José Bonifácio de Andrada e Silva (1763-1838) was a Brazilian-born statesman and natural scientist. He was prominent in scientific and governmental affairs in Portugal and later played an important part in Brazil's struggle for independence.
José Bonifácio de Andrada was born on June 13, 1763, in the Brazilian seaport of Santos. He attended secondary school in nearby São Paulo. At the age of 20 he entered the University of Coimbra in Portugal, where he obtained a degree in philosophy in 1787 and in law in 1788.
In 1790 the Portuguese government commissioned Andrada to make a scientific survey of several countries of Europe. This led him to study mining, mineralogy, and chemistry in Paris and mining in Saxony. The survey took 10 years and gained him a reputation as a natural scientist of note.
After his return to Portugal in 1800, Andrada was appointed general intendant of mines. He also began a teaching career at Coimbra and held technical, scientific, and administrative positions. From 1808 to 1810 he fought against the Napoleonic invasion, rising to the rank of lieutenant colonel and a command position. In 1819, after 36 years' absence from his native land, he returned to Brazil.
Brazil was in a state of political unrest. In 1807 the Portuguese monarch, Dom João VI, had fled before Napoleon's troops from Portugal to Brazil and had brought large numbers of Portuguese to govern the colony. In 1815 he elevated Brazil to the status of a kingdom, but dissension between native Brazilians and the Portuguese continued. Andrada arrived in Brazil at a time when Dom João was being pressured to return to Portugal, and Brazilians feared that the country's status as a kingdom would be lost. Dom João did return in 1821, and Andrada became an adviser and counselor to the prince regent, left behind. Andrada was instrumental in persuading the prince to declare the independence of Brazil and to assume the title of emperor as Dom Pedro I.
Andrada continued as an adviser to Dom Pedro, but his brothers, Martin Francisco and Antônio Carlos Andrada, who were deeply involved in politics, became too outspoken. In July 1823 the Emperor dismissed José Bonifácio from his position as counselor, and the three brothers joined the opposition in the constituent assembly. Pedro dissolved the assembly in November, and the Andrada brothers were exiled to France. In 1824 the Emperor decreed a constitution which was based on a document José Bonifácio and his brothers had formulated.
Andrada returned from exile in 1829 to find once more political unrest in Brazil, with native Brazilians opposing Portuguese-born Brazilians. The latter supported Dom Pedro I, but the strength of the opposition forced the abdication of the Emperor in 1831. He appointed Andrada as tutor to his son, the 5-year old emperor Dom Pedro II.
The Andrada brothers continued to be active in politics, although José Bonifácio, as tutor, was forced into the role of observer rather than participant. Opposition to him as tutor developed, and in 1833 he was suspended from his position and accused of conspiring and disturbing the public order; he was later acquitted. He died at Paquetá, an island near Rio de Janeiro, on April 6, 1838.
Although there are several biographies of Andrada in Portuguese, there is none in English. Histories of Brazil dealing with the period in which he lived are scarce. José Maria Bello, A History of Modern Brazil, 1889-1964 (1966), contains many references to Andrada's influence on Brazilian history. An older history, Mary Wilhelmine Williams, The People and Politics of Latin America (1930; rev. ed. by Ruhl J. Bartlett, 1945), refers to Andrada in brief sketches of Brazilian history.