Cesare Beccaria

Cesare_Beccaria.jpg

1. Introduction


Cesare Beccaria, to this day, is still considered the father of classical criminal theory. His book titled " Of Crimes and Punishment" have shaped the modern day system of criminology as we know it. His ideas are seen today in our American Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Not only has Cesare Beccaria's views been highly respected by John Adams and even Thomas Jefferson, his views have been highly respected by all of America, even if we as people didn't exactly know he was the one to start the criminal justice system. Cesare has impacted our society and was a great historical figure in "The Enlightenment."

Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. Biography

3. Beccaria's Views on Crimes, Punishments, and the Economy

4. Significance

5. Written Works

6. Sources


2. Biography


Cesare Beccaria was born on March 15, 1738 in Milan, Italy. He grew up in an a Aristocratic family. As years past he received a Jesuit education and achieved his degree in 1758. Three years later he married Teresa di Blasco against his parents wishes. At this point in his life Cesare developed two very good friends which he spent most of his time with, Pietro and Alessandro Verri. These three formed a very unique group and had many views about how the society around them should be run, unlike how it was at the time. Together they formed a group called the "academy of fists." Now that they had somewhere to express their views openly they quickly became devoted to "waging relentless was against economic disorder, bureaucratic petty tyranny, religious narrow-mindedness, and intellectual pedantry" (Cesare Beccaria, pg. 1). Cesare's job in the group was to write their thoughts onto a paper so others could be drawn into their beliefs. Little did Cesare know that this job would eventually lead him into writing a book, "Of Crimes and Punishment," which would shape the criminal justice system to this day.

Soon after the creation of the "academy of fists," Cesare Beccaria's friends pressured him into reading "enlightened authors" (Cesare Beccaria, pg. 1) of France and England. While he read, he also began to write essay due to his friends' encouragement. The first of these essays he wrote was titled "On Remedies for the Monetary Disorders of Milan in the Year 1762." His most prized essay though was definitely "Of Crimes and Punishment," which he wrote in 1764. This specific piece of work was admired by many, including Voltaire, Thomas Jefferson, and even John Adams. To learn what Cesare's most important essay was check "Beccaria's Views on Crimes, Punishments, and the Economy."

After the publication of Cesare's greatest essay many people began to take notice. All over the globe Cesare's essay began to be re-published in a myriad of different languages. France intellectuals especially took notice of his work and invited him to come to Paris. Soon after his arrival he began to feel unwelcome. It wasn't exactly that he was hated among the group, it was just that the people around him thought of him as "childish imbecile without backbone and unable of living away from his mother" (Cesare Beccaria, pg. 1). After feeling dislike emanating from the colleagues around, he quickly left Paris without another word.

Once returning to his home, Cesare Beccaria "fled" from his friends and the "academy of fists." He traveled to Austria and worked quietly for the Austrian government until his death in 1794. Soon after his death his essay's became highly respected throughout France and England. Years later his work was used in the American Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Even to this day Cesare Beccaria is considered as the father of classical criminal theory.

3. Beccaria's Views on Crimes, Punishments, and the Economy


Of_Crimes_and_Punishments.jpg In 1764, Cesare Beccaria published his essay titled "Dei delitti e delle pene," meaning "Of Crimes and Punishment." In this essay, originally published in Italian, Beccaria states his views regarding the legal system. He believes human societies continually try to heighten happiness and power while at the same time reducing misery and weakness. Good laws are intended support this concept. These laws have been, for the most part, regulated by a small group of authorities rather than the average citizen. However, it is not until something threatens their lives and liberties that the authorities will supply the remedy to what is oppressing them.

Beccaria used his essay to show the flaws of the traditional legal system. He argued "it is better to prevent crimes than to punish them" (Beccaria, p. xii). He points out that the goal of legislation is allowing men the maximal happiness and minimal misery. Laws, not punishments, should be feared. The fear of punishment by man is essentially a source of crime. Beccaria was also strongly against capital punishment. He questioned the justice behind the death penalty, and he thought it was barbaric.

He argued that the nature of the evidence presented should determine whether imprisonment is a reasonable punishment. Therefore, the laws, rather than the judge, should decide upon the verdict. He also describes the proportion between crimes and punishments. Beccaria explains that the punishment should befit the crime. He also writes "crimes are more effectually prevented by the certainty than the severity of punishment," meaning that the assurance of a punishment is more effective than a severe punishment. (Beccaria, p. xii).

In 1804, nearly ten years following his death, another of Beccaria's essays was published. "A Discourse on Public Economy and Commerce," is an essay on the bias of human nature and the process in which people turn their profits into useful purposes. He writes that nothing is of greater value than supporting science by the public authority in the interests of the nation. He further explains that citizens are vital to the spread of knowledge.

4. Significance


During the height of the enlightenment, Casare Beccaria introduced ethical along with intellectual values to criminal law and the penal system. His ideas were extremely influential and spread throughout the world. His principles toward criminal law became the backbone to the United States judicial system as well as the judicial reform movement in England (Powell, 101). Beccaria’s theory of pleasing the largest percent of people in a population proved to be successful when this principle was used in the United States’ constitution and bill of rights (Powell, 101).

Prisons began to enforce the theory that punishment should being geared towards stopping the offender from committing a crime again (Powell, 100). Prisons began banning the death penalty or using more humane execution tactics. Before Beccaria’s theories were publicized, prisons used the death penalty as a common punishment. (Young, xii). These new punishments abided to his theory of swift and certainty as opposed to cruel and sever punishments.

Beccaria also studied theories that included economics. Although his ideas on economics did not prove to be influential, they were interesting because of their depth and similarity to other theories at this time. His work with criminal law and the penal system were by far his most significant works.

5. Written Works


  • Del Disordine e dei rimedi delle Monete (1762)
  • Tentativo Analtico sui Contrabbandi 1764)
  • Dei delitti e delle pene (1764)
  • Richere intorno alla natura dello stile (1771)
  • Elementi de economia pubblica (1804)
  • A Discourse on Public Economy and Commerce (1804)

6. Sources


1.Beccaria, Cesare. Introduction. Of Crimes and Punishments. By Cesare Beccaria. R. Bell, 1764. <http://www.constitution.org/cb/crimpun00.html
2."Cesare Beccaria (1738-1794)." http://www.utm.edu 10 Sept. 2007 <http://www.utm.edu/research/iep/b/beccaria.htm>.
3. "Cesare Beccaria." http://www.constitution.org 10 Sept. 2007. <http://www.constitution.org/cb/beccariabio.html>
4."Cesare Bonesana Marchese Di Beccaria, 1738-1794." The History of Economic Thought Website. 12 Sept. 2007 <http://cepa.newschool.edu/het/profiles/beccaria.htm>.
5.Dei Delitti E Delle Pene. 11 Sept. 2007 <http://www.law.gwu.edu/NR/rdonlyres/5BE6C5D8-BB72-4CBD-9D57-C0E7F1058865/0/Duel09a.jpg>
6.Powell, John, ed. The 18th Century. LOM-Z ed. Vol. 2. New Jersey: Salem P, Inc., 2006. 100-101.
7.Young, David, trans. Beccaria on Crimes Adn Punishments. Hackett Company, 1986. xi-xvi.