Seeking Refuge under the Southern Cross: The Causes of Confederate Emigration to the Empire of Brazil

Roberto N. P. F. Saba


In the years following the American Civil War, the Empire of Brazil attracted between 4,000 and 20,000 Southerners who could not accept defeat. They saw the coming of racial warfare, social anarchy, and economic collapse as inevitable consequences of the demise of the antebellum Southern social structure. Moreover, they refused to accept what they styled “Yankee Rule” and “Negro Equality.” Strongly attached to a self-sufficient way of life based on aristocratic manners, extensive agriculture, antidemocratic politics, and the enslavement of human beings of African origin, the vast majority of Southern émigrés chose to move to a country where social inequality prevailed. Besides being the only independent Western nation to maintain slave-based staple agriculture after 1865, Brazil was full of fertile lands where Southern planters thought they could grow cotton, and was ruled by a slaveholding oligarchy which preserved many customs that resembled the traditions of the Old South. When moving to the Empire of Brazil, defeated Confederates claimed they were seeking independence. It was, however, a quite unique form of independence: one that presupposed that all people were not created equal and that the law was a privilege to protect men of property, especially those who owned other human beings.

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