Dantas, Manuel Pinto de Souza (1831–1894)

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Dantas, Manuel Pinto de Souza (1831–1894)

Manuel Pinto de Souza Dantas (b. 21 February 1831; d. 29 January 1894), prime minister of Brazil (1884–1885). One of the leading Liberal politicians of the last decades of the Brazilian Empire, Dantas began his career soon after finishing law school in 1851. He held a number of local and provincial political posts, including provincial president of Alagoas and of his native Bahia. At the same time he was a member of various sessions of the national Chamber of Deputies from 1852 to 1868 and was named minister of agriculture, commerce, and public works in the Zacarias de Góes cabinet in 1866. When that administration fell in 1868, Dantas retired temporarily from electoral politics.

Dantas gained his greatest recognition when he returned to politics as a senator in the 1880s. In a period when the abolition of slavery was increasingly seen as the nation's most pressing problem—it was abolished in 1888—the emperor asked Dantas in 1884 to form a new cabinet that would take steps toward emancipation. Moderate in his views, Dantas described the goals of his cabinet as "neither retreat, nor halt, nor undue haste." Nevertheless, the bill he presented, the central provision of which would free slaves over sixty years of age, set off a storm of opposition in Congress. After attacking the principle of liberating any slave without compensating the former master, his enemies finally forced Dantas's cabinet out of power in 1885. The Conservative ministry that followed then passed a watered-down version of Dantas's Sexagenarian Law that same year.

With the end of the Brazilian Empire in 1889, Dantas became director of the Bank of Brazil and then the Bank of the Republic, until his death.

See alsoSlavery: Abolition .


Robert E. Conrad, The Destruction of Brazilian Slavery, 1850–1888 (1972).

Robert Brent Toplin, The Abolition of Slavery in Brazil (1972).

Emília Viotti Da Costa, "Masters and Slaves," chap. 6 in her The Brazilian Empire: Myths and Histories (1985).

                                   Roger A. Kittleson