Joseph Mazzini
An Essay On the Duties of Man
Addressed to Workingmen


Excerpts from the Original Electronic Text at the web site of the Hanover Historical Texts Project.

Joseph Mazzini spent most of his adult life in exile in France and Britain. In 1831 he founded a nationalist organization, Young Italy, and he edited a journal of the same name. He participated in the Revolutions of 1848-49 in Italy. He served as one of the three Triumvirs in the short-lived Roman Republic that temporarily displaced the Papacy as the political authority in Rome.

1. According to Mazzini, what were the origins of nations?
2. Why were the original, natural nations disfigured? Who are the "evil governments"?
3. Why will there be a return to the original condition of nations?
4. How does Mazzini define a nation?


[1] I intend to speak to you of your duties. I intend to speak to you, according to the dictates of my heart, of the holiest things we know; to speak to you of God, of Humanity, of the Fatherland, and the Family. . . .

[2]Your first duties - first as regards importance - are, as I have already told you, towards Humanity. You are men before you are either citizens or fathers. If you do not embrace the whole human family in your affection; if you do not bear witness to your belief in the Unity of that family, consequent upon the Unity of God, and in that fraternity among the peoples which is destined to reduce that Unity to action; if, wheresoever a fellow-creature suffers, or the dignity of human nature is violated by falsehood or tyranny - you are not ready, if able, to aid the unhappy, and do not feel called upon to combat, if able, for the redemption of the betrayed and oppressed - you violate your law of life, you comprehend not that Religion which will be the guide and blessing of the future.

[3] But what can each of you, singly, do for the moral improvement and progress of Humanity? . . . .

[4] This means was provided for you by God when He gave you a country; when, even as a wise overseer of labour distributes the various branches of employment according to the different capacities of the workmen, he divided Humanity into distinct groups or nuclei upon the face of the earth, thus creating the germ of nationalities. Evil governments have disfigured the Divine design. Nevertheless you may still trace it, distinctly marked out - at least as far as Europe is concerned - by the course of the great rivers, the direction of the higher mountains, and other geographical conditions. They have disfigured it by their conquests, their greed, and their jealousy even of the righteous power of others; disfigured it so far that, if we except England and France, there is not perhaps a single country whose present boundaries correspond to that design.

[5] These governments did not, and do not, recognize any country save their own families or dynasty, the egoism of caste. But the Divine design will infallibly be realized; natural divisions and the spontaneous, innate tendencies of the peoples will take the place of the arbitrary divisions, sanctioned by evil governments. The map of Europe will be redrawn. The countries of the peoples, defined by the vote of free men, will arise upon the ruins of the countries of kings and privileged castes, and between these countries harmony and fraternity will exist. And the common work of Humanity, of general amelioration, and the gradual discovery and application of its Law of life, being distributed according to local and general capacities, will be wrought out in peaceful and progressive development and advance. Then may each one of you, fortified by the power and affection of many millions, all speaking the same language, gifted with the same tendencies, and educated by the same historical tradition, hope even by your own single efforts to be able to benefit all Humanity.

[6] 0, my brothers, love your Country! Our country is our Home, a house God has given us, placing therein a numerous family that loves us, and whom we love; a family with whom we sympathize more readily and whom we understand more quickly than we do others; and which, from its being centred round a given spot, and from the homogeneous nature of its elements, is adapted to a special branch of activity. Our Country is our common workshop, whence the products of our activity are sent forth for the benefit of the whole world; wherein the tools and implements of labour we can most usefully employ are gathered together; nor may we reject them without disobeying the plan of the Almighty, and diminishing our own strength. . . .

[7] Be your country your Temple: God at the summit; a people of equals at the base. . . .

[8] Country is not only a mere zone of territory. The true Country is the Idea to which it gives birth; it is the Thought of love, the sense of communion which unites in one all the sons of that territory.

[9] Education, labour, and the franchise, are the three main pillars of the Nation; rest not until you have built them thoroughly up with your own labour and exertions.

Return to the syllabus.
Return to the History Department.