Nabuco de Araújo, Joaquim (1849–1910)

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Nabuco de Araújo, Joaquim (1849–1910)

Joaquim Nabuco de Araújo (b. 19 August 1849; d. 17 January 1910), Brazilian abolitionist and diplomat. Nabuco was born in Recife. His mother came from Pernambuco's planter elite, and his father, José Tomás Nabuco de Araújo, was a deputy, senator, Progressive League chieftain, Liberal leader, minister, councillor of state, and jurist. Nabuco was expected to assume his place. As a student at the Colégio D. Pedro II (1857–1866) and at law school in São Paulo and Recife (1866–1870), Nabuco was drawn to both literature and sociopolitical reform. He spent the 1870s indecisively, writing, touring Europe, and serving as a diplomatic attaché in London and New York. Upon his father's death in 1878, his family pressed him to seek election in Pernambuco as a deputy.

Nabuco conceived of himself as an English Liberal reformist. He found his cause in abolition, an issue that had attracted him since his student days. Slavery's destruction, he argued in O Abolicionismo (1883), was the most important of the reforms necessary to the empire's survival and progress. The abolition movement (1879–1888) involved sustained mobilization of the urban middle class and worker elements paralleled by plantation agitation, slave resistance and revolt, and flight.

Nabuco, using and attacking traditional politics, was an indispensable leader. A superb speaker and propagandist, charismatic and well-connected, he led the movement in parliament, public meetings, and international conferences. His commitment and political moralism cost him defeats, European self-exile, and party ostracism, but they also brought him romantic glory and a commanding position among reformists. Abolition was realized in 1888 by a Conservative cabinet, which completed the disarray of the traditional parties, produced reaction, and encouraged republicanism. Nabuco sought the monarchy's survival through further reform, but he was unsuccessful.

Nabuco interpreted the 1889 Republic as the reactionary work of the planters. He refused to participate in the new regime, and turned to journalism, law, and literature (1889–1899). In these years, he completed Um estadista do império (1897–1900), a biography of his father and the classic study of the monarchy, and Minha formação (1900), an intellectual autobiography. Nabuco helped found the Brazilian Academy of Letters in 1897.

When the Republic had painfully reconstructed political consensus, Nabuco allowed himself to be wooed into diplomacy to defend Brazil in an imperialistic era that he thought threatened his much weakened nation. His first mission, an arbitration with Britain over the Guyana border (1899–1904), ended in failure. Nonetheless, Nabuco, who was appointed minister to Great Britain (1900–1904) during the arbitration, was subsequently appointed Brazil's first ambassador to the United States (1905–1910). Nabuco was very successful; he lectured widely, and he secured a hemispheric partnership with the United States. His crowning achievement was the Pan-American Conference held in Rio (1906). This was his last, triumphant return to Brazil before his death in Washington, D.C., four years later.

See alsoSlave Trade, Abolition of: Brazil .


The most scholarly and complete biography is Nabuco's daughter's treatment, Carolina Nabuco, The Life of Joaquim Nabuco (1950). Emília Viotti Da Costa, Da senzala à colônia, 2d ed. (1982), gives us the best analysis of the abolitionist movement; her The Brazilian Empire (1988) has chapters that focus on the politics and ideological problems that make the movement's context comprehensible. Robert E. Conrad, The Destruction of Brazilian Slavery (1971), is useful for its political analysis. Jeffrey D. Needell studies Nabuco's political thought in "A Liberal Embraces Monarchy," in The Americas 48, no. 2 (1991): 159-179. E. Bradford Burns, The Unwritten Alliance (1966), explores Nabuco's diplomatic partnership with Rio Branco vis-à-vis the United States.

Additional Bibliography

Costa, Milton Carlos. Joaquim Nabuco entre a política e a história. São Paulo: Annablume, 2003.

Dennison, Stephanie. Joaquim Nabuco: Monarchism, Panamericanism and Nation-building in the Brazilian Belle Epoque. New York: Peter Lang, 2006.

Silveira, Helder Gordim da. Joaquim Nabuco e Oliveira Lima: faces de um paradigma ideológico da americanização nas relações internacionais do Brasil. Porto Alegre: EDIPUCRS, 2003.

                                   Jeffrey D. Needell