Constant Botelho de Magalhães, Benjamin (1836–1891)

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Constant Botelho de Magalhães, Benjamin (1836–1891)

Benjamin Constant Botelho de Magalhães (b. 18 October 1836; d. 22 January 1891), one of the founders of the Brazilian Republic. The son of a schoolteacher and a seamstress, Constant was instrumental in Brazil's transition from monarchy to republic. The army gave him the opportunity to rise above his humble birth. Trained as an engineer at Rio de Janeiro's Military Academy, Constant later taught mathematics at his alma mater. In 1866 he participated briefly in the War of the Triple Alliance, but illness forced his return to Rio de Janeiro.

A more successful teacher than soldier, Constant nonetheless was part of the new military that emerged from the Paraguayan war committed to more active participation in political affairs of the empire. He became a convert to positivist doctrines and was influential in spreading them among his students at the Military Academy and later at the War College. By the late 1880s Constant demonstrated vocal support for republicanism and conspired to bring down the empire in 1889. His prestige among students brought many cadets to support the republican cause. In November 1889, as vice president of the Military Club, he urged its president, General Manuel Deodoro da Fonseca, to lead the military against the Emperor Pedro II and proclaim the republic.

Under the Republican administration, Constant served first as minister of war, then as minister of public instruction and postmaster in 1890. The positivist slogan, "Order and Progress," emblazoned on the Brazilian flag is attributed to him.

See alsoPositivism .


João Cruz Costa, A History of Ideas in Brazil, translated by Suzette Machado (1964), esp. pp. 143-148.

Heitor Lyra, História da queda do império, 2 vols. (1964).

Ronald Schneider, "Order and Progress": A Political History of Brazil (1991), esp. pp. 56-57.

Additional Bibliography

Castro, Celso. Os militares e a república: Um estudo sobre cultura e ação política. Rio de Janeiro: J. Zahar Editor, 1995.

Lemos, Renato. Benjamin Constant: Vida e história. Rio de Janeiro: Topbooks, 1999.

                                          Joan Meznar

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Constant Botelho de Magalhães, Benjamin (1836–1891)

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