Afonso Augusto Moreira Pena[a] (Portuguese: [aˈfõsu awˈɡustu moˈrejrɐ ˈpenɐ]; 30 November 1847 – 14 June 1909) was a Brazilian politician who served as the sixth president of Brazil between 1906 and 1909. Before his political career, Pena had been an attorney and legal scholar. He was the first president of Brazil to die in office.

Afonso Pena
Afonso Pena.jpg
Official portrait, 1906
President of Brazil
In office
15 November 1906 – 14 June 1909
Vice PresidentNilo Peçanha
Preceded byRodrigues Alves
Succeeded byNilo Peçanha
Vice President of Brazil
In office
25 June 1903 – 14 November 1906
PresidentRodrigues Alves
Preceded byRosa e Silva
Succeeded byNilo Peçanha
Other offices held
1900–1902President of the Belo Horizonte Deliberative Council
1900–1902State Senator of Minas Gerais
1895–1898President of the Bank of the Republic
1892–1894President of Minas Gerais
1891–1891State Senator of Minas Gerais
1885–1885Minister of Justice
1884–1884Minister of War
1883–1884Minister of Agriculture and Transport
1882–1882Minister of War (interim)
1882–1882Minister of the Navy (interim)
1878–1889General Deputy for Minas Gerais
1874–1878Provincial Deputy of Minas Gerais
Personal details
Born(1847-11-30)30 November 1847
Santa Bárbara, Minas Gerais, Empire of Brazil
Died14 June 1909(1909-06-14) (aged 61)
Catete Palace, Rio de Janeiro, Federal District, Brazil
Political partyLiberal Party (1874–1889)
Mineiro Republican Party (1889–1909)
Maria Guilhermina de Oliveira
(m. 1875⁠–⁠1909)
; his death
Alma materSão Paulo Law School

Pena began his political career in 1874 with an election to the Imperial General Assembly. In the succeeding years, Pena reconciled legislative work with some periods occupying secretariats—secretary of Agriculture (1882), Commerce and Public Affairs (1883) and Justice (1885). As president of the provincial assembly of Minas Gerais, Pena inaugurated the new capital Belo Horizonte.

After the proclamation of the Republic, he was president of Minas Gerais between 1892 and 1894. It was during his administration that Belo Horizonte was set for the future state capital (which at that time was Ouro Preto). He ran in the presidential election of 1894, but lost by a large margin to Prudente de Morais.

In 1902 Pena became Vice President to Francisco de Paula Rodrigues Alves. As Vice President, he also served as the President of the Senate. He was elected president in 1906 and served until his death in 1909, a few days after the passing of his son Álvaro Pena.

Afonso Pena was the first Brazilian president to advocate intervening in the coffee economy. The federal government started to buy production surplus, thus maintaining the high price of coffee in international markets. Pena also promoted the expansion of railroads and immigration.

The reorganization of the Brazilian Army and Navy was done by ministers Hermes da Fonseca and Alexandrino Faria de Alencar [pt] during the Pena administration. Pena also supported Cândido Rondon's expeditions in the Amazon rainforest.


Early life and educationEdit

Born on 30 November 1847 in Santa Bárbara do Mato Dentro, currently the municipality of Santa Bárbara, Minas Gerais, Pena was the seventh of twelve children of Domingos José Teixeira Penna and Anna Moreira Teixeira Penna; being his mother's firstborn, as she was his father's second wife.[1][2] Domingos was a Portuguese immigrant from São Salvador da Ribeira de Pena and in the new country he owned land, a gold mine and a large number of slaves.[1] Domingos' earnings were sufficient to provide the family with a standard of living described as "comfortable".[3] His father was also a major in the National Guard. Afonso's mother came from an influential family in Santa Bárbara politics.[2] As a child, he was taken care of by the nursemaid Ambrosina, a slave. According to José Anchieta da Silva, one of his biographers, Pena was an early abolitionist who fought for better working conditions for his father's slaves.[3]

Pena completed his primary studies in his hometown, later transferring to the Caraça School [pt] at the age of ten in 1857. The school was maintained by the Lazarist priests and Pena's father was one of its most prominent contributors.[2] At the school, he had theology, ethics, philosophy, mathematics, geometry, history, rhetoric and foreign language classes. Pena finished his studies in the Caraça School on 16 January 1864 and later moved to the city of São Paulo to study at the Faculty of Law in 1866.[4]

Pena as a child, unknown date

During the law course, he was a colleague of Ruy Barbosa, Bias Fortes [pt], Joaquim Nabuco, Castro Alves and Rodrigues Alves. With the latter, he founded the journal Imprensa Acadêmica, focused on debating academic and political issues. From the few remaining copies of this journal's articles it is possible to point out the influence of French authors such as Victor Hugo, Honoré de Balzac and Émile Zola.[2] Pena was also an adept of the natural law ideas and an opponent of positivism, as he was a fervent catholic and sympathetic to the monarchy in Brazil. His ideas distanced him from the Brazilian positivists; the positivists advocated for the separation of Church and State and for the implantation of a military republic in Brazil. Two other movements divided Brazil during his years at the Faculty of Law: abolitionism and republicanism. Pena supported the former but not the latter, refusing to sign the 1870 Republican Manifesto [pt].[5]

He graduated with a Law degree on 23 October 1870. The following year, he became a doctor at the same institution, defending the thesis Letra de Câmbio on 19 June 1871.[2][6] After turning down an invitation to teach at his alma mater, he returned to Minas Gerais, where he founded his own law firm.[7]

In 1875, Pena married Maria Guilhermina de Oliveira, daughter of Belisário Augusto de Oliveira Pena [pt], the Viscount of Carandaí, and a descendant of Honório Hermeto Carneiro Leão, the Marquis of Paraná. The couple had twelve children: Maria da Conceição, Afonso Júnior [pt], Otávio, Álvaro, Salvador, Albertina, Maria Guilhermina, Alexandre Moreira, Manuel, Regina Alexandre, Dora and Olga. Afonso Júnior was Minister of Justice and Internal Affairs to president Artur Bernardes and a member of the Brazilian Academy of Letters.[8]

Political careerEdit

Maria Guilhermina de Oliveira Pena, first lady and wife of Afonso Pena and Pena when young

Parliamentarian and Minister of State; 1870 to 1892Edit

After college, he practiced law in Santa Bárbara and later in Barbacena, where he became known for advocating in defense of slaves. In 1874, he was elected provincial deputy for the Liberal Party. In 1878, he was elected general deputy. His political career was initially sponsored by Martinho Campos and Afonso Celso, who helped him in his rise in the Liberal Party.[9]

Pena was re-elected to the Chamber of Deputies and remained there until 1889. During this period, he defended the increase in the number of citizens eligible to vote, based on the reduction of the requirements to do so. In 1882, he began his experience in executive positions, as Minister of War in the cabinet of prime minister Martinho Campos. In the following years, he was Minister of Agriculture, Commerce and Public Works (1883 to 1884) and Interior and Justice (1885). Although he voted in favor of the Golden Law, his national projection made him abandon his youth abolitionist ideal, as he was concerned with the economic impacts of abolitionism and sought to be loyal to his party. In 1888, he was appointed a member of the Council of State.[10]

President of Minas Gerais and path to the presidency of Brazil; 1892 to 1906Edit

Pena thought about abandoning politics with the proclamation of the Republic in 1889 to resume his personal projects, namely law and teaching. However, he ended up adopting a "resigned acceptance" to the established regime, being elected to the Constituent Assembly of Minas Gerais, as a state senator. In 1892, he ran for president of Minas Gerais, on a single ticket supported by all parties. It was the first direct election for the position and Pena was elected with 48,000 votes.

As president of Minas Gerais, Pena opposed the authoritarian government of president Floriano Peixoto and housed his opponents in the state, notably Olavo Bilac and Carlos de Laet.[11] In 1893, he obtained the approval of the law of his own making that founded the city of Belo Horizonte, in place of the old village of Curral d'el Rey, to serve as the new state capital, replacing Ouro Preto. In 1892, he was one of the founders of the Free Law School, also acting as one of its directors.

Pena left the government of Minas Gerais in 1894, being succeeded by Bias Fortes.[12] In 1895, he was appointed president of the Bank of the Republic, the current Bank of Brazil, by president Prudente de Morais. It was the main Brazilian banking institution at the time. Pena remained as president of the bank until 1898.[13] In 1900, he held the position of president of the Deliberative Council of Belo Horizonte, with similar functions to the later established City Council. At the same time, he returned to the state Senate, where he stayed until 1902.

In 1903, Pena was appointed vice president of the Republic by president Rodrigues Alves, following the death of Silviano Brandão, vice president-elect. At the time, the vice presidents exercised, cumulatively, the position of president of the Federal Senate.[14] In the 1906 election, he was the candidate for the presidency of the Republic for the O Bloco coalition, formed by the states of Minas Gerais, Rio Grande do Sul, Bahia and Rio de Janeiro. Pena easily defeated his opponents, president of state Lauro Sodré [pt] and senator Ruy Barbosa, obtaining 288,285 votes, or 97.92% of the valid votes. Senator Nilo Peçanha, from the same presidential ticket, was elected vice president with 92.96% of the votes.

President of Brazil; 1906 to 1909Edit

Pena c. 1906

Before taking office, Pena toured the country, traveling over 21,000 kilometers and visiting eighteen state capitals.[15] He became the sixth president of Brazil on 15 November 1906.[16] Despite being elected on the basis of the so-called "coffee with milk politics", he carried out an administration that was not entirely tied to regional interests. He encouraged the creation of railways, and connected the Amazon to Rio de Janeiro by telegraph with Cândido Rondon's expedition.

In 1906, the Pena government adopted the gold standard, creating the Caixa de Conversão [pt], setting the exchange rate to the Pound, at a value of 1 mil-réis to 15 pence.[17] Pena made the first state purchase of coffee stocks in the Old Republic, thus transferring the burden of coffee value appreciation to the Federal Government, which was previously only practiced regionally by São Paulo, Minas Gerais and Rio de Janeiro, which had signed the Taubaté Agreement. These measures would later result in a period of great prosperity and inflationary control, interrupted with the advent of the First World War. The great influx of foreign capital to Brazil, obtained with the exportation of coffee, and the measures aimed at restricting the expansion of coffee crops adopted in the Taubaté Agreement made it possible to expand the industrial sector during the period.[18] In a industrial census held in 1907, 3,258 companies were counted, which together employed 150,841 factory workers. This census included manufacturing and large industries. However, out of the large factories, 85% were concentrated in São Paulo.[16]

Satire by the magazine O Malho, criticizing Pena for his young cabinet ministers. The sign reads: "Jardim da Infância", the kindergarten

The Pena government modernized the Army and Navy through general Hermes da Fonseca and Alexandrino Faria de Alencar, during which Brazil acquired the Minas Geraes-class battleships kickstarting the South American dreadnought race; and encouraged immigration. His motto was "to govern is to populate", later adopted and expanded by president Washington Luís, who declared: "to govern is to populate; but you cannot populate without opening roads, and of all kinds; to govern is, therefore, to build roads". During his term the first wave of Japanese immigrants arrived in Brazil in the ship Kasato Maru disembarking in the Port of Santos in June 1908.[19]

The ministries during Pena's presidency were held by young politicians who respected his authority. These young ministers were nicknamed "the kindergarten". Pena even declared, in a letter to Ruy Barbosa, that the function of the ministers was to carry out his thinking: "In the distribution of ministries, I did not worry about politics, because that direction falls to me, according to the good rules of the regime. The ministers will carry out my thought. I make the policy."

Pena greatly encouraged the construction of railroads, especially the construction of the Northwest Brazil Railroad [pt] and the connection between the São Paulo and Paraná railroads, allowing, for the first time, the connection of Southeast Brazil with the South by train. Pena also modernized Brazilian capitals and ports. During his term the Brazilian National Exposition of 1908 was held in Urca, Rio de Janeiro, featuring pavillions of Brazilian states and Portugal.[20]

Due to his departure from the traditional interests of the oligarchies, in the so-called oligarchic Old Republic, Pena faced a crisis at the time of his succession. David Morethson Campista, nominated by Pena to succeed him in the presidency, was rejected by groups supporting Hermes da Fonseca (mainly by Pinheiro Machado, the most influential congressman at the time). Pena tried to nominate Campos Sales and Rodrigues Alves, without success. In the midst of all this, the Civilist Campaign [pt] also began, launched by Ruy Barbosa.


Funeral of Afonso Pena in the Catete Palace, 15 June 1909

On 14 June 1909, Pena died at the Catete Palace due to a severe pneumonia, whose symptoms had started the previous month. It was speculated that his death was caused by a "moral trauma" due to the recent death of his son Álvaro and the succession crisis. His wake was held at the government palace and, on 16 June, his body was buried in the São João Batista Cemetery. Nilo Peçanha was immediately sworn in as president.


Pena was honored by giving his name to the city of Penápolis,[21] the city of Conselheiro Pena and the Academic Center of the Faculty of Law of the Federal University of Minas Gerais, CAAP (Afonso Pena Academic Center). As its founder and first director, the faculty itself is affectionately called Vetusta Casa de Afonso Pena, that is, the Old House of Afonso Pena, by its students, professors and staff, as well as the entire academic and legal community that interacts with it.[22]

In Belo Horizonte, Pena lends his name to the most important avenue in the city. Likewise, in Campo Grande, Mato Grosso do Sul, his name appears on the main avenue. He also lends his name to an important avenue in Porto Velho, Rondônia. He is also honored in São José dos Pinhais, Paraná, naming the city's main airport, Afonso Pena International Airport.

Back to his originsEdit

On 13 February 2009, the mausoleum and remains of former president Afonso Pena arrived in the historic city of Santa Bárbara. The transfer departed from the São João Batista Cemetery, in Rio de Janeiro, to the old house where he was born.

The monument where Pena's remains were, in Rio de Janeiro, was inaugurated in 1912. It was probably carved in Italy, being built in Carrara marble by Rodolfo Bernardelli, a Mexican-born Brazilian artist at the end of the 19th century. The figure, a woman crying over the three-ton headstone, represents Brazil. The mausoleum's style is eclectic, mixing the neoclassical and art-nouveau styles.


Afonso Pena cabinet ministers; standing, from left to right: Alexandrino Faria de Alencar, Hermes da Fonseca, Augusto Tavares de Lira. Seated, from left to right: David Campista, Paranhos Júnior, Miguel Calmon du Pin e Almeida.

The composition of Afonso Pena's government was:[23][24]


Ministers of State
Minister of Justice and Internal AffairsAugusto Tavares de Lira15 November 1906 – 14 June 1909
Minister of the NavyAlexandrino Faria de Alencar15 November 1906 – 14 June 1909
Minister of WarHermes da Fonseca15 November 1906 – 27 May 1909
Luís Mendes de Morais (interim)27 May 1909 – 14 June 1909
Minister of Foreign AffairsJosé Maria da Silva Paranhos Júnior15 November 1906 – 14 June 1909
Minister of FinanceDavid Morethson Campista15 November 1906 – 14 June 1909
Minister of Industry, Transport and Public Works
Minister of Transport and Public Works
Miguel Calmon du Pin e Almeida15 November 1906 – 14 June 1909

Presidency organsEdit

Presidency Organs
Secretary of the Presidency of the RepublicRodrigues Alves15 November 1906 – 8 December 1906
Edmundo da Veiga8 December 1906 – 14 June 1909
General Consultancy of the RepublicTristão de Alencar Araripe Júnior15 November 1906 – 14 June 1909


  1. ^ In the old spelling: Affonso Augusto Moreira Penna.[1]


  1. ^ a b c Lima 2016, p. 2.
  2. ^ a b c d e Viscardi, p. 1.
  3. ^ a b Silva 2012, p. 178.
  4. ^ Silva 2012, p. 179.
  5. ^ Viscardi, p. 1-2.
  6. ^ Silva 2012, p. 180.
  7. ^ Silva 2012, p. 179-180.
  8. ^ Silva 2012, p. 188.
  9. ^ Viscardi, p. 3.
  10. ^ Viscardi, p. 5.
  11. ^ Silva 2012, p. 182.
  12. ^ Viscardi, p. 7.
  13. ^ Viscardi, p. 9.
  14. ^ "República Velha (1889 - 1930) - Senado Federal".
  15. ^ Viscardi, p. 10.
  16. ^ a b "História - 1906 - Afonso Pena". Folha Online. Retrieved 4 August 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  17. ^ Rossini, p. 5.
  18. ^ Rossini, p. 6.
  19. ^ Baily et al. 2003, p. 122.
  20. ^ Wright 1908, p. 3-4.
  21. ^ "Em 1917, Penápolis apresenta petição ao Legislativo paulista para se tornar comarca". Assembleia Legislativa de São Paulo. 15 June 2015. Retrieved 19 September 2022.
  22. ^ "120 anos: Histórico". Faculdade de Direito da Universidade de Minas Gerais. Retrieved 19 September 2022.
  23. ^ "Ministros de Estado". Presidência da República. Archived from the original on 15 November 2006. Retrieved 29 June 2022.
  24. ^ "Affonso Augusto Moreira Penna". Presidência da República. Archived from the original on 22 April 2008. Retrieved 5 August 2022.


External linksEdit

Political offices
Preceded by Governor of Minas Gerais
Succeeded by
Preceded by Vice President of Brazil
Succeeded by
Preceded by President of Brazil