Aspects of Italian and American History

Italians and Democracy

Cesare Beccaria, a Milanese jurist, was just 26 years old when he wrote and published the masterpiece, On Crimes and Punishments. It was translated into many languages and became a bestseller throughout Europe. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams were among the many who purchased Beccaria's book.

On Crimes and Punishments had a profound influence on many. Boston's John Adams used a direct quote in a 1768 trial while defending a man accused of murder. In his remarks to the jury, Adams quoted, “If, by supporting the rights of mankind, and of invincible truth, I shall contribute to save…one unfortunate victim from tyranny…his tears…will be sufficient consolation to me.” Throughout his life, John Adams kept Beccaria’s treatise by his side.