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Joaquim Nabuco

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Brazilian politician, diplomat, historian, jurist, speaker and journalist

Joaquim Nabuco

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Last update: 05/09/2017

By: Manuel Correia de Andrade - Researcher at the Fundação Joaquim Nabuco

1849, August 19 – Born at 8:30am, in the old house on Rua do Aterro da Boa Vista (nowadays called Rua da Imperatriz Tereza Cristina), the son of the future senator José Tomás Nabuco de Araújo and his wife, Ana Benigna de Sá Barreto. He was an offspring of an illustrious pedigree, as the Nabucos de Araújo were an influential family from Bahia who had produced Imperial senators since the first kingdom, and the Paes Barreto had been an extremely powerful family in Pernambuco since the 16th century. One the descendents of the family was Francisco Paes Barreto, the last administrator of Cabo and Marquis of Recife.

1849, December 8 – Joaquim Aurélio Barreto Nabuco de Araújo is baptised in Cabo, having as his godparents the owners of Massangana Plantation, Joaquim Aurélio Pereira de Carvalho and Ana Rosa Falcão de Carvalho. His godmother would have a large influence on his development, as many children were in her care when their parents travelled to Court. He spent his childhood in Massangana, until the death of his godmother, having direct contact with slavery, which enabled him to understand the cruelty and evil it was doing to the country.

1857 – With the death of Ana Rosa, he moves to his parents’ residence in Rio de Janeiro, where he completed his primary and secondary education, the latter in the city of Nova Friburgo, in the high school run by the famous Baron of Tauthphoeus.

1866 – Begins his studies at the São Paulo Faculty of Law, standing out amongst his colleagues as an orator. 2 April 1868, he was the speaker who welcomed José Bonifácio, the young man, when he returned to the city, after losing his place in the ministry with the fall of the Zacarias cabinet.

1869 – Transfers to the Recife Law Faculty, where he becomes close to his maternal relatives and friends; writes A escravidão (Slavery), which remains unpublished until 1988, when it was published by the Joaquim Nabuco Foundation, in Recife. In this same year he scandalises the local elite for defending, in front of a jury, a black slave who had murdered his owner.

1870, January 28 – Graduates in Social and Judicial Sciences in Recife. After graduation he returns to Rio, trying law – his father had an excellent law firm – and begins journalism at A Reforma, defending monarchist principles.

1872 – Publishes his first book Camões e os Lusíadas (Camões and the Lusíadas), with 294 pages. He had previously published two pamphlets: O gigante da Polônia (The Polish Giant), in 1864, and O povo e o trono (The People and the Throne), in 1869; later publishes, that year, another work entitled Le droit du meurtre (The Right to Murder), in honour of Renan, who greatly influenced him in spirit.

1872 – With the money obtained through the sale of the Serraria Plantation, inherited from his godmother, he spends a year in Europe, travelling, making contacts with intellectuals and politicians and preparing himself for the future.

1876, April 26 – He lands his first public position as legal attaché in the United States, a role which gives him a better understanding of the country, where he would be ambassador in his old age, making contacts and studying in New York (where he lived the majority of the time) and in Washington.

1878 – He is elected, thanks to the support of the Baron de Vila Bela, general representative for the Pernambuco province, spending the following year participating outstandingly in parliament, due to his origins, the value of his speaking and his independence in the opposition to the Sinimbu government, which his own party was part of. He, along with other young representatives, begins the campaign against slavery, in favour of the abolition of slavery. In this legislature, Nabuco fights against a project of exploitation of the Xingu people, defending the right of the indigenous (1 April) and criticising the sending of a government mission to China seeking to stimulate Chinese migration to substitute slaves in agricultural work. Nabuco rebukes this project and called it the “mongolization of the country”.

1880 – Celebration of the 3rd century of Camões, in the Portuguese Chamber of Reading in Rio de Janeiro, with Nabuco as official speaker delivering a brilliant speech.

1880, September 7 – Nabuco organises and sets up in his residence the Brazilian Society Against Slavery, challenging the conservative elite of the age, who considered slavery an indispensable institution to the development of Brazil. He also deepens the rift with his political party, the Liberals, and loses his chances for re-election.

1882, February 1 – Defeated in the elections for the House of Representatives, as a monarchist candidate, he leaves for Europe as a representative of the abolitionists, which he calls ‘voluntary exile’. In London he lives as a lawyer and journalist (the correspondent for Rio de Janeiro’s Jornal do Commercio) and writes one of his most important books, O abolicionismo (Abolitionism), published in 1884.

1884 – Campaigns in the Pernambuco election for the House of Representatives, defending the abolitionism cause alongside José Mariano. His speeches and conferences were collected in the book A campanha abolicionista (The Abolitionist Campaign), published in 1885, which defended very advanced ideas. Victorious against the conservative candidate, Machado Portela, he is however purged from the House.

1885, July 7 – The purge of Nabuco causes a major uprising in Pernambuco, and the 5th District, through the decision of the liberal leaders Ermírio Coutinho and Joaquim Francisco de Melo Cavalcanti to cease running for the representative position, elects Joaquim Nabuco to the House. The 5th District was made up of the areas of Nazaré and Bom Jardim.

1885 – Nabuco defends the Dantas Cabinet and its project for the freedom of sexagenarians in the House of Representatives, despite considering Dantas too moderate. Following the fall of Dantas, he attacks the changes made to the project by the new president of the Council, J. A. Saraiva, which would become law under the Cotejipe Cabinet, on 28 September.

1885, September 14 – Nabuco presents to the House of Representatives a law in favour of the federation of the provinces, trying to cement the old Brazilian regionalism aspirations.

1886, January 15 – Nabuco is defeated in the election of House Representative when running for Recife. He dedicates himself to journalism by writing a series of pamphlets which identified the Monarchy with slavery and makes a series of criticisms about the government. These pamphlets were entitled O erro do Imperador (The Emperor’s Mistake), O Eclipse do Abolicionismo (The Eclipse of Abolitionism) and Eleições liberais e eleições conservadoras (Liberal Elections and Conservative Elections), published in 1886.

1887, September – Nabuco defeats Machado Portela in an historic election in Recife, when the Imperial minister, trying to secure his mandate, returns to the House to conclude his apostolate supporting abolition.

1888, February 10 – Has a private audience with Pope Leo XIII and relates the struggle for abolitionism in Brazil, possibly influencing the great pontiff in the development of an encyclical against slavery.

1888, March 10 – The João Alfredo Cabinet assumes government with the express purpose of abolishing slavery in Brazil. Nabuco, despite the Cabinet being conservative, supports and contributes greatly to the approval of the Áurea Law. Later, when those who resent the abolition launch their attacks on João Alfredo, Nabuco comes to his defence, delivering, on 22 May 1889, one of his most memorable addresses to the House of Representatives.

1889, April 28 – Marries Evelina Torres Soares Ribeiro, daughter of the Baron de Inhoã and farmer in Maricá, at that time in the province of Rio de Janeiro.

1889, August 21 – Nabuco is elected as representative for Pernambuco, for the final legislature of the Empire, without going to Recife and without requesting the support of the electorate. He begins to become disillusioned with the country’s political processes and fears the fall of the Monarchy, to which he was loyal, despite looking to make it more liberal and not sparing criticism about the institution and the Emperor himself.

1889, November 15 – Proclamation of the Republic and positioning of Nabuco in favour of the Monarchy, he refuses, although being requested, a seat on the Constituent Assembly of 1891. He justifies his position in the pamphlet Por que sou monarquista (Why I Am a Monarchist).

1891, June 29 – Launching of Jornal do Brasil, founded by Rodolfo Dantas, with the purpose of informing the population and defending, in a moderate way, the restoration of the Monarchy. Nabuco is invited to become a collaborator on the newspaper. At this time, struggling to make a living, he returns to practicing law, opening a firm in partnership with counsellor João Alfredo. They were not very professionally successful and a year later closed the office.

1892 – Travels to England with his family and remains there for several years. Seeking balance in his life, he returns to the Catholic Church, which he had left in his youth, beginning to frequent religious services and confession on 28 May, at the Nossa Senhora das Dores Chapel. His communion would only take place in Rio de Janeiro on 22 December of the same year. The book Minha Fé (My Faith), published in 1986 by the Joaquim Nabuco Foundation, relates the illustrious statesman’s process of conversion.

1895 – At the peak of disputes between monarchists and republicans, he writes the pamphlet O dever dos monarquistas (The Duty of the Monarchists), in response to another written by Admiral Jaceguai, in favour of the new regime entitled O dever do momento (The Duty of the Moment).

1896, January 12 – A manifesto of the newly-founded Monarchist Party is published in the Jornal do Commercio, having as signatories, besides Nabuco, councillors João Alfredo, Lafaiete Pereira, the Viscount of Ouro Preto, Afonso Celso and others.

1893-1899 – A period of intense intellectual activity for Nabuco. Neither accepting positions nor appointments from the Republic, Nabuco dedicates himself to writing, drafting books and newspaper and magazine articles. Some books were initially to be published by chapter, like articles, in newspapers and the magazine Revista do Brasil. These books, almost always political commentaries, include Balmaceda (published in 1895) about the civil war in Chile and A intervenção estrangeira na Revolta de 1893 (Foreign Intervention in the 1893 Revolt) (published in 1896) which, as well as analysing the development of the struggle, causes conflict between Saldanha da Gama, the major leader of the Revolt, and Floriano Peixoto, who embodied the legality. Also published is Um estadista do Império (A Statesman of the Empire) (1896), his most important book, which analyses the life of Senator Nabuco de Araújo and the political, economic and social life of the country during his time in office. Also in this period is his book of memoirs, entitled Minha formação (My Education), published in parts in the press and as a collection in 1900.

1896 – Participates in the foundation of the Brazilian Academy of Letters, which has Machado de Assis as its first president and Nabuco as secretary for life.

1896, January – Enters into the Brazilian Historic and Geographic Institute.

1899, March 9 – Accepts the invitation from the government of the Republic to defend Brazil in the border dispute with what was then known as British Guiana, arbitrated by King Victor Emanuel of Italy. He begins the process of breaking away from the monarchists and reconciling himself with the Republic.

1900, March – The death of Sousa Correia, Brazilian minister in England, prompts an invitation from the government for Nabuco to accept the position, thereby becoming a government employee. Nabuco initially accepts being “plenipotentiary on special mission” leaving the command of the legation to the commissioner of trade.

1900, August – Accepts the role of legation head in London and finally becomes and employee of the Republic.

1900, December – Delivers a speech, at a banquet in his honour in Rio de Janeiro, considered to by his declaration of support to the Republic.

1903 – Publishes in Paris the book O direito do Brasil (The Right of Brazil) (part one) in which he analyses the Brazilian arguments in the dispute with England over the territorial boundaries with British Guiana.

1904, June 14 – King Victor Emanuel of Italy gives his decision in the British Guiana matter, splitting the territory into two parts – 3/5 to Great Britain and 2/5 to Brazil – which is considered by all, including Nabuco, to be a defeat for Brazil.

1905 – With the creation of the Brazilian Embassy in Washington, Nabuco is named as Brazilian Ambassador, presenting his credentials to President Theodore Roosevelt on 25 May. As ambassador in Washington, he works closely with the American government and defends a Pan-American policy based on the Monroe doctrine. He also travels widely in the United States, delivering dozens of lectures in American universities.

1906, July – Organises the III Pan-American Conference in Rio de Janeiro, with the presence of the American Secretary of State.

1910, January 17 – Dies in Washington, as ambassador, after a long period of illness.

Text updated on 12 March 2008.
Translated by Peter Leamy, January 2011.
Updated on 24 august 2017.

how to quote this text

Source: ANDRADE, Manoel Correia de. Joaquim Nabuco. Pesquisa Escolar On-Line, Joaquim Nabuco Foundation, Recife. Available at: <>. Accessed: day month year. Exemple: 6 Aug. 2009.