Dom Pedro de Alcântara was Brazil's first emperor. He was born in 1798 as the son of Dom Joao VI, or John VI. This unschooled man was quite handsome and spoiled, yet still became the first leader of the largest South American country. He is also technically known as Peter IV, although he declined the position of King of Portugal in order to stay in Brazil.

Dom Pedro I was only a child when Napoleon Bonaparte's army conquered Portugal. He and his royal family left for Brazil. In 1821, when the royal family returned and Dom Joao, his father, took the throne of Portugal, Pedro stayed behind in Brazil as the regent. After the Brazilian independence from Portugal on September 7, 1822, Dom Pedro I was crowned emperor of Brazil. In 1823, he created a constitutional assembly, but it was dissolved in 1824. Instead, he drafted Brazil's first constitution himself. The constitution included phrases from the 1789 Declaration of Human Rights in France. Unfortunately, the constitution favored the crown to the English parliament rather than the French. It was now official: Brazil had just led a completely bloodless independence movement. However, the following years for Dom Pedro I and Brazil would be challenging.

In 1826, Britain makes a commitment for Brazil to end slavery in the country by 1830 (Of course, it is years before slavery is actually exterminated). At this time, slavery was an essential element of the Brazilian economy. Pedro was committed to human rights, especially in contrast with the social mentality at that time. Unfortunately, the humiliating war with Argentina in 1828 cost Dom Pedro I a lot of popularity as well as the Cisplatine Province, today known as Uruguay. There was also a small uprising in Brazil; rebels from the state of Permanbuco, called Permanbucans, declared independence, but most of the rebel leaders were executed.

Dom Pedro I was recognized as Peter IV of Portugal when his father, John VI died in 1826. He gave the throne to his daughter, Maria II, on the condition that she would marry her own uncle, Dom Miguel. Miguel eventually took supreme rule of Portugal while Dom Pedro remained in Brazil. Troubles in Portugal and Brazil led Dom Pedro to abdicate in 1831, leaving his five year old son, Dom Pedro II, as emperor. Continuing his loyalty to Portugal, he returned to Europe and helped organize an anti-Miguelist revolution with Maria. Their small fleet eventually defeated the Miguelist fleet, and Maria returned to the throne in 1834. Dom Pedro I died this same year, leaving his nine year old son in absolute control of Brazil.

He was a humble and modest man, dedicated to human rights. Unfortunately, his short monarchy reflects upon his relative lack of leadership and unsuccessful government plan. Still, he is a noteworthy figure of Brazilian history.

See also: Pedro II

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