Cover of the book by Sister Margherita Marchione


1773
Filippo Mazzei significantly promotes the American cause for Independence. His writings inspired the Declaration of Independence.


Born in 1730 near Florence, Italy, Philip (Filippo) Mazzei (1730-1816) was a compelling figure of the Enlightenment whose adventures were so varied, his achievements so unusual, and his personality so striking, it is a wonder that he is not more vividly known. He was a surgeon, a merchant, a language teacher, an agriculturist, a writer, and a diplomat who traveled extensively and lived in several countries including the future United States. He soon articulated his intellectual and philosophical ideas, especially with regard to separation of Church and State, the promotion of equality and liberty, and notions of rebellion based on natural rights. Indeed some historians credit him with being the first to use the expression "All men are by nature equally free and independent, and all men are equal."

Mazzei's correspondence with American revolutionary leaders led to his appointment in 1779 as Virginia's Agent in Europe where he wrote many articles that espoused and gained support for the Americans' cause. He was greeted by George Washington and others in Williamsburg and shared with them the vital information he had acquired during his years in England. After the Revolution, Mazzei's reference to guarantees in Virginia's new constitution as the "Bill of Rights" in his extensive "Instructions of the Freeholders of Albemarle County to their Delegates in Convention," qualify him as among the first to use that term. His writings commended him to Thomas Jefferson and other Virginia statesmen and linked him to those whose ideas on the theory and form of government were incorporated into the major political writings of the era. He then became one of the founders of "The Constitutional Society of 1784" that debated public issues and promoted principles of liberty. In 1788, Mazzei published his four-volume history of the United States: Recherches historiques et politiques sur les États-Unis de l'Amérique septentrionale.

An enterprising and perceptive man, he participated in such historic events as the American and French Revolutions and the short-lived Polish constitutional reform of 1791. At Thomas Jefferson's behest in 1805, Mazzei found Italian skilled sculptors to work on the new Capitol. He returned to Tuscany in 1796 where he promoted economic and political relations between Italy and the United States while he continued to espouse the cause of liberty.


Celebration of the joint issue of the Philip Mazzei stamp by the United States and Italy





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