The Lei Áurea (Portuguese pronunciation: [ˈlej ˈawɾiɐ]; from PortugueseGolden Law), adopted on May 13, 1888, was the law that abolished slavery in Brazil. It was signed by Isabel, Princess Imperial of Brazil (1846–1921), an opponent of slavery, who acted as regent to Emperor Pedro II, who was in Europe.


The Lei Áurea (Portuguese pronunciation: [ˈlej ˈawɾiɐ]; English: Golden Law), officially Law No. 3,353 of 13 May 1888, is the law that abolished slavery in Brazil. It was signed by Isabel, Princess Imperial of Brazil (1846–1921), an opponent of slavery, who acted as regent to Emperor Pedro II, who was in Europe.[1][2]

Lei Áurea
Golden Law
Manuscript of the Lei Áurea
Brazilian National Archives
General Assembly of the Empire of Brazil
  • Law No. 3,353 of 13 May 1888
CitationLaw No. 3,353 of 13 May 1888
Territorial extentEmpire of Brazil
Passed byGeneral Assembly of the Empire of Brazil
Passed12 May 1888
Enacted13 May 1888
Signed byIsabel, Princess Imperial of Brazil
Introduced byRodrigo Augusto da Silva
Declares slavery extinct in Brazil.

The Lei Áurea was preceded by the Rio Branco Law of 28 September 1871 ("the Law of Free Birth"), which freed all children born to slave parents, and by the Saraiva-Cotegipe Law (also known as "the Law of Sexagenarians"), of 28 September 1885, that freed slaves when they reached the age of 60. Brazil was the last country in the Western world to abolish slavery.[1]


Aside from the activities of abolitionists, there were a number of reasons for the signing of the law: slavery was no longer profitable, as the wages of European immigrants, whose working conditions were poor, cost less than the upkeep of slaves, and the decline in the arrival of new slaves.


The text of the Lei Áurea was brief:[3]

Art. 1.º: É declarada extinta desde a data desta lei a escravidão no Brasil.
Art. 2.º: Revogam-se as disposições em contrário.

(Article 1: From the date of this law, slavery is declared extinct in Brazil.
Article 2: All dispositions to the contrary are revoked.)


The succinctness of the law was intended to make clear that there were no conditions of any kind to the freeing of all slaves. However, it did not provide any support to either freed slaves or their former owners to adjust their lives to their new status: slave owners did not receive any state indemnification, and slaves did not receive any kind of compensation from owners or assistance from the state.

Before the abolition of slavery, slaves were prohibited from owning assets or receiving an education; but after being freed, former slaves were left to make their own way in the world. Without education or political representation, former slaves struggled to gain economic and social status in Brazilian society.

The Lei Áurea was authored by Rodrigo A. da Silva, then Minister of Agriculture in the cabinet headed by prime minister João Alfredo Correia de Oliveira, and member of the Chamber of Deputies. After passing both houses of the General Assembly, it was sanctioned by Isabel, Princess Imperial of Brazil (1846–1921), who was regent at the time, while her father, emperor Pedro II, was in Europe.

The Golden Law was signed by the princess imperial and countersigned by Rodrigo A. da Silva, in his capacity as Minister of Agriculture. Princess Isabel, who was a staunch supporter of the abolitionist movement, was awarded the Golden Rose by Pope Leo XIII and minister Rodrigo A. da Silva received honors from the Vatican, France and Portugal. In August 1888 Rodrigo A. da Silva went on to be chosen for a lifetime seat in the Senate of the Empire.

The Lei Áurea had other consequences besides the freeing of all slaves; without slaves and lacking workers, the plantation owners had to recruit workers elsewhere and thus organized, in the 1890s, the Sociedade Promotora de Imigração ("Society for the Promotion of Immigration"). Another effect was an uproar among Brazilian slave owners and upper classes, resulting in the toppling of the monarchy and the establishment of a republic in 1889 – the Lei Áurea is often regarded as the most immediate (but not the only) cause of the fall of monarchy in Brazil.

Large open mass celebrated in thanksgiving for the Abolition of Slavery in Brazil, in 1888, in Campo de São Cristóvão. Princess Isabel and Count of Eu are in the left corner, under an imperial tent

See also


  1. ^ a b Candido, M. P. (2007). "Lei Áurea". Encyclopedia of emancipation and abolition in the Transatlantic world. London, United Kingdom: Routledge.
  2. ^ Schwartz, Stuart B. (1996). Slaves, Peasants, and Rebels Reconsidering Brazilian Slavery. University of Illinois Press. p. 1. ISBN 978-0-252-06549-1.
  3. ^ "The "Golden Law" Abolishing Slavery in Brazil". Encyclopedia of emancipation and abolition in the Transatlantic world. London, United Kingdom: Routledge. 2007.

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