« AnteriorContinuar »
the first employments in the state, the younger sons of the nobility, with a slender patrimony, often make choice of it. Filangieri was bred to the law, and whilst he practised in the Neapolitan coutts, the little treatise with the title * Riflessione Politiche sull' ultima legge Sovrana che riguarda l'amministrazione di Giustizia," estab. lished his legal and literary reputation.
In 1775, his uncle Serafino Filangieri, Archbishop of Palermo, being translated to the see of Naples, with the priory of the Constantinian order annexed to it, bestowed' a rich commandery on his nephew, which enabled him to resign his profession, and to de** vote, more agreeably to his inclination, his time to literary pursuits. His Sicilian Majesty in 1777 appointed him gentleman of the chamber, and he had a commission also in a royal corps of volunteers, which was wholly composed of the nobility, and considered as the King's select body guard,
These appointments, however, did not break in upon his studies, and notwithstanding his attention to his public duties, the two first volumes of “la Scienza della Legislazione" appeared in 1782, of which three numerous editions at Naples, two at Florence, one in Catania, and another at Milan, were soon published. A burst of admiration and applause followed, and Filangieri on the first vacancy was appointed a counsellor of finance, an office which was only in tended as a step to greater emoluments and honours.'
At this point in the author's life, Sir R. Clayton becomes indebted for farther particulars to Mr. Meyer, the writer of “gome very ingenious observations on Italy,' who was acquainted at Naples with the Chevalier, and has given an animated eulogium on his character. Mr. M. observes that
“ In the society of his intimates he was the man of the world, al. ways sprightly and active, with the warmest attachment to their interests: in the closet, where he was employed on his celebrated work, la Scienza della Legislazione,' he was the sage, occupied in laying the foundations of the future happiness of his country. I knew him when he was the compation of the heir to the crown, and when he was the friend of his Sovereign. Surrounded with seductions the most dangerous to the heart and character of a young man, whose birth, talents, and exterior advantages gave
him a right to every pretension-in the midst of a voluptuous courtcopaccted with it by many and multiplied relations-ihe favourite of a Monarch whose education he had shared -Filangieri was still himself, always equally great and noble, and worthy of esteem and admiration. In possession of high offices and employments, a more brilliant prospect opened before him, yet nothing could stand in competition with his love of domestic life, and his passion for literary and philosophical retirement. Notwithstanding the King's attachment to him continued, he quitted therefore the court, and took up his residence in his country house at Cava, where he devoted his hours to the great work that will immortalize his name: were passed in this retirement, so congenial with his disposition, and he was afterwards drawn from it only by the King's express
commands, who had conferred on him the office of royal counsellor of finance. Scarcely had he entered on this important charge, when a disorder arising from exposure to the night air in his returns to Cava, after the incessant application of the day, deprived his counuy of him, in the midst of his labours for the re-establishment of its finances, by the encouragement of the three great soarces of national. prosperity, agriculture, manufactures and commerce. Filangieri died in the 36th year of his age, and few persons have been so generally lamented. Such a loss was indeed a national and public one.' His activity was unwearied-his devotion to the happiness of his country universally acknowledged, and in his private life his character was honourable and amiable-his morality exemplary. The
Scienza della Legislazione', a work singular in itself, has been cele brated throughout Europe, and every unprejudiced judge of literary merit will always rank its author with the greatest political writer that have appeared."
He is stated also to have been distinguished by the most eminent personal attractions, and the most valuable qualities of the heart and mind. When the Sicilian king heard of his death, he shed tears, and exclaimed with a sigh, “ Ho piu de tutto perduto nella morte di questo degno e illuminato vassallo." He left three sons, to whom the king has extended paternal care and protection.
In our former notice, we mentioned the heads of the contents of this work; and we shall now proceed to specify and animad. vert on some particular parts.-A view of the objects sought by means of political society is drawn with great distinctness and precision in the ensuing passage. The experience of a state of nature, the author observes, must have taught men
• That physical inequality could not be destroyed without renouncing moral equality--that for the preservation of tranquillity independence was not absolutely requisite that a public force must be es. tablished superior to private force, and that this publie force could only flow from the aggregate of the whole collected mass of private force—that a moral person was wanting to represent the public will, and to be the guardian of its power-that the publie torce ought to be united to public reason-that the interpretation of laws, the establishment of the rights, and the regulation of the duties of each member of the community ought to be under its controul—that it ought to prescribe certain determined rules of government, calculated to maintain the equilibrium between the wants of each citizen and his means of gratifying them—and lastly, that by the liberty of acquiring every requisite for personal preservation and personal traje quillity, each individual might be amply recompensed for the surrea. der of his original independence.'
It is here laid down that a state can only be rich and happy in the single instance in which every individual, by the moderate labour of a few hours, can casily supply, his own wants,
and those of his family:- What may be the case in the fertile and favoured climate of Southern Italy, we will not positively decide: but of this we are very certain, that from the sort of happiness here described, we of this country are effectually and inevitably debarred.
A salutary truth is disclosed in the subsequent paragraph ; and in no country is it more important that it should be ad mitted and felt than in our own :
• Nothing is more easy than to commit an error in legislation, though nothing is more difficult to rectify, and nothing so destructive to a country. The loss of a province, or an ill-conducted and injudicious war, is the scourge of a moment. A fortunate opportunity, the victory of a day, may compensate for and counterbalance defeats for years; but a political mistake, an error in legislation, involves the ruin of a nation, and prepares its misery for ages of futu
On the subject of the trade which has so long been an opprobrium to our national character, and which at length has been proscribed with merited ignominy, we are pleased to observe that our Neapolitan philanthropist imposes no restraint on his pen. We are more gratified, however, by no longer feeling the necessity of recurring to his or any other writer's arguments on this topic,
We insert the following extracts rather as specimens of the author's faculty of perspicuous statement, than because we coincide with him in opinion. The Spartan republic we indeed consider as an unnatural and ferocious polity. What it is supposed to have been is here stated in a very clear and concise manner. Regarding thus the Lacedæmonian regimen, we admit that, in the constitution prescribed for the rival power by Solon, we discover much to approve and to admire :
• A celebrated legislator entertained an antipathy to riches ; banished gold and silver ; prohibited commerce ; established a perfect equality of conditions, and to preserve it, regulated marriage portions, and the succession of fortunes s destroyed property ; vested the soil in the republic, distributing only a certain part to the father of a family for his immediate use ; condemned luxury; attached a species of reputation and honour to frugality; degraded manufactures ; direct. ed the earth to be cultivated by slaves, and declared that the sole occupation of the free citizen should be to strengthen his body, and acquire the arts of war. He immersed the people in a military state of idleness, and to prevent its fatal consequences attended to their minutest actions. Their food, their meals, and even their public conversation, were objects of public animadversion, and determined by the laws. Martial dances, feats of activity, races and wrestling, and every exercise which could invigorate the body, or prepare it for the fatigues of war, formed the public and the principal amusements
of the people. A ware of the ill effects of an irregular commerce between the two sexes, he proposed a remedy so extraordinary as to seem rather to encourage what it was intended to prevent. The young women were to appear in public without veils, and they wresiled completely naked with the young men, on the idea that to take off natural impressions, the best method was to expose nature to the public eye. The erent justified the theory. This republic became the admiration of the nniverse, and preserved its astonishing static of happiness and power for six hundred years.
• The legislator of a neighbouring state, separated only by a few leagues, thought very differently. His laws protected commerce; fostered the arts; encouraged agriculture; promoted labour, and introduced riches. Conscious of the natural sterility of his soil, industry was resorted to for its powerful assistance. Every citizen was obliged to exercise a trade į and the support of a father in his necessities was dispensed with, if he had not caught the son a mode of procuring his maintenance. The most respectable citizens had the care of inspecting the means by which cach individual provided for his own and his family's subsistence. All were employed in the occupations which they had chosen, and the right of citizenship was bestowed on foreign artists, who came to settle in the republic with their families. Every thing in short favoured the arts. Idleness was punished as a crime ; and even the women became laborious and sedentary, for the laws required it. This celebrated legislator was of opinion, he could prevent the corruption of morals, and secure the virtue of the female sex, in the midst of the riches which he studied to introduce, and of luxury, the consequence of riches, by the mere force of industry and labour.
. His republic, under the influence of these laws, became likewise happy, rich, and powerful, and though it could not preserve its laws for six hundred years, like Sparta, it had at least the singular glory of surviving the Lacedæmonian liberty.'
The Neapolitan jurist treats our own frame of government with some severity. He thus introduces the topic:
* It has been the fortune of this government to be more extolled than analyzed. Montesquieu did not perfectly understand it, and it is exposed to a danger which he did not foresce, and from which the other goveruments are wholly exempt. It may end in despotism, without any visible alteration of the constitution, and the people may one day become a prey to real tyranny without the loss of ap. parent liberty. This is the government of a nation which for a century has fixed the attention of Europe, it is the government of Great Britain, where a good prince is able to do nothing without the con. sent of the nation, and a bad one might betray it, where the voices of a majority of the representatives of the people do not always core respond with their wishes, and its supposed liberty has in some instances degenerated into licentiousness."
In one material point, the author's remarks are erroneous. Montesquieu did well understand the theory of our govern
ment, and had a very considerable insight into its practice. We who live under its protection cannot but acknowlege the excellencies which he has ascribed to it; and our power, wealth, and prosperity form irresistible evidence of their rea. lity. The quarter from which it might apprehend danger did not escape that penetrating writer ; and he has confidently predicted that its fall will proceed from that source. The present author is not nearly so well acquainted with its general structure, or its minute parts, as was the incomparable French President. We were glad to find him disposed to be its censor rather than its blind panegyrist, because we concluded that we were more likely to derive profit from the one than the other course : but we were disappointed in the expectation, and have been unable to discover that much might be learned from the animadversions of Signior Filangieri.
The author admits, however, that our constitution exhibits the most perfect example of a mixed government. He obseryes.chat
• A mixed government may be said to be a government where the sovereign power or legislative authority is in the hands of the na. tion, represented by a public assembly, divided into three bodies--the representatives of the people, the nobility, or partricians, and the king, who ought to exercise it in conjunction with them. The king alone is in possession of the executive power, of every thing depend ent on civil right or the law of nations; and he exercises this power with the most perfect independence.
Considering a mixed government in this light, there seem to be three inherent defects in its constitution. The independence of the executive power on the body which ought to be its superior. The secret and dangerous influence of the prince in the assembly of the bodies which represent the sovereignty, and the instability of the constitution. Legislation ought not to change the essence of a constitution; it should endeavour only to correct its defects. All the principles, then, dependent on the relation of the laws to the nature of this government should be directed towards a choice of the proper means of preventing these three vices. But before we search for remedies, we should be certain of the existing evils which they are to cure.
• In all the three different forms of government, which have been already examined, the several proportions of power are distributed according to their nature, and entrusted to the different hands, which are intended to put them into motion.
• These different hands being dependent on each other, their movements are uniform, and their directions are the same. Every lit. tle stream flows from one common fountain, and one master-wheel sets the whole machinery in motion. If the sovereign legislator in these several governments be not the executive instrument of the laws, but trust the judicial authority to the magistrates, lie has not. withstanding the public force near him, and consequently
, the proper instruments