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Sunday, August 11, 2013


So, I have said and wrote in the past about that fierce popular outcry when the French invaded us (3 times!) and it is all very well known historically. But what I have found out recently was that at the 1st French Invasion it was very different. It seems that in 1808 the orders were of peaceful surrender (by treaty between Portugal and France) and the population agreed to it (by force or not, we're about to see that) and when the Invaders returned in 1809 (after a slap on the wrist called the Cintra Convention) the Portuguese population threw all the diplomacy shown in the year before into the air and caused, what sometimes turned out to be, a blood bath. But here's more on what I want to say. Enjoy.

Taken from the book “O Tempo de Napoleão em Portugal – Estudos Históricos” (The Time of Napoleon in Portugal. Historical studies), António Pedro Vicente, Comissão Portuguesa de História Militar, 2ª edição, Lisboa 2000, pp119 – 131, 221 – 236, 269-317

Portugal's attitude facing the American and French Revolutions wasn't very different from the remaining Europe. Some accepted and embraced them, others didn't (but we must not forget that we're talking only about the intellectual and political side of the Portuguese Society). All of these new doctrines had an impact of the main reasoning of the 18th century and caught the attention of the Free Mason Society (very active and secretive in Portugal, still today). And leaflets of these new changes circulated the the streets (and probably in places like the Nicola as I have written before). Those in favor (Liberals, Constitutionalists and Republicans) used that to nourish their propaganda, while those against (the Enlightened Monarchies) strengthen their positions. We can divide this into several phases:

1) We cannot forget that Portugal was still living a strong governmental censorship, inherited by the Holy Inquisition and a somewhat disguised fashion of it (the Portuguese Inquisition lasted 3 centuries, and perhaps I could write a post about that in the future). The new American and French philosophical models found their way to the intellectual Portuguese society. The death of the French King shook every part of the European nation. A fear that it could be repeated made that many news papers were censored, like the Lisbon Gazette (Gazeta de Lisboa) and the Royal Commission on Censorship on Books (Real Mesa da Comissão sobre o Exame e Censura de livros) made it possible that many of the news from France wouldn't be printed. It is said (Pina Manique, the head of the still Portuguese Inquisition) that the bonds between Church and State should be straightened now and so, the Church becomes a relevant part in the molding of the populations mind. Not only does it show an open hand to the now religious refugees from France, but also takes a new anti-revolutionary position.

2) The alliance between Portugal and the United Kingdom is not well seen by the Spaniards who favor Napoleon (to understand this we have to go back in time and analyse the War of the Oranges), which weakens our political relations, even in the attempt of Neutrality. It is the alliance with Spain that allows the French to cross the Pyrenees and not much is done to stop the Napoleonic Expansion. The Portuguese King (then still Prince Regent) exiles to Brazil leaving behind that Peaceful Surrender.
Now, the State&Church and the Free Masons adopt a pro-revolutionary attitude to please the invaders and keep, in the words of the King, the population safe. The Prince-Regent's (future King) proclamation:
«(...) And wanting to avoid the dire consequences that might come from a defensive attitude that would, in turn, be more harmful then advantageous, with the only purpose of bloodshed in detriment of mankind, and being able to ascend to a disagreement of the troops that are now in this Kingdom with the promise of not commiting a slightest hostility: (...)» (Biblioteca da Academia de Ciências de Lisboa, “Legislação Portuguesa”, 1807-1808, nº 126)
The Lisbon's Patriarch, D. José Fransisco Miguel António de Mendonça said: «Don't be afraid my children, live safely in your houses and outside of them; remember that this army is from His Majesty and Emperor of France and Italy. Napoleon, the Great, that God has destined to protect the religion (!!!) and to bring happiness to the people: you know it, the whole world knows it. Trust with unchangeable safety in this prodigious man, unknown to many centuries: he will pour on us the hapiness of peace, if you respect his determinations, if you love all mutually, nationals and foreigners , with fraternal charity.» (in Luiz Soriano, “História da Guerra Civil”, 2ª época, tomo I, Lx 1870)
Same speeches were made all over the country, in Porto by the Bishop D, Frei António de S. José de Castro (elected President of the Government's Provisional Junta). A climate of submission with royal orders before the departure to Brazil. It wasn't received in a homogenous fashion, but in the major cities it was. It was later the change of the people that changed the clergymen to join the rebellious fights. Specially the Bishop of Porto (city occupied during the 2nd Invasion).

French at the Invasion, Roque Gameiro, "Quadros da História de Portugal", 1932

Sopa de Arroios (soup of Arroios), the town square form arroios with people running away from Massena and eating soup, Gregário fernades de Queiróz, 1913, from the original by Domingues Sequeira, 1810.

3) With the French capitulation, the poplars took justice to their ow hands. They would kill anything suspiciously French and even people in higher places would fill the prisons with what was called “Jacobites”(French or French looking, Pro-Revolutionaries, Jews, rich and powerful people, etc). There was even an uprising in September 1808 (more on that on a future post). Many of those prisoners ended up in the tower of S. Julião. Even the General Police Intendant (Steward?) Lucas Seabra da Silva (the one that replaced Pina Manique) wasn't able to control the situation. In the city of Porto nobody takes action against the population who wanted to get rid of the enemy and used any pretext to get to arms, saying that they were preparing for a new invasion. Only in October, Napoleon threatens with a new invasion.
In December, that same year,arrive the British reinforcements but the poplar rebellion had died out and with it the feeling of necessity to re-organize the Portuguese military. And again, Portugal faces the situation of being unprepared, like a couple of years before, before the 1st Invasion, before the British alliance, when Napoleon threatened to invade. Not even the call to arms made the soldiers return to their barracks. There was a feeling of excessive trust in the foreign helping forces. In March of 1809 Soult crosses the border.

The English at Cassilhas, caricature of the good life the British soldiers had in Portugal, author unknown.

4) The French occupation creates a fragile political, economical and social state and the Portuguese becomes hostile to the liberal ideals, since napoleon is the «cause of all disgraces». Hatred grows towards anything slightly “French”. Even the Free Masons, that have initially supported the new revolutionary ideals, keep their distance. The people that embraced the change were the ones that had more traveling experience and specially those who work abroad, like military and diplomats. Between 1808 and 1814 over a 1000 leaflets with French influence were printed and distributed in Portugal, but on the other hand if one is Anti-French, one is Anti-Napoleon and Anti-Revolution, so, Pro-Monarchy, right?
After the arrival of the Brits “Juntas” are created to organize the militia and the troops. In 1809 D. José da Costa Gomes said in Braga during the takeover of Porto, that all clergymen should take arms and even organize para-military operations. Leaflets supporting and forgiving the Church for their first attitudes in 1808 started to circulate in the streets. The “abandonment” of the Crown and good part of the armed forces, the downfall of the economy (Portugal was between a Continental and maritime blockade), the change of the Capital to Brazil and all the commercial advantages that meant, orders to comply with the French invaders, (heavy payments done to the French army), were the last drops that the Portuguese could handle.

Capitulation of the city of Porto (don't have the author right now, will post it later).


Jonathan Hopkins said...

Really good post, Sara. The political situation in Portugal during the war is often overlooked and this sort of information hard to find.

I look forward to more!

Sara Seydak said...

Thank you for your comment. Yes, in fact it is hard to find info on the subjcet, specially if you're not a national. But I have been lucky on them both. :) And to share my findings, writing them in English and to give an input on the background of the war is my ultimate goal. Even the military were born civilians.