MANOEL DEODORO DA FONSECA (1827-1892), first president of the united states of Brazil, was born at Alagoas on the 5th of August 1827, being the third son of Lieut.-Colonel Manoel Mendes da Fonseca (d. 1859). He was educated at the military school of Rio de Janeiro, and had attained the rank of captain in the Brazilian army when war broke out in 1864 against Montevideo, and afterwards against Solano Lopez, dictator of Paraguay. His courage gained him distinction, and before the close of the war in 1870 he reached the rank of colonel, and some years later that of general of division. After holding several military commands, he was appointed in 1886 governor of the province of Rio Grande do Sul. In this position he threw himself heartily into politics, espoused the republican opinions then becoming prevalent, and sheltered their exponents with his authority. After a fruitless remonstrance, the government at the close of the year removed him from his post, and recalled him to the capital as director of the service of army material. Finding that even in that post he still continued to encourage insubordination, the minister of war, Alfredo Chaves, dismissed him from office. On 14th of May 1887, in conjunction with the viscount de Pelotas, Fonseca issued a manifesto in defence of the military officers' political rights. From that time his influence was supreme in the army. In December 1888, when the Conservative Correa d'Oliveira became prime minister, Fonseca was appointed to command an army corps on the frontier of Matto Grosso. In June 1889 the ministry was overthrown, and on a dissolution an overwhelming Liberal majority was returned to the chamber of deputies. Fonseca returned to the capital in September. Divisions of opinion soon arose within the Liberal party on the question of provincial autonomy. The more extreme desired the inauguration of a complete federal system. Amongst the most vehement was Ruy Barbosa, the journalist and orator, and after some difficulty he persuaded Fonseca to head an armed movement against the government. The insurrection broke out on the 15th of November 1889. The government commander, Almeida Barreto, hastened to place himself under Fonseca's orders, and the soldiers and sailors made common cause with the insurgents. The affair was almost bloodless, the minister of marine, baron de Ladario, being the only person wounded. Fonseca had only intended to overturn the ministry, but he yielded to the insistency of the republican leaders and proclaimed a republic. A provisional government was constituted by the army and navy in the name of the nation, with Fonseca at its head. The council was abolished, and both the senate and the chamber of deputies were dissolved. The emperor was requested to leave the territory of Brazil within twenty-four hours, and on the 17th of November was embarked on a cruiser for Lisbon. On the 10th of December a decree of banishment was pronounced against the imperial family. So universal was the republican sentiment that there was no attempt at armed resistance. The provisional government exercised dictatorial powers for a year, and on the 25th of February 1891 Fonseca was elected president of the republic. He was, however, no politician, and possessed indeed little ability beyond the art of acquiring popularity. His tenure of office was short. In May be became involved in an altercation with congress, and in November pronounced its dissolution, a measure beyond his constitutional power. After a few days of arbitrary rule insurrection broke out in Rio Grande do Sul, and before the close of November Fonseca, finding himself forsaken, resigned his office. From that time he lived in retirement. He died at Rio de Janeiro on the 23rd of August 1892.
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