At the beginning of the 18th century, the city of Ouro Preto became the new El Dorado. The gold rush fever invaded its citizens and no one wanted to continue to cultivate the land. A law, passed in 1715, prohibited the use of slaves in the sugar cane crops so this attracted people from all parts of the world that contributed to culturally enriching the city. Ouro Preto symbolizes, more than any other city in Brazil, the history of European colonialism in Latin America. During the second half of the 18th century, the city of Ouro Preto gave birth to a liberal and republican movement, Conjuración Mineira. The leader of this movement, a passionate man who defended human rights, was called Joaquim Jose da Silva Xavier, nicknamed Tiradentes or Sacamuelas.
Born in 1746, he worked in several different occupations. However it was his job as a dentist that gave him his name. And it was his capacity as a statesman that he be elected head of the conspiracy to fight against the powerful men and women of Our Presto. His leadership was also reflected in his:
- Insistence of proclaiming a modern and independent liberal state.
- Trust in Native Indians.
- Fearlessness of subversive action against the ruling power.
His inspiration came from:
- The North American model.
- Ideas of Freedom that traveled the world and would simultaneously appear in the French Revolution.
- His faith in the human right to live in freedom and be self-governing.
- His hatred of Portuguese colonial tyranny.
Those involved were careful not to leave any written proof that could later incriminate them. They discussed and debated the ideals they wanted to establish first as the Mineira Republic and later as the Brazilian Republic by joining provinces the provinces of Rio de Janeiro and Bahia. The following structure would be that of a Parliamentary Republic:
- A parliament in each city and a central parliament.
- There would be no official army. All citizens would have their own weapons and would serve when called upon.
- Priests would collect money to maintain schools, charity houses and hospitals.
- The creation of a university in Ouro Preto.
- Slaves would be free.
- Rewards to women who would bore children.
- Debts with the Portuguese government would be pardoned and royal monopolies would be abolished.
- Free trade with other nations.
- The creation of industries. Starting with Iron and gun powder.
"If we all wanted to, we could turn this country into a great nation. If we all wanted this, Brazil would belong to Brazil."
THE WAR OF LIBERATION
In an interview, in southern France, with Thomas Jefferson, the conspirators looked for support from North America for their war of liberation. The revolutionaries would pay gold for their troops, mercenaries, ships and weapons. They would also agree to a commercial treaty. However the Mineira Insurrection failed after several battles and the conspirators were put into jail, beaten and humiliated until they were tried for treason. Twelve people were sentenced to death and the rest were sent to exile and were beaten.
Proof of the treatment that was given to the conspirators was the sentence that was put upon Tiradentes:
"…to be dragged along the streets, tied and pulled and sentenced to death forever and after death, his head is to be cut off and hung from a the tallest point in a public area. His body will be divided in four fourths and nailed to posts until it decomposes. He, his children and grandchildren will have to give up all their money and their houses will be burned or buried in salt so nothing can ever grow there."
It was the year 1792. Thirty years would have to go by for Brazil to proclaim its independence from the Empire and from the Republic in 1889, which abolished slavery and adopted the progressive and humanitarian ideals of Tiradentes.