Coordenação de Raul Mendes Silva


Ambassador Fernando de Mello Barreto



Slightly less than four years elapsed between the bombings of Brazilian ships at the end of the First World War and the beginning of the country's role as a member of the League of Nations – between 1917 and 1920. Nevertheless, the period was decisive for Brazilian foreign policy in later decades, since it placed the country alongside the Allies in the first world war – which was to be repeated in the Second World War – and created in national diplomacy the desire for a leading role in the multilateral forums.


1917 - Involvement in the war

In May 1917, a few days after Nilo Peçanha took office as Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Brazilian ship Tijuca was torpedoed by German ships near the French port of Brest. On learning about this fact, the Brazilian government decided to use German ships in Brazilian ports. In a message to Congress on 26 May, president Wenceslau Braz justified the measure:

“... after the ship Paraná was torpedoed (on 3 April), (the Brazilian government) cut diplomatic and trade relations with Germany.

Now, after the second ship was torpedoed in serious circumstances, without forewarning, and the threat of diminishing our navigation and foreign trade as each day goes by, has forced the government to adopt protective measures that the High Council of National Congress can inspire.

The government, bringing the matter to your consideration, as is its duty, does not wish to be exempt, however, from its responsibility, and to give its frank opinion. It seems that German mercantile ships anchored in the ports of Brazil should be urgently used, although the idea of confiscation has been excluded, which is so against the spirit of our legislation and feeling of the country.

Use would find a basis in the principles of the Hague Convention dated 18 October 1907, and would be without compensation, until we can ascertain if these are privately owned assets that, even in the case of war, must be respected, and Brazil will do so, or if they belong to companies with any links of dependence with the authorities. ”

On that same day the Brazilian government was given news that another ship was torpedoed, the steamboat Lapa of Lloyd Brasileiro, which was between the Canary Islands and the port of Marseilles. It then decided to take measures regarding the German merchant ships in Brazilian ports and, under decrees on 1 and 2 June, the president determined that they were “considered Brazilian for the purpose of immediately flying the national ensign”. The ships' crews were landed and accommodated, without major incidents, to be sustained by the Federal Government. Forty-two German vessels were now thereby "used". The German government protested under the diplomatic mission of the Netherlands, which represented its interests in Brazil. Nilo Peçanha, in response to the communication, justified the measure as a reprisal, based on international law, quoting the very German doctrine represented by the internationalist Hefter.


The end of neutrality

Under a circular communication, the Brazilian government informed the friendly nations that it had sanctioned a law revoking Brazil's neutrality in the war between the United States and the German Empire:

“The Republic thus acknowledged that one of the warring parties belongs completely to the American continent to which we are bound by traditional friendship and the same political thinking to protect the vital interests of American and the principles accepted by International Law.

Brazil has never had nor still has warlike ambitions, and if it has always abstained from any partiality in the war in Europe, it could not continue indifferent to it, since the United States was dragged into the fight, with no interest, but only on behalf of international legal order, and Germany indiscriminately extended to us and other neutral peoples the more violent processes of war.

If so far the lack of reciprocity by the American Republics removed from the Monroe doctrine its true nature, permitting an interpretation less founded on the prerogatives of its sovereignty, current events, placing Brazil, even now, besides the United States, at a crucial moment in world history, continue to give our foreign policy a practical aspect of continental solidarity, a policy, actually, that was also from the old regime, each time being in any cause of the other sister and brother nations of the American Continent".

Reactions were immediate. The North American president by telegram to Wenceslau Braz on 5 June stated that he had received the Brazilian decision with deep appreciation. On that same date, Berlin submitted a communication of protest against the decision. In response, the Brazilian government qualified the use of the ships as an act of legitimate defence.

Two days later, the president send a message to Congress to communicate about the decision to also revoke neutrality in relation to France, Russia, Great Britain, Japan, Portugal and Italy in the war against Germany. Pursuant to this decision, the port authorities decided to seize the German gunboat Eber, which was anchored in a Bahian port. Its crew, however, sunk it before it could be handed over to the Brazilian authorities.

In a telegram sent to Woodrow Wilson, president Wenceslau Braz explained the decision of revoking neutrality:

“ ... Brazil, now alongside the United States, was faithful to its political and diplomatic traditions of continental solidarity and, in the same way as the great American nation, neither hatred or interest inspire us in this step but the international legal order, otherwise the defence of principles that, if they are in case or in danger in the Old World, it is necessary for them to find shelter and balance among the free peoples of the two Americas. Brazil has all its foreign issues settled, nor has ambitions in the present or suffered nothing in the past, and appreciates the friendship of the United States as a major asset. More than any outside demonstrations, no occasion like this of uncertainties and struggles could so closely unit Brazil and the United States”.


Setbacks with the English blockade

The acts in favour of the Allies did not mitigate, however, the difficulties of the Brazilian government with the English naval blockade and its negative impact on the sale of Brazilian coffee. Nilo Peçanha instructed the minister in London, Fontoura Xavier, on 17 June, to allege that coffee would be transported by Brazilian ships and that, therefore, there was no reason for its inclusion in the blockade. London informed that the ban on coffee imports to Great Britain was designed not to cause complaints from countries such as France, Italy and Portugal, whose industries were negatively affected by the English ban. After repeated Brazilian overtures, the British government agreed with the shipments, but demanded that they were shipped in former German ships and carry other cargoes of British interest. Peçanha refused the English proposal, alleging that it would restrict our freedom and diminish the trust that Brazil considered it deserved from old and friendly allies. Fontoura Xavier had successive meetings with Lord Robert Cecil but, in the end, the Brazilian government refused to export using German vessels, since it considered the demand an imposition.

The first troops sent by the United States reached France in June and increased the allied contingent in Europe. The revolutionary process in Russia was briefly interrupted when, that same month, the interim government put down the Bolshevik rising. The following week, Kerensky was chosen Prime Minster in Petrograd. The world conflict spread to the Far East as soon as China declared war on Germany and Austria. In August, on the western front, the French burst through the German lines at Verdun.

In Brazil, Nilo Peçanha was working with the British diplomats to settle another problem relating to neutrality, that is, the corporate blacklist. In September, an understanding was reached after Brazil agreed to try and control the corporate activities so that only genuinely national businesses would be involved in trading, as a communication from the English minister Arthur Peel demanded.

Neutrality was exhausted when the Brazilian ship Macau was torpedoed on the coast of Spain. President Wenceslau Braz recognised, on 25 October, the State of War in a message to the Congress, which said:

“ I have the painful duty to inform the National Congress that, through telegrams from London and Madrid, the government has just learned that the Brazilian ship Macau was torpedoed by a German submarine and that its captain was captured.

The circumstance that this is our fourth ship intentionally sunk by German naval forces is in itself serious but this gravity increases with the prison of the Brazilian captain.

There is no way, members of the National Congress, in which we can be deceived by the situation or be unaware now of the state of war that is imposed upon us by Germany” .


Acknowledging state of war

The next day, the Congress voted for recognition of the State of War?. Brazil had become, thereby, together with the United States and the Central American Republics, one of the few American countries to go to war, since Uruguay, Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia only cut diplomatic relations and Argentina, Chile, Mexico, Venezuela and Paraguay remained neutral. The Decree sanctioning the State of War stated:

“Sole article. The State of War begun by the German Empire against Brazil is recognised and proclaimed and the President of the Republic is authorised to adopt the measures in the Message dated on 25 October this year and take steps of national defence and public security that it considers necessary, opening the credits necessary or performing credit operations that are convenient for this purpose, the provision to the contrary having been revoked.”

Another two Brazilian merchant ships were torpedoed: Acary, ofLloyd Brasileiro and Guahyba, of the company Commercio e Navegação, which were close to the Cape Verde islands on their way to Havre. President Wenceslau Braz reacted by sending on 3 November, a message to Congress in which he proposed several measures relating to German companies and subjects in Brazil. He also sent messages to the King of Great Britain and the Presidents of the United States (Wilson), France (Poincaré) and Portugal (Bernardino Machado) in which he thanked them for their expressions of solidarity for the Brazilian decision to decree a State of War and demonstrated the Brazilian willingness to join the Allies. “The Legislative voted the law of Brazilian war and published it, after being sanctioned, on 16 November” (coinciding, by chance, with the day when the Bolshevik troops took Moscow).


Training for the war

On 27 November, King George V of Great Britain received the Head of the Brazilian diplomatic mission in London, minister Fontoura Xavier, who handed him the message from the president Wenceslau Braz concerning the Brazilian willingness to join the Allies. The monarch suggested that Brazilian aviators would be trained in Great Britain to fight alongside the Allies.

Fontoura Xavier informed Itamaraty of the meeting, which was published to the press. Since this was a royal expression, without backing from the English government, the ForeignOffice instructed its diplomatic representative in Brazil, Minister Arthur Peel, to inform that it was impossible to accept the air pilots, alleging that there had been a misunderstanding at the royal hearing. Nilo Peçanha considered this communication serious, since it left the Brazilian government in a difficult situation when volunteers were offering to go to Great Britain.

In London, the English government informed Fontoura Xavier that it could not accommodate the Brazilians due to excess personnel and a lack of machines. Peçanha stressed to Peel the difficult situation created with the Brazilian Armed Forces and general public. Finally, after negotiations between both governments, Brazil decided that the number of Brazilian aviators would be reduced to ten.

The Brazilian Chancellor informed the English diplomatic representative by communication on 30 November, which concluded the understanding about the company blacklist. He argued that, since Brazil was not in the war, there was no reason why the English should interfere in Brazilian home trade and concluded:

“... the Brazilian government informs his British Majesty, as friend and ally, that it has assumed, wherever applicable, the entire inspection of enemy firms or that have become enemy, without distinguishing nationalities, throughout national territory, no longer justifying that an agency operate here that now would be parallel to the government and sovereignty of Brazil ” .


Participation in Allied Conference

Now that it had joined the war, the Brazilian government was invited to send a presenter to the Inter-Allied Conference called to join and co-ordinate forces against Germany. The meeting was held on 30 November and 3 December in Paris, at which the Brazilian delegate was the plenipotentiary Minister before the French government, Olyntho M. de Magalhães. The last day of the Conference coincided with the signing of a convention between Brazil and France by which the Brazilian government chartered 30 former German ships to the French government for one year. In addition to cash payment, Paris agreed to acquire Brazilian merchandise, including coffee.

The United States increased its involvement in the conflict by declaring war on Hungary and Austria in early December. In Brazil, the invitation for an effective war effort occurred when the British Foreign Office asked by communication on 21 December, if the Brazilian government could send a fleet of light cruisers and destroyers to co-operate with the allied fleet, under the orders of a British vice-admiral. The following day, on another front, the Bolsheviks, confronting internal problems, began peace talks with Germany and Austria.


Preparing the fleet

Fontoura Xavier, on instructions from Rio de Janeiro, on 31 December, informed the British admiralty that Brazil is preparing a fleet comprising two cruisers (the Rio Grande do Sul and Bahia scouts) and four torpedo-boat destroyers (destroyers Parahyba, Rio Grande do Norte, Piauhy and Santa Catarina) allocated to operate in Europe “under the command of the rear-admiral Pedro Max Fernando de Frontin". To these vessels would be added the transport ship Belmonte and the ocean tugboat Laurindo Pita.


1918 – Military participation at war


Report of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 1917-1918, IV and V.

Steven Topik, The political economy of the Brazilian State, Austin: University of Texas Press, 1987, 74, says that 42 ships were used. On the other hand, Norma Breda dos Santos, Le Brésil et la Societé des Nations (1920-1926), Geneva, 1996, 71, says that the number of ships was 46. Eugenio Vargas Garcia, Uma cronologia da história das relações internacionais do Brasil, Brasilia: mimeo, 1999, also says that 46 ships seized by Brazil were used, on the basis of “fiscal possession”.

Carlos Delgado de Carvalho, História Diplomática do Brasil, Brasilia: re-published 1998, 381.

Report of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 1917-1918, VI.

Francisco Luiz Teixeira Vinhosa, O Brasil e a Primeira Guerra Mundial, History & Geography Institute, 1990, 52.

Report from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 1917-1918, VIII and XI.

Antonio Augusto Cançado Trindade, Repertório da prática brasileira do direito internacional público (Período 1899-1918), 430-431, based on the 1917-1918 Report, 67.

Carlos Delgado de Carvalho, História Diplomática do Brasil, 381-2.

Francisco Luiz Teixeira Vinhosa, O Brasil e a Primeira Guerra Mundial, 52.

Carlos Delgado de Carvalho, História Diplomática do Brasil, 382.

Francisco Luiz Teixeira Vinhosa, O Brasil e a Primeira Guerra Mundial, 59.

Pedro Cavalcanti, A presidência Wenceslau Braz: 1914-1918, 103.

J. Pandiá Calógeras, Formação histórica do Brasil, 373, and 1917-1918 Report, 373-374.

Helio Silva, Entre paz e guerra, 145.

1917-1918 Report, XV.

Helio Vianna, História Diplomática do Brasil, 267.

1917-1918 Report, XII.

Francisco Luiz Teixeira Vinhosa, O Brasil e a Primeira Guerra Mundial, 176 and 60.

Olyntho de Magalhães was Minister of Foreign Affairs between 1898 and 1891, in the government of Campos Salles.

Norma Breda dos Santos, Le Brésil et la Societé des Nations, 71 based on Percy Martin, Latin America and the War, says that the contract was to end on 30 March 1919.

Francisco Luiz Teixeira Vinhosa, O Brasil e a Primeira Guerra Mundial, 95.

1917-1918 Report, XV.

Helio Vianna, História Diplomática do Brasil, 267.

Helio Silva, Entre paz e guerra, 161.

The Brazilian pro-American policy reflected the growing interests of Brazil in the United States. The trade data showed that Brazilian imports from the United States had tripled from 1913 (reaching 47% of the total) and exports to that country had gone up one third (from 33% to 46% of the total ).

The Brazilian co-operation with the Allies began in January when Woodrow Wilson w proposed his Fourteen Points for World Peace. The English plenipotentiary minister Arthur Peel informed Nilo Peçanha on January 12th his government's decision to receive the Brazilian aviators. The Brazilian Chancellor thanked him for the decision and stated that "the small contributions for the armed struggle in progress should not be disdained because they correspond to a material protest against violent means”.

The British response to the Brazilian request to send a fleet was on February 11th, when the Foreign Office indicated by official communication that it could operate jointly with the units of the United States Navy. The Brazilian government then appointed rear admiral Francisco de Mattos to accompany the war operations of the Allied squadrons in Europe.


Events in Europe

The events in Europe continued to call the attention of Brazilian diplomacy. The Bolshevik revolution took over Russia and in February Brazil cut relations with that country, when the Soviet regime refused to agree to a new Ambassador. Diplomat Gustavo Kelsch, however, stayed in Moscow as chargé d'affaires for Brazil, until handing over the Brazilian representation to Norway.

After the failure of the peace talks, in February the Germans attacked Russia that, in March, signed a Peace Treaty with Germany in Brest-Litovsk. Under the agreement it lost part of the population, territory, railway iron and steel production and handed over the Baltic States to Poland. The Ukraine became independent and Moscow had to pay for war damages.


Brazilian involvement in the war

Brazil gradually became more involved in the war. Nine Brazilian pilots were sent to Great Britain in March, under the charge of lieutenant Manuel Augusto Pereira de Vasconcellos. After training in Eastbourne, Lee-on-Solent and Calshout, they were employed in patrolling missions with English and American aviators. The Allies were in a tough corner then since in March the Germans had launched a major offensive on the western front. Great Britain responded by forming its Royal Air Force (RAF) in April and sent troops to Vladivostok.

The Brazilian fleet on its way to Europe came up against problem that were to mark their attempt to reach the scene of war operations. The torpedo boat destroyer Rio Grande do Norte left Rio de Janeiro on 9 May, stopped close to Salvador for lack of fuel and had to be towed by the other torpedo boat destroyer Piauí


Sending a medical mission and fleet

On 5 July, Nilo Peçanha informed French diplomat Paul Claudel of the Brazilian decision to send a military medical mission to France to provide services to the allied armies. The mission of a hundred or so medical surgeons, students and army soldiers (who would be guarding the Brazilian hospital) was to be headed by congressman and physician Nabuco de Gouveia and was to be under the orders of General Napoleão Aché. Claudel thanked him on behalf of the French army, whose “wounds Brazil... would... help think about”.

A small Brazilian squadron consisting of nine vessels left Fernando de Noronha on 1 August for Europe where the Allied Forces had launched a counter-attack. It sailed to Serra Leone on the mission to "destroy" any enemy submarines found there. When it arrived in Freetown, where it stayed two weeks, Admiral Pedro de Frontin introduced himself to Admiral Sheppard, English commander under whose orders the Brazilian naval division should operate.

In the main scenes of war operations on the Old continent, the allied advances were accelerating. The German line fell on 8 August on the eastern front and the Allied Forces went into action in Amiens at the same time. On the 15 August, the United States cut relations with Russia. Meanwhile, the Brazilian medical mission left for France abroad the French ship La Plata, including also wives of medical surgeons who would work as nurses, 161 people in all. They sailed to Dakar where they were to meet the Brazilian naval fleet.

The fleet reached the Senegal capital on 26 August, with instructions to stay only long enough for repairs. While the Germans in Europe were beginning their retreat to the Siegfried line, the Brazilian garrison in Dakar came down with the Spanish influenza. One hundred and fifty-six of the personnel perished , all being buried in Senegal. The epidemic also affected members of the Brazilian medical mission who had arrived the day before.


Peace proposal

Although at war, Brazil was still perceived as a non-military nation participating in the conflict. The central countries were close to their imminent defeat and, by communication of 14 September, the Austrian-Hungarian government proposed to the Brazilian representative in Vienna, Carlos Martins Pereira de Souza, that a neutral country be chosen for the warring nations to begin “a confidential and non-mandatory talk about the fundamental principles of possible peace”. After consulting Itamaraty, the Brazilian diplomat answered that he could not consider the proposal on his own since it was an allied nation, jointly responsible with the others. Nilo Peçanha sent a copy of the Austrian-Hungarian communication to the American Ambassador in Brazil, Edwin Morgan.


Brazilian military setbacks

In late September, as the German army retreated, the cruisers Rio Grande do Sul – which already had had technical problems after its departure from Brazil – and Rio Grande do Norte stayed in Dakar for repairs. Laurindo Pita, ocean tugboat which had joined the fleet, returned to Brazil. The auxiliary cruiser Belmonte was sent to France to carry wheat.

Given the precarious national military situation, on 10 October, Brazil, through the Minister in Paris, Olyntho de Magalhães, together with the French president of the Council and Minster of War Georges Clemenceau, signed a contract for sending a group of French instructors to Brazil, on a mission called French Military Aviation Mission.

The happenings in Europe escalated. On 15 October, the Republic of Czechoslovakia was proclaimed and , two days later, Hungary separated from Austria. The Allies obtained victories and, at the end of October, the Ottoman Empire surrendered. On 3 November, Austria signed the Armistice and jointly with Germany agreed to Wilson's request that it return to its own territory. The Allies, enthusiastic about a conclusion, fixed the terms of the agreement with Germany at their meeting in Conference in Versailles.
The reduced Brazilian fleet continued its voyage. Only four ships (Bahia, Piauí, Paraíba and Santa Catarina) however, reached Gibraltar on 10 November, that is, only one day before the end of the war. The German troops surrendered and two days after the Kaiser's abdication, Berlin agreed to armistice. The Brazilian participation in the First World War did not, therefore, have any military action. The Brazilian effort, without technical preparation or material resources, cost some lives, albeit not in the battlefields.


Brazil on the eve of the Versailles Conference 

Domicio da Gama, third successor to the Baron of Rio Branco, took up office as Foreign Affairs minister on 15 November. The country enjoyed some prestige among the European allied powers. Great Britain, France and Italy had raised their diplomatic representations from the legation category to that of Embassies. Some of the more outstanding international facts were the first meeting of the League of Nations in Paris, chaired by president Wilson, signing the Peace Treaty between the Allies and the withdrawal of the American delegation from the Peace Conference because of a resolution adopted by the Senate of that country.

In December, the Brazilian Chancellor was asked by the House of Representatives to indicate if Brazil had been invited to participate in the Peace Conference in Paris. He then made every diplomatic effort for this to happen. He issued administrative instructions on this matter to the legations in London, Washington and Paris. Without success, since the Conference in London decided that only the great powers – United States, Great Britain, France, Italy and Japan – would have permanent functions in the Peace Conference, while the other Allies should only participate when invited to address matters of their direct interest. Nevertheless, Brazil continued to prepare to send a delegation.


1919 – Versailles Conference.

Members of the Brazilian delegation

After Ruy Barbosa refused to be head of the Brazilian representation at the Conference, Domicio da Gama appointed a four-man delegation, as follows: Epitacio Pessoa, Raul Fernandes, João Pandiá Calógeras and Olyntho M. de Magalhães. Meanwhile, the news arrived that the country could only send one or two representatives, since it had been classified as a "warring power with special interest”, such as Belgium, Greece and Portugal, and not as a "major warring power”, the category reserved for the United States, Great Britain, France, Italy and Japan. This was an early sign that the supervening Brazilian intentions towards its status in the international post-war community would not be shared by the major powers.

The Brazilian delegation left for Europe on 2 January abroad the ship Curvelo. On board were Epitacio Pessoa, Raul Fernandes and the legal counsel Rodrigo Octávio de Langard Menezes, in addition to secretaries, attachés and journalists . Pandiá Calógeras left earlier, but Domicio da Gama instructed Olyntho de Magalhães, in Paris, not to address the Brazilian matters before he arrived.


Petition for larger Brazilian representation

Domicio da Gama, meanwhile, asked for support from the Department of State to increase the Brazilian delegation. On 10 January sub-secretary of State Frank Polk telegraphed to the Secretary of State Robert Lansing, who was in Paris. In the communication, Polk stressed the Brazilian loyalty to the Allies and the fact that it had been the only Latin American country to immediately declare war and help materially with active co-operation by sending ships. In short, he said that Brazil is the largest power in South America and that, given its geographic position, should be entitled to a fair representation.

In Paris, President Wilson addressed the question in the first meeting of the Supreme Council. He argued that, since Brazil is the largest country in Latin America, with a population of over 30 million, it should be given special status. He asserted that, by refusing fitting representation, the major European powers were trying to hush the voice of the Americas. On 13 January, when the Brazilian delegation was already on its way, President Wilson obtained from Great Britain and France acceptance that Brazil was to send three representatives. The American representative included in his argument mention of the important German influence in Brazil, compared to other Latin American countries. The discussion involved British Prime Minister Lloyd George, and it was possible to finalise the agreement only after the permission of two delegates to each "British domain" in addition to the three delegates to Brazil, as well as to Belgium and Serbia .


Country classification

The Peace Conference in Versailles opened on 18 January. In the second session, a Committee was constituted to draft the project of the League of Nations. Fifteen delegates were involved in it; ten representatives of the five great allied and associate powers (United States, Great Britain, France, Italy and Japan) and five of the 22 powers with restricted interests. Brazil was included among the five chosen to represent this second group, jointly with Belgium, China, Portugal and Serbia. Before protests concerning the small representation of the other countries, Clemenceau, for France, stressed the high number of deaths in Great Britain and France in the war and the lack of military support from other countries, which would even justify excluding their opinion in the Society of Nations. Nevertheless – he argued – the Allies asked for the concurrence of other countries, although the nature of this contribution had not yet been decided.


A proposed council

In February Wilson proposed the creation of a League of Nations consisting of a body of delegates comprising two representatives from each nation, and an executive council. The latter would include a delegate from each of the three classes of nations: large, medium and small. Each large nation would have a delegate; the medium and small juntas would have the same number of delegates as the total number of the large nation delegates less one. In other words, the five large powers would have five delegates and the group of 22 powers with restricted interests would have only four delegates.

Cecil Rhodes submitted a project substituting that of Wilson. He proposed that only the five large powers would have representatives, permitting the medium and small nations to have delegates only when directly interested in the question under examination on the Council. In a session on 4 February, Epitacio Pessoa was opposed to the substitution, claiming permanent representation for all nations. Serbia, China, Belgium, Portugal as well as France and Italy expressed the same opinion. Leon Bourgeois, from France, now went on to suggest that Wilson's original project be accepted.

In a session on 13 February, the English representative Lord Robert Cecil proposed that the lesser powers were to have only two delegates on the executive council, appointed by the Assembly. Epitacio Pessoa, with support from other countries, objected to this amendment, claiming that four representatives be chosen directly by the group of interested countries. Cecil withdrew his proposal and that of Epitacio Pessoa prevailed, but the Assembly was given the duty to appoint the four lesser nations entitled to send representatives to the Council.


The European context, Council and Brazilian petition

The Conference proceeded amidst the European context, which foretold further drawbacks. On 3 March, Bolshevik leaders established the Communist International (Comintern) in Russia as a vehicle for world revolution. The Allies, aware of the situation in Germany, on 11 agreed to give it food. In Italy, on 23, Mussolini founded the Fascist Party. Talks with Germany continued and on 4 April the Allies signed an agreement with Berlin on the free city of Danzig.
Pessoa asked Domicio da Gama to telegraph Wilson and Lansing for Brazil to be one of the four lesser nations entitled to have representation on the Council. He added, in his telegram: “You understand the prestige that such an appointment would give us. Brazil, the only country in the war in South America, has in its favour special titles”. The Brazilian Minister of State approached the Secretary of State, Robert Lansing, to request, as a personal favour, that he speak to Wilson on the importance of choosing Brazil, even if it were for a term of only one or two years. The American Head of State fulfilled the Brazilian request and at the session on 28 April, the United States nominated Brazil, jointly with Belgium, Spain and Greece, to occupy a non-permanent seat for a three-year period . The text of the Pact of the League of Nations on this matter was as follows :

“Le Conseil se compose de représentants des principales puissances alliés et associées, ainsi que des representants de quatre autres membres de la Societé. Ces quatre membres de la Societé sont designés librement par I’Assemblée et aux époques qu'il plait de choisir. Jusqu’à la première désignation par 1’Assemblée, les représentants de la Belgique, du Brésil, de l'Espagne et de la Grèce sont membres du Conseil.”


The coffee issue

In the discussions on the themes of reparation for war damages, the Brazilian delegation concentrated its attention initially on the adjustment of the value of coffee deposited in German banks. The question arose in 1914 when the State of São Paulo had almost two million bags of coffee in German and Belgian ports, as a guaranty for two loans from European banks. When war broke out, fearing confiscation by the German government, that state government decided to sell it. The product of the operation was deposited in marks in a German bank (Bleischroeder Bank in Berlin). Germany blocked the withdrawal of the deposited money, agreeing to return it when the war was over.

At the Conference, the Brazilian delegation claimed not only the full value of the deposit with past due interest, but also its exchange restatement, in accordance with correspondence in gold. The financial commission of the Conference of Versailles agreed to include Germany's debt in the Peace Treaty, but based on the exchange of the day, that is, for the marks equal to a tenth of the 1914 value. With President Wilson's support, the Brazilian theory of exchange restatement prevailed. On 28 June, Germany and the Allies signed the Treaty of Versailles, which provided the following on the question of Brazilian coffee:

“Germany guarantees the Brazilian government reimbursement with interest at the rate or rates that have been agreed, of all sums deposited in the Bleischroeder Bank in Berlin, from the sale of coffee belonging to the State of S. Paulo, in the ports of Hamburg, Bremen, Antwerp and Trieste. Germany, objecting to the transfer in useful time of the said sums to the State of S. Paulo, also guarantees that the reimbursement will be made at the exchange rate of the mark on the date of the deposit.


The question of German ships

The question of the German ships seized by Brazil during the war was more complex. Since Brazil had captured 70 German vessels retained at national ports, without, however, stating their confiscation, as other countries had done regarding seized ships, the Brazilian claim consisted of obtaining their ownership by paying compensation. The core argument of Epitacio Pessoa was based fairly on the fact that the country had never intended to take possession of the ships. The main Brazilian negotiator expected that, when settling accounts with Germany, Brazil would pay only the balance, if any, once the German payments to all Allies had been made.

France, which had leased from Brazil 30 for the seized vessels, claimed the share, among the Allies, of all German merchant ships seized, in proportion to their shipping losses, which would mean that Brazil would lose the ships that it had retained. The Brazilian government disagreed with this theory, recalling that France had recognised the final assignment of the ships to Brazil, when it proposed to buy them from the Brazilian government. Since the French proposal prospered, Epitacio Pessoa informed Lloyd George, from Great Britain, that Brazil would be forced not to sign the Treaty of Versailles. He wrote to President Woodrow Wilson to explain the Brazilian stance. Wilson answered as follows:

“... The United States delegation, since the matter was opened for discussion, had borne in mind the situation of Brazil and the effects that may result to it of the different plans suggested. I do not mean that the United States would ever intentionally or consciously do anything in detriment to the interests of Brazil. As soon as the matter is again discussed, the United States delegation had the greatest consideration for Brazil. We are hopeful that the final solution will be fully satisfactory for Brazil. It even seems most likely that the road indicated by you, that is, each power will retain the ships legally captured, seized or detained, by paying a compensation calculated on the basis of a reasonable figure”.

Wilson talked it over with his British and French colleagues. On 8 May, the Supreme Council adopted a protocol known as Wilson-Lloyd George by which a good part of the Brazilian proposals was accepted. Clemenceau, however, signed the document for France

Stanley Hilton, O Brasil e as grandes potências, 24.

Francisco Luiz Teixeira Vinhosa, O Brasil e a Primeira Guerra Mundial, 177.

Stanley Hilton, Brazil and the Soviet Challenge, 10, informs that Kelsch delivered the representation to Norway in December. Amado Luiz Cervo and Clodoaldo Bueno in A política externa brasileira. 1822-1985, 249, recall that the Russian mission in Rio de Janeiro was closed by the chargé d'affaires, Georges Brandt, only on 15 December 1920.

Helio Silva, Entre paz e guerra, 160.

Bradford Burns, As relações internacionais do Brasil durante a Primeira República, 399, states that the missions were for patrolling the South Atlantic. On the other hand, Paulo Roberto C. Tarrisse da Fontoura, O Brasil e as operações de paz, 279, says that they were to patrol the English Channel and adds that the pilots, after Armistice, helped in the work of locating and destroying floating mines.

História Geral da aeronáutica brasileira, 433, informs that, in addition to captain Vasconcellos, the officers were lieutenants De Lamare and Fabio Sá Earp Moura, joined by lieutenant Alithar de Araújo Martins, from the Army. A second group consisted of lieutenants Heitor Varady, Eugenio da Silva Possolo and Olavo de Araújo.

Francisco Luiz Teixeira Vinhosa, O Brasil e a Primeira Guerra Mundial, 171 and 179.

Helio Silva, O Brasil e a Primeira Guerra Mundial, 155-156, 158 and 161.

Francisco Luiz Teixeira Vinhosa, O Brasil e a Primeira Guerra Mundial, 172 e 174.

Heitor Lyra, Minha vida diplomática, 85.

Helio Silva, Entre paz e guerra, 162.

Francisco Luiz Teixeira Vinhosa, O Brasil e a Primeira Guerra Mundial, 180, informs that the survivors reached Paris where the Brazilian Hospital was set up on Rue Vaugirard, with a capacity for 300 beds. Paulo Roberto Tarrisse da Fontoura, O Brasil e as operações de paz das Nações Unidas, 278, note 195, adds that the hospital continued operating until the middle of the following year.

Helio Silva, Entre paz e guerra, 159.

Carlos Delgado de Carvalho, História diplomática do Brasil, 383.

“Historic documents of the Army's General Staff”, 72.

Francisco Luiz Teixeira Vinhosa, O Brasil e a Primeira Guerra Mundial, 170 and 174.

Joseph Smith, Unequal Giants, 121.

Bradford Burns, As relações internacionais do Brasil durante a Primeira República, 399, says that the Brazilian participation was the only one from a Latin American country. Norma Breda dos Santos, Le Brésil et la Societé des Nations, 67 e 139, however, says that Cuba also played an active role in the first world war.

Stanley Hilton, Brazil and the post and the post-Versailles world: elite images and foreign policy strategy, 1919-1929, 347.

Norma Breda dos Santos, Le Brésil et la societé des nations, 74, based on an exchange of correspondence between 16 and 21 December, between the American ambassador, Morgan, and the Department of State.

Francisco Luiz Teixeira Vinhosa, O Brasil e a Primeira Guerra Mundial, 191.

Eugênio Vargas Garcia, A participação do Brasil na Liga das Nações, 11, informs that the Brazilian delegation also included captain Malan d´Angrogne, captain Armando Burlamaqui, Helio Lobo, and another seven secretaries and eight attachés.

Laurita Raja-Gabaglia, Epitácio Pessoa, 277.

Carlos Delgado de Carvalho, ob. cit.

Laurita Raja-Gabaglia, Epitácio Pessoa, 278.

Norma Breda dos Santos, Le Brésil et la Societé des Nations, 76.

Joseph Smith, Unequal Giants, 127-128.

Francisco Luiz Teixeira Vinhosa, O Brasil e a Primeira Guerra Mundial, 233.

The complete works of Epitacio Pessoa, v. 14. Conferência de Paz, diplomacia e direito internacional, 9, telegram no. 8 on 5/2/1919 and 14, telegram no. 18, on 13/2/1919.

José Honório Rodrigues, Uma história diplomática do Brasil, 286, attributes to the help of President Wilson the possibility of Brazil successfully claiming the appointment as one of the four temporary members of the SDN Council. As did Heitor Lyra (Minha vida diplomática, 168), when he says that the “influence of chancellor Domicio da Gama, who had represented Brazil in Washington, was decisive for obtaining the support of the United States”.

Francisco Luiz Teixeira Vinhosa, O Brasil e a Primeira Guerra Mundial, 235.

E. H. Carr, International relations between the two World Wars, 99, comments that, later, with the withdrawal of the United States from the League, the permanent members were reduced to four, that is, the same number as the temporary members.

Afonso Arinos de Melo Franco, Um estadista da República, 1169.

Joseph Smith, Unequal giants, 107.

1920 Report, IX and X.I

José Maria Bello, História da República 1889-1954, 244.

1920 Report, V, 315.

Francisco Luiz Teixeira Vinhosa, O Brasil e a Primeira Guerra Mundial, 223.

Laurita Pessoa Raja Gabaglia, Epitácio Pessoa, 284, says that France wanted to renew a lease agreement of 30 German ships seized by the Brazilian government and “so that the renewal was a tacit condition of its positive vote” to Brazil

Carlos Delgado de Carvalho, História Diplomática do Brasil, 384.

1920 Report, IX and XI.

with reservations. After further negotiations in the Economic Commission on the form of calculating the compensation, the text of the relevant articles in the Peace Treaty was reached.


The disarmament question

Reducing armaments was a topic examined by the III Commission. Brazil, in a minority situation, objected to the restriction of its military capacity, especially the navy. Regis de Oliveira was instructed by Epitacio Pessoa to act so as not to inhibit the security of the Brazilian coastline. When discussing the Commission report, Regis de Oliveira stated that “it was impossible to endeavour to protect a country with more than 30 million inhabitants and over 3,600 miles of coast, with two ships”. Taking into consideration the Brazilian arguments, the Assembly agreed to examine special cases of “countries without a sufficient Navy”.

Also the Council, Europe and Brazilian military lack of preparation

Returning to the Conference to discuss the composition of the Council, it took the decision to increase the number of non-permanent members from four to six, admitting Sweden and Uruguay. Domicio da Gama agreed to the increase as a way of “relieving the pressure on the candidates" and to permit “keeping some members, one of which is Brazil”.

On his return journey to Brazil, and already chosen as future president of the country, Epitacio Pessoa visited Belgium, Italy, Great Britain and the United States. He travelled in war ships of Great-Britain, France and the United States. He reached Lisbon on 8 June, coming from London, aboard the warship Renown. He told the American authorities of his wish to establish relations in preference to those maintained with Europe. He returned to Brazil on 21 July, aboard the American warship Idaho.

Brazil continued to be concerned with the status of its Armed Forces and, on 8 September 1919, the Minister in Paris, Regis de Oliveira, signed a contract with Clemenceau, under which the French government would send a military mission.


1920 – The United States and the League of Nations

Of the international facts occurring during the time in which Azevedo Marques occupied the chair of Baron Rio Branco (September 1919 to November 1922), the activities of the League of Nations had the most diplomatic relevance. The United States began to withdraw from the international system and, on 19 November, its Senate voted against the ratification of the Treaty of Versailles.

In 1920, the League of Nations began its work, first in Paris. The United States, whose President had been one of the leading champions of the League, did not send a delegation, thereby boycotting the first meeting of the Organisation held in January.


Brazil as a member of the League of Nations

Brasil then was presented to the world with some international credentials: it was the ninth largest country in terms of population, it had participated in the world war with the Allies and was a founder member of the League of Nations. By Decree dated 12 January, the government proclaimed the Treaty of Versailles whose charter of ratification was deposited by Brazil two days earlier. In a message to Congress, President Epitacio Pessoa told of his own role as Head of the Delegation of Brazil to the Peace Conference.

The feeling of a country with important titles in the community of nations permeated the Brazilian diplomatic performance. In his speech to the Council of the League of Nations in Paris, at its first meeting in Paris, Gastão da Cunha stated that Brazil had the tacit representation of the American continent “... whose legal awareness and liberal and pacificist spirit could symbolise Brazil, fairly entitled and with no usurpation whatsoever, by the traditions and nature of its people”.

Illustrious Brazilians worked overseas and nourished this perception of a country preeminent in international forums. So, at a meeting in London, in February, the Council of the League of Nations assigned a special Committee of jurists to prepare draft bylaws of the Court of International Justice, including Clovis Bevilácqua among the ten chosen jurists. He send proposals and his substitute, Raul Fernandes, although having defended in the debates the legal equality of the States, accepted the simultaneous election of the members of the Court by the Council and Assembly.

Consciously or not, Brazil was seeking to represent the Americas, since the Senate of the United States on 19 March refused to authorise that country to be a member of the Organisation. The primary objections of the American Senate referred to article ten of the League which was interpreted that participation in war was mandatory in an attack on another member. There were also restrictions in the American Congress against the voting system of the Organisation that gave six votes to Great Britain and its domains.

Relations with Germany were re-established and Brazil appointed Adalberto Guerra Duval as plenipotentiary minister in Berlin, and took office on 14 May. Bilateral trade relations were gradually re-established and the government reopened the consulate in Hamburg. Also in May, Brazil officially recognised the independence of Poland, Czechoslovakia and Finland. In September, the Brazilian republican government revoked the exile of the family of Emperor Don Pedro II and received the visit of the Kings of Belgium who included a trip to the State of Minas Gerais in their program, where a steel mill would be built with Belgian capital.

The first Assembly of the League of Nations was held in Geneva between 4 November and 18 December, attended by 41 countries. Gastão da Cunha, Raul Fernandes and Rodrigo Octavio were the members of the Brazilian representation, since Ruy Barbosa, as we saw, refused the invitation from Epitacio Pessoa to be head of the delegation, because of an uprising in his home state Bahia.
The Chancellor of Argentina, Honório Pueyrredón, proposed the automatic admission to the League for States that request it, as well as to eliminate the distinction between permanent and temporary members in elections and the mandatory jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice. Rodrigo Octávio objected to automatic admission of members and voted in favour of keeping the distinction between permanent and temporary members. In his report of the occurrence he was to explain that, unlike Argentina, who remained neutral during the War “(Brazil )... could not but express a certain solidarity with the allied powers on the eve, concerning questions of a general order that would not affect its individual interests nor jeopardise its international behaviour”.

In the 6th Committee, Rodrigo Octavio made the following statement voting against the proposed control of military budgets:

“Brazil voted on the entire set of resolutions of the Armaments Committee that decide on jettisoning military charges ... But we cannot give our consent to the proposal of not increasing, over the next two years, the current military budgets. Brazil is certainly a liberal and pacific country, with no Imperialist or militarist tendencies. But its territory is considerable, its coastline very long and, for its domestic requirements, it is necessary to have an Army and Navy...

It must not be forgotten that in the Constitution of Brazil there are two articles – one that bans conquering wars and the other that states the absolute intention of not abandoning this direction .... I must also point out that we do not have international disputes of any kind whatsoever, that we have the best relations with all our neighbours, that our borders are all definitively established.”

On 15 November the 1st Assembly of the League of Nations opened. The result of the voting for the three countries that should occupy the non-permanent seats on the Council the following year were as follows: Spain, 35 votes; Brasil, 33; Belgium, 24 and China 19.

Some conclusions

Brazil's involvement in the First World War as one of the allied countries against Germany, and the first Brazilian experiences in multilateral diplomacy – which had begun with the League of Nations – was quite significant as a paradigm role for the rest of the 20th century. In fact, in the Second World War, Brazil was to repeat its war participation alongside the Allies, again leader among the South American countries. Also, in the post-World War II years after, it used arguments in the formation of the United Nations similar to that used in the League with regard to the size of the country and its population for pleading a permanent seat on the Security Council. Also on other parallel issues, such as discussions about disarmament, Brazil was to repeat for many years arguments against restricting its war capacity, besides, reduced in relation to the size of the country, its borders and coastline.

(Translated by ELM)

Carlos Delgado de Carvalho, História Diplomática do Brasil, notes that France was only to sign in 1920, by extending the charter.

Report, XIX to XXIII.

1923 Report, XXV.

Eugênio Vargas Garcia, Participação do Brasil na Liga das Nações, 45.

Afonso Arinos de Melo Franco, Um estadista, 1170.

José Calvet de Magalhães, Depois das caravelas, 266.

Stanley Hilton, Brazil and the post-Versailles world: elite images and foreign policy strategy, 1919-1929 , 359.

Carlos Delgado de Carvalho, História Diplomática do Brasil, 385.

Historic documents of the Army's General Staff, 85.

E. Bradford Burns, A history of Brazil, 318.

Norma Breda dos Santos, Le Brésil et la Societé des Nations, 105, informs that the Brazilian delegation at the first meeting of the Council in Paris, consisted of Gastão da Cunha, ambassador in Paris; Frederico Castello Branco Clark, first secretary of the Embassy in Paris, and José Francisco de Barros Pimentel, minister resident in the legation in Caracas.

Message to the National Congress on 3 May 1920.

Norma Breda dos Santos, Le Brésil et la Societé des Nations, 105, informs that the Brazilian delegation at the first meeting of the Council in Paris consisted of Gastão da Cunha, ambassador in Paris; Frederico Castello Branco Clark, first secretary of the Embassy in Paris, and José Francisco de Barros Pimentel, minister resident in the legation in Caracas.

Eugênio Vargas Garcia, Participação do Brasil na Liga das Nações, 34-36.

Antonio Augusto Cançado Trindade, Repertório da prática brasileira de direito internacional público ( período 1919-40 ), 272.

Eugenio Vargas Garcia, Uma cronologia, 63-64.

Flavio Mendes de Oliveira Castro, História da Organização, 270, informs that the under-secretary for foreign affairs Rodrigo Octavio, ambassador in Paris Gastão da Cunha, and delegate of the Reparations Commission Raul Fernandes represented Brazil.

Norma Breda dos Santos, Le Brésil et la Societé des Nations, 105, note 45, informs that other members of the delegation were: Fernando Mendes de Almeida Junior, who had been a member of the Brazilian delegation to the Peace Conference; Pedro de Moraes Barros, first secretary of the legation in Berne; Alvaro da Cunha, consul in Boulogne-sur-Mer; and Julio Augusto Barbosa Carneiro, commercial attaché in the Embassy in London.

Francisco Luiz Teixeira Vinhosa, O Brasil e a Primeira Guerra Mundial, 238.

Norma Breda dos Santos, Le Brésil et la Societé des Nations, 106 and 113, comments, based on the work by Manuel Perez Guerrero, that Argentina was in an irregular legal situation in the Society of Nations, since its Parliament was not to ratify the Pact until 1933. Until then it did not contribute to its budget.

Eugenio Vargas Garcia, Participação do Brasil na Liga das Nações, 37.

1929 Report, 20-21. See also Antonio Augusto Cançado Trindade, Repertório da prática brasileira de direito internacional público ( período de 1919-40 ), 241.

Norma Breda dos Santos, Le Brésil et la societé des nations, 170.

1917, Attack on the Czar of Russia's Winter Palace

Chancellor Nilo Peçanha

President Wenceslau Brás

The Treaty of Versailles, Assembly in the Hall of Mirrors

President Epitácio Pessoa

1942 - The Conference of Rio de Janeiro