Brasilia: Capital and Change

Did you know that the idea of transferring the capital from Rio de Janeiro to the interior of Brazil first arose in the 18th century? Learn how it happened!

The exhibition presents the official documents of the debates, proposals, and legislative work that marked and made possible the project of building a new capital in the geographical center of Brazil.
Contrary to what many people believe, the idea of transferring the capital of Brazil from Rio de Janeiro to the interior of the country had already begun during the time of the Empire of Brazil.

Tiradentes facing the executioner (1951) by Rafael FalcoChamber of Deputies, Brazil


One of the oldest records concerning a change of capital is in the Autos da Inconfidência Mineira. The rebels led by Tiradentes said that the city of São João del Rei would become the political center of power if they were victorious. 

The First Legislative Debates

In the 19th century, ideas and proposals to transfer the capital of Brazil from Rio de Janeiro to the Central Plateau of Brazil began to gain strength and become a reality in national legislation, as seen in the 1891 Constitution.

Ata da 25ª Sessão da Assembleia-Geral Constituinte e Legislativa da Corte do Império do Brasil (1823-06-09) by José BonifácioChamber of Deputies, Brazil

The ideas of José Bonifácio

With the proclamation of Independence and the Constituent Assembly, José Bonifácio was one more voice advocating a change of capital. He even suggested the names Petrópolis (Pedro's town) or Brasilia for the new capital, which would be built in the municipality of Paracatu do Príncipe, Minas Gerais.

Projeto de Lei n° 191, de 14 de maio de 1831 (1831-5-14) by Assembleia Legislativa do ImpérioChamber of Deputies, Brazil


Deputy João Cândido de Deos e Silva presented a bill to identify the central point of the Empire and build the capital there.

A questão da capital: marítima ou no interior? (1877) by Francisco Adolpho VarnhagenChamber of Deputies, Brazil

1834 to 1877

For 43 years, the historian Adolfo Varnhagen, Viscount of Porto Seguro, campaigned for a capital in the interior. He was the author of several works on the subject but only visited the Central Plateau in 1877.

1834 to 1877

Among his major works are the Letter to the Minister of Agriculture, the Memorial Orgânico, General History of Brazil and the The Question of the Capital - Maritime or Interior?.

Emenda ao art. 3º do Projeto n° 1 (Constituição Federal) (1890-12-15)Chamber of Deputies, Brazil


Following approval of the amendments of Senator Virgílio Damásio and Deputy Lauro Müller, Article 3 of the Constitution of the Republic now read: "An area of 14,400 square kilometers on the central plateau of the Republic, which will be demarcated in due course to establish a future federal capital, belongs to the Union."     

Constituição da República dos Estados Unidos do Brazil (1889-11-15)Chamber of Deputies, Brazil

The Central Plateau in the Constitution

Replica with the full text of Article 3 of the Constitution of the United States of Brazil, which established the country as a republic.

Projeto n° 71, de 1891 (1891-07-30) by Câmara dos DeputadosChamber of Deputies, Brazil


Deputy Nogueira Paranaguá proposed a bill to authorize exploration and demarcation of the land for the new capital.

Ofício (1892-09-30) by Ministro da Agricultura, Comércio e Obras PúblicasChamber of Deputies, Brazil


Luiz Cruls, director of the National Observatory, was appointed by Floriano Peixoto to head a commission to explore and demarcate the area of the capital.    

Projeto n° 60, de 1895 (1895-06-17) by Lauro Müller e outrosChamber of Deputies, Brazil


Deputy Lauro Müller and others proposed a bill, subsequently passed, to establish the territory on the Central Plateau demarcated by the Exploration Commission.

Projeto n° 206, de 1899 (1899-10-11) by Sá FreireChamber of Deputies, Brazil


Sá Freire proposed a bill to authorize the Executive to transfer the capital of the Republic of the United States of Brazil to the city of Minas or to another point that it considered convenient on the Central Plateau.

20th Century

In the 20th century, a series of important and concrete steps began to be taken towards the recognition and demarcation of the region where the new capital was to be built on Brazil's Central Plateau.

Projeto n° 223, de 1911 (1911-10-11) by Eduardo Sócrates e outrosChamber of Deputies, Brazil


Deputy Eduardo Sócrates and others proposed a bill to open a public tender for the services and construction needed to establish the capital of the Republic on Brazil's Central Plateau.

Requerimento by Adolpho Leyret e Mário Teixeira Lopes GuimarãesChamber of Deputies, Brazil


Adolpho Leyret and Mário Teixeira Lopes Guimarães requested the advancement of an earlier request of September 1911, to construct the new capital of the Republic on Brazil's Central Plateau.

Projeto n° 246, de 1914 (1914-12-23) by Corrêa de Freitas e outrosChamber of Deputies, Brazil


Corrêa de Freitas and others proposed a bill to authorise the loans necessary to realize the constitutional provision for the construction and relocation of the future capital of the Republic of the United States of Brazil.        

Petição by Francisco Gonçalves de SequeiraChamber of Deputies, Brazil


Francisco Gonçalves de Sequeira petitioned the National Congress for a law authorizing the government to issue notes convertible to gold as collateral for loans and acquire gold to replace paper currency in order to proceed with the new capital project.

Projeto n° 680, de 1921 by Rodrigues Machado e Americano do BrazilChamber of Deputies, Brazil


Rodrigues Machado and Americano do Brasil proposed a bill determining that the foundation stone of the federal capital be laid on the Central Plateau of Goiás, at noon on September 7, 1922.


In commemoration of the centenary of Independence, the foundation stone of the new capital was laid on the Central Plateau of Goiás.

Constituição da República dos Estados Unidos do Brasil de 1934 (1934)Chamber of Deputies, Brazil


A new Constitution determined that the capital of the Union be transferred to a central point in Brazil and that studies be carried out to define a suitable location.    

Projeto n° 128, de 1934 (1934-10-16) by Plinio Tourinho e Lacerda PintoChamber of Deputies, Brazil


A bill proposed by Plínio Tourinho and Lacerda Pinto authorized the Federal Executive to make the necessary expenditure for the appointment of a technical commission to explore and demarcate, in the central region of the national territory, land for the construction of the future capital of Brazil.

Constituição dos Estados Unidos do Brasil de 1946 (1946)Chamber of Deputies, Brazil


The Constitution promulgated that year determined that the capital of the Union will be transferred to the Central Plateau of the country. The President of the Republic, Eurico Gaspar Dutra, was given 60 days to begin location studies.

Projeto n° 288/1946 (1946-11-30) by Poder Executivo – Mensagem do presidente Eurico Gaspar DutraChamber of Deputies, Brazil


President Eurico Gaspar Dutra appointed a Technical Commission for the Study of the New Federal Capital headed by General Djalma Polli Coelho and granted the Ministry of Justice and Internal Affairs a special credit of Cr$ 2,000,000.00 for the initial expenses of the Commission.

A localização da nova capital da República (1948) by Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e EstatísticaChamber of Deputies, Brazil


The Polli Coelho Commission concluded its work, confirmed the Cruls studies and its report, the ”Mensagem de Corumbá” was sent to Congress by President Dutra.  

Discurso do deputado Diógenes Magalhães (1948-11-27) by Diógenes MagalhãesChamber of Deputies, Brazil


Speech by Deputy Diógenes Magalhães.

A propósito do Parecer do Relator da Comissão Especial da Mudança da Capital na Câmara dos Deputados (1949) by Djalma Polli CoelhoChamber of Deputies, Brazil


Djalma Polli Coelho wrote an opinion on the report of the Special Commission on the Change of Capital. It was submitted to the Chamber of Deputies

Relatório técnico (1948) by Comissão de Estudos para a Localização da Nova CapitalChamber of Deputies, Brazil

Lei n° 1.803, de 5 de janeiro de 1953 (1953-01-05) by Getúlio VargasChamber of Deputies, Brazil


General Caiado de Castro is appointed by Vargas to preside over a new commission for definitive studies on the location of the Republic's new capital. The approval of Law No. 1,803 authorizes the carrying out of definitive studies on the location of the new capital.

Relatório anual da Comissão de Localização da Nova Capital Federal (1955) by José Pessoa Cavalcanti de Albuquerque/ Comissão de Cooperação para Mudança da Capital FederalChamber of Deputies, Brazil


Marshal José Pessoa, who replaced Caiado Castro in the commission for definitive studies, presented its final report on the work.  

Projeto n° 1.234, de 1956 (1956-4-18) by Poder Executivo – Mensagem n° 156 do presidente Juscelino KubitschekChamber of Deputies, Brazil


Juscelino Kubitschek, five days after his investiture as President of the Republic, called Marshal José Pessoa to find out what work had been done regarding the change and what should be the first steps to make the constitutional precept effective.

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