Filangieri, Gaetano

, a celebrated Italian political writer, the descendant of a very illustrious but decayed family at Naples, was born there Aug. 18, 1752. His parents had very early destined him for the military profession, but the attachment he showed to the acquisition of literary knowledge, induced them to suffer him to pursue his own course of study. His application to general literature became then intense, and before he was twenty years of age, he was not only an accomplished Greek and Latin scholar, but had made himself intimately acquainted with mathematics, ancient history, and the laws of nature and nations as administered in every country. He had also begun at this time to write two works, the one on public and private education, and the other on the duties of princes, as founded on nature and social order, and although he did not complete his design in either, yet he incorporated many of the sentiments advanced in his great work on legislation. He afterwards studied law, more in compliance with the will of his friends, who considered the bar as the introduction to public honour and preferment, than from his own inclination; and the case of an arbitrary decision occurring, he published an excellent work on the subject, entitled “Riflessioni Politiche sull' ultima legge Sovrana, che riguarda ramministrazione della giustizia,Naples, 1774, 8vo. This excited the more attention, as the author was at this time only in his twenty-second year, and a youth averse to the pleasures and amusements of his age, and intent only on the most profound researches into the principles of law and justice. Nor were these studies much interrupted by his obtaining in 1777 a place at court, that of gentleman of the bedchamber, with the title of an officer of the marines, which appears to have been usually conferred on gentlemen who were near the person of the monarch. In 1780 he published the first two volumes of his celebrated work on Legislation, “Scienza della Legislatione,” at Naples the third and fourth appeared in 1783 the fifth, sixth, and seventh in 1785; and the eighth, after his death, in 1789. This was | reprinted at Naples, Venice, Florence, Milan, &c. and translated into French, German, and Spanish. The encomiums bestowed on it were general throughout Europe, and although some of his sentiments were opposed with considerable violence, and some of them are perhaps more beautiful in theory than in practice, a common case with speculators who take upon them to legislate for the whole world; yet it has been said with justice, that he brought to his great task qualifications in which both legislators and authors, who have made great exertions on the same subject, have been lamentably deficient, knowledge, temper, and moderation; and if assent is withheld from any proposition, or conviction does not attend every argument, the sentiment of esteem and respect for an enlightened, industrious, and virtuous man, labouring for the benefit of his fellow-creatures, and seeking their good by temperate and rational means, is never for a moment suspended. This valuable writer had not quite completed his plan, when his labours were ended by a premature death, in the spring of 1788, when he was only in his thirty-sixth year. He was universally lamented by his countrymen at large; and the king, who a little before his death had called him to the administration of the finances, testified his high regard for so useful a servant, by providing for his children, by a wife whom he had married in 1783. His biographer applies to him, with the change of name, what Tacitus says of Agricola, “Quidquid ex Filangierio amavimus, quidquid mirati sumus, manet mansurumque est in animis hominum, in aeternitate temporum, famarerum.” In 1806, sir Richard Clayton published an excellent translation of Filangieri in 2 vols. 8vo, as far as relates to political and Œconomical laws, and omitting what is said on criminal legislation, which the translator conceived was not wanted in this country, where the distribution of public justice is scarcely susceptible of amendment. 1


Fabroni Vitae Italorum, vol. XV. Brit. Crit. vol. XXX.