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Alessandro Fortis

Alessandro Fortis
Prime Minister of Italy
In office
28 March 1905 – 8 February 1906
Monarch Victor Emmanuel III
Preceded by Tommaso Tittoni
Succeeded by Sidney Sonnino
Personal details
Born (1842-09-16)16 September 1842
Forlì, Kingdom of Italy
Died 4 December 1909(1909-12-04) (aged 67)
Rome, Kingdom of Italy
Nationality Italy
Political party Historical Left
Religion Judaism, Roman Catholicism

Alessandro Fortis (16 September 1842 – 4 December 1909) was an Italian politician who served as the 18th Prime Minister of Italy from 1905 to 1906. He was the first Jewish Prime Minister of Italy, the first country to have a Jewish person who was not a convert to Christianity in that post.[1]


  • Early career 1
  • Prime Minister 2
  • Death and family 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5

Early career

Fortis was born in Forlì, in Emilia-Romagna, Italy, and became a lawyer. A republican follower of Giuseppe Mazzini he joined Giuseppe Garibaldi[2] in 1866 and fought with him first in Trentino then at Mentana and in France.[3] After being elected to the Chamber of Deputies in 1880, Fortis initially worked under Francesco Crispi as Under Secretary of the Interior (1887–1890). He served as Agriculture Minister from 1898 to 1899 in the first government of Luigi Pelloux (June 1898–May 1899).[2][3]

He resigned in 1899 and subsequently joined the liberal opposition of Giovanni Giolitti, whose liberal reformism was closest to Fortis’s own political views that had moderated over time.[3] Fortis argued that a view of the state "which abstains from everything, which increasingly reduces its actions and its responsibilities; the state which is feared, rather than appealed to ... is, it seems to me, doomed to die out."[4]

The moderate liberals opposed the repressive measures of Pelloux restricting political activity and free speech, and aimed to uphold constitutional liberties. Fortis supported the governments of Giuseppe Zanardelli (February 1901 – November 1903) and Giolitti (November 1903 – March 1905).[2][3]

Prime Minister

In March 1905 on the recommendation of Giolitti, he formed his first government, mainly related to the nationalization of the railways, after confronting a railroad strike that could have paralyzed transportation in the country. Railroad workers became public employees, which deprived them of the right to strike.[2][5]

In September 1905, Fortis visited Calabria and Sicily to examine firsthand the extent of the damage of the 1905 Calabria earthquake.[3] Subsequently he introduced a special law to aid these southern regions. This measure was the first real acknowledgment by the Italian state of the fundamental problems underlying southern underdevelopment.[3]

His government was defeated in the Chamber of Deputies (the lower house of Parliament) in December 1905, when a trade treaty with Spain that would have significantly reduced Italian tariffs on Spanish wine, met with severe parliamentary and public opposition and was rejected.[3] Fortis resigned, was reappointed and formed a new government, which did not gain the confidence of the Chamber of Deputies, after which Fortis definitively resigned in February 1906.[6]

Death and family

Fortis died on 4 December 1909 in Rome. In his last years he embraced Roman Catholicism and secretly received the last rites by Don Luigi Orione shortly before passing away.[7]

His daughter Maria Fortis married the count Rinaldo Girolamo Saffi of Forlì (1868–1929), a minor son of count Risorgimento who had also been one of the major sponsors of the political career of Alessandro Fortis himself.


  1. ^ Braber, This cannot happen here, p. 49
  2. ^ a b c d Sarti, Italy: a reference guide from the Renaissance to the present, p. 290
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Fortis, Alessandro, Historical Dictionary of modern Italy
  4. ^ Ashley, Making Liberalism Work, p. 48
  5. ^ Ashley, Making Liberalism Work, p. 65
  6. ^ De Grand, The hunchback's tailor, p. 123
  7. ^
  • Ashley, Susan A. (2003). Making Liberalism Work: The Italian Experience, 1860-1914, Westport (CT): Praeger Publishers, ISBN 0-275-98062-6
  • Braber, Ben (2013). This cannot happen here, Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, ISBN 978-90-4851-997-2
  • De Grand, Alexander J. (2001). The hunchback's tailor: Giovanni Giolitti and liberal Italy from the challenge of mass politics to the rise of fascism, 1882-1922, Greenwood.
  • Sarti, Roland (2004). Italy: a reference guide from the Renaissance to the present, New York: Facts on File Inc., ISBN 0-81607-474-7
Preceded by
Tommaso Tittoni
Prime Minister of Italy
Succeeded by
Sidney Sonnino
Preceded by
Tommaso Tittoni
Italian Minister of the Interior
Succeeded by
Sidney Sonnino

External links

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