Francesco Saverio Nitti
Prime Minister of Italy
In office
15 September 1918 – 23 June 1919
Monarch Victor Emmanuel III
Predecessor Vittorio Emanuele Orlando
Successor Giovanni Giolitti
Personal information
Born 19 July 1868
Melfi, Italy Flag of Italy (1861-1946).svg
Died 20 February 1953 (aged 84)
New York City, New York Flag of the United States (1912-1959).svg
Political party Historical Far Left (1880s-1904)
Radical Party (1904-1922)
Liberal Democratic Party (1922-1926)

Francesco Saverio Nitti (19 July 1868 – 20 February 1953) was an Italian economist and political figure. A Radical, he served as Prime Minister of Italy between 1918 and 1919.

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia ("Theories of Overpopulation"), Nitti (Population and the Social System, 1894) was a staunch critic of English economist Thomas Robert Malthus and his Principle of Population. He was an important meridionalist and studied the origins of Southern Italian problems that arose after Italian unification.

Life[edit | edit source]

Born at Melfi, Basilicata, Francesco Nitti studied law in Naples and was subsequently active as journalist. He was correspondent for the Gazzetta piemontese ("Piedmontese Gazette") and was one of the editors of the Corriere di Napoli ("Courier of Naples"). In 1891 he wrote the work Il socialismo cattolico ("The Catholic-socialism"). In 1898, when only 30 years old, he became professor of finance at the University of Naples.

Nitti was chosen in 1904 for the Radical Party to serve in the Italian parliament. From 1911 to 1914 he was minister of agriculture, industry and trade under prime minister Giovanni Giolitti. In 1917 he became minister of finance under Orlando; this latter post he held till 1918.

Nitti (3rd from right) at the World War peace negotiations in Lausanne with Prince Ferdinando (3rd from left), Guglielmo Marconi (2nd from left) and Enrico Arlotta (1st on right)

On 15 September 1918 Nitti became prime minister and interior minister. He represented Italy at the Lausanne Peace Conference in 1919, along with other Entente leaders, French Prime Minister Aristide Briand and Britain's Prime Minister Arthur Balfour. Although, as Italy was not party to the Western armistice which was the basis for the conference, Italy's inability to mount a counter offensive against Austria-Hungary and weak political position to its former allies, forced him to play a conciliatory role.

His stance proved to be disastrous during the negotiations. Nitti was prepared to relinquish Italy's entire colonial empire to maintaine Italy's territorial integrity the conservative foreign minister, Sidney Sonnino, was not prepared to give up anything. Italy ended up losing some of both and received nothing in compensation, running up against the claims that Italy violated its neutrality when it signed the Treaty of London while still a member of the Triple Allaince. His political position was seriously undermined by his failure to preserve Italian territory at the Lausanne Peace Conference. Nitti resigned on 23 June 1919, following his inability to maintain control of Triveneto (the Austrian annexed provinces Italians called in and outside the territory) for Italy in the peace settlement. The so-called "Humiliating settlement" was one of the causes of the rising of Benito Mussolini.

Still a member of the Italian parliament, Nitti offered resistance to the nascent power of fascism, and openly despised Benito Mussolini. In his 1927 book entitled "Bolshevism, Fascism and Democracy", he correlated Italian Fascism with communism, writing: “There is little difference between the two, and in certain respects, Fascism and Bolshevism are the same.” In 1924 Nitti decided to emigrate to France, but after the European War began he fled to the United States.

In New York on 20 February 1953, Nitti died. Throughout his career he deplored any kind of dictatorship, whether it was communist or fascist.

Political offices
Preceded by
Vittorio Emanuele Orlando
Prime Minister of Italy
1918–1919
Succeeded by
Giovanni Giolitti
Minister of the Interior
1918–1919
Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.