Living Figueira 12 months a year

Manuel Fernandes Tomás



On August 24, 1820, Porto woke up to a revolution. It was conceived mainly by members of a clandestine organization called Sinédrio, created in 1818 by the Figueira da Foz-born jurist Manuel Fernandes Tomás, then a judge of the Court of Appeal. The organization, which defended liberal ideals and the Constitutional Monarchy, was growing among the bourgeoisie and the intellectuals of Porto, gathering some military leaders and revealing itself on August 24 in an uprising against absolutism, for the convocation of Constituent Courts and the return of the royal government of Brazil.

The insurgents marched on Lisbon, gaining allies in the towns they passed through and arriving in the capital, where other revolutionary forces had already begun their revolt. From this joint effort, a new country was born. A figure and a date worth getting to know better.


The Constituent Courts of 1821, painting by Veloso Salgado, 1920-1923 (Museum of the Assembly of the Republic), with Fernandes Tomás as speaker.

Manuel Fernandes Tomás was an illustrious Figueirense, founder of the Sanhedrin, one of the mentors of the Revolution of 1820, one of the most brilliant Portuguese parliamentarians and the father of the bases of the Constitution that D. João VI swore in 1821. He was born on July 31, 1771, in Figueira da Foz, son of João Fernandes Tomás and Maria da Encarnação, in the year in which the then village was elevated to town.

The street where he was born was called Rua dos Tropeções or Ladeira dos Tropeções – click here and learn more about Rua 31 de Julho -, located 30 meters from the main street of the city. Reboleira Beach, which in 1789 would be earthed and become Praça Nova da Reboleira, later named Praça Nova da Alegria, and 8 de Mayo Square from 1880, to commemorate the victorious entry of the liberal army into Figueira da Foz on May 8, 1834.

As a councillor, in the Chamber session of March 24, 1798, he refused to vote on a proposal presented by the Judge of Fora José Fortunato Brito Abreu e Sousa, but immediately received an order for his arrest, in the middle of the ChamberCouncilman Manuel José Barbosa and the council prosecutor Manuel Fernandes Coelho also went to jail. This arrest earned Minister José de Seabra da Silva the following order condemning the attitude of the Judge of Fora:

“Since the delusions and absurdities imputed to Your Grace concerning the Councillors and officers of the Town Council of this town, who are said to be imprisoned in jail as defendants of state, are not to be believed without exact investigation, may Your Grace understand, if this is so, that these prisoners should not suffer the state of imprisonment while the inquiries which have been ordered are made, Your Grace should immediately set them free. Your Grace should immediately set them at liberty and restore them to their offices and duties, from which you could not suspend them because of affected and fantastic ideas, superior to others which you have already conceived and practised, and the warnings which were then insinuated to you unofficially should serve not as an amendment but as a stimulus to precipitate such extraordinary excesses, punishable reprimands. May God keep Your Grace. Palace of Queluz, April 12th, 1798. José de Seabra da Silva.”

Rehabilitated by José de Seabra da Silva, in 1801 he entered the magistracy and was appointed Judge of Fora in ArganilIn 1805, he remained there until 1805, and, receiving such praise, the government appointed him Superintendent of Customs and Tobacco in the counties of Ponta Delgada and Ponta Delgada. Leiria, Aveiro and CoimbraHe held this post until the first French invasion in 1807, when he retired to his farm in the French countryside. Alhadaswhere he remained until 1808.

He was then already married to D. Maria Maxima da Cruz Rebelo, belonging to an illustrious family from Figueiredo.

Statue in Praça 8 de Maio

On November 20, 1807, French troops invaded Portugal for the first time. Commanded by Junot, they murder, rape and pillage the people. The royal family flees to Brazil with 34 warships and 15,000 retinues, gold, books and many other riches. (…) A Figueira da Foz is taken by the French invaders who occupy the Fort of Santa CatarinaBut on June 25, 1808, a group of 40 men, 30 of whom were university students, left Coimbra for Figueira, dragging with them more than 3,000 people who surrounded the castle. Fort of Santa Catarina on June 26 and then take it by storm the next day.

Manuel Fernandes Tomás participates in the liberation of the Fort of Santa Catarina and on July 12, the Figueira City Council calls a meeting “to proceed to the election of the electors who will nominate the individuals who will constitute the Government Board for this villa”in order to provide for its defense.
Dr. Manuel Fernandes Tomás, D. Rodrigo de Mello, Dr. António Manuel Gomes, António Joaquim Gomes, Dr. Ricardo José Gomes and Guilherme Archer were appointed as electors of the Government Board in Figueira.

It was these citizens who elected the following Government of Figueira da Fozthe Judge of Fora, Bento Gonçalves Morim, as its President, and as deputies D. Rodrigo da Cunha Manuel, Dr. António Manuel da Cruz Rebelo, Dr. Manuel Fernandes Tomás, Dr. João Archer and José da Silva Soares, and as Secretary, Dr. João da Silva Soares.

The House further resolved that this Government Board would have “all powers over life, liberty and property, to dispose of them for the common benefit and defense of the homeland, and they intend to obey him and submit to his decisions under the penalties they impose, and in order to be fulfilled and kept, they will have this term made and signed.”

Once the Junta was constituted, it immediately began its activities, betting on the defense of the town, in case it was attacked again by the French. From August 1 to 5, 1808, 13,000 British troops commanded by General Arthur Wellesley landed on the beaches of Lavos (Cabedelo), moving south in pursuit of the French troops.

Manuel Fernandes Tomás was appointed to deal with Wellesley, the future Lord Wellington, on all matters concerning the interests and needs of the British army.

Shortly afterwards, in 1809, Manuel Fernandes Tomás was appointed Provincial Ombudsman of Coimbra, a post he held until 1810, when he was commissioned by the English general to act as Intendant General of the supplies of the Anglo-Portuguese army.

The French were defeated but invaded Portugal twice more: in March 1809 under General Soult and in 1810 under General Massena.

The British again helped us to expel the French, but took control of our political and military life under Marshal Beresford, who administered Portugal with an iron fist, treating us like a British colony and arousing great discontent among Portuguese officers and intellectuals.

In 1811, Fernandes Tomás was appointed Honorary Judge of the Court of Appeal of Oporto, i.e., he received the rank of judge, a post he would only occupy in 1817, because at the time of his appointment he had not yet completed the three-year term as Provincial Judge required for the post.

Before taking up these duties, he spent some time in Figueira, where his modest fortune was disappearing due to the vicissitudes of the war and his health was increasingly shaken.

In 1812 he went from Figueira to Coimbra to complete the time he had left to take up the post of Judge to which he had been appointed.

In Coimbra he studied, researched and wrote, published some works on law, plotted a revolution and worked on the text of his future constitution, which would establish a country without foreign tutelage and without the absolute power of kings.

His house in Coimbra was the meeting place for many patriots, and he made them see in eloquent debates the view that the British were subjugating us in the absence of the royal family in Brazil, despite the support they had given us in expelling the French.

In 1817 he took up office in Oporto as a Judge of the Court of Appeal and published the Repertorio Geral, ou Indice Alphabetico das Leis Extravagantes do Reino de Portugal, printed by the University of Coimbra between 1815 and 1819.

The British remained in Portugal, controlled trade, political life and the army, so many patriots organized to end English rule.

In Lisbon, the “Supreme Regenerating Council of Portugal and the Algarve” was formed, made up of army officers and Freemasons, with the aim of expelling the British from military control of Portugal, promoting the “salvation of independence” of the homeland, a movement led by General Gomes Freire de Andrade.

In the meantime, General Freire de Andrade was arrested on May 25, 1817, with 11 other army officers, accused of leading a conspiracy against Dom João VI, who was in charge of nothing, having been in Brazil since 1807, fleeing the French invasions, and from where he would only return in 1821.

Freire de Andrade was hanged on October 18, 1817, by order of Marshal Beresford, on the scaffold in the Tower of S. Julião da Barra, and the other 11 officers in Campo de Santana, in Lisbon, today called, in his memory, Campo dos Mártires da Pátria.

Freire de Andrade became a symbol of the defenders of the liberal ideology and the fight against British rule in Portugal when he was executed that afternoon of October 18, 1817.

Manuel Fernandes Tomás shared the ideals of General Freire de Andrade and both were Freemasons, the Figueirense having started at an unknown date, and having belonged to the Fortaleza Lodge and the Patriotism Lodge, of the latter Venerable, with the symbolic name of Valério Publícola.

The death penalty imposed on General Freire de Andrade and 11 other officers by order of Lord Beresford, the British commander-in-chief of the Portuguese Army and de facto regent of the Kingdom of Portugal, only increased the anti-British revolt among the Liberals.

When in 1817 Manuel Fernandes Tomás starts to live and work in Porto, he relates to another notable and liberal jurisconsult, José Ferreira Borges, also a Freemason, with whom he founded the Sanhedrinon January 21, 1818, with João Ferreira Viana and José da Silva Carvalho immediately joining, with the aim of preparing a revolution.

In 1819 the Sanhedrin was composed, in addition to the four founders, of the members Duarte Leça, José Pereira de Menezes, Francisco Gomes da Silva, João da Cunha Sotto Maior, José Maria Lopes Carneiro and José dos Santos Silva.

The number of members of the Sanhedrin never exceeded thirteen, the last to register being Bernardo Correia de Castro e Sepúlveda, who later rendered relevant services to the liberal cause on August 18, 1820.

Porto became the center of the country’s liberal movement, where many civilians and military personnel joined the Sanhedrin movement, which held secret meetings in Foz do Porto, and even in Figueira, on the occasion of Manuel Fernandes Tomás’ visits to his family.

After the trial and execution of the accused, General Beresford left for Brazil in April 1820, to ask the exiled King for more resources and powers for the repression of “Jacobinism”, for fear of any liberal movement that might arise, as had happened in Spain the previous January.
In July 1820, at a magna meeting of the Sanhedrin, at Duarte Lessa’s house, with many military personnel present, including Colonel Barros, Manuel Fernandes Tomás alluded to the recent revolution in Spain with the following challenging questions: “What about us? What about us? Will we continue like this? Will we remain immobile and sheltered in demeaning?”

At this meeting of the Sanhedrin it was decided that the revolution would break out in Porto on July 29, with the support of Braga and other localities in Minho, as well as with the support of some troops from Lisbon. But at the last minute, Colonel Barros, commander of a brigade from Braga, backed down in the face of the dangers he saw, and General António Silveira declared that he would only join the revolt if a governing junta was set up composed exclusively of military personnel, whose duties would be limited to exposing the ills of the country to the king, to whom they requested their return to Portugal.

Manuel Fernandes Tomás was not discouraged and came to Lisbon, where he stayed for three weeks and where he won the support of many liberals. Denounced to the police, he had to flee on horseback to Porto, where the revolution was scheduled to take place on August 24.

So it was that, in the absence of General Beresford, a Revolution broke out in Oporto on August 24, 1820, which prevented his entry into Portugal, when he had already obtained in Brazil more powers from King John VI.

The revolutionaries met in the premises of the Porto City Hall, where they formed the “Provisional Board of the Supreme Government of the Kingdom”, integrated by the Judge Manuel Fernandes Tomás, Voting Member representing the magistracy.

Manuel Fernandes Tomás was the writer of the “Manifesto to the Portuguese”, which made known to the nation the objectives of the revolutionary movement. The revolution spread quickly, without resistance, to other urban centers of the country, consolidating with the accession of Lisbon.

On September 28, 1820, the governments of Porto and Lisbon united in a single “Provisional Board of the Supreme Government of the Kingdom”, with the task of organizing the elections for the Constituent Courts, and Manuel Fernandes Tomás was chosen as a member of the Board.

Once the Cortes were elected, they met on January 26, 1821, electing as president the Archbishop of Baía, Vicente da Soledade, and as vice-president Manuel Fernandes Tomás, a deputy elected by the province of Beira.

Manuel Fernandes Tomás drew up the bases of the Constitution that King João VI swore on July 4, 1821, the same day he landed in Lisbon from his 14-year refuge in Brazil. On October 1, 1822, King João VI swore in the final Constitution, although Queen Carlota Joaquina, a radical absolutist, refused to do so.

Until the Cortes adjourned on November 11, 1822, Fernandes Tomás’s work was one of the most productive in the history of Portuguese parliamentarianism, inscribing new legal and constitutional references in it. He authored the famous Manifesto of the Provisional Junta of the Supreme Government of the Kingdom to the Portuguese and the Report on the Public State of Portugal.

Overwork aggravated his old ailments, and soon the disease laid him prostrate in bed, and on November 19, 1822 he expired serenely, poor, but surrounded by his family and friends, in his house in Rua da Caldeira, in Lisbon, today Rua Fernandes Tomás, leaving everyone dismayed, his family, friends, the liberal party and the Mason family.

Legacy and Tribute

He died at the age of 51, and his corpse, after being embalmed, was taken to St. Catherine’s Church, his parish, where it remained in the chapel of the Holy Family of Jesus Mary Joseph.
He was later transferred to the Church of the Paulistas, where he remained for many years, until in 1862 his sons Roque and Manuel Joaquim had him transferred to a modest tomb that he had had erected in the Prazeres cemetery, with the following inscription:

“Here lies Manoel Fernandes Thomaz, first member of the association that prepared and produced the liberal revolution of 1820. Born in Villa da Figueira on July 31, 1771, he died in Lisbon on November 19, 1822. His mortal remains were transferred on December 29, 1862 from the church of the Paulistas to this simple monument that his late children dedicate to his eternal memory.”

In his “funeral oration”, read on November 27, 1822 at an extraordinary session of the Patriotic Literary Society, the also great parliamentary orator Almeida Garrett chose him as “the patriarch of Portuguese regeneration”.

“And who do we mourn: who do the Portuguese mourn? an extreme citizen; a unique man; a benefactor of the Fatherland, a liberator of a slave people: Manuel Fernandes Tomás. What a name, gentlemen, what a name in the history of freedom! What a preach to future ages! What a cry to generations to come! This name alone will be the history of many centuries, this name contains in compendium millions of evils removed from a great people: countless goods brought upon it”.
[…] “As a man, he honored nature: as a citizen, let the Fatherland say so: I will speak for it”.
[…] “The great day of August 24th, the first day of Portuguese liberty, dawned; he has not rested since: he entered the arena, he did not return without having prostrated the great enemy with whom he had fought: this enemy you know, and well we all know them! it was despotism: he struck it down, he defeated it. Portugal saw its courts again, and the nation had someone to represent it: all Europe admired with respect an illustrious congress, and in the midst of it the champion of liberty, the patriarch of Portuguese regeneration: see how he raises the thunder of his energetic voice to strike down old abuses, and destroy entrenched vices: his eloquence stripped of pomps breathes nothing but truth: His severe, unvarnished eloquence only aims at the common good and the good of the country: it comes from his frank heart to his sincere lips, by the natural impulse of defenseless zeal: in the stretched course of a long legislature he is always the same, always tireless, no matter how much sickness saps his strength; his spirit is always the same; no power can weaken him, no illness can undermine him”.
[…] “Manuel Fernandes Tomás is dead: let us shed tears of gratitude and longing: this is the true funeral eulogy of great men; these tears are the honors of his funeral, the pomp of his burial: they will have a place in history, they will be the eloquent epitaph that will show the grave of his glorious ashes to the future: wet the pen of truth with these tears, and write on his tombstone: Here lies the liberator of the Portuguese: he saved the Fatherland, and died poor”.

Almeida Garret

On December 2, 1822, at the first ordinary courts after his death, Borges Carneiro proposed that the nation take care of the funeral obsequies of the “first of the regenerators” as a testimony of public gratitude, which was approved.

On December 6, 1822, the Courts decreed that the Government should erect a “simple and modest” sepulchral monument, with an inscription “to Manuel Fernandes Tomás, the Ordinary Courts of 1822”, as well as sponsor “means of subsistence for his family”.

The monument was not built, but much later, in April 1906, the idea was embraced by 4 workers from Figueiredo, José Augusto Fernandes Talhadas, Frutuoso Abel Santos, João Maria Cardoso Pereira and João da Silva Rascão, who formed the Monument Promotion Committee.
The fundraising for the necessary funds was successfully started and even had the contribution of King Carlos and his government.

The first stone was laid at the monument on September 22, 1907, at the then named New Square – click here and learn more about Praça 8 de Maio -, and the ceremony was attended by 2000 people and featured speeches by renowned Republicans António José de Almeida, João Pinto dos Santos, Carlos Borges, António Fontes and Mário Monteiro.

On August 24, 1911, when 91 years of the liberal revolution were celebrated, the statue of Manuel Fernandes Tomás was inaugurated in Praça Nova.

One crowd departed from the Salão Nobre of the Paços do Concelho, followed at the head the Figueirense Philharmonicthe grandson of the honoree, Manuel Fernandes Tomás, his children, members of the 28th Artillery Regiment, artistic associations, the Gymnasium Club, Firefighters, Association of Masons, Caixeiros, Carpenters, Monte Pio, members of the José Falcão Center, closing the procession the Filarmónica 10 de Agosto. Several collectivities were present, such as the Commercial Association, the Fernandes Tomás Cooperative, the Popular Instruction Association, the Cândido dos Reis Center, the Bernardino Machado Republican Youth Group, the Fernandes Tomás Guild and the Evolution Guild.

In front of the statue, the Volunteer Battalion with the band of 23, led by Captain Girão, formed “with all the garb”.

The square was decked out with quilts in the windows. Francisco Martins Cardoso, Manuel Fernandes Tomás (grandson of the honoree), Lino Pinto (Alqueidão), Carlos Borges and Gustavo Bergstrom spoke. In the evening, the popular festivities continued and several concerts and associative soirees were held.

Manuel Fernandes Tomás was the symbol of the Liberal and Romantic idealism of his time. That is why his contemporaries called him the “Patriarch of Portuguese Freedom” and gave him the epithet of “Father of the Fatherland”.

On August 24, 1988, in front of a huge crowd and in the presence of the President of the Republic, Dr. Mário Soares, the remains of the famous Figueirense arrived in his hometown, where they rest under his statue, very close to the place where he was born, in Rua dos Tropeções, the present-day Rua 31 de Julho.

Manuel Fernandes Tomás died poor and during his illness “there was nothing in the house to buy him a chicken to make a broth”, as José Liberato Freire de Carvalho later said.
“He was so poor that he had no money to eat. An extreme citizen, a unique man, a benefactor of the Homeland, a liberator of the enslaved people”, wrote the writer Almeida Garrett about him.
After his death his family was left in a difficult situation because Manuel Fernandes Tomás had sacrificed the small patrimony he had inherited from his parents for the cause of freedom.

In January 1823 the Cortes granted his wife, D. Maria Máxima da Cruz Rebelo, in a Decree signed by King João VI, an annual pension of 1000 reis and each of their two children a pension of 500 reis. However, with the succession of the absolutist government, this resolution of the Cortes became ineffective. Later, when the liberal regime was restored, the Cortes, in session on April 18, 1835, decided to grant his widow an annual pension of 600 reis, a resolution ratified by Queen Maria II in a decree of April 25. However, this pension was never paid, despite many unsuccessful requests from the widow.

We thus remember the most illustrious Figueirense ever, perpetuated in the Assembly of the Republic’s Sessions Room, in a painting by Veloso Salgado, which shows him speaking at a session of the Cortes of 1821, and also honored in a street in Lisbon and in a street and monument in Figueira da Foz.

Manuel Fernandes Tomás was the symbol of the Liberal and Romantic idealism of his time. That is why his contemporaries called him the “Patriarch of Portuguese Freedom” and gave him the epithet of “Father of the Fatherland”.




Fernando Curado