so considerable, I could not be satisfied when I found that my expenses were so disproportioned to the reduced receipts of the treasury ; and therefore I resolved to live as a private man, receiving only 110,000 milrees for the whole expenses of my household, excepting the allowance of the Empress, my much-beloved and valued wife, which was assigned to her by her marriage contract.

“Not satisfied with these small savings in my household with which I commenced, I examined into every department, as was my duty, in order to regulate its expenditure, and to check its abuses. Yet, still the revenue did not suffice ; but by changing some individuals not well affected to the cause of the empire, but only to that of the infamous Portuguese party, and who were continually betraying us, for others who loved Brazil with all their hearts,—some from birth. and principle, others from the intimate conviction that the cause is that of reason,—I have caused, and I say it with pride, the bank, which was on the point of losing its credit, and threatened bankruptcy every moment, as on the day of the departure of my august father, Don John VI., there only remained the sum of two hundred contos in money,—to discount its bills, to re-establish its credit so completely, that no one can imagine that it can ever fall again into the wretched state to which it had been reduced. The public treasury, which, on account of the extraordinary expenses which should have been borne in common by all the provinces, but which fell solely upon this, was totally exhausted, and without credit, has gained such credit, that it is already known in Europe ; and so much cash, that the greater part of the creditors, and they were not few, or for trifling sums, have been so far satisfied, as that their houses have not suffered ; that the public servants have no arrears due any more than the military on actual service ; that the other provinces that have adhered to the holy cause,– not by force, but from conviction, for I love just liberty,– have been furnished for their defence with warlike stores, great part of which are newly purchased, besides those already in the arsenals ; and, moreover, they have been assisted with money, because their funds did not cover their necessary expenses.

“In a word, the province now yields from eleven to twelve millions ; its produce, before the departure of my august father, having been at most from six to seven.

“Among the extraordinary expenses are, the freights of the ships on board of which the different expeditions sent back to Lisbon were embarked ; the purchase of several vessels ; the repair of others ; pay to civil and military officers who has e anived here on service, and to those expelled from the provinces for their private sufferings in the tumults there raised.

“The expenditure has certainly been great : but hitherto, nevertheless, there remain untouched, the gratuitous contributions ; the sequestrated property of the absentees on account of political opinions ; the loan of 400,000 milrees for the purchase of ships of war indispensably necessary for the defence of the empire, and which exists entire ; and the exchequer of the administration of diamonds.

“In every department there was an urgent necessity for reform ; but in this of finance still more, because it is the chief spring of the state.

“The army had neither arms, men, nor discipline : with regard to arms, it is now perfectly ready ; the men me increasing daily in proportion to the population ; and in discipline it will soon be perfect, being already in obedience exemplary. I have twice sent assistance to Bahia : first 240 men, then 735, forming a battalion called the Emperor’s Battalion ; which in eight days was chosen, prepared, and sailed.

“Besides these, a foreign regiment has been raised, and a battalion of artillery of freed men, which will shortly be completed.

“In the military arsenal they have wrought diligently to prepare every thing necessary for the defence of the different provinces ; and all, from Paraiba of the North to Montevideo, have received the assistance they have requested.

“The walls of the fortifications of this city were totally ruined : they are now repaired ; and important works necessary in the arsenal itself have been finished.

“As to military works, the walls of all the foi tresses have been repaired, and some entirely new-constructed. These are formed in the different points fittest to oppose any enemy’s force approaching by sea ; and in the defiles of the hills, to oppose the approach of an enemy already landed, (which would not be easy,) entrenchments, forts, redoubts, abatis, and batteries. The barracks of the Carioca are built, and the other barracks are prepared. That in the Praça da Acclamacao is almost finished, and that ordered for the grenadiers will shortly be so.

“The fleet consisted only of the frigate Piranga, then called the Union, not fitted ; the corvette Liberal, only a hull ; and of a few other small and insignificant vessels. Now we have the ship of the line, Pedro Primeiro ; the frigates Piranga, Carolina, and Netherohy ; the corvettes Maria da Gloria and Liberal, ready ; a corvette, in Alagoas, which will soon be ready, named the Massaió : of the brigs of war, Guarani ready, and the Cacique and Caboclo under repair ; besides several ships n ordinary, and various schooners.

“I expect six frigates of fifty guns, manned and armed, and completely formed for action, for the purchase of which I have already given orders ; and according to the information I have received, they will not cost above thirteen contos of rees.

“In the dock-yard, the works are the following :–all the ships now actually employed have been repaired ; gun-boats, and others of small size, which I need not name, have been built ; and many others, which, altogether, are numerous and important.

“I intend this year, in the same place, where for thirteen years back nothing has been done but caulking, rigging, and careening vessels,–swallowing immense sums, which might have been more usefully employed for the nation,—to lay down the keel of a forty-gun frigate , which, if the calculation I have made, the orders I have given, and the measures I have taken do not fail, I hope will be finished this year, or in the middle of the next, and will be called the Campista.

“As to public works, much has been done. The police office in the Praca da Acclamacao has been re-built : that large square has been drained of the marsh water, and has become an agreeable walk, with paved paths on all sides, and others across, and we are still continuing to embellish it. The greater part of the aqueduct of Carioca and Maracannao, have been repaired; besides the numerous bridges of wood and stone which have been renewed, several new ones have been made, and a great extent of roads has been mended.

“Besides what I have mentioned, and much more which I have not touched on, the funds for these works, which in April, 1821, owed 60 contos of rees, now is not only out of debt, but possesses
upwards of 600,000 crusadoes.

“In different departments we have made the following progress. We have greatly increased the national typography ; the public gardens have been put in older ; the museum repaired, and enriched with minerals and a gallery of good pictures,— some of which were purchased, some were already in the public treasury, and others were my private property, which I have ordered to be placed there.

“Every exertion has been made on the Caes da Praca de Commercio, so that it is nearly finished ; the streets of the city have been new-paved , and in a very short time this house for the assembly, with all the rest adjoining, were properly fitted for their purpose.

“Many works which are of less importance have been undertaken, begun, and finished ; but I omit them, that I may not render my speech too long.

“I have encouraged the public schools, as far as I could ; but this will demand some peculiar provision of the legislature. What has been done is this :– In order to augment the public library I have bought a large collection of choice books ; I have augmented the number of schools, and increased the salary of some of the masters, besides licensing innumerable private schools ; and, aware of the benefits of the method of mutual instruction, I have opened a Lancasterian school.

“I found the college of San Joaquim, which had been designed by its founders for the education of youth, employed as the hospital of the European troops. I caused it to be opened anew, for the purposes originally intended ; and having granted to the Casa de Misericordia, and the foundling hospital, of which I will speak farther, a lottery for the better maintenance of those useful institutions, I assigned a certain portion of the said lottery to the college of San Joaquim, that it might the better answer the useful end which its worthy founders had in view. It is now full of students.

“The first time I visited the foundling hospital, I found (and it seems incredible) seven infants with only two wet-nurses ; no beds, no clothing : I called for the register, and found that in the last thirteen years nearly 12,000 children had been received, but scarcely 1000 were forthcoming, the Misericordia not knowing in fact what had become of them. Then by granting the lottery, a house proper for the establishment was built, where there are upwards of thirty beds, almost as many nurses as children, and on the whole, much better management. All these things of which I have now spoken merit your particular attention.—After this province was settled, and important provisions made for the rest, I felt it necessary to call together a council of state ; and, therefore, by the degree of the 16th of February of last year, I convoked one, composed of procurators-general, chosen by the people, being desirous that they should have some persons near me to represent them, and who might at the same time advise me, and demand such things as should be conducive to the good of each of the respective provinces. Nor was this the only end and motive for which I called such a council together : I wished particularly that the Brazilians might know my constitutional feelings. How I delighted to govern to the satisfaction of the people, and how much my paternal heart desired (though at that time secretly, because circumstances did not then permit me to manifest such wishes,) that this loyal, grateful, brave; and heroic nation, should be represented in a general constituent and legislative assembly ; which, thank God, has been brought about in consequence of the degree of the 3d of June of the last year, at the request of the people conveyed through their camaras, their procurators, and my counsellors of state !

“It has been very painful to me that, till now, Brazil should not have enjoyed a national representation, and to be forced by circumstances to take upon myself to legislate on some points : but my measures cannot appear to have arisen from ambition to legislate, arrogating to myself the whole power, of which I only could claim a part -for they were taken to save Brazil,– because when some of them were adopted the assembly had not been convoked, and when others were necessary it had not yet met ; therefore, as Brazil was totally independent of Portugal, the three powers then existed in fact and by right in the person of the supreme chief of the nation, and much the more as he was its perpetual defender.

“It is true that some measures appeared extremely strong ; but as the peril was imminent, and the enemies who surrounded us were innumerable (and would to God they were not even now so many), it was necessary they should be proportionate.

“I have not spared myself; nor will I ever spare toil, however great, if from it the smallest portion of happiness can be derived to the nation.

“When the people of the rich and majestic province of Minas were suffering under the iron yoke of their mistaken governors, who disposed of it as they pleased, and obliged the pacific and gentle inhabitants to disobey me, I marched thither, only attended by my servants : I convicted the government and its creatures of the crime they had committed, and of the error in which they seemed desirous of persisting ; I pardoned them, because the crime was more an offence against me, than against the nation, as we were then united to Portugal.

“When a party of Portuguese and degenerate Brazilians attached to the Cortes of miserable, worn-out Portugal, arose among the brave people of the beautiful and delightful province of St. Paul’s, I instantly repaired thither, and entered the province fearlessly, because I knew the people loved me. I took the measures that appeared to me to be necessary , and there, before any other place, our independence was declared, in the ever-memorable plain of Piranga.

“It was at the country seat of the most faithful, and never-enough praised Amador Bueno de Rebeira, that I was first proclaimed Emperor.

“My soul itself was grieved that I could not go to Bahia, as I had intended, but which I did not do on the remonstrance of my privy council, to mingle my blood with that of those warriors who have so bravely fought for their country.

“At all hazards, at that of life itself, if necessary, I will maintain the title that the people of this rich and vast empire honoured me with on the 13th of May, of the past year — PERPETUAL DEFENDER OF BRAZIL. That title engaged my heart more, than all the splendour I acquired by their spontaneous and unanimous acclamation of me as Emperor of this desirable empire.

“Thanks be to Providence, that we now see the nation represented by such worthy deputies ! Would to God it could have been so earlier ! But the circumstances preceding the decree of the 3d of June did not permit it ; and since that time, the great distance, the want of public spirit in some, and the inconveniences of long journeys, especially in a country so new and extensive as Brazil, have retarded this much-wished and necessary meeting, notwithstanding all my repeated recommendations of speed.

“At length the great day for this vast empire has arisen, which will be the grand epocha of its history. The assembly is met to constitute the nation : what joy — what happiness for us all !

“As Constitutional Emperor, and most especially as Perpetual defender of this vast empire, I told the people on the 1st of December, the day when I was crowned and anointed, ’That with my sword I would defend the country, the nation, and the constitution, if it were worthy of Brazil and of me.’ I this day, in your presence, most solemnly ratify this promise, and I trust you will assist me in fulfilling it, by framing a wise, just, and practicable constitution, dictated by reason, not caprice ; and having solely in view the general happiness, which can never be great if the constitution be not founded on solid grounds, grounds which the wisdom of ages has shown to be just, in older to give true liberty to the people, and sufficient strength to the executive power. A constitution in which the limits of the three powers shall be well defined, that they may never arrogate rights not their own ; but shall be so organised and harmonised, that it shall be impossible for them, even in the lapse of time, to become inimical to each other, but shall every day jointly contribute to the general happiness of the state. In short, a constitution which shall oppose insuperable barriers to despotism, whether royal, aristocratic, or democratic ; defeat anarchy ; and plant that tree of liberty under whose shadow the honour, tranquillity, and independence of this empire, which will become the admiration of the Old and New World, must grow.

“All the constitutions which have modelled themselves upon those of 1791 and 1792, have been shown by experience to be entirely theoretical and metaphysical, and therefore impracticable. Witness those of France, Spain, and Portugal : they have not, as they ought, produced public happiness ; but after a licentious freedom, we see that in some countries there has already taken place, and in others there is on the point of doing so, a despotism of one, after that of many ; and, by a necessary consequence, the people are reduced to the wretched state of registering and suffering all the horrors of anarchy.

“But far from us be such melancholy reflections : they darken the joy and exultation of this happy day. You are not ignorant of them ; and I am sure, that firmness in those true constitutional views, which have been sanctioned by experience, will characterise every one of the deputies who compose this illustrious assembly. I trust, that the constitution which you will frame will merit my Imperial assent ; that it will be as wise and just as suited to the local situation and to the civilisation of the Brazilian people : also that it may be praised among the nations, so that even our enemies may imitate the sanctity and wisdom of its principles, and at length practise them.

“So illustrious and patriotic an assembly will have in view no object but to cause the empire to prosper, and to fill it with happiness : it will wish its Emperor to be respected, not only at home but among foreign nations ; and that its Perpetual Defender should exactly fulfil his promise of the first of last December, solemnly ratified to-day, in the presence of the nation legally represented.”

When the Emperor had done speaking, the bishop of the diocese, acting as president of the assembly, made a short answer of thanks, praise, and promise ; after which, the whole of the members, the spectators in the galleries, and the people without doors, cheered His Imperial Majesty enthusiastically, and the procession returned to San Cristovao in the order in which it came.

The theatre of course concluded the ceremonies of the day ; and my friend, Madame do Rio Seco, having kindly offered me a seat in her box, I went thither, for the first time since my return to Brazil. She was in high spirits, because that day the Emperor had conferred on her husband the order of the Cruzeiro ; and therefore she went really in grand gala to the opera. Her diamonds worn that night may be valued at 150,000l. sterling, and many splendid jewels remained behind in the strong box. For my part, I had gone to town in my morning dress ; therefore I sent to a milliner’s, and bought such a plain crape head-dress as the customs of the place warrant, in deep mourning ; and wrapping myself in my shawl, accompanied my magnificent friend. The house appeared very splendid, being illuminated and dressed, and the ladies one and all in diamonds and feathers. Some decorations have been added since last year, and an allegorical drop-scene has been painted The Empress did not come, on account of her recent illness ; but the Emperor was there, looking pale, and a little fatigued. He was received with rapturous applause. The members of the assembly were seated one-half on his right, and one-half on his left, in boxes handsomely fitted up for them ; and as soon as they had all taken their places, a poem on the occasion was recited by the Prima Donna, in which there were some good points, which called forth great applause. I think it is Gresset who, in one of his odes Au Roi, says,

“Le cri d’un people heureux est la setae eloquence
Qui suit parley des rois,”

And indeed this night that eloquence was powerful. I cannot conceive a situation more full of interest to both prince and people.

There was nothing in the principal piece played to-night, for it was a clumsy translation of Lodoiska, without the songs. But the after-piece excited much emotion : it was called “ The Discovery of Brazil.“ Cabral and his officers were represented as just landed : they had discovered the natives of the country ; and, according to the custom of the Portuguese discoverers, they had set up their white flag, with the red holy cross upon it, whence they had first named the land. At the foot of this emblem they kneeled in worship, and endeavoured to induce the wild Brazilians to join them in their sacred rites. These, on their part, tried to persuade Cabral to reverence the heavenly bodies, and dissension seemed about to trouble the union of the new friends, when by a clumsy enough machine, a little genius came down from above, and leaping from its car, displayed the new Imperial standard, inscribed Independencia o Morte. This was totally unexpected in the house, which, for an instant, seemed electrified into silence. I believe I clapped my hands first, but the burst of feeling that came from every part of the house was long ere a subsided. Now I know nothing so overpowering, as that sort of unanimous expression of deep interest, from any large body of men. It overset me ; and when I ought to have been wasting my handkerchief decorously from the great chamberlain’s box, I was hiding my face with it, and weeping heartily. Mien the house was quiet again, I looked at Don Pedro : he had become very pale, and had drawn a chair close to his own ; on the back of which he leaned, and was very grave to the end of the piece, having his hand before his eyes for some time ; and, indeed, his quick feelings could not have escaped what affected even strangers.

At the close of the piece there were loud cries of “ Viva la Patria !” “Viva o Emperador!” “Viva a Emperatriz!” “Vivao os Deputados!” all originating in the body of the house ; when Martim Francisco de Andrada stepped to the front of one of the boxes of the Deputies, and cried “Viva o povo leal e fiel do Rio de Janiero !” a cry that was extremely well seconded, especially by the Emperor, and kindly taken by the people ; and so this important day ended.


i. Various ordinances of the 3d and 19th June and the 3d of August, 1822, and of the 20th and 22d February, 1823, had been published for the assembling or regulating the election of deputies from the provinces of Brazil, to form a constituent assembly, Early in April, 1823, the greater number of those who could be collected in the present state of the country had arrived in the capital. On the 14th of that month, the Emperor fixed their first meeting for the 17th. Accordingly on the 17th of April, 1823, the deputies, in number 52, entered their house of assembly at nine o’clock in the morning, and proceeded to elect a temporary president and secretary, when the Right Reverend Don Jose Caetano da Silva Coutinho, bishop and grand chaplain, was elected president, and Manoel Jose de Sousa Franca secretary.The first act was to name two committees ; one of five members, to bold a scrutiny on
the election of the deputies generally; and the other of three, to examine those of the five.
This necessary business, and some consequent discussion, occupied the whole of the first
and greater part of the second session ; towards the end of the latter, the form of the oath
to be administered to the members, was decided :

“I swear to fulfil, faithfully and truly, the obligations of deputy to the General Constituent and Legislative Assembly of Brazil, convoked in order to frame a political constitution for the empire of Brazil, and to make indispensable and urgent reforms. Maintaining always the Roman Catholic and Apostolic religion, and the integrity and independence of the empire ; without admitting any other nation whatever to any bond of union or federation which might oppose that independence. Maintaining also the constitutional empire, and the dynasty of the Lord Don Peter, our first Emperor, and his issue.”

The third session was occupied in regulating the forms of the assembly. The throne to be placed at one end of the hall; on the first step on the right-hand side, the President shall have his chair when the Emperor presides, otherwise the chair to be in front of the throne, with a small table, separate from the table of the members, and on it the Gospel, a copy of the constitution, and a list of the members. When the Emperor opens the assembly, his great officers may accompany him, and the ministers may sit on his right; proper places are appointed for ambassadors, and a gallery is open to strangers. Some other forms as to the reception of the Emperor, or a regent, or a minister commissioned by him, were also settled ; and then the 1st of May was fixed on for the whole body of the members to go to the chapel royal, and after hearing the mass of the Holy Ghost, to take their oaths. The 2d was appointed for a deputation to wait on the Emperor, and inform him that they were ready to proceed on the 3d, and with his assistance to open the important business on which they had met.

ii. The crown is of a purple velvet, enriched with diamonds. There was some mistake
or misunderstanding about the fact of wearing the crown at the opening of the assembly.
As the crown is only a ceremonial badge of dignity, it should have been worn during the
ceremony ; but owing to the mistake alluded to, it was not.


Maria Graham’s Journal of a Voyage to Brazil