The story

Bento Gonçalves

Bento Gonçalves

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A warrior for most of his life, Bento Gonçalves da Silva died in bed. Freemason and defender of liberal ideas, for which he fought during the almost ten years of the Farroupilha Revolution, saw, at the end of his effort, the victory of the central power. President of a republic, lived most of his life in an empire.

Bento Gonçalves da Silva was born in Triunfo in 1788, the son of Ensign. But soon he left his land. In 1812 he went to Serro Largo, in the Eastern Band (Uruguay), where he settled with a business house. Two years later he was married to Caetana Joana Francisca Garcia. Some versions claim that, in 1811, before settling in the Eastern Band, he participated in the pacifying army of D. Diego de Souza, who served in that region. This information, however, is discussed.

But if it was not in 1811, in 1818 it certainly began its military action, when it participated in the campaign of Uruguay (which would culminate in the formal annexation of that country to Brazil, in 1821, as Cisplatina Province). Gradually, due to his military skill, he rose from rank to colonel in 1828, when he was appointed commander of the Fourth Cavalry Regiment of 1st. line established in Jaguarão. He also held the post of commander of the border and the National Guard in that region.

He was probably already a Freemason at the time, as he reportedly organized several Masonic lodges in border towns. It is certain, however, that his political influence was already large, for the post of commander of the National Guard was an eminently political post.
In 1832 Bento was appointed to one of the most influential posts in the province, the commander of the National Guard of Rio Grande do Sul. This gave him a strategic position, which he knew how to use when the Farroupilha Revolution: under his command were all corps of the National Guard, a special force that had been created in 1832 and whose officers were always composed of elite members from each region.

This position of trust, however, did not prevent Benedict from continuing to support his Uruguayan friends. That is why, in 1833, he was denounced as disobedient and protector of the Uruguayan warlord Lavalleja, by the same man who had appointed him to the post of commander of the National Guard, Marshal Sebastião Barreto Pereira Pinto, commander of arms of the province.

Called to Rio de Janeiro to explain himself, Bento emerged victorious from the episode: he did not return to the province as a border commander, but got from the regent Father Feijó - who also defended liberal ideas - the appointment of the new provincial president, Antonio Rodrigues Fernandes Braga , the same man who would overthrow in 1835, when the Revolution began.

Back in Rio Grande, he continued to defend his liberal ideas as he moved away from Braga, denounced by the rags as arrogant and arbitrary. Elected to the first Legislative Assembly of the province, which was installed in April 1835, he was appointed, in the opening speech, as one of the deputies who planned a separatist coup, which intended to shut down Rio Grande from Brazil.

From that moment on, the political situation in the province deteriorated. Mutual accusations between liberals and conservatives were made by the newspapers, sessions of the Assembly were tumultuous. Meanwhile, Bento Gonçalves was articulating the coup that took place on September 19th.
On the 21st, Bento Gonçalves entered Porto Alegre. He remained in the city for a short time, leaving it to command the revolutionary troops operating in the province. He exercised this command until October 2, 1836, when he was arrested in combat on Fanfa Island (in Triunfo), along with other ragged leaders. He was then sent to the Santa Cruz prison and later to the Lage fortress in Rio de Janeiro, where he even attempted an escape, which he gave up because his cellmate, also the rag Pedro Boticário, was very fat, and could not get through the window. They then transferred him to the Forte do Mar in Salvador. Although imprisoned, his influence on the farroupilha movement continued, as he was elected president of the Rio Grande Republic on November 6, 1836.

But, in addition to the ragamuffin support, Bento had Freemasonry, of which he was part. This organization would facilitate his escape from prison in September 1837. Pretending to take a sea bath, Benedict began swimming in front of the fort until, taking advantage of a carelessness of his guards, he fled - swimming - toward a boat that was waiting for you.

In November he returned to Rio Grande, arriving in Piratini, the then farroupilha capital, in December, when he took office for which he had been elected. Immediately, he passed the presidency to his deputy, José Mariano de Mattos, in order to be able to command the farroupilha army.

From then on, his life would be fighting and campaigning, although he remained president. In 1843, however, he decided to resign, displeased with the divergences that were beginning to arise between the rags. He passed the presidency to José Gomes de Vasconcelos Jardim, and the command of the army to David Canabarro, assuming only one command of troops.

Divisions between the revolutionaries eventually resulted in an unpleasant episode. Reported that Onofre Pires, another ragged leader, was accusing him, even saying that he was a thief, Benedict challenged him to a duel in early 1844. Onofre Pires was injured, and died days later due to gangrene.

Although he began peace negotiations with Caxias in August 1844, Benedict would not conclude them. The mood of division between the rags continued, and he was cut off from negotiations by the group that opposed him. It then definitively detached itself from public life. He spent the next two years at his resort in Cristal and, already ill, went in 1847 to the house of José Gomes de Vasconcelos Jardim, where he died of pleurisy in July of that year.