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Old letters from the Baron of Rio Branco (1893)

Old letters from the Baron of Rio Branco (1893)

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On his way to New York to defend the rights of Brazil, the Baron of Rio Branco reflects on his mission as a diplomat.

Two old letters from the Baron of Rio Branco, nicknamed Juca, to an unknown addressee (Avelino). Two sheets, four pages written, for each letter. In Portuguese. 20.2 cm x 25.4 cm. On board the ship RMS Teutonic, en route to New York. May 22, 1893. Paper yellowed and weakened by time. We would like to thank the UFMG paleography team for the work of transcribing these two letters. Single set.

Extracts from the first letter

I haven't had a moment's rest since his departure (...) that appointment to Washington came to me.

In your letter you say that I now find myself in the career that suits me best. Sometimes we talked about this subject, and you must remember that I always tell you that I don't want to know about a diplomatic career. I'm not good for that, my dear, for many reasons. Just mention two: I don't have the fortune to sustain the position of minister, and I shouldn't renounce work I have in preparation to lead a life of dinners, receptions, etiquette and parties. I am no longer a man of the world.

I accepted this mission because it is temporary and solely for the defense of territory that is indisputably ours. It is a question of history and geography that I know perfectly well, a question dealt with by my Pae in 1857. I don't know from whom the Government found out that I was in possession of new documents and intended to write about the subject: it appealed to me, and I had no right to excuse me, alleging reasons of convenience or personal convenience.

The matter over, I'll go back to my corner until I can find a way to acquire some property in Sao Paulo. I don't care about eminences and greatness, and this abstention, as you know, comes from afar. In times when such things seemed more lasting and solid, I had already got used to only wishing for obscure positions. I must not modify this purpose in the hectic days we are going through (...).

Extracts from the second letter

This life on board is so boring! I'm copying this paper without knowing it well what i write. On board I can only sleep and eat: the rocking of the ship makes me lazy and incapable of romance. I'm on the 5th. travel day. The day after tomorrow we should arrive in New York (...). Juca

In 2012, Brazil commemorated the end of the tenure of the Baron of Rio Branco (1845 - 1912) at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, valuing the legacy of the patron of Brazilian diplomacy, especially regarding the United States and Argentina. Rio Branco closed the limits of the national territory and established the bases of the tradition of Brazilian diplomacy, always seeking to differentiate Brazil from other nations in the southern segment of the hemisphere, characterized by great political and financial difficulties.

In this set of two letters, the Baron of Rio Branco writes from the ship that took him to Washington in 1893 to, according to the Brazilian Academy of Letters, "(...) defend the rights of Brazil to the territories of the Missions. The question was submitted to the arbitration of President Grover Cleveland, of the USA, claimed by Argentina. Rio Branco, advocating the Brazilian point of view, presented President Cleveland with an exposition and valuable documentation in six volumes. The arbitration award of February 5, 1895 was entirely favorable to the claims brazilians."

This set of two letters is valuable for the Baron of Rio Branco's detailed thought about the - sometimes boring - work of a Brazilian diplomat (" dinners, receptions, etiquette and parties" ), his goals for this particular mission ( "the defense of of a territory that is indisputably ours" ) and his aspirations for the future (" I don't want to know about eminences and greatness" ).

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