Frontier Planters, Immigrants, and the Abolition of Slavery in Brazil

78 Pages Posted: 16 Jun 2021

See all articles by François Seyler

François Seyler

Université Laval

Arthur Silve

Université Laval; Institute for Advanced Study in Toulouse

Date Written: June 2021


A protracted legislative battle culminated in the abolition of slavery in Brazil in 1888. We build a new data set of roll-call votes on 1884-1888 emancipation bills in the legislature, and connect it to local features of the districts. This allows us to unpack how the material interests of each of the 122 electoral districts coalesced into an abolitionist coalition. Our results help reconcile previous theories of labor coercion. We find that slavery-intensive districts opposed emancipation. In line with a labor demand effect, we also find more support for emancipation where immigrants provided an alternative source of labor, and in line with an outside option effect, where enslaved persons could more easily escape. A two-pronged instrumental variables strategy that uses variation in (a) history and geography and (b) heteroskedasticity with respect to the regressors supports a causal interpretation of our main results.

Keywords: labor coercion, Brazil, slavery, immigration, institutional change, intra-elite conflict

JEL Classification: J15, J47, N36, N46, O54

Suggested Citation

Seyler, François and Silve, Arthur, Frontier Planters, Immigrants, and the Abolition of Slavery in Brazil (June 2021). Available at SSRN: or

François Seyler

Université Laval ( email )

2214 Pavillon J-A. DeSeve
Quebec, Quebec G1K 7P4

Arthur Silve (Contact Author)

Université Laval ( email )

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Québec, QC G1V 0A6
4186562131 (Phone)
4186562131 (Fax)

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Institute for Advanced Study in Toulouse ( email )

Université Toulouse 1 Capitole
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Toulouse, 31080

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