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Cesare, marchese de Beccaria-Bonesana

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Cesare, marchese de Beccaria-Bonesana (March 11, 1735 - November 28, 1794), Italian publicist, was born at Milan.

He was educated in the Jesuit college at Parma, and showed at first a great aptitude for mathematics. The study of Montesquieu seems to have directed his attention towards economic questions; and his first publication (1762) was a tract on the derangement of the currency in the Milanese states, with a proposal for its remedy. Shortly after, in conjunction with his friends the Verris, he formed a literary society, and began to publish a small journal, in imitation of the Spectator, called Il Caffe.

In 1764 he published his brief but justly celebrated treatise Dei Delitti e delle Pene ("On Crimes and Punishments"). The weighty reasonings of this work were expounded with all the additional force of a clear and animated style. It pointed out distinctly and temperately the grounds of the right of punishment, and from these principles deduced certain propositions as to the nature and amount of punishment which should be inflicted for any crime. The book had a surprising success. Within eighteen months it passed through six editions. It was translated into French by Morellet in 1766, and published with an anonymous commentary by Voltaire. An English translation appeared in 1768 and it was translated into several other languages.

Many of the reforms in the penal codes of the principal European nations are traceable to Beccaria's treatise. In November 1768 he was appointed to the chair of law and economy, which had been 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.).

In 1771 Beccaria was made a member of the supreme economic council; and in 1791 he was appointed one of the board for the reform of the judicial code. In this post his labours were of very great value. He died at Milan on the 28th of November 1794.

This entry was originally from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.

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