CRM 1301: Reading #5 02/27/2012
Cesare Beccaria: 17381794
Cesare Bonesara Machese di Beccaria is credited as the author of one of the most influential 18 century
publications related to the reform of the criminal justice system.
Milan, Italy on March 15 1738, the son of aristocratic parents attended the Jesuit College in Parma, where
he did nothing to distinguish himself academically.
In 1758, he graduated from the University of Pavia, where he had studied law.
Beccaria joined a group of individuals who called themselves the Academia dei Transformati a very
fashionable literary group. During this period, Beccaria read and was very strongly influence by
Montesquieu’s Persian Letters and developed “a devotion to social philosophy with a view to effecting
reform in many parts of the existing constitution of society”
Became friends with Pietro Verri a noted Italian economist. H left the Academia and transferred to
Academia dei Pugni – “academy of the fists”
At these meetings, members adopted the names of noted individuals and Beccaria used the name Titus
Pompius Atticus. This new discussion group assumed a stronger political stance, and Beccaria joined
because he was unhappy with the economic organization of his country. Members wrote on various topics
of interest, producing essays designed to challenge the existing structure of 18 century Italian society.
First published work in 1762 entitled Del Disordine e de’ Rimedi delle Monete nell Stato di
Milano nell’ anno” The Disorder and Remedies of the Economy in Milan – a monographed that
addressed remedies for problems in Mians monetary system.
Writing apparently wasn’t an easy task for Beccaria
Beccaria tended to be lazy and discouraged easily
There is some speculation that the completed work, entitled Dei Delitti e delle Pene ( On Crimes
and Punishments) might not have been written by Beccaria.
Although he published nothing else of outstanding note, Beccaira was a regular contributor toII Caffe a
journal modeled on Joseph Addisons Spectator published by the Accademia dei Pugni every ten days.
By this time, Beccaria’s essay has been widely distributed and read. He had already received much critical
acclaim and invitations to speak and assist with the revision of criminal codes were logged regularly. In
October 1766, Beccaria traveled to Paris to meet with a group of writers known as the Encyclopaedists.
For the next 23 years, Beccaria apparently returned to the quiet, reserved and contemplative life until his
death of apoplexy on Nov 28, 1794, at the age of 55
At the time Beccaria was writing, the historical ideology was represented by the “theology of the Church
Fathers and the doctrine of the divine rights of kings”
The historical ideology was being challenged by the forces of the reform. The Naturalists, a group of
philosophers, posited that society was ordered and that this order “was separate from religious revelation” In this state of grace, or innocence individuals had “free will” to make whatever choices they so desired. In
the state of grace, the only form of regulation that existed was what VOLD an Bernard (1986) refer to as
Punishment was the primary method used to instill fear.
Beccaira also based many of his ideas concerning crime and punishment on the philosophy of the greatest
good for the greatest number
It was Beccaria who influenced Bentham.
The concept of utilitarianism, although not specifically identified as such, was first used by Beccaria and
appeared in his first work.
The criminal law of 18 century Europe was in general considered barbaric and repressive.
Prosecutors and judges were allowed tremendous latitude in their in their decision making, and corruption
The “standing” of a person in the community had a direct and overt influence on the handling he could
expect from the justice system.
It is his foremost publication. It is important to recognize that Beccaira did not specially set out to develop a
theory pertaining to crime and justice, but rather simply wanted to delineate the parameters of a just system
of dealing with criminal.
Beccaira indicates to the reader that it was his intention not to diminish legitimate authority; instead his text
must serve to increase it.
Accompanied by a search for truth
He believed that the existing legal system was archaic and needed to have its legal codes updated.
Law and Punishment:
on the origins of punishment, Beccaria posits that legitimate punishment must emanate from the law.
Although the state has the right to punish, the punishment must be proportionate to the offense and no
greater than necessary to preserve the peace and security of the society.
Proof of Guilt:
Beccaira identifies two types of prove of guilt – perfect and imperfect. Perfect guilt applies t those cases
“that include the possibility of innocence,” whereas imperfect guilt applies to those that do not exclude it The distinction between these two proofs in an important one for our resent –day justice system. More
often than not, we have an imperfect proof with many pieces of evidence that when considered individually
are not sufficient to establish guilt, but when taken collectively are able to acceptably establish guilt.
“probably cause” and “beyond a reasonable doubt.”
On the subject of jury, Beccaria called for a panel of peers. Beccaria suggests that “in crimes involving the
offense of one citizen against another onehalf of those who try the case should be peers of