Belonging to a branch of a poor family from Bahia, Rui Barbosa was born in Salvador on 5 November 1849. He was a lawyer, journalist, parliamentarian, diplomat, professor, intellectual and outright genius in Brazilian political and social oratory.
At sixteen, he enrolled in the Recife Faculty of Law where he studied for two years. He transferred to the Faculdade do Largo de São Francisco, in São Paulo, becoming part of the famous academic generation of the liberal revolution that lead the way as a centre of revolutionary ideas. He graduated in 1890.
Law and journalism seduced him. In 1872 he started campaigns for direct elections and the abolition of slavery in the Diário da Bahia and at rallies. He also supported a federative regime and religious freedom. He founded the newspaper A Imprensa. In 1876 he married Maria Augusta Viana Bandeira.
With the proclamation of the republic in 1889, he held the Internal Revenue portfolio in the Deodoro government, exerting decisive influence in the juridical consolidation of the Republic. The Constitution Project of 1891 was written by him. Later, because of his strong opposition to the Floriano Peixoto government, he was sued and persecuted as a rebel. The governmental mistakes lead him to adopt new doctrines by filing habeas-corpus against decrees that lead to the illegal imprisonment of civilians and military, among them Alexandre José Barbosa Lima. He ended up being exiled to Buenos Aires, Lisbon and London from September 1893 until June 1895, when he returned to Brazil.
In the Afonso Pena government, he attained world notoriety when representing Brazil at the 2nd Hague Conference in the Netherlands, defending the principle of equality of nations and formulating brilliant defences for the sovereignty of small states.
As a politician he was a senator and Presidential candidate twice. He was not victorious, but left a collection of speeches that were notable for their beauty in form, for their civil and liberal passion and for the study of Brazilian political customs. He fought for education reform and liberation of slaves.
In literature, he is cited by many as a major Brazilian writer, for the accuracy, purity and beauty of his language. Founding member of the Brazilian Academy of Letters, he occupied chair no. 10 and succeeded Machado de Assis in the presidency of the House. His most famous works are Oração aos moços (Prayer to the Young Men), Abolicionismo (Abolitionism), A queda do Império (The Fall of the Empire), Oração dos apóstolos (Apostles’ Prayer), Cartas da Inglaterra (Letters from England), Contra o militarismo (Against Militarism) and O Papa e o Concílio (The Pope and the Canon).
He died on 1 March 1923 in Petrópolis, Rio de Janeiro, a victim of bulbar palsy. He left a body of work based on a single ideal: the love of freedom and the religion of justice.
Recife, 11 July 2003.
(Updated on 31 August 2009.)
Translated by Peter Leamy, March 2011.
DUARTE, Luiz Vital. Ruy Barbosa, sua obra, sua personalidade, Recife: Cepe, 1984.
LACOMBE, Américo Jacobina. À sombra de Rui Barbosa. Rio de Janeiro: Fundação Casa de Rui Barbosa, 1984.
RUI Barbosa (foto). Disponível em:http://diariodeouropreto.files.wordpress.com/2007/04/rui_barbosa.gif. Acesso em: 31 out. 2007.
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Source: GASPAR, Lúcia. Rui Barbosa. Pesquisa Escolar On-Line, Joaquim Nabuco Foudation, Recife. Available at: <http://basilio.fundaj.gov.br/pesquisaescolar/>. Accessed: day month year. Exemple: 6 Aug. 2009.