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Fonseca, Manoel Deodoro da (1827–1892)

Fonseca, Manoel Deodoro da (1827–1892)

Manoel Deodoro da Fonseca (b. 5 August 1827; d. 23 August 1892), a career army officer who became the first president of the Brazilian republic (1889–1891). Born in Alagoas, in Brazil's poor Northeast, Fonseca and his seven brothers all followed family tradition and entered the army. He helped subdue the liberal Praieira Revolt in Pernambuco in 1848, and served in the War of the Triple Alliance (1864–1870), achieving the ranks of brigadier general in 1874 and marshal in 1884. Through personal bravery and steadfastness, he became one of the most popular and respected army officers under the empire. Fonseca was a major figure in the so-called Military Question, a series of political conflicts during the 1880s between members of the armed forces and representatives of the imperial government that served gradually to weaken the imperial government.

Although not a republican by conviction, Fonseca was persuaded to join and lead the military movement that brought about the overthrow of the monarchy on 25 November 1889 and the proclamation of a republic that afternoon. A successful revolt toppling the monarchy would not have been possible without the support of influential senior career officers like Fonseca, who assumed the position of provisional president of the new republic. Elected to a four-year term as president of the republic by the Constituent Congress in February 1891, he continually clashed with this largely civilian body that often protested what it perceived as infringements on civil liberties by military men. Unable to adjust to the give-and-take of politics and lacking political sophistication and astuteness, Fonseca judged legislative opposition to his policies to be personal insults and unconstitutionally dissolved Congress early in November 1891. A few weeks later, he was forced out of office by dissatisfied military factions, notably members of the navy. His resignation as president late in November 1891 permitted the vice-president, Marshal Floriano Peixoto, to assume office and reconvene Congress. Fonseca died several months later.

See alsoPernambuco; War of the Tripple Alliance.


June E. Hahner, Civilian-Military Relations in Brazil, 1889–1898 (1969).

Additional Bibliography

Beattie, Peter. The Tribute of Blood: Army, Race, and Nation in Brazil, 1864–1945. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2001.

Mosher, Jeffrey. "Challenging Authority: Political Violence and the Regency in Pernambuco, Brazil, 1831–1835." Luso-Brazilian Review 37:2 (Winter 2000): 33-57.

Mosher, Jeffrey. "Political Mobilization, Party Ideology, and Lusophobia in Nineteenth-Century Brazil: Pernambuco, 1822–1850." Hispanic American Historical Review 80:4 (Nov. 2000): 881-912.

                                             June E. Hahner

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