1799: Francesco Conforti, regalist and republican

On this date in 1799, the subversive priest Francesco Conforti was hanged in the Piazza Mercato for his role in the Naples Parthenopean Republic.

This scholar came on the scene in the 1770s penning apologias for the Enlightenment trend towards the secular authority supplanting the ecclesiastic. For Conforti, Christ had not claimed, and the Vatican ought not wield, civil power.

This was quite an annoyance to the church that had ordained him but Conforti was no red priest. His doctrine was so far from antithetical to sovereigns in the Age of Absolutism that it was known as regalism, and a notable 1771 work was dedicated to the Bourbons’ secular strongman in southern Italy and Sicily.

But clerical reaction after the French Revolution got Conforti run out of his university appointment and even thrown in prison which would drive him into the republican camp — and when those republicans took power in Naples in early 1799 he joined their government as Interior Minister, his duty to shape civil society for “the democratic and republican regime [which] is the most consistent with the Gospel.”

“Democracy is the greatest benefit God has given the human race,” Conforti once intoned. But in 1799 it was a gift to enjoy in small doses: after the Bourbons reconquered Naples that summer, executing 122 republican patriots into the bargain, the human race reverted to the second greatest benefit.

One thought on “1799: Francesco Conforti, regalist and republican”

  1. The Kingdom of Naples was an odd affair. Not in law but in pratice jointly ruled by a not so clever King and a clever Queen it became an enlighted monarchy before the French Revolution. Its King and Queen became unusually popular among the lower classes because they adapted the common way to a great extent. When the Queen was pregnant again the King sought out common girls to become his mistress. But after the French Revolution all this was shut down, the Queen being Marie Antoinette’s sister. the reaction took over and this priest became jailed. He was very stupid to join the Republicans and his was his reward.

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