Rome (Mar. 20)
A memorial tablet has been unveiled on the front of the house in the Venice Ghetto in which Luigi Luzzatti, the great Jew and Italian statesman, who was Prime Minister in 1910 and 1911, was born March 1st., 1841, the ceremony being arranged in connection with the fifth anniversary of his death, which will occur on March 29th.
The Government was represented, and the unveiling was performed by the President of the City of Venice, Dr. Mario Alvera, who paid tribute in his speech to the great ser vices which Luzzatti had rendered to Italy, especially in the field of economic reform.
The memorial tablet describes Luzzatti as “the illustrious apostle, who strived for and achieved the economic liberation of the Italian people, and by his vast knowledge and his services rose to the highest positions in the Government of the country”.
Senator Professor Luigi Luzzatti, who was known as the “Grand Old Man of Italian Jewry”, was one of the foremost of Europe’s elder statesmen and one of the greatest authorities in the world on economic and financial problems. He was only 22 when he was appointed professor of political economy at Milan University. At the age of 28 he became a member of the Government, as Vice-Minister of Trade and Industry. He was too young at the time to be even entitled to election as a member of Parliament. As soon as he reached the legal age for election he was returned to Parliament for his native city of Venice, and was entrusted by the Italian Government with the task of concluding important trading and financial agreements with the principal European States. In 1878 he compiled the Italian Customs Tariff, and he subsequently took a leading part in negotiating all the commercial treaties between Italy and other countries.
While Vice-Minister, he made the acquaintance of Bismark, Gladstone and Thiers, and these great statesmen praised his tremendoms financial abilities and political acumen and prophesied a brilliant future for him. Luzzatti’s most important and fruitful period fell between the years 1874-1891, when his speeches in the Italian Parliament were acclaimed as among the finest examples in the Italian language of inspired political rhetoric. From 1890 to 1920 Luzzatti occupied continuously the post of Finance Minister, unaffected by the many different changes of Government. From 1910-11, he was Premier and as the head of the government, effected a number of very important reforms. During the Great War and in the early post-war period he achieved great things in the field of social insurance, economics and public charity. He originated the law for compulsory
accident insurance, the bill for the saving of money, all the laws regulating emigration and nearly all existing legislation on co-operation. He was the founder of the Peoples’ Banks in Italy and of the Italian co-operative movement. He introduced the Old Age Pensions Act into Italy, improved the system of elementary education, fought against malaria and inaugurated many hygienic measures. He extended the electoral vote, excluding only illiterates and endeavoured to apply the principle of decentralisation in State administration. During the War he established temporary homes for the Italian exiles driven from their homes by the Austrian invasion, he founded the National Institution for the Orphans of Peasant Soldiers killed in the War, and devoted himself entirely to the alleviation of the distress caused by the War.
Luzzatti also occupied at various times the posts of Minister of Agriculture, Industry, Commerce, and the In terior, and during his period of office regulated questions affecting drainage, irrigation, afforestation, technical schools, smallholdings, etc.
LUZZATTI THE JEW
Luzzatti wrote extensively on economics, politics and religion. He published monographs on Adam Smith, on the English Constitution and many works on Constitutional Law of which subject he was Professor for many years at the University of Rome.
One of his most notable books was “The Liberty of Conscience and Science” which has been translated into many languages. Liberty of conscience was a devouring passion with Luzzatti. He constituted himself the champion of all oppressed peoples. Regarded as the greatest orator in the Italian Parliament, he delivered speeches of fiery indignation against the Turks for the Bulgarian atrocities in 1875, and the Armenian massacres of 1894-95. He gave many years to the study of the disabilities of the Jews in various countries, and in his book “God in Liberty”, he dealt at length with the persecutions of the Jews in Roumania and Poland and the continuous efforts which he made by intervention with the leading statesmen of Europe on their behalf. He expressed himself repeatedly in favour of the establishment of Palestine as a Jewish Homeland, and in an interview with the J.T.A. on his 85th. birthday he said: “I am delighted to hear that the position in Palestine is improving. I am glad to see that the Jews are turning their eyes towards Palestine, the land of our forefathers and are looking to it as a place of refuge and emancipation. I am proud when my opponents reproach me for using my friendship with Balfour and Clemenceau on behalf of my oppressed Jewish brethren.
“It has always been a source of satisfaction to me”, he continued, “that I intervened on behalf of the Jews of Roumania, Poland and Russia, and that I intervened in the Beilis Trial, when the barbarous blood libel was being spread against the Jews of Russia.
“I was born a Jew”, Luzzatti further said, “and I will return to God a Jew!”.
In 1925, a Polish Senator named Buzek spread a report that Luzzatti had become a member of the Catholic Church. Luzzatti immediately issued a statement in which he said: “I would like to ask the Jewish Telegraphic Agency to deny emphatically this report. I have never conversed with Senator Buzek. The report is a pure invention. I am a Jew and am proud of my Judaism”.
For a period of about sixty years, Luzzatti took a leading part in the government of Italy, and honours and decorations were showered upon him by the Governments of various countries. In July 1925, a new main street in Rome was named after Luzzatti, the King of Italy performing the opening ceremony.
In the closing years of his life he still continued to perform various public services. He acted on the Financial Commission of the Genoa Conference and as late as November 1925 he was appointed President of the International Congress to Fight Blasphem, and Honorary President of the International Parliamentary Trade Conference.
The Italian Government gave him a State funeral, and the Italian press described him as the most representative man in Italy of the last generation. In Parliament the Prime Minister, Signor Mussolini, said that Luzzatti had been more closely bound up than anyone else with the previous half-century of Italian history. He was perhaps the most striking and representative figure of that period The high place occupied by Italy among the nations in the matter of social legislation was in great part due to the work of Luzzatti. In the last few years, Signor Mussolini declared, he had frequently had cause to appreciate the wisdom of the counsels of Luzzatti which were being carried out by the Fascist Government, by means of co-operative organisation. Luigi Luzzatti, Signor Mussolini concluded, was one of those great men, wise and pure, who were ever an honour to the Fatherland, and deserved to be lamented and honoured.