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This study considers how approximately 7000 male graduates of law came to understand themselves as having a legitimate claim to authority over 19th-century Brazilian society during their transition from boyhood to manhood. While pursuing their traditional studies at Brazil's two law schools, the students devoted much of their energies to theatre and literature in an effort to improve their powers of public speaking and written persuasion. These newly minted lawyers quickly became the magistrates, bureaucrats, local and national politicians, diplomats, and cabinet members who would rule Brazil until the fall of the monarchy in 1889. Andrew J. Kirkendall examines the meaning of liberalism for a slave society, the tension between systems of patriarchy and patronage, and the link between language and power in a largely illiterate society. In the interplay between identity and state formation, he explores the processes of socialisation that helped Brazil achieve a greater measure of political stability than any other Latin American country.