Cesare Beccaria’s Roles That Influenced American Revolution

American Revolution is considered to be the colonial revolt that took place between 1765 and 1763. It occurred as a result of the thirteen colonies in America won independence from Great Britain, thus, calling the nation, United States of America. For the thirteen colonies to defeat the British in the American Revolutionary War, it got the assistance from allies such as the France and others. In other words, American Revolution was the period that the United States of America gained its independence from the British. Some of the leaders of the American Revolution were influenced by the ideas from secular thinkers that made them rebel against England for independence. One of the notable examples of the secular thinker who influenced American Revolution was Cesare Beccaria. Cesare Beccaria on his treatise On Crimes and Punishments demonstrates the way the Enlightenment ideas spearheaded the American Revolution. In simple words, secular thinkers’ ideas had a considerable impact on American Revolution. Therefore, Cesare Beccaria played significant roles that influenced American Revolution.

In his treatise On Crimes and Punishments, Cesare Beccaria opposes both torture and punishment. He tried to show the world the need to stand against torture and punishment because it is against human rights to harass someone because he or she is opposing a particular issue. In this way, the book called for proportion between crimes and punishments and also opposed both torture and capital punishment (Bessler, 2016, p. 2). It means that Beccaria was against the idea of the punishment that the individuals were facing at that time from those in power. Because the treatise was written before the American Revolution, most of the leaders who spearheaded the revolution gained the ideas on what to stand for from its content. In that case, the Beccaria ideas acted as the guide on what the leaders who were willing to fight for the changes need to follow. In a way, the role of Beccaria in influencing the American Revolution has been ignored because most of the individuals focus on the positive impacts of the independence and forgets on essential aspects as the contributors for the changes. According to Bessler (2016) Beccaria’s influence on American law and that of the Italian Enlightenment has largely been forgotten (p. 6). It portrays that the world has forgotten the contribution of Beccaria in the Age of Enlightenment and American Revolution in general. In simple words, Beccaria influenced the American Revolution through the implementation of ideas that oppose torture and punishment.

Additionally, Beccaria challenged the rights of the state to punish crimes. He felt that there is no need to punish people because excessive severity will not reduce crime but instead it will increase the crime. Beccaria argued that punishments are unjust when their severity exceeds what is necessary to achieve deterrence (Bosworth, 2005, p. 234). It shows that Beccaria was against the idea of the citizens being punished by those in power because they have done something wrong. In short, he argued that punishing people does not end the crime, but it increases it because individuals are not going to be afraid of the consequences. His attempt to advocate for the changes made the British colonizers in America look for other ways of dealing with citizens whose behaviors are against the law. The moment the citizens were aware of the fact that the government had changed the way they used to punish them when they were wrong, they decided to rise and fight for their independence. In simple words, Beccaria idea of punishments and torture made the British to avoid punishing Americans, and this encouraged the Americans to fight for their independence.

Beccaria participated in the development of the American law that led to American Revolution. Bessler (2016) stated that the Italian Enlightenment played a crucial role in the development of American law, with Beccaria’s treatise On Crimes and Punishments leading the way (p. 16). It means that the ideas of Beccaria were applied in the development of the American law that motivated the American citizens to fight for their independence. In like manner, his thoughts were readily applicable to the benefits of the citizens before it advocated for the freedom to all. Because Beccaria was not an American, his contributions to the American Revolution has not been mentioned in most of the work related to the American Revolution.

The contributions of Beccaria and his friends to American law have long been underreported and more often than not, not revealed at all by twenty-first-century scholars (Bessler, 2016, p. 17). It shows that the twenty-first-century scholars assumed the roles that Beccaria and disciples played in the development of the American law. For that reason, it is hard for one to explicitly state that Beccaria was active in influencing the American Revolution because most of the scholars have ignored his contributions. One of the Beccaria’s contributions in the American law was urging rationality to moderate, severe punishments and suggesting laws be clear and detailed to eradicate the need for arbitrary judicial discretion (Bessler, 2016, p. 17). It means that Beccaria was after eliminating the severe punishment by advocating for the creation of new laws that will focus on it. In short, Beccaria contributed in the development of the American law by advocating for laws that will eliminate the necessity for arbitrary judicial discretion.

Moreover, Beccaria provided relevant information that helped in the development of the American law that influenced American Revolution. Cadoppi (2015) suggested that Beccaria’s information changed several legal debates and contexts, from American views on infamy, cruelty, debtors, and pardons to dueling, suicide, education, extradition treaties, and republicanism (p. 6). It means that Beccaria ideas was implemented in the American legal system and this acted as a way for the Americans to enjoy their rights and freedoms. In a way, Beccaria idea resulted to an enlightened approach to the law that shaped America’s social compact during the American Revolution and even after the end of the Revolutionary War (Cadoppi, 2015, p. 6). It shows that the ideas developed by Beccaria was not only used in the American Revolution period but it is still used in the United States even today. Altogether, Beccaria ideas led to the enlightened approach that had an impact on the American Revolution.

Beccaria is considered to be the father of the abolitionist movement. The reason is that he tried to fight for the rights of citizens who were not able to defend themselves. As at that time, the death penalty was primarily a regional phenomenon, and it affected all the American colonies. Bessler (2009) mentioned that Beccaria strongly called for the death penalty’s abolition (p. 197). It portrays that Beccaria was more concerned about the survival of all the citizens regardless of their crime. Beccaria was against torture because it is associated with the intentional infliction of pain. He intended to protect the citizens from the harassment that they get from their leaders as a way to punish them. Similarly, torture and death are both crimes that affect the existence of the human race, and this made Beccaria try his best in defending and protecting the human race. He did that by speaking out the truth and eventually forming a movement that was against the death penalty. Beccaria’s influence was felt particularly and quickly in the American colonies, a region already bursting at the seams with revolutionary ideas and impulses (Bessler, 2009, p. 207). It proves that the movement that was opposing the death penalty in the United States was successful because it was taking effect in the region. In other words, Beccaria movement made the citizens of the American colonies to understand their rights thereby, supporting the movement that was opposing the death penalty. In brief, Beccaria formed the movement that was against the death penalty exercised in the American colonies by the British colonizers.

Furthermore, Beccaria made it clear that death penalty does not serve any vital purpose instead it worsens the situation in the American colonies. Beccaria’s considerable influence on the world’s constitutions and laws made it clear that death penalty was neither a just nor necessary punishment (Bessler, 2018, p. 14). It proves that Beccaria movement made the world know that death penalty is not the solution to deal with those who opposes the government. The reform of the laws related to the death penalty in the world’s constitutions and laws encouraged the individuals to fight for their independence because they were sure that they are not going to be killed even after they are caught. In short, the abolition of the death penalty made the American colonies seek for their independence from the rule of the British colonizers. In a way, removal of death penalty acted as the source of motivation for the Americans to fight for their freedom and rights. In brief, Beccaria reforms on the death penalty were included in the world constitution and law, and it made it easier for the Americans to fight for their freedom.

Beccaria’s work focused on the importance of equality to all. Beccaria was against torture and capital punishment, questioned the treatment of sins as crimes, and emphasized on the value of equality before the law and of prevention having priority over punishment (Parker & Weinstein, 2016, par. 1). It means that Beccaria was advocating for equality to all and this played a crucial role in influencing American Revolution. It is through this that the Americans were able to know that they are equal to the British and their difference is that they are colonized thereby unable to enjoy their rights. Enlightenment is viewed as the essential part of a broader historical process because it led to the achievement of independence in most part of the world. In simple words, enlightenment was the period when most of the citizens in the world gained the knowledge of their rights and freedom. Parker & Weinstein (2016) stated that enlightenment period made the individuals to think harder, with a greater chance of discovering the truth and to experience equality under the law thereby living a fuller life (par. 4). It portrays that the individuals learned a lot about their equality that made their lives better because they were able to discover the truth. In that case, Beccaria idea on the abolition of torture and capital punishment made the individuals to understand the criminal law, and this made them seek for their independence. All in all, Beccaria emphasis on the value of equality before the law encouraged the Americans to fight for their independence leading to American Revolution.

Beccaria is among the secular thinkers of the European Enlightenment, which influenced the American Revolution. In other words, Beccaria played a role in the development of the ideas that helped the Americans to free themselves from the rule of the British colonizers. The views and writings of the well-known thinkers of the European Enlightenment reformers and social critics like Voltaire, Rousseau, and Beccaria and also conservative analysts like Montesquieu were quoted everywhere in the colonies (Bailyn, 2017, p. 32). It shows that the participation of Beccaria was well-appreciated and applied everywhere across the world because it contained ideas that helped colonized citizens to comprehend their rights, hence, the need to fight for them. Beccaria was the one who advocated for the reform of the criminal law (Bailyn, 2017, p. 32). It portrays that he wanted the criminal law practiced as at that time to be changed in such a way that it will respect the natural rights. For that reason, he ensured that nations abolish laws that affect the lives of the ordinary citizens. In other words, Beccaria contribution on the reforms of the criminal law was among the first ideas that led to the American Revolution. For the American Revolution to take place, most of the thinkers from the different part of the world tried to present their opinions and ideas with the intention to enable the Americans to gain the independence. Beccaria was one of those thinkers because he developed an approach that made the revolution possible. Altogether, Beccaria was among the pioneers who established the ideas that led to the American Revolution.


American Revolution is considered as the time United States of America gained independence from the British colonizers. For the United States to achieve independence, there was the need for the implementation of ideas presented by secular thinkers located in different parts of the world. Cesare Beccaria, an Italian, played a significant role in influencing American Revolution. Notable roles played by Beccaria include opposing torture and punishment, development of the American law, the formation of the movement opposing the death penalty, emphasis on the value of equality and creation of ideas to be applied in American Revolution. He wanted the Americans to live better lives, and this made him advocate for the reform of the criminal law that the British used to punish the Americans. Through his ideas, Americans were able to learn about their rights and the need to gain their freedom. It made the Americans rise and fight for their independence, and fortunately, they defeated the British colonizers. American Revolution took effect immediately the United States gained the independence. In short, there were positive changes that took place the moment the United States gained independence such as the creation of new laws that protected the interests of the citizens. All things considered, Beccaria influenced American Revolution through his idea of reforming the criminal law.