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Epitácio Pessoa

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Justice promoter, Deputy, Minister of justice


Epitácio Pessoa

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Last update: 27/09/2013

By: Lúcia Gaspar - Librarian of the Fundação Joaquim Nabuco

Epitácio Lindolfo da Silva Pessoa was born in the town of Umbuzeiro, Paraiba, on 23 May 1865.

Having lost his parents at the age of seven, he was raised by his maternal uncle, Henrique Pereira de Lucena, the Baron of Lucena.

He did his secondary studies at the Ginásio Pernambucano and the Judicial course at the Faculty of Law, both in the city of Recife, graduating in 1886.

He was, for a short time, the public prosecutor in the municipality of Cabo, in Pernambuco, moving to Rio de Janeiro in 1889, which at the time was the capital of Brazil, where he participated in various pro-Republican movements.

He returned to Paraiba, being appointed Secretary General of the State. He was elected as a constitution representative for 1890/1891, participating in the writing of the new Brazilian Constitution of 1891.

His re-election was challenged in 1894, because of his opposition to the government of Marshall Floriano Peixoto.

From 1898 to 1901, he executed the role of Minister of Justice in the Campos Sales government (1898-1902), and the following year was appointed Minister of the Federal Supreme Court (STF), a position he held until 1912, when upon medical advice, he had to retire.

Even with health problems, he was once more elected as a Senator for Paraibain 1912, consolidating himself as a political leader in the State.

In 1918, with the end of the First World War, he was named head of the Brazilian delegation to the Paris Peace Conferenceheld in Versailles, France. Also on this mission when he died on 18 January, was the President of Brazil, Rodrigues Alves, recently elected for a second mandate.

Although abroad, Epitácio Pessoa was nominated as the presidential candidate for the Partido Republicano Mineiro (Minas Republican Party – PRM), in opposition to Rui Barbosa, as a capable alternative to maintain the union ofsituation politicians.

After winning the election, he returned to Brazil and assumed the Presidency of the Republic on 28 July 1919.

The first North-easterner to command Brazil, from the beginning of his government he tried to reconcile the support of the so-called three “great” states of the federation: São Paulo, Minas Geraisand Rio Grande do Sul. Six of his seven ministers were from these states.

As a North-easterner, his biggest task was to combat the drought in the region, building more than two hundred reservoirs and wells. He also built over one thousand kilometres of railways in the south of the country and defended and encouraged the production and trade of Brazilian coffee.

Despite his political experience, Epitácio Pessoa could not avoid strong opposition to his administration. Authoritative and energetic, he tried to lime the opposition’s activities with the repression of anarchism law(17/1/1921).His government was troubled for a period, marred by political agitation, strikes and anunfriendly relationship between the government and the military, which began when he appointed two civilians to command the Ministries of War and of the Navy, Pandiá Calógeras and Raul Soares de Moura, respectively.

There was great indignation in the barracks. Civilian military commanders were things that only existed during the Empire.

Tensions between the government and the military reached their peak during the fight for Epitácio Pessoa succession.

Various military uprisings occurred in Rio de Janeiro and in Mato Grosso, giving rise to what would become known later as the ‘movimento tenentista’ (Lieutenant Movement).

In 1922, Epitácio Pessoa decreed a state of emergency, controlling the rebellions and passing the presidency to his elected successor, Artur Bernardes.

In 1923, with the death of Rui Barbosa, he was invited by the League of Nationsto assume the post he had held at the International Court of Justice at The Hague in the Netherlands, and in 1924, he was again elected Senator for Paraiba, performing both roles.

In 1930, he gave his support to the opposition candidate for the presidency of the Republic, Getúlio Vargas, of the Liberal Alliance, whose vice was his nephew João Pessoa. After the defeat of the Liberal Alliance, he discretely participated in the political-military movement to depose the president-elect Washington Luísand place Getúlio Vargas in the presidency.

He was invited by President Getúlio Vargas to occupy the position of Brazilian Ambassador to the United States, refusing the indication, however, and with drawing from public life.

Epitácio Pessoa is the patron of the Paraiba Academy of Letters. He published, among others, the following works: Pelaverdade (For the Truth); Discursos parlamentares (Parliamentary Discourses); Codificação do direitointernacional (The Codification of International Law); Primeiros tempos (First Times); Laudo sarbitrais (Arbitrary Appraisals)and Questões forenses (Forensic Questions).

He passed away in Petrópolis, Rio de Janeiro, on 13 February 1942.






Recife, 20 june 2006
(Updated on 28 august 2009).
Translated by Peter Leamy, February 2012.

sources consulted

BIOGRAFIAS: Epitácio Pessoa. Disponível em: . Acesso em: 23 maio 2005.

EPITÁCIO Pessoa. Disponível em: . Acesso em: 8 jun. 2005.

GALERIA de Presidentes da República Federativa do Brasil: Epitácio Pessoa. Disponível em: . Acesso em: 8 jun. 2005.

PESSOA, Epitácio. Conferência da Paz: diplomacia e direito internacional. Rio de Janeiro: INL, 1961. 221.p. 


how to quote this text

Source: GASPAR, Lúcia. Epitácio Pessoa. Pesquisa Escolar Online, Joaquim Nabuco Foudation, Recife. Available at:  <>. Accessed: day month year. Exemple: 6 Aug. 2009