The Portuguese people loved the sea. They, along with the Spanish, were the adventurers who set out across the Atlantic, discovering and exploring the New World. Those two countries wisely came to an agreement on how they would avoid stepping on each other's toes in the process. Spain claimed as its domain everything west of a vertical line, determined with the help of the pope. That gave them most of North America, Central America, and South America. Portugal took everything east of the imaginary line, which gave them access to Africa and a number of islands. They had already done quite a bit of exploring along the African coast, and they found it quite profitable, so they saw no reason to sail off across the Atlantic on missions that were much more uncertain and risky. Both countries were happy with the arrangement.
As it turned out, that imaginary line ran through part of South America, which meant that Brazil belonged to Portugal, while the rest of the continent was Spain's. Brazil produced abundant coffee, tobacco, cocoa, corn, fruits, vegetables, and sugar for export. Growing sugar required a lot of land, and a lot of laborers to work it. The natives refused to provide that labor, so the Portuguese turned to African slaves. They had already established a huge African slave trade along the African western coast, and they already were using huge numbers of African slaves on their Atlantic island plantations.
The journey across the Atlantic was unimaginably cruel, the work in Brazil was incredibly harsh, and the life expectancy of an African slave in Brazil was very short. But the supply of slaves was endless, the price was cheap, and they were quite expendable. Even if they died after only one year, the Portuguese landowners still made a profit, and that's all that mattered to them. They had no concern at all for their slave workers. Like 9-volt batteries, they were used up, then thrown away.
Slavery in Brazil ended on May 13, 1888, after almost 400 years. It took a series of laws and reforms before it could be finally be stopped. It also took the cooperation of military and police, who refused to take action against escaped slaves. And it took compassionate citizens who were willing to provide safe haven for slaves who had managed to escape from the plantations. What it did not take was war. Nor did it take war to end slavery in most of the Spanish empire.
Contrast Brazil's experience with that of the United States. Here, most Yankees refused to allow blacks to settle in their states. Here, escaped slaves were punished and returned to their masters. Here, instead of pursuing laws and reform measures to end slavery peacefully, Abraham Lincoln rushed to war within weeks of his inauguration, without exploring or even considering peaceful options. Here, 650,000 Americans were slaughtered, including thousands of innocent, defenseless women and children, many of whom were deliberately starved to death. Here, such barbaric oppression is considered heroic.
We Americans like to think we are a unique culture, more civilized and humane than other parts of the world. We certainly distinguished ourselves on the slavery issue. While almost the entire rest of the world managed to end slavery peacefully, without causing social or economic upheaval, we Americans killed 650,000 of our own citizens, created racial strife in the part of our nation where it had not existed before, totally destroyed almost half the country, abandoned our republican form of government, and created social, political, and economic chaos that lasted for generations. We still have ugly scars from the Civil War, and they may never go away.
We have Abraham Lincoln to thank for much of that.
Learn more about the American Civil War and Abraham Lincoln here.