Cesare Beccaria

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Cesare, Marquis Beccaria
Cesare Beccaria.jpg
Born(1738-03-15)15 March 1738
Died28 November 1794(1794-11-28) (aged 56)
Milan, Duchy of Milan
Nationality Italian
OccupationJurist, philosopher, politician, and lawyer
Spouse(s)Anna Barbò
ChildrenGiulia
Maria
Giovanni Annibale
Margherita
Giulio (by Anna Barbò)

Cesare Bonesana di Beccaria, Marquis of Gualdrasco and Villareggio [1] (Italian:  [ˈtʃeːzare bekkaˈriːa, ˈtʃɛː-]; 15 March 1738 28 November 1794) was an Italian criminologist, [2] jurist, philosopher, and politician, who is widely considered as the most talented jurist [3] and one of the greatest thinkers of the Age of Enlightenment. He is well remembered for his treatise On Crimes and Punishments (1764), which condemned torture and the death penalty, and was a founding work in the field of penology and the Classical School of criminology. Beccaria is considered the father of modern criminal law and the father of criminal justice. [4] [5] [6]

Italians nation and ethnic group native to Italy

Italians are a Romance ethnic group and nation native to the Italian peninsula and its neighbouring insular territories. Italians share a common culture, history, ancestry and language.

Jurist Legal scholar or academic, a professional who studies, teaches, and develops law

A jurist is an expert of law or someone who researches jurisprudence. Such a person can work as an academic, legal writer, law lecturer and practice law (lawyer), depending on legislation in the respective jurisdiction. Professionally, in the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and in many other Commonwealth countries, the word jurist sometimes refers to a barrister and solicitor, whereas in the United States of America and Canada it often refers to a judge.

Philosopher person with an extensive knowledge of philosophy

A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy. The term "philosopher" comes from the Ancient Greek, φιλόσοφος (philosophos), meaning "lover of wisdom". The coining of the term has been attributed to the Greek thinker Pythagoras.

Contents

According to John Bessler, Beccaria's works had a profound influence on the Founding Fathers of the United States. [7]

John Bessler American politician

John D. Bessler is an American attorney and academic. He is a professor of law at the University of Baltimore School of Law and an adjunct professor at the Georgetown University Law Center. He is the husband of U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar.

Founding Fathers of the United States Group of Americans who led the revolution against Great Britain

The Founding Fathers of the United States, or simply the Founding Fathers, were a group of American leaders who united the Thirteen Colonies, led the war for independence from Great Britain, and built a frame of government for the new United States of America upon republican principles during the latter decades of the 18th century. Most Founding Fathers at one point considered themselves British subjects, but they came to understand themselves more as patriotic Americans who possessed a spirit distinct from that of their motherland. The group was composed of businessmen, lawyers, philosophers, politicians, plantation owners and writers from a variety of social, economic, and ethnic backgrounds. The Founding Fathers came from a variety of occupations, and many had no prior political experience.

Birth and education

Beccaria was born in Milan on 15 March 1738 to the Marchese Gian Beccaria Bonesana, an aristocrat of moderate well-being from the Austrian Habsburg Empire. [8] Beccaria received his early education in the Jesuit college at Parma. Subsequently, he graduated in law from the University of Pavia in 1758. At first he showed a great aptitude for mathematics, but studying Montesquieu (1689–1755) redirected his attention towards economics. In 1762 his first publication, a tract on the disorder of the currency in the Milanese states, included a proposal for its remedy. [9]

Milan Italian city

Milan is a city in northern Italy, capital of Lombardy, and the second-most populous city in Italy after Rome, with the city proper having a population of 1,395,274 while its metropolitan city has a population of 3,259,835. Its continuously built-up urban area has a population estimated to be about 5,270,000 over 1,891 square kilometres. The wider Milan metropolitan area, known as Greater Milan, is a polycentric metropolitan region that extends over central Lombardy and eastern Piedmont and which counts an estimated total population of 7.5 million, making it by far the largest metropolitan area in Italy and the 54th largest in the world. Milan served as capital of the Western Roman Empire from 286 to 402 and the Duchy of Milan during the medieval period and early modern age.

Habsburg Monarchy Former monarchy in Europe from 1282 to 1918

Habsburg Monarchy is an umbrella term used by historians for the lands and kingdoms of the House of Habsburg, especially for those of the Austrian branch. Although from 1438 until 1806 the head of the House of Habsburg was also Holy Roman Emperor, the empire itself is not considered a part of the Habsburg Monarchy.

Society of Jesus male religious congregation of the Catholic Church

The Society of Jesus is a religious order of the Catholic Church headquartered in Rome. It was founded by Ignatius of Loyola with the approval of Pope Paul III in 1540. The members are called Jesuits. The society is engaged in evangelization and apostolic ministry in 112 nations. Jesuits work in education, research, and cultural pursuits. Jesuits also give retreats, minister in hospitals and parishes, sponsor direct social ministries, and promote ecumenical dialogue.

In his mid-twenties, Beccaria became close friends with Pietro and Alessandro Verri, two brothers who with a number of other young men from the Milan aristocracy, formed a literary society named "L'Accademia dei pugni" (the Academy of Fists), a playful name which made fun of the stuffy academies that proliferated in Italy and also hinted that relaxed conversations which took place in there sometimes ended in affrays. Much of its discussion focused on reforming the criminal justice system. Through this group Beccaria became acquainted with French and British political philosophers, such as Hobbes, Diderot, Helvétius, Montesquieu, and Hume. He was particularly influenced by Helvétius. [10]

Pietro Verri Italian philosopher, economist, historian and writer

Pietro Verri was an economist, historian, philosopher and writer. Among the most important personalities of the 18nth-century Italian culture, he is considered among the fathers of the Lombard reformist Enlightenment and the most important pre-Smithian authority on cheapness and plenty.

Alessandro Verri Italian author

Alessandro Verri was an Italian author.

Affray public order offence in many legal jurisdictions

In many legal jurisdictions related to English common law, affray is a public order offence consisting of the fighting of one or more persons in a public place to the terror of ordinary people. Depending on their actions, and the laws of the prevailing jurisdiction, those engaged in an affray may also render themselves liable to prosecution for assault, unlawful assembly, or riot; if so, it is for one of these offences that they are usually charged.

On Crimes and Punishments

Frontpage of the original Italian edition Dei delitti e delle pene Dei delitti e delle pene 1764.jpg
Frontpage of the original Italian edition Dei delitti e delle pene

In 1764, with the encouragement of Pietro Verri, Beccaria published a brief but celebrated treatise On Crimes and Punishments . Some background information was provided by Pietro, who was in the process of authoring a text on the history of torture, and Alessandro Verri was an official at a Milan prison who had firsthand experience of the prison's appalling conditions. In this essay, Beccaria reflected the convictions of his friends in the Il Caffè (Coffee House) group, who sought to cause reform through Enlightenment discourse.

<i>On Crimes and Punishments</i> work of Cesare Beccaria

On Crimes and Punishments, is a treatise written by Cesare Beccaria in 1764.

Beccaria's treatise marked the high point of the Milan Enlightenment. In it, Beccaria put forth some of the first modern arguments against the death penalty. His treatise was also the first full work of penology, advocating reform of the criminal law system. The book was the first full-scale work to tackle criminal reform and to suggest that criminal justice should conform to rational principles. It is a less theoretical work than the writings of Hugo Grotius, Samuel von Pufendorf and other comparable thinkers, and as much a work of advocacy as of theory.

Age of Enlightenment European cultural movement of the 18th century

The Age of Enlightenment was an intellectual and philosophical movement that dominated the world of ideas in Europe during the 18th century, the "Century of Philosophy".

Penology section of criminology that deals with the philosophy and practice of various societies in their attempts to repress criminal activities, and satisfy public opinion via an appropriate treatment regime for persons convicted of criminal offences

Penology is a sub-component of criminology that deals with the philosophy and practice of various societies in their attempts to repress criminal activities, and satisfy public opinion via an appropriate treatment regime for persons convicted of criminal offences.

Hugo Grotius Dutch philosopher and jurist

Hugo Grotius, also known as Huig de Groot or Hugo de Groot, was a Dutch jurist. Along with the earlier works of Francisco de Vitoria and Alberico Gentili, he laid the foundations for international law, based on natural law. A teenage intellectual prodigy, he was born in Delft and studied at Leiden University. He was imprisoned for his involvement in the intra-Calvinist disputes of the Dutch Republic, but escaped hidden in a chest of books. Grotius wrote most of his major works in exile in France.

The brief work relentlessly protests against torture to obtain confessions, secret accusations, the arbitrary discretionary power of judges, the inconsistency and inequality of sentencing, using personal connections to get a lighter sentence, and the use of capital punishment for serious and even minor offences.

Almost immediately, the work was translated into French and English and went through several editions. Editions of Beccaria's text follow two distinct arrangements of the material: that by Beccaria himself, and that by French translator Andre Morellet (1765) who imposed a more systematic order to Beccaria's original text. Morellet had the opinion that the Italian text of Beccaria did require some clarification. He therefore left parts away, and sometimes added to it. But he mainly changed the structure of the essay by moving, merging or splitting chapters. These interventions were known to experts, but because Beccaria himself had indicated in a letter to Morellet that he fully agreed with him, it was assumed that these adaptations also had Beccaria's consent in substance. The differences are so great, however, that the book from the hands of Morellet became quite another book than the book that Beccaria wrote. [11]

Beccaria opens his work describing the great need for reform in the criminal justice system, and he observes how few studies there are on the subject of such reform. Throughout his work, Beccaria develops his position by appealing to two key philosophical theories: social contract and utility. Concerning the social contract, Beccaria argues that punishment is justified only to defend the social contract and to ensure that everyone will be motivated to abide by it. Concerning utility (perhaps influenced by Helvetius), Beccaria argues that the method of punishment selected should be that which serves the greatest public good.

Contemporary political philosophers distinguish between two principal theories of justifying punishment. First, the retributive approach maintains that punishment should be equal to the harm done, either literally an eye for an eye, or more figuratively which allows for alternative forms of compensation. The retributive approach tends to be retaliatory and vengeance-oriented. The second approach is utilitarian which maintains that punishment should increase the total amount of happiness in the world. This often involves punishment as a means of reforming the criminal, incapacitating him from repeating his crime, and deterring others. Beccaria clearly takes a utilitarian stance. For Beccaria, the purpose of punishment is to create a better society, not revenge. Punishment serves to deter others from committing crimes, and to prevent the criminal from repeating his crime.

Beccaria argues that punishment should be close in time to the criminal action to maximize the punishment's deterrence value. He defends his view about the temporal proximity of punishment by appealing to the associative theory of understanding in which our notions of causes and the subsequently perceived effects are a product of our perceived emotions that form from our observations of a causes and effect occurring in close correspondence (for more on this topic, see David Hume's work on the problem of induction, as well as the works of David Hartley). Thus, by avoiding punishments that are remote in time from the criminal action, we are able to strengthen the association between the criminal behavior and the resulting punishment which, in turn, discourages the criminal activity.

For Beccaria when a punishment quickly follows a crime, then the two ideas of "crime" and "punishment" will be more closely associated in a person's mind. Also, the link between a crime and a punishment is stronger if the punishment is somehow related to the crime. Given the fact that the swiftness of punishment has the greatest impact on deterring others, Beccaria argues that there is no justification for severe punishments. In time we will naturally grow accustomed to increases in severity of punishment, and, thus, the initial increase in severity will lose its effect. There are limits both to how much torment we can endure, and also how much we can inflict.

Cesare Beccaria, Dei delitti e delle pene Beccaria - Dei delitti e delle pene - 6043967 A.jpg
Cesare Beccaria, Dei delitti e delle pene

Beccaria touches on an array of criminal justice practices, recommending reform. For example, he argues that dueling can be eliminated if laws protected a person from insults to his honor. Laws against suicide are ineffective, and thus should be eliminated, leaving punishment of suicide to God. Bounty hunting should not be permitted since it incites people to be immoral and shows a weakness in the government. He argues that laws should be clear in defining crimes so that judges do not interpret the law, but only decide whether a law has been broken.

Punishments should be in degree to the severity of the crime. Treason is the worst crime since it harms the social contract. This is followed by violence against a person or his property, and, finally, by public disruption. Crimes against property should be punished by fines. The best ways to prevent crimes are to enact clear and simple laws, reward virtue, and improve education.

Three tenets served as the basis of Beccaria's theories on criminal justice: free will, rational manner, and manipulability. According to Beccaria—and most classical theorists—free will enables people to make choices. Beccaria believed that people have a rational manner and apply it toward making choices that will help them achieve their own personal gratification.

In Beccaria's interpretation, law exists to preserve the social contract and benefit society as a whole. But, because people act out of self-interest and their interest sometimes conflicts with societal laws, they commit crimes. The principle of manipulability refers to the predictable ways in which people act out of rational self-interest and might therefore be dissuaded from committing crimes if the punishment outweighs the benefits of the crime, rendering the crime an illogical choice.

The principles to which Beccaria appealed were Reason, an understanding of the state as a form of contract, and, above all, the principle of utility, or of the greatest happiness for the greatest number. Beccaria had elaborated this original principle in conjunction with Pietro Verri, and greatly influenced Jeremy Bentham to develop it into the full-scale doctrine of Utilitarianism.

He openly condemned the death penalty on two grounds:

  1. first, because the state does not possess the right to take lives; and
  2. secondly, because capital punishment is neither a useful nor a necessary form of punishment.
Statue of Beccaria in Pinacoteca Brera, Milan Cesare Beccaria statue Pinacoteca Brera.jpg
Statue of Beccaria in Pinacoteca Brera, Milan

Beccaria developed in his treatise a number of innovative and influential principles:

He also argued against gun control laws, [12] and was among the first to advocate the beneficial influence of education in lessening crime. [13] Referring to gun control laws as laws based on "false ideas of utility", Beccaria wrote: "The laws of this nature are those which forbid to wear arms, disarming those only who are not disposed to commit the crime which the laws mean to prevent." He further wrote: "[These laws] certainly makes the situation of the assaulted worse, and of the assailants better, and rather encourages than prevents murder, as it requires less courage to attack unarmed than armed persons". Thomas Jefferson noted this passage in his "Legal Commonplace Book". [14]

As Beccaria's ideas were critical of the legal system in place at the time, and were therefore likely to stir controversy, he chose to publish the essay anonymously, for fear of government backlash.

In the event, the treatise was extremely well received. Catherine the Great publicly endorsed it, while thousands of miles away in the United States, founding fathers Thomas Jefferson and John Adams quoted it. Once it was clear that the government approved of his essay, Beccaria republished it, this time crediting himself as the author.

Later life and influence

With much hesitation, Beccaria accepted an invitation to Paris to meet the great thinkers of the day. He travelled with the Verri brothers and was given a warm reception by the philosophes . However, the chronically-shy Beccaria made a poor impression and left after three weeks, returning to Milan and to his young wife Teresa and never venturing abroad again. The break with the Verri brothers proved lasting; they were never able to understand why Beccaria had left his position at the peak of success.

Beccaria nevertheless continued to command official recognition, and he was appointed to several nominal political positions in Italy. Separated from the invaluable input of his friends, he failed to produce another text of equal importance. Outside Italy, an unfounded myth grew that Beccaria's literary silence resulted from Austrian restrictions on free expression in Italy. In fact, prone to periodic bouts of depression and misanthropy, he had grown silent on his own.

Legal scholars of the time hailed Beccaria's treatise, and several European emperors vowed to follow it. Many reforms in the penal codes of the principal European nations can be traced to the treatise, but few contemporaries were convinced by Beccaria's argument against the death penalty. Even when the Grand Duchy of Tuscany abolished the death penalty, the first nation in the world to do so, it followed Beccaria's argument about the lack of utility of capital punishment, not about the state's lacking the right to execute citizens. In the anglophone world, Beccaria's ideas fed into the writings on punishment of Sir William Blackstone (selectively), and more wholeheartedly those of William Eden and Jeremy Bentham. [15]

In November 1768, he was appointed to the chair of law and economy founded expressly for him at the Palatine College of Milan. His lectures on political economy, which are based on strict utilitarian principles, are in marked accordance with the theories of the English school of economists. They are published in the collection of Italian writers on political economy (Scrittori Classici Italiani di Economia politica, vols. xi. and xii.). [9] Beccaria never succeeded in producing another work to match Dei Delitti e Delle Pene, but he made various incomplete attempts in the course of his life. A short treatise on literary style was all he saw to press.

In 1771, Beccaria was made a member of the supreme economic council, and in 1791 he was appointed to the board for the reform of the judicial code, where he made a valuable contribution. During this period he spearheaded a number of important reforms, such as the standardisation of weights and measurements. [16] He died in Milan. [9]

A forerunner in criminology, his influence during his lifetime extended to shaping the rights listed in the US Constitution and Bill of Rights. On Crimes and Punishments served as a useful guide to the founding fathers.

Beccaria's theories, as expressed in On Crimes and Punishments, have continued to play a great role in recent times. Some of the current policies impacted by his theories are truth in sentencing, swift punishment and the abolishment of the death penalty in some U.S. states. While many of his theories are popular, some are still a source of heated controversy, even more than two centuries after the famed criminologist's death.

Family

Beccaria's grandson was Alessandro Manzoni, the noted Italian novelist and poet who wrote, among other things, The Betrothed , one of the first Italian historical novels, and "Il cinque maggio", a poem on Napoleon's death.

Commemorations

See also

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References

  1. Maria G. Vitali in: Cesare Beccaria, 1738-1794. Progresso e discorsi di economia politica (Paris, L'Harmattan, 2005, p 9; Philippe Audegean, Introduzione, in Cesare Beccaria, Dei delitti e delle pene, Lione, ENS Editions, 2009, p. 9); Renzo Zorzi, Cesare Beccaria. Dramma della Giustizia, Milano, Mondadori, 1995, p. 53
  2. Fridell, Ron (2004). Capital punishment. New York: Benchmark Books. p. 88. ISBN   0761415874.
  3. Edward N. Peters (2013). Torture. University of Pennsylvania Press. p. 304. ISBN   978-0812215991.
  4. Hostettler, John (2011). Cesare Beccaria: The Genius of 'On Crimes and Punishments'. Hampshire: Waterside Press. p. 160. ISBN   978-1904380634.
  5. John D. Bessler, The Birth of American Law: An Italian Philosopher and the American Revolution (Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press)
  6. Hostettler, John (2011). Cesare Beccaria: The Genius of 'On Crimes and Punishments'. Loddon, UK: Waterside Press. p. 23.
  7. 1 2 3 Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Beccaria-Bonesana, Cesare"  . Encyclopædia Britannica . 3 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 602.
  8. Craig Hemmens and Stephen G. Tibbetts, Criminological Theory: A Text/Reader, SAGE, 2009, p. 86.
  9. http://www.bjulibrary.nl/boek/9789462902633/voorwoord
  10. Beccaria, Cesare. "Of Crimes and Punishments."
  11. Wikisource-logo.svg  Gilman, D. C.; Peck, H. T.; Colby, F. M., eds. (1905). "Beccaria, Cesare Bonesano"  . New International Encyclopedia (1st ed.). New York: Dodd, Mead.
  12. Chinard, Gilbert (1926). The Commonplace Book of Thomas Jefferson: A Repertory of His Ideas on Government. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press. p. 314.
  13. Draper, Anthony J. (2000). "Cesare Beccaria's influence on English discussions of punishment, 1764–1789". History of European Ideas. 26 (3–4): 177–99. doi:10.1016/s0191-6599(01)00017-1.
  14. Lugli, Emanuele (2015). "Cesare Beccaria e la riduzione delle misure lineari a Milano". Nuova Informazione Bibliografica. 3: 597–602. doi:10.1448/80865.

Further reading