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Original scientific paper

Political Rhetoric of Francesco Maria Appendini on the Eve of Republic’s Fall

Relja Seferović ; Zavod za povijesne znanosti HAZU, Dubrovnik, Hrvatska

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Piarist Francesco Maria Appendini (1768-1837) spent almost fifty years as a teacher at the Piarist/Scolope Collegium in Dubrovnik. His enthusiasm for Latin rhetoric was also recognised outside the classroom walls as he delivered sermons in church and in public. As member of the Patriotic Society (Società patriotica), which gathered young patricians interested in social reforms under the influence of the French Enlightenment and English Rationalism, he advocated for the reform of the Ragusan school system and for the education of the local children abroad, at certain Italian schools in particular. The seeds of this idea he found in the treatise Some Thoughts Concerning Education written by John Locke, which he tried to adjust to the specific circumstances in Dubrovnik. Unlike Locke, Appendini did not incline towards radical social changes, as he believed that patrician children were the only ones to inherit their fathers and assume power when the time came, and rescue the state from the crisis. His disposition towards English culture has earned Appendini a rightful position among the educated Ragusans who were known to learn English and acquire professional and literary books even though they did not always share his views. Thus Junije Resti, the satirist, rejected the proposal for the children to study abroad and mocked the habits of his fellow-citizens in blindly following foreign customs. Since Appendini and Resti knew each other well, upon the request of the latter’s widow Appendini wrote an extensive introduction to a collection of Resti’s satires, printed in Padua in 1816, in which he spoke highly of Resti’s life-long learning and continuous advancement in law, languages, philosophy and sciences, believing it to be the only right path towards true statesmanship. Similar views Appendini had stated some twenty years earlier, in June 1798, while addressing the highest representatives of the Ragusan state and Church during the funeral ceremony of Orsat Gozze, the last Ragusan rector who died on duty. Privileged to have been chosen to deliver the oration in rector’s honour, Appendini decided to ascribe all Gozze’s achievements to his profound learning and individual striving that brought him firm character and broad knowledge. Graced by the glory of his forefathers, who, “from the very foundation of the city”, worked to the benefit of Dubrovnik, Rector Orsat Gozze in Appendini’s eyes had become a symbol of a responsible statesman and rational man. These achievements he owed most directly to his study of the treatises on law, philosophy, theology and natural philosophy written mostly by English, German or Dutch authors (Francis Bacon, John Locke, Johann Wolf, Pieter van Musschenbroek, Willem Jacob ‘s Gravesande), with special reference to an Italian Guido Grandi and Euclid, ancient mathematician. Sadly, Appendini failed to mention any of Gozze’s concrete works inspired by these treatises, nor did he refer to his contributions to the state, if any. He only praised Gozze’s interest in art and his valuable art collection, acquired during his visits to the Apennine Peninsula. Appendini took advantage of the occasion to render his political views and to repeat the message on the necessity to invest into the school system and culture as a pledge for the future, in which new generations would eradicate nepotism and corruption as the greatest social evils. An insight into archival sources provides a more complete but also more objective picture of Orsat Gozze. A caring husband and good brother, in a marriage with no offspring he designated his wife Mara as universal heir, on condition that she provided for his sisters in the convent and a brother who had been promised life rent. Apparently, Gozze did not manage to resolve an old and ongoing dispute with his cousins over property which snowballed because of his father’s imprudent decision, but finally ended in settlement only a few years upon the Republic’s fall. The establishment of the French and later Austrian rule had no impact on Appendini’s position at the Ragusan Collegium. His social status remained intact, which prompted his former students to accuse him of opportunism. This accusation we discard as unjust, because he persevered in his advocation of the investments in schooling, acquisition of new knowledge and opening towards new cultures as basis of the development of an individual as well as the society that rests upon him. That is the core of Appendini’s political theory.


Francesco Maria Appendini; education; rhetoric; political theory; John Locke; Enlightenment; rector Orsat Gozze; Junius Resti

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