Republic of the Sword (1889-1894)

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THE Republic of the Sword corresponds to the initial period of the First Brazilian Republic. The phase of the First Republic as a whole corresponds to the period that began with the Proclamation of the Republic, in 1889, until the 1930 revolution, which started the It was Vargas. The Republic of the Sword period corresponds to a specific period that covers the governments of the military Deodoro da Fonseca and Floriano Peixoto.


The Republic of the Sword was the result of the Proclamation of the Republic, which took place on November 15, 1889. This event – ​​understood by historians as a coup – led to the end of the monarchy in Brazil and started the republican experience. It was the result of the growing dissatisfaction of different political actors in Brazil with the monarchical form of government.

The political dissatisfaction with the monarchic government can be summarized in three main axes, which are:

  • Questionreligious: marked the removal of Church and State after two clerics were arrested for civil disobedience;

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  • Questionmilitary: it marked the departure of the Army and the State due to the army's dissatisfaction and its unanswered requests for salary improvement and improvement in the promotion system;

  • Questionslaver: it marked the removal of slaveholders from the Paraíba Valley and the State. This happened after the Golden Law was approved on May 13, 1888.

In the 1880s, Brazilian politics was in a state of permanent crisis in which the Empire was unable to meet the demands of the different existing political forces: abolitionists, slavers, republicans, federalists etc. This made groups defending republicanism organize and conspire against the Brazilian monarchy.

This conspiracy resulted in the coup that led to the Proclamation of the Republic. Republicans, from the influence of Quintino Bocaiuva about Deodoro da Fonseca, they convinced him to lead the coup against the monarchy. Although Deodoro da Fonseca was a monarchist, his dissatisfaction with the Brazilian monarchy convinced him to overthrow D. Peter II. Deodoro da Fonseca dismissed the ministerial cabinet on November 15, and the day's political negotiations led to José do Patrocínio to declare the Proclamation of the Republic in Brazil.

Early years of the Republic of the Sword

After the Proclamation of the Republic, Marshal Deodoro da Fonseca was chosen by the republicans to lead the Provisional Government, which administered Brazil while changes in political institutions happened. The army, which carried out the coup, initially took some measures for its benefit, as stated by historian Thomas E. Skidmore:

The military wasted no time in receiving payment for the coup. Their salaries were immediately raised by 50%, a new law was passed regulating the immediate retirement or promotion of almost all senior officers. (there were notorious imbalances within the Army's officer corps) and the Army was authorized to increase its contingent from 13 thousand to 25 thousand soldiers|1|.

The Proclamation of the Republic resulted in closer relations with Argentina (this approximation with Argentina was short) and States United – two great republican nations on the American continent – ​​and generated the opposite effect in England, which was a representative nation of the monarchism.

During the Provisional Government, RuiBarbosa he was appointed as Minister of Finance and, therefore, was responsible for the Brazilian economy. Rui Barbosa took actions that allowed the creation of corporations and encouraged the issuance of paper money, allowing private banks to do so. The result was disastrous and led to speculation, business failures, devaluation of the Brazilian currency and high inflation.

This economic crisis became known as Stranding (it is not known for sure why this term was used) and it lasted throughout the initial period of the First Republic, being resolved only around 1897 during the government of Prudent of Morals (1894-1898). The Brazilian economic crisis was inserted within the framework of the economic crisis of capitalism, which extended since 1873.

The government of Deodoro da Fonseca and the Constitution of 1891

During the period in which he was president of the Provisional Government, the measuresauthoritarian Deodoro da Fonseca drew the attention of certain political groups in Brazil, which mobilized to draft a new Constitution for the country. For this, a Constituent Assembly was formed.

This Constituent Assembly appointed five people responsible for drafting the new document. Once written, the new Constitution was revised by Rui Barbosa and sent to the Constituent Assembly for consideration. The new Constitution was approved on February 24, 1891 and replaced the Constitution (1824) of the Monarchy period.

THE Constitution of 1891 had as main points:

  • Republicanism: naturally republicanism was decreed as a form of government in Brazil;

  • presidentialism: the maximum head of the Executive would be the president elected in free and direct elections. The elected president would serve a 4-year term;

  • The three powers: Executive, Legislative and Judiciary. Furthermore, institutions of the monarchic period, such as the Moderating Power, were abolished;

  • For the Brazilian electoral system, the universal male suffrage for literate adults over 21 years of age. Women, illiterates and common soldiers were not entitled to vote;

  • Federalism: federalism was established as a form of government, which granted a lot of autonomy to the Brazilian states. It allowed states to make loans, organize their own military force, collect their own taxes, and so on.

After the promulgation of the new Constitution, indirect elections were held, which ratified Deodoro da Fonseca as Brazilian president and Floriano Peixoto as his vice president in February 1891. Marshal Deodoro da Fonseca kept his authoritarian posture, which caused the president to clash with Congress.

The dispute prompted the president to take more authoritarian measures (such as decreeing the closure of Congress) to bolster his power. However, opposition political groups reacted and forced the president to to waive on November 23, 1889. By law, it was necessary to hold new elections, since the president was not in office for two years (from the February 1891 elections), however, Floriano Peixoto took over as president Brazilian.

Government of Floriano Peixoto

Marshal Floriano Peixoto, the second president of Brazil*
Marshal Floriano Peixoto, the second president of Brazil*

The inauguration of Floriano Peixoto only happened because the Partido Republicano Paulista – the main political force in Brazil at the time – guaranteed the succession to Floriano. This happened because the Paulistas wanted to stabilize the republican regime and prevent the monarchists from taking power. Floriano's political vision, albeit moderate, aimed at a nation centered on a government headed by the military.

During his term, two major rebellions took place in Brazil and put the republican order at risk. The actions taken by Floriano Peixoto in containing both movements earned him the nickname “marshaliniron”. These revolts were the Federalist Revolution and the Armada Revolt:

  • Federalist Revolution (1893-1895): it was a dispute between political groups for power in Rio Grande do Sul. The group that received opposition from the government was that of the liberals, who defended the implementation of parliamentarism in Brazil. The Federalist Revolution spread to Santa Catarina and Paraná and resulted in the death of 10,000 people, with the victory of the government-supported group, the Federalists.

  • Armada Revolt (1893-1894): the Revolt of the Armada was a rebellion of royalist groups in the Navy, who were trying to overthrow the Floriano government. The rebels invaded warships and opened fire on Rio de Janeiro. Later they joined the liberals of the Federalist Revolution in combats in Santa Catarina and Paraná. The defeat of the rebels definitely weakened monarchism in Brazil.

The government of Floriano Peixoto extended until 1894, when the transition to civil governments took place. São Paulo politician Prudente de Morais was elected president and began the period known as the Oligarchic Republic (1894-1930).

|1| SKIDMORE, Thomas E. A History of Brazil. Rio de Janeiro: Paz e Terra, 1998, p. 108.

*Image credits: Sergey Kohl and Shutterstock

By Daniel Neves
Graduated in History

Source: Brazil School -

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