Revolt of the Sergeants: A Prelude to First Portuguese Republic

Revolt of the Sergeants: Porto's Quest for a Republic

On January 31, 1891, a group of influential individuals in Porto, Portugal, led a revolt known as the "Revolt of the Sergeants" in an attempt to establish a republic. The revolt was driven by various factors, including the economic crisis, the British Ultimatum challenging Portuguese presence in Africa, and a sense of national humiliation. 

The proclamation of a Republic in Brazil also served as inspiration for the uprising, fostering the belief that the republican model could bring about positive political and social changes. Despite lacking support from high-ranking officers, the sergeants rallied fellow soldiers and their objective was to capture the Post Office and Telegraphs, ultimately proclaiming the republic.

However, their plans were hindered by the loyal municipal guard near the Church of Santo Ildefonso. The remaining rebels sought refuge in the City Hall, where they proclaimed the republic from its balcony. Despite their efforts, the revolution was unsuccessful, and the rebels either fled abroad or were taken aboard ships at Leixões. 

💻 Table of Contents:

  1. The Pink Map: Portugal's Failed Bid for African Territories
  2. Anglo-German secret agreement on Portuguese Africa
  3. The Porto Republic Revolt: Soldiers Rise for a New Era
  4. The Legacy of the 1891 Porto Uprising

The Republic would only be officially proclaimed in Portugal in 1910. The memory of this event is still commemorated today in the streets of Porto, with Rua 31 de Janeiro in downtown Porto and streets named after the individuals involved in the failed revolution, such as Alves da Veiga, Rodrigues de Freitas, and Alferes Malheiro.

Revolt of the Sergeants: A Prelude to First Portuguese Republic
Image Source: Google, A painting of a man standing in front of a crowd

The Pink Map: Portugal's Failed Bid for African Territories

After Brazil gained independence from Portugal in 1822, Portugal's overseas empire became mostly concentrated in Africa, with small territories in Asia such as Goa, Damão, Diu, East Timor, and Macau. In the late 19th century, Portugal focused on expanding its African territories, particularly in Angola, Mozambique, and Portuguese Guinea (now Guinea-Bissau). However, Portugal's involvement in the European partition of Africa was limited due to its economic dependence on Great Britain.

A movement advocating for colonial expansion gained momentum in Lisbon, and during Berlin Conference Portugal Government claimed a large colony across Africa from Angola to Mozambique, and presented a map in 1886. That is called the famous Pink Map.

The "Pink Map" was published in a Portuguese newspaper called "O Século" in January 1890. The map was titled "Mapa Cor-de-Rosa" in Portuguese, which translates to "Pink Map" in English. The name "Pink Map" originated from the color used to depict the territories claimed by Portugal on the map.

This claim was recognized by France and Germany in 1886. However, Britain contested Portugal's territorial claim in central Africa (now Malawi and Zimbabwe) and issued an ultimatum in 1890, demanding the immediate withdrawal of Portuguese forces from the disputed regions. This ultimatum threatened the use of British naval force and the long-standing Anglo-Portuguese alliance. 

The dispute over the Pink Map had a significant impact on Portugal's monarchy. It damaged the monarchy's popularity among the people and contributed to the rise of republican sentiments. Additionally, there were suspicions that the British objections to Portugal's claims were driven by their own interests, such as establishing a railway from Cape Town to Cairo. The collapse of the Portuguese monarchy was also influenced by pressures from individuals like Cecil Rhodes and British involvement in Africa.

Revolt of the Sergeants: A Prelude to First Portuguese Republic
Image Source: Google, Credit: Wikipedia

Anglo-German secret agreement on Portuguese Africa:

The secret agreement between Britain and Germany regarding the future of Portugal's African colonies was reached in 1898. This agreement came at a time when Portugal was facing financial challenges and the possibility of bankruptcy. Recognizing Portugal's weakness, Britain and Germany seized the opportunity to secure their own interests in Africa.

According to the terms of the agreement, Britain was granted the lease of Delagoa Bay, a strategically important port located in present-day Mozambique. This allowed Britain to enhance its control over trade routes and maritime access in the region. Meanwhile, Germany acquired portions of Mozambique and Angola, expanding its colonial territories and influence in Africa.

The motivations behind this secret agreement were multifaceted. Both Britain and Germany sought to strengthen their positions in the race for African colonies during the era of European colonialism. Additionally, the agreement reflected the growing competition and tensions between major European powers, including Britain and Germany.

It is important to note that this agreement had long-term implications. Less than two decades later, Britain and Germany would find themselves on opposing sides in World War I, with their colonial interests in Africa becoming contested battlegrounds. The secret agreement of 1898 played a part in shaping the complex dynamics and rivalries that would unfold in Africa during the early 20th century.

The Porto Republic Revolt: Soldiers Rise for a New Era

In the early hours of January 31, a battalion of soldiers led by sergeants initiated a revolt in Porto, Portugal. They joined forces with the 10th and 18th infantry regiments at Campo de Santo Ovídio. Though the 18th regiment initially considered joining, their colonel persuaded them otherwise. The attempted coup was poorly kept secret, with many civilians and reporters present in the area.

Accompanied by regimental bands, the rebels marched to Praça de D. Pedro, where Alves da Veiga and other leaders proclaimed the establishment of the Republic from the balcony of the Porto City Council building. A provisional government was announced, and a red and green flag was raised.

The supporters in the square then aimed to seize the post and telegraph station, but their path was blocked by the municipal guard at the Church of Saint Ildefonso. Captain Leitão attempted to persuade the guard to join their cause but was overtaken by events. When shots were fired, believed to be from the crowd, the municipal guard responded with heavy gunfire.

A chaotic stampede ensued, and some soldiers and civilians sought refuge in the City Hall. However, with the assistance of army artillery and cavalry, as well as the 18th Infantry Regiment, which the rebels had tried to recruit, the municipal guard forced their surrender later that morning. The official report stated that twelve rebels and onlookers were killed, with 40 injured, but other sources suggest higher casualties.

The Legacy of the 1891 Porto Uprising: 

The 1891 Porto Uprising, a significant revolt in Portugal, had a profound impact on the country's future and the development of republicanism. Led by soldiers and sergeants, the rebels declared the Republic from the Porto City Council balcony, signaling their opposition to the monarchy. However, their attempt to seize key locations was met with resistance.

The aftermath of the revolt left a lasting mark on Porto and raised important questions about the future of republicanism in Portugal. The rebellion served as a prelude to subsequent republican movements and played a crucial role in shaping the political landscape of the country.

Revolt of the Sergeants: A Prelude to First Portuguese Republic
Image Source: Google, Credit: Wikimedia

Despite being suppressed, the 1891 revolt had enduring consequences. It highlighted discontent within the military and showcased the growing support for republican ideals. The events of the uprising contributed to the momentum that eventually led to the establishment of the Portuguese Republic in 1910. The legacy of the revolt can still be felt in contemporary Portuguese society. This serves as a reminder of the rebellion's significance and its lasting impact on the country's history.


The Revolt of the Sergeants in Porto, Portugal, on January 31, 1891, represented the strong desire for a republican government. This desire was fueled by different factors, including economic difficulties, the British Ultimatum, and global influences like the establishment of a Republic in Brazil. Despite the immediate suppression, the legacy of the Porto Republic Revolt endures through the streets named after its key figures and the lasting impact on Portuguese society. 

The Pink Map dispute and the secret Anglo-German agreement underscored the geopolitical pressures, contributing to the discontent that culminated in the failed uprising. The 1891 Porto Uprising served as a prelude to subsequent republican movements, eventually leading to the establishment of the Portuguese Republic in 1910. The enduring consequences of this revolt emphasize its significance in shaping Portugal's history and its pivotal role in the evolution towards a republic.