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Brazil: 1899-1964

The Empire was overthrown in 1889 by Field Marshal Manoel Deodoro da Fonseca and Benjamin Constant. The coup d'etat established a republic dominated by military men, thus beginning the supremacy of the military in politics.

Not everyone agreed with the republic. There was some monarchist sentiment. Regionalism was a serious problem. Very few people had the power to make political decisions, for the electorate had always been tiny and the Republic disenfranchised illiterates. Even military men disagreed. Elements of the navy revolted unsuccessfully against the Republic in the 1890s and army elements would revolt in the 1920s.

The Old Republic, 1890-1930

Deodoro Fonseca became the first President by default although he was not very popular. He was reluctantly elected by the Congress with Floriano Peixoto selected as Vice President. Peixoto received more votes than Deodoro, a fact that irked the latter. He only served from November 15, 1889 to November 23, 1891 because he tried to conduct the public business as if the state were a military unit. Deodoro had very strong emotions and was impulsive. He saw criticisms of his government as personal. He relied upon army men, including young officers, to head government departments. He sent young officers to be state governors when he replaced the Imperial governors. Before 1891 ended, he dissolved Congress and put the country under martial law. Protests forced him to resign on November 23, 1891.

Vice President Marshall Floriano Peixoto took over, claiming that the constitutional requirement to hold new elections did not apply because he and Deodoro Fonseca had been elected by the Congress, not the electorate. President Floriano removed Fonseca's loyal men and ruled dictatorially. By early 1892, six states were revolting against him. His government suppressed them. In June, 1892, a monarchist revolt erupted in Rio Grande do Sul. Floriano's government suppressed it as well. Then a navy revolt broke out in September, 1892, which was also put down. Although he held the nation together, he was disliked. When he ran for election in 1894, he was defeated.

Brazilian politics was run by state political machines. Coroneis (local political bosses) under the leadership of the state president (governor) dispensed favors and made sure the vote, such as it was, went to the "right" man. All states were not equal, however, for Sâo Paulo and Minas Gerais dominated, sharing the presidency most of the time between 1894 and 1930 (See the table).

State Origins of Presidents (1894-1930)

Term President State
1894-1898 Prudente de Moraes Sâo Paulo
1898-1902 Campos Sales Sâo Paulo
1902-1906 Rodrigues Alves Minas Gerais
1910-1914 Hermes da Fonseca Río Grande do Sul
1914-1918 Wenceslau Brás Minas Gerais
1918 Rodrígues Alves (died 1918) São Paulo
1918-1919 Delfim Moreira São Paulo
1919-1922 Epitácio Pessôa Minas Gerais
1922-1926 Artur da Silva Bernardes Minas Gerais
1926-1930 Washington Luís São Paulo

The 1891 constitution, creating the United States of Brazil, was modeled on that of the United States and was the work of Ruy Barbosa. It did, however, provide for a system of interventors, national government officials sent to take over a state government, something akin to the Moderating Power enjoyed by the Emperors. Under its provisions, literate males 21 and over could vote; most Brazilians were illiterate. The President and Vice President were elected for four year terms. Each state had 3 senators, elected for 9 year terms. Deputies were elected for 3 year terms. The Supreme Court had 15 persons. It included a bill of rights and provided for the separation of church and state. The President had enormous powers, perhaps necessary else the republic splinter.

Deodoro de Fonseca and Peixoto had trouble with frequent military revolts. In the 1894-1930 period, Brazil had civilian presidents (Hermes Fonseca had taken off his uniform) but did it make any difference? Were they truly civilian? The first civilian president, Prudente de Moraes Barros was faced with the Canudos Rebellion (1896-97) led by Antônio Maciel, O Conselheiro or "the Counselor." Antônio was a religious fanatic who preached to the poor and rejected the central government of Brazil. This encouraged monarchists but even if it had not, the central government could not tolerate disobedience even in the back country (sertão) of the northeastern state of Bahía. When local and state authorities were defeated by the people of Canudos, the federal government sent troops against defeat only to be met by defeat until a national army of five thousand laid siege to the village and, in house-to-house combat, destroyed the village. The event certainly strengthened the military's assertion that it was critical to the republic but needed more funds.

State political machines were the heart of political power in Brazil based on land ownership. Fazendas (large estates) were the economic, social, and political loci of power in the nation. The public lands of the Empire were given to states, who distributed them to the powerful people in the state. States had the ability to levy export taxes and did, thus discouraging national trade and encouraging self-sufficiency , except for luxury items which only the wealthy could afford.

The growth of Sâo Paulo, city and state, from the production of coffee and industrialization came to dominate Brazilian life beforev1930. As Paulistas liked to say, their state was like a locomotive pulling 20 empty freight cars. Coffee was becoming king, which meant the rise of Sâo Paulo to prominence and wealth. It was the largest producer of the three "coffee states, "Sâo Paulo, Minas Gerais, and Río de Janeiro. By 1930, Sâo Paulo state was dominant economically. Its strength and awareness thereof was part of the 1930 revolt as state leaders tried to retain their power over the nation. By 1906, all Brazilians were indirectly taxed to take coffee surplus off the market and store in warehouses, the valorization plan. In 1912, the federal government prohibited further planting of coffee trees, but couldn't stop entirely because it didn't have the security forces sufficient to do it. Besides, earlier plantings guaranteed a bumper crop. There was the tremendous population growth of the city of Sâo Paulo from 64,935 in 1890 to 579,033 by 1920.

The economic interests of Paulistas were becoming very entangled with the growth of industry and finance. There were enough industrialists to lobby for protectionism. They did not get much. Ruy Barbosa, a leading statesman and a 1910 presidential candidate, was interested in developing and protecting industry, but his advocacy didn't endear himself to coffee growers. The Martinho Tariff of 1900 was a revenue tariff but there was a big fuss about it because it established that economic interests other than coffee growers should be protected by the national government.

The Old Republic also saw the growth of national boundaries which were expanded by the diplomatic team headed by the Baron of Río Branco (José Maria da Silva Paranhos) who headed the Foreign Ministry (Itamaraty) from 1902 to 1912.

World War I had a nationalistic effect as well as the wartime stimulus of some industry, but industry was still potatoes. In 1913, Brazil was still importing 85% of the cotton textiles it used, significant because textile are one of the first manufacturing sectors to be created when industrialization begins. Almost all iron, steel, and coals was imported. Between 1913 and 1945, however, there was a tremendous growth in industry.

In this period the growth of the South, the three southern states of Paraná, Santa Catarina, and Río Grande do Sul. This was the region to which colonists went, for their was economic opportunity. Railroads were penetrating the region by the early 20th century, bringing with them a multitude of business and industry. The cultivation of wheat began in begin 1891. The lumber industry became important.

Brazilian labor

The organization of labor and passage of pro-labor decree legislation more important after 193o and especially after 1945. The planter class was hostile to labor, in general, and in labor organizations, in particular. There were some labor organization before with two--anarcho-syndicalism and socialism. The Socialist Party, founded in 1916, never amounted to much.

There were some revolutionists in the country. Carlos Luis Prestes was a notable one but politicians were opportunists and not ideological for the most part.

Election of 1910

Marshal Hermes da Fonseca [nephew of Deodoro), the administration candidate, ran against Ruy Barbosa, a liberal statesman from Bahía who had played such important roles in Brazilian public life. He was the candidate of the civilista party and was democratically selected, unlike all other candidates. The main issue was the military in politics. Hermes da Fonseca won and gave conservatives and the military lots of power. Ruy Barbosa got a good many votes, 35% as announced, more than any other defeated candidates had gotten to that time. He argued for more democracy and the end of corruption by the handful of bosses who ran Brazil. What cost him the election was his severe criticism of the military in politics. Even military men who cared little for Hermes gave him their support.

After World War I, Epitácio Pessôa vetoed a military pay raise bill and appointed civilians to the Ministries of War and Navy. The military was furious because, under the Republic, these positions had always been held by military men. They pulled back from the government.

In the1922 presidential election, Hermes da Fonseca, back from six years in Europe and elected president of the Clube Militar, intervened. He asserted that Artur da Silva Bernardes, the candidate selected by Minas Gerais and Sâo Paulo, had written a letter with strong anti-military overtones. Much of the military threw its support behind Nilo Peçanha, the candidate of the other states. Bernardes won and Hermes tried to overturn the election. When he failed, he sent telegrams to commanders saying that they should act according to their consciences, clearly call for action. He sent a telegram to the commander in Recife to disobey the government's order. He was arrested and the Clube Militar closed for six months

The alienation of the military was a factor in the 1922 Copacabana revolt by young officers, tenentes, who wanted to use the military to modernize the nation and were opposed to the domination of the planter-dominated system. The revolt was put down but it showed how easy it was to revolt. Segments of the military had revolted periodically and put down easily except for Fort Copacabana. There, eighteen refused to surrender and marched onto the beach, fighting until they were killed or overwhelmed. The survivors, Eduardo Gomes, became folk heroes.

The 1924 São Paulo revolt, a manifestation of Paulista nationalism, was opposed by military forces and put down. Remnants of it joined with the losers of the Revolt of the Tenentes. The tenentes were also defeated but about 1,000 fled to the interior. They evaded capture until 1927, leading the army on a 15,000-mile wild goose chase from the extreme south to the northeast and through the interior. Those who survived went into exile. The tenente leaders, especially Luis Carlos Prestes, became popular heroes. Prestes went to Europe finally, came back as a Communist and headed the Communist Party. He was an important political figure after 1945.

The New Republic, 1930-1964

The 1930 Revolt:

Lots of reasons: