BECCARIA Cesare Bonesana de—philosopher of law and economist, b. March 15, 1738 in Milan, d. November 28, 1794 in Milan.
He was endowed with enormous talent in formulating legal concepts and rules, but never devoted himself to legal practice or legislative work. After completing legal studies in Pavia he studied philosophy in greater depth. He was influenced by the Renaissance humanitarian movement and the eighteenth-century classics of the school of natural law (C. Thomasius, C. Montesquieu). He represented a utilitarian orientation in legal science.
In 1764 his famous essay Dei delitti e delle pene (On crimes and punishments) was published. Its main ideas influenced reforms in the legal systems of Austria (Maria Theresa, Joseph II), Tuscany, the penal code of the French Revolution, and the code of English and American penal law. The Russian Empress Catharine II gave instructions for a project of codification based on the views of Beccaria and Montesquieu.
The main ideas of Beccaria’s work include the utilitarian social thesis that the greatest possible happiness for the greatest possible number of people must be ensured; the principle that the only measure of a crime is the harm it does to society (utilitarianism); the idea that the prevention of crimes is more important than their punishment; the postulate that citizens should have a general knowledge of the law and that the accused should have honest defense in a criminal trial; reform of the penal procedure—including the abolition of secret charges and torture, and the elimination of capital punishment, to be replaced by imprisonment.
Beccaria’s revolutionary work became widely known in Europe, but it brought him many problems from feudal authorities in the Italian republics (and from the Church). Beccaria nonetheless continued to be regarded highly as an economist; after a period of criticism and the dismissal of charges he was called to be a member of the Superior Economic Counsel of Lombardy.
A. de Marchi, Cesare B. e il processo penale, Tr 1929; S. Glaser, B. a reforma ustaw karnych w duchu humanitaryzmu [Beccaria and the reform of penal laws in the humanitarian spirit], Wwa 1922; J. Graven, B. et l’avènement du droit pénal moderne (1738–1794), G 1948; S. Rappaport, Przedmowa [Foreword], in: Cesare B., O przestąpstwach i karach [On crimes and punishments], Wwa 1959; S. Salmonowicz, Cesare B. na tle literatury humanitarnej XVIII wieku [Cesare Beccaria in the context of the humanitarian literature of the eighteenth century], in: Cesare B. (1733–1794)—reformator prawa karnego i jego epoka [Cesare Beccaria (1733–1794)—reformer of penal law and his epoch], To 1995; J. Justyński, Jeremy Bentham jako kontynuator utylitarnej teorii prawa Cesarego B. [Jeremy Bentham as continuator of Cesare Beccaria’s utilitarian theory of law], in: ibid.