|José Joaquim Rodrigues de Freitas Júnior
Engineer, teacher, pedagogue, publicist, politician, economist and philosopher
José Joaquim Rodrigues de Freitas was born in Porto on 24 January 1840.
A brilliant student, he soon proved to be a man of the press, writing his first texts at the age of 14. From the age of 15, he was concerned with social, educational and economic matters and wrote about them in the newspaper "Pedro Quinto" and joined the democratic periodical "Eco Popular", a daily newspaper published between 1847 and 1860.
His father worked at the Alfândega and was a former volunteer in the Siege of Porto (1832-1833). He enrolled his son in the Diocesan Seminary, but José Rodrigues de Freitas had already chosen a different future for himself. At the age of 15, he enrolled in the Civil Engineering course of Bridges and Roads at the Polytechnic Academy of Porto in the academic year 1855-1856.
After an academic life filled with prizes and distinctions, Rodrigues de Freitas obtained the diploma on 15 July 1862 and started teaching at that academy, not in his area of specialty but in Economics.
On 29 December 1864, he became substitute teacher of the 11th and 12th chairs, thus becoming the second former student of the Porto Polytechnic Academy to join the faculty. The first one had been engineer Gustavo Adolfo Gonçalves de Sousa, in 1851. By decree of 15 May 1867, Rodrigues de Freitas rose to the position of Permanent Teacher of Commerce, and on 1 October of that year he gave his first speech at the opening of the academic year. His speech called the attention of the Porto Academy to the connection between Science and Virtue.
Alongside his academic career, Rodrigues de Freitas was engaged in other activities. He studied and disseminated European economy theories, evolving from free trade liberalism to liberalism sensitive to social problems. He collaborated with several magazines, among which "A América", run by Mendes Leal, wrote many articles and published books, such as "Revolução Social" (1872).
Rodrigues de Freitas was also an acclaimed publicist, as well as a collaborator of the Portuguese and Brazilian press. He was one of the editors of the newspaper "O Comércio do Porto", a post he held until he died, and became the most important editor of this prestigious newspaper from the north of Portugal. He also wrote in other periodicals, for e.g., "Correspondência de Portugal" (1862-1875), and wrote about historical, pedagogical, social, political and economic issues.
Rodrigues de Freitas participated actively in the social life of his time. At the age of 25, for e.g., he was appointed secretary of the Board of the Porto Trade Association, and participated in the organising committee of the International Exhibition of 1865, held in Palácio de Cristal. He signed a manifest that created the Patriotic Union in Porto and the Porto Electoral Centre, movements that resulted in the Janeirinha [a revolutionary movement], on 1 February 1868.
He excelled also as a talented speaker and a brilliant parliament member, and was a key figure in the evolutionary republicanism. He was the first and only Republican House member, highly considered and respected among his peers. As a pedagogue, he advocated the dissemination and modernisation of schools, and was always concerned with popular education, especially of women and children.
Rodrigues de Freitas began his political career in 1870, during a reform period, by running for member of the 4th constituency (Valença). He was elected with 1807 votes. After the dissolution of the House, on 3 June 1871, in the new elections he ran for the 13th constituency (Porto, Bairro Oriental), receiving 1686 votes.
In 1874, Rodrigues de Freitas returned to the newspapers and to research. The following year, he published the essay "Crises Comerciais" in "Revista Ocidental", owned by Oliveira Martins; and in 1876 and 1877, he published "Crise Monetária e Política de 1876 – Causas e Remédios" and "A Circulação fiduciária e a proposta de lei acerca do Banco de Portugal", respectively.
In 1878, he returned to politics. He was a candidate of the Democratic Republican Electoral Centre of Porto, founded in 1876.
On 13 October of that year, Rodrigues de Freitas won the elections for the 39th constituency (centre of Porto) with 2023 votes, and was supported by the Progressive Party.
Soon after, on 23 January 1879, he was sworn in. His mandate, however, was short-lived: the House of Representatives was dissolved the following June. In the subsequent elections of 19 October, Rodrigues de Freitas renewed his mandate.
Portugal lived through troubled political times. In 1881, the House of Representatives was once again dissolved, and on 3 June Rodrigues de Freitas returned to the press, teaching and civic activism. At that time, he was a member of the Porto Geography Society, established in 1880, of which he was the Vice-President because he was a friend of Oliveira Martins. He was also part of another organisation, the Society of Education of Porto.
By that time, Rodrigues de Freitas published textbooks, among which the work entitled "Elementos de Escrituração Mercantil", a book with academic lessons. He also collaborated in the journal "Revista Científica", a positivist periodical run by Júlio de Matos, and in other publications such as "O Ensino" (1877-78), "O Museu Ilustrado" (1878), "Revista da Sociedade de Instrução do Porto" (1882-1883), and "Comércio e Indústria" (1880 to 1886), in Republican newspapers of Porto and of other cities. Periodicals such as "Discussão", "Voz Pública", "Folha Nova" and "Jornal do Povo de Coimbra" published texts written by Rodrigues de Freitas, which are today a prime source of information on that period.
Rodrigues de Freitas also collaborated frequently with Lisbon periodicals, such as "Jornal do Comércio" and "Século". He published the study "Um economista português – Oliveira Marreca" (1889) in the magazine "Revista de Portugal", by Eça de Queirós. In the 90s, he sent articles to "Gazeta de Notícias", in Rio de Janeiro.
In 1886, he refused to be proclaimed a representative member by the Courts to fill in a seat in the minority group left vacant. Three years later, following his participation, in 1889, in the fight of Porto traders against the privileges that the government intended to grant to Companhia Vinícola (publishing articles in newspapers such as "O Comércio do Porto", "Jornal do Comércio" and "O Século"), he again ran for an MP position in the constituency of Vila Nova de Gaia, and received 4067 votes. But this mandate was also troublesome. Rodrigues de Freitas did not take up office because the Government fell on 20 January 1890, following the political turmoil around the English ultimatum.
Rodrigues de Freitas was disappointed with political life and suffered from heart problems. He participated discreetly in the creation of the Patriotic League of the North and was proclaimed one of the leaders of the 31 January 1891 uprising, although he always defended the evolutionist way and not revolution. He was forced to distance himself from this uprising, yet he never shirked the responsibilities that the authorities placed on him.
Although he was worn and tired, Rodrigues de Freitas ran for the legislative elections in 1893, for the 25th constituency of Porto, and was elected immediately after Veiga Beirão and Oliveira Martins.
Sensing the end of his life, he wrote his will before accepting the new legislature, on 14 de Janeiro.
"Freitinhas", as he was affectionately called back at the Academy, and later by the Porto population, died at the age of 56, at 12.20am on 28 July 1896, at his home in Rua do Sol, Porto. He was buried in Prado do Repouso cemetery.
Rodrigues de Freitas left a legacy and a reputation. After the death of this intellectual and respected politician, civically active and supportive, who was known for being kind, thoughtful and for having strong convictions, his friends collected most articles he had published in Portuguese and Brazilian magazines in the work "Páginas Avulsas", published in 1906.
(Universidade Digital / Gestão de Informação, 2010)